House Finch Invasion

I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes and looked out at an amazing sight. There were literally dozens of chirpy birds invading my garden, SO MANY I couldn’t even count them all.

They’re easy to identify as House Finches.

According to AllAboutBirds.org,  If House Finches discover your feeders, they might bring flocks of fifty or more birds with them. They did!

I no longer have feeders because of my arch nemeses, RATS, so what they’re feasting on here is actually an invasive species, a Brazilian Pepper tree that somehow sprouted into the neighbor’s yard and they didn’t get rid of it like we did.

The House Finch is a recent introduction from western into eastern North America (and Hawaii). Males boast cheerful red breasts and their distinctive long, twittering song.

The House Finch was originally a bird of the western United States and Mexico. In 1940 a small number of finches were turned loose on Long Island, New York, after failed attempts to sell them as cage birds (“Hollywood finches”). They quickly started breeding and spread across almost all of the eastern United States and southern Canada within the next fifty years.

There’s no way I could capture as many as there are, but I’d say definitely more than fifty of these lovely red breasted birds are visiting Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

The red of a male House Finch comes from pigments contained in its food during molt (birds can’t make bright red or yellow colors directly). So the more pigment in the food, the redder the male.

This makes sense because they’re eating red berries from the pepper tree.

They stayed for about an hour, saturating my world with their most delightful song and chirpy calls to friends and family. Every tree in the garden is full of these guys as well the rosemary and lavender bushes.

I’ve never seen anything like this. For me, It’s as exciting as spotting a pod of whales or dolphin. I’m grateful they chose my garden to visit. Pure joy!

Crows, Crows, and MORE Crows!


Kids really do listen to everything we say, that’s absolutely true.

One time I looked up as a crow flew by and said, “Hello, cousin!”

Angel Girl asked me why I said that, and I told her that crows are very smart and that I feel they’re like family to me.

The next time we saw crows fly by, she pointed and said, “There goes one of your cousins, Grandma!”

Mom asked her why she said that, and Angel Girl told her all the crows in the whole world are Grandma’s cousins, which is a great thing to her because she loves her own cousins.

The best part of the story is that it makes perfect sense to her that animals are family. I like that a lot.

Besides a murder of crows, there are other collective nouns for crows: a horde, a hover, a mob, a parcel, a parliament, and a storytelling.

As for a storytelling of crows? This is a bit of an unknown but crows do tend to gather in large flocks and are known for their loud ‘caw’.  Perhaps someone observed this and decided that they weren’t so much plotting a murder but were telling stories to each other, https://www.birdspot.co.uk/

This photo from late yesterday afternoon must tell quite the story; I’ve never seen so many crows on the school field.

Seeing crows at sundown is a common occurrence around here, but not on this grand scale. Everyone driving by slowed down to gawk and neighbors came out to record it like I did.

On the roof, on the fence, on the fields — all my cousins!

Update: I sent the photo to my original Angel Boy and received a video text from his almost seven-year-old clone, AB 2.0 — “Hey Grandma, that’s a lot of cousins!”

My happiness grew exponentially.

Bird of Prey

I wonder if this is the same hawk or a family member. Look at those talons!
It seems as if they no longer care if I’m outside and simply carry on with their business.
How cool is that?

Through the Window: Red Shouldered Hawk

My kitchen window is an ever-changing movie screen.

Throughout the years, it’s been the best location to view all kinds of memorable events; observing the original Angel Boy in his sandbox, throwing balls for his Border Collie, skating with his friends on the half pipe while they ate the cookies and drank the smoothies I’d bring out to them, to the fresher 2.0 versions enjoying mango-black cherry ice cream cones and playing baseball in the garden or chasing butterflies, to birds and bunnies and coyotes and bobcats, (never forgetting the rats).

Today I saw a beautiful Red Shouldered Hawk perched on a low branch in the ash tree surveying the lawn for a late lunch.

Now I know where the feathery treasures come from. I’ve been finding them where I had first seen the rodents and I had a hunch they might be silent gifts–messages to communicate that my vermin problem is being taken care of, and I think I’m right!

Red Shouldered Hawks are about 17-24 inches tall and can live 15-20 years. So regal, so lovely, so important to the balance of nature. We need to protect them and their habitats, too.

I saw him fly away but wasn’t quick enough to focus the camera to capture the incredible wingspan.

Look Down! Baby Bird Alert!

When it cooled off slightly in late afternoon, I went out to the garden to water plants because it’s been SO HOT and everything is parched. We haven’t had rain in a long, long time.

I heard chirpy calls that sounded a bit distressful. How could I tell? I like to think that I can communicate with animals–whether or not that’s true, it does make me listen to them, and I feel that I can distinguish one sound from another, sort of like when you know why your baby is crying, whether it’s hungry or tired or frustrated…

At that precise moment that I heard those chirps, I was walking on my stone pathway and I looked down. There, camouflaged on a rock, I spied a tiny bird. If I hadn’t paid attention, I would have stepped on him/her!

