Migration Season

imageIf I’m watching the birds during a couple months in the spring I notice a huge variety of bird species that I never knew visited my area, or at least don’t visit often. Among them this spring are:
Baltimore oriole
Gray catbird
Hermit thrush
Ruby-throated hummingbird
Blackburnian warbler
Yellow warbler
House wren

Spring Returns to the Skies

A huge snowstorm blew into MN this week – it certainly still feels like winter, with so much snow on the ground.  But since I spent all that time outside shoveling, I counted 3 flocks of   canada geese flying overhead in just half an hour. I’d nearly forgotten about the geese, but when I heard their familiar honking I realized how few birds there have been around here; especially waterfowl.  Well, they’re back, along with budding maples and daylight lasting until past 6 o’ clock.geese

Baldies

This summer has been amazing for eagle watching. With the Mississippi becoming cleaner, eagle numbers have skyrocketed in my neighborhood, and the nest a couple blocks away had us spoting these birds almost every day. But during the fall and winter almost all of the wildlife I see during the summer become harder to spot, so I was pretty excited to see a full grown bald eagle swoop down into the road right in front of my house yesterday. It was probably picking up a squirrel – during the fall the squirrels get so crazy about their nuts they get hit by cars right and left, making meals pretty easy for the other animals. Anyway, I followed it into a tree, and got some pictures, although it was really hard to find. I hadn’t noticed before how perfectly their feathers blend in to the brown of the tree trunks and the gray of the winter sky.

We also had our first decent snow fall. Not just a flurry – the snow’s still hanging around, but I don’t know how long that will last.

Hey!

This rather ugly critter was so weird-looking I wondered if it wasn’t some sort of duck-goose hybrid – an ugly guckling?

Looking up from a Metro station in Washington, D.C. 

The jellyfish at the National Zoo are amazing. You can actually see electricity coursing through them.

This orangutan made me sad. She looked right at me, and her eyes were so human – she doesn’t belong in a cage.

Coming out of Mammoth Caves. Located in Kentucky, it’s already the largest cave in the world, and only a tiny fraction of it has been discovered.

Magnolias

I’m Back, and better than ever!

This last month I was on vacation all over America. Here are a few pictures:

Summer Birds

During winter, wildlife generally stays about the same, but now that summer’s here, I’ve seen all kinds of new animals. Mostly birds. In the last couple of weeks there’s been this red-headed woodpecker hanging around. He was attracted by some suet we put up, and started to visit our yard regularly, but at the same time the grackles found the suet and pretty much devoured it. Once it was gone, he stopped coming. We got some more, but I bet the same thing will happen.

I saw one of the eagles from the nest a couple of days ago. It was flying to its nest with a giant fish locked in its talons. Pretty cool.

I also spied an oriole hanging about by the river. They’re hard to miss, what with their bright feathers, but I haven’t seen them here before. I’ll have to get my oriole feeder up.

In other news, I’m going to be gone for a few weeks, so no more posts for a while. But I’ll have things to tell when I get back! 

Surprise!

Just when all the nests and baby birds and new young things were starting to lose my interest, I learned something amazing: a pair of bald eagles are raising chicks right down the street! There’s a tall pine tree in someone’s backyard, and the eagles have built a huge nest (5 or 6 feet across) up in the highest crook. I got some pictures, but it’s so many feet in the air they’re pretty fuzzy. A little point-and-shoot zoom lens can only be asked to do so much. 😉

Anyway, I’ve spent a couple of days watching the birds, and they are just amazing. (I am wildly jealous of whoever’s got them in their yard!) There are two huge eagles and (presumably) a nest full of chicks. Generally, one eagle sits on a branch and stands guard, while its mate is out hunting. Sooner or later, the other eagle will fly into the nest, and then the guard takes off seconds later to go hunt/fish/stretch its wings/etc. It’s incredible to watch. Last night I got to see the parent tearing up whatever it caught (probably fish) and feeding it to the chicks.

The yard has become a sort of neighborhood camp ground. People are always there trying to catch some action. It’s amazing how after so many years of worrying about these great birds and trying to save them from extinction, they’re raising their offspring in our backyards.

More to come….

 

Spring is Sprung!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written anything on this page, but here I am!

Winter this year has been incredibly mild – at this time last year I was up to my knees in snow!

But this year spring showed up so quickly no one even had to time to hang their coats up.

Anyway, spring is here, and these are the signs:

  • First barge on the Mississippi river.  You can hear them blowing their horns at night.
  • A cardinal moved in to the yard – and hasn’t shut up since.
  • My dog’s nose is turning black again (it turns pink during the winter).
  • Dairy Queen is open! (Need I say more?)
  • Our maple tree has refused to yield even the tablespoon of sap that we usually get (we really had no tree-tapping season at all this year, it was so warm).
  • All the cars have their windows down and the convertibles have their tops off.
  • Baby buggies roll down the street all day long.
  • Beautiful flowers are blooming on bushes around the neighborhood, but invariably die when I try to bring them inside and put them in a vase.
  • There’s also this beautiful yellow bush that is in bloom everywhere, and at first I thought it was a golden rain tree (laburnum), but the flowers aren’t quite right. Here’s a picture – any ideas?

