Birds Archive

General update

Posted June 1, 2015 By Ruth

Our weather has been decidedly screwy.  After a record breakingly cold winter we were all looking forward to spring.  Instead we got summer with the rare “cold spring” day tossed in as a sop.  Though we’re not breaking the high temp records we’re coming close to them.  And with 90% humidity no one’s happy about it.  To top it off it’s been incredibly dry.  Normally we spend the month of May barely able to mow the yard (and often unable to, in part or in all), due to the shear wetness of the ground.  This year I’ve been having to water my garden.

I discovered that my ankles really are screwed up, but also that wrapping them for the day at work makes a huge difference in my ability to cope.  This is a relief because…..

I’ve been attempting to teach myself to spin.  No, not on a bicycle, I already know how to ride a bike.  Fiber, on a spinning wheel, to create yarn.  Thanks to the generosity of several ladies, both local and several states away, I have both a spindle and a spinning wheel to learn on, as well as a fair bit of pre-processed fiber to play around with during my learning process.  I picked up the process of spinning on the spindle quite quickly.  But the spinning wheel requires me to peddle to keep the wheel turning.  And with my painful ankles that wasn’t happening.  This past week though, after keeping my ankles wrapped for the entire work day for over a week, the pain has been much less, and even almost non-existent, depending on the day.  So I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to do some proper practice on the spinning wheel this week.

Of course, my body isn’t happy unless I’m in SOME sort of pain, or so it seems some days.  Friday, while at work, I knelt down to pull forward some stock on one of the very bottom shelves.  Only to feel as if I’d knelt on a needle the instant my right knee hit the ground.  Standing back up showed no needle, or splinters, or anything else that might cause the feeling, and my skin was un-broken.  However the painful feeling in that spot in that knee persisted.  My knee didn’t swell up at all.  And it hasn’t affected my ability to walk, kneel, or lift.  So I’m hoping that all that happened was that I knelt at a weird angle and so something was strained.  My concern is that I partially tore something.  I guess time will tell.  I did file an accident report at work, just in case it does turn out to be something.  But I hate going through worker’s comp for stuff…..

Apollo is finally properly shedding.  I’ve come to the decision that he is just a delayed shedder.  It seems like many of the other Tibetan Mastiff owners I’ve talked to have half naked dogs by now.  But not Apollo!  Back in mid-March his leg fluff started coming loose, and by mid-April or so his legs were naked and his shoulders were starting to come loose.  And there it stopped.  Just this past week though I’ve finally been able to get actual amounts of fur from his ruff and body.  And that’s been the pattern for him for previous years too.  So I guess this is his normal.  I’m saving the shed fluff again, this time in hopes of being able to spin it myself this year.  See above paragraph about learning to spin!

My seedlings are all in the garden.  Though of course mother nature couldn’t let us escape without a threatened late frost, just because.  Most everything seems to be growing fine despite that though.  The heat is good for somethings I guess!  Unfortunately its not good for the early “sow in the garden before last frost” crops though.  Half my radishes never formed bulbs, and three of them attempted to go to seed when I left them in the ground in hopes that the bulbs would form.  Despite planting lettuce seeds over a span of 3 weeks in hopes of having staggered harvests everything has shot up at once, and I’m picking the early maturing ones as fast as I can in hopes of being able to eat them before they go to seed.  I may go ahead and let some of them go though, since I’ve already harvested more than we’ll eat in the next week.  My Sugar Snap peas are barely a foot high, and have no buds.

Speaking of the garden, I did end up spending another $12 for additional dirt/compost to fill in the beds.

The crocosmia lilies my aunt sent me last year somehow survived our insane winter and have sprouted.  I’m thrilled as they were very pretty last year.  I had to send me some more when she thinned out her patch a couple weeks ago, and have planted them in more spots around the property.  I don’t care that they’ll spread out and fill in.  Infact, I want them to.  I have several corners that are frustrating to mow or otherwise keep trimmed, and I’ve been filling them with Daylilies, and mints, and other such in an attempt to not have to mow them as often, so the crocosmia lilies will fit right in!

The winter, and the dry spring, has definitely screwed with my flowers in general though.  Crocus bloomed on schedule, but the daffodils and tulips ran a solid month late.  And now, though it looks like all my iris sprouted, only half have produced buds.  And of those buds, the stalks are all only about half the height of normal, and many of the buds themselves are flat, as if empty.  I’ve been trying to keep them watered, but they’re in an awkward spot.  And it looks like the winter killed most of the butterfly bushes too.  Only one is showing green, and that only from new shoots from the roots.  The top is completely dead.  

