Saturday, January 31, 2009

Snow dogs

Hello blogging friends. Unfortunately we are still without electricity, but we finally got our generator going for some back-up power. Many days without internet access means I got very behind on reading everyone else's blogs, so I'm going to try to get caught up with that over the next few days. In the meantime, I leave you with some pics I snapped of the dogs today. Since they have husky in their blood, they really do seem to love the snow.

Both of the dogs like to eat snow, which I think is funny.

As a result, Emmett has a little snow mustache. Got snow?

Jupiter decided to take a little sun nap this morning. We were all happy to see the sun today.

Sometimes the lighting, the subject and the camera settings all work out right (read: I got lucky!). Something about this shot makes Jupiter look very wild to me, even though she's docilely trying to catch some zzzz's.
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Friday, January 30, 2009

Squirrel tells a story

Hello. I am the cute, sweet, demure little squirrel who comes to visit Heather's feeders sometimes.

My favorite feeder to visit right now is the platform feeder, which I can reach nicely from the railing!

Lemme see what I can find in here...

Ah yes, I found a very nice little seed here. Nom nom nom nom...

No, I'm sorry, but I'm not going to share it with you!

Sometimes I stretch just a little bit too far in search of my spoils.

And I start to lose my footing.

No problem! I'll just try again!

Oof - face plant! At least this time I landed on the railing instead of in the tree.

Maybe it will work better if I just get in the durn thing!

I think maybe that lady with the camera can't see me if I get behind these metal things....

But just in case she can, I will show her my best side!

Oh dear, I think I had too much birdy seed to eat... I think I might be sick. But don't worry, I'll be back tomorrow!

Service interrrupted

Hi everyone. I just wanted to apologize for the lack of live Feedercam over the past few days. Our area of Southeast Ohio has been hit hard by a snow and ice storm, and we have no power at the house, so that means no cam.

Luckily I pre-scheduled several days of posts just before the storm hit, but that cache is just about to run out, so if you don't hear anything from me over the weekend, it means I either still don't have power and/or wasn't able to get to a someplace where I could get online.

The sun is shining today, but we're not supposed to get above freezing until Sunday, so it will be a while before all of the ice and snow relieves our trees and power lines of the heavy burden they have been forced to bear for the past several days.

I took lots of pictures of all the ice and snow, so I'll certainly have plenty to share when things get back to normal. Hope to get caught up with all of you soon!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

How many Cardinals can you see?

Here's a birdy verion of Where's Waldo for you. How many Cardinals do you see in this picture? Hint: one of the birds in the photo is not a Cardinal.

Have fun!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Plume Zoom 5, answer revealed

I almost hated to wait until Wednesday to post the results of this week's Plume Zoom, since the answer is obviously not suspenseful to ANY of you who ventured your guess this week. Congratulations to all of you, nicely done.
The mystery bird is, of course, the Eastern Towhee. According to the Cornell Lab's All About Birds site, the Eastern Towhee became its own species in 1995. Until then it was "lumped in" with its western cousin, the Spotted Towhee. I think before the division they were simply called Rufous-sided Towhees.

Ground feeder and hopper extraordinaire, one of the identifying behaviors of the Towhee is the way it hops backward and scratches the ground to uncover its food. Other ground feeders do this, too, but the Towhee being larger than Juncos or most other sparrows, they make a little more of a show of it. They can be rather easily identified by ear as they sometimes say their name - "tow-HEE!" I find in the spring and summer months I hear them happily "tow-HEE"ing away, and making lots of racket working their way through the leaves, only to have a difficult time actually locating them. They also make a sort of "cheWINK" sound, and let us not forget their trademark song of "Drink your TEEEEEEEE!"

Three Towhees all lined up. So far this winter I think I've counted as many as 8 Towhees at one time.

The females are differentiated from the males in appearance by having brown feathers where the males have black feathers. I happen to like the female's coloration - I think it's quite pretty. Like this little girl here.
Looks like I'm going to have to step it up a notch for the next round and give you all a bit more of a challenge!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Feeder video

We had some major snowfall last night (major for us, anyway - 4", maybe?), and of course this brought lots of activity to our feeders today. I was able to catch a quick video of some of the happenings this morning. First you'll see a female Carndinal who shows some interest in one of the pine cone feeders, and at the end a Blue Jay snags a nut from the peanut feeder. Ever-present is the squirrel on the platform feeder. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Plume Zoom #5

We're well overdue for a new edition of Plume Zoom, wouldn't you say?

