Saturday, April 26, 2008

Another Walk: Cardinals Always Around

Whenever I take a walk in the Habitat, the cardinals are never far away.
The male cardinals have been unbelievably aggressive to one another this spring. I guess the competition for mates is considerable this year.
Of course, when not chancing away other males, the males are seeking the females. I caught this female in flight, with a white-throated sparrow looking on.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Another Walk: House Wren Looks to Evict Bluebirds

I mentioned that in my walk in the Habitat this week that the male bluebird was defending the nest in the bird box from a house wren. So here are some more photos of the encroaching wren.
Each time that the bluebird would chase the wren, the wren would leave and return as soon as the bluebird was out of sight.
Of course, I noted last year that the house wren is known to evict birds from the box.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another Walk: Female Bluebird Comes and Goes

While the male bluebird was busy defending the nest, the female was equally busy tending the contents of the box. Note that the female is duller than the brilliantly blue make.
During this time, she was running a continuing cycle of going into the box, coming out, flying around and then back into the box. In preparing to enter the box, the female bluebird would look at me to make sure I was not coming closer.
She would then double check the other surroundings.
Then, she would focus her attention of what was in the box.
Then, into the box she would go - head in first.
Then, she would get all but the last of her tail in. Once in, she took nearly a minute, then turned around and peeked out to check the surroundings.
So what was in the box? Could be the female building the nest, or perhaps she was tending eggs or even hatchlings. At the next opportunity, I will open the box and let you know.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Another Walk: Bluebird Pair at Work

A week ago, I took a walk in the Colvin Run Habitat (post 1, post 2, post 3, and post 4) seeking to photograph the bluebirds nesting in the bird box. A week ago, the bluebirds led me around the Habitat and proved to be elusive. Today's walk was a much different story.
Today, both bluebirds - male and female - were visibly working hard to protect the nest and to tend the content of the box. This first photo shows the male keep watch from one of his perches - on top of the bird box.
It took me a few minutes to understand what the male bluebird was upset about, but from as you can see in the second photo something has caught his attention as he looks over his shoulder.
In the third photo, you can see that he has turned to face what is concerning him. He nearly immediately flew into a a nearby bush.
Over the next ten minutes, the male bluebird would chase this house wren from a bush that is about 15 feet in front of the bird box. This was a constant chase and return. The wren did a lot of singing. The male bluebird would run him each time. Of course, we know from last year that the house wrens can be deadly to occupants of a bird box if the wren is determined to take possession.
Last year, I described the house wren as a not so friendly bird that will evict another bird’s eggs and hatchlings, and then build over the existing nest. Basically, the male builds the nest of twigs on top of an existing nest, then attracts a female that completes the nest lining of feathers, lays and incubates the eggs, then raises the young.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Walk Through the Habitat: Eastern Bluebird

When I began my walk through the Colvin Run Habitat the other day, this is the fellow I was looking to photograph. As I left the house, I walked directly towards the bluebird house, hoping the capture this male bluebird in the oak tree directly behind the bird box. Of course, what I saw and photographed first was a variety of other birds (post 1, post 2, and post 3).
As I approached the box, the bluebird took off for the other side of the Habitat (hoping I will follow???) and eventually perched in one of the front trees. I am always amazed that the birds will turn and look directly at me as I photograph them. This turn of the head (second photo) almost looks comical.
As I approached further, the bluebird flew away (note the translucency of his wing feathers) and ...
...and returns to perch in the back oak tree where I expected to find him in the first place.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Walk Through the Habitat: White-Throated Sparrow

As I continued my walk in the Colvin Run Habitat (post 1 and post 2), I almost tripped on these white-throated sparrows. During this spring, these guys are out in significant numbers.
The white-throated sparrows are living in the holly bush in the Habitat that is adjacent to the bird feeders.
In the third photo I accidentally caught one sparrow munching down a white worm. As you can see in this third photo, the worm had already been munching on the Bradford pear tree leaf (the leaf has been eaten in half already).
As you can see from the fourth photo, the sparrows move along the ground by hopping. When observed from the second floor of the house, these sparrows look like field mice running across the mulch. Until this photo, I assumed that they ran across the ground. This photo shows that they clearly hop.
During April, we wake up to the constant song of the white-throated sparrow. I believe that the song is a communications between the sparrow on the nest and the sparrow not on the next.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Walk Through the Habitat: Downy Woodpecker

So as I continued my walk in the Colvin Run Habitat, I ran into this downy woodpecker. I first found him in the dogwood tree where all of the woodpeckers first perch before visiting the suet feeders. Click on the photo and get an enlarged view - take a look at his eyes.
It wasn't long before he left the dogwood perch and flew to the feeder. As discussed previously, the woodpeckers have a flight segment where the wings are completely brought in to the body. This little guy really doesn't look like a bird in flight - perhaps he looks more like a chubby bullet.
As I continued my walk, the downy woodpecker seemed to follow me to the other side of the yard, where he took up a more classic woodpecker pose on the side of this large branch. Within two weeks this photo would not be possible. The maples are in the early stages of leaving. When the leaves are fully out, the birds will have the protection of a cover of leaves.
The downy finally found the end of this broken-off branch where he (a male, note the red on the back of the head) began looking for insects. Apparently, this broken-off branch is a favorite of the woodpeckers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Walk Through the Habitat: 9 Different Bird Types in 30 Minutes