We do appear to have a Bluebird pair nesting in one of the boxes this year.  I’m delighted to see them.  Since the House Sparrows killed the first pair a couple years ago we’ve only seen Bluebirds in passing.  I’ve been putting out mealworms for them, so hopefully they’ll stick around and tell off the Sparrows!

Speaking of birds…..as is usual I put out the hummingbird feeders when the ebird.org reports showed them as having been seen in northern PA.  And was rewarded as usual with hummingbird sightings myself within the next couple weeks.  Now, Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, the only kind we normally get here, are aggressive, territorial, little snots.  Its not unusual for one bird (usually a male) to claim a feeder as HIS, and attempt to keep all other hummers away from it.  This only kinda works, since while he’s driving off one bird another is sneaking a sip.  And like many folks I put out multiple feeders around the property in order to give the rest of the locals a chance for a longer drink.  But the fights that result tend to be very short overall.  This year however a pair of males decided they had to fight to the death over feeder rights (and likely girl rights).  Well, I don’t actually know that it was “to the death” but thats sure what it looked like.  For three days straight, every time I looked out the window, this pair was fighting.  And although I can’t 100% swear it was the same two birds the entire time, it sure looked like it.  They were so engrossed in their fight that I was able to get within feet of the feeders to snap pictures.

Their pattern went like this-

First both would come in for a drink at the same time, eyeing each other carefully over the feeder

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And then, to some unknown signal it would start!

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After a minute or so of fighting one or both would decide it was time for a breather and a drink, but woe betide the one who decided so when they other wasn’t ready

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And round and round they went, utilizing both feeders.  Every minute or two stopping for a drink and a breather before resuming their fight

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I must say it was fascinating to watch!

Merlin

Posted May 4, 2015 By Ruth

I know some folks don’t appreciate birds of prey hunting their bird feeders.  But honestly I enjoy watching them as much as I do the songbirds.

Yesterday afternoon, while waiting for another delivery of dirt, I heard the birds out front start yelling.  I glanced out the window, a saw a pair of birds who appeared to be fighting.  I shrugged it off, it is after all spring……wait, the one bird is a male Red-Winged Blackbird, but what is that!

Grab the camera and manage to catch these:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merlins usually go after prey the size of House Sparrows.  I was very surprised he was able to take off with the Blackbird, but he did it, and headed for a nearby tree for a meal.  Handsome fellow!

Bald Eagle

Posted April 3, 2015 By Ruth

This fellow flew over yesterday while I was out in the yard.  

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I’ve had others fly over, but for various reasons hadn’t gotten a photo.  This one made my day.

Snow!

Posted February 24, 2015 By Ruth

This is the first time since I moved to NY that my parents in MA have more snow on the ground than we do.  But that doesn’t mean we’re slacking here.  We’re just over average snowfall, and since we’ve not had a single (normal) thaw since the snowfall started its almost all still on the ground too.

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Looks so pretty and peaceful doesn’t it…..Well, here’s a photo, taken of the same spot, back on 2-2-15:

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Those orange things are the tops of 5gallon Home Depot buckets that mark out my garden patch there (so we can keep the dogs off it in the winter).  Now go back and look at the first picture again.

Yah.

There’s a reason all that snow is unbroken and smooth.  Its pushing 3ft deep.  Might even be over the 3ft mark at this point actually.  Its hard to be sure since the wind scours the surface constantly.  The drifts are insane.

And COLD.  Did I mention COLD??  Syracuse, the closest major city to me, has broken several cold temp records this winter.  Last Saturday morning the temperature between midnight and 1am dropped to -16(F) before windchill.  And oh yes, there was windchill.  Most days the windchill is dropping the “feels like” temperature at least 20 degrees, and we’ve had drops of up to 40 thanks to the “breeze”.  Its so bad that EVERYONE has ice dams and icicles on their houses this winter.  No matter how well its constructed or what its made of.  Even the steepest of metal roofs can’t shed their loads properly when its this cold.  The local stores can’t keep roof rakes and the Roof Melt tablets in stock, and folks are out on ladders with hammers and chisels trying to keep the ice on their roofs down.

Even Apollo thinks thats cold.  He still wants to go out in it mind, but instead of wanting to stay out he doesn’t argue when we tell him its time to come in either.

