No, not that Elsa. I’m referring to Tropical Storm Elsa.
Yeah, that’s the one. Well she skirted along the edge of my little corner of the world and dumped close to 12 inches of rain.
As result when too much water enters the Concord River it rises, which results in it spreading my way. Water follows the path of least resistance, as I am sure you know, and that path leads right into my neighbor’s yard…
and onto my property as well. It’s a good thing my Sixteen Candles likes his feet, ankles, knees, thighs, and hips wet.
The ducks enjoyed not having to walk very far to reach my grass and the cracked corn.
My irises weren’t too happy sitting in water. There’s a saying that Bearded irises like their feet wet but their knees dry, meaning the roots should stay moist but the tubers dry. Well, these irises have wet feet and knees.
I’m not sure my Nantucket Blue hydrangea enjoyed standing in water. Hydrangeas like moist soil but soggy, wet soil…ummm, not so much.
My basement got a teensy bit wet but the sump pump handled the seepage. (Thank you, Bob, for fixing my sump pump this past spring.) All in all, things could have been much worse. I’m blessed that I haven’t seen flooding like the level that occurred in 2010.
My fingers and toes are crossed, double crossed, and triple crossed that I don’t see this kind of flooding any time soon.
Now on to more thrilling news. I managed to get a shot of a hummingbird. The little guys, and gals, have been elusive of late but patience does pay off.
As long as I’m on the topic of patience, I got a wonderful video of my Great Blue Heron hunting chipmunks. That’s right, chipmunks! Who knew herons had a hankering for mammal meat? (Warning: video contains graphic footage of Mother Nature in action.)
That’s it for me. I have nothing else to tell you.
And in case you’re wondering…it’s raining today. Argh!
Here’s another riddle for you — when is a Meadow Vole not a Meadow Vole?
It’s okay, take your time, I’ll wait.
Stumped you, haven’t I?
Okay, here’s the answer, a Meadow Vole is not a Meadow Vole when it’s a Muskrat!
Have you figured out where I’m going with this? Yup, my little rescue Meadow Vole …
… is actually a Muskrat. Who knew?
It wasn’t until he started growing into his fur and face that I figured it out.
Here’s a little bit about muskrats. Muskrats are found in wetlands in a variety of locations. They’re medium-sized, which is relative, I guess. Depends on what you’re comparing them to I would imagine. Anyway, they’re native to North America and are now found in parts of Europe, Asia, and South America.
An adult muskrat weighs around four pounds, give or take a few ounces, and releases a strong musky odor, thus the name. Very clever.
Muskrats are rodents and are related to rats, mice, voles (hey!), gerbils, hamsters, and lemmings.
They’re a social animals and live in colonies with other muskrats, which brings me back to my little guy, who needed to be with other muskrats and not in a cage in my basement, although he did seem happy as he ate his piece of watermelon each morning. However, he needed to stick with his own kind.
I was out walking Harlee and the Billerica Animal Control Officer, Christine (an extremely lovely woman), stopped her truck and we visited for a bit. I mentioned my rescue and she explained there are rescue associations that rehabilitate wild animals to help them return to their natural environments. Why I didn’t remember this I couldn’t say. When I was in my early twenties I worked for an Audubon sanctuary in Milton, MA, and I was trained in rehabilitation and assisted with the release program. But I digress…
From their website: “We are a home run wildlife rehab facility in Chelmsford Massachusetts. We are run by volunteers and are dedicated to providing the highest standard of care to injured or orphaned local wildlife in the area. Our organization is also dedicated to educating the public, whenever possible, on how to coexist with the wild animals that surround us. We are so fortunate to have such a wonderful community supporting us. It has kept us strong and has allowed us to save the lives of so many animals in need.”
Okay, so that’s the end of the riddle and just the beginning of River’s story. Someday he’ll meet a nice female muskrat and they’ll have little baby muskrats.
Maybe they’ll come by for a visit.
A happy ending indeed. Thank you, Christine, and thank you Newhouse.
Now comes the hard question — ready? When is a Vole a Meadow Vole? Ahhh, stumped you. That’s okay, I didn’t know the difference until I started writing this post. The answer is quite easy. A Meadow Vole is a Meadow Vole and not a regular Vole, which is also called a Woodland Vole by the way, when it (the Meadow Vole — keep up for pity sake) has fur colors ranging from yellowish to blackish brown AND has a long tail; one to two to two-and-a-half inches in length. Woodland Moles, also called Pine Voles, have shorter tails and less variety in coloration. There you have it.
