Just Call Me MAM

I wrote MAM's musings weekly for almost 10 years. I began it with the Silver City Sun-News. When the editor who had taken on the column left the paper, I offered it to the Silver City Daily Press, and the editor, Richard Correa, grabbed it. Since early 2001, it appeared every Friday in the Daily Press, with the exception of two times that I recall. I'll update it as new sightings happen, so check regularly.

So MAM's musings has been re-created as Just Call Me MAM with a similar topic and musings about the outdors.

It comprises my observations and my opinion.

By Mary Alice Murphy

For about two hours late Sunday morning and early afternoon, we couldn't go out our front door.

My husband headed out the front door onto our patio to water the plants, and called to me in a soft voice to "come look." I went out the door, much to the chagrin of a young quail pair. Mama scolded us and left the scene. She left Papa in charge.

Pointing to our plants, my husband didn't say anything. I looked, saw nothing, then I moved slightly and saw several very tiny fluffy chicks scurry out from under the rosemary plant.

We have major deer problems at our house, so raising produce and even flowers is out of the question. Potted plants form our garden. Behind two portions of about three-foot high fence right in front of our patio wall, we have large pots of cherry tomatoes and basil. In smaller pots, we have rosemary, oregano, thyme and sage, and because I love flowers, we also raise colorful blossoms.

Geraniums, hanging and not, winter over in our sunroom and get trimmed back to bloom again outside after the last frost. Bright yellow marigolds and multi-colored portulaca cheer up the blank stucco wall this year. A frangipani plant, which goes dormant inside in the winter has been brought out and grown during the past three summers, including this one. The plant was one I gleaned from my friend Gale Moore's front porch garden after her untimely death in 2014. I am happy that I have not yet killed it.

Remaining in our indoor garden are a normal green jade plant, a variegated jade (email me if you want some pieces of the variegated one – it's happy!. I got the start for it from a friend who has moved away), several Christmas cactuses and two night-blooming cereuses that take up most of the room, but their night flowers a couple of times a year are favorites for me to photograph.

I mentioned a fence. We measured the openings and they are about 1.5 inches square. Piece of cake for tiny Gambel's quail chicks.

After Mama departed (perhaps to watch others of her brood?), Papa took cover in the middle of the large cholla plant and talked to the chicks. Maybe telling them to stay put until those big creatures went back inside?

I kept checking Papa, whom I could see clearly in the cholla, to see if he had departed with the chicks. He remained there for probably an hour or so, still talking to the babies.

Then I heard Papa making his "follow me" call, which I hear frequently from different directions, especially in the early morning, but sometimes during the day, too. So I waited a while before I tried to go out again.

Oops, there was Papa and at least 20 fluffballs close to the front door again. They saw me and scurried into the second fenced area and back Papa went into the cholla.

After an hour or so again, I saw that the hummingbird feeder was nearing empty, and since the rufous hummingbirds showed up at our house for the season on Saturday, it's been going down rapidly.

This time, I managed not to encounter any quail parents or babies. I filled the hummingbird feeder, and my husband watered the plants.


By Mary Alice Murphy

The raising of baby birds continues in our front yard at the feeders. The birds have a choice of a suet feeder, a block seed feeder and seeds in a squirrel-proof feeder.

Early last week, the treat of the morning while I was washing breakfast dishes was to watch Mama ladderback woodpecker feed one of her juveniles a bit plucked from the suet block. The juvenile squawked and carried on for more, but junior two showed up and also got a taste.

The funniest thing was watching a young house finch try to land on the seed feeder. It tried flying in and missed the perch and ended up on a planter below. It flew up again and missed again. The third time it managed to get on a hanging plant nearby and sort of jumped to the feeder. Ah, success.

Fuzzy, juvenile canyon towhees, which I affectionately call "car birds," because they hang out in the wheel wells of my husband's truck, seem to like the block seed feeder. Sometimes getting a foothold and pecking at the block is a challenge, when you're just getting your "wings."

I think we likely have young black-chinned hummingbirds, too, because although I haven't seen too many different birds, the nectar is disappearing more quickly than it did last week.

Juvenile black-headed grosbeaks frequently come by. One juvenile, just this evening, was struggling to hang on to the suet cage and get a bite to eat, too. Papa, in all his orange and black glory, had much more success. They take their pick of any of the three seed and suet feeders and feast away. They're the big ones on the block, so usually chase away any other bird looking for a bite to eat.

This evening, a disheveled titmouse visited the seed block feeder, so I suspect it's a young one.

I think the curved-billed thrashers have brought up their young'uns either in or near the large cholla out front. I saw Mama thrasher pick out a piece of suet and carry it to junior out by the birdbath.

The Gambel's quail family comes to see us early in the morning to get the gleanings on the patio under the feeders. A childless pair usually shows up in the evenings.

They come about the same time as when our regular cottontail, with the really big eyes, comes to drink the birdbath down an inch.

The white-breasted nuthatches still make appearances, but not as frequently as the week before.

We have large doves, too, but I haven't seen any that I thought might be juveniles. Maybe they mature faster or haven't hatched yet?

To me, it seems late in the season for all the birds to be young, and at the same time. And the usual May and June heat has been sporadic at best.

The yuccas, which usually bloom in May, are all in flower now. What's going on? Blame it on the constantly changing climate. Never two like years in a row, although usually we have more of a pattern, which seems really off this year.

May your musings bring you beauty!

Photo of mountain lion courtesy of a neighbor's critter cam.

By Mary Alice Murphy

Exciting times at the Murphy birdfeeders.

We've watched a white-breasted nuthatch family and baby titmice this week.

Last Sunday, Mama and Papa nuthatch were feeding their two young'uns, as the babies precariously perched on the edges of the cages that hold the seed block and the suet.

By Thursday and Friday Mama was swatting the adolescents away when they tried to get her to feed them. They were on their own. Still not always steady on the perches, but they managed to come around often, so they could get enough to eat. Just like teenagers.

Midweek, a Mama titmouse and her fuzzy baby were visiting the feeders. By today, Baby titmouse was on his own, but still with a tousled feather-do.

I've seen quite a few ladderback woodpeckers, too, and suspect some of them are juveniles, as their plumage is not fully colored for male or female.

House finches have been having lots of young'uns, and Papa is certainly strutting his bright red feathers.

I also suspect the Black-headed grosbeaks are bringing their juveniles to feed, too, although I have not witnessed Mama feeding any young.

When I took our dog out for a short walk this evening, a hawk of some sort flew out of the juniper tree near the front door. I thought it was perhaps a kestrel, but it was too large. I suspect it was either a prairie falcon or perhaps a peregrine falcon, although I'm not sure. Hope it's not scouting for baby quail or other bird babies, but I guess falcons have to eat, too.

And why did I mention mountain lions and post a photo? One of our neighbors has a critter cam out, and caught a photo of a mountain lion at a nearby water hole in May. A little too close to our house for my comfort.

I know lions are around, as another neighbor couple saw one strolling across their property late one afternoon a couple of years ago.

I've heard bobcats, but not mountain lions, at night. But maybe the cougars know enough to keep their mouths shut.

Early in the morning seems to be the best time to hear coyote choruses. I love hearing them, although they used to scare me when I was a kid. Especially when they were "singing" right under my window.

The deer, of course, are merrily munching on the lower branches of our fruit trees. Hope they don't get all the low peaches! We also have some plums, although we had many, before the high winds culled them out by the dozens.

May your musings bring you beauty!

Live from Silver City

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