Tag Archives: Bird

The Duck Who Thinks He’s A Chicken~

Earlier in the spring a mallard duck decided to make her nest against the side of my parent’s house.  My Dad, a big fan of feathered fowl, checked on it daily.  One day it had been abandoned, or so he thought, and he took several of the eggs up to a faithful hen and slipped them into her nest.  As it turned out, the mother mallard had simply gone ‘walk about’  and returned.  Rather than disturb matters further, he left the eggs with the little hen.
The mama duck hatched her brood and ushered them down to the river that flows  below the house.   The hen’s eggs also hatched.   Not being partial to her species, she didn’t take any notice of a duckling among them.  Without prejudice of any kind, blind to color, feathers, beaks and feet, she took on the care of the single surviving mallard.  He’s now several months old and spends his time pecking around with his hen mom, answering her motherly clucks.
Several days ago my dad shooed the duckling down to the water garden in their yard that he dug years ago.  A little prodding and the duck plunged into the water,  ecstatically scooping up the duck weed as if he’d landed in his version of heaven.  So far, he’s returned to the chicken coop to spend the night, which may be wise as you never know when a hawk will decide to make a visit.  Generally around meal time.  Otherwise, he’s content in the mini pond with his mom clucking from a distance.  If he’s confused about his identity or being an ‘only duckling’ he hasn’t mentioned it, just gotten on with his life.  Brave, well, chipper.
The hen in the family photo above is his devoted mother, up for hen of the year.  Obviously, the rooster isn’t his father, but you can’t be sure about roosters anyway, or drakes, ganders…Speaking of which, the strange orange footed gander in the pic apparently decided to look out for the mama duck and her babies when she brought them back to visit the day after they hatched.  However, he must have gotten sidetracked working the crossword, or misplaced his glasses and lost sight of her, or perhaps she scurried off on some errand without him promising to be right back.  Even well intentioned geese are extremely absentminded.  And ducks, as everyone knows, are full of bobbance and bounce, easily distracted.   My parents haven’t seen her in days, maybe she’s gone walk about again.
There’s a moral in this story somewhere.  I’ll leave you to find it.  Meanwhile, why don’t we all just hold hands and sing Kumbia.  Or hold wings…
*Pics taken by my mom~

Bee Balm Attracts Hummingbirds

If you delight in fruity minty fragrance and the sight of hummingbirds hovering above brilliant tubular blossoms, try your hand at growing bee balm.  This Native American herb, also called wild bergamot and Monarda, is available in crimson, pink, and purple flowers.  My favorite varieties are the red ones.  They also seem to attract more hummers, at least in my yard, but the other colors are lovely too.

As its name suggests, bee balm is attractive to honey bees. Butterflies also favor it. The red variety is commonly known as Oswego Tea and was used by colonists in place of English Tea after the Boston Tea Party, when they threw the English tea in the harbor to protest the tax imposed on it by the British.

To make a cup of tea, place a tablespoon of fresh or one teaspoon of dried bee balm leaves in a tea strainer or tea spoon and pour one cup of boiling water over it. Allow it to steep for ten minutes and bring the tea out. Sweeten if you wish and enjoy. The leaves can be chopped and added to salads. Flowers can also be used for tea or salads, but in my thinking that’s just wrong.

Bee Balm has a long history of medicinal use by American Indians and settlers, primarily for stomach and bronchial ailments, and is the source for the antiseptic derivative called Thymol. I haven’t used the plant medicinally, but enjoy its beauty and delicious scent in the garden. Hummingbirds appear without fail when my patch of bee balm thrives. Recent droughts have hurt it, so this year I’m setting out yet more starts of this invaluable herb.  *Note I wrote the bulk of this post last spring, so can now report in and say that the plants I set out then made it!  Woo hooo!  But I’d still like more.  I’m quite greedy when it comes to bee balm.

You can grow bee balm in among other plants, but take care that it isn’t crowded out, a mistake I’ve made. And it’s susceptible to mildew, so sunshine and good air circulation are important. Some recommended companion plants for bee balm are: purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), and lavender (Lavandula).

The Old Farmers Almanac (Online site) has a super piece about plants to attract birds and creating a bird friendly habitat.  They say:  “Hummingbirds are happy with nectar from bee balm…The key to attracting hummingbirds to your yard is to plant lots of flowers and provide the habitat that will give them shade, shelter, food, and security.”

