Sunday, December 31, 2006

Fox Licks Chops, But Squirrel Escapes

After the deer strolled through this morning, the ritual of squirrel-turns-back-on-fox, fox-chases-squirrel-up-tree, fox-catches-squirrel or not, unfolded yet again. This morning, the fox did not catch the squirrel. But, I thought that I would show you some photos of the fox nevertheless.
In the first photo, the fox, who has chased the squirrel up the tree and licking his chops, seems to be just a bit too eager for breakfast.

In the second photo, like the mother deer earlier this morning, the fox always keeps a watchful eye one me taking photos.

In the third photo, the fox continues to keep a sharp eye on the squirrel who remains 10 feet above him in the tree.

Peaceful Coexistence: The Deer and the Fox

Sunrise this morning found the fox resting in the brush. For the next hour or so, he rested and slept, and even got up once to clearly get more comfortable.

But, his rest period was disturbed as the mother white-tailed deer brought her two young along their favorite path, which runs directly in front of the fox’s location. Both the fox and the deer knew of each other’s presence prior – the deer continued to walk, the fox just looked.

Interestingly, the two young watched mom for any sight of alarm. In the second photo, mom is clearly watching the fox and the larger of the two young is clearly watching mom (well, at least her white, potentially-alarm-sending tail). The fox, by and large, seemed to understand that he also needed to watch mom.

In this third photo, the smaller of the two young just had to take a close look at the fox before leaving.

As the deer continued to walk through the habitat, mom was far more concerned about me taking pictures from the porch, than the fox in the brush.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Hawk: Take My Picture Too!

About 2 hours after the excitement of his victory over the squirrel, the fox returned to just look around from his normal seat in the brush. Of course, I took up position in the upstairs window and began taking photos.

When all of a sudden, this hawk lands in the dogwood tree which is located about 10 feet below me.
Perhaps the hawk was jealous of all the morning attention to the fox? Perhaps the hawk wanted to get into the Habitat Christmas photos? Anyway, he stayed about 3 minutes – looking around and changing positions – then flew away.

Seriously, I will have to double check my research to make sure I have this hawk identified correctly. I assume that he is the one that appeared now in three of the last four mornings. He was at least crow-sized, perhaps a bit larger. His back appears, on first look, to be too brown to be the Cooper's Hawk that visited a while back .

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Miracles Can Be a Matter of Perspective

I previously posted Christmas Eve Miracle noting that the Habitat’s signature fox had been again observed and not fallen as road kill. As has become tradition, Dot spotted him again, this time in his normal seat in the bush (first photo). Note that in this photo the top of the bird bath is in the direct line of sight from the fox’s position.
After a few photos from the back porch, I took up position in the upstairs window. It was a great morning with cardinals, blue jays, wrens, the downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, and even the dirty, ugly European starlings.

Then, this adventurous squirrel paid a visit and took up a seat at the bird bath for a drink. Within, a matter of seconds, the fox was standing and charging up the small hill; the fox easily captured the somewhat sluggish squirrel and walked briskly back down into the brush. I managed to get these two photos of fox with the prey in his mouth.

I previously posted numerous stories (Squirrel for Breakfast, The Patient Fox, No Squirrel for Breakfast) about the fox chasing the squirrels. While several of us had seen the fox walking with a squirrel in his mouth, none of us had actually seen the complete pursuit, capture, and departure.
I guess that miracles can be a matter of perspective, as well as position in the food chain. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Colvin Run Christmas Wish

All of us here at the Colvin Run Habitat would like to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas. A white Christmas is a rare event in the mid-Atlantic area where the Habitat is located; and, we certainly do not have snow here this year. Nevertheless, this snowy scene with the red cardinal graces the front of our Christmas card this year. Our inside greeting to you is: May you know the peace and joy of Christmas throughout the coming year.

We would also like to share the following stories about two Christmas trees. The Real Christmas Tree is the traditional Christmas story – the reason for the season and the source of all Christmas love. The Real Christmas Tree is an original piece of art created a few years ago based on the words found in ninth chapter of Isaiah. Alfie: The Christmas Tree is taken from a recording by John Denver and the Muppets. Our children grew up listening to this Christmas music, so in our house, the Muppets are as traditional as Bing Crosby. John Denver was a personal friend of our son-in-law. The photo shown for Alfie is a spruce that was planted in 1978, the year that our first son was born. When we moved from Maryland to Virginia, this spruce, then less than 2 feet tall, moved with us. It is now well over 25 feet tall. Front and center in the Habitat, this grand spruce has provided shelter for birds nesting and bunnies resting, respite from summer sun and winter winds for squirrels and foxes, and even gave up its needles as food for deer.

Enjoy the two Christmas tree stories. Merry Christmas!

The Real Christmas Tree

The true meaning of Christmas is found in Luke 2: 1-20:.

