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. ūüėČ

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….

 

Nest Fest – Part 2

A pair of european starlings is nesting across the street from me in a neighbor’s cable & telephone box. It’s a metal box, about the size of a shoebox, with wires sticking out in every direction. There’s a small hole in the bottom of the box, & the starlings fly in & out all the time, squishing past the wires.

Yesterday I got a look into the sparrow’s nest. It’s very interesting. The birdhouse is filled to the brim with twigs & such, & there’s a tunnel going into it that slants upward. After a few inches of this it drops down into the nest hole, where the eggs are.

Robins

'robins weave sticks & string to build their nests, then hold them together with mud'

Robins are one of the most common birds in my yard now. They come every day & eat sunflower seeds dropped under the feeder. 

The robin nest layed on my gutter¬†unfortunately came to a sad end. One day I went outside & I found it¬†on the ground. It looked as if there had only been 1 egg in it, but predators may have carried¬†others away.¬†Raccoons, opossums, & even other birds will eat bird eggs. I can’t figure out why it had been knocked down. The fork between the gutter & the roof may not have been very stable, or for some strange reason the parents may have knocked the nest down. )-:

Dragonflies

I saw one of the 1st dragonflies of spring today. As nymphs, they live underwater, & once they become adult dragonflies, they fly away & live on land. They still spend much of their time near water though. Dragonflies eat on the go, using baskets formed on their legs to catch insects while flying. They can fly so fast this is usually not a problem for them (but it is for the other insect). They are predators from nymphhood, eating smaller insects & even tadpoles & small fish. They can be virtually any color, & different species often look nothing alike. 

Waterfowl on the Mississippi

'webbed feet allow ducklings & goslings to swim almost immediately after hatching'

Mallard ducks are becoming more & more common as¬†it gets¬†closer to summer. A few of them stay all winter –¬†there’s almost always a bit of open water on the¬†Mississippi – but for the most part they leave in fall & come back in early spring. The Canada Geese will stay through the winter, living in the patches of water the currents keep from freezing up, but the¬†mallards are wimpy & head to places with easier food & living spots available. ¬†Soon there will be tiny, fluffy goslings & ducklings hatching. You can see them prancing around on the side of the road behind their parents, learning to swim & fly. They can swim almost from the moment they hatch, but it takes about 2¬†months for them to learn to fly.Click on the link to see a sweet video of a hen & her ducklings: http://video.yahoo.com/watch/5532776/14543018. Ducks lay eggs until late June, so there are ducklings around most of the summer. It takes a duck egg 4 weeks to hatch, which is actually a pretty long time – most bird eggs hatch in 21 days.

Robins call gutter ‘home’

A pair of robins recently decided that a good place to raise their family would be on top of my rain-gutter. It’s actually kind of convenient because I can see right into the nest from my balcony. It’s a big nest, about 4-6 inches wide, & it’s woven really tightly. It’s amazing how birds can¬†weave nests that well with only a beak to do it. They made a huge, messy nest first, & then one day when I looked at it they had knocked the whole thing to the ground,¬†except the bottom few twigs.¬†Then they built it up again much neater & tighter, but¬†the bottom of it is still¬†sticking out in every direction. The robins¬†sit on the eggs most of the time, & sometimes they don’t fly away when I go outside to look at them. I am expecting to see chicks soon. Yay! (-: ¬†¬†(Click the tiny pic to see it close up. Sometimes¬†the photo blows up really huge before it becomes easy to see.)¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

Cottontails

Lately there’s been an Eastern Cottontail hanging around my neighborhood. These common rabbits like all the vegetation & the bird feeders that spill seeds around here. (But not so much the hawks.) By the way, I’ve figured out that birds, if you put out sunflower seeds still in the shell, will actually crack the shell, swallow the nut meat, & then they will lean over the edge of the feeder, & spit the shell onto the ground. Talk about bad manners! The rabbits show up early in the morning & in the early evening, but you can still see them in the day. It’s amazing how cottontails have adapted to city life. They are quite different from the eastern cottontails in the wild. They¬†are hardly afraid of humans at all, & they eat from underneath bird feeders like they’ve been doing it forever. The rabbits probably all have nests by now, as they have kits from Feb. to Sept. The mother rabbit, also called a doe, spends very little time at her nest, instead she forages for food away from the nest to draw attention toward herself & not her young. Interestingly,¬†it’s for the same reason that male birds are so brightly feathered & spend so much of their time away from their nest. They are so often accused of being lazy, when actually they are¬†sitting in a nearby tree, boasting their brilliant colors to all hungry eyes, & singing their hearts out quite selflessly. This way they call attention to themselves & not their precious nest, with the female & young with their drab coats that blend in perfectly with the things around them. Rabbits work the same way. The doe comes home to feed her kits for only a short time each day; the rest of the time the brood must fend for themselves, which they do just fine. If you find rabbit kits alone, they probably are in good shape & are waiting for their mother to come home. Many people see a brood of young rabbits alone &, thinking they’ve been orphaned, take them home. This is a bad idea. If you are worried they’ve been orphaned, put some unscented dental floss around the nest and check to see if it is disturbed in 24 to 48 hours to show if the mother has been there.¬†¬†If not, call a wildlife rehab center. ¬†