Saturday, April 21, 2007

Graduation night, birding morning

Coming up with titles for these posts is sometimes difficult, but the one above covers the signficant events of the past 24 hours, so there it is.

First, Kat and I, Joche, Kelly, and a friend's two children Ben and Sarah attended Kat's Lavender Graduation. This is an intimate, special ceremony held at PSU to honor LGBTA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and allies) graduates. (Kat finished her first M.S. (in Human Development and Family Studies) in August; she still has the PhD to go, of course, plus another M.S. in Applied Statistics. Yeah. Insert confused expression here.) It was a really neat graduation ceremony--certainly far superior to, say, my high school graduation where we had to endure a woman singing "Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music, followed by the hours-long parade of about 700 students across the stage. Oy vey.

At Lavender Graduation, there is a dinner (all vegetarian!), then a Significant Other Award ceremony, where the graduate goes up and reads a dedication to someone (or someones) who helped him or her succeed. There were parents, best friends, partners, and children. Kat pulled me onstage, gave me a rose, and said,

Because you have nourished my body, spririt, and soul... because you give me serenity in knowing that things will happen as they were meant to happen... because you walked the line carefully between our desires and my needs... because you have shared the joy and pain of every exam, every deadline, and every sentence misplaced... because you never complained about reading another draft... because even when you lost my keys, you found them again... you are my significant other."

Oh dear, the keys... Let's just say that more than once, I've had to had to make a special trip home to give Kat her keys, which mysteriously found their way into my pocket and went to work with me....

Anyway, then there was a speaker, then the grads walked across and were presented with a really neat stole and a degree certificate. It was really neat; even the kids (12 and 7) enjoyed it and were perfect little angels during the entire 3-hour affair.

This morning, then, I woke up about 8:30 with Clawsie in my face, demanding breakfast. Once that big bear gets in your face, you really have to get up; otherwise, she's knocking things off the nightstand, gently gnawing on exposed bits of skin, biting your hair, and generally being a nuisance. "She's always hungry. She always needs to feed."

So I listened to the morning songs of the birds and as usual, heard so many songs I was overwhelmed. Let me describe a few for you, because even though I went out with binocs and camera, confident I could find the source of the calls (they sounded so close by!) I didn't see any birds making these noises! That's so frustrating to me; I'll hear the sound, I'll scan in the direction, sure I will see some warbler or thrush or whatever, and NOTHING! I think all the brown birds just mix into the very brown background of leafless trees or something.

Here's a view of where a lot of the birdsongs were coming from; this is the view across the street:

I saw a bunch of American goldfinches, but they were too fast for my camera. They're in full breeding plumage now, and I saw males and females. We usually got a lot of them, especially in the summer when the thistle is in full bloom across the road.

Now back to the songs, or at least my transcription of what I heard:
1. PER-doo-dee-PER-doo-dee-PER-doo-dee: This sound had the rhythm of a witchety-witchety or a teakettle-teakettle, but it really didn't sound like either of those.
2. dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee all on the same note, then shifting up about a fourth to repeat on that note: this one was really strange; first time I've heard it here. I would've thought "Sam Peabody-Peabody-Peabody" but it wasn't like that at all. It was a monotonous sound, same kind-of flat note, then shifting up to a higher note.
3. two notes that sounded almost like a wolf whistle, only less leering and more like a “hey there” whistle. But not a phoebe.

There were millions more, but these are the ones I was able to isolate and transcribe. It's so frustrating to me that I can have a great ear for music (I taught myself to play guitar by ear, and I was a monster clarinet player in school), yet bird songs somehow just escape me.

The guy at work who's a birder, Hillel, told me that it takes a lot of time to train your ear for bird songs and that I just have to be patient. But it's hard! Those of you who've read my blog from the beginning know that I am NOT a patient learner; I just seem to expect myself to start something, learn it quickly, then master it just as quickly. That's how I roll--in most things. But birding is by far the most difficult thing I've undertaken in a long time. I guess that might be why I love it so much.

(There's a mourning dove right outside my window, just pecking for seeds and hanging out. The cats are mesmerized. Such good birders they are!)

So--I didn't get photos of these songbirds. However, I got some other photos on my little walk around the house, so I'll show you those.

I stepped out to find a benneh next to the fence:

Chet Baker would've freaked!

Then I found a mysterious hole just right up against the front of the house:

Who made this hole? A bunny? Look at the footprints. Maybe Science Chimp will help out here. So is this guy living under my house now? Perhaps I should check the basement....

I watched several birds flitting around in the yew tree beside the house; I didn't get any good pics though. But I did find some unfortunate nest issues:


Did these blow out of the tree? Did some picky female judge them inferior and demand a do-over?

We planted these little white flowers last spring, but then prompty forgot what the heck they were called:

Anyone? Anyone?

By now I'd rounded my way around the front and the side of the house, to the backyard. I have a pine tree back here that doesn't look so good. Part of it looks like this:

But part of it looks like this:

Should I be concerned? It is awfully wet back there, on the fenceline next to some sort of drain-looking structure:

No idea what's going on here. This house was built in the 1830s, and in the time since then I imagine there have been many tenants, each of whom had their own little ideas about home improvement. As a result, there are a lot of things I don't understand about the house and the grounds. But back to the tree--do you think it's okay?

Somehow, this egg looks like it was the victim of a predator; it looks like the yolk and white were not quite entirely sucked out:


I found this whole cracked egg in the old veggie garden. Sad. It had obviously developed past the yolk/white stage:

Oh dear.

But enough sadness. I saw a white-throated sparrow; I thought these guys had all gone farther north already, but I guess not:


The marsh today, still rather brown and dead:


Is this a turkey vulture?

Luckily, he was just flying over and didn't find anything to interest him here.

Daffodils, photographed in too much sunlight:

The promise of beautiful purple irises:


The flowering bush in front of Neighbor Ed's house:


The turkey-tail mushroom out on the stump:


And look at this!

I planted these onion sets last year, harvested only a few small onions, and suspected the rest had just frozen and died! But not these onions. Looks like I'll be able to make fresh home-grown salsa again this year!

That does it! I'm going to the plant nursery! I can't wait any longer! Au revoir!

18 comments:

Larry said...

White-throated Sparrows vary there peabody song a little.-A Chickadee has one song that has 2-3 notes that reminds me of here kitty.

I don't know if the tree is sick but I've had evergreens that have done that over the years and they're still around.

The main thing with learning new songs is not to memorize every one but to be able to identify one as being a new song so that you can try to track it down.

dguzman said...

I definitely know the chickadee-dee-dee song; we have a ton of nesting black-capped chicks in our pines on the east side of the house; there was one last year who spent weeks attacking his reflection in the attic windows! He'd peck for hours!

I think the pine will be okay; it did that last year too. We've just had weird weather, so maybe that's it.

Thanks for the tips on the songs; I definitely need to get a Stokes CD set or something besides my Lang Elliot CD. Most birds vary their songs so much that it's really hard to tell who's singing what. I also need to be sure to write down my transcriptions immediately, like you told me once before. Sometimes I wait, and then there's really no telling whether I'm remembering it correctly or not.

Mary said...

Did you say "benneh?" We are all hooked.

You certainly have a lot to see, Delia. The graduation ceremony sounds wonderful!

I have been able to ID birds by their songs and sounds. Just a few, though. My favorite is the Chickadee.

You are doing great!

LauraHinNJ said...

Jeesh I'm behind!

Could your little white flowers be phlox? Just a guess.

Congrats on the graduation - glad you got credit where it's due!

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