Closed ‘Til Spring

Within this wooden box
Tree swallows built a home
Of grass and feathers

Formed a cup-shaped nest
To hold a clutch of pink-white eggs
Tended them in heat and chill

Watched as shells cracked and
Newborns struggled
To take their first deep drink of air

Through short summer months
They swept bugs up on the wing
Perfected their aerial acrobatics

Then as the sun shrank
They cast themselves south
And left behind an empty sky.

 

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Fan-dango

Fandango:
1. a lively Spanish dance for two people, typically accompanied by castanets or tambourine; or,

2. a foolish or useless act or thing.

It started with a thump on the living room window. I knew the sound. Not good. Something had flown into the glass.

I grabbed the camera and went to look. I didn’t see anything at first, then suddenly a male grouse rounded the corner of the deck. He was in full display — his gorgeous blue-black ruff puffed up around his head, his eye combs bright red and his tail feathers fanned out like a peacock. A great idea in the summer when you’re hoping to attract a female’s eye. But in November? In. The. Snow?

He strutted across the deck and onto the ground beneath the window.

Male ruffed grouse

It must have been a female who hit the window. Perhaps to escape his unwanted attention. That’s when I saw the first feathers. I assumed she’s survived the impact as he kept moving along, his eye firmly on his target.

Male ruffed grouse

I caught sight of her for a brief moment, then she disappeared around the corner of the house. He followed …

Male ruffed grouse

… trailing her to the front of the house.

Male and female ruffed grouse

About then one of the four females sitting in the saskatoon bush flew low over their heads and into a spruce tree. The male, seeing fresh opportunity, forgot about the first female and went to check out the new prospect. Seeing her chance the first female departed the scene.

The new bird kept to her branch. She was not interested. He stayed below, Romeo to her Juliet.

Male and female ruffed grouse

As for the injured female? I saw her later beyond the end of the garden. I’m not sure how seriously she was hurt. Later I checked where she had struck the glass and found dozens of feathers.

Female ruffed grouse

Reflections confuse the birds. Although we’ve done what we can to bird-proof our windows, two female grouse died this summer when they flew into them. Thinking they have an escape route they hit hard glass instead.

Hopefully this one will survive.


Ruffed grouse   Bonasa umbellus

Hip, Hip, Hooray

Rose hip: The fruit of a rose.

Rose hips figure high on the foods-I-like-to-eat for ruffed grouse. They’re packed with vitamin C, fibre and lots of essential minerals.

About 6 grouse visit our yard so rose hips are becoming scarce. They picked the low-hanging ones early in the fall. Later they climbed into the rose bushes to eat them. But there are still some left.

The other day I was taking shots of grouse through the kitchen window. I watched as one female spotted a small hip dangling above her. Could she get it?

Seems so. 🙂

Ruffed grouse


Ruffed grouse  Bonasa umbellus

Garden Party

Ruffed grouse paid us a visit on this snowy afternoon.

First one arrived …

Ruffed grouse

Not finding much of interest in the snow-dusted grass, the saskatoon bush seemed a better prospect.

Ruffed grouse

Then a second showed up …

(What were they eating? Chickadees cleaned off the berries a long time ago).

Ruffed grouse

And finally a third …

Ruffed grouse

They stayed for several minutes, almost hidden among the branches, pecking, looking, pecking some more. Then the party was over. One by one they hopped down and wandered away.


Ruffed grouse   Bonasa umbellus

First Snow

We knew it was coming: Fierce wind, biting cold, swirling clouds of snow. Still, last winter’s memories had faded. Toques, boots, mitts, jackets — all had been relegated to a dark corner of the basement. We had forgotten the shock such a turn in the weather can bring.

Today it all came rushing back. Winter gear was resurrected and the snow shovel that had languished behind the shed since last spring was dragged to the deck and a pathway cleared down the steps.

Tomorrow? The sun will return, the temperature will rise and by Thursday this will probably have melted.

 

 

Squirreling Away for Winter

For some weeks red squirrels have been gathering cones. Although that sounds rather casual it’s serious business.

Red squirrel

Unlike some of their cousins, including Columbian ground squirrels, red squirrels don’t hibernate but stay active all winter. If the weather is extremely cold they remain in their nest but otherwise it’s not unusual to see them out in the snow.

Red squirrel

It always surprises me that the tiny seeds of spruce cones provide them with enough energy.  It’s double duty right now — eating enough to put on some weight and storing enough to see them through to spring. Those cones, along with the mushrooms they’ve harvested and dried, should do the trick.

Red squirrel


Red squirrel    Tamiasciurus hudsonicus

Three More Inches of Winter

Or 8 centimetres, whichever you prefer. The snow arrived last night and it was still falling this morning, turning our world white. Again. Yes, a sure sign of spring in Alberta.

A month ago we were hiking the Sonoran Desert, panting in the heat, searching for shade. The snakes and lizards were out — and a profusion of flowers. A much nicer view right now. 🙂

Blue palo verde
Blue palo verde
Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea
Evening primrose
Evening primrose
Chuparosa
Chuparosa
Brittlebush
Brittlebush
Strawberry hedgehog
Strawberry hedgehog