Posted by: Jill Pearson | May 7, 2011

Hummingbird Mother

          Well, I have another family story. This one is in time for Mother’s Day.

          My husband found the Hummingbird nest we’d been looking for for a week. We kept hearing her humming around on one side of the house. We found her nest last Wednesday, May 4.

          She is up high so pictures are a bit difficult. Hummingbirds tend to be very skiddish so I have to be careful about how close I get and how often I poke around her nest. She needs to be on those eggs so they will hatch.

          She leaves the nest every few minutes long enough to get something to eat. She incubates the eggs and raises the babies alone.

          Her walnut sized nest is made of plant down and bud scales. It is then covered with lichen and held together with spider’s silk. Hummingbirds build their nests on a small horizontal limb about 10–20 feet above the ground.  The Hummingbird sharing my home with me has her nest about 15 feet high.

Hummingbird Mom in Her Nest

          Because of the height, and I do not want to get up on a ladder and disturb her to peek in the nest, I cannot see the eggs. Hummingbirds usually lay 2 white pea sized eggs. Hopefully, that is the case here. It takes those eggs 12-16 days of incubation before hatching.

Hummingbird Eggs in a low nest in 2006

 

          My neighbor is a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I know this since that is the only Hummingbird seen in the SE region ofNorth America. She is emerald green on her back and whitish below. Her mate was emerald green on his back, his throat iridescent red with a black patch from his bill to under his eye and his chest and belly whitish. The colors you see on Hummingbirds only appear when they are in good light, full sun. The feathers are iridescent and angle so they only shine and show their colors when light hits them. Otherwise they just look dark.

          Hummingbirds are seen in backyards if there is food for them. They eat flower nectar, insects, spiders, and sap from sapsucker-drilled holes. If you plant the right native plants for your area you will attract them. They will come to feeders but their natural food is better for them, your yard, and the environment and other native wildlife. If you use a hummingbird feeder DO NOT USE RED DYE. It is toxic. Just use the basic sugar water mix with no coloring. Your feeder will have the coloring that attracts the birds. You can even mix your own. (Use a 1:4 granulated sugar:water ratio. It has to be heated whie mixing. You can find recipes here. Birdwatching Bliss  and  World of Hummingbirds)

          Hummingbirds are about 3 ½ inches long and weigh 1/8 of an ounce (That is about what 2 ½ paper clips weigh).

          Their wings beat 40-80 times per second with the average at 52 beats per second.

          Their body temperature is 105-108 degrees Farenheit.

          Their heart rate is 250 beats per minute at rest. 1200 beats/minute when feeding.

          Respiration is 250/minute

          They fly at 30 mph (48 kph) normal. 50 mph (80 kph) when escaping and 63 mph (101 kph) in a dive, which the male does during courtship.

         I wish this little lone mommy a very Happy Peaceful, beautiful weather Mother’s Day. She is an incredible tiny miracle herself as well as her wonderful little babies growing and developing in those tiny packages she’s keeping warm.

         I wish her and her single mother family well and great success. I will keep you updated on our latest family’s progress.

Happy Mother’s Day to this little hummingbird and to all Mom’s around the world in all shapes, sizes and species.

NOTE: Some photos are available for sale. Just click on the photo you are interested in

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Posted by: Jill Pearson | April 29, 2011

Cardinal Family Update

     I checked on the babies a few days ago, April 23, and their eyes were wide open.

Eyes of the Future

     They fledge about 9 – 11 days after they hatch. so they should be fledging soon. Fledging, for Cardinals, means they just leave the nest. They are not able to fly yet. They run around, really fast, and can climb up small bushes to hide from predators.

     As usual, I checked inside the nest every other day. The morning of April 25 I peeked in and…

Empty Nest

…they were gone!