As always, leave your guesses as to what species this is in the comments. I will reveal the answer and full photo on Wednesday evening. Can you wait that long?
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Life bird: Golden-crowned Kinglet

Woohoo! My 2nd life bird of 2009! I made the ID on this while Dave and I were hiking this past weekend in the Desonier State Nature Preserve in southeastern Athens County.

I had heard the high-pitched squibble (I know, not a word, but that's what the sound reminds me of - a squibble) of this bird several times in the past few weeks during lunch-time walks in town near my office, but I had never been able to get a good look at the bird. I knew it was tiny and yellow, and my first guess was some kind of warbler.

When I heard the "squibbling" while we were hiking, I KNEW it was the same species that I had heard on my lunch-time walks, so I was very happy to have my binoculars on hand, allowing me to see the bird close enough to identify field marks. I was shouting out markings to Dave in case I couldn't remember it all by the time I got home to our Peterson's Guide: "clear-breasted.... bright yellow streak on its head... a wing bar... black eye stripe.. also some white around the eye..." I was still thinking it might be a warbler, but then the thought of kinglet occured to me, although I didn't know exactly what kind.

When we got home I went straight to the kinglets in the Peterson's Guide and found my answer. Aside from the field marks, other telling clues were its size (very tiny, smaller than a Goldfinch, just slightly larger than a hummingbird) and activity (it couldn't stay still!!!) According to a range map on the Cornell's All About Birds site, they winter in practically all of the lower 48, but the year-round population does dip down from Canada and the northeast U.S into eastern West Virginia. Also, they prefer coniferous surroundings (I first spotted them in some kind of spruce tree), but they are also present in mixed confirerous-deciduous woods (the Desonier preserve where I made the ID is mostly deciduous).

I wonder what my next Life Bird will be? Perhaps a Common Redpoll? I'm waiting for it... I've heard word that they're around...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Photo Tag

As I write this, it's Tuesday evening. This will post on Wednesday evening.

I'm in the process of drafting up several posts and scheduling them for release throughout the remainder of the week. LOST starts tomorrow (Wednesday) night, so there's no way on earth I'm going to be doing anything remotely blog-like tomorrow! (Any other LOST fans out there?) Also, I just want to try my hand at working up some posts ahead of time to see how it works for me.

I'm starting off my "post stockpile" with Photo Tag. I was over at the Northwest Nature Nut and saw that she had been tagged to play. While she didn't want to officially "tag" others, she invited her readers to play along if they so choose, and I thought I'd jump in.

The "rule" is to choose the 4th photo from the 4th folder in your photo files, and to explain the photo.

This photo, taken in spring of 2008, shows blossoming cherry trees along the Hocking River near the campus of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. These trees are only a few of many. To see the long line of trees all in bloom is quite breathtaking. The photo is indeed the 4th photo in my 4th folder, which is entitled bynaturedesigns. Some day I hope to let you all in on that little project, but for now, you can have this picture.

If you would like to play along, please let me know in the comments so I can come take a look at YOUR picture!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Talk to me!

Just a quick note: I've added a poll over in the sidebar, under then webcam. I've got tons of questions I'd like to ask you all, about all kinds of stuff, so keep your eyes peeled for a new poll each week. Each poll will be open for 1 week. I'll post the results at the conclusion of the week.

Thanks for your participation!

(P.S. Sorry for the wacky color of the text in the poll itself. It didn't look like that when I first put it up (of course!). I'll try working on a fix when I get a chance.)

Full of hope

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow."
-Albert Einstein

"We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope."
-Barack Obama,
44th President of the United States

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Feeder fiends

I find myself in a position where I have lots of photos to share, and trying to figure out the best way to present them. I captured images of 3 separate creatures today that I originally thought would each get their own post, but then it hit me that they do share a common bond in that they all are not readily welcomed at our bird feeders for various reasons.

Here's our first culprit:

The squirrels are so dang cute that I find it hard to be mad at them for stealin' all our seed. Luckily they don't seem to be doing much damage to our feed supply right now, and given the great number of them that I see running around in the woods, the fact that we only have 1 at the feeder seems to be a lucky thing.

