Flying lessons soon…

10 05 2015

I photographed Mama Dove and her big babies again on Tuesday of last week. I checked yesterday and everyone has left the nest, but Mama and Papa are in view, behaving like sentinels, so I know the babies are now in their “flying lessons” phase and probably resting safely somewhere in my garden!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

MamaDoveBabies





Nesting

30 04 2015

A Mourning dove has built her nest in a plant pot on the top of my gardening bench. You can see part of one of two babies to her right (black with white streaks). I can’t do my annual cleanup in that area until after flying lessons are given! Isn’t she pretty? (iPhone 6 with Snapseed2)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

DoveBabyLorez





Craft project: Bird nest necklace

6 04 2010

I made these bird nest pendants for the gals in my wedding. They were made just like the cooper wire ones I made for Michael and his groomsmen here. My friend Kathy models one I made for her in the photo at right.

Silver wire and dyed freshwater pearls were woven to form a bird’s nest. Special thanks to blogger Cathe Holden for posting her great tutorial on how to make these sweet little bird nests.

Once I make the loops to hang them on chains, I’ll be distributing them to all the gals in the wedding party—Karen B, Debbie, Kelley, Lauren, Deanna, Nancy, Carmen, Norma, Karen W and Macie. Unfortunately, I didn’t have them finished to give to them out that weekend. Hence our wedding theme—“better late than never!”

You can see the latest photos I’ve posted from the wedding on our wedding blog here. Many more photos to come!





Giant Antarctic Petrel

4 01 2010

The giant petrel is the largest flying bird in Antarctica. Like the skua, it is a predator. These increasingly rare birds lay eggs in October and the eggs hatch in January. There is actually a rather large baby chick directly behind this bird in the background. I got one other shot of the mother and baby from another angle, but had to be careful not to stay too long or get too close. I used my 80-200 lens for this shot, so I was quite a distance away (and face down on the ground to get the eye level shot!). There were two adults and two chicks with them at Hannah Point, where this photo was taken. According to Guillaume Dargaud on his Antarctic Birds site, “the giant petrel is the largest of the 95 species of petrel and also the longest living one. A bird tagged in 1952 is still alive.” I also learned that the giant petrel is commonly known as a “stinker” because of its habit of vomiting on any one or thing that approaches them and appears to impose a threat. (Thank goodness for long lenses!)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.






Stinging scoundrels

12 07 2009

Earlier this week I ventured out, camera in hand, with some trepidation—just to see if I could get a clandestine photo of the bat rastards (actually, just one stung me) that chased me into the house last week. I’m fairly confident they’re Eastern yellowjackets. I didn’t want to get too close to the nest (for fear they recognize my behind), so this is more “record shot” than art! (Oh, the things I do to entertain my visitors!)

Yes, I know they need to be removed from the garden if I’m ever to be able to work out there again. I can’t do it myself (for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is I don’t like killing anything—even if it did sting me), so Michael is taking up the task. Read the details of my attack in my posting here.

Here’s something alarming I read on Wikipedia:

Yellowjackets are social hunters living in colonies containing workers, queens, and males. Colonies are annual with only inseminated queens overwintering. Fertilized queens occur in protected places as hollow logs, in stumps, under bark, in leaf litter, in soil cavities, and human-made structures. Queens emerge during the warm days of late spring or early summer, select a nest site, and build a small paper nest in which eggs are laid. After eggs hatch from the 30 to 50 brood cells, the queen feeds the young larvae for about 18 to 20 days. Larvae pupate, emerging later as small, infertile females called workers. By mid-summer, the first adult workers emerge and assume the tasks of nest expansion, foraging for food, care of the queen and larvae, and colony defense.

(Here’s the really alarming part below)

From this time until her death in the autumn, the queen remains inside the nest laying eggs. The colony then expands rapidly reaching a maximum size of 4,000 and 5,000 workers and a nest of 10,000 and 15,000 cells in late summer. At peak size, reproductive cells are built with new males and queens produced. Adult reproductives remain in the nest fed by the workers. New queens build up fat reserves to overwinter. Adult reproductives leave the parent colony to mate. After mating, males quickly die while fertilized queens seek protected places to overwinter. Parent colony workers dwindle, usually leaving the nest and die, as does the foundress queen. Abandoned nests rapidly decompose and disintegrate during the winter but can persist as long as they are kept dry but are rarely used again.