I ran back on the deck to grab my phone, and he had hopped up on an exposed tree root.

I began to have a chat with this darling creature who appeared to be lost and a bit scared. I can understand why, because he’s definitely NOT supposed to be sitting on a gray rock exposed to all sorts of danger.

I brought over a small pan of fresh water and watched him hop around a little and flex his wings, so I surmised he had fallen out of a nest and wasn’t actually injured.

Again I became aware of lots of birds circling the area, yellow chirpy finches calling out to this little guy, so I knew it was a Lesser Goldfinch fledgling, a common bird in Southern California and one I often am lucky enough to see around here.

From the tree root he hopped onto a hanging succulent and finally made it all the way into a basin shaped planter on top of the tree stump. With his family encouraging him to join them and fly to safety, I thought it was best to give them all space and went in the house.

Later, just before dark, I checked and he was gone. As soon as I woke up this morning, I checked again and there’s no sign of him.

Fingers crossed, I’m hopeful that this was another happy ending at Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

I discovered a lovely poem by Mary Oliver:

Goldfinches

In the fields
we let them have-
in the fields
we don’t want yet-

where thistles rise
out of the marshlands of spring, and spring open-
each bud
a settlement of riches-

a coin of reddish fire-
the finches
wait for midsummer,
for the long days,

for the brass heat,
for the seeds to begin to form in the hardening thistles,
dazzling as the teeth of mice,
but black,

filling the face of every flower.
Then they drop from the sky.
A buttery gold,
they swing on the thistles, they gather

the silvery down, they carry it
in their finchy beaks
to the edges of the fields,
to the trees,

as though their minds were on fire
with the flower of one perfect idea-
and there they build their nests
and lay their pale-blue eggs,

every year,
and every year
the hatchlings wake in the swaying branches,
in the silver baskets,

and love the world.
Is it necessary to say any more?
Have you heard them singing in the wind, above the final fields?
Have you ever been so happy in your life?

Dove and Hawk Encounter

Intently absorbed in my dishwashing chore, I heard a scuffling sort of sound from the backyard and looked out the kitchen window.

Perched on top of the canvas awning shading a garden bench was a giant hawk. I followed his eyes and saw a dove rush for safety under a lavender bush.

I watched him fly a few feet away to the fence and grabbed my camera. It’s not as sharp a photo as I wished, but it’s better than nothing!

I hoped the dove had escaped even though I know doves are a favorite meal of birds of prey. Honestly, with all the rats and mice and bunnies running rampant in my garden, I think those creatures are much better options than a poor little bird.

I heard a familiar “coocoocoo” — take a look at what I found on my deck, none other than the dove. She wasn’t alone; there was a baby dove, too! They weren’t at all scared of me as I crept closer and closer to see if anyone was injured by the hawk.

I’ve never before seen them on the deck. As usual, I didn’t want to interfere unless it was necessary. They sat close together for a couple of hours, then mom flew up to the roof.

She spent a long time calling to the baby to encourage him to fly to her, to no avail. Just as I was prepping a box with a soft towel to scoop up the baby for a visit to Project Wildlife, the mom came back.

This time, they flew away together.

It was a happy ending for the doves and I was once again impressed but not surprised by the obvious caring and affectionate behavior of animals to their children that often far surpasses human maternal actions.

Mom’s devotion to her child was inspiring. Who can claim animals aren’t sentient beings?

Animal moms are some of the best moms on this planet.

A Mourning Dove and a Scott’s Oriole Came to Visit

One brown and gray, the other vibrant yellow and black; both exquisitely perfect in their own way.

I was actually trying to take pictures of a hummingbird perched on a string of garden lights, but I wasn’t quick enough to capture him and the camera lens picked up the dove and the oriole waiting around to be noticed.

Scott’s Oriole

My bright and beautiful Scott’s Orioles are back! From bunnies to birds, I don’t have to go anywhere to be entertained.

I can’t say rats are bringers of joy, though, Or the mouse I saw this morning, but thank goodness it was outside so I didn’t have to completely freak out.

I think my little wounded bun is going to be OK. Fur is growing back and he’s still eating the greens I put out for him, which is a whole lot better than enduring the trauma of being captured.

A Lovely Sunday at the Beach

Some clouds and sunshine, perfect for these little lefts and rights this morning…

A lineup in the ocean…

And a lineup in the sky. Look up! Pelicans!

Streets closed and a run around town, the Carlsbad 5000.

Raven or Crow?

Both ravens and crows live in my neighborhood, but I think these two thirsty birds are crows.
What do you think?

This photo was taken as I peeked through the long pointy fronds of a ponytail palm situated directly outside my downstairs living room.

Here’s an especially informative Audubon link that helps to discern the differences between the two:https://www.audubon.org/news/how-tell-raven-crow