This post is my response to Tina’s challenge at Lens-Artists Challenge #205 – The Eyes Have it. I almost never photograph humans, so my entries will consist of pictures of birds that I encounter in a rookery, a wildlife refuge, or in our backyard.
Yesterday the rookery next to the New Jersey Ocean City Welcome Center was teeming with egrets, herons, ibises, and many other smaller birds. The Great Egrets breeding season was at its peak as you can see from the following images.
The parent egret will eat the eel then regurgitate it into the bottom of the nest. Then the young chicks will be able to eat it.
Two days ago, in the morning I saw both Bluebird parents catching insects and bringing them to their babies.
I thought it was about time for the young birds to fledge and leave their nest. Then, in the afternoon, our backyard was suddenly very quiet. No more Bluebirds flying around or calling each other. Very cautiously, I opened the door of the birdhouse. No bird was inside. The young ones had all fledged, and I missed seeing them leave their nest.
Then this morning, the male Bluebird was back flying around and attacking his image on our patio door. I went out and saw him perched on the birdhouse. Then the female Bluebird reappeared, and the pair kept taking turns diving toward the grass to catch insects. Life was back to normal.
Bluebirds may have from one to three broods. It looks like this Bluebird couple will start a second brood in the same birdhouse. I’ll keep watching them and try to photograph the second brood as they fledge.
Every day the pair of Eastern Bluebirds living in our backyard have to find food for their babies, which could be fledging in a week or so. Fortunately, our neighborhood has many spots, including lawns, an empty lot and a wooded area, where they can easily find food. The female is the one that works the hardest, with the male relishing his role as her protector against other birds and even a photographer!
Sometimes they take a break and watch their nest from the top of our birdfeeder hanging pole.
One essential function of both parents is to keep the nest clean by taking out the fecal sacs they pull out of their young ones several times a day.
The female also does that type of diaper duty. In fact, she carries out more fecal sacs than he does! On the other hand, he spends a lot of time keeping other birds clear of their birdhouse. Yesterday I watched as he repeatedly attacked the Bluebird he saw in the driver side mirror of a car parked on our driveway. At times, the noise that he made pecking at his image in the mirror sounded like a mini machine gun. This morning we put a bag over the mirror to put a stop to that.
After I posted my 2022 photos of Eastern Bluebirds, I heard many loud bird cries in our backyard. I went out to see what the hubbub was about.
We now have two couples of Bluebirds, four adult Bluebirds in total, and four baby Bluebirds! The newcomers were flying all over, looking for a birdhouse they could occupy. The original Bluebirds of course felt threatened since they had four newly hatched babies in their nest. They chased away the new pair, and those two birds have been knocking on our bay window which faces the backyard.
I cannot positively distinguish the newcomers from the old-timers, but I think the following shots show the new Bluebirds.
The original Bluebird couple had built a nest inside a birdhouse that used to be occupied by House Wrens. However, the Bluebirds did not use it and took over another nest we can see from our kitchen window. The House Wrens went to settle in another birdhouse in front of our house.
I opened the unused birdhouse in the backyard and threw out the nest that the original Bluebirds had built but did not use. After that I saw the new Bluebird pair visit the empty birdhouse several times. I hope they will settle in it and stop knocking on our windows.
This is the fourth year that Eastern Bluebirds have come back to nest at the birdhouse I put up for them in the back of our house. Today I saw the Bluebird parents fly in and out to bring food to a brood of four baby Bluebirds.
The parents were very efficient, bringing back newly captured insects and worms every five minutes.
Village Teacher is a historical novel by Neihtn (Nguyen Trong Hien) set in Vietnam during French occupation at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. The novel opens with the protagonist, a teacher/scholar named Tam, leaving the building where he has just taken a national examination that will determine his future. His final essay? A discussion of reforms needed to bring the country’s educational system into the modern age. For me as a reader, opening hooks don’t get much better than this!
I felt immediately drawn to Tam. He is a brilliant scholar, yet genuinely humble and self-effacing. He stands ready to help those in need, including a young woman set upon by thugs as he walks back to the inn where he is staying. This incident sets in motion the love story which will become the heart of the book, as Tam and the young woman, Giang, face obstacle after obstacle to being together, most triggered by their living in a country under foreign occupation. I found this love story particularly well-done, with a subtlety and nuance I greatly appreciated.
The plot is quite complex, with machinations from a variety of antagonists. For me, this complexity is a clear representation of the difficulty of surviving in a traditionally hierarchical society under a system of governance imposed by foreign occupiers while trying to hold onto your own culture and as much of your system of governance as your foreign occupiers will allow–not to mention dealing with heavily-armed rebel factions. Village Teacher brought home the full extent of these complexities in a way I hadn’t previously encountered.
An important question Village Teacher raises in my mind is the balance between history and fiction in a historical novel. Is the author’s primary goal to fictionalize a historical event (or time period) to bring history alive for readers–with the fiction serving the history–or is it the other way around? Is the author’s goal to provide the historical context needed for readers to fully understand the characters’ motivations and experience in the world, with the history serving the fiction? While Village Teacher has a relatively high percentage of history to fiction, I found it entirely necessary to the story (in addition to being intrinsically interesting). The author made a good decision to use an omniscient narrator to relay the exposition and not put it in the mouths of the characters, which can sometimes happen in historical novels.
For a novel coming in at over 400 pages, Village Teacher was a surprising quick read; I finished it much sooner than I expected. I was also surprised by how I felt at the end. While the ending was satisfying, with no loose ends, I was reluctant to leave these characters behind. I had come to care about them that much.