Friday, July 31, 2009

A Visit from a Cardinal

Well, I see a ritual beginning as I found myself at the front window again watching the birds while my coffee brewed. It's difficult to get photos from inside the house because it's an odd angle and even with my zoom lens it's a bit far, but I managed to get a few shots this morning while Jack and I observed all the activity.

When I first looked out this morning there were easily more than 25 birds. I guess they're starting to pass the word in the bird community that our yard is the place to be for a free meal. Jack and I call it "the cafeteria".

Jack's excitement is adorable. He fills me in on what they must be thinking, what they tell each other and what other things they might need. He even suggested that they needed water for drinking and bathing (grandma and grandpa had a bird bath that he loved to watch the birds using). Of course the only thing we could find around the house was a lid to a Rubbermaid container. I guess it'll have to do for now. So, we ventured out front, scaring all the birds away, and added this makeshift birdbath to the mix. Then we went about our business for a while before eventually checking back to see if any birds had returned. They are amazingly cautious once you've made an appearance. We see all kinds of activity, but they seem so afraid to return right away. They make fly bys, they land on the roof, they land in the tree, etc. but they stall when it comes to actual feeding.

Then it happened...a beautiful red Cardinal flew into the tree as we were watching. It was nearly impossible to get a good photo, but he was amazing. Jack enthusiastically commented "it's the most beautiful thing on this earth...well, at least after you since you're actually the most beautiful thing on this earth." And I'm not making that up. Do I have this boy trained to say the right thing or what?! Someday a girl will be lucky enough to marry this sensitive creature I'm raising. The day is off to a great start.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Attracting Birds to our Yard

I woke up this morning and after starting my coffee, I found myself drawn to the front window to check out our newfound bird friends. There they were, doves, wrens and even a small cottontail bunny eating away at the seed and seut I placed out front this week. That day when my husband came home from work he asked "what's that huge block of stuff out front?" as if I'd gone crazy. "It's bird seed. Just wait, they'll find it and when they do...they'll come back again and again." And that's truly what's happened...and it's wonderful!

When we were visiting my parents recently we had the pleasure of enjoying the sweet song of the Jenny Wrens. For years, Mom and Dad have grown their own gourds and once dried out they paint each one and then hang them from their trees. Then they wait.

In the spring, the job of the male Jenny Wren is to go out and build as many nests as he can so he can then court a mate and impress her. These nests are crudely built and all fairly close to one another since it's also a way to keep out intruders and declare territory.

A few weeks later the female Wren will arrive and if she shows any interest in the male he'll then take her on a home tour of all the nests he's built, hoping she'll choose one. Should the female wren decide to stick around she will choose the nest of her liking and then go inside and start doing some serious housekeeping and remodeling...I love this part! She'll toss out many of the sticks he used and return with softer nesting materials such as grass and feathers. Now she's ready to lay her eggs. She'll lay about 5-6 speckled eggs and 2 weeks later they hatch. I'm so jealous of the two weeks...can you image if our pregnancies were only 2 weeks? haha

Watching these little birds at my parents' home ignited a desire in me to attract birds to our yard so we could watch and listen to them. They truly are fascinating creatures. Today I noticed our Cactus Wren was rather aggressive and somewhat of a bully to the other birds. Since his nest is in our Saquaro I guess he feels a bit territorial about our yard.

I was curious as to what species the small red-headed bird might be, so I looked it up on the internet and after a bit of research I believe it to be a male House Finch. There were also a few Mourning Doves enjoying the free grub.

I have a feeling I'll be learning more about our visitors and hope that they'll get used to me reading the newspaper on the front porch when the weather gets nicer. I'd enjoy their company.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I'm addicted to camping

I had a great conversation with my good friend Amy yesterday about my obsession with camping. You see, just two short years ago I was yearning to camp with my sons but I lacked the equipment or the spousal support I felt was necessary to get started. Fortunately, I did some research and found an incredible program through the city of Phoenix called Camp Colley and they had just launched their first season of family campouts. Talk about luck! Not only were the employees and volunteers wonderful, but the entire weekend experience sealed the deal for good...I just had to continue camping with my boys!

We came home from that trip on a high so I ventured out to purchase our first tent (on sale at Target). We now refer to that huge monstrosity as "the condo". I then "informed" my husband that we would be going camping with Amy's family over Labor Day Weekend (he hadn't joined us at Camp Colley). At first he gave me a resounding "I'm not going camping...I hate to camp" but eventually he came to realize that if he wanted to keep peace in the house he'd have to come along and play nice.

We joined Amy's family and some friends of theirs out in the Coconino National Forest near Happy Jack for a weekend of fun, adventure and relaxation away from the heat and all things electronic. My husband was pleasantly surprised by how much fun he had...and the kids entertained themselves by building forts, climbing trees, playing in the dirt or simply exploring. I knew then that we were hooked for good.

From then on I began to acquire additional camping gear (cook stove for our anniversary, sleeping bags for Christmas, etc), plus I realized that there are plenty of things you can bring from home if you're driving and you have space.

The whole idea is to simply get out in nature enjoy the simple things...and don't try to complicate it any further than that. It's tougher than it sounds for some :)