So, as I said at the end of my last posting, I waited patiently for my regal visitor, the Baltimore Oriole, to return to to his breakfast spot in my bottle brush tree. However, it was already day four of his continued absence and I was somewhat heavy-hearted for his loss. It was later in the day, more like mid-morning snack time than breakfast, when I heard a new call. At first I thought it was him, but then I realized that this call was richer and the notes kind of tripped over each other.
Grabbing the binoculars I headed out into the garden. I judged the call to be coming from a couple of houses down and began to play the binoculars back and forth in the direction that it seemed to be coming from. A sudden flash of scarlet caught my attention in a tree that grew in the pine wood out back immediately behind the fence of the third house to our left.
The calls continued and I kept my eyes focused on the tree. Suddenly I saw him, a very large, jet-black bird with very distinctive white markings around the face and neck, and a few smaller white markings on the shoulder area of his wings. But what was striking was the brilliant red crest atop his head. He was at least as big as the American Crow if not bigger, probably eighteen to twenty inches from head to tip of tail.
His movements were very unique. He would lightly run up the trunk and, when he came to a halt, would twist his neck round almost 360* as he pecked at what I presumed were insects. Or else he would hop out onto a branch and would then hang upside down. Every once in a while he would stop in these activities and let out his rippling call. He was quite something to see and it made me marvel at the variety of creatures that God has created.
I checked him out in my Kenn Kaufman book of birds and discovered that I was seeing the Pileated Woodpecker. I was thrilled to read that he is an all-season bird for our region and quite surprised that I had not seen him before. I have spotted the Red-bellied Woodpecker and also the Red-naped Sapsucker in the pine woods out back, and both are about half the size of the Pileated. Here is the best picture that Rich could grab of him. He moved around a lot, but this view of his back clearly shows the white markings and his scarlet crest and also shows how he grips onto the trunk.
And so my knowledge of birds for this area is growing. Now is definitely the season for bird-watching because they are all in a spring-time frenzy of mating and creating nests. And that fact will lead nicely into my next posting because we have a pair of Carolina Chickadees who have decided to make their home in our back yard. I get to be a Grandma one way or another!
Our friends, Greg and Sherry, bought an old barn on a large piece of property in Minnesota a couple of years ago. Since then they have spent a lot of time between here, Jacksonville, and there, making changes, clearing a few trees around the barn, and putting on an addition to the original structure. Out of the old barn has emerged a lovely living space of two bedrooms, a bathroom, an open plan kitchen, dining room and lounge area, plus a nice comfortable screened in porch.
There is still a lot of work to do, but the main thrust is there. The rest is mainly “accessorizing”: putting in permanent flooring, deciding on décor and finishes, and painting the exterior. The barn-house is surrounded by woodland and even though there are two sets of neighbors living close by, the trees almost completely hide the other houses from view.
Five days into our retirement ride we stopped to visit with Greg and Sherry. In fact we spent 4 blissful days with them in their “little piece of paradise” (my label). One element of this new habitat that I really enjoyed is that they have installed floor to ceiling windows in the dining room and on both sides of the spacious lounge. This means that not only does a lot of natural light fill the home but it also seems like sitting in the middle of the woods – but with all mod cons!
While we were there, I spent my early morning quiet time sitting in a chair right up against one of these enormous windows. With my meditation books in hand and a cup of herbal tea close by, I was truly in “God’s space”. Greg and Sherry have placed several bird feeders within a few yards of this particular window and the morning activity was quite frenzied. Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers vied with Hairy Woodpeckers and Chickadees as well as some small sparrows and titmice, while the hummingbirds buzzed in and out. I also saw a bluebird one day.
The squirrels up there were enormous, about twice the size of squirrels down here in Florida. Although Greg and Sherry had installed a really interesting squirrel feeder for them, they still came and tried to access the bird feeders once in a while. But they also had a plentiful supply of corn down on the ground because our friends also took care of the numerous deer that would come almost up to the house in search of food.
Every evening at about 9pm we would spot movement out among the trees. We would turn off the lights inside the house, and soon we would see the deer emerging cautiously from the trees and coming toward a large block of salt that Greg and Sherry had attached to a tree, and also toward a long wooden palette that lay close by on the ground piled high with corn. They are such graceful creatures and are a delight to watch. One evening we were treated to the spectacle of a mother deer with her two young ones.
During the four days that we stayed, I also got to see an animal that I had never seen before – at least, not in real life. I’m sure you’ve all heard them “singing” and maybe even seen them in an animated movie. Yes, I’m talking about the chipmunk. I was so amazed at how small they were! I had always imagined chipmunks to be the size of a squirrel, but instead they are these tiny little animals probably about the size of a hamster. They were very entertaining scampering here and there in the undergrowth. Richard managed to get some really good pictures one day as a chipmunk decided to sit on a small fallen log not far from the window and complete his/her morning ablutions.
Although they did not come into the yard, we also saw many Canadian geese and wild turkeys not too far from the house as we made various trips in the surrounding area. There were two very large fields on opposite sides of a nearby road that had been mowed recently, and the geese were there in large numbers mainly in the morning, probably more than a hundred at a time, feeding on whatever geese feed on. The turkeys were usually in a lower section of the field apart from the geese.
It was such a joy to be surrounded by so much of nature’s wonders that God created for our pleasure. I am so grateful that Sherry and Greg gave us such great hospitality in their tranquil haven, and I hope it won’t be too long before we can go back and enjoy it some more. We have to go back anyway, so that we can see the finished product that is their summer retreat!