For more from this valuable resource visit The Old Farmer’s Almanac and register for their free newsletter.  It’s loaded with valuable info.  The site also offers lovely cookbooks, gardening journals, handy garden snips… for sale.  They have a special Mother’s Day offer on now.  Not to mention that they are often spot on with their weather predictions.

One Fine Day

These pics are a photographic collage my daughter Elise took (and some by my husband) of her and my jaunt around the garden, across the meadow, past the pond, and up through the fields to the woods above our farm.~

Such an exquisitely beautiful spring day.  Pristine perfection.  Many colored tulips glow like jewels.  Virginia bluebells cover the ground in the dappled shade of the enormous maple tree.  The original plants were a gift from my late grandmother.

Lilacs and flowering crab apples scent the warm air.  Some of the lilacs have been here for half a century.  The jonquils smell wonderful.  Even the earthy fragrance of cows and hay appeals to me, an essential  part of my being.  Find your center place and you will discover what both grounds and inspires you.  For me, it’s the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains…our farm…the garden, the land.  Cherish the earth and it will richly reward you…restore your spirit.

The green meadow spreads, rippling, in the sun.  Elusive meadowlarks trill from the tall grass.  We try, but cannot find the secretive birds.  Their sweet trill beckons from here and then there, always further ahead, or then again from behind.  We are determined to find the singer but finally give up.

I once spied a meadowlark perched on a fence post, though not when I was looking for it.  That’s about as high as they fly.  The yellow on its breast was unmistakable.  What a thrill.  They are my favorite song birds.

I love the water birds too.  A type of sandpiper darts around the pond in the low muddy spots and then flies, sounding its funny cry.  There are  a number of them, and the purple martins are back.  Iridescent in the sun.  The swifts and swallows are yet to come, but the pond is glorious.   A frog plops in and we see a string of eggs in the grass at the edge.  Ducks and geese bob over the water glinting in the clear light.

Our farm is the headwaters of an unassuming little creek that flows on through other farms and past the neighboring town, and on, we suppose to the river.   It’s not a grand waterway, but how many of you can claim to live near the headwaters of anything?   So I mention it with some pride. 🙂

On we wander, back behind our farm, to the remains of an old homestead.  The house burned down years ago but a derelict outbuilding remains with a gnarled fruit tree, wild cherry I think, growing alongside it.  And an ancient barn.  There’s a grassy sort of clearing where the house and yard used to be set in amid lofty, seemingly random, trees.   A large red squirrel lives there now and a startled rabbit.  Lord only knows what else.  I suspect it’s eerie at night.  Maybe even haunted…though during the day everything appears utterly charming.

Then Elise spots the hawk we’ve been on the lookout for.  We are fortunate to photograph the majestic red-tailed bird soaring high overhead, and think he lives in the wooded hills up above the fields.  While he’s on his scouting expedition, the other creatures grow silent.  The wise ones, anyway.  I heard some foolish chatter.

The rose flush of new leaves co-mingle with the many shades of green in the trees.  So many birds call from their branches.   We seek the songsters, sometimes with luck, sometimes not, but rarely in time to snap their picture.  Red wing black birds call continuously and almost seem to accompany us from place to place.  I’ve never seen so many of them at once.  Must be a sort of bird festival.  They are quite special to me.   Song sparrows sing, a chatty mockingbird, cardinal, possibly horned larks…

Everywhere we gaze, the world is reborn.  Magical.  This is the time to savor the spirit-lifting sights, scents, and sounds.   And remember.

“I do not think I have ever seen anything more beautiful
than the bluebell I have been looking at. I know the beauty of our Lord by it.”
~ Gerald Manley Hopkins

“When bright flowers bloom
Parchment crumbles, my words fade
The pen has dropped …” ~Morpheus

“It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.”
~William Carlos Williams

“In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich
with many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I
With every leaf a miracle – and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.”
~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1865

Tell All To Turtles

Brilliant yellow gold finches streaked across the garden today and landed on the fence beside the hollyhocks. I love these birds, one of my absolute favorites. In midsummer, when the sunflowers bloom, they gather in chattering clusters to feed on the seeds. Their wings flash in the sun as they suspend on sunflower heads and peck away, and meticulously open each seed. I’ve never heard such euphoric birds, continually exclaiming over their finds. They have a lot to say and do not keep secrets well.

If I were to confide in birds, it would not be them, or to crows, loudly proclaiming the latest gossip. Warblers are fairy creatures, but not silent fairies. Possibly to wolves–no. They howl. Frogs croak and gribbit. Turtles are quiet. Tell all to turtles, then. Box or painted ones. Snappers are treacherous and would as soon bite you as listen.