Where am I going with this? Well, it’s actually a funny story. You see the other day, okay, the other early evening, around sixish I decided to take Harlee for a walk. Truthfully, I was already in my jammies and dreaming of a gin and tonic but Harlee was giving me that look. You know the look I’m referring to if you have a dog. It’s the ‘Take me out, please,’ look.
It mattered little to my canine companion that I was already showered and in my PJs. Nope, it was walk time in his book and, I must admit, the weather was a pleasing sixty-nine Fahrenheit. So, I donned a lightweight jacket over my pajamas, put on my sneakers, and off we went.
We got as far as River Street when Harlee spied something tucked against the sidewalk curb. At first I thought it was a black sock but it turned out to be covered in black, shiny fur and frozen in fear, which is not how socks tend to behave. Harlee gave the impression he thought it was an after-dinner snack.
I wrangled him into submission and inspected the little creature. To me it looked like an immature rat. Whatever it was I refused to leave it in the street where it might get squished. Did I mention that it’s eyes weren’t even open? It was a young whatever it was, that was for sure.
Doing what any self-respecting Earth Witch would do, I removed my jacket and wrapped the little fellow, or gal, I hadn’t checked that far, and Harlee and I walked back home, my PJs visible for all of Elsie Ave to see and Harlee keeping his eyes on my jacket because it contained his snack.
We arrived home and I put Little River, that’s his name and ta-da, it’s a male, in a box with some sweet meadow hay that I use for Isabella’s litter box. I added a bowl of water and called it a day. My gin and tonic was waiting.
The next day I spent time working in the gardens and I had Isabella in her outside pen and I brought River’s box outside. I inspected him closely and discovered, to my horror, that he had a tick on the side of his head. I tugged at the disgusting bloodsucker but it wouldn’t budge. I’m embarrassed to write I was actually tugging at River’s ear.
I dare you to tell me that ear doesn’t look like a swollen tick. Double dare you.
River is still alive after three days. Not bad considering my track record with trying to save injured critters. Remember Little Ducky?
I’m sensing a pattern here — Little Ducky, Little River … hmmmmmmm.
Okay, as of tonight Little River is still alive and nestled in the cage my friend Bob donated. River drinks from his water dish and nibbles on seeds. He seems in good spirits despite having his ear almost ripped off his little head and enjoys sleeping on his back under the heat lamp.
Now comes the big question: what do I do with River when he’s fully healed? Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention his back legs are questionable. I can only imagine he was dragged from his family nest by a hawk and got dropped onto River Street from mid-air. Or, dragged from his family nest by a carnivore or cat, although there are no puncture marks and no dried blood. Truthfully, I can’t imagine how a young Vole, eyes still closed, got from his family nest to River Street but he did.
The duckling count is dropping. The piddly number of six ducklings is now down to five and I don’t have to look very far to find the reason why.
Now, I’m not implying that the snapping turtle is snapping up the ducklings…and the goslings. The geese parents are down from four to three. What I am implying is that the snapping turtle loves fresh waterfowl meat…bones…cartilage…beaks…you name it and the snapping turtle will eat it. Even cheese.
I don’t know if this lovely creature is the same snapping turtle that last visited me in 2019.
It was rumored that snapper met his/her demise when a truck flattened it on River Street.
Yes, I know, there can be more than one snapping turtle in the Concord River but these are really big snapping turtles. Can the area of the river in my little corner of the world support apex predators this large in multiple numbers?
Something to ponder while I enjoy my new and improved snapping turtle. He’s back. Or maybe it’s she’s back.
Oh well, it’s back.
On a side note, my yard has been certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. I know, it’s time for a happy dance.
It’s super easy to get your property certified, head to this link and find out the details.
Perhaps you saw the movie Freaky Friday, either the 1976 version with Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris or the remake with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan. Both versions were a lot of fun and well worth a peak, if you haven’t seen them.
Don’t worry, my blog hasn’t become a place for Disney to advertise its movies; the entertainment giant doesn’t need any help. I’m bringing up the movies because they both revolved around a plot where everything gets turned upside-down and all-around, just like what is going on in my little corner of the Concord River.
Ready? Good. Now let me see, where was I? Oh yes, a very freaky spring. Observe…
A Mallard hen deposited one lone egg under my Hosta. She dug out a crevice and nestled the egg within it, then walked away. Something, possibly a Bluejay, pecked a hole in the egg and the ants took over. I blessed the egg and gave it to the river. As I walked back to my life I wondered why a hen would lay just one egg and why wasn’t she incubating said egg?
I didn’t get very far in my pondering, or walk, when I spied…
Seriously, was this hen auditioning for a job as the Easter Bunny? And, what creature is opening the eggs so the ants can feast on the undeveloped chicks?