     At first I was worried. Maybe they met the same fate as many of the bird families we have watched have faced. Did someone get to them?
     Then I gathered myself together and decided to sit out, in the mosquito ridden woods and listen or watch for the parents.
     It did not take long. I heard them a few yards from the nest. They were past our fence line a couple yards in the woods. There are a lot of young trees there for the babies to hide in. I watched for a while (swinging, swatting, and dancing the mosquitos away) and I saw the parents, mostly Dad since he is much eaier to spot, fly down to one bush and stay a while. Then he would fly away for a bit and come down to another bush, not far from the first one. I could faintly hear the babies calling for food. They sound similar to their parents but not as sharp a chirp nor as strong and loud.
     They did it! They raised their babies! Well, they are not out of the woods yet. Well, you know what I mean. They need to reach adulthood.
     It is impossible to get pictures. There are too many bushes and young trees to find them. I don’t want to go in the woods and accidentally step on one. so I just watched for Mom and Dad each day throughout the day.
    By the next day they had already moved several yards further south but still on the edge of the woods. One morning, around daybreak, I heard the prents out front again. It sounded like they were near the nest again. By the time I wa able to check they were in the woods again.
     I don’t know how long before they can fly, but by the 28th I heard a commotion. They had moved a little further north along the woods. I was leaving the house and heard the parents. Suddenly I heard the parents chirping a lot more frequently and it sounded like more than two Cardinals. It reminded me of the hawks who share the property with us. When their babies take their first flight the parents, when I saw it it was Dad, fly alongside yelling and making a big commotion, similar to when a child takes the training wheels off their bike. Mom or Dad run alongside cheering the child on. That is what the hawks do. It sounded to me like that is what the Cardinals were doing. Possibly one fo the babies either flew or was attempting to stretch his or her wings.
     The parents will continue to feed their children for another 25 – 56 days after they left the nest. Slowly they bring  food less frequently so the babies will feed themselves more and more. Cardinals have 1 – 4 broods, or nests, in a summer. It will be interesting to see if they build another nest and start another family. Mockingbirds overlap their nests. Once the babies become a little less dependent Mom will start building another nest, she does not use the same nest, and lay her eggs and incubate them. Meanwhile Dad is busy feeding his first batch of children. Once she is on the eggs, he brings her some food. Once the new family hatches the poor guy is busier than ever feeding his hungry hatchlings AND the now jeuveniles running around the area.

     I have only ocasionally heard, what I assume to be, Mom and Dad. They are still near the house but I do not hear them a lot. Only some mornings and some afternoons. I think their kids are running them frantic around the woods. They still stay pretty close to the forest edge though. I wonder if Mom is starting a new nest somewhere.

     If you ever see a male and female Cardinal, especially near a feeder, and spring is in the air, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of their romance. The male makes an offering of food to the female, you know, takees her out to dinner. Sound familiar? If she accepts, though, she has accepted him as her mate for the season. He will conitnue to make food offerings while she builds the nest and sits on the eggs. He brings her her meals. What a guy!

     I was getting worried because in all the excitement I had not heard our hawk neighbors  like I usually do at this time of year. However, this morning I heard the male all excited and fly to his nest. I heard the faint sound of babies and then the mother respnding in a low voice. I had not heard babies up there. I think they may have hatched this morning!

     We think we are also closing in on the possible site of a hummingbird nest. She has been humming around one side of the house and we think she may be building a nest on one branch we saw her hovering around.

     We may have the adventures of yet another family’s, or maybe two more, New Beginnings!

NOTE: Some photos are available for sale. Just click on the photo you are interested in.

Posted by: Jill Pearson | April 22, 2011

Team Work

     For Mom and Dad Cardinals their work has just begun. They now have three very hungry babies who need to grow quickly so they come equiped with a large appetite. Mom and Dad have both been hunting for food and feeding their babies. Feedings are every 15 to 20 minutes.

Cardinal Babies Come Equiped With a Full Appetite

     Dad is a no frills kind of guy. He gets the food, feeds the kids then takes off to hunt for more.

