Hope, and Joy, and Love!

I love Spring on Bickley’s Pond. Here, from the big window in my studio, I watch the world come back to glorious life. Everywhere you look there’s something magical to see. I am amazed by the grasses and trees and shrubs, the tiny leaves that appear from nowhere.

But I am most captivated by the sweet animals who share their lake with us.

The Canada Goose couple has been here for years, rearing brood after brood after brood. They’re nesting again and although I don’t know exactly where–the sweet Mama is on the eggs while Papa hangs in our cove keeping an eye out for her and any Canada Goose interlopers.

He floats around out there day after day, waiting, watching. And the moment anyone arrives and lands on his lake, anywhere near his beloved, the most awful racket ensues.

How devoted he is.

And the mallards? (See them there in the distance.) They are the sweetest. They swim side by side every moment, combing the pond and its shoreline for the perfect place to build and bring into the world a new paddling* of ducklings.

You may remember the year they nested right in our yard beneath the day lilies, then that big snake came and ate the eggs. (Well, one snake only ate two or three. The next day the mate came and finished off the rest.)

(mallard eggs, circa 2015)
(egg-filled snake, circa 2015)

Good lord I’m still not over it.

And the bluebirds.

My beloved bluebirds.

We’ve raised seven (?) nests together. And now, after all this time (and all my perfecting of their home sweet home), this Spring there is NO NEST.

I am a little heartbroken.

(Now that I am finally supplying mealworms, there is one male/female combo that feeds. But the female looks to be a youngster.)

I feel worried and fretful over Mama and where she might be. Or maybe this isn’t the original couple after all, and maybe after all those babies they’re off in Boca enjoying retirement and the Early Bird Special. (Forgive me.)

Whatever the case, it is a magical time of year. I am reminded April after April after April:

There’s always, always a new chance for joy!

 

XXOO

*A group of baby ducks is actually called a “paddling.” Isn’t that the best?

 

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hello old friend

We moved to Bickley’s Pond in 2008, and one of the great joys we discovered here was an Eagle’s nest just across the tiny cove from our back yard. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d get the chance to watch such fascinating activity from my screen porch; our house is built on a lot that slopes toward the water, so we have a pretty good “bird’s eye view” from the main level of our house. We raised three broods there, those eagles and I, something I was thrilled to share here on The Daily Grace. (You can follow much of the story via the links below.)

And then the giant pine in which they’d built their nest died, and the branches became frail, and the nest began to crumble. I think I’d have cried the day I watched as the entire thing fell 100 feet to the ground—except that a major contributor was the fact there were three giant eaglets fighting over food in the nest at the time. How I delighted in watching those babies grow.

With the nest gone, the eagles built farther back in the woods. My friend Jay (an expert) took Tim and me on a hike to visit the eagles one Sunday afternoon. My heart warmed to find them at home and, seemingly, very comfortable there.

All of this is to say there hasn’t been much eagle activity in my life of late. In fact, I don’t think I’d seen either of them all summer. And then two days ago, I happened to catch sight as one or the other cut a flight path right through our yard, no doubt headed to Lake Murray or the tree in Matt’s yard with the natural perch they love.

And then yesterday, just as I passed by the big window over my kitchen sink, I saw the eagle again, just above the pond. I watched as he swooped down and back, and then landed in a tree just at the edge of the water, right on our side of the fence. I ran for the camera and crept down the side yard hoping for a quick up-close shot. He spotted me and those giant wings lifted off. My heart sunk a little as I click click clicked, hoping to get something worth sharing. And then to my delight he landed on a branch just across the water.

Hello old friend I said out loud as I raised the camera to my eye. It’s mighty good to see you again.

8.21.14, on Bickley's Pond
8.21.14, on Bickley’s Pond

Follow much of the Eagle Saga here:

Part I, 2009: Eagle nest in our back yard.

Part II: Strange Eagle activity. Eagle eggs? Babies. X2! They eat. They grow. Big. Fast. They want to fly. They are so high. We fret.

Part III: They fly! And then they are gone, and we are left here. Empty nesters on Bickley’s Pond.

Part IV: Spring 2012 Three years pass.

