Reggie, Regrettably….

When I first moved here to Green Heron Pond, I had two cats, Bobby and Reggie. Both were rescue animals with Reggie actually coming from a feral cat colony outside the high school where I taught at the time.  It was a hot August day (105 degrees hot), the day before school was to start and a colleague’s daughter found the tiny golden fur ball wandering along the hot asphalt road behind the school…lost, alone and too warm.  We brought him into the building, found a box,  a towel, a small dish for water and got him settled a bit.

He was so tiny I could hold him in the palm of my hand; he was mostly quiet and slept throughout the day.  When I was ready to leave late that afternoon I realized everyone else was gone and I was left with the small feral kitten… I dreaded taking him home as I had a big Tom cat and I wasn’t sure a tiny male cat would be safe around the adult cat.

Reggie would survive, in fact thrive and has ended up weighing 16 plus lbs for most of his adult life.  He became a member of our household… my big cat being very tolerant and was named  for “Golden Reggie”  from Joni Mitchell’s Song for Sharon. This week our Golden Reggie turned 15 years old;  this onetime small, long tailed and fuzzy feral- where lifespan is usually less than 2 years- all a distant memory except in a couple of photos I have kept.

Reggie has blossomed into old age here at the pond.  He goes out early each morning and evening to survey his kingdom from the deck, taking an occasional stroll by the garden to gnaw on greenery or lunge half-heartedly at ducks feeding on the lawn.  (I have never known Reggie to kill anything but once we did find Reggie and Bobby sharing a baby rabbit- which I am sure Bobby hunted down, and Dan chased and retrieved the rabbit’s foot out of Reggie’s mouth…my husband having had pet rabbits during his childhood.)

The ducks pay little attention usually and the small songbirds ignore Reggie, except for the wrens who get quite close to scold him adamantly. Or if there is a baby blackbird or robin, you can hear some warnings being given to and about Reggie, otherwise the birds all seem to know he is there to lounge, rest and nothing more.

Reggie on the dock
Reggie on the dock

Sometimes he joins us out on the dock at dusk watching and listening to the robins and  cardinals finding a  last worm or sunflower seed before they say their “Good Nights”.  As those last birds of the evening find cover,  bats begin to flutter over the water and over us, hopefully consuming thousands of mosquitoes and hopefully never tangling in my hair.  Once in a great while there will be the silhouette of an owl- silent in flight over the trees that surround the water or a faint “Quark” sounding from a Black Crested Night Heron searching for a late dinner. Dan, Reggie and I listen in the cooling dark to the night sounds of crickets, locust’ and a Bull frog chorus.  We watch the moon’s slow trek across the sky- reflected in the pond’s still black water.  It is one of my favorite times, calm, peaceful, perfect.

Reggie, regrettably it has not been that way for some members of your family order recently.  International headlines read of the big cat taken down in a so-called trophy hunt, not a hunt for food or survival but a trophy.  And more locally a tiny kitten flung at a wall- the event recorded on social media- a former lover’s  payback- most likely.  Sadly I cannot change any of it, nor understand the why… but I can share  a small success,  the hopefulness  of a  possibly unremarked, insignificant story of one small feral cat… my headline reads “Reggie, Feral Cat Rescue, 15 Years Old!”. Reg

Bird Legs

I love birds and am not sure exactly when I figured this out.  As a child I was slight in build, had horribly knobby knees and thanks to a fellow grade school classmate – during a rabid kickball game- of which he was on the opposing team, I acquired the nickname “Bird Legs”.  It stuck, but was only an annoyance and since I could kick and run fast, I embraced Bird Legs.

When I was graduating from high school a dear friend gifted me a bird etching on a jade egg and a picture of Lesser Golden Plovers, wading birds I had never seen or heard of, but their long legs intrigued me.  I liked my gifts but wondered about the bird theme at the time…but they have decorated every place I’ve lived.

My mom loved all things outdoors and birds were one of her favorites; scraps of bread, seeds were tossed in our yard daily.  We had an albino blackbird that showed up in the neighborhood for several years each spring…he was not hard to spot and my mother named him “Whitey”…   she’d be so excited to see him return and he was one bird we knew migrated and successfully returned due to his coloring or lack thereof.

As a young mom myself there was the yellow raft we’d paddle around in on small streams, rivers and lakes looking for all sorts of wildlife in the water and along the shore.  It was from this vantage point I first laid eyes on a pair of Great Blue Herons fishing.They were a striking, handsome couple; graceful, exotic looking birds-  surely they belonged in some tropical paradise…but they were patiently draped over the tepid water, long necks bowed- silently, stealthily fishing in the backwaters of an Oklahoma lake.  And they had long legs… knobby…they appealed to me!  I purchased a special heron handbook and began to read about every kind of heron in the world. Great Blue, Little Blue, Black Crowned, Yellow Crowned, Greenback, Great and Snowy Egrets…just some of which we now view here on Green Heron Pond!