Dedicated Dad

 

Mom Feeding Her Babies

     Mom is the stay at home kind. she brings food for her children, feeds them and then sticks around for a while standing on the edge of the nest. Since they have hatched she never sits in the nest anymore. At night she sleeps on the edge of the nest protecting her babies

Mom Standing By

 

     Both parents, and this is true of Mockingbirds and others, never go directly to the nest. It is important to never reveal the location of the nest and especially the fact that there are babies in it. They act as if they are being watched all of the time, and they are, by me. If the parents think there is a danger or threat in the area, like pesty naturalists watching, Mockingbird parents will actually give a specific kind of chirp to alert the babies to be quiet. They will not approach the nest. They will keep their distance, alert the babies to stop calling and watch until the danger is gone. I never heard the Cardinal parents give a call to quiet the babies. It could be because I never heard the babies until the parents were at the nest feeding them.

I never saw Mom approaching the nest. she is so well camouflaged and was always quiet when approaching the nest. She must have approached from the other side of the bush since I would not see her and the next thing I knew she was on the edge of the nest feeding the babies.

     Dad, on the other hand, would give his Cardinal chirp as he approached the nest and while he hunted. It was a continuous sharp and short metallic chip chip. He had a pattern he followed before he went to the nest. He would first sit up in a young oak nearby. He’d stay there chirping a while. Then he would work his way to a garden bench we have by the bush. then he would fly into the bush below the nest and then hop up to the nest and feed the babies. At each stop he would sit a while and look around for any danger or anyone watching.

     When I studied Mockingbirds I saw the parents would use a zig zag pattern before they would finally fly into the low tree and appraoch the nest.

     Cardinals hunt hopping around on the ground snatching food from low shrubbery and trees. They eat insects, spiders, wild fruits and berries, and weed seeds. At bird feeders they like the sunflower seeds, safflower seeds and cracked corn.

Nap Time

     Mom and Dad are especially busy in the mornings and late afternoons/early evenings. They have one more factor recently thrown into the mix. Even though we are still in a drought, no sight of rain, mosquitos have arisen and they too are very hungry. While it is bad enough for this photographer (Plenty of blurred photos from swatting and bumping the tripod), I pitty those poor birds and their babies. I just don’t know how they do it, other than to describe it as complete dedication.

     Our human species has a lot to learn from this couple.

NOTE: Some photos are available for sale. Just click on the photo you are interested in.

Posted by: Jill Pearson | April 19, 2011

New Beginnings

    

     I LOVE Spring. The colors are so vibrant! I am not just talking about the flowers blooming everywhere, but the trees budding out after a long winter rest. The leaves burst out such a bright green, they look as though they are lit up.

     I also like Spring because the woods are filled with so many sounds. Friends stop by on their migration North. Others stay and start families. Our hawk neighbors have spent the last half of winter raising their children and Spring is when the young ones are just breaking out and ready to leave the nest and start their new Journeys.

    The forest comes alive again. 

     For some time my husband and I noticed frequent visitors in our front yard. It was a couple who had moved in. They may even be the same couple who visited us last year. They are Northern Cardinals. 

     We noticed them flying in and out of a bush in our front yard. I looked and saw they have a nest there.

     I hesitate in writing this because every year I want to write about our new neighbors and their new family but it keeps ending tragically. Last years’ family ended before it really began. Around the time the eggs were due to hatch, I woke up one morning to find they were gone. Since the small bush and its weak branches were not broken I am assuming something lighter than a opossum or raccoon got the eggs in the night. I suspect a snake got the eggs.

 

Cardinals lay 2 - 5 eggs in a nest loosely built of twigs, leaves, rootlets, grasses and hair. They build them one to fifteen feet above the ground.

 This year has been much more successful!  I watched Mom flying in and out of her nest. She has spent long hours just sitting on her eggs.  She has such patience!

Cardinal Mom Sitting Vigil

It takes 12 – 13 days for the eggs to hatch. On April 17, 2011 Mom was still sitting vigil on her eggs. I had been peeking in on the eggs once every couple of days for about a week, whenever Mom was off the nest. The picture above was taken April 17.

