Posts Tagged With: mammals too

And now for something completely different…

I signed up for the August Postcard Poetry Fest — write a short poem per day, copy it onto a postcard, and send it off into the wild. 31 little poems, how hard could it be?

HARD. I hadn’t written a poem since college… well, the occaisional haiku, a few lascivious limericks. But this exercised mental muscles I hadn’t worked in years. But I struggled through. So for the next 31 days, in addition to my regular birdy posts, I’ll be putting my poems here with a photo or two. Here goes!

‘on a hot afternoon’

the cat melts

into the kitchen floor

a pool of creamsicle

an inch deep

only her tail alive

waving, waving

calling the wind

calling the storm

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Categories: Mammals too, postcard poems | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Ithaca is birdeous, too. Or, frequently distracted by birds.

For five years now I’ve wanted to spend some time birding around Ithaca but we always seem to be in a rush, dropping kids off or picking them up. So when Will’s graduation was near we decided to spend a few extra days, booking a cabin in Robert H. Treman State Park.

You have to drive across the creek to enter the campground.

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The first afternoon, after unpacking, we lounged about listening to the falls and forest sounds. A pair of Carolina Wrens chattered nonstop, fluttering from tree to roof and under the rafters, I realized the squeaking was coming from a nest and one by one the fledglings popped out, bounced off the ground and almost immediately fluttered up to anything they could cling to: a tree trunk, the side of the cabin, or ME! One tiny bundle of fluff clung to my shirt for a minute before gathering the energy to take off into the hobblebush, and another used me as a rest stop while flying between trees.

Eventually five young wrens had emerged and the parents lured them away — all but one, the bird on the left above. It was the last one out of the nest, last to get off the ground at all, and as long as I watched was never able to fly more than a few feet. When I saw it last it was hunkered down in some undergrowth. The parents by then had stopped calling to it and moved off with its stronger sibs.

One afternoon we walked part way up the Rim Trail — we had a deadline that day, so only went halfway up and had to pick up the pace on the way downhill. There was still time for a long look at a Scarlet Tanager overhead, a satisfying look after trying to catch a glimpse the day before at Buttermilk Falls. How something the color of a firetruck can be so hard to see among green leaves! But this guy decided to be generous with his beauty.

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After this we really did had to hurry, so when I saw a warbler with a yellow face and black throat, I mentally checked it off as “Black-throated Green, seen a million of ’em,” and kept going. We were almost back to the cabin when I slapped my forehead — bright yellow face, black at the back and top of the head — damn, I’d charged right past a Hooded Warbler, the best look I’d ever had.

Of course we had another reason to be in Ithaca besides birds and hikes…

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…though birds made an appearance at graduation too. One of the resident Red-tails soared overhead and landed on a light pole to rearrange its lunch.

A model plane equipped with a camera took aerial photography of the festivities.

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I kept mistaking it for another hawk.

And here’s our star of the show:

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William L. Feldhusen, BA, Math.

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Mammals too, Nests | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wile E.

For all the nights loud with coyotes sounding their barbaric yawp, this is the first time I’ve seen one around here.

 

It was noshing at something in the grass — a mouse or vole nest, perhaps.

Categories: Mammals too | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

There are cat/bird interactions…

… and then there are CAT/BIRD interactions.

Hunter (that’s his name and he lives up to it) had a squirrel. Had, until someone dropped in for dinner…

©Dan Miller

©Dan Miller

Ginger, the cat inside, is saying, “Dude, you’re on your own here.”

©Dan Miller

©Dan Miller

Photos taken by Dan Miller. Thanks!

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Feeder birds, Mammals too, OMG bird | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lawn-B-Gone

At some point, it’s going to sink in to this guy that what he has here is not a lawn but a wet meadow. Hopefully before his tractor sinks in first.

