Saturday, March 31, 2007

Spring Arrives in Washington, D.C., USA

Each place around the world has a special moment that marks the changing of seasons. In nearby Washington, D.C., spring officially arrives when the cherry tree blossoms arrive. The famous trees were a gift from Japan in 1912 and explode with color to welcome spring each year. The Japanese cherry trees surround the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin and the adjacent Washington Monument.
The cherry tree blossoms open in the last two days and were well worth the 30 minute drive from the Colvin Run Habitat to the downtown area. 
There are a number of spring blooming flowers as well, including these daffodils at the foot of Capitol Hill.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Downy Versus Hairy Woodpeckers

We have discussed earlier that the downy woodpeckers and the hairy woodpeckers are differentiated almost solely by size. Their coloring and markings are nearly identical. But, the downy is 6” and the hairy is 9” in length.

In the Colvin Run Habitat, many downy woodpeckers are can be seen in any one hour period. The hairy are far less frequent.

These two pictures of these two woodpeckers on the same suet feeder allow a side by side comparison. Clearly, you can see the size difference. Of course, the smaller downy is a male (red spot on back of neck) and larger hairy is a female. Amazing what you can do with today’s modern photograph software.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Red-Tailed Fox: From Relaxation to Full Stride

Yesterday’s post showed the red-tailed fox hunting squirrels in the Colvin Run Habitat. Here are two additional posts, each showing a ‘run’ of the fox at the squirrels.
Usually, the fox waits for more than one squirrel to appear. He then charges at the group and then selects a specific target as he gets closer.
In this post, the fox is very comfortably waiting, you can see that he has wrapped his tailed around the side of his body, and even naps while waiting.
When a squirrel pair arrives, he quickly gets up on his legs, stays very low, then makes his run. The next three photos show the fox in stride. The last photo shows that he was unsuccessful.

Red-Tailed Fox: Turning on a Dime to Hunt Squirrels

Here is the second additional post showing a ‘run’ of the fox at the squirrels.
In this post, the squirrel uncharacteristically came hopping along and ended up within 12 feet of the fox.
Even though these photos are very poor (slightly out of focus and minimal lighting), I thought that you might enjoy the fox’s ability to turn on a dime to follow a very fast moving squirrel. I suggest that you click on the blog photos to get an enlarged view. In the third photo, the gray blur towards the bottom right corner is the squirrel making haste.
Once again, as seen in the last photo, the fox was unsuccessful.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Red-Tailed Fox Looks for a Squirrel Breakfast

Never fails, as soon as I post that the Colvin Run Habitat signature red-tailed fox has not been observed for some time, he returns.

I first observed him under the side dogwood tree at the end of what I assume was a run at the squirrels. He continued a trot into the side woods. Within five minutes, he had returned to his throne in the brush.

This red-tailed fox made two additional runs on the squirrels. After each, he trots through the side woods, then returns to his throne.

At times this morning, he was, as he often does, simply napping, waiting for more than one squirrel to show up and eat sunflower seeds under the bird feeders.
Oh yes, and as if to answer the last question in my last post – is he a she – at the end of his last squirrel run, he returned to one of the bushes near the water barrel, raised his leg, and marked his territory. Sorry, no photos of the marking (see this previous post of his marking).
A quick word on all of the photos. It was a gray, overcast, drizzling morning, light conditions were poor at best. The result is the photos are not as crisp as I would like. But, poor photos of this friend is better than no photos.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Colvin Run Habitat Photo Archive

Interested in finding a favorite photo in the Colvin Run Habitat Blog? Look no further than the right-side column and click on this photo of the Colvin Run Habitat signature red-tailed fox and other friends. When you click on the fox and his friends, you'll be taken to Google's Picasa Web Albums where you will find all of the photos published since December 6, 2006. The earlier photos will be added soon. Just another feature to help you find photos and information within the Colvin Run Habitat Blog.
A quick update on this fox. As mentioned previously, he has been observed nearly once a week since Christmas. Except that he has not been seen for the last two weeks. Although, this is the den-ing season for the red-tailed fox. They mate during the winter, then begin creating a den (many times an old woodchuck burrow), and then birth the kits about 54 days later. Not exactly sure what the male's role is in creating the den, but he does provide food for the female who does not leave the den until the kits are ready to leave the den. And, the male does help raise the kits until they are ready to go on their own - typically 7 months after birth. So, perhaps our fox is off helping to prepare the den. Or, perhaps our male is actually a female.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