The next day I went to the nest to take the picture of the eggs I had been watching and …surprise!…the babies hatched! They hatched that morning. While I watched the nest and Mom every day, I only peeked in on the eggs every other day so as not to disturb Mom too much. She has enough stress in her life without me poking around. I thought I still had a few more days befoe they hatched. but there they were…New Beginnings! Three Tiny Miracles of Life!

 
Cardinal Newborns
Cardinal newborns
While Mom and Dad are busy feeding, protecting and caring for their new family, I now have the task of making sure our new family is not discovered by our dogs. The nest is only 4 feet off the ground and our Husky has been sniffing around the bush. Now it is my turn to keep vigil.
Posted by: Jill Pearson | April 18, 2010

Mourning the Loss of Yet Another Species

          I was asked some time ago to write a couple of paragraphs on how people who care for their pets can strike a balance between caring for their pets and taking time for themselves. It is, I am told, something I should teach and help people with. I thought about it for weeks. My teachings have always been about the environment and specifically the animals that depend on it.

          I thought, “Is this what I should be teaching now?” I struggled with it for a time. More and more I came to realize what I want to teach is compassion for all life and the caring for and protection of all animals will follow. We need to balance our relationship with all animals.

          Today I saw a story on CBS Sunday Morning that brought it home for me.

          It was a very short segment on endangered species, “Capturing America’s Endangered Species”. They were promoting the book, Rare, by the Photographer Joel Sartore. The segment opened with the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit. The very last Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit in the world. Her name was Brinn. She died a few months after her “Photo Session”. While the species was officially announced as extinct in January, 2009, the tears have yet to leave my eyes.

          In looking in those tired old and lonely eyes in the photograph I wonder what she was thinking. That’s right I said thinking. To believe that humans are the only thinking animals is nothing more than pure Ego. That is another article altogether.

          Did she wonder what happened to all the others. Rabbits are social animals…like humans. What would you think if your crowded cities were empty in a few years. You are the only one left. You are then captured and kept in a cage, alone, fed the wrong foods (Yes, that is right, the recovery program was half baked and not once based on or consulted with scientists. Thus the failure.). What would you do alone, isolated every day, all day? No one to interact with. The entire time not understanding what happened or why.

          So I looked into her eyes and cried for her. I cried for her loss…our loss. I cried because of the injustice. What right do we have as a species to take her and her ancestor’s land? As Henry Beston wrote in The Outermost House in 1928, “They are not brethren; they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.” They are other Nations. As such we are nothing more than aggressive, hostile invaders of their land. We did not just take her land and destroy it and its natural beauty. We changed it for our purposes and destroyed its useful purpose to her and the planet. Such an invasion of another country would be seen as hostile and wars would break out. People would gather on the streets protesting. Yet, Brinn’s death, the death of her entire species was not met with shock or outrage. She and her species slipped away hardly noticed. She was not even honored with a day of mourning. At least 100 species a day go extinct. Slipping away in silence, every day, unnoticed.

     Invading the nations of these animals and all animals is seen instead as man’s dominion over the Earth. It is man’s dominion, but how does giving it such a name make it acceptable? Man has had dominion over other human beings (justified based on race and sex) and yet we see those as abhorrent. Invading peaceful Nations is only thought of and done by tyrants. Well? Where does that leave us as a species, a Nation, a Society?

          My thoughts upon looking into this poor tired rabbit’s eyes also went to anger and shame. It was my species that caused her death and her species extinction. Development, energy lines cutting through her land and mostly opening up her land to cattle grazing are cited as the main reasons for Brinn’s entire species, her entire culture to be extinguished. Grazing was allowed on her and her ancestor’s land for decades, even when her species’ time was near the end. Knowing she and others like her were in danger of extinction grazing on her land was not only continued but expanded! Brinn and her family were pushed from her land, her food stolen by the cows and replaced with foreign grasses that were better for cows and the people who profit from them.

