Sena Films Turkeys Brunching!

Sena caught a couple of turkeys on video, brunching in our backyard garden. They eat seeds and bugs—and probably mulberries dropped by drunken squirrels and other hungry birds. They look pretty nervous. They always look that way but they were probably hearing a dog barking at the time.

In the late morning light, they look like they’re wearing metallic armor. At times, they look entitled and imperious.

We have yet to see any baby turkeys.

Thoughts on Birds Banging into Windows

The other day we heard this big bang against one of our windows. We both guessed what it was—another bird collision. A couple of years ago, one crashed into a window, got knocked out, lay on its side, and puffed really hard for a half hour or so.

Then it flew away.

This bird was not so lucky. It was hard to identify until we looked at the large flock of similar looking birds in the backyard trees. It was one of a large gathering of juvenile Cedar Waxwings. They didn’t have the red wingtips but they had sporty yellow tail feather tips and they had typical masks around their eyes.

Sometimes birds attack their reflections in windows. Several species do that but this one was not on the list. We think it was just an accident.

They were probably after the winterberry shrubs. There are a lot of articles on the web about birds getting drunk from eating fermented berries. I’m not sure how anyone knows, but some writers say it can cause birds to crash into windows. Have the birds undergone some kind of field sobriety test (“Okay buster, stand on one leg, and touch your beak with your wings.”)?

Cedar Waxwings are very gregarious, raucous, and rowdy birds who eat berries with gusto. The adults look a little like clownish (and maybe drunken) bandits.

We planted an Amaryllis in a pot to celebrate the bird’s life. I guess Amaryllis bulbs can sprout new blooms for several years, almost like being reborn many times.

A little story from Greek mythology says that a maiden named Amaryllis had a monster crush on a shepherd named Alteo, a first-class heel who ignored her but loved flowers. She tried stabbing herself in the heart every day with a golden arrow for thirty days but at first that only led to a lot of trips to the local emergency room. But on the thirtieth day, a gorgeous flower grew from her blood. That’s the only thing that got Alteo’s attention; can you believe that jerk? They got married and honey-mooned at Niagara where they both got smashed on fermented winterberries, jumped out of the Maid of the Mist boat, crashed into a rainbow which turned out to be a wormhole portal to another galaxy where they finally sobered up by eating beef jerky from Sasquatch, who is an interdimensional creature as everyone knows.

The moral of the story is you should close your window shades more often, which might deter some birds from crashing into your windows—unless they’re really drunk.

Birds of a Different Feather

This is the first day of spring in 2022 and it was a beautiful day. We went for a walk on the Terry Trueblood Trail. There were a lot of people out—different ages, different colors, different shapes. Just about everyone was smiling.

There were plenty of birds out too. In fact, we saw many different species of birds congregating together. Everybody knows the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

You know, it has been observed, not just by scientists I’m sure, that birds of different feathers hang out together too. Sometimes they’ll even fly in formation together, cooperating by staying about the same distance apart in V-formations, just as they would if they were all members of the same species.

It can happen.

Life in the Garden

We were out working hard in the garden today–or at least Sena was. She was very busy planting Black-Eyed Susan and other things the names of which I can never remember.

I usually just take pictures and make videos of her garden. It’s a lot of fun watching her. But that’s not all I do. Sometimes I carry bags of mulch.

She has been devoted to gardening for over 17 years. It began with cultivating our back yard. I labored cutting out weeds by the dozens–until I found out it was Vinca. I think another name for it is creeping myrtle.

She gave me permission to film her usual planting posture. You’re welcome.

Out in the garden

I Wonder

There are now 3 eggs in the robins’ nest. I saw a big turkey vulture soaring close by. I wonder if that’s what got the House Finch chicks. The bird that made a noise with it’s wings that was as loud as a big sheet flapping on a line in the wind, and looked too big to be a crow or even a raven–I wonder.

I wonder if I somehow was partly to blame for the murder of the baby birds, always messing around the tree. Still, I take pictures–and maybe draw death nearer.

And that leads to other strange thoughts. It’s odd that the nearer I get to retirement, the more I think about my life way before I ever even thought about medical school.


I remember the first time I ever heard about death was when I was in kindergarten. My mother woke me up early one morning to tell me that Steven, one of my schoolmates, was killed the evening before. He was playing around the railroad yard just a few blocks from our house. A train ran over him.

I remember my mother talking about it but I didn’t make any sense out of it. I was too young. I only wondered what it meant.


When I was a difficult teenager and made a conscious effort not to smile for pictures, I remember hitchhiking along a lonely highway in a bad rainstorm. I was glad when the man pulled over. I was not glad when he began to rub the back of my neck and asked, “How about a ride for trade?” I was not too young to know what he meant. When I said, “Let me out,” he did. I was too young to know that was miraculous.

