Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nature in Sub-Urbia

Skywatch Friday addendum, 16 April: If I don't cheat and use this as my SWF entry for this week I won't have time for one at all--so here's an update. The evening after I posted what appears below, the moth was still on the screen. But as soon as I switched on the porch light, he fluttered off. I guess I was sort of hoping he was dead, so I could "collect" him--but now I'm just as happy he was just resting for the day. The birds, however, seem to have moved in permanently.

A couple of days ago I was slaving away at the computer, and glanced out the window in front of me to see a gang of Cedar Waxwings frolicking in my birdbath. I say "gang" rather than "flock" because these birds are ruffians. They attack any unwary bush with anything resembling a berry on it, and completely denude it in moments. One day last week, they were busy stripping my pear trees of blossoms. No pears this year.

Right around equinox time they were at the holly, and I can imagine that it's only a matter of time before the pyracantha berries are ripe enough to gobble up.

After their group bathing experience (I only managed to catch three at it, and I had to shoot from inside the house), they gathered to sun themselves in a neighboring tree (see below). As I've mentioned in an earlier post, these birds once used to fly through, eat berries, and leave--after depositing the remainder of their meals on unsuspecting lawn furniture and laundry. Somehow they managed not to poop on the pillowcases drying on the line behind the pecan tree.

Nowadays they seem to treat this place like a cafeteria, especially since the establishment of the Carbon Sink on the southwest corner of the property. There's a lot of privet there, some of it probably contributed by these very birds, as well as the volunteer Chinaberry that grew from seed about six years ago and is now over twenty feet tall. This tree is, of course, thought by many to be a weed, but to me its a link to my Asian childhood, and also to Italy, where I saw it growing as well.

At any rate, when they're through feeding or bathing, they congregate for a nice long squawk, yellow breasts gleaming in the sun. I think I can put up with a bit of bird lime (the color varies with the meal) in exchange for tree ornaments and a concert every now and then. If you'd like to see what they look like in action, YouTube has a whole page of videos.

The latest oddity is the appearance of a Luna moth on the rusty screen door at the entry to the house. Beloved Spouse noticed it last night when he was shutting down the house at bedtime, and I snapped a couple of shots, assuming that the moth would be gone by morning.

But he was still there at sunrise, and so I photographed him from both inside the house and out. I love the shot with the shadow with the grids created by the screen and door muntins, but was especially pleased with the one backlit by the sunrise that opens this post.

I think this is the only time I've seen one of these beauties alive (if, in fact, he is still alive, and didn't just choose to die on my screen door; I didn't poke him for fear that he'd fly away). I knew they were in the neighborhood because I found a wing once when I was cleaning up the garden.

I'm heartened by the continued appearance of evolution's incredibly varied results, because in moments when I think we might be getting stupider and stupider as a species, something might survive our (ahem) lunacy. I guess it's just time to stop reading the op/ed pages of the Daily Poop, and certainly stop watching really bad doomsday movies (we caught the train wreck called Armageddon a couple of nights ago; very messy, stupid science, but a tear-jerker nonetheless).

Every time I drive by a manicured lawn (in the very economical and ecologically correct Vera, who has already rewarded me with four leaves for good driving) I can't help but feel slightly morally superior, knowing that my ratty, 100% organic yard has become a haven for all manner of flora and fauna. The Carbon Sink is now a jungle, full of edible goose grass, which is great in salads and cures all manner of ailments. Last year it was cow parsley, but this year the late winter rains seem to have drowned out some of that, and what the kids used to call "sticky weed" has replaced it.

The Beloved Spouse mowed on Sunday, and although back quarter-acre doesn't exactly look like Augusta National (many of the plants for which various holes on the course are named actually grow in my yard, too), it's rather more civilized now that it's been shorn; at least the clumps of assorted wild grassy stuff are all relatively the same height. I do wonder, when I'm sitting out enjoying it all, whether our lack of a chemical lawn service is going to make it more difficult for my neighbor to sell her manse (asking price is $519K). But I'm thinkin' that the kind of folk who don't like my yard will do one of two things: not buy the house, or put up a fence (saving me the trouble of repairing mine, and giving me something to hang bird feeders on). I live in hope that people will love the house (it looks rather like Morris's Kelmscott Manor), and think having scruffy, farmer-wannabe neighbors with a suburban wildlife sanctuary is a good thing.

Images: all taken with the Nikon D80, with minimal adjustments in PhotoShop.


jabblog said...

More power to your elbow! Our small garden is untidy and must be a source of frustration to our very pleasant but somewhat anal neighbours but it buzzes with bird and insect life and we love it!
The Luna moth is incredible - it looks really large. I always feel so privileged when something unexpected and unusual chooses to light on our plot or in our house.

Smalltown RN said...

I love it when I spot an unusual bird in my yard.....I have not spotted a cedar it is very nice to see that you were able to capture them. What a treat for you!

Judy said...

That moth is huge! I have never seen one, so am really impressed with your photos! I hope he was just resting up before a night of carousing and passing on his genes!!

Kcalpesh said...

Absolutely beauty! I also liked the way you've described everything!

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