And at home I started putting out bird feeders, filled with sunflower seeds, watching-waiting to see who’d show up; Chickadees, Cardinals, Bluejays, House Finches, Gold Finches-though I did not know that was who they were til the next spring…  and Tufted Titmice came.  Again I was smitten, this time with the tiny Chickadees and Titmice particularly… they were so gregarious and cheerful, the first to find the feeders and unafraid of my presence.  They would talk, fuss and feed together many times a day.birdfeeder

From the Great Blue Heron down to the little Chickadees, birds have captivated, a prized gift daily.  Cold or dreary mornings they brighten with their chatter and movement.  When the air is so hot and dry with Kansas wind, they come for a drink in the shade and splash like kids in a wading pool.  Fishing by the dock, diving for a small minnow, squabbling at the feeders, dabbling at the muddy pond edge, soaring  over the water, serenading me to wake or to sleep, I think I have always loved them.

Call me Bird Legs anytime you want!

Shade Tea…

Summer time has always signaled iced tea time for me.  As a kid my mom would put the big silver tea kettle on the stove and we’d fill a big bowl or large measuring cup with Lipton tea bags.  When the kettle started whistling we’d pour the boiling liquid over the tea bags and wait to add ice cubes and some cool water to dilute it a bit.  Then came tall glasses filled with ice cubes and a couple of teaspoons (possibly tablespoons in my case) of sugar.  Keeping a long handled spoon in the glass (so as not to crack it) we’d pour the still warm tea over the ice and stir like crazy until all the sugar crystals were invisible… sometimes there might be a lemon slice or two but it was never a requirement for my enjoyment of tea.

As I grew up and finished college my room mates and I would make sun tea daily as it was inexpensive, plentiful and easy.  But after a bad batch left out in the sun too long, I shied away from tea except for maybe the occasional glass served when eating out.  Once I started herb gardening I began to dream up concoctions that would infuse herbs, flowers and other edibles into tasty teas-simple, subtle and very refreshing.  And by then there were so many choices/types of tea: black, green, white, herbal or fruit teas- and I was eager to experiment.  I also needed to figure out how I wanted to “brew” my tea… so I decided on what I called “shade tea” just allowing it to sit in the fridge a few hours before drinking…in my special blue bottle that I have used for years now- which possibly has had another “life” at some time…

Our dock over Green Heron Pond has shade late morning to just before late afternoon and then from about 7 on in the evenings during the summer.  If there is a breeze or a more temperate day, a lazy afternoon on the dock with a good read or binocs for birdwatching with a glass of ice tea is a pleasure.   After dusk it is refreshing to sip and listen to the night sounds on the pond.  So, I will share a few of my concoctions and I hope you will try one of my favorite beverages Shade Tea….never any need for sugar….tea for blog two

  • I always use glass and this blue bottle holds about 64 oz of liquid, so I usually use 2-3 tea bags unless I am really wanting to ramp the flavor up.
  • If you use a gallon container you will probably want at least 4 tea bags.
  • I also use decaffeinated green tea as my base tea so I can drink tea any time of day I want.
  • All herbs need to be washed, cleaned and then bruised to release their flavor.
  • Consume within 2 days (I just  leave tea bags and herbs in the bottle… it will intensify the flavor- your preference).
  • Using my basic tea recipe you can dream up other flavored teas you may want to try…be creative!

Peach n Purple Basil  Tea

  • 1-2 tea bags of herbal (caffeine free) peach tea
  • 1 tea bag decaf green tea
  • 3-4 large Ruffled Purple Basil leaves or 2 sprigs
  • Add cold water
  • refrigerate for @ least 4 hours

Raspberry Rose Geranium Tea

  • 1-2 tea bags raspberry flavored black tea- you could sub an herbal raspberry tea
  • 1 tea bag of green tea decaf or regular
  • 3-4 large Rose Geranium leaves (this is an herbal not a geranium flower plant there are several “flavors” but do not use citronella flavor!!!)
  • Add cold water
  • Refrigerate for @ least 4 hours.

Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea

  • 1-2 tea bags lemon ginger (caffeine free) herbal tea
  • 1 tea bag decaf green tea
  • slice of fresh peeled ginger
  • sprig of  lemon thyme and a couple of lemon verbena leaves
  • Add cold water
  • Refrigerate @ least four hours.

