Anyhow, all has been going alright I suppose. I kind of stopped blogging late last year because first my camera broke followed shortly thereafter by my computer. Money was tight, and still is, so buying a new computer and camera was out of the question for me as I was having a hard enough time just making my monthly bills so I didn't want to add to it by putting expensive things on my already over burdened credit card only to get a jacked up interest charge which would make making my monthly payment even more difficult. The economy's been a real pisser with not getting a raise in three years despite the cost of everything increasing, but I'm ever so grateful to at least I have a job which is something to be thankful for with how uncertain everything is right now. So computer time has been a challenge and not something that's been easy for me considering I would have to do most of it at work when I can't goof off and even if I wanted to they have a block on my email and Facebook. My son's girlfriend is living with me and she was letting me use hers at times but she or someone else always seems to be on it so I had just given up! Needless to say, she was just given a new computer for her to start nursing school so this one is officially mine until early next year when I'll be using my tax returns for a new computer and I'm hoping for a camera for Christmas.
So I figured I'd make the most of having no computer or camera and tackle everything I've been putting off but that's easier said than done. I used this time to get my "house in order" if you will and spend more time at home with my kids and do things around the house that have gone neglected for far too long. It's given me some time to do some deep soul searching and try and figure out just why I have such a hard time being an adult at times. In that time I've realized that I have a real tough time forming relationships and often push away the people I love the most as conflict and commitment make me uncomfortable so I find ways to escape it rather than confront it which is what we adults are supposed to do.
In the past three years or so I used all kinds of things to escape with birds still being my favorite followed by trails and summits which come in a very close second. Why I chose these, I still don't know, but I do believe both represent freedom to me. Birds to me are the symbol of freedom. Especially in flight when they are soaring in the air and free in the wind. Trails are free of human contact and untainted by development which is a perfect place to hide out when the daily grind gets to be too much on the nerves. I've spent so much time chasing birds or running trails all in an effort to escape responsibility and I've hurt people in the process and for that I'll always be sorry. With that said, I still wouldn't change a thing as I've loved every bird as well as every spill down every trail and those I've met in the process and have many fond memories that will be with me forever. But I did take this as a sign and maybe it was time to indeed "get my house in order" considering my youngest is going on 19 and my oldest 24 so decided to spend more time with them before they are off and running and living their own lives.
I found ways to keep busy of course and the first thing I did was try my hand at organic gardening again. Now I've always kept an herb garden for cooking, but vegetables are another animal within themselves as they are prone to insect infestation, bacterial wilt and a host of other issues. That didn't stop me from trying though so out I went into my yard with pitchfork in hand and just started digging up the earth to plant a few lousy tomato plants. Once I got started though I just couldn't stop. You see, I hate grass....It grows far too tall and getting my kids to mow the lawn is always a battle so I just started ripping a large portion of it out. It was quite fun actually as I was doing it during the height of warbler migration and I would have my bins nearby and whenever I heard a warbler I'd drop the pitchfork, grab the bins and start pishing around my yard much to my neighbors curiosity.
It's funny because I spent the last two years prior to this birding like a mad woman during migration so had no idea of exactly what passes through my yard this time of the year. The first bird I'd hear was a Northern Parula and I'd recognize it's call immediately. No sooner than that I would hear another nearby and while it was familiar, it would take me a good five minutes or so of trying to rack my brain figuring out what it was that I'd remember it as the Black-throated Blue Warbler who was messing around with me as the little bugger would drop the last two notes so it wouldn't register. Finally after pishing in the bushes near my neighbors window while they were eating lunch I would spot both of them in the yard next to mine high up on a tree with leaves in full bloom (warblers will be warblers whether at Quabbin or the back yard)!
