Summer Birds and Blooms 2020

 

Tiger Swallowtail butterflies enjoy the nectar from my zinnias.

 

November 1, 2020

Just sharing some  shots of nature in action as summer is slipping away and  the days shorten and grow cooler.  

One day, from my kitchen window, I noticed my zinnia plant was moving.  Using  binoculars, I discovered a  Goldfinch  eating  the seeds from my zinnias ! I had no idea!!

Zinnias are beautiful flowers that are easy to grow from seed.   They grow abundantly  so they can  provide food for wildlife and also easy to cut and bring  cheerful  color  to my kitchen table. 

With summer, comes baby birds.  These  young sparrows still have remnants of their  yellow  gape flange,  which is the colorful and  fleshy area at the corner of the mouth.  If you can still see the flange, you know the bird is a young one.  

This cardinal is a juvenile and still has not developed her full color.  But still such  a beauty!

The Hibiscus plant is great for showy blooms in the summer.  The blooms  come in many colors.  But beware – squirrels like to eat  the buds and will rob you of the beautiful flowers.  I sprinkle pepper on the leaves and that does the trick !!!

Sometimes you might see a bald cardinal.  Though not  beautiful at the moment, it is probably no need for concern.  Molting, where the bird loses its feathers but evidentially grows new, is generally thought to be what is happening.  

An Endless Summer  Hydrangea  was added  to my garden this year.  It is known for plentiful and long lasting blooms.  Depending on the soil the blooms can be pink or blue.   I love all stages of the flower , from when the petals are just peaking out to full bloom. 

 

Sometimes my fluky photos turn out to be very interesting.  This is a purple finch that I just happened to catch in  take off.

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2020 SPRING and SUMMER BRINGS BABY BIRDS!!

This is the tiniest Tufted Titmouse I have ever seen!

July 12, 2020

So I  definitely have nestling bluebirds – my first ever!!   After years and years of backyard birding and years of   having a bluebird house where many  birds  except  bluebirds nested in it,   I thought my “first’s”  were probably over.   But this summer’s first is my best ever!!

Mama bluebird could frequently be seen watching  the backyard happenings while  sitting on her eggs.  And once the eggs hatched….

 

 

Mama bluebird could be seen all day long,  going to and fro with tasty bugs for her babies.

Daddy bluebird  was always on watch ( and dive bombing me if I came to close ) to protect the nest box and to feed mama bluebird while she was sitting on her eggs, but, once the eggs hatched, however, daddy bird  was rarely seen.

This is one of the nestlings  just a couple of days before they fledged.  What a great experience!!

 

 

But bluebirds are not  the only fledglings  that I see in my backyard.  I always have cardinals.

I  find it fascinating how the fledgling cardinals  ” morph” through so many colors before reaching adulthood.

This guy is close  to getting his final colors.

I love the baby birds but grown up birds are always beautiful too, such as this gold finch and …

This red-bellied  woodpecker who  visits the peanut feeder daily.

And I ever tire of seeing  the downy woodpeckers drinking from the hummingbird feeder.

 

” A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world.  It knows no law, no pity.  It bares all things and crushes down remorselessly  all that stands in its path. ” from CoverMyFB.com

 

Thanks for reading!

Hope you enjoyed!!

 

 

 

SPRING BIRDS ARE THE BEST , 2020 !!

Nuthatch waiting  his turn at the feeders.

May 25, 2020

Nuthatch chowing down.

The  first new bird to my feeder this spring – the song sparrow.

My second new bird this spring – the chirping sparrow

Always a fun sighting  are the fledglings  that have just left the nest.  This is a fledgling cardinal.  Cardinals nest in my front  bush every year.

Possibly mama cardinal taking a much needed break?

I have not heard any babies peeping yet, but the Eurasian sparrows have taken  up residence in one of my blue bird houses and are definitely defending their space.

Bottoms up for this robin while bathing.  A water source will always help attract  birds.

Downy woodpeckers and

Finch enjoy the hummingbird nectar all summer long.

The cowbird is an interesting  bird as it will lay it’s eggs in other bird species’ nests . Cowbirds can lay up to 36 eggs a summer,  abandoning their young to foster parents.   Sadly, this  usually is done  at the expense of  some of the host’s own chicks.

Once again, the bluebirds were back today  checking out my empty bluebird house.  I am always  hopeful that my box nest will be chosen.   This is one way the male courts the female by offering nesting material.

