Tag Archives: animals

Birds, Lawn Sprinkling, and Nature

sprinkling

Years ago, on a Saturday, my lawn was again in need of liquid sustenance and I was in watering mode, repositioning sprinklers in half-hour increments. During one mid-morning trek, there were two birds on my deck railing. I walked by them slowly, wondering how close I could get before they flew off in fear. They never did, even though I passed within a couple of feet. I’m not sure if they are immature, sickly, or both.

This continued for several hours, even when I made no attempt to slow my approach or quiet my steps. Desiring to snap a photo, I retrieved my camera. As I was setting it for an outdoor shot, I heard a loud thud. Looking up, only one bird remained on the rail, with the other staggering in an apparent daze on the deck next to the window. Soon his friend fluttered down to join him.

I thought I missed my shot, but 30 minutes later they were again on the railing, where they stayed a few more hours.

The next day, as I rounded the corner of my house, one of them was sitting in the grass and I almost ran into him. He studied me carefully before casually flying to a nearby tree.

Nature, for all its awesome beauty, can be awfully cruel. Click To Tweet

Sadly, the following Monday, there was a suspicious pile of feathers in about that same place. Today, the apparent survivor was alone, randomly walking on my driveway, as though not knowing what to do. Nature, for all its awesome beauty, can be painfully sad.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Woodpecker Wars

woodpeckers

I remember, years ago, I used to like woodpeckers, admiring their colorful beauty and stately appearance, being amazed at their peculiar characteristic of using their beak as a drilling tool to find food or make a shelter.

However, when I learned that woodpeckers had taken an interest in my neighbor’s house, I immediately checked mine. Unbeknownst to me, they had been hard at work on the shutters on the south side of my home—fortunately, it was only the shutters.

Anything that hurts or kills a woodpecker—or disturbs their nests — is illegal; they are protected. Click To Tweet

My bride, an amazing cyber-sleuth, quickly learned that:

  • It was usually just one or two woodpeckers that attack one’s abode, not a flock of them.
  • There were a variety of motivations: looking for food, establishing a nest, or trying to attract a mate.
  • There was no one guaranteed solution, but a list of possible ones— that may hinge on their motivation for pecking.
  • Anything that hurts or kills a woodpecker—or disturbs their nests — is illegal; they are protected. (Not that I would want to harm them, but recalling the tenacity and rapidity of their work, courtesy of the old Woody Woodpecker cartoons, I can envision things quickly escalating out of control.)

As a first step, I filled and painted the holes.

That solved the problem—for a few days. Though they never returned to the south side of my house, they moved their focus to the shutters on the north side, which have now been filled twice and repainted.

I made a daily walk around my home’s perimeter, scrutinizing it for the telltale signs of a woodpecker at work. I am was pleased to state that I had been woodpecker free for seven days.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

Squirrely Behavior

squirrel

Years ago, the squirrel population around our home seems to be on the increase. One of their favorite pastimes was gathering nuts from my neighbor’s trees and relocating them to my yard. For years this has been happening with acorns, resulting in me pulling up tiny oak trees each spring.

Now they’ve added hickory nuts to their menu, as my bare feet frequently encounter empty half shells in my lawn. Though they try to bury their treasures, my sod is too thick for them to have much success.

These squirrels are increasingly comfortable around humans, too, no longer scurrying away as I approach. When I was moving a sprinkler, I saw one squirrel furiously pawing at my grass attempting to dig a hole at the base of a Maple tree—and having some success in doing so.

I approached him to scare him off. He was not deterred.

I saw one squirrel furiously pawing at my grass attempting to dig a hole at the base of a Maple tree—and having some success in doing so. Click To Tweet

Forty feet away and he stopped digging to give me a long look, not fearful, but amused.

Thirty feet away and he paused to give a long and vigorous scratch to the back of his head; I think he was grinning at me.

Twenty feet away and he rolled over on this back, but not in a posture of submission as some animals do. He shimmied from side to side, rubbing his back on the hole he was boring, feet flailing in the air with unabashed jubilation. I’m sure he was laughing at me, daring me to come closer.

