Things We Saw In Lakeland

A couple of weeks ago Rob and I went to Lakeland to visit a sister CREC church. It is a beautiful city with plenty of charm and my goodness, the locations for great photos were abounding! (Anybody want to go on a road trip for a destination session?)

On Saturday morning we visited the historic landmark campus of Florida Southern College. It is the only campus designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and it was gorgeous. The man led quite the life but his designs have always fascinated me. His idea that the building should be a part of it’s surroundings birthed what is called organic architecture. I love the lines and his use of glass in his designs.

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It really is a beautiful campus and since I didn’t have my real camera with me the pictures just don’t do it justice.

After our morning spent at the college Rob needed to get some work done so I wandered around on my own. Our hotel, which was just lovely, was located near one of the city’s many lakes. Again, the pictures don’t really show off the beauty of the place. The grass is so lush and green and there are so many charming details.

Mirror Lake looks like something out of a fairy tale with it’s broad sweeping stairs that go right to the water, the lovely arches of the old train station, and it’s beautiful old fashioned light posts. The lake itself is huge and there are also restaurants and a really fun children’s area.

I must have seen about a dozen different types of water bird around various parts of the lake but the swan seems to be the symbol of the city in the way that pelicans are for Pensacola. Apparently swans were pretty visible in the early 1920’s but by the time the 50’s rolled around the swans were practically extinct due to predators. The story goes that one Lakeland resident was so sad at the loss of the swans that they contacted the Queen Elizabeth who sent two royal swans in answer. So while Lake Mirror may not be an actual fairy tale land the swans are of royal descent.

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Baby Bird Update

The chicks are staying awake more this week and are finding their voices. I wish I could get a good silhouette shot of them when they are all poking their wobbly little heads up squawking for their breakfast. So far I haven’t been fast enough to get close enough at the right angle but I did get some cute pictures of them.

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 I try to be quick grabbing the pictures because I don’t want to cause the parents any undo stress. Their prehistoric grumpy lookingness is so adorable.

They caused me a little undo stress because it seemed the nest was looking a little wonky and unstable…kind of tilting to the side. We were worried they would fall out so I carefully shifted the wreath so that it straightened the nest up.

We’re still praying that predators stay away and we will get to see these little guys fledge in a few weeks.

***Update***

It is not unusual for me to prepare a couple of blog posts at one time when I actually have the time to do so. This one I got ready on Monday or Tuesday and  unfortunately, we woke up yesterday to find that a predator had gotten to our sweet little birds. We think the nest must have somehow fallen during the night and a raccoon or something of the sort got to them.

I don’t think I am going to hang that wreath up next year. Our house is like the equivalent of bird hood and it’s just not safe. This is twice that it has happened and I think we will probably be the house that all the teenage birds dare each other to fly up to.

Silliness aside it is pretty sad to loose the babies but the worst was watching the mama and daddy birds come looking for them. Hopefully next year we may be planting a tree or two in the yard now that the grass is doing so well and they can make a real home if they choose and have a better chance at survival.

On My Front Porch

A few years ago I posted regularly about the sweet little family of birds that built a nest in the wreath on my front door. We were so sad when one day they just disappeared because a predator had gotten to them (apparently snakes can climb which is a thought almost worthy of therapy).

Well, a few weeks ago we noticed two little birds darting back and forth and sure enough we have another nest and it wasn’t long before we found four pretty little blue eggs inside.

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We try to use the garage going and coming a little more often but the front door still swings open and shut quite a bit. (A total aside…if for no other reason I am thrilled to host their little home because it has actually made Sam more careful when he opens and closes the door. Something I have not been able to accomplish no matter what I tried.)

The first time around the parents-to-be where super quick to dart away if anyone was anywhere near the door, inside or out. But these guys wait until we are actually at the door and then kind of dive bomb away. Rob has actually had to gently knock on the door so they would fly away before he could open it to leave for work.

On Sunday we checked and still had eggs. On Monday I checked and low and behold three of the four eggs had hatched!

