Please feel free to comment, correct me if I am wrong, or provide helpful tips of any kind

Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Dec 31, 2011

Sometimes the Mountain comes to you

Common Crossbill in flight
The last day of 2011 proved to be absolutely amazing.  At sunrise this morning, around 10 am I was waiting for the bus, when a flock of birds swooped in out of nowhere.  As I was asking myself, oh my god what is that bird, and breaking out my camera, the birds settled on a tall pine not twenty feet from me.  I had literally no time to adjust the camera's settings, the wind was gusting and icy cold, but I wasn't going to miss this opportunity, even if it meant missing that bus.

Two males
When I realized I had another lifer, I started chanting- awesome, this is so awesome- as my shutter was clicking away.  Who could blame me, when I had just been wishing I could travel with the purpose of birding, and knew that isn't possible at this time.  I'm sure this has happened to you a time or two, but if it hasn't, I sincerely hope that is does.  There is an old saying that goes something like this: If Mohammed can't go to the Mountain, the Mountain will come to Mohammed.

Common Crossbill - female
Common Crossbill-male

I'm a firm believer that this is true, even though my name isn't Mohammed.  Anyway I felt so good about this encounter, that I went for one last outing later in the day.  I hope your last day of 2011 was a great as mine.

Happy New Year,


Dec 28, 2011

The little forest down the street

Flock of Bohemian Waxwings

The little forest down the street is only about a block and a half long and half a block wide, but it is packed full of a variety of wildlife.  In the year and a half that I have been birding there regularly I have been introduced to at least twenty species of birds and have made many observations.  The most interesting of those, is how the bird populations shift and change in this tiny patch of forest with the seasons. 

Unidentified flycatcher
Tennessee warbler

During the summer of 2009, for instance, this forest was occupied by a nesting pair of Cooper's hawks and although I never saw the adults, I did get many photos of their two juveniles, who spent the summer learning to hunt and fend for themselves.

In January of 2010 a pair of Ravens set up their nest very near by.  When the two Juvenile Cooper's hawks returned at the beginning of April to hunt the forest again, the Ravens chased them off almost immediately, being very intolerant of other predators in their territory, which tends to be very large.  I saw the Ravens do so on a couple of occasion, after which I never saw the Cooper's hawks again.

Orange Crowned Warbler
Ruby Crowned Kinglet
From January to about mid April, 2010 the little forest was occupied mainly by two species of woodpecker and nuthatch, Chickadees, House finches, House Sparrows and shifting flocks of Bohemian waxwings.  However, about the middle of the month I began to encounter some very rapid shifts in bird species population.  Now there was a different species to be observed every few days, beginning with the Dark-eyed Junco, followed by the Ruby Crowned Kinglet, Orange Crowned Warbler, Tennessee Warbler and theYellow-rumped warbler.

Eastern Kingbird
Swainson's thrush
 After a short break where few birds were seen, these were followed by the Gray flycatcher, the Western Tanager, Olive sided Flycatchers, Cedar Waxwings and eventually the Robin.   By May the forest was occupied by a new variety of birds which included Yellow warblers, Cedar waxings, Chipping sparrows and a pair of Mallard ducks.  The Chickadees and House finches were now spread out all over the neighborhood, while the Bohemian Waxwings had returned to the north and the colder climates that they enjoy.
Gray Flycatcher
Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

In the fall, the same rapid shift in bird population and occupation occurred, only in reverse, with the Dark-eyed Junco leaving last.  But there were differences in the bird species I encountered this time.  These included the American Redstart, House Wren, Ovenbird, Swainson's Thrush and Nelson's Sparrows.  It is still amazing to me how such a small natural space can be a home, both temporary and permanent to such a large variety of birds and other wildlife.  I'm certainly looking forward to what this spring will bring in the way of changes for the little forest this spring.


Dec 17, 2011

Christmas Wishes

My Christmas wish this year ~ peace, healing, and good will toward the planet which is our home, and all of it's inhabitants, be they four footed, winged, finned, rooted or two legged.
                                   For those who don't celebrate:

                                    For all those Who do:


Dec 15, 2011

Home Sweet Home

                                         Where does the wildlife live?