Our next culprit (I feel like the music from "People's Court" should be playing in the background):

Often characterized as a feeder bully, the Blue Jay is one bird I can't get enough of. I just think they are so beautiful. I'm mesmerized by all the different shades of blue in their feathers. They've just started coming in to our feeders, and for a bird that is gets a bad rap for being rude and aggressive, they seem to be awfully skittish when they see movement inside the house. This handsome bird didn't stay around long enough for me to get many shots, and I've yet to get any photos of a jay on the feeder.

Finally, our last culprit, an accipiter:

Unfortunately, I'm not sure if this is a Cooper's Hawk or a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Let's weigh the evidence, shall we?

Range: Both are year-round residents of Ohio, so that doesn't narrow it down.
  • Cooper's - 15-20 inches (about the size of a Pileated Woodpecker)
  • Sharpie - 9-13 inches (about the size of a Blue Jay)
I guessed it to be about 14", Dave guessed it to be about 18". Hmmm... those numbers combined lean us toward the Cooper's. And it DID seem larger than a Blue Jay.
  • Cooper's - long, rounded and barred, ends in white band
  • Sharpie - long, barred, ends w/a squared tip

Grrrr....! The end looks squared to me (Sharpie), but it certainly looks like it ends with a white band (Cooper's).

  • Cooper's - Dark crown contrasts with nape
  • Sharpie - Crown and back similar in color

It's kind of hard to see in the picture, but I think the crown seems to be darker than the back feathers (Cooper's).

I guess the evidence is leaning toward a Cooper's Hawk. Unfortunately it never turned around, so I never got a good view of its front, but I don't think that would have aided in the ID.

Here are a few more pics:

Here are 2 poor little Chickadees that stayed frozen in place for about 10 minutes while the hawk hung out.

The hawk was probably about 70 yards away from the feeders, always with his (?) back to them, but he would frequently turn his head 180-degrees and check out what was going on behind him. After a while the hawk flew farther away, now maybe about 100 yards away, which our feeder birds determined was a safe enough distance for them to resume their normal activity of chowing down.

This is the second time I've seen a hawk in the last 3 weeks, which is unusual. It's not unusual for me to see the feeder birds "freeze" and alert me to the fact that there's a big baddie in the area, but I rarely ever spot to culprit. Now if I can just decide on that bigger camera lens, maybe I'll be able to get some better (closer) pictures the next time he comes around!

By the way, for those of you with more experience with hawks at your feeders, please let me know in the comments of you think my guess of the Cooper's Hawk is correct. Thanks!

Sources: Cornell Lab's "All About Birds" webpages

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Winter walk in the woods

Across the street from our house there's a trail in the woods. It's on our neighbor's property, but they kindly let us meander through whenever we like. The exact path of the trail has been changed a bit here and there over time, but there's always so much to see (and hear) when walking it.

Last weekend I said to Dave, "Let's go for a walk." He knows that sometimes the "us" in that sentence includes my camera, which means he'll have to do lots of standing around while I stop to look, ponder, compose and shoot. I'm SO thankful for such a patient partner!

A small creek, called the Onion Run, runs through the woods, and the trail zigs and zags toward the creek several times.

tributary of the Onion Run in early stages of freezing

Some parts of the Onion Run flow smooth, the water gently carving its path.

In other places, the creek gurgles and rushes, catching the rocks and leaves below.

Sycamore trees and their roots cling to the edges of the creekbed.

In addition to the water and the trees, there are so many flowers and grasses to observe along the trail.

unidentified grass

milkweed pods, bursting forth

Ironweed, my favorite

Looks like someone has been living here, probably a woodpecker

There are lots of other pictures that I would like to share, but the post would just go on and on. I've been playing with the "collage" feature that's available in the latest version of Picasa, and have found a way to save some space and still share some of my favorite photos.

triptych of grass and seedheads

collage of Virgin's Bower - a showy vine that is very easy to spot when it's in bloom, but even more so from afar when all the leaves are off the trees

fungi collage

I've never mentioned it before specifically, but you can always click on the pictures for a larger view. Most of the time you will be taken into a Picasa web album where you can see all of the pictures from a particular post.

I hope you enjoyed my walk through the woods. I'll be taking you there again and again.