Monday, October 30, 2006

The Patient Fox

Here is the situation, the fox made a dash out of the bush, up the hill, across the lawn, only to have the squirrel climb the dogwood tree before being caught. In the first photo, you can see the squirrel about 10 feet off the ground, looking down and keeping a careful eye on the fox. The fox on the other hand is patient and simply sits down at the base of the tree. In the third photo, both the squirrel (look for his tail in the upper left hand corner of the photo) and the fox are engaged in a stand off. In the fourth photo, you can see that the fox is laying down realizing that breakfast might take some time.

The standoff continued for about 15 minutes – the squirrel looking down from the tree to the fox continuing to stare back. I assumed that the fox would give up first, after all he is far more exposed than the squirrel. But, I was wrong. The squirrel began to ease down the tree bit by bit. Finally, the squirrel made his dash with the fox in close pursuit.
So, who has breakfast? Does the squirrel have more acorns, or does the fox have the squirrel? We’ll find out in our next posting from the Colvin Run Habitat. Posted by Picasa

Squirrel for Breakfast?

I mentioned that the red fox had once again become a daily visitor to Habitat. On Sunday, the fox came looking for breakfast, in the form of one of the gray squirrels. In the first of these four photos, you can see two squirrels eating sunflower seeds at the bottom of the birdfeeder while the fox (upper right hand corner) sits in his familiar observation seat. Now the fox’s position is about 6 feet lower in elevation (down a hill) than the squirrels, which puts the fox at somewhat of a disadvantage – he cannot always see the squirrels over the crest of this hill. Also, when the fox leaves the bush, he is very visible coming across the lawn.

The fox will sit and patiently wait until he believes he has an advantage. This patient waiting is where the fox got his label cunning, as in the cunning fox. Then, as you see in the second photo, he begins to lean forward and gently gets to the very front of the bush; all the while staying crouched as low as possible. And that fast he makes a dash up the hill, across the lawn, and at the closest squirrel.
On this particular occasion, the closest squirrel made it to and up the dogwood tree before the fox caught him. In the third photo, the fox is keeping a close eye on the squirrel, which with few leaves remaining on the dogwood is clearly visible to the fox. In the fourth photo, the fox looks over at me as if to say, “Do you believe that I missed this squirrel?” Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Day of Unusual Sightings

American Robins are numerous in the Habitat, but usually from late-March through August. So, I was quite surprised to see a half dozen robins today. Equally unusual was that they were observed in the trees (first two photos), whereas they are mostly found hunting earthworms on the ground. While migrating robins sometimes go no further south than the mid-Atlantic area, they are rare winter visitors to the Habitat.

Another Habitat visitor that is almost always found on the ground is the Northern Flicker, the only North American woodpecker one that you will see on the ground. Unusual to see one in the Habitat trees (third photo). Flickers are frequent Habitat visitors during the spring. This flicker is the first one seen since about June.

The other unusual sighting today was the hawk. And, as before I was on the porch and the camera was upstairs, so I have no photos. Here is what was unusual - this red-tailed hawk was on the ground, specifically at the base of one of the dogwood trees. Not too unusual to find the hawk on the ground. However, he was eye to eye with a squirrel coming down the trunk of the dogwood. The hawk clearly was not enjoying the position of looking up at what otherwise might have been lunch. The squirrel held is ground (or his trunk) and the hawk finally flew away.

And, as mentioned earlier in the week, the fox is back (last photo). This morning, he made a run at the birdfeeder - I am never too sure what he is hunting when he makes such runs - equally likely he is after a squirrel or a bird. This time, he caught no breakfast. He reappeared about 15 minutes later and took up his normal observation seat in the bush at the edge of the lawn. He stayed for about an hour - just taking in the sights. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

¡Hola Amigos in Argentina and Tampa!

A week or two ago, Ferípula from Argentina emailed me to say she enjoyed the posting about the turtles – especially the turtle going to church on Sunday. She has since added a link to the Colvin Run Habitat on her blog. Many thanks for her compliment of calling the Habitat - un bello lugar – a wonderful place.

Ferípula’s blog (which documents that she is a fan of Simon & Garfunkel – my favorite remains Los Sonidos de Silencio) is written in Spanish, which will be a challenge for those of you, like me, who are limited to English. But, the photos that she posts are great and humorous. And, Ferípula has provided a link to a multi-lingual translation (is the Internet great or what). Please visit her blog at - if for no other reason than to become another dot on her world map of visitors! By the way, the October 23 cartoon caption reads “speak to me, Jimmy.”