Next would be the Prairie Warbler and Black-throated Green who were in my neighbors yard as I was swapping herb transplants with them. We were making idle chit chat when suddenly I could hear the Prairie. Now I'd already gotten the prairie for the year via a drive by, but the thought of it hanging out in my neighbors yard in a white pine tree was too much for me as this would be the first time I would get it out of its habitat!! Did you hear that, I asked my neighbors all excitedly?? Hear what? My confused neighbors replied. I start pishing like mad realizing I didn't bring my bins so I'm cursing myself for being so stupid. My neighbors see I'm distraught over this so off one runs to grab their pair and let's just say, the binoculars totally suck, but I am determined as neither of them have ever seen ANY kind of warbler before and after all, these were the woman who got me into birding in the first place so it was my neighborly duty to return the favor no matter how challenging considering the pine tree is probably 30 feet high and my ears tell me that not only is the prairie on the highest branch, but the damn Black-throated Green is right along beside them. Finally after much pishing I finally spot the Prairie so I pass the bins to one of my neighbors telling them where to look. Now for those of you who have birded with me in the past, you know I'm terrible with giving directions. I'll always say "next to the bare branch" or "near the green, bushy leaves", like that helps. HA. Now try doing that with a couple of back yard bird watchers and just picture the confusion. Finally they both get a look at them, but only for a split second much to my disappointment. That doesn't stop me though as off I run back to the house to get my Stokes warbler book so they can actually get a good look at the birds they had in their yard. I had done my duty and boy did it feel good!
Are you ready for another?? This one is one of my favorites so I have to share. :-p I remember in 2010, I would be waiting for Alan to get me to bird and I'd hear a bird nearby that sounded just like a Blackpoll. I would attempt to pish it out but it never worked. This bird would torment me for close to a week and every morning it would be the same routine with the same outcome so I finally just gave up figuring it was wishful thinking. Fast forward to May of 2011 and the damn bird was back again. I'd be deep in thought while clearing sod from my garden and he would start with his call. I'd drop everything to try and find him only to have him stop calling so I'd go back to gardening only to have him do it again. Now this went on for three straight days and finally on the third day I was determined to finally confirm it as the blackpoll. Let me tell you I was pishing so hard my jaw hurt and spit would come out of my mouth but crap, I wanted that bird so it was no time to by lady like!! It would still be a "no go" so I resorted to a desperate measure which would be my trusty droid. I put it on YouTube and played the Blackpoll Warbler song but it would be no use I thought as the volume was far too low. Suddenly the warbler darted out of hiding and stood close by on my yew tree. It was so close I didn't need my bins but I used them anyway and he just stared at me as I stared back in return. Sigh. This would be the first decent look I ever got of a male in breeding plumage and my heart just pitter pattered because they remind me so much of the Black-capped Chickadee which remains one of my favorite birds of all time, despite how common they are. So needless to say, I will be looking out for him again next May as he finds something in my yard he likes enough to stick around for a few days before he goes to wherever he goes.
Okay, last one I promise (hey, cut me some slack, it's been a while and no one but you dear reader would find any of this exciting as most of the people I know think I'm crazy when I talk about birds so I need to get it out of my system ;-)). Okay this one's good so bare with me. I would be in my yard yet again, digging up sod when suddenly a large flock of Chimney Swifts would be darting around my yard. Plomp goes the pitch fork as I run for my bins in an attempt to figure out what they were doing. To my horror I realize they are near my chimney and perhaps even going into the chimney. Crap I yell as it was still kind of cold despite it being mid May and I had just had my heat on a few days before this and if they were living in there then some of them are probably dead I think as I run into the house to shut off my emergency shut off valve to my boiler as this was an emergency as far as I was concerned. I run back outside and the swifts are now near by the gazebo and getting closer than I'd ever seen them before. Suddenly I could see swarms of a flying ant type insect landing in my driveway. There would be three American Robins and 2 Gray Catbirds on the ground and pouncing on them as soon as they landed. I sat there and watched them through my bins totally motionless as I was captivated by it because you could tell they were thoroughly enjoying this feast. After about 5 minutes or so I'd come to and realize I had a bunch of those ants that had landed on me and especially my hair. My first impulse was to scream and try and get them out of my hair, but I couldn't do it as I didn't want to scare my lunch guests so I just shook my head some and brushed my clothes and tried to relocate the Chimney Swifts as they were still nearby. My bins would go up to the sky and just as I did that a buteo would be spotted and I would finally get my first ever decent look of a Red-shouldered Hawk in flight. I would see all of its most notable field marks, especially the crescents near its wing tips as well as its overall lankiness compared to the Red-tailed Hawk. No sooner would I see it, that it would be gone as I had gotten it in the midst of a glide and it was fairly high up on a cloudless blue sky, but that quick look I got was memorable just the same. I would end the day with one of my favorite summertime drinks after working in the garden which is a Blue Moon Beer with a slice of orange and watch the swifts who had finally made their way back to their summer home across the street from me. I'd do this as a tribute to Chris E who had posted something on my Facebook in May of 2010 about how enjoyable it was to spend the evening watching the Chimney Swifts while drinking a good beer and I'd realize he was right and I would be sad that he is no longer here to do the same.