Ten feet away and he scampered around the tree trunk, poking his head out to watch my approach.

I circled the tree and he did the same, climbing up several feet so we could look at each other in the eye. I think he was enjoying this.

We played hide and seek for a while, and then I couldn’t find him. Eventually looking up, I spied him perched on a branch, looking down on me from a safe distance.

I instructed him sternly to stop digging holes in my lawn. I think we have an understanding.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

What I Learned From Rabbits

What I learned from rabbits?

Although I live in a rural area, my immediate surroundings are not; I reside in a subdivision. Even so, wildlife abounds. During the non-snowy months, I can, at any given time, look out my office window and see at least one animal and usually more; I’ve spent the last five months verifying this to be true.

The most common sight is birds. Squirrels come in second; sometimes they’re in pairs: darting, jumping, chasing, climbing.

I also see rabbits; they are common, but not a daily sight (though I don’t spend my time gazing out my window either.) When I see a hare, it’s always alone, which is a bit sad to mention.

But today I saw two: hopping, playing tag, hangin’ out. Then a third one appeared. One hops to my left, the other scurries right, while the third goes in a circle. They were on the smaller side, perhaps siblings from this year’s batch.

Then to my delight, a fourth one-hopped into view. A bit larger and more deliberate in movement. I surmised this to be their mom. For quite a while I admired their comings and goings, their freedom and their life.

I’m glad I took the time to watch them frolic; it was good to slow down—and to marvel.

It was good to slow down and to marvel at times. What do you do to slow down? Click To Tweet

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

My Reaction to Reading Past Posts

My Reaction to Reading Past Posts

A few years ago I read some of my past posts on this blog, not for any nostalgic reason, but to see if I could merge some of them into a book, codenamed Woodpecker Wars. Here’s what I found:

Though some posts are dated and others are not good, I generally like what I’m reading. Some posts are entertaining and others are insightful. Many are interesting—at least to me. Occasionally I’ll read a post I forgot about and be impressed.

However, when it comes to the details, I’m mostly dismayed. My past work contains errors and typos. The perfectionist in me wants to go back and fix them, but that would be too time-consuming. The impulse to edit my past work reminds me of the book Flowers for Algernon. A mentally challenged man who keeps a journal. He seeks permission to edit his past entries but is told to leave them as is—they are part of his history. Click To Tweet

That impulse to edit my past work reminds me of the book Flowers for Algernon. It’s about a mentally challenged man who undergoes an experimental process that catapults him to the genius level. Along the way, he’s encouraged to keep a journal. At first it’s hand-written and a mess but gets better over time. He learns to type and seeks permission to edit and type his past entries but is told to leave them as is—they are part of his history and shouldn’t be altered.

While I am neither mentally challenged or a genius, I’ll also leave my old posts as is—or maybe I’m just lazy. Regardless, the content that does end up in Woodpecker Wars—along with some new writing—will undergo careful editing and scrutiny. After all, I don’t want to make the same mistakes twice.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

The Power of Panic

The Power of Panic

Once when I was working in my yard, I noticed a baby bird in the grass. This is not uncommon in the spring. Apparently, the mother deems the hatching young enough to be on its own and gives it a nudge out of the nest. Sometimes they take off and fly; other times they fall to the ground. If the flightless bird doesn’t catch on quickly, it will either die of starvation or be eaten. Flying provides both food and freedom.

Hoping to “motivate” it to take off, I slowly approached it. It began nervously chirping and hopping—a sure sign that it didn’t yet know how to fly. With my continued approaching, it fluttered its wings, but remained earthbound. Becoming more fearful, it hopped and fluttered at the same time, rising a few inches before settling back down.

On a third try, it went a bit higher and made some forward movement. With me drawing still closer, it repeated the effort and faltered forward, sometimes only inches off the ground, and then with a newly acquired confident flap of its wings, gained altitude and glided to a nearby tree. Thankfully, this story had a happy ending. As a result of panic it gained the ability to fly.When panic occurs, we can do extraordinary things. There is power in panic. Click To Tweet

This reminded me when I was a kid. A friend and I were playing in a small pit, and my dog jumped in to join the fun. When we grew tired of this diversion, we climbed out, but my dog was stuck. It was too high for him to jump and too steep to climb. His repeated efforts to free himself ended in failure; no amount of coaxing or encouragement worked. I jumped back in to help, but he was too heavy to lift and each rescue attempt ended in failure.

