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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bow's Relaxing Day

Bow had a nice relaxing day today. He went outside and basked in the warmth of the sun, He ate plenty of good food. He met with his friend Charla who brings the bananas and had a nice long visit with her, both indoors and out. And he engaged in plenty of grooming,

In the middle of the day, when he was tired of being outside and was getting a little antsy, I had only to mention to Bow that we could work on clipping his nails, and he immediately settled down and became calm and focused.

Chimpanzees need plenty of tactile contact with others and the opportunity for social grooming. Sometimes people tell me this, because they think I don't know it, and that Bow is somehow deprived,.But yes, it's true. Bow needs contact and socializing and grooming. And he gets that, every day. Which is why he is so relaxed and calm and content.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cooperation and Competition

The weather has been very warm, and there has not been any rain in the past few days. Bow takes advantage of the opportunity to sunbathe.

Lately the glass door to the outer pen has been sticking, and I need Bow's help to open and close it. Yesterday, after basking in the sun for a good, long while, Bow let me know he wanted to come back inside.

I reminded him as he was coming in that he would need to help me close the glass door.

He went out into the corridor, but after I had locked the metal grid door, he came back and closed the glass door for me. I thanked him. Now that's cooperation!

This morning as I was letting the dogs out, I noticed a butterfly in the garage, It was just sitting there on the floor. I don't know how it got there.

I opened the garage door, but it did not fly out.

I coaxed it onto my hand and took it out. It was a pipevine swallowtail.

I put it down by the tulip tree, Later I came back, and it was not there any longer. I hope that means our cooperative effort, the swallowtail's and mine, was successful.  I hope that I helped it to survive.

The irises at Orchard House are still blooming, while those by the lagoon at my house have already faded. The landscaping at Orchard House is wonderful. It's as if the flowers are cooperating by taking turns being in the spotlight.

There are new flowers blooming there at every part of the season. I think someone should just buy Orchard House for the flowers alone. I am planning to sell it at auction by the end of the summer.

Nature is full of cooperation, and equally full of competition. It would not work without both, The free market is that way, too. You get what you pay for, but only when you and not someone else does the paying. There could not be life without death. All the bad stuff that happens when we make a mistake is what makes success possible. Negative feedback is important.

On my walk this afternoon I saw fresh signs of a kill. Feathers scattered everywhere.  Part of the flesh of the bird seemed to have been just left there, amid all the feathers. Was it the heart? It's probably not the heart. But suddenly I remembered that line from a Disney movie: "Bring me Snow White's heart!" Why the heart? I've always wondered. Wouldn't the head be easier to recognize?

Speaking of trouble with recognition, just around the bend in my path, after the remains of the bird, I thought I spotted a milkweed plant! But I had been wrong before, The last time I thought I had seen a milkweed plant that had not yet bloomed, it turned out to be dogbane. However, my friend Kathy confirmed it. This time it is milkweed!

That bodes well for the butterflies.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

After the Flood

Although the weather has not been kind to the baby birds, Bow and I have been doing well despite it all.
This is a snapshot I took this morning, while Bow and I were in the outer pen. After spending some time grooming me, he put his head down on my shoulder and rested. The weather outside is beautiful now, and I have not seen such splendid irises blooming next to the lagoon in years.

When we first moved here, there were irises and peonies blooming by the lagoon in large bunches every spring. Then, little by little, the poison ivy encroached on their territory, until they were entirely choked out.

The bulbs were there in the ground still. Some leaves would shoot out each year, but there were no more irises blooming, and the peonies were greatly reduced.

Then two years ago there was that grass fire. It killed a lot of the mature poison ivy vines and tree-like bushes. I started to see a redoubling in iris greenery, but still the irises did not bloom last year, even though the peonies beside them were doing much better. But look at my irises this year, after the torrential rains!

There are two types of irises in the garden by the lagoon.  There are the deep purple that is like a royal blue.

And then there are the mauve to purple irises, which are right next to the peonies.