Now I highly doubt that 4,000 workers could possibly fit in this small decorative birdhouse, but then again I was surprised that even the eight that I did see could fit. I’ve managed to water the garden in spurts over the past few days, but always with a wary eye to the left side of the garden. So far, no more keister bites! Flashback: the only other time I was stung by something was when I was about eight years old. My younger sister and I were playing house in the front yard. We were hanging sheets over the bushes outside our bedroom window, pretending to do laundry I suppose (we had strange ideas about what was considered fun when were kids, didn’t we?). I unknowingly tossed my sheet over a yellowjacket nest. Yes, yellowjackets. Déjá vu.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.   http://cindydyer.zenfolio.com/p270076135

BatRastards





I know what you can get me for my next birthday…

10 07 2009

TreeBedYes, I am fully aware that $15,000 is pretty pricey for a bed frame, but if just 15,000 of my currently 82,733 blog visitors chipped in just $1 each, I could sleep in this bed every night! Imagine that. (I didn’t account for tax and shipping charges, though—this thing must weigh quite a bit. Does anyone have a large truck?)

Of course, it might bring on recurring nightmares about the snake-and-doomed-robin-chick episode of last week that I posted here. The scene atop the bed looks eerily familiar. You see, I have this visual penchant for trees, leaves, nests, feathers, birds and eggs. Oh, and sleep. That’s a good thing, too. So, this present would combine four of those faves of mine in one simple gift. And you don’t even have to wrap it! Oh, and I’ll provide the linens, so no need to fret about including those.

Then again, $15,000 would buy at least three of the pricier prime Nikon lenses that I don’t already have but certainly still lust after. (Which ones, you ask? Oh, say the 600mm f/4D IF-ED II, the 200-400mm VR f/4 AF-S, and maybe the 200mm Micro f/4D IF-ED, in case you were curious or just taking notes.)

Tree bed, Nikon lenses. Tree bed, Nikon lenses. Hmmmm. What do you think? Talk amongst yourselves. I’m sure I’ll love whatever you get me.

Take a look at artist Shawn Lovell’s other metal creations on her website here. Beautiful work!





Requiem for a baby robin

1 07 2009

Not too long ago, a mama robin fashioned a beautiful nest at the top of the gazebo outside my office door. From my chair in front of the computer I could watch her come and go. I wasn’t sure if she was sitting on unhatched eggs or already mothering a hatched baby. Early this morning, after she left for her morning food gathering mission (I assume), I tapped on the gazebo and heard some faint chirping. I pulled out the ladder and climbed up to get a peek (camera in hand, of course). The gazebo has a grapevine growing over it and the area she had built the nest is well hidden by branches and leaves. We also put up one of those light nets that you put over bushes at Christmas so we could have mood lighting during parties. I wasn’t able to get up high enough to look down on the nest, so I just slipped my lens through the net, put the camera over my head, pointed it in the general direction, and snapped away. I got this not-that-great photo of her solitary sweet baby this morning.

About an hour ago, while we were watching a movie, Michael heard a bird chirping loudly and since birds don’t normally make much noise at night, we knew something was dreadfully wrong. Had the baby fallen out of the nest? Had Indie, a neighborhood cat, come into the yard and seen the baby? We ran downstairs, turned on the porch light and watched the mama bird hopping from branch to branch under the gazebo, chirping away. As soon as we opened the door, mama flew to the fence. We looked on the ground; no fallen baby. I looked up—and gasped—was that the curvy outline of a SNAKE? Yes, it was. I hollered to Michael. He went to grab a flashlight and grabbed the (black) snake by the head and pulled it out of the nest, banishing it (unharmed) to the woods nearby. Had we known the baby was already gone, I would have taken the dead bird and the snake out to the woods. I’m not a big fan of snakes, but I would never kill one (unless it was attacking me, that is) and I always discourage my snake-fearing friends from doing just that when they encounter one. I respect them but really…go feast on something else…and not in my yard!

I climbed the ladder to see if the baby was still alive. It was too late. I pulled its still warm but lifeless body out of the nest and began crying. Michael came back and we gave the baby bird a proper burial in the garden. Just 12 hours ago I was photographing an almost-ready-to-leave-the-nest baby and now we were burying it in our garden. I realize snakes need to survive, too, but it’s just such a sad thing to witness so soon after photographing it. Of course, when you build a paradise in your backyard, you’re bound to attract all sorts of wildlife, including the predators. I wish I had a better photograph to honor this sweet baby who lived such a short life. A short life, long remembered.

Speaking of snakes…a few years ago Michael was driving home through our neighborhood and noticed a U.S. postal truck that had stopped in the middle of the road. There was a group of kids on a nearby curb watching our postman beating the crap out of a harmless black snake! Michael gave him a lecture about black snakes and promptly rescued it, taking it to the woods to release it (although I’m sure it didn’t survive the postman’s wrath). The snake was simply slithering into the woods (as snakes are inclined to do) and the postman turned into animal control. Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Michael came home from work, then walked across the parking lot to get the mail from the communal post box. The mailman came running over, shouting “do you have a shovel?!” Michael asked him, “what in the world do you need a shovel for?” He said, “there’s a snake over there and I ran over him a couple of times with the truck but he’s still not dead!” Michael walked over and looked at the snake. Once again, it was a harmless black snake. And guess what? It was the same damn postman, too. When Michael came back in to the house, he told me what had transpired. He was mad, which in turn made me mad. I called the local post office to register a complaint. The man who answered said he would be the one to report to, so I told him both stories. I gave him our address so he was able to pinpoint exactly which mailman I reporting. He said, “that is so not his responsibility nor his job. Plus, doesn’t he know that snakes keep the rat population down?” He apologized for the man’s behavior and said he would speak to him about the incidents.