Part V: The Eagle Nest Falls

Part VI: Reversal of Fortune

Part VII: Finding the new eagle nest

 

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Gigantic News

What    is    that   ?  I asked my husband as we rounded the bend at the end of our road, the one capped by the Coles’ pretty craftsman house. We were deep in conversation regarding a very important topic: the process for seriously-this-time cleaning out my burgeoning closet. I was intensely processing his suggested process when I became distracted by a screech screech screech in the background, a carrying-on that insisted on being noticed.

What bird is making that noise? I asked.

It’s the eagles, he said, and we both looked up.

Sure enough, there they were, there in that magnificent White Oak.  Eagle one. Eagle two.

Eagle three.

What????

Eagle three!

I needed a better view fast, so Tim and Little Bit held back and I headed left around the side of the house. Past the snowball bush, past the cutting garden, past the corner of the house and BAM. There she (he?) was.

Well, well, well. We have a Spring baby after all.

 

Mama and Daddy both kept a close eye on me, barking instructions to this young fledgling who had most certainly landed in the big White Oak on a maiden voyage, one of her very first flights. She looked as confounded as you might expect, this baby, so I decided to relieve some tension. I circled around to the other side of the house. Big Daddy (okay, I really don’t know which is which so just go with me here) had had enough of me and took off for the nest, lunch in hand.

That’s when the real commotion commenced. Mama took to squirming and squealing like nobody’s business.

 

Finally, the baby got up her nerve and launched into the air. (She and I were both relieved to find she really could fly.) And still Mama squirmed.

Have you ever seen an eagle in THAT position?

She was no doubt worried, this Mama, wondering if her little girl knew how to navigate, how to land, this sweet baby so recently hatched and so fast out in the big world.

(Don’t you know? Haven’t you been there?)

Then in short order, Mama too, was gone, off for the nest.

___________________________

Nothing could thrill me more, may I just say? After the excitement of the record three babies last year, then the collapse of the nest, then the sightings of both parent eagles together (a sure sign no one is watching eggs or hatchlings), and the search for their new home back there in the woods—I had completely given up any hope of babies.

How lucky I am to live here on this pond.

How happy I am Spring has come.

Room With A View

I spent the afternoon there in that pretty spot, the big bay window that, before I started painting, was our breakfast room. I love it there not only because the light is good, but because I have a great view of the back yard and the lake. (There is always something going on.)

The afternoon did not disappoint. In addition to the regular sparrows, cardinals, finches and squirrels, something down along the fence line caught my eye.

What on earth was this interesting creature?

look, there, along the edge of Bickley’s Pond

A little closer?

The Kingfisher

Now that guy is cool.

Life Lessons

It serves me right, I’d have to say, hawk-hater that I’ve become. There was the attack on Gus and his family—that awful day back in November when we* lost one of the babies and when Gus (the hero) sustained such debilitating wounds. Then there was my exchange with fellow instagrammer @hayen regarding hawk terrorization of our neighborhoods: small dogs, walk at your own risk.

Yes. Of late, I’ve been giving careful consideration to the circle of life and the role these evil-doers—menacing, predatory, birds of prey—play in it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hey babe. Look there on Blu’s branch. There’s a bird I haven’t seen before.

I grabbed my camera, hoping against hope I could get a good enough shot from the distance of the kitchen window to at least identify the species. But another tree blocked the view, so I headed out the side door. I slowly made my way down the hill, practicing my silent Indian-in-the-Woods walk.

That’s the bird I saw over by the dam last week, I thought. Could it be one of Jay’s owls, finally come to visit our side of the lake?

I continued on, and that big bird didn’t move. Click click click went my camera. Creep creep creep went my feet. And suddenly I was right there, so close I could see the curve of his beak.

It was no owl. But what a spectacular animal.

I nearly broke into a run as I headed back to the house, excited to download the shots and find his kind in one of my bird books. How thrilling to have a new addition to our Bickley’s Pond watch.

(You’ve no doubt guessed it by now.)

I’d like to introduce our hawk.

I’m a bit disappointed by the whole thing, to tell you the truth, this shattering of my illusion that hawks are big and black and brooding. In fact, I may well stay here, parked square in the middle of a dichotomy my mind can’t reconcile.

I think this bird is beautiful.

I still hate hawks.

 

*Don’t you like the way I’ve just elbowed myself into the family of humans who look after those Lamboll Street Guineas?