A second blessing and this egg joined its brother/sister in the river. I returned to my gardening duties when in my Bearded Iris bed I spied…
…You guessed it, a third egg.
The ants didn’t even wait for something to peck an opening in this shell. They covered the egg and somehow figured out how to get in on their own. Another blessing was cast and the egg joined its siblings.
Three lone eggs. Add them to the ones I found, lost, and found again under my Solomon’s Seal plants and I was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with my property when my neighbor rescued my derailed train of thought. He entered my yard, a napkin in his hand in which he cradled a duck egg. Seems his five-year-old son found it under some plants in their garden. “Look, Daddy, an egg!”
Blessing time again!
Please, someone, explain what is going on with the Mallard hens. I realize it is a bit early to see chicks trailing behind their mama, something that doesn’t usually happen until the second or third week of June.
However, at this rate the hen or hens who are laying eggs willy-nilly are only going to have a score of ants following behind; no chicks.
If the Mallard egg situation wasn’t enough to make me want to scream at the freakiness of Spring 2021, let me address the weather! When did spring mean temperatures in the nineties?
According to data collected by weather stations throughout each state during the years 1971 to 2000, this is what the spread of temperatures should look like.
This a breakdown of the temps from the month of May 2021 for my little corner of the Concord River.
Windy, dry, humid, and HOT. Look at these numbers!
Okay, maybe it hasn’t been as hot as some places in the world but when I’m expecting mild temps and I find myself sweating buckets, I reserve the right to complain. 😡
While you’re studying the above data table (There will be a test at the end of this post.) check out the wind gusts. A typical breeze for my area is between 4 and 5 MPH, but noooooo, we’re getting close to 40 MPH. That’s a BIG difference.
Actually, Zephryos stirred things up back at the beginning of March. Remember the oak tree?
Zephryos is one of the Anemoi, the Greek gods known as the Gods of the Four Winds. There is Boreas the North-Wind, Zephryos (Zephyrus) the West, Notos (Notus) the South, and Euros (Eurus) the East. Each of these gods is associated with a season — Euros giving us autumn breezes; Boreas offering the cold breath of winter; Zephyros is responsible for spring zephyrs; and Notos, summer rain-storms. Perhaps the brothers are just having some good ol’ fashioned fun as they blew the dickens out of my little world.
Do you need more freakiness to convince you this is a freaky spring? Okay, a Baltimore Oriole had chosen my yard as his nesting territory. No, that’s not the freaky part.
We’ll call Stanley’s mate Stella. While Stanley sang about his beautiful territory and stunning mate, Stella spent time gathering the string I would leave out for her to use as building material for their nest.
Stanley and Stella were happy until one day an interloper arrived and challenged Stanley to a duel. The two birds fought an aerial battle worthy of Snoopy and The Red Baron. (I dare you not to smile while watching this video.)
Lots of squawking ensued as the birds swooped in a display of vivid orange feathers. The interloper feigned a left but banked sharply to the right, I can only image he was hoping to outsmart Stanley. Sadly, he didn’t bank tight enough and hit my office window. Dead in an instant. Stanley sang his victorious song while I buried the interloper’s body in my garden.
What of Stella, you ask? Oh, she told Stanley to quite fooling around and help her gather more string.
Need more evidence this is a freaky spring? How about this? Someone dumped over 20 full leaf bags in the marsh. Yup, just dumped them off his (I’m assuming it was a man) big-ass truck into the Federally-protected, I might add, marsh. Twenty-plus Market Basket Lawn-and-Leaf bags distributed on both sides of Elsie Ave.
My neighbor called the police and I called the town’s DPW department; we both received less than helpful responses. I notified the EPA and my neighbor climbed down into the tick (more on ticks in a bit) infested poison ivy and dragged the bags up the embankment and onto the road. He then enlisted a few more neighbors and got the town to come out and pick up the bags. Okay, here’s my question: What kind of 🤬 dumps bags of leaves and stuff into a marsh when the town will pick up unlimited bags for free? Or, What kind of 🤬 dumps 🤬 into a marsh, period?
On the subject of ticks, YUCK! This is going to be a bad season for the little varmints. Correction — it already IS a bad season. When I take Harlee for his morning walk I spy the blood suckers clinging to blades of grass just hoping either Harlee or I will brush against the vegetation.
Thus far I’ve removed over a dozen from Harlee’s body. Damn ticks.
