Birds Archive

Baby birds! And updates

Posted June 11, 2016 By Ruth

We’ve been watching a pair of Song Sparrows flit around the area by our back deck all spring.  This week, on several occasions I noticed that they appeared to be carrying something in their beaks as they did so, and NOT nesting materials.

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So yesterday, since I had some time, I started the search for the nest.  Partially out of curiosity, but also so I’d know where to avoid with the dogs once the babies were fledging.  I found it:

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It’s hard to tell in that picture, but there’s four babies in that nest.  And it’s about two long steps from our back porch stairs.  Talk about a bad spot for fledglings!  At least it’s in a flower patch we’re not going to mow over…..

Yesterday I finished running the soaker hose throughout the garden.  150ft total.  Two hookups though, one with a 50ft hose and one with the remaining 100.  Both worked perfectly.  Now I shouldn’t have to fiddle with it till either fall or if I can find enough cheap fittings to change out the hose over the pathways.  There’s something addictive about this “being prepared” thing though.  Four 55 gallon barrels should water my garden for a couple weeks no problem, and this area is very unlikely to go without rain for any longer than that.  But I’m finding myself looking at the two unmodified downspouts and debating the addition of more barrels.  Heck, I could add a 3rd barrel to each of the current downspouts no problem!

The Black Icicle tomatoes are now several inches over the top of their tomato cages.  I guess I’m going to have to rig a 2nd layer of some kind.  The Black Plums usually end up over the tops of their cages, but not till closer to August, and then not by more than a foot or so, so I can weave a stake into the cage and tie them to that.  I don’t think that’s going to work for the Icicles!

I hilled the shortest of the potato plants, but most of them were tall enough by yesterday that I didn’t see the point.  I’ll pick up some straw this week and just do a layer of that next.

There’s several very awkwards spots right around the house that are a pain to mow, but for various reasons aren’t prime spots for plantings either.  One of them is in the corner between the bedroom and the living room addition.  Its on the south-east side, so it gets sun till about noon, but up until we put on the gutters it was excessively wet as well.  Now with the gutters on the house it’s just wet.  Former owners had an azalea in the sunniest spot of the corner (the outside edge), and a happy hosta in the middle of it, but that left a 4 or 5 foot wide stretch right in the corner with nothing but weeds.  The azalea wasn’t thrilled either, so last fall I pulled it out and replaced it with a hibiscus.  As for the rest, I have, at various times, tried planting a few different things there with no success.  Nothing thrived.  Even the daylilies had to be transplanted out after half of them disappeared.  Now, with the gutters on the house I started looking closer at the hosta that was there.  I’m not a huge hosta fan.  But if the one is thriving……started looking closer at the hostas for sale at work, and this week came home with 8 pots of 4 different varieties (two pots of each) and planted them around that area.  Cross fingers for me!

 

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Garden

Posted June 1, 2016 By Ruth

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Buena Mulata Pepper plant, and flower.  Pretty little thing!

 

Arty of course was delighted to help me in the garden:

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He was only interested in the potato bed too, and not for digging either, he just wanted to stand in it.  Go figure….

And there’s a House Wren building a nest inside the pump head for the old manual water well pump.  I know we don’t  use it much, but we DO try to keep it functional……thats going to be a fun one to clean out!

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General updates

Posted May 30, 2016 By Ruth

My rain barrel system that I was putting together when I caught myself with the drill bit is up and running.  Course, it helps when you remember to close the drain taps before you try to fill them.  But I’ve got one barrel full, and two more half full, so I’ll take it.

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Now to set up the soaker watering system so I can use that water!  BTW, that scratch is well healed now, just a shiny scar down my arm.  Though you can still see the marks from the bandaids too.

Good god Robins are stupid birds…..ever since we put in solar power the Robins have been determined to nest on top of the switch box for the panels.  Several home made deterrents failed and we resorted to bird spikes to keep them off the box.  It was a bad place for several reasons, including that in the event of a fire we would need access that box in a hurry.  Plus it was easily accessed by a pair of dogs.  A week or two ago a Robin tried to build a nest on top of a tiny light fixture on the side of the garage, equally accessible to the dogs, though at least a few more feet higher in the air.  I went to go dig out the spare bird spikes, but by the time I got back I discovered that the nest had fallen off the light!  Over the next 4 days the scene was repeated, Robin would build a nest, and an hour later it’d fall off the light.  The bird finally gave up.  Yesterday I found where it had moved too.

