Thursday, December 28, 2023

Christmas and warm memories

A few days of storms with tree-felling winds were followed by freezing cold clear weather, but so far there has not been any measurable snow.  Christmas Day was mostly dreary and drizzly. I captured a Christmas Black-capped Chickadee through the window, perched in the small White Pine:

As if to lessen the disappointment of a such a gray Christmas, the few days of sunshine did deliver a brief  flash of color when three Golden-crowned Kinglets appeared along the back fence. They were very active and it was difficult to get them in the view-finder. These were the best of a couple of dozen near misses, all from a single male:

A Song Sparrow scurried in the shadows amid the weeds:

A White-throated Sparrow was easier to capture when it chose to perch on a boulder:

Cazador, the family standard poodle, is very sensitive to the cold and really enjoys his Christmas sweater:

Earlier, Cazador greeted our granddaughter when she returned from college for her Christmas break:

On December 27, dense fog crept up from the Connecticut River Valley:

This week's reflection harks back to a Great Blue Heron photographed in Florida in August, 2015:

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MaryLou and I just celebrated a couple of anniversaries. Our first date was 70 years ago, on December 27, 1953, a semi-formal dinner dance at the Meadowbrook in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. My sister Ellen and MaryLou's best friend, Betty Jane, in cooperation with my friend and classmate, who happened to be MaryLou's brother Larry, conspired to "set me up" with her. 

As Part of the plot, Ellen would be Larry's date and Betty Jane would go with Tommy, another of our long-time friends. The six of us fit comfortably into Tommy's two-tone cream over cranberry-red 1952 Plymouth Cranbrook. Three could sit in the front seat in those days before center consoles.  

We all dated others after this, but whenever I saw MaryLou with someone else I knew they were not the right match for her. We married in 1960 when I was a medical student working part time as a lab technician and supermarket cashier and she had a steady job. 

In this photo, MaryLou and I are seated to the right. Sadly, all of the other four have passed away.

When I was drafted out of private family practice in 1966 we had three children. I was commissioned in the US Public Health Service and we moved about the country. Our children consider Dallas, Texas to be  their "home town." This conjured up the memory of another anniversary, I chaired the Dallas Military Ball in December, 1992:

This week's header: Foggy morning, December 27, 2023: 

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Winter Bluebirds

Eastern Bluebirds are regularly inspecting one of our two nest boxes. A few weeks earlier I had cleaned out this one after seeing the bluebirds enter them. They often emerged from the entrance to discard some of nesting material left over by the Tree Swallows which nested in it this past spring. I had let nature take its course and allowed the Tree Swallows to usurp the original occupants. The bluebirds had offered little or no resistance against the swallows, although they did occupy the second nest box.

Male Eastern Bluebird:

Female bluebird perched on lawn chair in early morning light:

Female at nest hole as male approached:

A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers appeared briefly in the adjacent woodlands. This is the male, distinguished by his red moustache:

Dark-eyed Juncos are now abundant:

A lone Common Grackle perched in view from the window. Although they are indeed "common," they prefer more open land to forage for seeds and insects:

A Turkey Vulture warmed its toes on a neighbor's chimney:

Window view of White-throated Sparrow gleaning under the feeders:

There have been a few snow flurries, but much rain. One morning, fog filled the valleys:

The western sky at sunrise:

Again, I need to reach into the archives to illustrate the reflection meme. These two Gray-headed Swamphens ponder their images (Pembroke Pines, Florida, October, 2014):

This week's header: Sky to west at sunrise, December 7, 2023:

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Peanut- butter pinecone poetry

A large plastic jar of peanut butter was damaged in shipping and some of its contents spilled out, rendering it inedible. The shipper's policies did not provide for refund or replacement of food items, but the incident turned out to be positive for the birds. 

Conveniently, our small White Pine had produced its first crop of a dozen female cones. We stuffed the spaces between the bracts with the peanut butter, affixed a wire and hung two of them near the bird feeders. 

Bluebirds, chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers took a liking to the novel food source and I had to replenish them  within a few days. The suitable locations for them were off to the side of the windows, so my images of this female Eastern Bluebird were very poor:

About a week ago, both pine cones suddenly disappeared at once, wires and all, probably early in the morning or late on a gloomy afternoon.  Perhaps squirrels or crows were the cone-snatchers, although I never saw these critters visit them.

