Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mink Steals Duck Egg

I just saw a mink in my backyard steal a duck egg from a nest next to the pond. The poor duck watched helplessly from the pond. But the mink bounded away quite happily. Survival of the fittest.
I looked up minks online, and that is what it was. I can't believe it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ducks and Robins

I scared a mother mallard duck sitting on a nest in the middle of ferns in our yard. I couldn't believe she was on a nest in late June. She dove into the pond in a rush.

The same day, I scared a fledgling robin in a bush. He or she flew out to our driveway and just sat still, terrified. The parents were flying all over and twittering madly at me and their baby.

Then, our backyard robins have gone back to their nest under our solarium eves to lay another batch of eggs.

Busy yard. But that's what you get when you garden organically.

I love it that birds care so much for their young. They watch over them, just as most human parents watch over their children.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Worries About Imported Wasps

I read a fascinating article about inventive ways the border patrol can protect us. It was in the Wall Street Journal. One invention is a "squid" with tentacles that can reach out and stop a car. But the one that worries me is to import a wasp from Spain that likes to live in the type of plants that illegal immigrants hide in.

Remember killer bees? They were imported and are now spreading and hurt regular non-aggressive European honeybees. The Japanese beetle was supposed to be beneficial, but it isn't. Ticks came in on sheep from overseas.

I think we need to be really careful about bringing in these wasps. They could upset still another ecosystem. Does the EPA know what Homeland Security is doing? What will the unintended consequences be?

Read on....http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124286185495041091.html

Friday, May 8, 2009

Deer Netting and the Dove

A poor dove got caught in the deer netting that I had over my lettuce. She struggled so much that she pulled feathers out. I wasn't around to see this happening. I found the dove and the netting in the middle of the lawn with feathers strewn all around. I wondered if a hawk or some other animal had seen her distress and pulled her and the netting off the lettuce. In any event, all that was left were feathers all over the ground and a partly denuded dove. I wish I could have saved the dove.

I've seen birds escape the netting before, and I've rescued chipmunks from the deer netting in the past. One time I did see a hawk descend on a chipmunk who was trapped. The hawk killed the chipmunk but couldn't get at it well enough through the netting. When the hawk saw me watching, he flew away.

Nature and people at work...

Chipmunk Gets Vacuumed

Here is a story from my neighbor:

I was standing in the kitchen doorway to our backyard. The dog, Roger, was jumping in the plantings after something. Suddenly, Roger pounced and a chipmunk shot up in the air, through my legs and into the kitchen. I'm sure you all know what havoc a chipmunk in the house can cause so I was desperate to catch him.
He immediately disappeared into the baseboard heating and I couldn't see him. I quickly got a mop and broom to get him but couldn't find him. I wondered if maybe in the 10 seconds I left the spot to get the tools he had dashed out. So I kept looking....nothing. Then Roger reappeared and started sniffing at the baseboard and then pawing at it. I removed the front plate so I could see in and at the very end, on the bend of the heat tubing and under the endcap, I saw a very big eye. I tried to get him to move by poking him with the handle but he froze. I couldn't get at him with my hands (gloved of course) and I certainly didn't want to leave him there all night.
What to do? I got our Electrolux vacuum cleaner which has a long hose. It sucks the dirt thru the hose and thru a tiny (3/4" dia.) hole into the bag. I thought it might pull the chipmonk out enough that I could grab it and get it outside. Well, it did pull the chipmunk out and THUNK sucked it right thru the hose and tiny hole and into the bag. Now I had to make a decision - throw the whole thing in the trash or try for a 'Alvin' rescue. Maybe he was someone's parent. I removed the bag from the machine and went to the woods. Nothing would come out thru the little hole so I had to rip open the bag and there he was, my chipmunk totally covered with dust and a bit stunned. I put him in a nice pile of very wet leaves were he rubbed himself off and into the woods he went.
I wonder with his teeny little head if he'll have any idea of how I saved his life and then stop digging holes in my yard and eating bulbs I'm waiting to see bloom? I doubt it, but it's a nice thought to think he might feel he has a new friend.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wood Ducks

We've had so much rain -- great weather for ducks.

Yesterday, the wood ducks came in the early evening. I love them because they are so cute. I watched them through binoculars as they swam around. It's like they visit our pond for a vacation.

The mallards were back this morning.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Cardinals have built a nest in a bush just outside our front door. They fly away in fear every time I open the front door. But I really scared them when I was cleaning a bay window that overlooks the nest. They were chirping at me and flying all around, even though I was inside. Birds do not understand glass.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Doctor Shortage Hurts Families

Seniors have Medicare, so they have health insurance. But it's getting harder and harder for them to find primary care physicians. The same thing is going to happen to the rest of us as more and more of the general population gets health care coverage. There just aren't enough doctors because the pay isn't good enough. The New York Times ran a terrific article on the problem yesterday. I'm pasting a synopsis and link below.

