21 April 2015

Such Fragile Little Lives

Last summer we were treated to two downy woodpecker chicks that were not long out of the nest. They followed their mama to our bird feeders and we laughed as they struggled to land, to hang onto the slippery metal pole, and to take off again. They had all the basic techniques, but nothing was graceful yet.

Over the fall and winter, these two babies matured and became flying experts - to no one's surprise. After that, they sort of blended in and found their place with all the other little birdies that come to our yard to feast at our feeders.

Like the chickadees, the cardinals, and several other types of birds here near the coast of Maine, the woodpeckers stayed all winter. We kept the feeders full and they showed up many times throughout the course of each day.

Now that Spring has arrived, and with it some of the migratory birds that left us in the fall, our feeders have been busier than ever. Just this morning I spotted FIVE bright yellow goldfinches all on one set of bird feeders, dining together.

After a rainy morning, the sun began to come out this afternoon. Not enough to dry things out, but it brightened up the yard and the birds were active as always. I sat at the kitchen table writing, ironically, about lost pets, when something slammed against the kitchen window, startling me and the cats. I'm surprised the window didn't break - it sounded like someone threw a baseball at the glass.

I figured what must have happened. I opened the window and leaned out, and there on the wet grass was one of our little woodpecker babies. And no, they're no longer babies, but they're OUR babies from last summer. I ran outside to see if it was ok. It wasn't. It was the little female - the one without the red spot on the back of her head.

I knew the drill. She looked dead but she might just be stunned, so I picked her up in a towel, put her little body in a box, closed it up (with air holes) and brought her inside to keep her warm. I hoped she would wake up, blink, and fly off with her brother within the hour.

But when I picked her up, her head flopped to one side. I'm pretty sure her neck was broken and she was killed instantly, which is a little comforting. Still, I brought the box in, hoping for a miracle.

While I waited, I glanced out the window and saw the male on a low tree branch nearby. It broke my heart that he was out there looking, waiting for her.

An hour later, not only was she not awake, she was beginning to stiffen, so I knew.

Sadly, my daughter and I took her outside and put her body below the same tree, so the male might see her and know to stop looking. I don't know if birds are aware of such things, but we felt like it was the right thing to do.

Now it's getting dark and I can't help but think of that tiny body out there, that black and white, feathery body that, just hours ago, was swooping around our yard. Sure, there are bigger, sadder, more tragic things in life, but I will miss that tiny girl. I'm just glad she didn't suffer.

Copyright © 2015 - Paulla Estes

25 March 2015

Finishing Winter Out West, Part TWO

This was the first time I had the chance to visit my son and his wife as a married couple. They have this fantastic house on the northwest side of the gigantic city of Phoenix. Their development sits, literally, just on the edge of the desert, although the desert around them is being developed and soon their area will be swallowed up by what is the greater Phoenix area.

That first evening when I got in, we headed to Scottsdale and the famous Barrio Queen Restaurant (or rather, as you can see from the sign, Tequileria). YES. My friend Sue went there recently while on vacation and she gave me strict orders to visit the Barrio Queen, to have a specific meal (pictured below) and to bring her back a t-shirt. Go there, and you will see why. The food - oh God, to DIE FOR.






The next morning we went on a nearby hike. It was a relatively easy hike, but I had shin splints from walking the hills near my dad's house in San Diego, so I was a bit slow. PLUS, it was like 85 degrees. Yes, 85 in Phoenix is sort of like 72 in Maine - it's very pleasant - but San Diego had been a bit chilly, and heck, I was still slightly frozen from this crazy winter we had in Maine. So to me, it was HOT. But I could have stayed out there all day. :)












Horseback riding was the next activity. We planned our ride for early in the morning, to avoid the heat, and it was lovely.

BUT. Or should I say, BUTT. Yes, it was a two-hour ride, which, for me, was about an hour and a half too long. I hadn't been on a horse in years and when I got off, I really was walking like John Wayne.










This was, by far, my favorite thing to do. Sit by a pool and eat blueberries. I mean, really - what else is there in life that compares?


And check this out, the pool even had a covered playground. I'm telling you, IT GETS HOT THERE.


We spent much of the week eating at favorite restaurants (several more than once) and just hanging out together. And on the last day, we went back to Scottsdale and back to the Barrio Queen. IT'S THAT GOOD.






Honestly, I was sad to come home. I always am. And I'm never really sure if it's the weather I'm sad to leave, or my kids. Definitely the latter, but the former is a huge factor.

But the really great thing is, the snow in Maine is melting. We're WAY down to only about a foot of snow on our yard now...

Copyright © 2015 - Paulla Estes

16 March 2015

Finishing Winter Out West, Part ONE

I have the good fortune of having family members out west, so if I can swing a flight to San Diego or Phoenix (or Portland OR, though it's not as warm there) then I have a place to stay and family to see.

So in early March, I flew west to spend the last of our official winter thawing out.

San Diego is lovely at this time of the year. Let's face it, San Diego is lovely at pretty much ANY time of year.

I went to visit my dad and step-mom, and not only was it great to spend time with them, the Southern California weather was, for the most part, very cooperative.

We spent the first day downtown, eating great Mexican food (because that's the only kind of Mexican food they have out there) and walking around downtown along the shore.








My dad's house in the hills is delightful because of the huge lemon tree out front and that amazing view out back.




The next day, Dad and I went to Mission Beach to walk the boardwalk and see the sights. And people-watch. If you've never people-watched on the California beaches, you haven't lived.
























The next day I visited my friend, Connie, who lives in Pacific Beach with her cool husband and very well-trained dog, and new puppy that is trying to run the show. Connie lives a block from the beach. YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT. So although it was a cool, cloudy day (reality check, once in a while the sun doesn't shine down on Southern California) we walked to the beach, the PB pier, and had fish tacos (of course).
















On the last day, which is always bittersweet, the sun came out again and we basked in the sunshine on their hilltop back yard.




Then we went out to lunch and drove downtown along the bay once more. And near the airport, I remembered the one thing I do NOT like about SoCal. That traffic.


Next stop - Phoenix...

Copyright © 2015 - Paulla Estes

26 February 2015

Snowfall at the Seashore

I have good news.

(Imagine that you're reading the next phrase in a guarded whisper...)

The whole every-three-days snowstorm plan seems to be winding down.

If you hold me to that, I'll deny ever saying it. I own this blog and I can delete if I so choose.

Seriously, though, this week has been downright delightful. We actually got above freezing one day - only a couple of degrees above freezing, and only for an hour or two, but hey, I'LL TAKE IT.

To celebrate, yesterday I took a morning trip to the beach with a friend right after a light 3-4 inch snowfall (oh my how our standards have changed).

After stomping through virgin snow out onto the empty beach, we unleashed her dogs (don't tell the park service guys) and let them run their brains out.

And we walked and talked and marveled at the beauty.

You see, I really do love the winter. And in spite of the hard work caused by all the snow this year, no one can deny that the snow makes everything beautiful and magical.

You know how the sides of the streets become dirty and gross and everything looks like it's old and tired? A new snowfall every couple of days keeps it crisp and clean looking. Who doesn't like that?

So... the beach. Here you go.

Check out all that snow...


And the wide open beach, with only a dog or two to break the scene...


The washed up kelp never looked prettier.


After the beach, we drove over to Five Islands and to my friend's home for tea.


The views out her kitchen windows kept me spellbound.


See? A no-complaint post about winter. AND YOU SAID I COULDN'T DO IT.

Copyright © 2015 - Paulla Estes