Which doesn’t stop him from lounging in the snow when we let him:

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Poor Arty disappears completely when he tries to hop into the snow, and I’m pretty sure he frostbit one of his feet last weekend (we’re keeping an eye on it).  I have booties for him, but they don’t fit well and he really doesn’t care for them, kicks them off almost as soon as he’s out the door.

The wildlife is suffering for it too.  Mind, I’m not complaining, to much, since it means that the insect and rodent populations shouldn’t be as bad come spring.  But the local birds are clearing my feeders (2 of which hold about 5lbs of seed apiece) in less than 2 days at this point.  We had an American Tree Sparrow strike a window and not pick up and recover like normal (considering it was barely above zero I’m surprised ANY of them pick up and recover honestly), so I took it down to the local wildlife rehabber, who said that she’s got lots like him that she’s waiting for a warm spell to release.  This winter has been hard on us all.

In slightly more cheerful news my tomatoes and jalapenos have all sprouted though!

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Golden Eagle—I wish

Posted January 29, 2015 By Ruth

Though I’m not truly a “Birder”, in the sense that I really don’t spend time and effort bird chasing, and only really care about the birds I can see without going out of my way, one of the birds I’d really like to see is a Golden Eagle.  They migrate through the area every spring and fall so its entirely possible that I could, but I’ve never had the time/energy to go “chase” reports to go see one.

Back on Monday a local birder reported (report still listed as un-confirmed on eBird.org which, btw, is an awesome resource for what birds to keep an eye out for in your area if you’re interested in that sort of thing) a juvenile Golden Eagle at a location not far from me, and infact, not even that far out of my normal path for errands.  So Tuesday I made a point of modifying my usual errand run to run by that area twice.

This is the description in the report from Monday:

 

First seen perched in a tree facing me & at some distance & through falling light snow.  Appeared all dark with pale greyish bill. Feathered head ie not a vulture. Then seen flying with dihedral. Bicolor underwing pattern reminiscent of a Turkey Vulture. Pale feather colors probably accentuated because bird was flying over snow-covered ground. Prominent white in tail with dark terminal band. No white in head. Black & white pattern typical of juvenile Golden eagle but the opposite of a juvenile Bald eagle.

 

After checking the listed descriptions and pictures of young Goldens I decided it was possible that he really had seen a Golden, which made it worth my time.  And sure enough, on my way out I spotted this stunning bird that matches the description perfectly. 

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There’s just one teensy little problem…..thats not a young Golden Eagle.

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That is a “dark morph” Rough Legged Hawk.

Stunning bird, very distinctive and eye catching.  But not an eagle.

*sigh*

We’ve got at least one “light morph” Rough Legged Hawk hanging around the area too though, very cool!

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Photo dump

Posted October 27, 2014 By Ruth

Been a while since the last time I posted photos (and even that was mostly garden stuff)….

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And here I was blaming the chipmunks

Posted June 19, 2014 By Ruth

Sunday evening I went out to pick strawberries and found this:

 

(picture actually taken Monday morning)

It looked to me like something with teeth had been at the strawberries.  And every single ripe berry looked like that to some degree.  Oh, there was some obvious bug damage, but THATs not bug damage.

I was mad as heck, sprayed all around the tire with deer/rabbit repellent, and started keeping an extra eye on the strawberry tire.

But I never saw anything except Robins anywhere near it.  Well, maybe they’re coming by at night……

Then today I read this.  Do those damaged strawberries look familiar?  Yah, me too…..guess its a good thing I have bird netting left over from trellising the peas…..

Birds

Posted June 8, 2014 By Ruth

Passing by some fields this week and I caught sight of this:

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Thats a Killdeer chasing off a female Northern Harrier.  There were actually two Killdeer, but I couldn’t get an angle on the 2nd one.  I assume the Harrier came to close to their nest.

 

And I saw my first Pileated Woodpecker:

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Now that I’ve gotten a good look at him I think I’ve actually been seeing him flying around but hadn’t been able to ID him from those glimpses.

 

And I saw my first Indigo Bunting!

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The Bluebirds might not be nesting in any of my boxes but they are in the area at least:

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We set up a second humming bird feeder in the back, the fights over the one in front are fun to watch, but still…..I’ve been slowly working on inching my way closer and closer to it while the hummers feed, and as a result have managed to get some awesome shots out of it:

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I also discovered that at least one of the male Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (the only breed that normal here) thats hanging around is actually gold throated:

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Did some research and it looks like that golden/orange throat isn’t abnormal, but they don’t actually know the cause of it yet.  Theories range from a genetic quirk to feather age to some combination there-of.

