Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fire in June

Just so it's on the record that it isn't all peaches and cream down here, I had to build a fire yesterday morning. Admittedly, it was half to burn up all the paper trash that was stuffing the firebox, but it was cold. A front had moved in the afternoon before (Monday) and it was cool and rainy. We had inside day and did a lot of painting, but after a cold Helen emerged from three hours of playing in the bathtub I gave in and lit a two-sticker.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


We are always looking for nests this time of year. The last couple of years, we have found robin nests and the girls have had the chance to watch the whole sequence of eggs, incubation, hatching, fledgling and flight. We were pretty disappointed this year when we didn't find one and then! I stumbled across a yellow throat nest while clearing brush down by the creek. Here's a stock photo.

The yellow throat is a little swamp warbler that builds its nest out of grasses and in grasses and thickets. It is a sneaky little bird and you rarely if ever see them. They are all around in the grasses, willows and nine bark that cover the low areas around the creek. I went out for a walk by the creek late last evening and their scritchy little warning 'crik' was all around me. I was certainly near some nests, but they are impossible to see without clearing a bunch of brush.

The one that I found is down by the head of the oxbow where the path down to the old beach goes. It is a deep-bowled, fist-sized nest of old grasses and the mother disappears down inside it when she is on the eggs or hatchlings. The eggs were a lovely white speckled with red (me) or black (everyone else.) Mizu and I are both able to sneak up and see the mother on the nest. The girls aren't quite quiet enough. Unlike a robin, who will explode out of her nest, the mother yellow throat disappears back into the grasses soundlessly. The last couple of times I've been by to look at the nest, she has remained on it for a moment, opening her mouth as if to be fed. I wondered if the male fed the sitting female. (Subsequent reading frowns on that theory; the males seem to be a fairly dissipated, philandering bunch of pretty boys.) Here's the eggs:

Day before yesterday, the girls and I went down to look at the eggs at the outset of a hike with Pop. Hatchlings! They must have just come out that morning, for they were pathetic little wrinkles of pink with huge gray bulging blind lid-covered eyes and mad scientist tufts of gray feathers emerging randomly across their bodies. When they heard me whispering to Lucie, two of the four craned their awkward necks skyward and silently opened yellow beaks for a tidbit. Here they are (a bit blurry):

If you go to look at them, watch out! There's a giant dog poop in the path.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

These days I run whenever I can grab an hour of time from something. Now that it is getting light early, that hour most often comes in the morning, before the kids, and all their attendant requirements, are awake. The joy and satisfaction I get out of the run is worth dragging myself out of bed for on most mornings.
Our dog, Panther, recognizes my running clothes, and is always waiting eagerly to be let out and explore while I plod along. The first thing I noticed as we headed out the door this morning was the CROK of a raven. The ravens have control of this valley (and our compost pile) and it
is only by dint of their constant attention and diligence that they keep it clear of invading crows, hawks, osprey, and eagles. We are often treated to mid-air battles out over the pasture. So it is no surprise that they were broadcasting our presence almost before we are out the door.
I blearily began running down the driveway and the loud CROK of one raven sounded out of the mist right above me. I wondered at why it was keeping such close tabs on us this morning, but then moved on to comparing the cold mist I was inhaling with each breath to the hot steam I had been breathing in a sauna a few days earlier. Though probably equally wet, the weight of the humidity in the sauna slowed my day almost to a stop while I was enlivened by this morning's mist.
Contemplating this and other equally inane things I ran the first half mile. Again I heard the CROK loud and low above my head, and this time another answered from across the valley. The raven flew ahead of me, perched in a tree and waited until I had run past. Then it swooped over me again, so low I could hear the rustle of air in its wings. We live pretty closely with these ravens, so this wasn't all that unusual. This morning, though, instead of turning back as it usually does, it continued this behavior for all of the almost five miles of my run. It must have passed over me about 20 times, CROKing every time.
Despite spending most of my run-time thinking of lots of mundane and outlandish reasons for this behavior, I am at a loss as to why the raven kept our company this morning. Panther and I, with our decidedly pedestrian and terrestrial habits, certainly don't seem of much consequence to the ravens. I enjoyed the company, though, whatever the motivation.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

After Dinner

Summer is here and I am going to try to post once a week. Yesterday eve was lovely and so rather than back shortbread for the strawberries, we rallied outside for a walk.

We headed down to the summer bridge site (not in yet; still waiting on the water drop) and decided to go canoeing. The canoes were still there from the teammates visit last weekend, so we flipped one over headed upstream toward the ford. Just past the willows and under a medium-sized ash, there is a deep excavation were the beavers have dug a den. It is hard to see up inside with the brightness out and the darkness in, but the claw marks of the beavers are scoured all across the margin with the water. Interestingly, there weren't any beaver sticks lying around. Maybe its otters instead. I'm still trying to sort out raccoon, otter and beaver tracks and these weren't full prints, so there was no way to tell.

Done with canoes, we headed over to Evening Sun Beach. Evening Sun just formed this past winter. The creek is always shifting and moving like a hose writhing across a lawn. This year it threw up a big, west-facing sand bar just above the giant logs the Forest Service put in to provide structure and salmon habitat. I hacked through the blackberries and we traipsed across the big logs to the beach. Lucie immediately undressed and started playing in the water. Helen and Opal began to explore underneath the logs. Mizu and I weeded canary grass. Opal got brave enough clamber on the logs by herself and realized she could jump the six feet down onto the sand without getting hurt. Helen sloughed off a chunk of bark to reveal a swarming ant colony. After they'd run off, she found a crawdad carcass/slough to poke with a stick. The stink determined it was a carcass.

Time for bed. On the way back across the pasture we stopped to swing on the rope swings hanging from the wedding tree. It was my turn to exercise, so Mizu put the girls to bed and I went for a bike ride. It was still a lovely evening, but the high point was watching a family of beavers for about ten minutes. There is a flat stretch in the road above our house where the creek and the road run parallel for a couple hundred yards. I love looking in the water at that stretch, particularly during salmon season because it is so easy to see into. Last night I was rewarded by three beavers just chilling. They spent about 80% of their time grooming, scratching, licking, rubbing. They had an incredibly human way of sitting on their haunches and scratching their chest with both front paws and an incredibly doggy way of scratching the side of their belly with their hind feet. (A fat, fat, fat dog.) They did a little snuggling and grooming of each other. They'd kind of circle hug in the water and gnaw gently on each other. They ate a little, mostly gnawing on sticks that I assumed were willow, but that Mizu who has also watched these beaver, thought were blackberries. I also saw them eating canary grass!

Then home. I made a Manhattan and read while Mizu worked.