Creature Comforts, part 2

Before I jump into the post, I wanted to give you a brief update.  Faline adopted an orphaned fawn!  The adoptee is slightly bigger than Faline’s little Bucky.  She bathes it and lets it cuddle up to her right along with her Bucky.  If there are any single does around the area, somehow they come to Faline and in most cases she welcomes them.  I spotted four of them out there today.  There are exceptions, though, because I’ve seen her chase off an interloper and I have no idea why, unless it is a young buck.

As I stated in Creature Comforts, part 1, I am blessed with a magnificent grass menagerie in my back yard.  One such little visitor is an occasional raccoon, who delights in pawing his way through my freshly planted garden beds in search of grubs and worms.  We’ve had run-ins with raccoons over the years and they were a complete nuisance at Angelheart Cottage, much more than here on the island.  But dang…..they are so cute.  Especially raccoon babies, with their sweet little faces.  I have so many raccoon stories, but will tell you this one.  When we lived at Angelheart Cottage, my grandson, my daughter and I sat in our keeping room, watching a mama raccoon and her three babies emerge from under the deck outside the house.  The mama watched us watching her while two of her shy babies sidled up against her, but one little fella ventured forth towards us.  We were fascinated.  My grandson was only two years old at the time.  He stood at the window of the french doors and put his hand on the glass.  That baby raccoon approached the doors, stood on his hind legs so that he was as tall as my grandson, then placed his paw on the glass at the exact spot where my grandson had his.  The two of them stood together like that, human child and animal child, hand to hand, nose to nose…..until the mama raccoon called her boy to her side and they disappeared in a romp across my backyard and into the secret garden.

images  Mostly, I see this guy and all his evidence at our cottage.  images-1

Avian wildlife is everywhere around me.  Our cottage sits on a bluff that overlooks Tramp Harbor.  It is a soul-stirring and breathtaking view.  As a result, birds fly in and over and all around the yard.  I see seagulls flying off in the distance who cannot be enticed away from the water long enough for a visit.  I watch ducks take flight, Canada geese practicing v-formations and those peculiar birds that stay in constant formation while they turn on a dime going this way and that.  I have no idea what they’re called, but they fascinate me.  I watch the finches soar up towards the apogee of the sky and then in daredevil fashion, careen downward flying straight to the ground, only to pull up at the last second in hah-hah-fooled-you maneuver.  A pair of bald eagles lives next door in gigantic cedar tree that is probably as old as the island itself.  Every year they produce offspring.  Sometimes the two adults fly off together soaring majestically in tandem, but usually there is only one.  When that lone eagle flies in the sky, he owns it.  He windsurfs on the currents, his wingspan so wide it creates shadows over the water on the ground.  It is a spectacle that thrills me to my core.

bald-eagle-flying

I invited hummingbirds into my yard by hanging a feeder, but also by planting hostas, monarda bee balm and fuchsias nearby as well as foxglove and a perennial foxglove hybrid  that is incredible.  When I lived at Angelheart Cottage, the hummingbirds hovered around me every time we congregated at their feeder and one almost alit on my outstretched palm, but someone came from the house and frightened it.  I had four that lived there, the Anna’s hummingbirds stayed for the winter, and the other two took off for warmer climes but always returned the following year.  One summer afternoon, I stepped from my front door to go into our courtyard.  I had the fountain running, hoping to cool the area off so the air would flow into the house.  I stood positively transfixed on my porch while I watched a hummingbird tend to her toilette in the mist created by the falling water in my fountain.  I didn’t breathe.  If she was aware of me, it didn’t matter to her.  She dipped in and out of mist and fanned her wings, then dipped back in and out.  It was a beautiful reverential moment.  Finished with her primping, she turned to look at me at me before streaking away into the sky and left me standing there with my mouth open.  The hummingbirds on the island aren’t quite as friendly as those I left behind, but they’re warming up to me.  One came so close to me as I stood watering my pot of red bee balm that I felt the air from her wings as she hovered mere inches from my face.  The make clicky noises as the nose in and out of the flowers and argue at the hummingbird feeder.  I even held one in my hands only weeks ago.  My grandchildren were here visiting and I went into the kitchen to shut the kitchen door before we headed to the local swimming pool.  I saw a little brown something on the kitchen floor that I thought was a little brown frog.  I reached down to pick it up and it took flight and flew to the window.  It was an Anna’s hummingbird youngster.  A tiny little thing and hardly old enough to know to be frightened.  I grabbed a kitchen towel and set it atop her and pulled her gently into my hands.  This was the second time I’ve held a hummingbird.  They weigh as much as a breath, a gasp…nothing at all.  It is a sublime moment when I can hold something so tiny and living and beautiful in my hands like that.  The entire world falls away and for a moment and I understand the mysteries…at least a little bit.

hummingbird-matthew-b-propert-dpc

I love ravens and crows.  They are intelligent and beautiful creatures.  I adore watching them do comical hop-aroundies instead of flying. They tickle me when I set food out for them where they watch from lofty perches, calling to their friends and relations, turning their backs on me, aloof and disinterested with an I-couldn’t-care-less attitude.  Until I go inside, and they swoop down and feast.  They hang around cawing whenever I go outside, expecting me to continually feed them.  I really would love to have one as a pet, walking around with a glossy black bird on my shoulder, sharing secrets.  I noticed a pair of very lovesick ravens one spring.  They held tete-a-tetes when they rendezvoused in a dead tree facing the water, with a raven turned one way and the other raven facing opposite.  In this way, they could groom one another and whisper their private conversations.  One afternoon the two birds perched on a branch outside my studio window.  I looked up and over to see them kiss.  So not even kidding.  They were kissing.  I named them Tristen and Isolde, after two star-crossed lovers.  I love that crows kiss.