American Goldfinch Shows Another Sign of Spring

Even as snow fell late on Friday afternoon, two addition signs of spring were clearly visible in the Colvin Run Habitat.
The male American goldfinch is clearly beginning to show his summer, bright yellow feathers. The first photo shows one of the Male goldfinches perched in the dogwood tree, whose increasing red and full buds and shoots are the second sign of spring.
The second photo shows one of the males with several females, who will remain olive throughout the summer, with a house finch in the background.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

White-Tailed Deer Looking for Spring Grass

The family of three white-tailed deer was seen in the Colvin Run Habitat for the first time in a little over a month. Mom and her two young ones, who are now a year old, were walking very slowly, scouring the leaves on the ground for some food. It always surprises me that they do not eat the sunflower seeds on the ground under the bird feeders. Although in the last two weeks, there has been some animal digging through the seeds as I spot fresh holes nearly every morning.

The family of three appears to have survived the winter. Their coats seem in good shape. In each of the three photos, there is one sign of spring – green grass is clearly growing – a sign that these deer will soon have a new supply of food. In fact, it is likely, that this new grass is why the deer are scouring the ground.

The first photo shows mom with the two young ones, who clearly continue to be differentiated by size. The second photo shows mom; the third photo shows the smaller of the two young. As always, they clearly see and hear me, but pay me little attention and do not even raise their white tails as an alarm.

As I reported on February 10, I believe that the dad was a victim of road kill in early December. With his rack, he was quite distinguished. The road kill was within a mile of the Habitat and from my observations was nearly identical to the photographed dad.

Here is a quick index to previous posts about this family of deer:
>Deer Family Strolling
>Dad Deer Brings Family
>The Daily Deer
>Deer Dining
>The Deer and the Fox
>White-tailed Deer in the White Snow

Sunday Morning Update: At 8 AM on the way to church and on our way out of the neighborhood, we had to stop the car to allow this deer family to cross. They crossed at a fast walk and then turned to look us over as we continued. Perhaps they, like the turtle, were headed to church, or perhaps they were hading to a familiar stand of pines to rest the day away.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Is Spring Springing?

Today is the Ides of March. The 15th. Halfway between 'March coming in like a lion' and 'leaving like a lamb.' So it was not a surprise that there are blooms on one of the trees. The first photo shows one of the maples 'blooming.' The surprise is that the first tree blooming is a maple (and not a Bradford pear) and that it is the only maple blooming. Guess we have a tree that just could not wait. My memory says that this lone maple is about 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule.
The morning of the Ides started out in the upper 60’s, so it was a great day to get some photos of the white-breasted nuthatch and the downy woodpecker. This female downy is noticeably larger than the other downies.
By dusk, the temperature had fallen by 20 degrees and it was raining. The forecast is for nearly three inches of rain with the last falling as measurable snow tomorrow night. On the Ides, March is a bit scysophrenic about being a lion or a lamb.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Updates: Red-Tailed Fox, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-Tailed Hawk

A quick update on the Colvin Run Habitat signature red-tailed fox. I last mentioned that I came face to face with him in the snow on Valentine’s Day. The fox has been observed once a week for the last four weekends – sorry no photos.

Also, the Cooper’s hawk was last seen in the Habitat three weeks ago during the 2007 Great Backyard Bird Count.
Has the Cooper’s hawk started a northern migration? Has he been forced out by the red-shouldered hawk? Four recent posts about the pair of red-shouldered hawks. Post 1. Post 2. Post 3. Post 4.

The red-tailed hawk was observed today flying about the Colvin Run Habitat.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Immature Red-Shouldered Hawk on the Ground

Saturday morning, early spring. The usual songbirds at the feeders and on the ground. But at the opposite side of the Habitat, an immature red-shouldered hawk is on the ground. Why? No a clue, three times he came down from a maple tree branch less than ten feet up. Clearly, no mouse, no small bird. Nothing. He cries a few times; he clearly observes me as I approach and get to within 35 feet from him. Cleck to see an enlarged photo.
Then, the young hawk seeks altitude in the sky and is joined by an older red shouldered. They scream loudly as they fly around and through a number of pine trees, then fly upward and perched about 50 feet in an oak tree. eNature says, “Normally shy, [the red-shouldered hawks] become tame if they are not persecuted and in some places may nest in suburban areas. During courtship a pair can be quite noisy, wheeling in the sky above their nesting territory and uttering their distinctive whistled scream.” Are these two parent and child? Or, are they a possible mating pair?
The trees in the Colvin Run Habitat provide cover and draw many birds, including the hawks. The trees, however, remain one of the greatest challenges to photographing any of the birds. The autofocus of the digital camera does not differentiate between tree branches in the foreground and hawks in the background. Focus, whether automatic or manual, becomes even more challenging with the telephoto zoom lens that I am using. I should stop complaining - in six weeks, the leaves will be back and none of these photos will be possible.
As the immature red-shouldered left the ground I got the last photo. The inclusion of the two trees in the photo allows me to get a good estimate of the raptor’s wingspan. The distance between the two trees on the right and on the left of the photo is eight feet. That makes the hawk’s wingspan at least four feet.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Cardinals Join Habitat Olympic Team