 

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

For the past couple of weeks, quite a few birds have started flying back to Minnesota for the summer. However, this spring a new visitor has arrived. I’m pretty sure they are yellow-rumped warblers. They are mostly gray, with black & white on the wings & chest, & bright yellow patches on the rump (hence the name), crown, & sides. They come in two different types: the west & the east. They are nearly identical, but the eastern variety has a white throat. They are rather shy, but becoming quite numerous. I’ve never seen them before, & they aren’t supposed to live here, but while they are here, I’m enjoying the excitment of a new bird.

Instant Snowstorm

This morning, the weather was sunny & moderately warm. (For February anyway.) In a few hours, it changed to a blizzard it’s hard to see in. The weather here is pretty much instant. For some reason today, the wild turkeys were out, just hanging around on the streets in the middle of everything. Many of the animals don’t mind the cold, & actually seem to be more active in bad weather, gathering food. Probably this is to keep themselves warm. But with their thick winter coats, the cold doesn’t bother them very much.

Spring Cleaning

The sparrows have begun to clean out their bird house for the spring. The same pair of sparrows probably nest in it each year, & every year before they nest the pull out all of last years nesting materials for a fresh start. String, plants, & feathers all hang out of it, blowing in the wind. When they finish building their new nest, it will be tidy & clean, but by the end of the summer, & after several broods of chicks (sparrow chicks leave the nest after about 2 weeks) most of it will have fallen out & it will look nearly as messy as it does now.

Spring is Finally Here!

The weather has finally warmed up! temperatures are above freezing, & everything is melting. (However, as soon as I start to believe that, we’ll probably get 6 feet of snow.) The birds & the animals are loving the weather. I saw a few goldfinches recently, feasting on some thistle seeds. Starlings have started to show up too. There are puddles on the sidewalks several inches deep. Water is everywhere, & even the snow on the river is washing away!

Winter/Spring Wildlife

As winter turns into spring (or begins to, anyway – we still have a good month to go) the wildlife begins to change. The cardinals are becoming more common. Their bright colors & distinct song (wheet, wheet, wheet – click on the link to hear it: http://www.birdjam.com/birdsong.php?id=3) make them easy to spot. I’ve also seen quite a few white-tailed deer. But as the weather gets warmer, some of the variety of birds & other animals begins to get smaller. Many animals go back to forests or parks where they can find easier food without having to risk coming near people.  

‘Exotic’ Birds

I was out of town for a few days (still in MN though), & I got the chance to view some neat birds I had never seen before. I saw a red-bellied woodpecker, which don’t usually come to my yard (usually I only see downy woodpeckers, & once in a blue moon pileateds). They are quite a bit bigger than some other woodpeckers, & interesting to watch. There were also Juncos, chickadees, blue jays, & cardinals. There was one species that I wasn’t quite sure about, they were kind of greenish-yellow, with white & black on their wings. At first I thought they might be a greenfinches, but it turns out that they live nowhere near here. I think now that they were female goldfinches, but I’m still not sure about that. If anyone has a better idea please let me know!

The mystery finch.

Juncos?

Yesterday I spotted a small, dark gray bird eating at a feeder, & today a few showed up in my yard. I think they are dark-eyed juncos, small sparrow-sized birds with a dark gray back & a cream belly. I’ve only seen them once or twice before, but today, although it’s very cold, a bunch of different birds were out, such as nuthatches, chickadees, & sparrows.

Warmer Days

It’s gotten a bit warmer lately (it’s been above 0° :-)!), & the animals are all enjoying it! The cardinals especially are being very active, often hanging around in the lilac bushes or at the feeder. They can be a little aggresive sometimes, but generally get along well with other birds.

Incoming Crows

The crows have become more plentiful as it gets colder. During the winter they become very active, holding loud crow “meetings”, where about 50 or so of these noisy birds will gather in the treetops, cawing away. They can get aggressive, chasing each other or other birds, & fighting over food or a resting place. Other birds wisely stay far away during these groupings.

Wild Turkeys

Since it snowed a few days ago wild turkeys have been all over looking for food. They aren’t seen often, usually hiding in the woods by the river, but when it gets really cold they come out to see if there’s any food around. Look at some neat pictures of these colorful birds & hear their voice at: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Wild_Turkey/id/.

Birds that Love the Snow

Snow has been coming down nonstop for the past few days, & of course the birds & squirrels are 3 times as fat as they were this summer (plus thick winter coats), & still gathered around the feeder eating everything they can find. However, the birds behave very differently when it snows than they do when it rains. In rain, they all eat eat eat the day before, & then are nowhere to be found when the rain hits. But they will feed all the while it’s snowing & never seem to notice it. Check out this website – it has some really neat pictures of birds that stay around during the snowstorms: http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/220560798dQFtBe.