Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pipping and Peeping

Morning Summer Mist
Rise of the Summer Yellow Jackets
Non-Toxic Trap to Guard the House
Red-Tail Hawk Hunting From Tamarack Perch
The Dive Begins
Attacking a Gopher Mound
Harassed Hawk
More mist rises from the pond this morning shrouding the burst of summer growth. Reeds grow upward like inverted beaded curtains that allow a peek, but not enough. Knapweed blooms and I'm done digging at their roots. I dream instead of ripping the ground to seed rye-grass or grains. Anyone have a tractor I can borrow?

The afternoon is raucous with pipping and peeping. I step outside with my roast beef and Munster cheese sandwich on a sourdough roll. A mistake. I set down my nibbled lunch on the log I've rolled over to my chair under the apple tree as an outdoor patio table of sorts. Within 30 seconds yellow jackets--or perhaps they are paper wasps--have girded my beef, stabbing at it with venomous tail spikes.

Last week they chased my off the south porch, testing my coffee for interest. I've hung non-poisonous wasp traps on the porch and Todd has destroyed two colonies growing in the abandoned swallow nests. Yellow jackets are aggressive wasps whose numbers grow alarmingly large as summer progresses. Early spring they contend themselves with eating insects--and they still do in July--but as food grows scarce, they can grow more fierce.

We are monitoring their presence near the house and garden for safety measures. They are not honey bees, though I am grateful it was a honey bee that stung me and not a wasp. Once stung by a wasp, the venom secretes a chemical scent that target you for more attacks. Experts say to flee the area once stung. But it is only my sandwich attacked.

The noise around the pond continues. A western kingbird pips, perched on my garden fence, finally giving me a visual identification of the maker of that alarm call. I hear it every time the hawk lands in a pine by the house, road or pond. I thought it was the siskins, but now I know it is the kingbirds. Why are all the late July residents turning out to be aggressors? Kingbirds are called "tyrant" fly-catchers who ferociously defend their territories with what Cornell Ornithology Labs describes as a "kip." I say "pip."

And all the pipping is over the red-tailed hawk who has taken up a perch in the towering tamarack along highway 95. He is peeping at the pond. I'm a bit concerned that he's peeping at the pond because the ring-necked duck might have a nest and the merganser chicks are not up to flight yet. Scoping the pond I spy one of the young mergansers and he seems unconcerned that a large predator is staring his direction.

Peeping, pipping and I feel like drama is ready to burst like a bad batch of fireworks.

Attacker Under Attack
When it comes, the hawk dives. I hold my breath until he lands, talons first upon a large gopher mound. Then I cheer! Go hawk, go! The kingbirds react as if the red-tail has plummeted through the roof of their nests. An aerial attack on the hawk drives him from the gopher mound, across the pond and into the western stand of pines where the osprey like to perch when fishing. The flight of the birds is like watching a WWII dog-fight with Messerschmitts attacking a B-17 bomber.

All is Quiet Once Again
Feathers and sound disappear into the pines and all is silent as thunderheads build to the northwest and knapweed silently continues to blooms.

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