Here at Kestrel Hill we’ve taken on a long-term lawn reduction program. It’s simple, really — whatever sprouts up, mow around. In 20 years or so that cone planted by a squirrel will be a 15′ pine. Birds will merrily poop seeds everywhere. Before you know it, you’ve got a young jungle of honeysuckle, autumn olive, brambles, and multiflora rose. Oh, and poison ivy. Did you know it has delicious berries? As far as birds are concerned it does, and they’re happy to spread it all around. And when that happens —

I’ve been called a chainsaw gardener. That’s not quite accurate. I don’t own a chainsaw. But I do have a collection of clippers loppers and saws sized from snipping individual leaves, to ‘OK, sucker, you’re goin’ down!’ Everything gets hauled off to our brush row, currently over 4 feet tall and some 30 feet long, edging the squidgy border of the swamp. That’s where I saw a mink one spring day, catching  and cacheing frogs.

We leave enough and more for catbirds to build their untidy nests, for rabbits and woodchucks to hide in, for snakes and mice and stray cats. I harvest a handful of raspberries and leave the rest for the critters. I should probably cut away the vines helping to pull down the old shed, but then I’d be depriving the hummingbirds of their trumpet vines, and waxwings, robins, and turkeys of their wild grapes. Yes, I mow around milkweed. (Not thistles, though. Those suckers goin’ down).

Who needs a lawn, anyway? As long as it’s green and painless to walk across, that’s good enough for me.

This mild-mannered rant inspired by this post at 10000 Birds and my friends’ adoption of new lawnmowers.

Categories: Mammals too, scenery, Why? | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Life and death behind the U-Haul building (trigger warning: small animal death)

I stopped by Cohoes Flats this morning in search of the Little Gulls (more on that later). Dipped on the gulls, and as I was returning to my car I saw a Fish Crow with something white in its beak. It was hop-flying around a mowed lawn, pursued by a …rabbit? I couldn’t figure out why a rabbit would be dashing after a crow for a chunk of discarded sandwich — then I heard the squealing. The crow had a rabbit kit.

As long as the baby kept crying, the mother tried to scare the crow into releasing it. She charged at it spooking the bird into short flights and driving it off its prey more than once. Oddly, she didn’t then approach the crying kit to carry it back to the nest, allowing the crow to grab it again.  At last after several long minutes the kit was silent and stopped moving, and the crow landed and began pecking. It was immediately joined by two more Fish Crows, both squawking, gaping, and fluttering their wings. The first bird stuffed them for a while before abandoning the carcass to the young birds.

As soon as the baby rabbit stopped squealing, the mother ceased her aggressive behavior. She sat staring at the crows for a while, scrubbing her face with her front paws — displacement activity, maybe. She moved a few feet away and hunkered down on her form* again, until the crow dove at her, driving her away and snatching another kit. This one was also killed and fed to the hungry nestlings — a shorter process this time with fewer charges from the rabbit as though she was getting discouraged.

Once again, and the crow took a third kit. Perhaps this was the last of her young, because after a few perfunctory charges the rabbit retreated to a brushy hedge and I lost sight of her.

The crows took off too, and I crossed the field to find a circle of dry grass and rabbit fur. All the young ones were gone.

I didn’t take any photos while this was all happening. I was tempted to intervene, to run over flailing my arms and shouting, but why? Young rabbits die so young crows can thrive and be eaten in turn. That’s life, and death, and a rabbit’s life is no more valuable than a crow’s, and neither is mine.

There’s a rabbit in the yard right now, about half grown, busily nibbling a daylily leaf. Its eyes are half-closed against the sun but its nose and ears are in constant radar movement. A tap of my finger against the window, and it freezes. I relish its presence, its apparent pleasure in the day and abundant food. I’d feel much the same if a fox pounced on it to satisfy its own hunger. All as it should be. If only we big-brained masters of all creation found it so easy to figure out our place in the web, how to move through it without snapping threads and destroying the intricate connections we can’t even see.

 

 

 

*That’s the term for a rabbit nest. A squirrel nest is a drey. Now you know!

Categories: bird behavior, Mammals too, Why? | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Squirrel hands

I’ve bought two feeders lately that actually seem to work at keeping squirrels hungry.