Also, her October 12 post shows a bird chick – which if I understand correctly is an agapornis – a love bird in the parrot family. While we have wild canaries in the Habitat, we have no parrots. But, we do have parrots here in the United States. Monk parrots escaped from a shipment coming from South America back in the 1960s. The result is a growing community of monk parrots in Florida and on Long Island.

Which leads me to Colvin Run Habitat friends Mike and Kay T. Here are photos that I took in their Tampa, Florida, backyard. These monk parrots eat sunflower seeds (an apparent universal favorite of birds) at their backyard feeder. Clearly, these are birds that we will never see at Colvin Run.

Parrots in North and South American. ¡Esto es un pequeño mundo! It is a small world!

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Feeder – Great Close-ups

Three weeks ago, we added another bird feeder in the Habitat. The new feeder is attached to the glass window on the back porch (see the first photo).
Although it took the birds about a week to realize that there was a new source of sunflower seeds in the Habitat, the chickadees and tufted titmice are now constantly at this new feeder. These birds allow you to approach from inside of the porch to within two feet of the feeder – perhaps they do not see past the reflection in the glass. Anyway, this new feeder allows these great close-ups.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Changing of the Colors

While the male cardinal wears his bright red color all year long, the male American Goldfinch changes color twice a year. The first two photos show the male goldfinch in his bright yellow plumage – which is the reason many folks, including my dad, call him a wild canary.
These first two photos were taken during the first week of July, which is prime nesting time of the American goldfinch. The last two photos were taken during the third week of October and show the male wearing his winter duller, tan plumage.

The American Goldfinch is a common resident in the Colvin Run Habitat. The parents bring the young to the thistle seed feeder soon after they start flying. So, during late July and August, there is always a considerable number feeding in the Habitat.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Close Friend Returns

I mentioned previously that the Red Fox who was a constant in the Habitat from April through August had returned. But I offered no photographic proof.

Well, bigger than life, this close friend appeared again yesterday. In fact, I had just opened the window that is about 20 feet above the Habitat in order to photograph the cardinals, when I noticed him. He was just sitting on the lawn – yes sitting one his back haunches like a dog – not at all bothered by the noise of me opening the window.

So here he is – note the red fall leaves on the dogwood (this is not a photo from last summer).

He returned three times during the afternoon. Each time he took up the seat in the bush at the edge of the lawn that he enjoyed so much last spring and summer. In the last two photos, you can see him in his seat earlier this summer (the photo with the green summer leaves) and yesterday afternoon (the photo with the brownish bush). Clearly, this is the same guy.

It is good to have this close friend back in the Habitat.

Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall

Here at the Colvin Run Habitat we see the coats of many animals change – especially in color – with each new season. The change in color allows the animal to blend into their environment (or surroundings) which change every season.
Well, pity the poor male cardinal. It sure is hard to blend in when you are always showing a bright red set of feathers. Take a look at the first three photos – winter, spring, and summer – he always stands out.

These photo of the male cardinals perched in the same dogwood tree. The only thing changing from photo to photo is the season. In winter, there is snow on the branches. In spring, the dogwood shows its white blooms. In summer, there is only the green of the dogwood leaves.
Finally, in fall, the dogwood leaves turn red. Fall, a season of the year when the male cardinal blends in with his surroundings. Posted by Picasa
Many thanks to the cardinals. They appear to be posing, looking right at the camera, and enjoying having their photo taken.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Butterfly Update

I received a note from Colvin Run Habitat friends Kay and Mike T. in Tampa providing additional details on the butterfly photos posted previously. Here are some additional photos of those same butterflies to help with the comments.

Mike and Kay explain, “The two of us agree that your black/orange butterfly [first three photos here] is a Monarch or Viceroy – hard to tell them apart unless you have them together.
The other cream/blue/black butterfly [last photo here] is probably an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. The ragged wings on both of these guys are a sign of a competitive summer.” Kay and Mike also reminded us that butterflies undergo an Extreme Makeover and travel in a Strange Migration.

Many thanks to Mike and Kay for the update. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 20, 2006

He’s Back – Red Fox is in the Habitat

Oh! I forgot to mention…In the late afternoon of last Saturday, I spotted (sorry no photo from last Saturday, the photo shown is from last spring) a fox in the brush about 30 feet from the bird feeders. This is the brush area where a pair of fox took up residence from April through July. For those of you reading this blog, I know that this is yet another fox teaser – I promise to take a week or two and share with you the wonderful fox stories and photos from this past spring and summer. For the record, this recent fox sighting was October 14. The last photo was dated July 15 and last pervious sighting was July 26 (mom, dad, and at least one of the young).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Welcome Again

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome those of you who have only recently tuned in the Colvin Run Habitat Blog. The first blog posting was September 9. 28 postings were added in the last 5 weeks. With this number of postings, people new to this blog will want to check out the photos and postings in the achieves (click the links on the right sidebar).

