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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Feb 23, 2013

The first hint of spring

Robin amongst the House Finches
I was sitting talking to my daughter on Wednesday this week, when I saw some birds landing in the tree out back, in the neighbors yard.  I immediately grabbed my camera because there haven't been very many birds in that tree all winter.  There are no bird feeders out back you see, although just down the lane there are some wild apple trees.  The first thing I noticed was that the birds were mostly house finches.  But one or two was twice as big as they are, although all I caught by way of sight was a flash of black. 
Bright red breast

I nearly danced a jig when I finally got a good look through the tangle of branches and my camera's lens, and recognized the birds as Robins.  Here in the city when the Robins arrive it signals the beginning of spring.  Next to arrive should be the Crows, followed by Ducks, Geese, Black birds and Hawks.

A Robin in Profile

Robin at the top
Other signs of spring are rising temps and melting snow, and nesting Magpies.  Although, I haven't seen any Robins since, I can't wait to hear  them sing every morning as the sun rises in the sky.  Seeing them also has me dreaming of what possible new bird species I might see this spring and remembering the joys of discovery from migrations in the past.   Anticipation really is sweet.


Feb 16, 2013

Fascinating Fungi

I love watching birds and wildlife, but I also like to explore nature.  It was one of my main pastimes as a child, one I rediscovered a few years ago.  Nature never disappoints, there is always something new and delightful to discover.  Take the many different species of fungi for example, they can be found no matter the season it seems.

Before I go on with photos and descriptions, here is a definition of the word fungi:   Fungi (fŭn'jī), kingdom of heterotrophic single-celled, multinucleated, or multicellular organisms, including yeasts, molds, and mushrooms

A floral cluster
 Mostly they grow on the ground, beneath weeds and trees, or hidden by tall grasses.

Little red caps
Some bloom on fallen logs, these come in various colors and shapes.  The one in the above photo looks like a little red cap.  The one below looks more like coral from beneath the ocean.

mimicking coral
Some looks like foam, that seems to bubble up from beneath the surface of the wood.

Beneath the snow
I have seen fungi growing on the branches of live trees, or on the trunk in a cascade of growth.  I have seen it at the top of a tree stump in a sheet of white, much like a blanket of snow, only to run off the side where it formed small, fragile white shelves.

There are of course the regular mushroom shapes as well as puffballs, and many others I'm sure.  Some fungi are edible, some are poisonous and some are even medicinal in nature.  Many more are nature's recycling agents.

Faery steps
My very favorite fungi is shown above, the ones that I call faery steps, and grow shelf like along the trunk of both live and dead standing trees.


Feb 15, 2013

One second with Nature times two

In late spring last year I took these two photos.  I am eagerly awaiting spring, so I couldn't decide which photo to post.

Moon just after dawn

The photo below is one of my favorites and the new leaves are glowing gently in the morning light.

A world of green

Feb 10, 2013

Among the Bohemians

Eating snow

I was determined to get some closer shots of the Bohemian waxwings flocking in my neighborhood this week.  I was also hoping to catch some of their clownish antics in addition to their beautiful coloring.  I spotted them almost immediately in the same location as last time, but this time I followed their flight into a part of the neighborhood I have never been.

I was astonished by the sheer number of mountain ash trees here.  There was at least half a dozen healthy trees, containing an abundance of fruit, within an area containing only three or four yards.  There was also plenty of shelter; places that the birds could escape to in the event of the arrival of a predator.

Waxwing greed
This feeder is mine:)
Bohemian waxwing scarfing it down
Beautiful pose

However these waxwings were not the only creatures enjoying the abundance in this tiny area of the neighborhood.

House sparrow female

The squirrels were chasing each other around this tree.  Unfortunately I didn't capture the action.  Next time perhaps.

Red-breasted nuthatch
The Nuthatches and Blue jays were enjoying the many feeders, that are also about in this same area.  This nuthatch was sneaking up on the feeder at the end of the fence.  He was taking the long route, first clinging to the stucko on the side of the house, then the window frame, before landing on the fence. 

The biggest surprise of the day, however, were the Pine Grosbeaks that I spotted among the Bohemian waxwings.

I only spotted the Pine Grosbeaks, because one of the males was singing a most delightful and unique song.

Two female Pine Grosbeaks

The Pine Grosbeaks were not eating the fruit.  They were after seed and unopened buds at the end of branches, which didn't grow last year.

Pine Grosbeak female

Female nibbling on a seed
The females are dull in their color, a sort of yellow green and gray; a nice camouflage color, but still beautiful.  The male below was very bright red, except for his black wings.  He really stood out against the blue of the sky and the naked branches of the trees.

Pine Grosbeak male
Male Grosbeak taking flight

The Grosbeaks are very shy.  I would have loved to get a closer view and photo.  I'm hoping to see them again soon for another photographic opportunity.


Feb 3, 2013

The Raven family

Ravens in the tree top
Roughly two years ago I wrote a post about the Raven's nesting very near my home and their four offspring, they had four more offspring last year and I know they are nesting again right now because I have seen both parents collecting nesting materials.  A few weeks ago, I saw the Raven pair in flight with all eight of their offspring.  I recognized the first four only because one of these birds was, and still is so endearingly clumsy.  I didn't get much of a chance to observe the second set of offspring last year, so I know very little about them, aside from the fact that they were occasionally babysat by the older four siblings.  Are you confused yet?

While the parents are busy reconstructing their nest, their eight offspring can occasionally be observed socializing or playing together on the wind, most especially at dawn or dusk.  This past week I watched the oldest four play in the little forest for quite some time.  Aside from the clumsy Raven, one of the other Raven youngsters has a very deep, distinct voice, while the third is very curious, and the fourth somewhat nervous.

Clumsy Raven almost missed the mark
Struggling to right himself

They seemed to enjoy the snow fall and really love the gusting wind.  Apparently they also, enjoy a game of chase the tail of a Magpie occasionally, or playing tag with Blue Jays:) 

Curious Raven-wondering what I'm doing
Nervous Raven takes off at the slightest sound

Two of these older offspring even played at house a little last summer, when they practiced building a nest and protecting territory.

Magpie visits Raven
Raven's playmates
I only wish I could capture a photo of all four of these Ravens together.  I have been watching this Raven family for almost six years now, beginning with the parents when they first paired off.  Many people don't like Ravens, but I find that they are intelligent, playful, curious and quite charming, and I know that they recognize me when they see me. I have seen a Raven pair teach their young how to ride the currents of the wind, I have seen them feed and comfort their young.  I have seen them protecting their young by engaging Hawks and Eagles in the sky above their nests.  How could I not love these birds?