This is the female bluebird,  the nest box is ultimately her choice and she will build the nest.

The pair spent the better half of the morning  in my backyard.

 

Hopefully I will report baby  bluebird peeping news in the near future!

(borrowed from the internet)

Thanks for reading !

Hope you enjoyed!

 

 

 

ENJOY THE PRETTY BIRDS WHILE SAFE AT HOME

April  25, 2020

Covid 19 madness, is everywhere,  not only at home, but across the world.  While safe at home please  be sure to  take some time to enjoy our feathered friends.

The nuthatch can easily  be lured to feeders and can also be seen climbing up and down tree trunks in search of bugs.

Downey woodpeckers LOVE peanuts and suet and sometimes can be seen drinking from my hummingbird feeder.

Speaking of woodpeckers, the red-bellied woodpecker has a distinct call which is loud and  almost sounds prehistoric.

Chickadees  are  so fast  that  getting a decent photo of one is  just luck .  They  will cache  food in tree bark  so chickadees,  daily,  come and go   many, many times from my feeders.   Smear some peanut butter on your feeder and you will be surprised  how fast it will be devoured by all kinds of birds.

In all my years of birding, this  is my  first for having chickadees choose  one of my nest boxes for starting a new family.   I never realized before how fierce they are.  If another bird  or  birds  comes near their box, they will chase them all over the yard  until it is clear that  they are not to be reckoned with !

The tufted tit mouse is a beautiful little bird  who also frequent my feeders and bird bath and they usually come in pairs.

Caroline wrens are especially one of my favorites who regularly comes to my peanuts, but they will also eat the suet and  black oiled sunflower seeds.

 

This flicker woodpecker  loves to “drum” (a mating call by pecking with his beck) on my chimney  cap.  Every morning for about 3 weeks  this spring it  was also  my alarm clock about 7:15 AM.  He definitely  was on a mission and had a schedule to get it done.

This was a one-in-a-lifetime shot of a flicker seeing his own reflection with  much speculation.

And, of course, I love the  bluebirds who sporadically come to my  yard.

The blue birds are such a stunning color….

and I can never get enough photos of them.

Lastly, even though mourning doves make a *** mess  where ever they land, you can’t help to like them and their sad song.  They are  amazingly  trusting of  me and rarely fly away when I come close.

Hope you enjoyed and thanks for reading!!   Please everyone be safe and stay well.

Also please keep in mind, in these trying times……

(borrowed from the internet)

 

BLUEBIRDS in SEARCH of an NEST BOX

March 9, 2020

Eastern blue birds are a grand prize of any backyard bird-feeding frenzy and  aviary  homes!  So put out the word that  I would gladly buy  any special request foods ( meal worms), provide shelter  and protection (from squirrels,  raccoons and snakes)  plus happily  monitor their broods if they would choose my backyard  BB nest box.  I have had a BB nest box up for 5 years but it has only been this past year that I have had blue birds visit  and show some interest.  A couple weekends ago these  2 males and 1 female blue bird came to check out my  newly purchased and mounted BB box.  It was  move in ready until a squirrel  decided to chew  the entrance larger.  I was slow to made repairs and it may have cost me  new residents that didn’t want a fixer upper.   After the blue birds left,  a new door was quickly installed with the appropriate  hole size of 1 and 1/2 inches and a metal  hole guard  was installed around the hole  to discourage any future  ” chewers”.  I will never hang a nest box again with a hole guard.

Blue birds are known to begin  nesting as early as February.

While checking out the box, there appeared to be a  brief squabble.  I assumed it was over the female and who would win her over.

In the end, it  would seem that the female rejected them both.  Once again, my nest  box is still on the market.

This adorable blue bird fledgling came to my feeder early last September.

Blue birds don’t normally  frequent feeders, especially if the feeders are crowded.  But offering meal worms (preferably  live worms rather than  dried ones) can change their minds – especially if there are  babies  still in the nest or fledglings that need to be fed.  Clean water in a shallow bird bath will also attract blue birds.

In March of last year this female  came to my black oiled sunflowers seeds.

While I always enjoy blue bird visitors, I also  hold out hope my BB box will not sit empty again this spring.

Hope you enjoyed!  Thanks for reading!