I think I took them for granted when I first moved here, seeing their beauty, but not realizing it would not always be there. This year, when they came our I was so excited that I even made a music video about them. It includes other flowers, of course, but the focus is on the irises and the peonies.

The peonies are so bright and fluffy and inviting that all sorts of insects come to visit them.

Every disaster has its upside. What was bad for the baby birds seems to have benefited the peonies.  And the fire of two years ago was a disaster for the poison ivy by the lagoon, but it gave new hope to the irises. When people count the toll of deaths from any particular cause, do they also count the new life that never would have been, if not for it? By the same token, when they tell us that a new government program has saved lives, we must also ask, how many has it killed? You can't change any situation to benefit one part of our interconnected world without also harming another part.

When we hear that something is bad, it is always important to ask: for whom? And when we hear that an intervention is good, ask the same question. Whatever it is, it is not equally good for everyone.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dashed Hopes

I considered not writing about this. People like cheerful reports about how nature sorts everything out. They like to think that every sparrow is looked after and that no life is lost in vain. But here in my untended plot of land, unexpected, premature and even senseless death is a normal part of life, and I think that even Bow knows about it. Remember what he said about Niles the kitten?

Last year I was able to follow developments in three different robins' nests. This year I was surprised at first that I was not seeing any, when I finally noticed one by the fence-line, snug in a low lying cypress bush.

I spotted the firs robin's nest on April 13, 201 
There were already three perfect little blue eggs in the nest. It was very far from the house, and so there was no way I could keep watch over it as I had the nest in the rosebush in front of my front door last year.  But I was looking forward to seeing the three eggs hatch.

I spotted the second robin's nest in a rosebush facing the public road. The mother robin scolded me and tried to lure me away from her nest. There were three blue eggs, streaked with a little bit of white snug in the nest.

I spotted the second robin's nest on April 18, 2017
The third nest I spotted this season wasn't even a robin's. It belonged to a mourning dove who flew away noisily every time I approached. It was April 19, the anniversary of the Mt. Carmel Massacre, and I was preoccupied, but not so much so that I did not wonder about it.

I did not know what kind of egg it was until a friend of a friend on Facebook identified it for me. I was really looking forward to seeing how a mourning doves differ from robins in their development.

By April 23, I noticed that two of the eggs in the first robin's nest had hatched.

By the 24th of April, I spotted a second egg in the mourning dove nest. The lighting was such that one of the eggs seemed pinkish, while the other looked bluish. This sparked a discussion among my friends as to whether one of the eggs did not belong in the egg. Could that bluish egg be a starlings?

By the end of that day, the first egg in the mourning dove nest had already hatched, and the other egg went from looking blue to being white again. It had probably been just a trick of the light and both eggs were "legitimate."

The mourning dove hatchling seemed healthy, and I was hopeful that eventually the other egg would hatch, revealing a matching sibling.

At the time when the mourning dove baby hatched, the baby robins in the first robin's nest looked like this.

Then the next day, April 25, the first egg in the second robin's nest by the road hatched.

That was the best it ever got. At that point, for all three nests, there were four hatchlings and four unhatched eggs. But the weather started to change, and it began to rain every day almost all day long. The nest time I went to check all three nests, the second robin's nest was empty. Completely empty.

.There was no sign of a struggle. Not a feather or a cracked egg. But I knew it was too early for anything but a bad ending to explain the total absence of hatchlings and eggs. On that day, the first robin's nest still contained two babies and the third egg had not hatched.

In the mourning dove nest, there was still one hatchling and one egg.

The next day, when I could get away to look, the mourning dove nest was completely bare, all except for one stray white feather.

In the first robin's nest, the two babies looked like this that day.

It continued to rain and rain and rain. Major parts of our state became flooded. Roads were closed and bridges crumbled and teenagers were swept away to their deaths in their cars. On April 29 I ventured out in the rain and the thunder to look at the surviving robins in the nest. They seemed to be doing well, despite it all.

Yesterday, May 1st, which was an unusually cold day, when I ventured forth to check on the robins, all I found was a bare, clean, empty  nest.

Of eight potential new lives, all were snuffed out.