So needless to say, you can see I still had the birding bug and it is probably the biggest reason why my garden turned out as large as it did because everytime I grabbed the pitch fork something exciting would happen. I had a ton of vegetables including two different types of peas, two different types of cucumbers for picking, jalapeno peppers for jelly and salsa as well as both sweet and bell peppers for more pickling, zucchini which didn't survive and three different types of tomatoes for salsa, sauce and yes more canning. I have a pantry in my dining room that is filled with jars with more to come to last me the winter and it's very fulfilling to know that I grew it all and it saves a ton of $$ too so it was a win/win situation for me as far as I'm concerned. The birding stopped all together for the most part in mid June as all migrants were past but the nesting birds in and around my yard kept me good company with a family of Northern Mockingbirds nesting next door being my favorite. One of the juves was obsessed with my Mullbery Tree and would spend a good part of his day on he ground trying to grab a mullberry with his bill only to have it fly out which would tick him off and he would wail in protest. He also spent a good amount of time at my bird feeding station trying to land on the empty bird feeders (I only feed in winter) and he would wail again in protest which was very fun to watch. A pair of Cedar Waxwings were nesting two houses from me and I only know this because they spent a good amount of time in my yard trying to grab biodegradable twine from my garden to add to their nest site. I wound up cutting a bunch up in 5 inch strips and draping it on a post to make it easier for them to get to and then I would watch them fly to their nest site with twine in tow to add to their nesting site which was a welcome distraction because it was so late in the season I was yearning for something different to see than the Northern Cardinals who are always around getting sunflower seeds off of my sunflower plants which they do in a clumsy fashion compared to the always nimble American Goldfinches who also find this enjoyable. I still have to remind myself to keep my eyes on the road while driving as my eyes still wonder to the sky on 146 in hopes of a decent Turkey Vulture show (with perhaps a BV thrown in for good measure and I'm looking forward to my winter ritual of watching the American Crows flying above that high way in large flocks going to their roosting site in Worcester as that's been my ritual for over three years now and a great way to end an awful work day. I would do some hiking nearby but nothing like before as gas has gotten so high I decided to stay as local as I could. My trail running shoes would be used only for hiking as the running had totally messed up my feet and legs and toward the end even the Vibrams didn't help so I decided to give it a break and go back to a gentler way of seeing the great outdoors instead of running past it. I still get the bug though and have done a couple of runs with the Vibrams, but the old injury in my hamstring and foot would appear no sooner than a quarter mile out so maybe I'm just not meant to run as I've always been told I had more of the build of a cyclist so perhaps they are right?
Anyhow, I didn't mean to go on and on rambling like I did and if you've made it to the bottom of this post than God bless you as it was rather long! I will make it a point to drop in occasionally but I seriously can't see me doing any kind of serious blogging until I get a camera as my blog was as much about my pictures as it was my adventures and both of those have kind of gone off the wayside recently. I still have it in me, but I have to find a balance of sorts which has always been hard for me to do, but I continue to try just the same.
For all of you local birders, I think of you often. I still get the Massbird posts on my Droid and read them when I take the train into Boston as I've been going there more frequently due to a huge project I'm working on. I had read all about the great birds many of you had gotten during Irene and while I was envious, I was happy as I know Worcester County remains once of the best places of all time to bird, not only because of the avian diversity we have (especially after a tropical storm!), but because we have some of the most decent, helpful and excellent birders as well. Each of you have taught me so much in regards to birds and enjoying nature and it's something I will always be grateful for.
Take care all.