Pileated Woodpecker home

Pileated Woodpeckers create square holes, unlike most woodpeckers.  Their nesting hole is created the same way, a new one every year.  Although Pileated Woodpeckers typically choose the highest tree in the forest for their nesting site.  The nest hole above was abandoned, although obviously used at some time, perhaps by another woodpecker species, as there is a second hole dug out  inside.

Nuthatch leaving shelter
I was lucky to capture an image of this Red breasted Nuthatch leaving it's shelter this year, an abandoned woodpecker nest hole.

Muskrat entering it's den
Last spring I captured many images of a Muskrat in a local pond.  I learned that the Muskrat is primarily nocturnal and lives in a den it digs out at the edge of a pond.  The den will have several entrance/ escape tunnels when the Muskrat is done.   In the photo above the Muskrat is heading for it's den, as it was uncomfortable with my presence.
Dug-out colony
Last fall I discovered this colony of homes of simple dugouts around a single tree.  I didn't see the animals that live here.  Ground squirrels perhaps?

This home may have started out as a woodpecker hole, which was then enlarged.  It has since been abandoned, but I found nesting materials inside.
Under a tree

I know that Squirrels will often dig a home amongst and under the roots of trees, but this one was quite large leaving me to speculate about which animal may have lived here.


Dec 14, 2011

One second with Nature: December

The pond

Dec 8, 2011

What Woodpeckers provide

Pileated Woodpecker

I love Woodpeckers and will often stop and just watch them quietly whenever I get the chance.  The things that all Woodpeckers do naturally, provide, not only for their young, but for other wildlife species as well.

Northern Flicker
Aside from ridding trees of a plague of insects, they also build homes which, when abandoned serve as homes for other birds and wildlife.  Or when they dig deeply while mining for beetles, larvae and other bugs, the resulting hole may also become a home for another small bird or creature.
Nuthatch in an abandoned Woodpecker home
Squirrel feasting on tree sap

Some species of Woodpecker, such as the Yellow-bellied sapsucker also provide sustenance.  When they bore their holes in a circular pattern around the trunk to glean the sap of a tree, the sap keeps flowing for some time after the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has gone.  This then becomes a source of food for other birds, such as the Hummingbird, as well as other wildlife.

Yellow bellied spapsucker

Pileated Woodpecker and Blue Jay

The Pileated Woodpecker not only digs insects out of the bark of live trees, but will also excavate fallen trees in various stages of decay, exposing nests of insects and grubs in the process.  When he does, other creatures  benefit.  And they know it, as shown by the photo above, where not only one, but several Blue Jays waited as he let the wood chips fly.


Dec 2, 2011

Pest control and alternatives to poison

Mechanical owl

In my post on the "Unintentional side effects of poison" a couple of weeks ago, I showed how more than one species of bird or wildlife can perish when we use poison as the means to control pest species such as Mice and Pigeons.  However, pest control, especially for health reasons, is unfortunately necessary.  What isn't, is the use of poison to achieve it because, as it turns out, there are many alternatives available.

The mechanical owl, shown in the photo on the left, was put in place just recently to discourage Pigeons, as well as a pair of Ravens that had nested inside the tower it is perched on this year.  The owl must have a motion sensor attached to it, because when I saw one of the Ravens attempt to land on the top of the tower yesterday, I heard the voice of an owl and, although the owl itself didn't move, the Raven veered off in alarm.   I haven't seen any Pigeons perched at the top since it was installed.  According to my research there are several different versions of a device just like this, that can be installed which gives off the sound of a predator's call or certain types of sounds disliked intensely by specific pest species such as Mice.

There are also several other simple devices that can used to keep birds from landing on buildings, such as sharply slanted edging.  Another is called a bird jolt, which is a flat strip of material installed much like a runner on the edges of a rooftop. This device gives a bird a slight, harmless jolt of electricity to condition it to stay away.  Flat rooftops, or any flat surface, can also be decorated with an object called a bird spider.  It moves with the breeze and startles birds away.  Other objects, devices and methods include mesh barriers, climbing barriers and all natural, non-toxic liquid or pellet scent repellants and more.

Not only are these pest control methods humane and effective, they prevent the death of other innocent species.  Simple preventative measures such as these can even be used around your home keeping your pets and children safe accidentally poisoning.  More can be learned at the following links and other such sites: