Friday, April 12, 2013

THINKING OF STARR SAPHIR


If you follow TLLG here on Blogger or Facebook, dear reader, then you know that recently much of my content has dealt with the escapades of Cam (the cardinal pictured in the image above), as well as the tales of her unnamed (as of this posting) beau, pictured in the image below,



and of their romantic interlude (indicated in the following image).



I'm thrilled with the aforementioned couple, and could continue to write about them for some time to come, but I am dedicating today's post (through the "escapades" of the array of all the birds which visit my garden) to Starr Saphir, a dearly departed birder, who you may read about by clicking here.

Ms. Saphir was known to many for the bird walks that she led in Central Park. Even though I live very near to this park, I've never been on one of her bird walks; or any other bird "event," for that matter, as my interest in birds as well as their antics, is fairly new: I have the feathered creatures to thank for it because they showed up in my garden without an invitation or lure of food other than the vegetation in my garden!
And, prior to  birds spending time at my place — even though I had always enjoyed hearing them — it never occurred to me to join a group of birders. I suppose one of the reasons for this is that I'm legally blind and my observation of birds comes through following their sound with my camera serving as my eyesight. My legal blindness, as you might know, has caused me to pursue other methods re photography; and you may click here if you'd like to read my "story." Moreover, aspects of it have been heard on two radio stations (1010 WINS and WBAI).

And I suppose the other reason I never joined a group of birders is that I'm not, as "they" say, a "morning person;" even though having a garden has caused me to get up extremely early, I am like Tom (in Tennessee Williams' Glass Menagerie), who, upon hearing his mother's "morning call" (which was "Rise and shine") said, "I'll rise but I won't shine."  

I too rise in the morning, but I don't shine for hours to come, and thankfully I am able to still observe my birds because I can have my cup of black coffee in one hand, and a camera in the other, whilst wearing pajamas or a nightie!

That being said, I never (as of this posting) had the inclination to join a birder group, which barred me from the blessing of knowing of the existence of Starr  Saphir and hence meeting her in person! However, I did ultimately "meet her" via the telephone and I had two meaningful phone conversations with her about birds.

So, you might be asking, if I didn't "bird" with the "birders" in Central Park, how is it that I happened to talk with Starr Saphir? The answers is this: I initially contacted Ms. Saphir in the fall of 2012 after learning about her from an article which had been published in the summer (July 16, 2012) in The New York Daily NewsThe article was a promotion for the HBO movie, Birders. 

Around that time is when Cam made her first (and brief) appearance in my garden, prompting me to get a bird feeder. This feeder "lured"  visits of a number of male and female house finches (although at the time I did not know what type of bird they were) and they continued to be regular visitors! 

A number of "stories" about the house finches were posted here on TLLG's Blogger Pages as well as in tumblr posts, and many of their photo-ops are on TLLG's Pinterest Boards.


In any event, when the male variety of the house finch first appeared, I took the following photo-ops, having no idea that the bird was a house finch! All I knew was that I thought the bird was adorable and that he apparently loved to sing!




A few days after this sweet red bird had become a steady visitor to my garden, my dearest friend, Victor, saw the aforementioned Daily News article.

The article included a photo of a bird's head (which was red) and identified the bird as a Scarlet Tanager. However, since the article was not about birds per se, but focused on the people who were watching them, as well as the Birders movie, the image of the red colored bird featured only a partial view. Based on the article's image, Victor insisted that I had a Scarlet Tanager visiting me.

At the time, I was so thrilled about having birds that I did not focus my attention on their identities; rather I "followed" Eric Berne's philosophy which was this: "The moment a little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing." 

However, as time went on and more birds came, I wanted to know who they were, and it was to that end I reread the Daily News article and after some googling contacted Starr Saphir, who unbeknownst to me was visiting her daughter in Arizona (which she told me when I reached her by phone). I believe it was late summer or early fall when we had this phone conversation, and Ms. Saphir told me that I could not possibly have Scarlet Tanagers at the time of year that I had first discovered birds with red heads visiting my garden. She informed me that I probably had house finches.

As it turned out Ms. Saphir was correct: that, indeed, the birds I had been told were Scarlet Tanagers were House Finches; and as time went on, and they continued to nosh at my garden, I discovered that the eyes of some of the house finches were either crusted over or missing altogether (this is something that you may recall from my previous entries in my cyber-venues including a post on tumblr). Meanwhile, the situation with the finches' eye problem can be seen in the images posted below.









These pictures were taken at that time and subsequently posted here on Blogger in my year-end review series. The "story" (Blogger post) for the first three of these images can be found by clicking here and the "story" (post) for the fourth image may be accessed by clicking here.

