Best Laid Plans

One of my most vivid childhood memories is sitting beside my mother where she’d tripped and fallen on the sidewalk while rushing for the bus to go shopping. “More haste, less speed,” she said, through gritted teeth. She had a pithy saying for every occasion, my mum, and most them were/are very true. We never did go shopping that day, or for many days thereafter, as she’d sprained her ankle quite badly.

I had great plans for this festive season. Finish up the local sales events early,  leaving lots of time to update my online shop, go for long walks and catch up on the local crows and maybe even get some snowshoeing (ravens!)  in before Christmas. Leisurely holiday shopping in the local shops, baking,  …

Well, you can see how I was asking for trouble.

Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, here I am this festive season.

It seems to be a family tradition now, the pre-Christmas disaster. The worst was Phillip’s concussion from a bicycle accident a few years back. The most hilarious (although only in retrospect) was 2016 when Lily’s dog got sprayed by a skunk at 11pm on Christmas Eve.

The sore foot I noticed the week before the studio sale turned out to be a stress fracture. What with one thing and another, it took quite a while for the x-ray results and to get fitted for the stylish new boot, with a few days when I really could hardly get about at all.  I was starting to feel pretty sorry for myself.

But, another one of my mother’s favourite sayings was “worse things are happening at sea,” and this seems to fit well into that category. We do have the Christmas tree up, and as long as I can hobble as far as the garden, or even the deck, I have some spectacular company.

It was a bit wet this morning, but Marvin and Mavis were, as always, on hand to say hello.

Moist Marvin

Mavis

I think Mavis holds me partially responsible for the change in weather.

In the garden on the weekend, there was a positive Who’s Who of bird visitors coming by to cheer me up.

The most handsome Spotted Towhee

Towhees are new to the garden this year. Always a thrill to see that oh-so-stylish and dotty colour combination.

The world’s most winsome White Crowned Sparrow.

Sweetest Song Sparrow.

Cheery Chestnut-Backed Chickadee

Jolly Junco

I’m noticing that some of the juncos I’m seeing lately have more chestnut on their hoods than I remember in the past. I always thought they were more uniformly grey or black, so I wonder if there is some sort of avian gene pooling going on there.

Heavenly Hummingbird

For years we’ve had one single Anna’s Hummingbird visit the garden all year round. Recently she has found a friend with whom to squabble about the hummingbird feeder.

Natty Nuthatch

I’d never seen a nuthatch until this one started frequenting the garden a couple of months ago. I can always tell when he’s around by the honking sound. At first I thought it was someone’s car alarm going off!

Rosy House Finch

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a couple of house finches with eye problems in the garden. Internet research revealed that there is a very contagious eye disease that spreads among finches, and advice was to bring the bird feeders in for a week or so, meanwhile cleaning them thoroughly with a bleach solution (rinsing well.) I just put the feeders out again a couple of days ago and the birds are celebrating, but I’m keeping a close watch on the finches — and planning on cleaning the feeders every week from now on.

Fabulous Flicker

Flicker Face Off

Probably a stern Flicker look for her old nest rival, the starling.

And, when my foot is starting to throb and it’s time to head inside for a sit down, there’s even more great company in there.

Can I get you a cup of tea …?

Festive Feline

The human company is pretty good too!

Finally, in late breaking news, Marvin has declared that the City Crow Calendar, 2020 Edition has passed the all important corvid taste test!

Hmm, could use a little ketchup, but otherwise, not bad …

www.junehunter.com

 

 

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Battle of the Nest

When we left our happy Northern Flicker couple in last week’s post, they were making great progress with their plum tree nest building. Much sawdust had been mined and the pair were looking pretty pleased with themselves.

I check their progress every time I walk the dog so imagine my surprise when I witnessed a full-scale, no-holds-barred battle taking place between the resident flicker and a starling.

For all the flicker’s size advantage, the starling had pure street fighting instinct going for it. When they finally broke apart, a flicker feather spiralled slowly down through the morning air and into my hand.

The flickers flew back to the nest while the starling pair continued to make fierce calls from the other branches in the tree. Surely, I thought, the flickers must have the advantage here, being so much bigger and on home territory. But …

Once the female flicker had driven the starling off she and the invader both flew over to the neighbour’s fence. The flicker took the opportunity to catch her breath. The starling took the time to perform what looked very much like a starling war ritual, puffing out his feathers, making angry chattering calls and taking out a bit of aggression on a yew hedge before heading back into the fray …

The fight continued for several more minutes. And it was fierce. Somehow the starling got inside the nest and the male flicker tried to keep him trapped in there — unsuccessfully.

Ficker Vs Starling 4

Eventually they took a break. Many flicker feathers had floated to the ground. Geordie, the dog, was looking worried that this morning’s walk would never actually get going.

Somewhat reluctantly on my part, we went for our walk. On the way home we, of course, stopped to check in at the state of play at the flicker nest. I fully expected to see the original owners back in control, but …

It seemed that new tenants had moved in and, not only that, they were redecorating to suit …

The Northern Flickers were nursing their wounds and their bruised pride on a neighbour’s roof, hammering out their frustration on the metal chimney.

It looked as if the small but scrappy starlings had won!

But, in the Game of Nests, it’s never over till it’s over … so stay tuned for the next instalment.

Read previous nesting posts:

Tap, Tap, Tap …

Game of Nests

Nesting News

Tap, Tap, Tap ….

Sometimes you need to listen as well as to look to know what’s going on in the neighbourhood.

This was the first sign that new tenants had moved into the ornamental plum tree on our street (one tree down from the  current chickadee nest.)

The dog stopped to check his social media messages at the base of the tree and, while we were standing there, I noticed that soft tap, tap, tapping, almost lost in the traffic, construction and other urban sounds.

I had a strong suspicion that I knew who was working on this building job and, sure enough …

… the contractor popped his head out of the other end of the tunnel to see who was stopping by to admire the craftsmanship. I assured him he was doing an excellent job and we moved on.

On the return leg of the dog walk I noticed more work in progress.

The female flicker has been doing her share of digging too. You can tell them apart by the red “moustache” on the male.

After a week or more of hewing and spitting out wood chips, the new home owners were looking somewhat tired, but pleased with their efforts.

However, it can be a very competitive housing market here in Vancouver …

Stayed tuned for the next dramatic instalment  of Flicker Nesting 2019 for a tense tale featuring elements of municipal density issues … and, yes, Game of Thrones.

For more on previous year’s Flicker nesting adventures see: Flicker Nesting Saga:
Part One and Part Two