The Cardinal Came To Visit Us This Weekend…

Nope, not THAT Cardinal!

We have a family of cardinals that live in a nearby tree. They like to drop by every day for the sunflower seeds we put out during the winter.

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After missing a few opportunities, we started leaving the camera by the window. When I heard the cardinal Saturday (pictured left) I grabbed the camera for a rare photo shoot. 😉

He was looking for left over seeds from the Ferris Wheel Feeder that was tipped over and left draining after the previous day’s rain.

You might have seen the Ferris Wheel Feeder video that I posted after the last snow storm.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAIf you follow me on twitter, you might recognize the image on the right. It’s the very first picture I took of the cardinals in my neighborhood. It was a huge surprise for me to discover we had cardinals in South Philly. Seriously, I’ve lived in (or around) Philadelphia all my life. I have never seen a cardinal in the city.

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This last picture is my favorite from Saturday. The border around the image was not added. I was shooting the cardinal through some house plants. I also had the blinds down because I was trying not to scare the cardinal away. The final result is pretty cool.

There are some superstitions surrounding birds that appear after the death of a loved one. Some believe that birds “sometimes appear as envoys from the spirit world — fleeting emissaries of loved ones who have passed on to the other side.” I like that idea. It would be nice to think that my friend Fran was just dropping by to say hello. Most likely, it was just a member of a family of cardinals picking through the debris, looking for sunflower seeds to feed his family. Either way, it was nice to see him.

As the adage goes, it’s the little things in life that sometimes make you the happiest. For me it’s true. I may not win the Powerball anytime soon, but as long as the cardinal comes to visit once in a while, I’ll be happy.

Oh, and I took a short video too! 🙂

RIP Bertha and Creamsicle. …or was that Fish Two?

What we are mourning here…

is the passing of two 99¢ goldfish.

Bertha, Creamsicle, Ice, Fish One, and Fish Two. Bertha got his name because he eats everything. ...and it shows.

Bertha, Creamsicle, Ice, Fish One, and Fish Two. Bertha got his name because he eats everything. …and it shows.

In the spring of 2009, we re-purposed an old cast iron utility sink as a small goldfish pond. It would also serve as a makeshift water feature for the tiny 10 X 14 ft concrete space that we affectionately refer to as our “South Philly Backyard”.

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Our little oasis.

Salvaged bricks frame the cast iron sink, which served as home for a family of five goldfish. Bertha, Creamsicle, Ice, Fish One, and Fish Two. — Bertha got his name because he eats everything. …and it shows.

We made good use of a discarded plant display rack from our local home center. The steel frame footing served as a guide for the bricks, which are loosely mortared together. (We rent, so nothing can be permanent.) The bricks support the sink and raised planting beds on either side.

The magic word here is upcycling. We spent very little money on our “back yard”, but the results are truly amazing. Our small concrete lot is transformed into an oasis as winter turns into spring.

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A micro-ecosystem with plants, fish, insects, and the occasional bird.

It’s interesting how the addition of our little pond created a micro-ecosystem. Even though a small pump kept the water moving, some insects still found places to breed. Those insects became food for our fish and the birds who used our little oasis as a rest stop. Mourning Doves and Cardinals were a big surprise to me. Next year we’re going to try to attract humming birds.

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A shoveled path from backdoor to pond.

If you follow me on twitter, you might have read comical grumblings over the winter as I performed the necessary task of chipping away at the ice that formed on the top of the water. — Even frozen fish need air.

Bertha cought a slug!

Fish in protective custody.
Bertha (left) caught a slug!

Several weeks ago, we discovered a raccoon trying to hunt the goldfish. A Raccoon? Really? In South Philly?

After four years of heatwaves, blizzards, and chipping away at ice, we were not about to allow our goldfish to end up as a midnight snack for some wayward raccoon.

No sirree Bob! Not on our watch.

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Makeshift pond cover deterred Mr Raccoon for a few weeks.

The simplest idea was to steak chicken wire around the open water, and lay a weighted board over the pond at night. This, along with sprinkling a raccoon repellant around the perimeter of the yard seemed to work.

After a few weeks, and no more signs that the raccoon was making nightly visits, we let our guard down. Three later, the raccoon had his meal.

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The Evil Mr Raccoon.

Five summers is a decent lifespan for goldfish, but we’re still a bit saddened and somewhat incredulous. I’ve lived in or around Philly all my life. I’ve never seen evidence of raccoons.

I’ll miss those little guys. I’ll miss the way they come to the edge of the sink whenever they heard the backdoor open. I’ll miss chipping away at the ice in the dead of winter.

And yes, I’ll even miss the disturbing image of the eternally hungry Bertha with the occasional mouthful of the errant slug. YUCK!!

R.I.P. Bertha and Creamsicle.

…or was that Fish Two?

