chickadee memories

image credit: pixabay

Inside their skulls, the sophistication of the neural capacity of black-capped chickadees increases in autumn. The part of the brain that stores spatial information gets larger and more complex, allowing the birds to remember the locations of the seeds and insects that they cache under bark and in clusters of lichen. The superior memory of the birds that I hear in the tips of the fir tree is a neuronal preparation for the hungry days of late autumn and winter. The seat of spatial memory in the brains of chickadees that live in these northern forests is particularly voluminous and densely wired. Natural selection has worked winter into the birds’ heads, molding the brains so that chickadees can survive even when food is scarce.

Chickadee memories also live within societal relationships. The birds are keen observers of their flockmates. If one bird should happen on a novel way of finding or processing food, others will learn from what they see. Once acquired, the memory no longer depends on the life of any individual. The memory passes through the generations, living in the social network.

~ David George Haskell
(The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors)

Chickadees were probably the first birds I became aware of when I was a little girl. They frequented my mother’s birdfeeder which was right outside our dining room window. (Our tiny Cape Cod style house didn’t have a breakfast room or eat-in kitchen.) I still remember eating my breakfast at the table in the winter and the cold blast of air that made me shiver when Mom opened the window to spread more seeds out onto the protected platform.

I remember playing out in the snowy winter woods with the chickadee fee-bee song playing in the background. And the well known chickadee-dee-dee alarm call. My father taught me to recognize their warning call, which I often hear out of the blue on our walks in the woods these days. My guess is we might be entering someone’s territory so we respectfully move on quickly.

10.25.15 ~ woodpecker
photo by Tim

For many winters now we’ve been hanging a suet feeder on our condo balcony to attract the woodpeckers I also love. Chickadees hang around and glean the seeds that fall out of the suet while the woodpeckers are feeding. Unfortunately starlings have figured out how to hang onto the suet feeder and they wreak havoc with their large numbers. Why can’t they come one or two at a time like the woodpeckers and chickadees? We also welcome a fair number of titmice, nuthatches and juncos.

Every winter our neighbor complains that the birds poop on his balcony. For this winter I had planned to not put out the suet feeder in the interest of being neighborly but, unbeknownst to me, my thoughtful husband bought a few months worth of suet cakes he found on sale. A woodpecker already came by the other day and was hanging onto the sliding glass door screen, inquiring within about the missing feeder, no doubt. And the chickadees have also been checking out the balcony, it seems to be much earlier than usual this year. I used to put the feeder out mid-October, after Columbus Day. But the fall colors have arrived two weeks early; perhaps the birds are ahead of schedule, too.

Because our neighbor goes out on his balcony to smoke a cigar and the unpleasant fumes come into our unit even when the windows are shut, we’ve mostly ignored his complaints about our bird feeding. Tit for tat. I have a funny feeling my resolve to not feed the birds this winter is crumbling. Watching them brings me so much joy in the winter! Maybe just one more winter, since we are in quarantine? I’m going around in circles weighing the pros and cons… I have to decide now!!!

Wish the bird feeding quandary was the worst of my worries. Connecticut College now has 24 students in quarantine, a cluster of 4 positive cases and their friends. One of the students was in my sister’s class a week ago. All her classes are outdoors and all her students are wearing masks, still, I worry about her safety. It’s a grim feeling, the virus keeps coming closer and closer…

And now our reckless president has tested positive for COVID-19.

midsummer magic

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6.25.16 ~ we celebrated the summer solstice on Saturday ~ good friends, good food and good fun…

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6.25.16 ~ bald eagle

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6.25.16 ~ gray catbird

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6.25.16 ~ downy woodpecker

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6.25.16 ~ downy woodpecker taking off

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6.25.16 ~ petunias

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6.25.16 ~ daylily

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6.25.16 ~ foxglove

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6.25.16 ~ daylily

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6.25.16 ~ fairy light

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6.25.16 ~ as close as I could get to this doe before she stomped her forefeet at me ~ I backed off so she could graze in peace…

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6.25.16 ~ chipmunk

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6.25.16 ~ so many orbs on a magical night

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6.25.16 ~ after a long day of fun in the sun, a fire to enjoy under a clear sky full of shimmering stars, with fireflies glowing in the surrounding trees, and fairy lights sparkling near the grass…

content with silence

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looks a little wintery ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
~ Ansel Adams
(Meditation on Both Sides of the Camera: A Spiritual Journey in Photography)

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autumn hangs on ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Life has felt pretty blurry, quiet and strange lately, what with the shingles odyssey for Tim and the unusually warm weather for this time of year. It was a welcome change to get outside and take a walk with Janet, camera in hand, to enjoy a pleasant, spring-like day in December. We found plenty of natural beauty exploring the woods behind my condo complex. Even so, I’m yearning for the first snowfall…

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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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contrast ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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late autumn sun ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

At home I have two woodpeckers who frequent my suet feeder. I’ve learned their call now because they always squeak before they start eating. So while on this walk I recognized a woodpecker call in the wild for the first time and started looking around to locate it. Found him in the reeds!