I hope I’ve enlightened you as to why 2021’s spring is freaky. If you’re not convinced, watch out for falling amphibians…
On the morning of Friday, April 23, it started with a feeling that someone, or something, had come into my bedroom during the night and beaten me with a rubber hose. I had achy-breaky-muscle-and-bone achiness. I lay in bed, buried my head under the covers, and willed my body to take a detour from the road it was on. Seeing it as a golden opportunity, the cats joined me and we took a long cat nap while Harlee slept on his new doggie bed.
Little did I know what was in store for me. I slept through the day but did manage to drag myself to the door to let Harlee out to pee and other things (the yard is fenced, no worries) and then dragged myself back to bed.
As the day progressed my bedroom reprised this iconic scene from The Wizard of Oz. 🤢
Basically, I was a dizzy as heck.
That night I must have gotten up to pee because I woke to find myself on the bathroom floor. Guessed I passed out. The next day after letting Harlee back in from doing his business I walked to the kitchen and woke up with my face in his water dish. I can see the headline now: Local Woman Drowns in Dog’s Water Dish. Check off one more symptom.
It was back to bed for me. I was fearful that I had finally contracted you-know-what.
I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking that there are other things to get sick from besides COVID-19 but you see I had been with someone a few days earlier who informed me on Thursday that he had tested positive for the nasty little virus. I saw him on Monday. By Saturday my throat was sore, I had a fever of 100.2, my stomach was trying to leave my body through my mouth, and my skull threatened to split open because someone, or something, was inside of it jackhammering like a pro. Yes, I did get tested and yes, I was infected.
I won’t bore you with the list of symptoms I got to tick off as the virus had its way with me. Basically, without the caring support of my friends, Jill and Bob, I would have been left on my own to wallow in my despair. Jill would shop for soup and cookies, and Bob would double mask and deliver them. They even housed Harlee for the two weeks I was out of commission. Having had both their vaccine shots they felt safe caring for me and Harlee.
An important note: I had one vaccine under my belt, which is why my doctor felt I didn’t get hit as hard as I could have. However, let me tell you, it was no picnic.
With my snoozing kitties nestled against me …
… I lay in bed and watched the world outside my window. I had the birds and ducks that live in my little corner of the Concord River, along with my beautiful river, as my view. I must have done something right in my life that the Universe has blessed me in such a beautiful way. Thank you, Goddess.
A Mallard hen entertained me by pretending she was a Wood duck.
Wood ducks nest in trees, Mallards nest on the ground in hidden, out of the way locations. When I was well enough to venture outside I found a Mallard nest with two eggs tucked in amongst my Solomon Seal plants. With me stuck in bed for two weeks she had ample opportunity to select the perfect spot for her nest.
The next morning the eggs were gone. Later that day five more eggs appeared in the nest and at dusk the hen was sitting on them. I didn’t dare take a photo so you’ll just have to believe me. The third morning all the eggs were gone again but later that day, at dusk again, she was back on the nest. Really, how many eggs can a Mallard hen pop out over a span of three days? And who was stealing the eggs to force her to lay more?
If and when a hen renests are thought to be influenced by several factors. For example, the stage of progression of the nest at the time of its destruction is important. Ducks are “indeterminate layers.” They will continue to lay eggs until their clutch is complete (as opposed to “determinate layers,” which tend to lay a specific-sized clutch of eggs).
Good to know.
Other happenings outside my window? The American goldfinches finished their molting.
I also got to see lots of other birds at the feeder outside my bedroom window but didn’t manage to get photos. Again, just take my word for it and move on.
The view out my sick bed window also afforded me a stunning sunrise …
… and the three night show of the Pink Super Moon.
With a bit of maneuvering in my bed I had a clear view of my hummingbird garden.
… and my ducks.
Time marched on, two weeks to be exact, and I am now clear of the virus. Far too many people weren’t and aren’t as lucky as me and my heart breaks for them, their loved ones, and all the other people in the world suffering from all the things that can take a life. 😔
On a more joyful note, guess what? They’re back! The Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are here! Yay!
In closing I want to thank everyone who sent me well wishes through my YouTube channel. You are subscribed to my channel, right? Well, what are you waiting for? Hit subscribe and receive a ton of Karma chips.
Today, April 16, 2021, marks eight years I have been living in my little corner of the Concord River. It was on April 16, 2013, to be exact, my journey began. It has been one filled with radiant joy …
… and deep, profound sorrow;
a journey of frustration …
… and painful lessons learned.
When I closed on my little house and was handed the keys, I was overcome with happiness, for I felt I had finally found my paradise.
Along the way I’ve watched my river flow and birds fly.
One thing I’ve learned these past eight years is that there is a steady thread of continuity in my little corner of the river. That despite the ups-and-downs, and ins-and-outs of my life, some things remain constant.
