December in the Backyard

IMG_2087.jpgThis photo is actually from Josh & Laura Dillard’s backyard in Newberg. Their deck has been regularly crowded with hummingbirds.  Their hummers happily share the feeder while ours are ferociously territorial. (Photo provided by Josh & Laura Dillard)

IMG_5012.jpgI love this view of a magnificent Great Horned Owl hiding in plain sight (also taken in Newberg by Josh & Laura Dillard).

IMG_1500.jpgIn our yard, the pond attracts the beautiful Great Blue Heron off and on throughout the year. The heron waits until the feeder goldfish are six to eight inches long then takes them at his leisure. He cannot be outsmarted. Here he is waiting for the dog to go inside so he can have his way at the sushi bar.

IMG_1555.jpgBushtits sharing the suet last week. When it freezes, the suet feeder becomes more popular than the seed feeder.

IMG_1513.jpgThe Downy Woodpecker has been a regular December visitor this year.

IMG_1640.jpgDark Eyed Juncos, probably our most common backyard bird this time of year.

IMG_1650.jpgA Dark Eyed Junco and, under the solar light, a Northern Flicker waiting her turn at the suet.

I’ve had a solo Varied Thrush visiting from time to time and would have loved to catch his picture. So far, he has refused to pose.

Have you got an urban wildlife picture you’d like to share?

Happy New Year!




Brain Yoga

I heard about it on the morning news, and I looked it up on the internet. Brain yoga is a real thing. Teachers are using it in the classroom and ordinary people are getting smarter while practicing brain yoga for only three minutes a day.

If I was smarter, I’d remember the French I learned years ago. I would consider Sudoku a pleasant way to pass the time. If I were smarter, I would know exactly where I parked my car every time I leave the mall.

I didn’t want to answer any questions; so I began my first brain yoga session while Dave was in the shower.

These are the instructions I found:

  •  Remove all jewelry. (I removed my Fitbit, just in case).
  • Face east – the elderly must face north
  • Put the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth directly behind your teeth.
  • Extend both arms out to your side
  • Draw your left hand across your body and grab your right earlobe – send the right hand to the left earlobe.
  • Keep your tongue in place and earlobes pinched while slowly bending the knees down as you inhale.
  • Rise slowly as you exhale.
  • Do this 15 to 21 times. I did it 15 times.

Fifteen squats!

If my brain is in my backside (and it may be) it was tired and sore.

Soon after that, Dave was out of the shower and Teddy and I were ready for our long walk. First, I spent ten minutes searching throughout the house for my cell phone.

“Dave, will you give me a quick call so I can find my phone?” I said.


The ringing sounded very close.

As I turned to the couch behind me, I put my hand on my tired backside. There was my cell phone, in the back pocket of my jeans.

“Got it!” I told David, “It was so close I could have sat on it!”

As Teddy and I left for our  walk in the Wild City, I promised myself I’d try brain yoga again. Next time I better do 21 squats and face north.

From Our House to Yours

Merry Christmas

Happiest Holidays




Fall Mornings

IMG_1113.jpg     Teddy, my faithful walking partner.

When Teddy and I reached the top of the hill about a week ago, Mt. St. Helens and downtown Portland had been erased by the thick fog. The brilliant fall colors in the valley below, the spire of St. John’s Catholic Church had disappeared in the whiteness. Lately, I’ve thought about painting that view. When it’s not foggy, the splashes of green, orange, red and yellow are breathtaking. I forget that I have no talent for painting.

There was a lot of bird activity that day. I don’t know if the juncos and other small birds were staying low to the ground and avoiding flight until the fog lifted; but that’s how it felt and sounded. A pair of juncos, distracted by some kind of squabble or excitement, flew out of a bush into the street and nearly crashed into me. They landed in a small tree across the road and continued their noisy discussion.

IMG_0030 copy.jpgDark Eyed Junco

On a fir tree in open land, I saw a huge white splash of owl or hawk wash on the trunk. Although I’d never noticed it before, it is too extensive and wide to have been new.  I’m sure it’s been there for a while and it looks as though the visitor has returned to his perch again and again. I believe I was unconsciously primed to finally see it because I had just finished Urban Bestiary, a beautiful book by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Ms. Haupt had mentioned that owls prefer a regular roosting branch while hawks tend to use different spots. This might be an owl roost! So I stepped into the trees, walked through dried leaves, snagged my blue jeans on a low growing blackberry vine, and craned my neck hoping to see the magnificent great horned owl looking back at me. I didn’t see the bird, but I did see where the wash began twenty feet up the tree. If it’s an owl, if he comes back, and if I am very lucky, I will see him another day.

Sounds are different in a heavy fog. The train running through downtown Milwaukie is only about a mile away; less than that “as the crow flies.” In yesterday’s fog it sounded more distant, muffled. A sparrow was rustling in the dry leaves under a red maple and the sound seemed both contained and amplified by the fog. So did the raucous conversation of the crows.

I heard geese flying above the fog, although I could see nothing. Just the same, I raised my eyes and watched the sky. Their calls grew louder as they came closer and passed invisibly overhead. Then the sound of their calls gradually faded as they left me behind. For about ten minutes small flocks of geese passed overhead in waves. I enjoyed the feeling of standing underneath and eavesdropping on those strangers. It gave me goosebumps.

On our way back down the hill, as the fog began to clear in some areas, I saw a huge bird sitting on top of a tall fir. Was it a hawk? Was it a great horned owl? Without my binoculars I couldn’t tell.

Fall is an amazing time of year. Two or three days in a row we have drenching rains. Then the air is suddenly crisper and the sun comes out dazzling us with brilliant blue sky. The bright fall foliage seems to appear overnight. It feels like only days later we are wading through colorful leaves.

One day it was the fog, the next morning a wild wind was pulling the trees apart. I woke to that wild wind. Fir branches and cones were hitting the roof. The neighbors deep wind chimes were moving too frantically to find a tune. I didn’t want to miss one bit of it. By 6:00 a.m., Teddy and I were out the door!

We waded through ankle high piles of maple and oak leaves as they shifted back and forth across the street. I tried to keep the hood on my jacket up but the wind fought with me and won. Who cares if my hair flies wildly? Why not soak up the energy of the wind? Fir and cedar limbs littered the street so that every step brought the aroma of Christmas.

Around the corner, on Beech Street, there is a large Chestnut tree. I put a few chestnuts in my pocket so I could have their beauty and cool smoothness between my fingers while I walked. Later, when I got home, I put them on the dining table, a place of honor.

I was aware of the possibility of a flying limb or worse, a falling tree. The only birds I saw braving the wind were a few sturdy crows. I imagined all but the scrappy crows were huddled close to a tree trunk gripping a limb with naked toes holding on with all their might.

I was thrilled with these wild fall days, and I was wild.

Yes, I was wild!