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woodpecker ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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woodpecker – symbol of determination and heightened levels of awareness ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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forsythia in December? ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

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spent milkweed ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

And now the weekend begins. Content with silence for the time being, I hope it will be a relatively quiet one, with time for continued healing. Wishing you a great weekend, too!

mountain laurel sanctuary

6.26.13 ~ Union, Connecticut
Nipmuck State Forest, Mountain Laurel Sanctuary ~ 6.26.13 ~ Union, Connecticut

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Nipmuck State Forest, Mountain Laurel Sanctuary ~ 6.26.13 ~ Union, Connecticut

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Nipmuck State Forest, Mountain Laurel Sanctuary ~ 6.26.13 ~ Union, Connecticut

Mountain laurel, which is in the heath family, is Connecticut’s state flower and is abundant in moderately shaded woods in this state. The flower of the native shrub produces clusters of beautiful pinkish white blooms between Fathers Day and Fourth of July in this part of the state. The foliage is evergreen so it stays green all winter long. Hiking in the woods one may come across a thicket of mountain laurel and wonder if it is at all possible to penetrate through the tangled branches that grow close to the ground.
~ Mountain Laurel Sanctuary

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Nipmuck State Forest, Mountain Laurel Sanctuary ~ 6.26.13 ~ Union, Connecticut

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frog ~ Nipmuck State Forest, Mountain Laurel Sanctuary ~ 6.26.13 ~ Union, Connecticut

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Nipmuck State Forest, Mountain Laurel Sanctuary ~ 6.26.13 ~ Union, Connecticut

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a whimsical woodpecker, evidence of other human visitors

There was a blue dragonfly flitting about us (not to mention hoards of mosquitoes!) but it wouldn’t stay still long enough to be photographed.  A few days later, however, Janet found a more cooperative blue dragonfly resting on one of her tomato cages at home and sent me this picture!

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blue dragonfly photo by Janet Hale

woodpeckers, spinning wheels, mattresses

Mr. Puffer by Nathaniel Rodgers
Mr. Puffer by Nathaniel Rodgers

So, a numerologist on TV said that 11.11.11 (yesterday) was an auspicious day to begin a new chapter in one’s life. It turned out to be the day that Nate & Shea finished packing up their belongings, loaded up a U-Haul truck, and took off to make a new home for themselves in Georgia. I tried so hard not to cry, but it proved to be impossible.

Making the trip with them is Mr. Puffer (above), Nate’s petpuffer-fish. We got attached to him when we fed him while Nate & Shea were away on vacation last summer. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that he will make the thousand mile journey safely in his special traveling cooler/tank under Nate’s watchful eyes.

I’ve made some good progress this week at chopping vegetables, and then the knife slipped and I cut the index finger on my left hand, but that should heal up more quickly as it was a clean little slice. One morning I got up and rearranged the shelves in the refrigerator to accommodate storing our new food choices and am so delighted with the new sense of organization and purpose.

But I’ve promised a few more fairy tale birdhouses at the Florence Griswold Museum from October…

#3. “The Beat of a Different Drummer” by Judy Preston, based on How Drummer the Woodpecker Came by His Red Cap.

10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut

#5. “Spinning a Yarn” by Bill Vollers, based on Rumpelstiltskin.

10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut

10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut

#50. “Pea Snoop” by Jennifer L. Johnson, based on The Princess & The Pea.

10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut

10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut

blue thread

A mood of melancholy has followed me around like a dark cloud the past couple of weeks. It probably has a lot to do with the anticipated move out-of-state for our son and daughter-in-law drawing ever closer.

Tuesday Laurie of Speaking from the Heart, posed the question, “What’s been your most recent surprise?” Well, the night before Tim gave me the dragonfly pendant pictured at the right. Laurie hinted that she wanted to see it, so….

Other recent gifts have been a long phone call from my daughter and of course, this new web domain from my son. I feel blessed and full of gratitude, and yet, still blue. I’m also taking more steps on a path to vegetarianism and am engaged in a pensive, inner spiritual struggle. Planning to write a post about that soon…

Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragonfly
Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky:
So this winged hour is dropped to us from above.
~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti
(Silent Noon)

I went up to visit my father Tuesday, and stayed overnight, returning yesterday morning. Visiting him always leaves me sad as there is so little I can do to make his life easier. My only hope is that my presence somehow makes him feel as comforted as the presence of my own children makes me feel…

Bernie, my sister Beverly, and I took a walk in the woods Wednesday morning. Bernie is showing his age and was in a little funk himself. If you haven’t been introduced to Bernie yet, you can find his story here.

9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Lately I’ve thought a lot about “my” hemlock tree, which I climbed all the time when I was a child. I loved to sit high up in it and absorb its energy and have now been wondering what its energy would feel like these days. Part of me wants to climb it again, for old times’ sake, but I’d have to bother someone for a ladder to get to the lowest branch and I question my agility and this stage of my life. The tree has been under attack and weakened from an infestation of the hemlock woolly adelgid, which my brother-in-law, who is a botanist, is trying to control. So I took a picture to show where Hurricane Gloria snapped its crown off in 1985. You can see where new growth has filled in above the break, in about the middle of the photo.

9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
hemlock and orbs ~ 9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

When I got home and uploaded the picture I was delighted to find it full of orbs! Orbs have been on my mind recently, too, since seeing Kathy’s picture of a golden brown orb on her post at Lake Superior Spirit. I think the orbs are a good sign that my tree still has some healing energy. Maybe I will bother someone about a ladder… Later on, walking along the path to the mailbox, I thought this little clearing looked pretty so I snapped another picture, and didn’t realize until I got home that it was full of orbs, too.

9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

But that was it for surprise orb photos. The hemlock below has not fared so well, and has become an ideal place for woodpeckers to drill for insects…

9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

I liked the texture I found in a pile of scrap lumber by the shed…

9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

And to end on a more cheerful note, a pretty flowering sedum in Beverly’s rock garden…

9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

tiny moments

acorn woodpecker by David Brezinski
acorn woodpecker by David Brezinski

It must be those brief moments
when nothing has happened – nor is going to.
Tiny moments, like islands in the ocean
beyond the grey continent of our ordinary days.

There, sometimes, you meet your own heart
like someone you’ve never known.

~ Hans Børli
(Happiness…?)