Category Archives: Cats Plants Animals

The Birdfeeder Mystery – Solved

I haven’t been able to figure out two things this winter:  why the birds aren’t using the birdfeeder that they loved the most last winter, and why I found blood smeared all over another birdfeeder two weeks ago.

The birdfeeder that the birds loved last year, and the year before, and the year before that, is hung from an iron bracket that is screwed into one of the cornerboards of our house.  This feeder is in a very sheltered spot above our tiny four foot by five foot deck.  The deck is bordered on two sides by house walls – one wall is the kitchen sliding glass door (great for the cats to view the birdfeeding action), and the other wall is the non-windowed living room wall.  Not only have the birds loved this feeder, but the squirrels have loved to climb down the roof above, hang from the gutter, and jump onto the feeder.  And the feeder is sheltered by trees, too; there is a lovely old large apple tree just a few feet away that makes for a nice staging area for birds to wait their turn.  And there is also a large maple tree just three feet away from the deck’s edge which also provides cover.  A second feeder, also usually quite popular, hangs from a shepherd’s crook post stuck in the ground just by the maple tree’s trunk.

But this year both feeders have seen very little action.  I thought perhaps it was because I first mixed safflower seeds and black oil sunflower seeds, but we’re back to just black oil sunflower seeds, and still not much activity.  Maybe it was because we bought a new feeder for the spot over the deck?  Same style as the old one, but new?  Maybe it smells like people and thus repels the birds?  I haven’t lost a lot of sleep over this mystery, but I have been wondering.

And then today I was talking on the phone to my dad while standing in the kitchen and watching the birds at the feeders; today there were actually quite a few birds enjoying a post-snowstorm meal.  A peaceful, lovely scene: fresh snow, lots of pretty little songbirds eating, and even a couple of squirrels chowing down.  Then – Zoom!  Whish!  Bam!  – a Cooper’s Hawk brazenly flew in just inches from our sliding glass door and tried to pick off a goldfinch that was at the feeder over the deck.  I think the goldfinch escaped, and the other birds and the squirrels dissipated in panic.  The Cooper’s Hawk settled down on a branch of the maple tree, looking hungry and smug, until I scared it away by going up to the sliding glass door; it flew across our neighbor’s yard and settled into a large tree with a commanding view of our feeders.

Mystery solved.  If I were a bird, I wouldn’t eat at our feeders, either.  And now I think I have a pretty good idea of where all that blood came from on the one feeder.  Yikes.  A bit gruesome, but I have to admit that it was pretty spectacular to see that hawk in action.

I’d love to hear if anyone has any good ideas of how to feed the songbirds while repelling the hawk from the area of the feeders.  Or perhaps we’ll have to just give up and stop putting seed into those feeders…

Winston the therapy dog

Today was the first visit from Winston the therapy dog at the library.  He did a great job, and two very happy families got to hang out with this gorgeous and sweet pooch.  Winston is a golden doodle, and he’s very tall and very soft and (despite the golden) pitch black.  He’s one of the coolest looking dogs I’ve ever met, and he is very, very well behaved.

In case you’re not familiar with the use of therapy dogs in libraries, the idea is to provide children with a non-judgemental listener to whom the children can read aloud.  Dogs don’t speak English, and they certainly don’t read, so they don’t know if their child reader friend has just mis-read a line from the book.  All the dog knows is that he or she is happy to hang out with his or her young literary fans.  And the kids who read to a therapy dog come out smiling and happy and with renewed reading confidence.

It’s a terrific program, and I’m so glad that Julie, Winston’s owner and handler, came to me with the proposal of doing a program at the library.  And I’m really looking forward to the remaining four “Paws and Read” sessions that are scheduled for this summer.

Hope for world peace

I’ve been meaning to post this photo for a while now, because it gives me some hope for the world.  If Ophy and Pippa, two cats who tolerate but don’t love each other, can curl up and relax side by side on a small footstool, perhaps there’s hope for the rest of us.  Although this is the one and only time that I’ve ever seen Oph and Pip get so friendly with each other…  (Click on image to enlarge.)


Belated Patriot’s Day

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, I’m a wee bit stressed at work right now, what with catching up from being sick and visiting the school to promote summer reading and doing all those last minute summer reading preparation things.  So I’m giving my poor brain a rest from work issues when writing on my blog until things settle down a bit.  With that in mind, here’s a photo from this year’s Patriot’s Day parade on April 20.  Last year I posted a photo that Dad titled “Bad Horse,” of a Concord Independent Battery horse getting frisky and a bit out of control coming down Main Street.  This year’s horse photo is of one of the CIB horses freaking out back at the start of the parade at the beginning of Lowell Road.  Dad and I were in a prime spot to see the action (on the steps of the Christian Science church) and snapped some good photos.  It was a cold morning, and the other CIB horses looked calm, cool, and collected.  This horse was lathered in sweat, steaming with its own heat, and clearly undone by the crowds of people on either side of it.  After a few tense minutes of trying to calm the horse (including getting idiotic curious bystanders to back off  and give it space), the CIB men decided to loop this horse and its wagon around Monument Square and back to the Armory.  We didn’t see the horse in the parade again that day.  (Click on photo to enlarge.)


