Backyard Brief: Ethan’s Playground

New dog, new world

 

Backyard Bloodshed

cutting flowers in sun
a pinched caterwauling
behind
no sign of a child
peek around the dogwood
glimpse a grey cat passing
in its mouth
a small eastern cottontail
now silent limp
dangles by the neck
the cat walks
body beneath
to the evergreen shade
rips at its prize
I am near
trying to see
cat disappears
I go around
fence's other side
wide-eyed rabbit
sees me
begins to move
from side lying
to upright
and staggering
comes toward me
toward the fence
pokes nose through slats
where a sale flyer rests
it retracts
stops in the sun
I back away
look over the fence
see the bright red
hanging out
along its side
toward the back
muscle bone or organ
I don't know
second wound behind
it stays put
I curse the cat
not finishing off
am I to blame?
not my place
not my yard
no one home
and no gun
only hammer shovel spade
and would not reach
I walk away
the robins hop
the sun shines
the flowers beam
I go inside
write this

Backyard Brief, July 2016

Without any encouragement besides the lush flower beds planted, and perhaps the weather, unusual creatures have come around recently. First, a tree frog on our siding above one of the ferns. Then, a HUGE moth in the middle of a spectacular thunderstorm, perched on our front door frame near the doorbell button.

We don’t live near many trees, and shade is scarce. Our neighborhood is young, and most of the trees are ornamental on individual properties. Across the street, behind the new house just built, where new neighbors just moved in, there are woods, albeit hacked away to make room for more clear land in their backyard.

We planted a serviceberry tree in the spring in honor of our beloved dog Elyse, buried near it in the backyard, and for our love of birds, and we have a pagoda dogwood on the other side of the backyard. Our weeping cherry rounds out the sum total of trees on our actual property. The devil strip on the other side of the front sidewalk by the street, of course, bears a line of chestnut or hazelnut (?) trees throughout much of the neighborhood.

So what on earth a tree frog was doing clinging to the side of the house at dusk last week I’m not sure. A cute little bugger, though.

DSCN1835

without flash, flashlight aided

DSCN1836

with flash and flashlight

The moth startled me by its presence, for I almost mistook it for a flying mammal, i.e., a bat. And certainly, I was unsure at first as to whether or not it was a moth. I called my husband to bear witness. The lightning warranted our seeking views of its performance, so I had moved from the back of the house to the front to look out the windows beside the front door.

The moth had very large black eyes and that alien-looking head shape to make it seem other-worldly. I wonder if it had been blown off course by the approaching storm, or due to its size, thought nothing of simply attaching itself to a wall to wait out the wind, lightning and thunder.

It stayed there through many flashes of my camera until finally its wings began to throttle and eventually carry it up the side of the house and away into the night. The picture below provides a nice sense of scale with the window frame and the doorbell fixture behind the alien creature.

DSCN1845

Today, I was delighted to see a behavior among the sparrows I had not observed before. A female was taking pellets of seed from the newly replenished bird feeder and shooting it down for mouth-to-mouth feeding, first with one and, then, two of her brood. Normally, I can’t tell the difference between regular adult female sparrows and juveniles, but the size difference became apparent once I realized what she was doing.

The youth were still quite demanding, despite having learned to fly and acquired a full set of normal-looking plumage, especially the first, fluttering its wings against the grass and chirping incessantly for more grub. It could anticipate when Mama was about to descend and deliver, which triggered its opening and holding open its little beak while it continued to beat its wings to the ground.

The second juvenile was more industrious, seeking dropped seed on its own in the grass directly under the feeder. After a few more feedings for both, however, the mother flew off toward the front of the house, and her two young ones immediately followed. Other sparrows had arrived and were splitting their attentions between feeder perch and earth.

Yesterday, there was a ruckus as a dark brown, fluffy cat high-tailed it through the backyard of the neighbor directly behind us, pursued closely by the two nuisance chihuahuas from two doors down. They all disappeared behind the front of that neighbor’s house, and I smiled briefly as I continued dead-heading my flowers.

Then I thought, again, how ridiculous it is that the dog owners never use a leash, don’t have a fence, and don’t ever tie up the dogs in the yard. The pair had assaulted my dog on a walk last year, and I’ve seen them do it again at least twice with other people’s dogs since then.