Managed to catch some shots of a young Bald Eagle being harassed by some crows, but I won’t post the pictures cause they’re pretty horrid.  I had to get help IDing the birds on them because of the long range and horrid lighting.

Seen Osprey several times.  There’s definitely a nest somewhere not to far south of us, in a straight line over us from the lake, as I’ve now seen an Osprey powering over with a fish headed in direct line flight over my head on several occasions.

The Orioles have completely stopped coming into the feeders.  I haven’t changed what I’m putting out for them, and they’re definitely still hanging around the yard as I see and hear them regularly.  They’re just not coming in to the feeders.  Not sure what happened.

The Ceder Waxwings are back!  Haven’t found any nests yet this year though.

Catching up

Posted May 22, 2014 By Ruth

Not a whole lot going on here.  I’m out of a job again, having finally quit my job at *major retailer who’s not long for this world if they keep doing what they’re doing*, which I should have done a long time ago, but I kept hoping to find something else first.  But I finally decided that I needed to quit before I lost my temper at the store manager again.  Its easier to find a new job when you’ve QUIT your last job vs having been fired from it.

The garden is mostly doing very well.  I’m not sure that the sunflowers and corn are going to make it, not sure what I did wrong there, but I have some guesses, we’ll see I guess.  Everything else is thriving, though I added some bloodmeal to the dirt under the cucumbers and the sugar snap peas yesterday as they were looking a bit yellowish.  We came within a few degrees of a frost just a couple days ago, but everything seems to have survived the experience.

We almost ended up with another Tibetan Mastiff this month.  There’s a breeder in Oregon who has a special needs litter, and as such is struggling to place them into appropriate homes.  The number of folks who can handle TMs is limited.  The number of folks who can handle TMs AND the potential medical costs and needs and heartbreak is even smaller.  Unfortunately we were unable to arrange suitable transport from OR to upstate NY.  Apparently NO ONE flies direct flights from OR to any of the upstate NY airports.  I found 1 flight direct into JFK, but thats a 5-6hr drive each way depending on traffic.  My parents who’re in MA offered to pick up the pup at the Boston airport and drive her to us, but even there, direct flights were almost non-exsistant, and none met the needed requirements.  At that point I started looking at what it would cost for me to fly out there and pick her up and fly back (that way we could do a layover), but it would have been $950 just for the plane tickets, another $200 to check the puppy as baggage (she’s to big to go as a carryon), plus crating and medical cert costs.  And since I can realistically expect to have to drop at LEAST that much money on vet appointments within the pup’s first month here I just didn’t have that to spare TOO.

On that same note, if you’re up to a Tibetan Mastiff (think bigger fluffier Akita with extra guardian), and up to the potential medical and heartbreak please let me know, I’ll put you in touch with the breeder.

On a happier note, last week while taking the dogs on their property rounds we discovered that the warblers had invaded the pines on the back lines.  There were a TON of little brightly colored birds hopping around in the pines.  They’re such little jumpy little things, I struggled to photograph and ID them, but I managed to catch solid looks at a Yellow Warbler:

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A Chestnut Sided Warbler:

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And a Magnolia Warbler:

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The late migrating Snowy Owl who was hanging around a nearby farm finally moved on, but not before I managed to snatch one last picture:

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This year I decided to experiment with putting out orange slices on a platform feeder to see if I could entice in the Orioles, and boy did I ever!

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The above are all Baltimore Orioles, and I’ve been enjoying watching them.  Though I could have done without the one male who kept trying to attack his reflection in the window…..

What really made it all worth while though was this bird:

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That, ladies and gentlemen, is a female Orchard Oriole!  Not technically rare here, but often hard to spot, and I’d never seen one before.  She’s been back a few times since, but so far no sign of a male, cross your fingers for me!

White Goldfinch

Posted May 6, 2014 By Ruth

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Ok, he’s not truly white.  He’s got just the faintest tint of yellow to his feathers.

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He’s not albino, if he was he wouldn’t have the black feathers, and he’d have red eyes.  Due to the faint gold tint he isn’t technically leucistic.  So I’m wandering between a weird mutation and a diet problem causing him to grow in feathers in the lighter shade this year (we didn’t have an abnormally pale Goldfinch hanging around for the winter).  But he’s still cool to look at!