"Cheeri-o cheeri-lee! 'Twere not me," sayeth the bluebird. The squirrel put on his most innocent face and the crow beat a hasty retreat, refusing to answer questions :

I entered all of the above text in ChatGPT 3.5 Artificial Intelligence program and requested that it be interpreted in verse. Below, I share with you the amazing results, unedited, verbatim. It took the program less than two seconds to write this poem...

Pine Cones and Peanuts

In a tale of woe, a jar took a blow,

Peanut butter spilled, what a tragic show!

Shipped with care, or so they swore,

But alas, the peanut joy was no more.

No refunds or swaps, the shipper declared,

Our peanut dreams shattered, no one cared.

But wait! A twist, a turn of fate,

For birds of the air, it was a feast so great!

Our White Pine, in the yard so fine,

Produced cones, a gift so divine.

A dozen cones, a peanut delight,

A plan hatched to set things right.

Stuff the cones with gooey treasure,

Hang 'em up, a peanut-filled pleasure.

Bluebirds chirped, "This is the life!"

Chickadees joined in, no need for strife.

Downy Woodpeckers, with a tap-tap-tap,

Savored the treat, a peanut mishap.

But lo and behold, the cones vanished one day,

Wires and all, mysteriously they flew away.

Who's the culprit, the cone mastermind?

Squirrels or crows, a mystery we find.

Bluebird cried, "Cheeri-o cheeri-lee!

'Twas not me, as you can see!"

The squirrel grinned, innocence on its face,

While the crow, in haste, left no trace.

A heist in the trees, a peanut caper,

The birds innocent, the true takers in paper!

So in the garden, the peanut saga unfolds,

With squirrels, crows, and birds in the cold.

A peanut mystery, unsolved to this day,

As the critters scatter and fly away.


By the end of November, flocks of American Robins had gleaned all the fruit from our 5 ornamental crabapple trees.  I had hoped they would leave some for the Cedar Waxwings, but the latter species disappeared completely in early November. Last winter the waxwings visited our holly bushes as late as mid-January. 

It was fun watching from the upstairs kitchen window as the robins squabbled over possession of the cluster of  three small crabapple trees. They seemed to be intolerant of others of their kind who landed too close by, so there was a great deal of chasing back and forth as others waited their turn in the nearby trees. Poor light on overcast mornings posed a photographic challenge:

A few Blue Jays joined in the feast:

Our Ring security camera caught this image of a strange Gnome-like face, in the inverted view of a conical juniper bush:

Well, that about does it for two weeks of fickle weather without outside walks. Freezing nights and high  winds were punctuated by warm rain and two days with record-breaking high temperatures of up to 61°F (16.1°C). Except for this iPhone shot of a very foggy morning on December 11, all my photos this time were taken from inside the house:

For my Reflections meme, once more I must glean the archives. On December 15, 2013 I was clearly visible in this squirrel's eye:

This week's header: Foggy morning December 11, 2023

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Crops & Clips: Flashback to December, 2020

As I do on the first Thursday of each month, I enjoy looking back over my archived photos, taken three years previously, in December, 2020, to remember how things were then as contrasted with events this year at our new home in Connecticut. As usual, I searched for images which reflected favorite memes: critters of all kinds (especially birds), skies and clouds, reflections, flowers and scenes which speak for themselves. We spent the entire month at home in Florida. I processed 542 photos.

We enjoyed beautiful weather. Although the passage of southbound migrants had concluded, some of the colorful winter residents persisted.

Yellow-rumped Warbler on Brazilian Pepper:

Palm Warbler:


Northern Parula:

Migrants from the north increased the abundance of local Prairie Warblers...

...and Blue-headed Vireos:

American Kestrels established and defended winter territories:

Northern Cardinals had completed their molt into fresh and brilliant feathers:

A few Ruby-throated Hummingbirds remained all winter. This is a mature female.

At our back yard lake, Wood Storks were numerous this winter:

Flocks of White Ibises foraged along the shore:

At the beginning of the month, the local pair of Bald Eagles were putting the finishing touches on their newly relocated nest:

Pink sky before sunrise on December 15:

The eastern sky at sunrise from our back patio, December 21:

We did not know it at the time, but this was to be our last Christmas in Florida:

On December 29, we rushed out to view the setting of the full Cold Moon, but clouds obscured the final moments. I continued northward and saw the moon to the north of the Pine Bank just before it sunk into the horizon.

This week's header: Bald Eagle in flight

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display