Meanwhile, I had always been grateful to Starr Saphir for identifying these birds for me, and I phoned her in November of 2012 to tell her about my appreciation and about my concern for the eye issues that the house finches had at the time. It was near Thanksgiving when we spoke and she said that she was spending the holiday with her daughter and indicated that she was glad that I was taking care of my entourage of visiting birds (whom I invited her to see). 

That was the last time I spoke to Ms. Saphir and I did not realize (until the other day) that she had passed away this past February! I hope to attend (if my r.s.v.p. is accepted) "a memorial breakfast and birding walk for Starr." 

In the meantime, I will always remember Ms. Saphir's willingness to share info in the two phone conversations that we had; and I often attribute the pleasure I have in my house finches to her! These sweet birds still come here to nosh, as seen in the images below.









And as you can surmise, they enjoy noshing and having a convo. (BTW, the last image in the series above is one you might recognize from a previous post here on Blogger.)

I'm not the only one in my garden who derives pleasure from the little house finches; the Mourning Doves seem to appreciate them too, as evidenced by the image below. 



Or is it that the mourning doves appreciate the finches for their special orange colored  feeders, which is a conclusion you might come to upon seeing the following image.




Whatever the "motive" is for the mourning doves' appreciation of the house finches, some of their recent behavior has caused me to think of Starr, and in fact, a week ago, April 4th 2013, here on Blogger, I posted the following image,


questioning this action of the mourning dove, and I stated,"I have done a lot of research in an attempt to find out why they are behaving this way! Do they have a itch they need to scratch in the same way dogs and cats do? Or are they using this "scratching" as a sign that they are available to be a mate of a deserving bird? Perhaps they are eating insects which have landed on their body? Maybe they are cleaning themselves since I don't (as of this posting) have a birdbath in my garden? Whatever the reason for this new action of theirs is, I'm not finding answers, and so, dear reader, (And I feel certain that Starr Saphir might have known the answer!)*

In any case, my seeing mourning doves these past few weeks has reminded me of her, for I've read that Starr Saphir was known to wear "heavy blue eyeshadow." Therefore, when a couple of mourning doves alighted on my garden's ledge, looking as if they too appreciated blue eye shadow, as you might surmise from the images below, 




I truly couldn't help but think of her! The first one of these pictures was posted on TLLG's Facebook Page and Pinterest Boards for Birds and I hope, dear reader, that you realize my reference re "blue eye shadow" and Starr is not intended for disrespect.

But getting back to my update re the array of birds which still continue to visit my garden, the House Sparrow(also appreciated by the mourning doves, as seen in the image below where the dove appears to be listening intently to what's on the sparrow's mind),


except for an occasional visit to the suet feeder (as seen below),


has made infrequent visits thus far this year; and perhaps the mourning dove, (for as you can surmise he/she appears to be listening intently in the image above the sparrow-with-suet-image), knows what's up with this little bird.

The saga of the white breasted sparrow is not the only one which my mourning dove seems to be concerned about! He/she also seems to care about the comings and goings of the Dark-Eyed Junco, as seen in the image below.


It is an image that was included in a post here on Blogger this past March, and he/she continues to grace my garden with his/her visits, as seen in the following images which were taken yesterday.




I think the dark-eyed junco has a smiley face and, for what it's worth, find it to be a cute bird!

Another cutie is the Tufted Titmouse, and as I write this, I'm rather concerned about this bird's well being ever since my learning (from a neighbor) that a hawk has been eyeing my garden; salivating. The reason for my concern is that he/she has not been to my garden for a little over three weeks, when the following images were taken.



The tufted titmouse was doing some great acrobatics to access the food in the one of my feeders. He/she seems to prefer eating from feeders as opposed to "ground feeding" or eating from saucers, which my other birds certainly enjoy! And he/she seems to be more camera shy than they, are as indicated by the image below,


where, with the use of his/her wing, he/she seems to be saying, "puhleez, no more photos!" And indeed I understand the aversion to being photographed. In fact, I have often let go of opportunities to take pictures of my birds as I don't want to infringe on their privacy, and when I do take their pictures it's for purposes of raising awareness about their needs, teaching others about their habits, or cheering folks up by sharing their beauty. 

I wonder what Starr would say about my (sometimes) apprehension to take images of birds. I read somewhere that once when she was leading a bird walk, a young woman (reportedly named Catherine) was upset that a bird had flown off before she'd got a chance to take a picture, and that Starr had told her that perhaps she wasn't supposed to take a photo. 