( borrowed from the internet)

ORCHID SHOW 2020 at the Missouri Botanical Gardens

February 17, 2020

From now to March 22, 2020 is the annual Orchid Show at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.  I popped in for about an hour to see the many varieties of orchids set in a peaceful  tropical setting.  It was a wonderful break  from the  cold outside.  Besides the gorgeous and sometimes humorous looking orchids, the floral aroma, alone,  was heavenly and well worth the $5.00 admission. This year’s  theme is “Mayan-inspired” and also  features  moss-covered mannequins  wearing lavish botanical headdresses.

Here were my favorites shots ….

I love this little face!

Are these camo-orchids????

These conjured up images of delicate dancing faeries….

Bird of the day –  the Bird of Paradise, of course.

I love the intricate ruffled lip and….

the dazzling colors.   How rich we are that God gave us  beautiful blooms.

 

“Try your very best to live in the present moment where your heart beats are.”

by, Bernard Basset, We Neurotics: A Handbook for the Half-Mad, 1962

 

Hope you enjoyed!

Thanks for reading!!

 

 

 

 

 

MACY’S AS WINTER ENTERTAINMENT in Chicago

December 23, 2019

A weekend trip to Chicago  during the Christmas season  proved to be  just what I expected – Chicago is COLD and the WIND chills  to the core, no matter how many layers you don.  But I discovered Macy’s on State Street, with its 9 floors,  is a wonderfully warm  place to spend the greater part of the day.  And,  other than  paying for my  wonderful lunch, I did not spend a dime.

My 1st stop was, of course, the food floor.  What more can I say?  Looking at yummy food is always fun!

But before I go on, first a bit of history.  The building opened in 1893 as Marshall Field’s Department store.   Macy’s  acquired the building and renamed it Macy’s in 2006.   My next stop was  to assess just  how enormous this store was ( looking up  from the main floor )  and to see what makes this building so grand.

Looking up from  the 1st-floor cosmetics department is the  distant view of a shimmering  mosaic dome ceiling  covering  6,000 square feet and made up of  1.6 million pieces of iridescent glass.  The  ceiling was designed by  Louis Comfort Tiffany and is the largest Tiffany mosaic in existence.   It took 18 months and 50 artisans  atop scaffolds to complete the project.

A Tiffany lamp hangs from the mosaic ceiling.

Due to many  non-working elevators and escalators, I soon realized it would be easier to start at the top of  this department store and walk  my way down, as I could more easily  walk down non-functioning escalators  rather  that walk up.   Yes – at least half of the  transportation modes  between floors were in a state of  closure and repair  that day.  But I guess that is to be expected  in a building this old.   I waited 20 minutes for an elevator to take me to the top floor.  The elevator, as the store, was packed with people. 

The  joyful greetings  at  the top floor were  all about Christmas!  Lots of gorgeous, festive  Christmas trees!  Millions of  Christmas ornaments!  Thousands of   Christmas decorations!   Most with a price tag.  Enjoy for free but if you fall in love with it, 99%  of it could be bought.

The Walnut Room restaurant was also on this floor with it’s beautiful  45 ft  Christmas tree with 15,000 lights and 1200 ornaments.  The restaurant opened in  1907  and was  the very first restaurant in a department store.  It is also the longest continuously-operating restaurant in the nation.  The  walnut paneling is over 100 years old,  Austrian chandeliers hang from the ceiling, and there is a  17 ft  fountain.  Not a seat was empty.

Now  back to shopping – if you need a  near-life-sized  stuffed deer or fawn for your holiday decorating,  one was readily available at the cost of $800.    (That was the price for the fawn).

My favorite was this nutcracker with his polar bear friends.  But, alas, I had to leave him behind as I was taking the Amtrak back home and couldn’t fathom how I would manage.

 

Having warmed back to a survivable body temperature now, I was prepared to go outside and see the 2 identical  massive  Great Clocks on the outside of the Macy’s building.    Each clock is made of 7¾ tons of cast bronze and hangs from ornamental ironwork.

Macy’s  delightful  holiday window displays were next …

each one…

as cute as the next !!  ” Believe in Wonder” was the theme.

 

On the way to lunch, I discovered the  22  “American Victorian Stained Glass” pieces  that are on permanent display in the  the Chicago Pedway next to Macys.   The artworks  were created between 1880 and 1910 for homes and public buildings.  This piece was designed and fabricated by John Mallon in 1881.  The photo comes nowhere near to the beauty of it  in person.

Then, after an absolutely wonderful lunch ( at a reasonable price)  in Macy’s  lower level food court of delicious, hot and generous portions of  Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and green beans, I waddled back to the hotel enjoying  some of the  high-rise sights of Chicago and still, freezing cold all the way.