I sometimes catch myself wondering if my life has been a grand illusion since then, only to protect my fragile soul from knowing the true horror. Maybe the driver really didn’t let me out. Why should I wonder that?


I remember a man who taught me how to do the work of a land surveyor. I looked up to him. He committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest over a failed relationship. I couldn’t help wondering why.

Of course, death visited me several times after I became a physician. They sometimes led to decisions I would rather I had not made about the direction of my career. I always wonder.

Spring, A Time for Optimism

This is the season for optimism and milestones: graduating medical students and residents, new faculty from the graduating resident class—including the milestone of getting the suspicious looking postcard notice in the mail reminding me that I’ll soon be eligible for open enrollment in Medicare.

No kidding, I got my first ever Medicare Open Enrollment postcard notice although, of course, it was not from any government agency as the Medicare Open Enrollment Inquiry Card indicated. This notice was obviously a lure from an anonymous marketer soliciting for one or more insurance companies, “SD Reply Center” in Rockwall, Texas.

Don’t get sucked in by this hustle. This has been going on for years. I found an on line news story from 2012 written by Bob LaMendola, with the Sun Sentinel in South Florida.

This is widely viewed as a scam, and the company targets seniors (yes, I am one of those). If you send back the card with all of your personal data on it which they request, outfits like SD Reply Center (SD stands for Senior Direct) will sell it to insurers who may knock on your door. Insurers themselves are forbidden by federal and state laws from sending these postcards or otherwise soliciting seniors unless we request them. While it’s not against the law for companies like SD Reply Center to solicit seniors, consumer advocates advise us not to mail our personal information to the sender of an anonymous postcard. While it may not be harmful, seniors are then in the difficult position of fending off eager insurance salespersons.

I will be shredding my postcard. But I will remain aware of Medicare open enrollment and pursue less worrisome avenues for more information about my coverage options. You have to keep your eyes peeled for trouble.

Speaking of trouble, our birds are in a lot of it. Right after the house finches lost their nestlings, the cardinals lost their only chick, probably to the same predatory crow that took the house finch babies. The cardinal and house finch parents are now gone.

The cardinal nest is empty.

However, while the robins might have abandoned the under-the-deck nest (not clear, my wife says she saw one flying under our deck), they may have settled into our front yard crabapple tree. It’s thick with flowers right now and provides excellent cover for the brand new nest the floor of which still needs work (just like the nest under our deck needed for a while).

Spring is a time of optimism. Hope springs eternal in the human breast—and in the robin redbreast.

Toeless Mourning Doves

I’m an amateur bird watcher. Last August, I saw a toeless Mourning Dove with what some people would call String Foot, a foot deforming condition that might be caused by a variety of injuries. I had never seen anything like it.

Toeless Mourning Dove

In the slide show you can see a bird seemingly sitting in its own poop, which is said by some to cause the problem—which I suspect is doubtful. The last shot is that of a pair of doves trying to nest in our window box, which was full of sharp, plastic artificial plants. It was painful to watch and I wonder if their hazardous habits could lead to injuring their feet.

Mourning Doves nesting on a speaker

I’ve seen Mourning Doves do strange things, mainly nesting in areas that don’t make much sense. Years ago, we could not dissuade a pair of them from building a home on top of one of the audio speakers mounted outside on our deck. Cranking up the volume didn’t work.

I clicked around the web trying to find out about the problem. Speculation about the causes of these injuries range from something called String Foot (string or human hair used to build nests getting wrapped around toes leading to amputation), sitting in poop leading to infections, and frostbite.

I think frostbite is plausible, and so did a birdwatcher named Nickell, who published an article about it over a half century ago; Nickell, W. P. (1964). “The Effects of Probable Frostbite on the Feet of Mourning Doves Wintering in Southern Michigan.” The Wilson Bulletin 76(1): 94-95, complete with hand-drawn illustrations that look exactly like the one in the slide show.

In the book, Birds of Massachusetts and Other New England States by Edward Howe Forbush, you can read one of the many anecdotes from amateur ornithologists about bird behavior that Forbush collected for his book, which was published circa 1929 (I actually plucked it from one of E.B. White’s essays):

“Mrs. Olive Thorne Miller. Reported case of female tufted titmouse stealing hair from gentleman in Ohio for use in nest building. Bird lit on gentleman’s head, seized a beakful, braced itself, jerked lock out, flew away, came back for more. Gentleman a bird lover, consented to give hair again. No date.”– Forbush, Edward Howe, 1858-1929. Birds of Massachusetts And Other New England States. [Norwood, Mass.: Printed by Berwick and Smith Company], 192529.

I wonder why a bird would risk String Foot by using hair in nests?

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