Greenback News

Today, cautiously eager, I have watched over the pond- steamy from intermittent rain showers, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Green Herons in the cool, misty weather.  One flew out of a willow near me early this morning as I stepped out to feed the ducks.  And I have heard a couple of “Skow, Skeer” calls when the precipitation has lessened.  I am excited though as there is promise of a second nesting finally on our side of the pond!

Last evening as clouds gathered lazily overhead Dan and I headed out to the dock.  It was a beautiful still setting- quiet water, ducks dabbling and a few fish swimming just under the surface hopeful for some dog food kibble.  We were chatting when we heard something flutter out of a nearby willow. Then we caught sight of a Greenback coasting past us over the water towards the old nesting area.  It had been about 10 feet from us and unseen until taking flight. Soon the heron reappeared close in the next willow past the dock.  heron nesting

Now this particular willow leans over the pond  about 10 feet and has an assortment of living and dead little branches  forming a rough path over the water.  This heron seemed to be having trouble maneuvering through these little branches with their slender  leaves either  pale willow green or a curled yellowish hue.  I could only think maybe one of the baby Greenbacks was already flying well but still practicing its landing skills when Dan said this heron had orange-red legs.  So, I turned to watch…

No immature Greenback here, but a brightly plumed, red legged adult male peering down the willow limb intently gazing below.  Then he jumped on a lower small branch hanging himself upside down holding on with his feet and one extended wing.  “Snap!” He broke of a small twig from another branch, hopped back up on the big limb, made his way to a paler version of himself and bill to bill gave over the twig for placement on a nest!  Dan and I watched this repeatedly and listened to faint sweet sounds they made to each other as they worked.  Up and down they made their way carefully picking passage to the nesting site and back for more twigs.

Amazingly it was difficult to see their final destination as Greenbacks have the ability to blend into the habitat so well.  Having seen many nests these birds build (on this pond), I could only imagine what it might look like… listening to their soft secretive sounds while moving, the almost tender way they carried the twigs- would make one think this nest would be meticulous, lovingly laid, orderly, securely comfortable… when in reality this prized project that will most likely hold 3 eggs, probably looks like sticks thrown in the air landing somewhat peculiarly crisscrossed.  But it will be sufficient with its lush green surroundings and a haven for their young.

I also know that these little herons may build more than one nesting site possibly abandoning one, choosing another.  So when Dan asked me on our walk back to the house in the dark if I was happy to have the herons on our side of the pond I quietly, cautiously said “Yes!”… I certainly want them to stay!

4th of July at the Pond

stargazersThese Stargazer lilies were the only “fireworks” exploding yesterday around Green Heron Pond as we arrived back home to celebrate the 4th.  I can almost count on them blooming on July 4th and there they were!  No matter if spring is cold, rainy, hot, windy or dry by early July all conditions are forgiven for these spectacular blooms to appear.  To add to the drama of these lilies, there was no rhyme or reason- except for maybe an empty space, as to where I planted them.  No carefully laid out plans or landscaping in mind, just the opportunity to plant and watch them bloom; which they do so profusely in random places with only benevolent neglect to nurture them.

I passed by the last plantings of the stargazers, these towering precariously over a flat feeder, to the dock at dusk, waiting to see if anyone in the neighborhood would provide us a fireworks display.  Several neighbors did not disappoint.  From about 8:30 to 11:30 there were volleys of fireworks in the neighborhood between the blocks as if each one could possibly be bigger, better or maybe louder than the previous neighbor’s had been.  As it had begun to turn dark I noticed how frightened all the pond ducks were, swimming frantically from one edge of the pond to another. The smaller birds kept taking flight not knowing where to land, where to get away from the noise and the flashes of light.  Smoke rolled over the water and I wondered about the Green Heron nest, the new ducklings and second rounds of songbird fledglings.

Don’t get me wrong, I love fireworks, the fabulous displays of circular color, the chrysanthemum shapes that crinkle and sound crisp as they dissipate, vanishing into thin glowing curls the color of stargazer stamen. Against a night sky, it is part of my personal tradition, heritage…it represents an idyllic aspect of childhood- a special holiday spent with my dad fishing, my mom’s picnic potato salad, running 3 legged races with my cousin, entering a garden box turtle in a race it would never win and by evening, laying on a blanket spread out on the grass- family scattered all around watching  fireworks explode above us; feeling all was well with my world.

By yesterday evening’s deep darkness, all the little animals were under cover and hushed as the skies lit up with a brilliance reflected in the pond.  Dan and I sat back- observers with front row seating on the dock witnessing color after color, differing designs and some teeth rattling aerial blasts.  I couldn’t, wouldn’t stop the displays from happening and all is not always well with the world…but I knew that come morning the ducks would be back on the lawn waiting for breakfast, the small birds would be singing at the dawn, my lilies would still be blooming and for a few moments we celebrated the Fourth of July. pink lily