Yesterday afternoon, I got home early enough to take some photos in full sunlight. So I took the opportunity to take a walk through the Colvin Run Habitat.
The result was the observation of nine different types of birds in 30 minutes:
>House Finch
>Carolina Wren
>American Robin
>Common Grackle
>Morning Dove
>Northern Cardinal
>Tufted titmice
>Eastern Bluebird
>Downy Woodpecker
>White-Throated Sparrow

The first photo shows the Northern cardinal (female) that is so common and numerous in the Habitat. The second photo shows the cardinal and a Carolina wren eating at the sunflower seed feeder. Note the seed in the cardinal mouth.
In the the third photo, I captured a house finch. Two years ago, the finches were nearly as common as the cardinals, but now I observe only 2-3 finches per month.
The fourth photo shows a morning dove, another bird whose numbers have decreased in the Habitat in the last year. The presence of a pair this spring is a good sign.
Number five is a poor quality photo of a common grackle.
Number six is a photo of one of the tufted titmice, one of the Habitat's birds whose numbers has slowly decreased over the last two years. Currently, the titmice numbers may be increasing.
And the last photo is an American robin - one of our birds whose numbers has increased during the last two seasons.

In the next three posts, I'll show the bluebirds, sparrows, and woodpeckers that 'played' with me as I walked the Habitat.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Update: Fox with Mange

amanda in the city asked in a comment last week, 'Whatever happened to the sick fox?'
When I last observed the sick fox, I had begun to put food out each night. The food disappeared; whether eaten by the fox or some other animal, I never knew. However unable to make contact with a previously mentioned wildlife recovery group, I had no strategy for treatment other than providing food.

After a few nights, the food was no longer eaten. Given a reading that a fox with mange seldom lives longer than 4 months and that I have not see the fox again, I assume that this fox died.

Since that time, I have found a rescue center in upstate New York offering a treatment strategy. If another fox with mange appears in the Colvin Run Habitat, I will employ the recommended strategy.

In the meantime, we await the arrival of a new fox, or two, or even a family.

The photo in this post is the signature Colvin Run Habitat fox - not the fox observed sick with mange.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Goldfinches (Wild Canaries) Confirm Arrival of Spring

These photos are for my colleague who mentioned that she noticed the goldfinches were changing colors.
I noticed yesterday that someone visited the Colvin Run Habitat Blog looking for pictures of wild canaries. Just a reminder that 'wild canary' is a name many times given to American goldfinches in their summer plumage. I previously posted photos showing the change of color in goldfinches.
In the Colvin Run Habitat, yesterday was the first time this season that a male goldfinch (sorry, the females stay in a dull, olive plumage) was observed in this 'wild canary' plumage. Like the arrival of the Bradford pear tree flowers, the bright yellow goldfinches are a sure sign that spring has really arrived.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

This spring a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers have been observed at least once a day in the Colvin Run Habitat. A few hours of sunshine allowed some reasonable photo taking, here are the results.
This is the male (continuous patch of red on the head; no gray on head). I'll post a photo of the female as soon as I get a current (and good) photo.
Given the presence of a male and female pair, I assume that they have a 'nest' nearby. Red-bellied woodpecker nest in hole in dead tree or dead limb. Eggs are laid on wood chips left from woodpecker's excavation of the nesting hole.
Unfortunately, the red-bellied woodpeckers compete with European starlings for nest locations. The starlings will nest anywhere including holes excavated by woodpeckers. Perhaps this is why the red-bellied woodpeckers and the starlings are not goof friends at the feeders.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Eastern Bluebird: Nest Built

I previously mentioned a few days ago that, unlike last year (May 12, May 19, Jun 19, and Jul 29), the bluebirds were active around the bluebird box (Mar 29 and Mar 31)this spring. I finally took a minute to quickly look at the inside of the box. This photo shows what I found. I did not keep the box open for long, nor did I disturb the nest, but no eggs were observed.

As you can see in the photo below, I did not even need to open the box to see that a nest had been built - not the grass coming out of the box door.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Revisited: April 1st: Strange Happenings in the Habitat

Significant rain fell during the night. And sunrise yielded a never before seen animal in the Colvin Run Habitat. This never before seen animal has left me, well, speechless. Take a look at the first photo.

Yes, an American alligator right between the birth bath and the bird feeders. When the sun finally dried out the soggy lawn and the gator headed south.

LuLu paid a visit today as well. In a surprise display of courage, the little white dog from Texas took on the red tailed fox in an attempt to protect the squirrels when the fox made a charge. See the second photo.

After LuLu straightened the fox out, the two became best of buddies. See the third photo.

Oh, did I mentioned that it is April Fool's Day. Hope you enjoyed the fun!