Merry Christmas!!

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed!!

 

“Once the travel bug bites, there is no known antidote and  I know I  shall be happily   infected  until the end of my life.”   Michael Palin

 

THE FRICK – PITTSBURGH – Last Day to Explore Pittsburgh

The children’s playhouse on the Frick  Estate

October 28, 2019

My last day in Pittsburgh  I ventured to  The Frick – Pittsburgh.  The Frick is the  6 acre  property  of  wealthy industrialist, financier, union-buster,  art collector (and I could go on and on)  Henry Clay Frick .   Henry, his wife Adelaide and their children  lived in the 4 story family  home , referred to as  “Clayton” from  1882 – 1905.  Photos were not allowed in the restored  home but  90  percent of the interior  ( furniture, wallpaper, draperies)  were  original.  Some parts of the house  showed  a tad bit of its age,  but the guided tour by a docent was very enjoyable and  insightful as to the “guided age” and the family’s most interesting and gossip-worthy life .  The guided age was the late 19th century when there was rapid economic  growth and rapid expansion of industrialization.

Henry Clay Frick’s  collection of Chinese porcelain,  some dating back to 1662.

Besides the family mansion and  the children’s playhouse,  there is a cafe,  a small art museum ( although the  bulk of  art collection is located at the ” Frick Collection”, now an art museum but  originally the family’s  New York home) and there was a……

Greenhouse and gardens….

Lantana

Hydrangea

an Allium of some sort

Gomphrena

Plus the Frick property had a Car and Carriage museum !

This red and blue beauty is a 1940 Bantam Roadster.  Cost $445.00  Top speed was 43 mph and could travel 60 miles on a gallon of gasoline.

Model E Towing car from 1917. A gift to the museum.

Model A Roundabout from 1901, cost was $750 and  top speed was 25 miles per hour.  This car was a gift to the museum.

Stanley Steemer Model R Roadster from 9009, cost was $1350, and it could run on kerosene or water.  The top speed was 70 miles per hour.  This car was a gift to the museum.

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost from 1914 at a  cost of  $4800.  Henry  Clay Frick ordered 3 of these for family use and each was  highly customized, which could take up to 18 months in production.

Lincoln  Model K, Sport Phaeton from 1931. Cost was $ 4600. This was one of several Lincolns  that Henry Clay Frick owned during that era.

So that  wraps up my Pittsburgh Adventure.  I left Pittsburgh with fond memories and hopes to return again and see the sights that I missed.   Lastly,  I want  to mention that Pittsburgh has two clear distinctions  over any other city in the USA – it is the home of Mr. Fred Rogers and  also where Henry John Heinz invented ketchup in 1876.  Pittsburgh is home to the H. J.  Heinz Headquarters  and where you can also find  Heinz  chapstick in  4 different  flavors – ketchup, mustard, pickle and 57 sauce. Admittedly  I am a chapstick addict but, no, I could not bring myself to try any of these  flavors.

Thanks for reading!

Hope you enjoyed!!

 

 

 

 

CARNEGIE NATURAL HISTORY and ART MUSEUM, Pittsburgh

Cast  Collection in Hall of Architecture

October 20, 2019

Another one of my  explorations in Pittsburgh was at the Carnegie Natural History and Art Museum.  What a great museum!!  Here are just a few samplings of what can be enjoyed.

The museum’s  Hall of Architecture  opened in 1907 with 140 plaster casts of architectural masterpieces.  In the USA, it is the only remaining collection of its kind.  Today few casts are being made, due to the fragility of the originals and also the attitude of copying works  from the past.

Even though these are casts of the original, they were incredible to see, both in size and of  the great detail.

Conch Pearls ( the pink ones)  from  Mexico in the Hall of  Minerals and Gems.  Queen conch pearls are amount the rarest and most expensive pearls in the world.  The chances for finding a conch pearl is  1/15,000.  Even then, most are not of gem quality.

In the Hall of Mineral and Gems there are 1300 specimens from all over the world plus 500 gems, crystals and jewelry pieces.  This was my favorite part of the museum, though Bird Hall came in with a close 2nd.

From the museums’s insect collection – this monster can be found in the Philippines.  My finger is there to help give you an idea just how huge this creature is.

These Scarab beetles and a lot more assorted insects, moths and butterflies  can be found in the museum.

They  were spectacular to see up close, yet also a  little creepy.