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My greatest gift, serendipitous and so unexpectedly wonderful, was the arrival of this beauty.

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She’s a peahen, a female peafowl and she just showed up on my porch one morning last summer.  On the island, gifts literally fall from the sky.  I called a friend of mine who has beautiful and exotic birds, doves and pheasants in their back yard and several weeks ago she told me that one of their pheasants escaped from their yard and went on a walk-about for a time and then returned to their home where they recaptured it and put it back in its luxurious lodgings.  I asked her if this beautiful creature belonged to her.  She chuckled a bit and told me no.  She said that there are many people on the island who have peacocks and they don’t keep them penned, but let them wander free.  Wow.  In all the backyards on this tiny island and she wanders into mine.  Of course I was completely taken with her.  When I asked my friend if it was okay to feed her, she said she would probably appreciate it.  And then she warned me that peahens are prodigious poopers.  I didn’t mind.  I mean, what’s a little poop between friends?  I fed her leftover Joe’s O’s, which she hungrily gobbled up, and we became immediate friends.  She was naturally wary of me getting too close to her, much as I would have relished that.  As she ate, I told her I would make a deal with her.  If she left me a few of her feathers, it would make me extraordinarily happy and I would continue to feed her in exchange.  She ate and sashayed off, but I felt that we had an understanding.  Peahens sashay when they walk.  Peacocks swagger.  Like they know they are regal birds.  The cluster of feathers on her head that looks like a crown or the comb of a flamenco dancer, the lovely teal-tipped neck feathers that alternately appear like the rigid ruffles of a pine cone or the soft layers of rose petals and her cloak of lacy brown feathers that trail down her back….she knows she is really something, alright.  The next morning, I rushed to my back porch to see if she was there.  There was evidence of her in quite a few places, her plops left here and there and none too discreetly, I might add.  And then I heard her honk as she rounded the corner of my house, ready for breakfast.  I scattered cereal on the ground and then my eye spied something.  A lot of somethings.  She left feathers for me!  I scrambled around my porch, delighting in her gifts.  I thanked her and thanked her over and over again as I picked up feather after feather and gathered them into a bouquet.  I named her Edna.  Right there and then.  She warmed to the name, sashayed off after finishing her breakfast and left me sitting on my porch steps with a silly grin on my face and her feathers in my hand.  Edna stayed with me the entire rest of the summer and into fall, leaving me feathers everywhere: her long, stiff, tail feathers, the flight feathers from her wings, the lacy feathers, her downy under-feathers, the teal-rimmed feathers from her neck, and it was like a treasure hunt with me finding feathers in the most unexpected places.  I would spy one from my kitchen window, clinging to the bark of our lilac bush where she rubbed feathers from her body, and I dashed out the door to fetch it before the wind claimed it.  She looked like one skinny peahen with a bad haircut by the time she finished her molt.  I realized that she wandered into my life and my backyard to simply molt.  Every morning without fail, she showed up for breakfast and later in the afternoon for her dinner and more and more often she responded to her name.  If she wasn’t outside when I went out to feed her I would call, “Edna!  Edna!”  And she would appear out of nowhere, it seems, from wherever she’d spent the night, on a rooftop or nestled in tree tops out of harm’s way of those nasty raccoons.

One morning, after leaving her something particularly tasty that she loved for breakfast, I came downstairs and spied her out the window.  She held three hungry crows at bay, with her feathers all fanned and her neck all puffled up staring those birds down and daring them to come any closer.  She looked like this.

sc_peahen peahen1

Well, you could have knocked me right over.  I had no idea that peahens fanned their tails like peacocks do.  But there she was, all fanned up and spectacular.  I had the rear view of things, which isn’t the most…um….attractive side of a fanned peahen, but I was entranced.  What a girl.  Edna was not about to share her breakfast with a troop of boisterous crows and she showed them who was the boss of breakfast.  She shooed them away and calmly finished eating before flouncing off for a day of exploration.

In October, I began heading to Portland for three days every week to care for my granddaughter and the task of feeding Edna fell to Mr. Farnia.  They developed a pretty good relationship and he was thrilled to have her respond to him.  Then when he started itinerant work, which would him away from home for periods of time.  I called Edna to me one morning and sadly broke the news to her while she pecked at the pile of wheat I gave her.  Autumn had broken and winter lurked in lengthening shadows. I worried who would feed her and so I told her to go back from where she came, find a handsome peacock and have beautiful peababies.  I thanked her for the feathered gifts she gave me, most of which I put in a container that now sits on my desk. I think of her every single day.  I entertained the hope that she would fly back into my yard again this summer, wanting to rekindle our friendship, leaving me her gifts of feathers and friendship but it was too much to hope for, I suppose.  I held hope that her tiny little peahen brain would remember someone who loved her so much and that she would return.  She likely had another clutch of peababies with her peacock husband this summer and motherhood won out over a summer friendship.  Man….I so loved that girl.

All images gratefully culled from Google.

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6 thoughts on “Creature Comforts, part 2

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