Obviously Michael is the calm one in this relationship. It’s a good thing I didn’t encounter the postman either time!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Baby Robin





Westheimer Avian Conference

10 01 2009

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

I shot this image the first evening of our road trip back to Virginia while we were at a stop light on Westheimer in Houston (I confess—we were just leaving a Half Price Books & Records store—I bought just three books, I promise—and they were all just $1 each from the clearance section). This was just one small section of telephone wire at the intersection and the area was clearly a magnet for birds. There were thousands of birds lined up on every wire! I shot about 20 shots through the window before the light turned green. (Michael was driving, by the way, so I didn’t put anyone at risk.)

I came across an interesting essay that answers the question, “Why do birds form large winter roosts and flocks?” on the Sibley Nature Center blog.

Love birds? Check out this bird-filled post here from my July 2008 archives, this post here on chicadees from summer of 2007, and this post here on mourning doves from spring of 2007.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.   

westheimer-birds





Hungry baby Robins

2 05 2008

I shot this photo of baby Robins last spring. The nest was in the crabapple tree just outside our kitchen window. Robin eggs are the most beautiful shade of pale blue green, one of my favorite colors.

Here’s an excellent website with FAQs about the American Robin:
http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/robin/FAQBabies.html

A day-to-day journal of baby Robins here: http://kathyskritters.com/tales/robins/

Here’s a really great video of a baby Robin hatching:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDKgLfWheoI

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





In Frank Lloyd Wright’s Footsteps…

31 03 2008

SUBJECT: Architectural Masterpiece

ARCHITECT: Cindy Dyer, a.k.a. Head Weed

CLIENT: Dim-witted Mourning Dove (with lack of sense to build nest in a less conspicuous area)

PROJECT: Nest Improvement, including A-frame (vented) roof that blends into surroundings

LIMITATIONS: budget (how much could a dove have to offer?), limited to materials on hand, and time (limited due to builder’s other job as a graphic designer)

BUILDING MATERIALS
Ample chicken wire from Carmen & George’s moving-out contributions, cheap wire cutters, plentiful source of leaves, twigs from last year’s liatris stalks, willow branches from delapidated garden ornament, and grapevines

THE BUILDING SITE
Client attempted to “break ground” without first consulting architect (or land owner); site is the empty gothic-style wrought iron planter box hanging on a limb stump on a tree in the architect’s back yard. Architect sees bird fly off, inspects site, notes start of nest, then proceeds to devise renovation plans, taking a gamble on bird returning after nest site is partially disturbed

THE THOUGHT PROCESS (yes, there was one)
— Build A-frame mesh roof, just wide enough to accommodate already-begun dove nest
— Attach mesh roof to wrought iron planter with green wire (to blend in nicely)
— weave willows to form back wall (rather crudely done, but this is the look I was going for….something a dove might do if she had opposeable thumbs, but not so complex that it would appear a real architect did it!)
— weave right side with same willow to add protection from the elements, but leave some open gaps to appeal to the (not so bright) bird’s penchant for open spaces
— leave left side of metal roof open for feng shui appeal (good vibes in, bad vibes out)
— tuck in leaves to further protect from the elements, add a softening touch to the heavy metal roof, and offering some camouflage from predators

CLIENT’S REACTION
— Didn’t get client approval (in the form of an immediate move-in) for at least one day

ARCHITECT’S LOG
— Let cats out in the backyard early evening, 3/29, and birds scattered from the home site
— Took a peek into empty domicile and observed blindingly white egg
— Add a few more leaves to obscure view of aforementioned egg
— Add a few more grapevines overhead, then cut (invisible) ceremonial ribbon, pronouncing the project complete

OBSERVATION, 3/30, 1:04 p.m.

Eureka! (Dad, eureka is one of those words that deserves an exclamation mark)

The client loves her new abode; see paparazzi’s photographic proof, attached, in the first photo below.

arch-masterpiece.jpg

© 2007 Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Later, I was able to observe and photograph Baby Yin and Baby Yang from birth to flying lesson day. Above: in the middle photo, Baby Yin is at recess under Mama’s watchful teal-rimmed eyes. (Baby Yang was not quite ready to leave home and stayed in the nest while his/her sibling learned the ropes.) In the last photo, Baby Yin is doing the all important wing stretches (yes, she does have two legs, but doesn’t she have remarkable balance on just one? I’m such a proud foster mother!)