Ritter Ames — USA TODAY Bestselling Mystery Author of the Bodies of Art Mysteries series and the Organized Mysteries series

Archive for August 2015

Right now, I have two huge pots full of philodendron vines and stalks. The bigger one is in my living room, up on a coffee table I’ve never been able to get rid of because it’s just as hardy as the philodendron that sits on the tabletop–and just as functional. I have that plant by the west window in my living room, so it can get the evening light that comes after the sun sinks lower than the side porch roof. And on that side porch, right under that same window, I have an outdoor plant stand that I decided this spring needed the other heavy philodendron in my life. After all, a house really can have too many philodendrons under one roof, especially two as full and leafy as mine (and I’ve given away cutting to so many of my friends they almost run away if they see me carrying anything green).

Honey's grinWhen I put the plant atop the stand on the side porch, I chiefly did so to keep the incredible wagging tail of the incredible yellow Lab who lives here from knocking the plant stand from one end of the porch to the other (the lovely dog means well, but she’s huge, and has no idea what her tail is doing at any time of the day–unless, of course, she’s chasing it).

So, imagine my surprise about a month ago when I started to water the philodendron in the late-July heat, and found a mess of brown twigs and straw balanced on the edge of the large terracotta pot. I couldn’t believe it could possibly be the start of a bird’s nest, but could find no other explanation. I watered the plant, left the woody mess to see what happened next, and went back into the house. Within a few days the nest was taking shape, but since it was balanced half on dirt and half on–well, nothing but air–this little avian B&B didn’t last long.

Still, the bird persevered, and began building a new nest. This time the attempt was a little farther into the philodendron, and more of the nest was grounded by potting soil–but after three days its fate was the same as the first nest, and it splintered into pieces after it fell to the porch cement.

Third time is the charm, however, and the bird struck B&B gold–very little AirBnB this time–when it built the third nest almost completely on philodendron leaves, runners, and potting soil. Just the back edge of the nest overhung the pot lip. I carefully watered around the nest to keep the plant from dying, and the bird came and went each day with building materials, finally topping the nest with a roof. A small hole was the only opening to see inside.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

After a few days, I saw this–

See the two tiny little eggs showing under the shade of the philodendron leaf. They are sooooo tiny, and they looked a lot like white Cadbury mini-eggs (yes, my mind is never very far away from chocolate).

 

For each of the next two days, another egg appeared when I took my morning gander. The temps were warm enough (it was early-August, after all) that the mama apparently didn’t feel she had to sit on her nest.

In the past week, however, things have been quite different. Mama bird started spending nearly the whole day in her roofed nest. Anytime anyone would walk by, she took off in a flash to try to divert attention away from her eggs. One afternoon, when hubby thought she was gone and he wanted to see if any of the eggs hatched, she surprised him by being on guard, and nearly flew into his head to drive away his attention.

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The next day, I watered the Lab and when I went back through the side door, I saw this–

Yes, pretty much just the open beak is visible for the baby bird, the rest of him blends in beautifully with the colors of the nest. Since I took this shot, I’ve seen two more baby birds–and each had their beaks wide open in anticipation of anyone dropping a worm in their mouths (I didn’t comply). I don’t know if the bird in the fourth egg is in hiding, or had grabbed a lion-bird’s share of the food the last time one of the parents came by, but so far the head count remains at three visible and accounted for. However, the fourth egg is not in the middle of the nest anymore, where it sat with the others, so I’m thinking it’s just a scaredy-bird myself.

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And here is the best picture I’ve managed to get of the mama. She’s a sweet little wren, and she flies in and out all day looking for ways to feed these bottomless baby stomachs. Poor thing. I can only get a shot of her through the double-pane glass and screen, and I had to use a tripod and zoom because she flies away anytime she sees me at the window. The daddy wren is a good bit bigger, but I’ve never had the camera handy when he came by to wrangle the young’uns to the dinner table.

The window I shot this picture through is in the living room, near the television, and right on the way for the main entrance we use for the kitchen. Not exactly my idea of a quiet AirBnB spot for tranquil living, but even after the philodendron pot rejected the nest twice the birds triumphed in the end. So this apparently is the best spot they could find to raise their young. I guess this means the philodendron will have to return to the side porch every spring, just like the bird migrations. I’ll have to remember to put it on my calendar to make sure the birds have a place to construct their annual AirBnB again.  🙂

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Christmas ice rinkI’m in the middle of writing the third book in the Bodies of Art series. So much fun! I love writing from Laurel Beacham’s point-of-view, and globetrotting across the page with her and her snarky sense of humor.

While the book won’t be out until 2016, the manuscript is due to my editor at Henery-Press-Beachy-ChickenHenery Press on November 1st. However, since the book is set in early November, and starts in London, I’ve been happily finding U.K. holiday connections. And wow! Am I having a blast!!!

Lovely double-decker bus and snowflake lightsLighted Christmas FeathersLondon Christmas lights start going on display the first week in November. Could I have picked a better time frame, or what? Oxford Street and Regent Street are both located in some very exclusive map coordinates. While Oxford Street is only a mile and a half long, it runs right through Mayfair (yeah, the really ritzy part of London) and on into SoHo. The shops through that Royal Mail quandrant are way out of my price range–Laurel’s too, if truth be told–but just imagine the great window shopping.

But that’s not all. Covent Garden and the British Museum are just a stone’s throw away once Oxford Street dead-ends into Soho. And take a right when Regent Street bisects Oxford at about the halfway point, and it’s just a short jog to the National Portrait Gallery or any of a number of theaters (or theatre if we’re talking with a Brit accent. lol), and even the Royal Opera House.

However, while Oxford Street is a haven for those looking for the most unique gift for that special person on the list, at Christmas time the best views Better image with the reindeer branch lightsaren’t even in the windows, but stretched above the macadam instead. Part of my research for book #3 required more than a little Internet touring to see the bright and shiny that comes out above Londoners and tourists alike. From early November until just after New Year’s, shoppers have the chance to ooh and awe over brilliant sights before they even get a glimpse into store windows.

Covent Garden Christmas LightsI’ve sprinkled a few pics around this post to whet your appetite, but if you want to see more, check out these links for a couple of marvelous screen shows:

Christmas Lights in London

More Christmas Lights in London

So, if you’re as sick as I am of summer already, do a little Christmas shopping early. Not for Blue arc Christmas Lightsgifts, necessarily, but for the wonderful displays cities like London offer to ring in the holidays. Here are a couple more if you haven’t yet gotten your fill. Me? I’m heading back to Laurel’s world and finishing up this book so I can start writing the next one!

 

Better Christmas shot with double-decker bus


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