For Jean

Last Christmas Jean gave us the coolest thing ever:  a squirrel feeder.  Ophy and Pippa and I had tons of fun watching the squirrels hang upside down and gnaw on the concentrated corn cobs.  Jim didn’t love the feeder as much as we did, mainly because all kinds of petrified corn scum accumulated on the deck underneath the feeder.

At any rate, one morning I snapped some great photos of my favorite squirrel (the one with the poofy ear tufts) feasting on the corn, with the intention that I’d post the photo here for Jean’s amusement.  And then I forgot to post the photo.  Better late than never, though, so here it is (click on image to enlarge):



When Jim and I bought our house, Dad and I dug up all kinds of plants from the family homestead (which at that point had been promised to a developer, but had not yet been sold): lilacs, peonies, creeping myrtle, pachysandra, roses, forsythia, daylilies, crocus, and iris. Jim’s and my house came with a small, but completely blank, yard.  The people who owned it before us had gotten rid of all the poison ivy (thank goodness), but hadn’t added any plantings. 

The plants from the house I grew up in, most of which originally came from my two grandmothers, settled in nicely in our yard.  Five years later, the lilacs are getting tall, the rose bush is bursting out with new growth, and the iris are having their best year ever.  These iris didn’t come from a grandmother like the other plants – they came with the house when Mom and Dad bought it.  At that house, they lived out by the street, and suffered a lot from salt and sand; at our house they have a place of honor far away from the street, and they are incredibly happy.

So here’s a photo of the iris in full bloom, mostly for the benefit of Jean, Dan, and Dad (click on image to enlarge):


Wild animals

Obviously, from the lack of entries this week, I’ve been a bit busy at work.  (That’s the understatement of the year…)  In fact, I’ve been so busy at work that I don’t want to write about anything to do with books or librarianship or storytimes or anything else today; the girl needs a break.

So I thought I’d share with you the two wild animals who have visited our neighborhood in the last week:

Last weekend, for a period of three days, a momma snapping turtle moved in, living part of the time under the hedge that divides our property from our neighbor’s, and the other part of the time digging an enormous hole in our neighbor’s lawn. Adrienne and her three little kids were fascinated – took tons of photos, kept the snapper from wandering into the street, and anxiously watched to see if any eggs were laid.  Last time I talked to Adrienne, no eggs had been laid (for which I’m grateful!), but there’s always the chance.  And now momma snapper appears to have moved on, for which I’m also grateful.

And then on Thursday night, Jim and I were walking back from the local convenience store (cashed in our scratch ticket that won a whole TWO DOLLARS – and, of course, bought two more lottery tickets with our winnings; desperate times call for desperate measures), and we saw an animal start to dart across the street just down from us, its profile highlighted in the headlights of an oncoming car.

“Oh, no!” I cried, “It’s a cat!”

“No, it’s not a cat,” said Jim, “it’s a…” 

“It’s a skunk!  It’s a skunk!” I cried.

“That’s no skunk,” said Jim, the voice of reason, “That’s a fox.”

And it was – a beautiful fox that ducked back into our other neighbor’s yard, its tail unmistakeable in the headlights.

The thing that’s odd about these two animals is that we live in a neighborhood that is very clearly marked “Thickly Settled” on the sign just before our house.  The houses are tight together, and there isn’t much open space.  And our neigbor’s yard is a bit of a walk from the nearest marshy area; a long commute for a slow and steady turtle.  I can only imagine that the fox might be feasting on garbage left outside, or an outdoor cat or two.  I can’t imagine that the fox much likes it here.  And I’m guessing the dinosaur-esque snapper turtle didn’t think much one way or another as she wandered into our neighbor’s yard. 

It seems like just yesterday that I saw my first coyote in our backyard.  This was back when I worked at Massachusetts Audubon, and the naturalists were very skeptical that I had actually seen a coyote; I had to describe it in great detail before they’d believe me.  At that time, twenty-one years ago, I lived with my parents in an almost rural area that backed up to a large tract of wooded conservation land.  And now, in 2009, I’ve seen a fox in my thickly settled neighborhood.  I feel sorry for the wild animals that are trying to make do as their open land gets gobbled up by new houses and the exploding human population.  Where will we all be twenty years from now?