Tuesday, March 31, 2009

His and Hers

The woodpecker activity has greatly increased at our feeders over the last several weeks, from all 3 of our resident species -



and Red-bellied:

I expect to see LOTS of baby woodpeckers this summer!

We have 2 suet cages that really didn't see much action over the winter, but I've been refilling them quite a bit through the month of March. Today I caught Mr. and Mrs. Downy Woodpecker dining side by side...


and Hers.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Squirrel and da Dogs

This is a story of a squirrel...


And 2 dogs...

Emmett and Jupiter

Our story begins when brave little squirrel makes his approach to the deck, even though the scary dogs are there...

Okay, maybe those dogs aren't THAT scary...

They were scary enough to spook squirrel away for a little while. When he came back, the dogs had switched spots...

[Cue Mission Impossible music]

I'll let squirrel tell the rest of the story...

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: No animals were harmed in the taking of these photographs. Two dogs, however, were laughed and pointed at by their owners for their obliviousness.

Dad, this one's for you, since several of these pictures distracted me while we were talking on the phone this morning. This makes it all worth it, right?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lake Hope Heron update

I first mentioned the Great Blue Heron colony at Lake Hope a little over a month ago when the Great Backyard Bird Count was in full swing. At that time we located lots of nests far off in the sycamore trees, but no actual birds. Well, we've been back several times since then and have seen a handful of herons.

Unfortunately my meager 80-200mm zoom lens cannot even begin to approach acceptable pictures of these birds and nests that are so far off in the distance. Even when using a tripod, it's hard to get the camera to focus on the birds instead of one of the many branches that is between the camera and the birds. Instead, I just have to modify the photo to give you the general idea of "here are the nests, and, oh yeah, that's a heron."

Mr. (or Mrs.) skinny legs hangs out on the nest.

Our most recent visit to the colony/rookery/heronry was this past Sunday, right in the middle of the day (2:00, maybe), and I was actually surprised to find any herons around. I think there were 5 or 6 there, one of which was surely sitting on eggs because I could only see a head sticking out of the nest. There was also a grouping of them just kind of "standing around" at the top of a tree, but not really on a nest. It almost felt as if they were standing guard, but of what?

I messed with this picture quite a bit to try to show some of the coloring of the bird's underside.

Subsequent manipulation led to this interesting rendition.

Not sure how many more times we'll make it out there before the trees leaf out, but if we go again and see some activity, I'll let you know!

PHOEBE NEST UPDATE: Things at the nest have been pretty quiet lately. She seems to stop in only a few times a day, and very briefly at that. It would seem that nest construction is complete, but again, we still have no idea if she's started laying or not.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Daffodil experiment

This is a daffodil photo I took a few springs ago.

I messed with it some in the GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) to make the colors a little deeper and richer, especially that blue/purple color in the background. I don't usually like to do a lot of "processing" to my pictures, but this one actually benefited from it quite a bit, in my opinion.

I messed with it a little more, adding a ripple effect.

Then I put the ripples on the horizontal.
What do you think?

Monday, March 23, 2009

New season, new header images

Some of you may have noticed that the photos in my header have changed. I like to keep the pictures seasonal, so I have swapped out the winter-themed photos for spring-like images.

This is on the Ohio University campus
This is at Lake Logan (one of my submissions in last year's Shoot the Hills photo competition)
This is an artsy-ish version of Cherry tree blossoms (this photo was featured in my credit union's monthly newsletter last spring).
This is a very close crop of some crocus petals, with a canvas texture added during post processing.
This is the Pine Warbler that stumped me at the feeders last spring. Haven't seen him this year.

If you're interested in learning how to showcase randomly rotating header images for your blog, you should check out the website/blog Tips for New Bloggers. That's where I got my code from. There are probably other variations on the same theme out there, but I found some other helpful stuff on that site, so that's why I recommend it.

What kind of "code hacks," if any, do you use on your blog?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

More Phoebe video

Here's another video of our mamma Phoebe working on her nest. Take a look and tell me what you think she's doing.

My theory is that she's using her tail to either a) sculpt the nest; or b) balance herself while using her feet to do some rearranging down inside the nest.

What do you think?

There hasn't been a great amount of activity at the nest over the past few days. Just continued tidying and adding of moss and some dog fur. We have no idea if there are any eggs in there yet or not.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


The first day of spring is tomorrow, but we still have some cold weather to make it through. The lows are forecast to be below freezing for the next several nights, with the highs projected to be only in the 40s and 50s through the weekend. Yes, right now it is all about waiting.

All of the pretty daffodils and crocuses that have already bloomed will be very sad-looking in the morning.

Emerging crocus flower

I have so many flowers that are sprouting right now. Unfortunately I'm pretty bad at keeping track of what I've planted, so some of the shoots that are coming out of the ground will be a complete surprise!