          Cattle is why she and her entire Nation were exterminated. Cattle! In the meantime the mainstream media, Congress, the President, and all the agencies assigned to her and her family’s protection let it continue. It was better for the Cattle Ranchers if she and all her “kind” just went away. The lesson has not been learned. The grazing on the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbits’ land still expands today and soon her neighbors will be joining Brinn. More lost animals seen only in picture books telling all those who follow what it used to be like.

            So I cannot teach anyone how to balance caring for your pet with caring for yourself. Instead we need to learn how to balance our relationship with the planet and all the Nations on it. I do not talk of human Nations that go to war. I speak of Nations that keep the world spinning, the rains falling, the air circulating and the world beautiful. People speak of changes coming. Others speak of a “Cosmic Shift”. Unless they consist of a drastic and serious shift in the human mind-set and knocking down a few notches on our Egos, the changes that need to happen won’t come. The loss of entire species, even if it is a “bug” should be absolutely unacceptable and answers and accountability should be demanded.

“Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”
          -Albert Schweitzer

I cannot think of a better way to balance our lives and take care of ourselves.

     Until then, I and others like me, will teach and continue to nudge and even shake the Egos that threaten our world, our nonhuman neighbors, and our very existence. The whole time with tears in my eyes for the many who were lost and will be lost in our War on Nature, until we find peace with It. After all, “all animals, rare or common, have a right to exist”.

Posted by: Jill Pearson | December 4, 2009

Welcome to Natural Observations!

     This blog is basically what it says, observations in Nature. I will be writing on natural events in my area, SW Georgia and what is going on with the Global Environment in general. Pictures will be used when necessary.

     I hope you will come and visit often or subscirbe to receive updates. Join me as we go through the seasons, watch hawks and hummingbirds raise their young, and read the advwntures that come with living in the country.

     Today it is very wet, rainy, and cold. The leaves are still in the process of changing colors. Some trees have not changed into the vibrant golds and oranges they usually do becaue of this strange warm and cold fluctuations we have had. Those trees either just dropped their leaves or they went straight to turning brown and dropping. There are a few trees that do have the pretty golds. I have been trying to get decent pictures of them for my Art Gallery but it has been cloudy for so long.

     I live in the country surrounded by about 150 acres of wild land owned by neighbors. What luck, eh? I live the way everyone should be living. We are designed to live in Nature, not concrete jungles. Living in Nature is…well…in our nature.

     We are designed to live with fresh air, clean water, space and boundaries. Every animal on the planet needs four basic things met for survival. Those are food, water, shelter, and space. We have many humans on our planet that do not even have one of these things and many more living without one or more. Sadly it says a lot about us humans as a society and species. We are doing the same to all the animals on this planet as well, by crowding them out.

     Space is important. Overcrowding causes stress and anxiety which creates unhealthy environments, illness and violence as tension increases. See, I told you we were designed to live in nature, with trees and animals all around us.

     The Natural world is what keeps us alive on this planet. All else is an illusion. We have been programmed to believe everything else in our lives is a necessity but when all else is said and done, it isn’t. Really, it is possible to live the rest of your life without a cell phone, Blackberry and IPod. Really.Our Natural environment is not designed to be some place you drive an hour to get to and visit for a couple of days a year. It is your home. It is where you come from (not the stork, lol). It is your ultimate Source. It is where your roots are. That is why so many people are so stressed and unhappy. They are far from home living in an artificial environment. Disconnected from their Source. This Source is where we get rejeuvenated, regenerated, and revitalized. This is why people take vacations backpacking or going to a park. Is that really enough though?

     We humans need to find a way to live in and with Nature. It is meant to be part of our every day environment.

     So, I will share my ideas on how to do this as much as you can and share my experiences sharing my life and my world with the Earth and its inhabitants. I will have even more information on my web site Earth Council .

     For now, I am doing most of my observing from the inside looking out. What bit I have been outside I have neither heard nor seen anyone outside. They are most likely watching me wondering what in the world I am doing wandering around in this cold, wet weather.

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