This is an inexpensive Ace hardware store version of a Droll Yankee feeder. At only $12.99 it’s doing a good job at protecting sunflower seed.

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I bought this in the fall at Walmart, of all places. It was a bit pricier — maybe $25?– but it’s hilarious and a bit sad watching the squirrels try to chew through metal. Notice the shiny spots where they tried!

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What mystifies me with both of these is squirrel feeding behaviour. Watch them and you’ll see they use their paws to hold food. But they don’t use their hands to reach into the feeder ports! It seems so odd that they don’t just reach in and scrape seeds out. Wouldn’t that be a valuable tactic for raiding food caches?

*sigh* OK, I obviously need to do some research on The Enemy.

Also, Tractor Supply Store! 25 lbs of thistle seed for only $25.99! That is a tremendous deal! They also carry 50 lbs for $50, but I know if I buy that all the insatiable Redpolls will leave town. A much better buy than the ‘bargain’ price at the supermarket that turned out to be 8% red millet, useless to bird and beast.

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Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Mammals too, Tools of the trade | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thursday encounters

Kingfishers are usually restless fast-moving birds, so it’s rare to have on sit still, not only long enough for me to photograph it, but long enough for me to go into the house and get my camera!

  

I stopped on a back road to watch a family of Eastern Bluebirds on the power line when a flash of black and rust ran by. A large tomcat chased a Red Fox into a field, then stood hunchbacked, tail lashing, as the fox sat avoiding eye contact. A few minutes of uneasy detente punctuated by deep cat-growls, and the fox trotted off into the underbrush and the victorious cat strutted home.

Just before dusk I drove to the Albany Pine Bush nature center to watch for migrating Common Nighthawks. Two streaked overhead as I arrived, and a third repeatedly circled over the trees at the parking lot’s edge. There must have been a cloud of delicious insects. As the sun set a sharp-eyed watcher observed a huge distant flock of circling birds, at least 50 of them. They were too far off to get any details, but we pieced together enough (sharp wing-points as seen by scope, quicker wing-beats than hawks or crows, just ‘not flying like’ broadwings which also form kettles) to be fairly confident they were Nighthawks. Between one breath and another, the whole flock disappeared.

Otherwise things were quiet there, with only a flyby Kestrel and two Woodcocks in addition to a few expected birds settling down for the night. Off to the east, someone was getting an impressive thunderstorm.

The road to Kestrel Hill was damp and frogs hopped, called, and died. A raccoon munched on the little bodies, stopping only to glare at me when I coasted to a stop to watch him. I drove on, and he returned to foraging.

Categories: Bird photos, Mammals too | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Spotted under the apple tree

Birds aren’t the only babies in my yard. This fawn was browsing on Virginia Creeper while its mother stayed just out of sight in the sumacs.

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Categories: Mammals too | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Bird, Mammal, Herp

A few random critters.

The first Common Loon of the fall season landed on Snyder’s Lake this week. The weather is supposed to be beautiful this weekend, though, so the powerboats will probably be back out unnerving the waterfowl. It’s a bit early for the migrant ducks to come through but I’ll be scanning the lakes starting now.

Take my word for it, OK? That's a loon.

A few nights ago my vampire son heard a racket outside in the middle of the night and found five raccoons were attacking the feeders. A few nights later they managed to dislodge the big suet cage and bring it down. I’m surprised they didn’t drag it off somewhere. And as clever as their paws are, they were baffled by a simple twist-tie securing the cage!

One hangs from the sunflower feeder, while another waits forit to fall.

Spring Peepers are the most persistent calling frogs. The guys are in the mood for love until there’s frost on the pond, and they’ll start up again in a February thaw. The general dampness all last month has brought them onto my windows almost every night. When I shine a light near them, it attracts small insects and it’s hunting time.

Hyla autumnus, the Fall Peeper. Body size about 1".

 

 

Categories: Bird photos, Mammals too, the occasional herp | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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