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

This is the traditional Christmas story that most of us remember from our childhood. A mainstay of my childhood was the annual watching of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Poor Charlie Brown, taxed by the over commercialization of Christmas, yells, "Does any body know the real meaning of Christmas?" Linus responds by reciting the above scripture from the second chapter of Luke. Finally, the words from Luke overtake the other Peanut characters, even Snoppy who has won first prize in a doghouse Christmas light display contest. The show ends with all of the children, huddled around a simple Christmas tree, singing Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

Remember that God’s present – the real meaning of Christmas – to all of us is the angel’s message, “to you is born this day a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Alfie: The Christmas Tree

Did you ever hear the story of the Christmas Tree who just didn't want to change the show.
He liked living in the woods and playing with squirrels, he liked icicles and snow.

He liked wolves and eagles and grizzly bears and critters and creatures that crawled.
Why bugs were some of his very best friends, spiders and ants and all.

Now that's not to say that he ever looked down on the vision of twinkling lights, or on mirrored bubbles and peppermint canes and a thousand other delights.
And he often had dreams of tiny reindeer and a jolly old man and a sleigh full of toys and presents and wonderful things, and the story of Christmas Day.

Oh, Alfie believed in Christmas all right, he was full of Christmas cheer.
All of each and every day and all throughout the year.

To him it was more than a special time much more than a special day,
It was more than a beautiful story. it was a special kind of way.

You see, some folks have never heard a jingle bell ring,
And they've never heard of Santa Claus.
They've never heard the story of the Son of God. And that made Alfie pause.

Did that mean that they'd never know of peace on earth or the brotherhood of man?
Or know how to love, or know how to give? If they can't, no one can.
You see, life is a very special kind of thing, not just for a chosen few.
But for each and every living breathing thing. Not just me and you.

So in your Christmas prayers this year, Alfie asked me if I'd ask you to say a prayer for the wind, and the water, and the wood, and those who live there, too.

From: John Denver and The Muppets:
A Christmas Together
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Little Christmas Fun in the Habitat

I asked two of the Habitat’s animals to pose for a Christmas picture.
In this first photo, the famous squirrel chaser was captured in her ‘gay apparel’ after eating a Christmas cookie.

In the second photo, I asked one of the cardinals to have her picture taken in front of the Christmas tree. This is the best I could do at getting the cardinal and the tree together (note the red ornament from on the tree). The window bird feeder and the Christmas tree are separated only by a pane of glass.
Posted by Picasa

Unsettled Mornings

The last two mornings at the bird feeders have been quite unsettling if you are a normal small bird feeder. The reason? This hawk has taken up a perch in the tall oaks overlooking the Habitat on the north side.

Yesterday, morning the crows eventually encouraged him to leave. As a result, I have confirmation that he is crow-sized, which will, I believe, confirm that he is a Cooper's Hawk. Additionally, this visitor had a relatively long tail, a trait of the Cooper's and Sharp-Shinned Hawks (that former crow-sized, the later jay-sized).

I find that the hawks are easily moved, regardless of how high they are in the trees (they were at least 50' up in the trees yesterday and today). The telltale sign that the hawk is perched in the Habitat is that all of the smaller, song birds, and even the squirrels, are nowhere to be seen. As soon as the hawk leaves, they come out and continue to feed.

Eventually, I will get a raptor-expert to confirm the various types of hawks that have been observed in the Habitat. Posted by Picasa

Christmas Eve Miracle

In a recent post, I mentioned that I was concerned that the Habitat's signature red-tailed fox was the victim of the nearby four-lane highway. Apparently, I was wrong. Although some poor fox was killed, it was not our fox.

This morning about 8 AM, he walked through the Habitat and entered the brush where he normally sits and observes the squirrels. Dot made the observation and reports that he appeared to be in good health with a dark, reddish, winter coat. He was in no hurry, he simply strolled through.

Dot suggests that he is truly family - he shows up only for the holidays - his last visit was Thanksgiving.

I was late getting the camera so I have no photos. We are keeping watch (like the shepherds of old) this Christmas Eve to see if he re-appears to take his normal observation throne.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Card Pose

An increasingly popular Christmas card captures the various member of the family. This is an especially great way to show friends and family how the kids have grown over the last year. Well, here is the first of my Christmas cards from the Colvin Run Habitat with many of the family shown.

Actually, this is a great time for backyard birding as the bare trees provides a great view of the birds and there are large numbers and varieties always just hanging around.

In this shot, we have a male and female pair of cardinals, an American goldfinch (in winter olive garb) at the tube feeder, a female downy woodpecker at the suet feeder, and a wren at the peanut butter feeder. Then there is a bird hanging on the strings to the tray feeder - this is the back end view of a white-breasted nuthatch.

Anyway, I thought you would enjoy this holiday buffet of Habitat birds.