For example, the mating pair of Mallards still sit on the retaining wall and keep watch over their domain.
The American Goldfinches molt during the month of April.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration brings them to my little corner of the Concord River.
The Trout Lily emerges each Spring.
The male Northern Cardinal courts the female by feeding her sunflowers seeds.
The gardens get bigger.
The daffodils bloom each April.
Over the past eight years I have written close to 1000 posts (OMG! 😱).
I have photographed my river wearing winter’s white …
… and Autumn’s blush;
Spring’s earthy shades …
… and Summer’s bloom.
Along the way I have taken a gazillion pictures of my river and her occupants, from snakes to turtles to bats to butterflies and, of course, her ducks.
Over the past eight years I have cried and laughed, and wished and dreamed, and through it all, like the Concord River, my life moves at a steady pace towards its destination.
May the next eight years bring me harmony and joy. Blessed be :}
Winter left the northern half of Mother Earth with a frigid blast of cold air in my region and tons of snow in others. My parting words to the season — don’t let the door hit you… (Yes, I’ve used this phrase before. I’m old and I’m starting to repeat myself…so sue me.)
Enough about Winter. Welcome Spring 2021 and all the BS that the thing I shall not name brings along for the ride. You know what I’m talking about; the big C word.
Enough about the terrible things we have to look forward to in the coming season. I want to discuss the hole in my pocket of joy because I had to send my dear, sweet Shadow on his farewell journey across the Rainbow Bridge.
I thought the hole would continue to grow in size but I managed to find a needle and thread (I’m typing metaphorically, you do realize that, right?) and I stitched up that darn gaping-joy-sucking-hole.
Enter Oreo and Samatha.
I adopted these precious felines from Kitty Connection out of Medford, MA. Because, as we all know, life is better with a cat on your lap (their slogan but I agree wholeheartedly).
Harlee wasn’t too keen on our new family members at first.
He eventually got over it and learned to accept the new status quo.
Sam and Oreo have settled in nicely.
All in all, my house is a very, very, very fine house, indeed, with two cats and a dog.
Do you recall the story of Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day?
Well, the past few days here in my little corner of the Concord River have been very blustery, indeed. So blustery, in fact, that Zephuros, the god of the spring winds, blew apart the large oak tree alongside my yard.
Seems old Zephuros had other ideas and exhaled strong enough to finish the tree off.
My own oak tree saved the piece from crashing onto my gardens, so, yea oak tree. Sadly, I fear it won’t save the split tree from being cut down. Its days are numbered.
The blustery wind blew in some new friends. A couple of Trumpet swans spent a lazy afternoon across from my house.
Zephuros also blew in the start of what will soon be a plague of grackles.
I’m serious. A large group of grackles is called a plague. You wait, in a couple of weeks I’ll have a whole hassle of grackles, along with Red-winged blackbirds. These birds are the true harbingers of spring.
Now it’s time to play a game.
One of these ducks is not like the others; one of these ducks doesn’t belong…
All the ducks are Mallards except for the last female on the right. She’s a Pintail.
She’s taken to hanging around with a Mallard male. This crossbreeding, or hybridization as it is called, is common among ducks. According to Jennifer Kross, a communications biologist at Ducks Unlimited’s Great Plains Region ‘Waterfowl crossbreed more often than any other family of birds. Scientists have recorded over 400 hybrid combinations among waterfowl species, however, the offspring are typically infertile. In North America, one of the most common wild hybrids results from Mallard/Pintail breeding.’
I can’t wait to see what the chicks look like.
Moving on to more duck news, with all the snow we’ve been having the corn I put out keeps getting covered. But never fear, the ducks found a way to get at the food. As the snow melts, pockets form and, well, see for yourself.
I’m not so sure sticking their heads down a dark hole is safe. Two Red-tailed hawks and a Bald eagle have been hunting in the area.
One unlucky duck should have paid more attention to what was going on in the sky instead of thinking about his stomach.
The circle of life can be a bitch.
But it can also be a wonderful thing. Especially when it involves birds finding mates and proclaiming their territory. You may remember this video of a Tufted titmouse singing out its mating call.
Now watch this:
That’s an male Eastern bluebird letting the other males know that he has proclaimed the mealworm feeder his territory. It’s neat to watch him dive bomb any intruders but act so sweet and charming when the female bluebird swoops in for a bite to eat. Males are such pushovers for a pretty pair of wings.
Okay, that’s all I have for you at the moment. Hang tight, spring is coming and there’ll be more news from the river. Until then, be gentle to Mother Nature’s children.