The  leading museum’s entomologist has a mantra “there’s  never enough bugs”.   There are 30,000 drawers filled with millions of butterflies and moths alone and  approximately 11 million insects in their collection.

The museum ‘s Bird Hall features 300 taxidermy mounts  from hummingbirds to eagles.  This is an Elf Owl  which can be found in the southwestern region of the USA and in Mexico.  It is the world’s smallest owl and mostly eats insects.  The museum has a whopping  190,000 bird  specimens in its collection.

Replica of the extinct  Dodo  bird which was flightless and endemic to the island of Mauritius.

This is a Marabou, a stork that resides in Africa.

The  humorous side of the museum also has a display  of birds that went on to become famously portrayed on television, such as the cartoon character Tweety Bird,  who was a canary.

The Roadrunner  also reached stardom in  the cartoon  ” The Roadrunner” show.

A moose resides in the Hall of North American Wildlife along with 22 more dioramas depicting different  wildlife  in their natural habitat.

Zebras and more  reside in the African Wildlife section of the museum , in another 11 dioramas.

Striped deer can originally  be found in Africa.

This guy  was soooo lifelike,  my spine tingled  as I walked past. .

On the artsy side of the museum…..

“Bathers with Crab” by  Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1899

I failed to get the name of this piece but it was my favorite so included it anyway.

Ending  on  a work  of art guaranteed to make you smile, is  this contemporary  piece of  a  giant frog relaxing on carpet,  who, by the way,  occupied an entire room to himself.

There was much more to be seen at the museum but I simply ran out of time before I could see it all.

In memory of all the creatures that passed so that we could  continue to observe and learn…..

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”    Hunter S. Thompson

Hope you enjoyed!!!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Wanderings in Pittsburgh

Downtown city of  Pittsburgh as seen from the top  observation deck of the Duquesne Incline.

October 5, 2019

Pittsburgh is  a very walkable,  though sometimes,  hilly city.   It sits at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.  There are 446 bridges connecting the city.  Of the 4 bridges I used in my wanderings, crossing the bridges on foot was easy and safe.  .

There are easy-to-find paved footpaths that lead you up, over and off the bridges safely.

Along the rivers’ edge, there are also wonderful paved  walking/biking paths, places where you can dock your boat and many parks, memorials, art , places to eat and touristy sights close by.

One such spot was the “Water Steps” fountain, which I was told is a popular place to sit by or sit in,  relax, let your kids and/or dogs play in and soak in the beautiful cityscape/ waterscape..   It is made up of 500 sandstone  blocks and 1000 smaller blocks and is 40 feet wide.   As you can see the water had already been drained for the coming winter but  I still enjoyed sitting for a bit and reveling in this beautiful, peaceful setting as I was falling in the love with this incredible city.

I also took  pleasure in a Gateway Clipper boat ride  to see the sights of Pittsburgh by water.   The  commentator was interesting and entertaining with many funny stories and tidbits  about the city.

I meandered through RandyLand, the quirky and  free, outdoor, public colorful art displays.  Randy Gilson bought some property and land with a credit card in 1995. As his story goes -” he would wait tables  and  then come home and paint  to bring happiness to his neighborhood.”  Much of his art work is  created with  repurposed items.

Did I mention it was quirky and colorful?

I am not sure if this is part of Randyland but it was located across the street.

I also explored the Mexican War Streets in Pittsburgh.  It is a historical area with 18th century  restored row houses, gardens, alleyways and lots of personality.

The streets were named from people and places of the Mexican-American War

I also passed by to admire the alluring architecture of  Carnegie  Hall.

A photo does not do justice to this gorgeous mural I discovered in my travels by foot.

This is the  Duquesne Incline.   Pittsburgh was at one time home to 23 inclines built into the hillsides.  Today only 2 remain – the Duquesne  Incline and the Monongahela Incline. Today they are largely ( no pun intended) used by tourists  but  still some use as needed transportation.

Going up……..I bravely rode the Duquesne Incline which has been operating since 1877.   It is 800 feet long, 400 feet in height and inclines at a 30 degree angle.  It moves very, very slowly and has a lot of creaking noises.

The cable  cars are not the original but they are still a century old.  From inside the top station, you can view the machinery  while it operates.

Going down gave me just as much reason to hold my breathe and renew my faith in God as going up.

All of the above was done in one day of exploring by foot, with time to spare.

 

“Blessed are the curious for they will have adventures.”

by Lovelle Drachman

 

Thanks for reading!

Hope you enjoyed!

 

 

 

 

 

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