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Those boards are the remains of the A-frame I used to cover the broccoli over the winter.  The nest is nose height on Apollo, along a path we walk along several times a day with the dogs.  Its under the edge of the pool, which is only about 4feet high, which is why we’d not noticed it till I happened to look in the right direction while gardening.

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To late to try to convince the bird to nest elsewhere, we’ll just have to watch out for the nestlings I guess.

The weather has been an almost literal killer lately.  We’re pushing record breaking heat, temps in the upper 80’s to even low 90’s, and harsh sunny.  Very little rain, what there is has been only in scattered showers, or thunderstorms.  So I’ve been watering the garden daily.  Course, then there’s me, working in the garden dept of said big box store, during the Memorial day sale madness.  Normally SPF 55 is all I need, but when its this hot even reapplying it twice throughout the day isn’t enough.  I came home from work Saturday decidedly pink.  On top of almost collapsing from the heat despite drinking water constantly.  I spent my last two hours on Saturday inside the building doing non-difficult tasks after that.  Yesterday I picked up some of the sun screen that is supposedly sweat proof, and while I was at it made I picked one that was 70 SPF.  Gotta find a hat I can stand to wear at work that’s legal for the dress code too.  They’re predicting a hotter than average summer, so I’m going to need it.

Yesterday (Sunday) started out equally hot and nasty, but mid-afternoon a string of storms rolled by and we even got some rain, cooling things off enough to make it possible to work outside.  I got the 2nd level of the potato bed on and the potatoes mostly hilled:

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Here’s a shot of the entire garden from a few days ago:

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Summer bird feeders

Posted May 5, 2016 By Ruth

I was chatting with a coworker at work about bird feeders, several weeks ago, and she commented that it was about time to pull them in for the summer.  She couldn’t decide if she was horrified that I left feeders out all summer, or horrified at the birds she was missing out on….

This week we had our first of the year Baltimore Oriole

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And our first of the year Rose Breasted Grosbeak

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And infact, before I left for work this morning there were three male Grosbeaks at the feeder, and I just missed a photo of a male Ruby Throated Hummingbird at the hummer feeder!

I do cut back on how much seed I put out.  In the winter I do a Black Oil Sunflower seed feeder (holds about 5lbs of seed), a mixed seed feeder (home made mix, again about 5 lbs of seeds), a nijer feeder and a suet feeder (real suet, not the store bought bird suet blocks).  In the summer I cut back to just the sunflower seeds, and keep the nijer feeder only till birds stop emptying it (though one year I had a Downy Woodpecker who claimed the thing), plus at least two hummer feeders, and I load the suet cage with orange halves (as pictured above).

Speaking of Downy Woodpeckers, not only have I had them claim the nijer feeder, but they’ll eat fruit (like the Oriole’s oranges), AND drink from the hummingbird feeders!

(oh, and yes I took the photo of the Grosbeak into work today on my cellphone to show off to my co-worker!)

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Bluebirds!

Posted March 20, 2016 By Ruth

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They were hanging around earlier this week.  I ran down to the local place that carries live mealworms in hopes of convincing them to stay, and later that day they cleaned out the mealworm feeder.  So I placed a bulk order for live mealworms, and put another bunch from the local store in the feeder.

Course, I haven’t seen the Bluebirds since.  But I know they’re in the area, so I’ll keep at least a few mealworms in the feeder and keep an eye out!

Your time waster for the day

Posted September 24, 2015 By Ruth

Cornell has a new Hummingbird bird cam.  Its located in western TX, and I’m MASSIVELY enjoying seeing types of hummingbirds I’ve only heard of before.  Here in NY pretty much all we see are Ruby Throats.  Lovely birds.  But I envy the variety other parts of the country get!

So far while watching I’ve managed to ID a Magnificent Hummingbird:

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A Rufous Hummingbird:

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A Lucifer Hummingbird:

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And I MIGHT have seen a White Eared Hummingbird, though I didn’t get a screen shot to be sure.

 

SO COOL!!!!

 

If you have the time switch it to full screen and enjoy!

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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