Mr Hopper. Then and Now

Yesterday I posted a pic on Tumblr of a grasshopper that was chillin’ in the backyard.

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Mr Hopper

My other half suggested that Mr Hopper might be one of the many tiny hoppers that we saw last spring. The little guys were everywhere! — Apparently, they love basil.

Baby Hopper

Baby Hopper

Here’s a pair of pics for comparison.

See… I told you it was like Wild Kingdom here in South Philly. 🙂

Good Morning, Mr Grasshopper

Baby Hopper

Baby Hopper

A baby grasshopper sits on the leaf of a Crown of Thorns plant (Euphorbia Millii) in our back yard – Which is really just a 10′ X 15′ patch of concrete behind our South Philly row home.

Grasshoppers have invaded our garden. I wouldn’t mind it so much, but they’ve been eating our basil. :\

I haven’t seen any of the adults this year, just these little guys. They’ve probably become food for the family of cardinals that have nested nearby.

In the years since we moved in, several of our neighbors have also started gardens in their small paved-over lots.

We’ve got quite the little microcosm going.

#July4th and the Approaching Wall of Humidity.

For our nation’s Independence Day, we took an impromptu drive up the coast of New Jersey to sample the offerings of local businesses. It was a nice day for it – if you were in an air conditioned vehicle.

When we got to Long Beach Island we decided to dip our toes in the Atlantic.

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photo: ADignorantium

 

The beach was being replenished, but there were plenty of areas available for anyone willing to brave the chilly ocean.

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photo: ADignorantium

Off in the distance, beyond the dredging equipment, you can see the approaching wall of humidity.

One word of advice though: If you decide to take a romantic stroll along the beach, take a change of clothes.

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photo: ADignorantium

In the above image, you can almost see a rainbow hiding in all that mist. What you don’t see is the effect of those three waves out there. All three waves converged at my feet, soaking my shorts. Needless to say, it was very cold.

As luck would have it, a parade was starting just as we got back to the car. This provided enough of a distraction for me to change my shorts. Thankfully, there was enough room in the back seat to disrobe.

We stopped at a farm stand on the way home. The sweet aroma of fresh produce was intoxicating. They don’t call it “The Garden State” for nothing.

All-in-all, it was good to see people visiting my neighboring state. Though hit hard by Sandy, New Jersey seems to be recuperating fairly well.

Cardinal

It’s snowing today. It’s not sticking to the ground. It’s more of a wet snow. …okay, it’s rain. :\

A sound from the back of the house drew me to the kitchen. It was a bird call I’ve heard before, but couldn’t identify. From the volume of the twittering song, it sounded really close. But I couldn’t see it.

Like many of the houses in South Philadelphia, ours has a small, paved over area we affectionately call our “Back Yard.” This is a misnomer of course, because the only grass to be found is the bits of sprouted bird seed left over after the squirrels are finished raiding the bird feeders.

Our “back yard” has an awning which hangs over our south facing kitchen windows. The awning’s supports make a convenient perch for birds to find shelter from inclement weather. They also have the added benefit of positioning those birds right outside our kitchen window. If the kitchen lights are off, and the blinds aren’t open too wide, we have a front row seat to the soap opera that is a day in the life of the Sparrows and the Finches.

Occasionally, during sweeps week, we are graced with the presence of a member of the Cardinal family. Usually it’s the female.

Female Cardinal perched in front of the Ferris Wheel bird feeder. (yellow)

Female Cardinal perched in front of the Ferris Wheel bird feeder. (Pardon the bad focus.)

So I’m looking out the back door for this illusive bird. I’m moving slowly and quietly because I don’t want to scare it away. Love asks, “What are you doing?”

“I’m looking for the bird that’s singing. It’s in the back yard, but I can’t find it.”

“It’s the Cardinal,” he says. “I can see it from here. It’s under the awning.”

It’s not that I hadn’t thought to look out the window, I had. I just didn’t want to risk frightening it away by adjusting the blinds.

Sure enough, there he was in all his scarlet glory, happily singing away. Love opened the blinds a little wider, carefully so as not to scare the bird away. The cardinal stopped momentarily to assess the situation. He looked at us, then down at the empty feeder, back at us, then began singing again. “He’s looking for seeds.” said Love. “He’s not singing. He’s complaining that it’s raining, he flew all this way expecting to get a bite to eat, but the diner is closed.”

Mr. Cardinal looking down upon us mere mortals from his rooftop TV antenna perch. His glare is reeking of judgement. ;p

Mr. Cardinal looking down upon us mere mortals from his rooftop TV antenna perch. His glare reeks of judgement. ;p

  • The above picture was taken last year. I was pleasantly surprised to see cardinals living among us in the city. He is one of the reasons we provide seeds for birds in the winter.
  • It’s interesting to note that we don’t get pigeons at our feeder. The sparrows chase them away. Sparrows may be small, but they’re pretty aggressive.