A Bird in the Claw
(or not)

Years ago, I read an enlightening article about how the continual shrinkage of natural bird habitats has made it sensible to feed the birds all year round.

I have been doing this for more than seven years now, and as a result, the garden is home to a very large flock of sparrows along with the usual chickadees, nuthatches and blackbirds.

While sitting by the fish pond after lunch yesterday, I heard the sparrows start from the feeding place into the trees in a manner much more abrupt than usual. I got up and walked around to see if perhaps a neighborhood cat had startled them and was astounded to see a sparrowhawk sitting in the grass about a meter from me, his back turned.

I let out a loud yell and he took flight. When I saw that he was empty-clawed, I breathed a sigh of relief. The sparrows, which had all fled into the fig and apple trees, sat motionless, not making a sound. It wouldn’t have been the first time that a sparrowhawk got one of the sparrows – I’ve witnessed this on more than one occasion, watching the hawk fly away with a screaming sparrow in his claws.

I returned to my seat and was overtaken by a bad conscience almost immediately. It occurred to me that what I had just done probably stood in direct contrast to some sort of (probably eastern) religion or belief, as I had intervened in the natural course of things and actively prevented the sparrowhawk from getting a meal. I found myself feeling sorry for the sparrowhawk.

On the one hand, I’m not feeding the birds to provide meals to other birds.

On the other hand, maybe just letting nature take it’s course would have been the right thing to do.

I’m really on the fence on this one.


Bad Moon Rising

I was in the kitchen yesterday evening getting things ready for dinner when I looked out the kitchen window to see three of our crows sitting on the television antenna (they sit there often) on the roof of the house across the street while below them, the moon was rising into what was almost a nighttime sky:


My kitchen window was wide open and I was being observed. I’ll have to get in touch with the elderly couple that lives on the top floor of that house, as they noticed me setting up the tripod on the kitchen counter and that I was pointing my rather large  400 mm lens in their general direction; they may have thought I was spying on them. They’re nice people, I’ll have to let them know what I was really doing just to avoid any misunderstanding. The moon was behind them and they had no way of seeing it.

About 15 minutes later, the moon app on my iPhone let me know that the moon was now officially “full”, so I took another one just of the moon, it was fully dark by then anyhow.


Nuts, Ladders and
Creepy Crawl Spaces

For someone who is actually afraid of heights, I’ve been spending a lot of time on ladders lately.

Recently, to get up on the roof of the garage to photograph hummingbird moths. Also this week, climbing down into the depths of the dank and creepy crawl space under the basement stairs, where it is wet, dark and cold, to replace the defective sump pump. And no, I didn’t look around to see which crawly and slithery creatures might be lurking in the beam of my flashlight or in the shadows beyond. Instead, I dressed in a collared, long-sleeve flannel shirt and tucked my jeans into my socks to fully minimize any available skin space for possible attack from such creatures.

Lastly, I climbed way up on the really big ladder in the garden with a chainsaw in hand, trimming some of the branches of the walnut tree to allow the sunlight to once again slip underneath its branches and bathe some of the yard in morning sunlight.

It appears to be a good year for walnuts. I gathered the walnuts from the severed branches and am drying them out in the sun, hoping that they will ripen, despite having been picked prematurely:

Walnuts, fresh from the tree

Hummingbird Hawk-Moth

From Wikipedia: “The hummingbird hawk-moth is distributed throughout the northern Old World from Portugal to Japan, but is resident only in warmer climates (southern Europe, North Africa, and points east).”

I have been photographing insects, bugs and butterflies for nine years now, with modest success, but I’ve been continually challenged to be able to take a decent (not completely blurred by motion) photograph of the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum). This is mainly due to the fact that they fly from blossom to blossom, never settling, always remaining airborne, while beating their wings at a rate of 70-90 beats per second.

Monday evening, I finally succeeded in getting a half-way decent picture of one:

Hummingbird Hawk-Moth approaching a summer lilac blossom
Hummingbird Hawk-Moth approaching a summer lilac blossom

We have had a summer lilac (Buddleja davidii) next to the motorcycle garage in the garden for many years now and it has grown to considerable height, despite the fact that it has been cut back a number of times. (If you’re interested in summer lilacs, go to this link for a very informative article about them.)

Late yesterday afternoon, I noticed that at least five hummingbird hawk-moths were active on the top most blossoms, 2.5 meters above the ground.