Not so much biting, but barking and terrorizing. The larger dogs (most would be), taken aback, try to get away from the onslaught, and the ill-mannered dogs’ owners run after them as if they’re surprised each time by their quickness and propensity for trouble.

I only hope that when we get another dog, they’ll either have better control of those two or . . . the problem will somehow be . . . removed. In jest, in jest, but see my five ways to skin a cat; our fantasy could easily apply to the big trouble in tiny packaging.

Still, the majority of the vast number of dogs in the neighborhood are well behaved and well controlled, and so we must count ourselves lucky.

Backyard Brief, June 2016

Spotted so far this month at our house:

  • chipmunk – 1
  • squirrel – 1
  • blue jay – 2
  • grackle – 2
  • red-winged blackbird – 4
  • rabbit – 1
  • goldfinch – 2
  • house finch – 4
  • house sparrow –  lots
  • toad – 2
  • cardinal – 4
  • chipping sparrow – 1
  • starling – lots
  • robin – lots
  • mourning dove – 4-6
  • honey bees, bumblebees, carpenter bees, yellow jackets, mud wasps, flies, pavement ants, spiders (various), mosquitoes, moths (various), butterflies (various) – several
  • house cat – 1
  • Cooper’s hawk – 1
  • flowers – oodles
  • weeds – too many

DSCN1394

Weeping Cherry Bee Photos

Photos: Our weeping cherry tree with bees on a breezy day – March 30, 2016

 

Bumblebees and weeping cherry tree, 2012–same tree, same camera, different bees, different touch-ups:

All images by C L Tangenberg, used by permission only

Famous Poets’ Nature Poetry, 3: Wordsworth’s Daffodils

While my last post focused on animals with two poems by American poet Elizabeth Bishop, this piece travels back in time and across the sea to England, just for a little flowering magic.

The father of Romantic poetry in English, William Wordsworth made poetry more accessible to the “common man” by purposely avoiding alienating vocabulary and using a less formal tone. Wordsworth published the poetry collection Lyrical Ballads with Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798, influencing the verse of later Romantic poets such as John Keats, Lord Byron (George Gordon), and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

daffodil w light pool BW

The Daffodil Trail, Furnace Run Metro Park, Richfield, OH, 2004. Image by C. L. Tangenberg

One of Romanticism’s key characteristics is delight in nature. This poem emphasizes the impression of seeing thousands of flowers at once. If you have never been through a daffodil field, it’s quite something. We have a daffodil trail at a park on the border between the Summit County Metro Parks and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park here in northeast Ohio. It’s a chance to see a brief explosion of blooms each April. I imagine tulip fields in Holland and elsewhere are similarly breathtaking in person.

In time for summer wild flowers as we look back to spring, this poem also offers a “twinkling” reminder (see stanza 2) to check out the Perseid meteor shower in the Northern Hemisphere, which peaks on the early mornings of August 11, 12, and 13 this year.

Reminisce on former, take in current, and welcome future fields, or single stems, of flowers and stars. Star gazers might also enjoy Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s short poem “The Evening Star.”


“I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud,” a.k.a. “The Daffodils”

William Wordsworth, 17701850

I wandered lonely as a cloud
  That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
  A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
  And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
  Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
  Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
  In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
  In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
  Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

                 - published in 1807

I felt comfortable sharing the entire poem because Wordsworth’s poetry is in the public domain.

If you haven’t already, see samples of Elizabeth Bishop’s excellent nature poetry featured previously as the second posted subject in the series.

First Flowers

CrocusesStripedLeanLeftFromGrnd033115

Image by CL Tangenberg, 3/31/15

 

We welcome these 2015 Ohio Ice Age survivors–so far, two separate clusters of purple-and-white-striped crocuses thriving in our front-yard flowerbeds, glowing despite overcast skies.

 

 

WhiteCrocus_against_stone_033115

Image by CL Tangenberg, 3/31/15

The lone white wonder rose first, as pure as snow . . . er, as soft as a cottony summer cloud.

 

CrocusStripedCloseupFromGround033115

Image by CL Tangenberg, 3/31/15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bright orange hearts beam forth, portents of warming sunsets.