Wednesday, March 10, 2010


As most of the regular followers of this blog know, the casita is the first house we have ever owned. So far, it has been an enjoyable experience. We love staying home, puttering, organizing, watching the birds at the feeders and elsewhere in the yard, and making improvements around the house and yard. Another factor relating to this is that we retired at the end of June 2009, but the next 6+ months were full of decisions, research, exploration, health crises and deaths in our immediate families, more decisions, wrangling, meetings, wire transfers, many more meetings, establishing accounts in a foreign country, frequent air travel, rental vehicles, selling most of our possessions and giving away the rest, packing up and closing down our apartment of 28 years, saying farewell to our friends and full-time life in California, and a multitude of other large and small tasks related to relocating to another country.
It didn't feel much like retirement during this time, although we sure could not have accomplished what we did if we had to go to the office much.
Now, we are finally starting to enjoy retirement. It feels real, and it feels great.
Our days are often not particularly exciting, nothing like the birding trips we have taken in the past, but the days spent at home are sublimely satisfying. We walk around with smiles on our faces (usually) as we accomplish the many activities of daily living. Just to give you an idea of what that entails, here are a few recent activities and episodes.
Les has been building window screens. I wanted to hire someone to do this, but the guy who was recommended to us could not manage to find the time to come over, take measurements and give us an estimate. Les decided he did not want to wait any longer, so he went to the hardware store and bought fiberglass screen, 12-foot aluminum framing material, several feet of the rubbery stuff that keeps the screen in the channels of the aluminum frame, a hacksaw and a mitre box, along with all the screws and other hardware. After a short learning curve (one torn screen), he's been the screen guy. Four down and several to go.
** Update since I started this post: Les is the very happy owner of a spiffy new Black & Decker table saw. Nothing can stop him now!
When he's not building screens or securing the perimeter of the lot, Les is the one who does the maintenance on the six hummingbird feeders (putting them up and taking them down each day, cleaning them.) I cook up the sugar-water. The woodpeckers are turning out to be pretty hard on the hummingbird feeders. They peck off the bee guards on the ports. And somebody, I'm not sure if it was a woodpecker or a coati (the coati is my prime suspect), managed to knock off the whole lower (red) section of one of the hummer feeders, leaving only the clear reservoir. The red part is at the bottom of the hill.
We have five suet feeders that we use as banana feeders. The Plain-colored, Palm and Blue-gray Tanagers, Thick-billed Euphonias, Red-legged Honeycreepers and Tennessee Warblers have been regulars at the banana feeders since we first hung them up last fall. A Crimson-backed Tanager has come into the yard several times, observing the frenzied activity and eyeing the banana feeders, but he hasn't yet tried to get a bite. The Clay-colored Robins have also decided it's worth the energy required to hover long enough to grab a beak-full of banana. They're too big & heavy to hang on the side or bottom of the cage and feed at leisure like the little birds do.

Lately, the Red-crowned and Black-cheeked Woodpeckers are also eating the bananas. They look very cute curled around the little suet cages.
Les also puts out sunflower seeds, cracked corn and millet for the Yellow-faced Grassquits and the White-tipped Doves.
While I was outside watering a few days ago, I noticed a praying mantis (about 4 inches in length) on one of the hummingbird feeders. (We have read several accounts over the years of mantids lurking on hummer feeders, then grabbing and devouring a hummingbird, but even though we have seen the photo documentation, it's so hard to believe.) A few minutes later, I noticed that a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird was feeding at this feeder, and seemed very nervous, and kept to the side opposite the mantid. A few minutes after that, the hummer was back, and I saw the mantid lunge for the hummer with both front claws. That did it! I relocated the praying mantis to another spot, on the ground, far from any hummingbird feeder.
Last week we began hearing begging baby birds. It turned out to be a nest of Plain-colored Tanagers in a pine tree just outside the kitchen door. The nest is heavily obscured by pine needles, but we can occasionally see the bright orange bill of one of the chicks. We still can't tell how many chicks there are - only one has been visible at any time, so maybe that's all there is.
While working around the yard, we occasionally add a yard bird. Long-billed Starthroat was one a few weeks ago. It has been an irregular and infrequent visitor since that first time. The Rufous-tailed Hummer always chases it off. Swallow-tailed Kite was new for the yard on March 2nd. And Les heard a Masked Tityra this morning while he was getting set to cut another window screen frame - a male and female hung around in the yard trees for about an hour.
We won't be smiling as much or having as much fun for the next week or so - ceiling finishing starts in earnest tomorrow. We will be dealing with noise, disruption, major dust, and complete disarray.

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