I know this is a problem because my own doctor is struggling with the low payments from insurers. My daughter, who lives in Massachusetts, has told me stories of the doctor shortages brought about by the universal coverage that state has instituted. In Massachusetts, you're fined if you don't have health insurance. People who can't afford insurance must apply for it from the state. (It's like Medicaid.) But my daughter's friends who wound up with Mass Health coverage can't find doctors who will take it. They are going without.

This same problem is likely to hit the whole country if we have universal coverage. Medical school is expensive, so there are fewer doctors who want to become primary physicians where the pay is lower than it is for specialists.

So what should we do? I believe our country should subsidize doctors who will become primary care physicians, particularly ones who go out to serve the under-served. We need something like the Teach for America plan, only for doctors. I'm also hoping that lower salaries and bonuses and fewer jobs in finance will draw the best and brightest into medicine and science. I was so sad to watch my kids' classmates who were brainiacs in math and science all flock to Wall Street instead of the sciences. (Although one went to Google in marketing after majoring in chemistry at an Ivy League School.) The financial incentives simply have to change, or we will be paying more and more for medical care and getting less and less.

This will really affect the growing population of seniors and all families adversely.

From the New York Times -- Health / Health Care Policy
Shortage of Doctors an Obstacle to Obama Goals
Published: April 27, 2009
One proposal -- to increase Medicare payments to general practitioners, at the expense of high-paid specialists -- has touched off a lobbying fight.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Robins Build McMansion

Robins are just like people. They want the best possible home in which to raise their children.

Our robins decided to finish their home under the eaves of our solarium and on top of the flood lights. They left nothing to chance, creating a robin's version of a McMansion. We have one set of robins with a nest in a bush by the front door. They built a typical robin's nest, smallish and made mostly of woven twigs and feathers. But the robins that built over our flood lights have blue ribbons, strands of lily fronds, grasses, twigs and lots and lots of mud. The mud sides of the nest must be three inches high. I'm not sure when I've seen a larger or more sturdy nest. Mrs. Robin is sitting very proudly on top. She's got a great roof over her head and a perfect view out over our pond.

It will be very interesting to see if her eggs or the ones near the front door will hatch first. The poor robin by the front door flies away in fright every time I open the door. But the backyard robin with the mega nest sits quietly even when I walk underneath.

Don't we mothers all want the same thing for our families? A good roof over our heads and a clear view of real danger?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Moms and Mother Ducks

Mother ducks are smart mothers. They let their babies roam all over the pond, but they do it under watchful eyes. The mother duck who brings her ducklings to our pond lets those little ones explore, but she never lets them out of her sight. And if she spies a hawk in the air, she calls her babies back. Boy, do they swim fast! There are usually two who really set out alone to far reaches. Others stay close to mom. Some set out in a small group, but not too far away.

The ducklings remind me of kids. Why are siblings different? I think it's mother nature's way of ensuring survival of the DNA. Maybe the ones that stay close to mom will survive and prosper, or maybe it's the ones who take off and take risks. Maybe they'll wind up changing life for the ducks, just as our human risk takers change things for people.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Red Wing Blackbirds

I saw our red wing blackbird yesterday. I wonder if he will be a pest this summer. In the past he has been amazingly aggressive against our big birds, turtles and us human beings.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Our Kingfisher is back. I love watching him dive into the pond and come up with small fish. He is an amazing fisher. I really enjoy hearing his unique twittering.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


The robins have shifted their nest to the other side of our yard. I saw two robins this morning who were fighting. I think we humans always forget that conflict and competition are all part of the natural world, which is why it's part of our natures.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Snowy Egret

The snowy white egret has come back. I love watching it land, deliberately stalk fish in the pond and soar back into the air. Yesterday it slowly walked the edge of the dam intently eying the water. This morning I watched it swoop in and take off again. So majestic.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Greed and the Great Blue Heron

Our great blue heron stalked the fish in our pond and caught the biggest one possible -- 12" long and 4" wide. That heron was a bit too greedy. He tried arranging it in his beak so that he could swallow it, all to no avail. Then, he finally got tired of holding the fish and set it down. It was flopping all over, so he stabbed it with his beak and took a drink of water. Then, he picked it up again and worked on trying to swallow it.

Later, I found the dead fish on the ground. I'm going to bury it in my garden to help my vegetables grow. That's an old Indian-Native American trick.

The lesson from this is -- don't be greedy.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Blue Heron

Our great blue heron returned again. I saw him plunge into a school of sunning fish. But he walked out of the pond empty.

Our robins seem to have given up on the next over the lights.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Our Robins

Our robins have returned and are building a nest in the same place as last year -- right over a pair of flood lights, weaving the straw, string and grass over and between the lights. They use a lot of mud to hold it all together. It's a messy job. They also decorate the nest with blue ribbons and strings. They did the same thing last year. I think these birds like blue decorations.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Backyard Bird Happenings

It's spring, and the birds in my Connecticut backyard are very busy. We have a pond, which attracts all sorts of great birds. I just saw an osprey dive in and fly away with a fish.

Please post your bird sightings.