On a sadder note, I wrote about the show that the fox put on for all of the human visitors on Thanksgiving Day. I am sad to say that he has not been seen since (about three weeks now). I am even sadder to say that animals (especially deer) are often killed on the 4 lane road near the Habitat and that a fox is one of the recent victims. There is no way to verify that he is one of the summer's Habitat residents, but I am concerned given the close location. I'll report to you as soon as he returns to his throne in the Habitat bush. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Red-winged Blackbird Visits

The Cornell Ornithology websites says that the Red-Winged Blackbird is one of the most abundant birds in North America. Unfortunately, the red-winged blackbird has only been observed in the Colvin Run Habitat only twice in the last year – May 20th and today, December 3rd. Too bad, as the male red-winged blackbird has striking marks on its wings – the markings stand brilliant against the rest of its all black body. The female is so drab that it can be mistaken for a large sparrow.

The first photo is today’s red-winged visitor. Note the small amounts of brown speckles in its body – leading me to believe that the guy was hatched this past spring.

The second photo is from the May visitor. Pardon the poor photo quality, but I wanted to show you the red-winged blackbird in flight when you can really see the wing markings. Of course, I always think that this bids marking are orange and not red. I know that this guy has been around for the last week or so as I have heard a new bird call, previously unknown to me. After seeing him today and checking his call on line, it is clear that I have heard him for the last week.

All in all, the fall in the Habitat has been quite mild. As you can see from the third photo, the blue jay was not real pleased that the water tub was frozen over this morning. I guess that it is time to get out the bird bath feeder (talk about decadence).

A few posts ago, I showed you the pair of pileated woodpeckers that were photographed in the Habitat. I saw one of them in the Habitat once in the two days after that post, but not since. This is really not all that uncommon – as I explained previously – the pileated woodpeckers are quite shy. I often hear their hammering on tree trunks – their drumming echo throughout the woods adjacent to the Habitat. This morning, I heard yet another bird call that is not common in the Habitat. As I was unable to see any bird for this very distinct call, I checked the call on-line. Sure enough it was the pileated woodpecker. Click here for a web page that has audio of their call (you’ll need to scroll down the page and click again). The pileated woodpecker’s drumming can be heard at the end of this audio recording.

The Habitat is an amazing collection (in number and variety) of birds right now. The just hang out and eat seed and suet – in fact, I am going through see faster now than during the summer. Considerable numbers are roosting in the azaleas and other bushes in the Habitat. The fourth photo is a group of male cardinals enjoying the sun this afternoon.

Quick update: the fox has not been back since Thanksgiving Day and the raccoon has not been seen again since the other night. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Cooper’s Hawk Visits the Habitat

An exciting day – one of the hawks that I was previously unable to photograph showed up in the Habitat yesterday. In that previous post, I mentioned that the hawk perched on top of the feeder pole and was most likely a Cooper’s Hawk. Today, we first spotted him again perched on top of the sunflower seed feeder. And, there is no doubt that he is a Cooper’s Hawk (he was clearly crow sized, versus blue jay sized Sharp-shinned Hawk)

The hawk quickly left his perch on the feeder and flew 30 feet to the tall oak (as seen in all of these photos.

As you can see, the oak tree’s branches are quite dense. And yet, from such dense vegetation, the Cooper’s Hawk launches his attack at his prey. Dashing through this dense vegetation to catch birds is a rather dangerous lifestyle. A recent study found that 23 percent of all Cooper's Hawks examined had healed fractures in the bones of the chest, especially of the furcula or wishbone.
Other hawks in the Habitat (Red-tailed Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks) are interested in a variety of prey, including chipmunks. However, the Cooper’s Hawk is interested in one think only – small birds. When he is perched on top of the seed feeder, it is highly likely that he has just missed catching a small bird. But rest assured, this hawk has no interest whatsoever in the seed, just the birds eating the seed.
When the hawk was in the oak tree, he allowed me to go out the back door, down the porch steps, and approach the oak tree. I got within 35 feet of the oak before he took off. He returned to perch again in the oak about 15 minutes later, but then left very quickly.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Fourth Woodpecker Type

Before the Thanksgiving digressions, I showed photos from visits to the Habitat by a pair of pileated woodpeckers , the many downy woodpeckers, and the red-bellied woodpeckers. That leaves one last woodpecker seen in the Colvin Run Habitat – the Northern Flicker. The northern flickers that appear in the eastern part of North America are the only brown-backed woodpeckers. The flickers are the only woodpeckers in North America that commonly feed on the ground, searching for ants and beetle larvae.

In the first three photos, you can see the flickers on the Habitat lawn. Actually, the arrival of the flickers is a good sign that there are ants and beetle grubs in the lawn, and hence, there is not really much of a lawn.
Like many of the woodpeckers, the flicker has a patch of red on its back. However, I think that the distinguishing feature is the black ‘bib’ on its front.
Often seen on the ground with a robin nearby, the flicker will ‘drill’ the ground much as other woodpeckers ‘drill’ a tree trunk.
On some occasions, you will find a flicker perched in a tree.
Posted by Picasa