According to a link within a memorandum to Ms. Saphir, Starr's encounter with the aforementioned young woman went like this "Saphir seems to be even more aware of the fact that in some ways, humans are honestly just visiting the birds' delicate environment. 'I'd like to see it her friend Catherine says of a specimen she's trying in vain to spy with her binoculars.' (To which Starr replied), 'I know,' Saphir tells her sympathetically. 'I'm not sure it would like to be seen though.'"

My apprehension to take an image of a bird is often rooted in giving them their own space, but I'm not always that altruistic. For instance eight days ago, on April 3rd of 2013, when I was working at my desk, which does not face my window, I heard an unusual sound coming from a bird. I can usually recognize Cam and her beau's sounds as well as the sounds of house finches, juncos, mourning doves, and tufted titmouses; but this particular sound was not as familiar. 

I moved toward the sound with my camera and snapped images in the direction of the bird's voice, and when I became aware that the visitor was a Hairy Woodpecker,** I did not want to frighten him/her, especially since a hairy woodpecker (to my knowledge) had not visited my garden since November!  Some of the photo-ops I managed to get on April 3rd are posted below.








None of these photographs (nor any of my other images for that matter) are contenders for National Geographic, because the hairy woodpecker is obscured by  what grows in my garden, and yet that is precisely the point of these images! In spite of the coloring of this magnificent bird, he/she manages to hide behind nature! I hope I don't sound presumptuous but I think that Starr Saphir would have agreed with me on this.

In the last image of this hairy woodpecker series, he/she is coming in for a landing behind one of my rose shrubs, to partake in suet from a feeder. His/her wings can be seen on either side of the stems of the rose shrub.

The Common Grackle makes very little attempt to hide when he/she comes to the suet feeder, which is intended for woodpeckers; therefore, the grackle shoud be a bit more subtle than he/she is (as evidenced in the images below) don't you think?






This concludes the "accounting" of my feathered guests for the 2013 spring season, as thus far these are the only ones who have appeared in my garden for the spring of 2013!

So far, the Bluejays and a Chickadee who visited me last fall (2012) have not reappeared, but I'm including "old" photo-ops of them respectively (below) as a way to acknowledge them.

Story on TLLG's Blogger Pages 1-5-13
Story on TLLG's tumblr Pages 10-7-12
Story on TLLG's Blogger Pages 1-19-13
Story on TLLG's Blogger Pages 1-18-13
Story on TLLG's Blogger Pages 1.19.13
Story on TLLG's tumblr Pages 11-14-12
Story on TLLG's Blogger Pages 1-17-13 
Featured on TLLg's Facebook Page (November 2012) 
Featured on TLLG's Pinterest Boards November 2012
Story on TLLG's tumblr Pages (November 2012)
Featured on TLLG's Pinterest Boards
Featured (11-20-12) on TLLG's Facebook Page
Featured (11-16-12) on TLLG's Facebook Page  
Story on TLLG's Blogger Pages (11-19-12)
As I conclude this post, torrents of rain are coming down, and I'm observing a few of my visiting birds' reactions to the heavy rains (photo-ops posted below).





Their expressions bring to mind a quote by Rose Kennedy, which is, "Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn't people feel as free to delight in whatever sunlight remains in them?"  

Rose Kennedy's quotation seems an apropos way to conclude today's dedication to Starr Saphir, for it reminds me of what I read was Ms. Saphir's philosophy, which is this: "Looking at birds really takes away sadness in a lot of us," she reportedly said, and was evidently alluding to her illness. "Looking at birds takes you out of yourself and into the real world."

It seems that birds also know how to get out of themselves as evidenced by the image below (which I posted on TLLG's Facebook Page today).



For, as you can see, dear reader, the sweet house finch (whose identity I owe to Starr Sapihr) seems fascinated by the budding of my Actinida kolomikta and Actimida (AKA Kiwi Vines)!

I'm certain that my kiwi vine is gratified by the amazement the little house finch seems to exude. After all, one of my kiwi vines (the Actinida kolomikta) narrated my first garden themed Virtual Story (mini movie), The Kiwi Speaks! Fifteen Minutes of Fame . . . almostin which he felt under appreciated. I hope —  if I have the opportunity – to produce a sequel to my movie where I will include the antics of my visiting birds, and perhaps in this small way carry on a part of Starr Saphir's legacy by helping others to appreciate out feathered friends.

*I have discovered the mourning doves behavior is known as preening. 
**A number of weeks after posting this, I learned that it was a downy woodpecker that had been visiting my garden not  a hairy! Details may be found by clicking here

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