We Are Now International
In addition to known readers in Northern Virginia, Baltimore (Maryland), Brooklyn (New York), Frisco and Ft. Worth (Texas), and Tampa (Florida), I received an email from a reader in Argentina. By the way, her blog is at – check it out, especially if you speak Spanish.

Please Add Your Comments
Please add your observations, questions, or comments (just click on the “comments” link at the bottom of each posting). After all this is more about community and sharing than it is about my photos or wildlife. And, feel free to add comments to older posts - Mike T. in Tampa, I know that readers would enjoy your insights on turtles in the Colvin Run Habitat.

Enlarging Photos
Remember you can enlarge any of the posted photos by simply clinking on the photo of interest.

Links for Additional Information
The blog format that I am using shows links by coloring works in bluish or reddish purple. The links are not underlined in the neon blue that you are used to seeing. Rest assured that the links are active. Most of the background links that I provide are from the National Wildlife Federation's eNature Field Guide, whose link is also provided at the right sidebar under Links.

Email Updates
If you would like to receive emails whenever a new posting is made to the Colvin Run Habitat Blog, send an email to with "CR Subscribe" in the subject field.

Future Postings
Here are a few of the things that you requested, which I am working on:
- Description of the location and lay out of the Colvin Run Habitat
- Additional history of the Habitat (the George Washington comment caught your interest – hey?)
- More on the road photos from Texas
- On the road photos from Mike and Kay’s habitat in Tampa, Florida
- The photo gear that I am using
- Bird tongues
- Action shots in the Habitat
- And I promise the fox photos Posted by Picasa

Daily Deer

The members of the deer family are near daily visitors to the Habitat. Typically, mom continues to bring the two young ones, who were born this year. The first photo show is typical – mom walks by herself, but as in the second photo the two youngsters are never far behind. Dad, whose alters still are quite small, continues to show up by himself. I am beginning to believe that the photo of him with the two youngsters is rare.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Yes, We Have No Hawk Photos

Well, it happened again. Another hawk visited the Habitat. This hawk came in and simply perched on top of the birdfeeder tree (the metal pole on which I hang various suet and thistle feeders). As I slowly approached the window, the hawk clearly was watching me as well as I was watching him. As I raised the camera, he flew away – oh! the pain! the agony!

But, here is what I can tell you. This hawk is not the hawk that has recently been observed in the Habitat. He was slightly larger than a blue jay and slightly smaller than a crow, with black-slate upper parts and light chest and belly. His yellow legs stood out in the gray, overcast day. Most likely this was a Cooper’s Hawk, but of course the Sharp-shinned Hawk looks nearly identical. The Cooper’s and the Sharp-shinned hawk different only in their size. The Cooper’s Hawk is crow sized, while the Sharp-shinned Hawk is blue jay sized.

Both these hawks are likely visitors to birdfeeders (see Feeder Hawks) especially during the winter months. Of course, neither is interested in the sunflower seeds nor other feed that I serve; rather both are interested in the smaller birds that I attract.

With my sincere apologies for not getting photos, I offer these links about watching hawks during the fall and the best places to see hawks.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Snapping Turtle in the Mulch Also

The Eastern Box Turtle is not the only turtle that has visited the Colvin Run Habitat. In June of 2004, this prehistoric looking Snapping Turtle was discovered digging in the mulch not far from where the box turtle was digging this past summer.

Finding a snapper digging at this location was not a surprise in that Colvin Run is only about 200 yards way. However, this location is at the top of a hill which is about 35 feet higher in elevation than Colvin Run. If the snapper originated at the Run (a likely place for a snapping turtle to hang out), the turtle clearly does not mind climbing.

As early to mid-June is peak egg laying time for the snapping turtle, I assume that egg laying was the purpose. As you can see the photos, the snapper was about 2” deep in the mulch and had dug two holes. No eggs or young turtles were ever found. I did not disturb the mulch after the snapper left. As I know little of turtle egg laying, perhaps someone can help out with some information in a comment (Mike T. in Florida – can you add some information please?).
When the snapper was clearly leaving the area, my younger son picked the turtle up for this look at the underside. If you ever come across a snapper, remember they are called snapping turtles for a very good reason – be careful. Posted by Picasa