Stella D'oro daylilly sprouts

There was a Lowe's flyer in the paper today, and they were advertising flowers already. I would love to buy some, but it's just too soon. Even April is still a risky venture as far as buying hanging baskets and such - May is much safer. =sigh=

I long for the color, and the fragrance of the flowers. Some of the monarda that I planted last year is sprouting now, and the leaves of one particular strain already smell heavenly.

A tattered leaf intertwined with the many trailing arms of Vinca

Almost every day now I poke through the thick layer of leaf mulch that accumulated during the fall and winter, wondering what the next item of green will be to force its way through the soil. Will it be the hostas, or that other columbine? Some of the irises are starting to peek through, but not the others. And what of the Lilly of the Valley?

The remnants of winter's carpet still remain, but all the while the ground is waking up with new hints of green here and there. The yellow flowers of Coltsfoot line the ditches along our road, and I wait for more spring wildflowers to come in. We always start off with white, yellow and purple - wild violets, coltsfoot, dandelions, garlic mustard, daisies and geraniums.... then there's the red of Fire Pink, the pink of the Redbud trees, maybe even some spiderwort (AHA! I just remembered one of the mystery flowers that I planted last year - a cultivated version of spiderwort). And then there's the ferns... oh the ferns!

Yes, spring, I'm waiting....

Happy Vernal Equinox!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Diary of a nesting Phoebe, part II

"Dear Diary: Today was another busy day. I worked very hard, making continued improvements to my nest. That silly lady who lives in the big box thinks I started laying eggs already. Puh-leez! I would have squashed them by now with all my tidying activities! Today I am posting video entries to show you how Martha Stewart I am. Also, I will also show you how to sculpt your abs AND your nest... AT THE SAME TIME!"

"Sometimes things just don't fit right. You can't be afraid to pull something out and start over!"

"After this very long day of such tedious work, I'm pooped! I'm staying in tonight!"

A note from the humans: We experienced some problems with the broadcast of the live cam today. Dave took drastic measures and came back home this morning to get it running again, but unfortunately it crashed again within an hour. We had to go all day without watching our Phoebes! Dave is working on a way to fix this, so if you stop by and see that the cam is down, just check back later. Thanks for your patience.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Diary of a nesting Phoebe, part I

"Dear Diary: Today me and my mate had a lot of work to do. This nest really needed some sprucing up. The landlords at this place tewtally didn't keep it tidy at all during the off-season!"

"Luckily there's lots of moss and lichen around this place, which makes freshening up our little home a lot easier."

"My muscles really got a workout as I balanced on the nest and worked my belly into it to get a nice bowl hollowed out."

"No corner went untouched! The back wall needs to be reinforced as much as the sides and the front. Our babies need a sturdy, safe place to in which to hatch!"

A few notes from the "slacker" landlord: First, sorry for the picture quality. These are basically screenshots of screenshots, so the images aren't too clear, but I hope you get the gist of it. Second, we've had the cam running most of this evening, and there wasn't much activity, but suddenly I looked up and noticed someone sitting on the nest. Not fixing it up. SITTING. Normally I hear one of them before they show up on camera, but this time he or she slipped in silently. I assume it's momma Phoebe, and since she's actually staying there for the night, I would have to think she's laid her first egg!!!!

Unfortunately we can't see down into the nest to see the eggs, but time will tell soon enough. Once she starts sitting on the nest during the day, we'll start counting down the days to hatching!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Feedercam switches to Nestcam!

As I mentioned in my last post, our Phoebes have arrived. It's only taken them a matter of days (less than a week, as far as I can tell) to lay claim to last year's nest. This exciting development prompted us to move the webcam from "Feedercam" to "Nestcam."

Oh, hello there!

You may notice that the tail is a bit blurred in this photo. They wag their tails... a lot. Funny, I had forgotten about that particular behavior until I saw it the other day.

Dave deserves pretty much all the credit for getting the webcam up and running. Be sure to thank him for all his hard work (and today's his birthday, so wish him happy b-day, too!).

The cam, mounted next to the nest.

See the hook that the feeder is hanging from over on the left? That's a favorite perching spot for the Phoebes, and that's where they're almost always sitting when I take their photos.

We were a little worried at first after we placed the cam. There was no Phoebe activity for several hours. Did we scare them away with that big THING next to their nest? But finally, we were happy to see them come back.

Then we got this view....

Aren't they the sweetest? Upon checking the Cornell site, they say that Phoebes are pretty solitary, and that even the members of a mated pair spend little time together except for some joint roosting activity early on in pair formation. I guess we were pretty lucky to actually see them together!

I look forward to watching their little family life unfold. I'll try to keep notes over in the sidebar as to the progress of the nest. Stay tuned!