I retrieved a ladder and climbed onto the roof of the motorcycle garage, where I sat still and waited patiently for a moth to appear at a blossom near me. It was sweltering up there, but the sweat and patience paid off. Finally.

Young Crows, An Update

crow close up
One of the two young crows around the property. The eyes are no longer blue and the pink is gone from the beak.

They come almost every day, sometimes in twos, sometimes alone, to see what food we’ve put out and to romp and play with leaves and whatever else of interest that may be found in the yard. They’re usually interested in just about everything.


A closeup of his back. The brown feathers are slowly being replaced by truly black feathers.


At the bird bath, washing something edible (they like washing their food before eating it, seriously.)
At the bird bath, washing something edible (they like washing their food before eating it, seriously.)


Dragging half a boiled egg around the lawn.
Dragging half a boiled egg around the lawn.

A Normal Saturday

I think Saturdays are often similar, at least in the western world. A day of which at least half is sacrificed for all of those errands and shopping that one doesn’t have time for in the course of a normal work week.

Such was mine yesterday and in the course of the morning, I was able to help an elderly lady to navigate her walking frame over some coarse and bumpy rocks where the sidewalk had been torn up. We have a large assisted living facility here in town so we have our share of elderly, and I had the impression that she was a bit confused, as she didn’t want me to help her continue her journey until I was able to confirm that the fruit and vegetable store down the street was still in existence. It is, and so I got her past the bumpy bit, and continued on to the pharmacy.

Later on, when returning from the beverage market, I observed a man stealing a large rock. There is a large construction site across the street from us, it’s the usual story. A large property with a house on it, the old folks died, the children sold the property to a real estate firm, which tore down the original house to make room for  6 row units and 4 double units on said property. Sardine housing, you might call it – the old “how many housing units can be fit on a piece of land as to maximize profit.” And they’re selling for about half a million each. Go figure.

Anyhow, two of the houses are being built, and there is a large pile of earth from the excavation for the next house. I came home and parked the car and got out, and observed a car parked next to the huge mound of earth. A man bent down to pick up a very large rock, about a foot in length and placed it in the boot of his car. I stood and watched. He closed the boot and turned, obviously scanning the area to see if anyone had seen him. He startled a bit as he saw me looking at him. I continued to stare, innerly grinning as he was visibly flustered. Yes, I was being evil. He was embarrassed at having been “caught” and I stared at him on purpose. I couldn’t care less about the rock and I don’t think anyone from the construction site will miss it either, but he was obviously feeling guilty and quickly got in his car and drove off.

Saturday evening found me having dinner with my cousin A. and her husband in our favorite beer garden. Good company, good food and good beer, topped by perfect weather.

Scenes from the Past

My maternal grandparents and their four oldest daughters (I think the youngest two had not been born yet).
Judging by my mother’s age, I’d say the picture was taken about 1949/1950.

(From left to right)
My mother R, her sister M., sister G. (may they all rest in peace) and the oldest sister M.

Projects Worth Repeating

A few years ago, I was delighted to discover a wonderful source of knitting yarn in England, an on-line store that doesn’t charge an arm and a leg for shipping within Europe. I’ve become very partial to all things Rowan, as they make some of the nicest cotton and cotton-blend yarns that have passed through my fingers.

Last fall/winter, I knitted quite a few sweaters, four, if memory serves correctly. My all-time favorite has turned out to be this one, named “Cobalt” from designer Kim Hargreaves, made with Rowan Handknit Cotton:

Cobalt by Kim Hargreaves,
photo © 2015 Coats PLC

The only thing I did differently from the pattern is to make the sleeves full length – and I am glad I did.

Once I had finished the cardigan, I purchased the same yarn in a lighter shade of blue and knitted a sweater from the same pattern. I don’t fancy the sweater quite as much as the cardigan, probably because I seem to have knitted more tightly on the sweater and thus it isn’t quite as heavenly soft as the cardigan.

Having worn my favorite cardigan again recently during the chilly weather of the last few days, I’ve decided to make another one exactly like it, in another color. It will be my first knitting project when fall sets in.


Completely Uninspired

All of my muses have deserted me at the moment, perhaps vacationing on some sunny greek island that is about to be purchased by the IMF or the ECB, or Angela Merkel.

Someone popped over to Switzerland recently for a day trip and brought me back this:


Yes, it’s just as delicious as it looks.