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There was much rejoicing and oohing and ahhing. Tuesday afternoon I waited until mama flew away and then got the ladder out so I could take some pictures with my real camera and not just the cell phone.
At first they were all huddled up in a fuzzy little bunch. Sam saw the picture later and commented that they were so ugly they were beautiful.
The shutter click on my camera woke them pretty quickly and they have the sweetest little voices. And boy were they hungry! At first it was just the one holding his wobbly little head up with his beak wide open.
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He looked so disgruntled when I had nothing to offer.
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I guess he thought maybe I wasn’t listening so he got one of his siblings to join the chorus.
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They made enough racket that a third joined in.
So far we haven’t seen the forth one yet. I think he is a little behind the others since his arrival was after theirs.
We are taking much pleasure in watching these little guys and it gives such a beautiful look at the amazing God that created all that is in heaven and on earth. 
And God blessed them, saying, 
“Be fruitful and multiply 
and fill the waters in the seas, 
and let birds multiply on the earth.
Genesis 1:22

Waiting On The Cute

So the birds hatched sometime in the last two weeks.

At first they were nothing more than little gray fuzzballs and it was kind of hard to make out beaks and other features.

I had researched a bit so knew that they wouldn’t make much noise the first little while but it was still funny to see them as they got older stretch their necks up and open their beaks at feeding time but remain completely silent.

birds baby house finch nest

Like most newborns they sleep a lot. Both the Mama and the Daddy fly back and forth and keep watch over them. I’ve been surprised at how often the male is the one bringing food to them while it’s still the female that nests with them.

Slowly but surely we are beginning to see features emerge and eyes stay open for a bit.

birds baby house finch nest

The other morning Sarah was brushing her hair at the hall mirror (don’t ask me why but for some reason all of my girls choose to fix their hair in some room other than the bathrooms with their five foot long wall mirrors…they just do.) Anyway, Sarah was in the hall and asked, “Who is making that noise?”

Turns out the babies have found their voices and can make a bit of a racket when it’s breakfast time. I probably won’t get any pictures of that since the parents are pretty quick to fly away if we get too close.

They’re not awake for long before they settle back down to sleep all squished up together.

I have so enjoyed the process but I’ll be honest, I’m waiting on the cuteness factor to hit overdrive because right now their prehistoric looking selves are starting to be overshadowed by the lack of cleanliness. Of course I say that but their song is awfully sweet so I’m trying not to think about or pay attention to the mess the nest, my wreath, and my front door is becoming.

The babies should begin to explore their surroundings within the next week and fledge (develop wings suitable for flying) within the next two weeks as far as I can tell from what I’ve read.

house finch babies birds nests
It’s estimated that there are anywhere from 267 million to over one billion house finches across North America and if your place is hospitable enough as many as 50 of them will congregate at any given time. Not sure I could handle that many hanging out in my front yard but this little family is welcome to stay around.

The Bird Watch Continues

I hope you aren’t getting bored with the bird posts because frankly I am still utterly fascinated. The little things are just so incredible to watch.

I’ve been wanting to get a particular photo of them and have been completely frustrated with my lack of success. Their hearing is some kind of crazy and even when I am being my most stealthy (and I have five kids so I can be stealthy!) I wasn’t having much success.
Basically I wanted to get a silhouette of them on my door. Nothing fancy, I’ve just enjoyed seeing their little outline as I walk past the door so I thought it would be a cool image. I almost had it the other day, too.
The father (or baby daddy as we say) was perched on the inside of the wreath and his silhouette was perfectly outlined. My camera was close at hand…I walked very quietly up near the door…sloooowly raised my camera and…
Tried to change my exposure so I wouldn’t blow out the image and the clicking sound caused him to fly away.
At that moment I realized that if I wanted the image I was going to have to put the camera on auto and hope for the best. No time to get all artsy.
Today, when I wasn’t even thinking about it, I saw him land on the wreath again. Moving quickly to grab my camera I flipped it onto auto mode and sneaked back into the hall foyer. He was still there!
A few hours later I noticed that the mama was on her nest with her head turned at just the right angle to see her silhouette if I stood on my tippy toes. I grabbed my camera and managed to get the shot of her.
(The bird like shape at the bottom is a leaf from the artificial flower that decorates the wreath.)
Technically speaking they aren’t the greatest images in the world. The shadows are uneven in their lighting  but they still make me happy. 
I can’t wait for the babies to be born. Although from what I’ve read the mama stops cleaning up after them at some point which means I can expect quite an icky mess in a  few weeks.
Not sure I’ll post a picture of that though.