Bzzzz December 13th, 2008

I know I’m not alone when I say that I detest the winter season. It has only gotten worse in the past few years. In fact, since I have enthusiastically embraced the green living lifestyle, my contempt for winter has become a bit of an obsession. I may have to become one of those silver-haired snowbirds.

The thermostats are turned down and we have resorted to means other than our heat pumps to keep warm. It doesn’t always work, I should add.

I have gotten so cold that I have resorted to wearing those incredibly lightweight but warm Patagonia capilene long underwear most days. While mall shopping a few weeks ago I was tickled to find cashmere fingerless gloves that I can wear while typing. I bought two pair. And Brookstone had Tempurpedic slippers that I tuck my feet into at my desk. They pretty much park there because they are too clumsy to walk around in.

But winter is not without its rewards.

Last month, in the middle of winter on a particularly frigid day, I had the electrician here swapping out one set of programmable thermostats for ones that I can actually understand how to program. As we were chatting, I glanced out the front door and stopped mid-sentence.

A group of six Eastern Bluebirds was exploring the Purple Martin gourds that I have procrastinated moving in for the winter.

I watched, transfixed, as they moved in and out of the gourds and perched on the support poles. Once I regained my senses, I scrambled for my camera and long lens to take photos. Then I grabbed my Sibley guide to see whether it’s that unusual to see bluebirds here in November.

Apparently, it’s not unheard of for groups of bluebirds to stay northward and nest together rather than heading for warmer quarters. Margaret at A Way to Garden said she has even seen them near her New York home in winter.

Sadly, they didn’t stick around, so I’m still going to have to store those Purple Martin gourds.

In the meantime, I’m keeping a keen eye out for the potential return of Evening Grosbeaks. The Winter King Hawthorns that line the driveway near our house are loaded with the fat, red berries that attracted a flock of them last winter.

I only hope I am looking out the windows when they arrive. It’s my small consolation for having to dress like an Eskimo in my own home.

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Bzzzz July 25th, 2008

There was a bit of excitement here at Bumblebee a couple of nights ago. I thought we had finally attracted some purple martins.

I was outside with the little dogs and was watching the bluebirds who have moved into the purple martin gourds. They have been there all summer, having babies and using the long arms of the gourd system as a perch to look for juicy bugs. But some of the “bluebirds” were exhibiting some very un-bluebird like behavior. They perched and then flew off to grab bugs in mid-air and then returned to the perch to chow down.

Well, naturally I thought they were purple martins. I was so excited my hands were shaking as I changed my camera lens to the monster long-lens. I snapped shots and sent them off to a couple of friends, including Ruthie, announcing, “I have purple martins!!!”

Well, don’t you love the innernets? Within three or four minutes one friend had called and the other emailed to gently inform me that I didn’t have purple martins at all.

I have Great Crested Flycatchers.

Well, naturally I was disappointed. After having invested a wagonload of money in the gourd system, charmed a handyman into installing the pole in my Maryland hardpan clay and gotten up for many, many mornings before dawn to play them the CD of purple martin dawn song on my boom box, I still didn’t have purple martins.

But my friends assured me that a Great Crested Flycatcher is indeed a very special and interesting bird. But then, I already knew the interesting part. He surely captured my interest!

Now, I am watching as the bluebirds and flycatchers share their perch. They seem companionable enough and both are special birds that I’m happy to have in my yard. Even if they aren’t purple martins.

There is always next year.


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