I mentioned previously that the Colvin Run Habitat would have a gray squirrel competing in the Olympic broad jump. The Habitat is now pleased to announce that a pair of northern cardinals will be competing in the Olympic ice skating event.
Even though the Habitat provides water to the birds using a heated bird bath, this pair of male and female cardinals elected to skate on the ice.
Water seeps up on the edge of the ice and allows the cardinals to get a drink. If there is a hard way to do something, these birds will find it.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Cardinal Keeps Watchful Eye on Pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks

Why is this male northern cardinal craning his neck and looking upward? After all, this is not a familiar pose for the bright red bird.
It was a clear, crisp morning in the Colvin Run Habitat. Temperature in the teens; not a cloud in the sky. Snow had fallen the previous day, so there was a white dusting of snow remaining on the trees. But the real beauty, not to mention the object of the cardinal’s attention, was a pair of red-shouldered hawks in the side oaks.
After a minute one flew away. So in the third photo you can see (unfortunately through the trees) the classic red-shouldered of the under wing. The remaining hawk then turned and posed for the last photo.
I am hoping that they represent a pair of mating hawks that will stay the season, as opposed to a pair migrating north. The Smithsonian’s Birds of North America observes that red-shouldered hawks “will use the same territory for years, and even succeeding generations may return to the same territory. The longest recorded use of the same territory is forty-five years.” So a mating pair in the Habitat most likely has been here a while and will be here for some time to come.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Habitat Gray Squirrel to Compete in Olympics

Based on his talents in the broad jump, one of the Colvin Run Habitat clearly will compete in the next Olympics. Let me explain. Squirrels are notorious for find clever ways to get to bird feeders, even though they have an abundant amount of seed available on the ground. With two bird feeders attached to the porch windows, I noticed a week ago that one of the squirrels was attempting to walk the one inch ledge to get to the feeders. Of course, the squirrel eventually would fall off. Until this one discovered the broad jump.
This guy would get on to the rail to the porch steps, then from a standing-still position jump the 5 feet distance to the feeder. He would bounce off of the windows – with a very loud thump – and then hang onto the feeder for dear life. Once in a stable position, he would feast on the shelled sunflower seeds. He would only leave when I tapped on the windows. I relocated the feeder; stay tuned to see if he finds an alternative path.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Red-Winged Balckbirds, Brown-Headed Cowbirds, Common Grackles - All Just Passing Through

Spring is beginning. During the last week, combined flocks of many different bird types have been arriving and departing. It started in small numbers (robins and red-winged blackbirds). But this weekend, the flow clearly increased.

I previously mentioned that red-winged blackbirds are not observed in the Habitat for the late spring and summer. So I am rather confident that the dozen or so males (the females look a lot like starlings and are harder for me to count) are transients.

With them yesterday were grackles and brown-headed cow birds. In the photos, the males all have black bodies and beaks. The red-wings (first and second photos) have the red (really orange) wing stripe; the cow birds have brown heads (second photo left side, the females have medium brown bodies); and, the grackles have a purple sheen to their heads (last two photos).

Sorry, for the poor quality of the photos – need a larger lens and additional sunlight would help also.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Red-Shouldered Hawk in the Colvin Run Habitat

A red-shouldered hawk arrived in the Habitat this morning.
Like many of the hawk observations, this one was initially spotted perched 30 feet up in one of the deciduous trees and surveying the terrain below.
In comparison to other red-shoulders observed in the Habitat, this red-shoulder was, well, simply huge. Not exactly a scientific term or observation, but an honest one.
The field guides say that the red-shouldered hawk's wingspan can be as great as 50 inches. This one was clearly in that range.
Typical to hawks visiting the Habitat, this red-shouldered perched a few minutes that flew away.