We decided a stepladder might provide the needed assistance. I told my pet we would be right back (I really believed he could understand me) and hightailed it to find a ladder. Only a few hurried steps on my journey and my faithful dog was by my side. Overjoyed, I bent down and gave him a grateful hug. Apparently, as long as he could see me, he wasn’t too concerned, but once I faded from view, his panic of being left alone gave enough extra incentive to try harder.

In both these cases, panic helped these animals do something they wouldn’t have otherwise done. The same is true with people; when a panic occurs, we can do extraordinary things. There is power in panic.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

A Lesson About Compassion

I learned something disconcerting about myself.

Regular readers may recall my post about mourning three bird eggs that had been knocked to the ground when a severe storm destroyed their next. I had compassion for their death, but there was nothing I could do.

When I was out moving sprinklers in my yard I was horrified to see three too-young baby birds on the ground. They couldn’t fly and one couldn’t even hop; as I approached, they opened their mouths in hope of some needed sustenance. Again, I had compassion, but was frozen in a state of inaction. A myriad of thoughts rushed through my mind: Compassion without action is worthless. Click To Tweet

  • I don’t know what to do.
  • They’re going to die anyway.
  • I’m too busy.
  • What if they carry disease?
  • I should let nature take its course?

I would periodically check on them with each move of the sprinklers. I continued to feel compassion and tried to justify my inaction. A couple of times I saw an adult bird on the ground near them. I convinced myself that their parents were tending to them. Yet each time I approached, they turned in my direction and opened their mouths.

By the next day, the weakest of the three wasn’t looking too good and he later died. Would I likewise be witness to his siblings’ demise?

On the third day, one of them was clinging to the side of a tree and later he was gone. I never saw him again and assume he was able to fly away.

On the fourth day, the remaining bird was hopping with a bit more vigor and for the first time was instinctively flapping his wings. An hour later, he too was gone.

I should be happy that two out of three made it, but I wonder if I should have tried to help their weaker brother.

What I do know is that compassion without action is worthless.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.

A Lesson From Birds

One Friday we received some much-needed rain—1.8 inches in just a couple hours; it was a downpour.

A Lesson from Birds

The following day, to my dismay, I noticed that a Robin’s nest had been knocked out of my crabapple tree. I was saddened to see three unhatched eggs on the ground. They had been deserted; it was too late to do anything about it. (Even had I discovered them right away, the chance of keeping them warm enough to hatch would have been a long shot, not to mention nurturing them if they hatched.)

Interestingly, the nest was intact. The problem was that it wasn’t adequately anchored to the tree. I could see where it once was attached and though it was at a “Y” it was surely not an optimal one. Additionally, since Robins often lay eggs twice a year, these parents will need to build a second nest if they intend to try again. Be careful on what foundation we build—make sure it is a firm one. Click To Tweet

As a nature lover, I derive great joy through the life of animals. Although dead animals are a real and natural part of nature, it is a side that I prefer to overlook. Yes, I know about natural selection and the survival of the fittest. Unfortunately, these babies didn’t stand a chance because their parents didn’t build a stronger, better nest. It is a small consolation to know that this particular trait is being effectively removed from the gene pool.

The lesson in this is to be careful on what foundation we build—make sure it is a firm one. Rarely in the US does this have literal life and death ramifications, but in other parts of the world it does, primarily the third-world parts. In other situations, the wrong foundation could be living in a bad neighborhood, sending your kids to an ineffective  school, starting a business without a plan or enough capital, investing in a shaky opportunity, and so forth.

Just as with building bird nests, it is important that we find the right foundation and carefully build upon it. The consequences of not doing so can be dire.

Do you like this post? Want to read more? Check out Peter’s book, Woodpecker Wars: Discovering the Spirituality of Every Day Life, available wherever books are sold.