Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pileated Woodpecker: Seldom Seen Visitor to the Habitat

Three years have passed since the last Colvin Run Habitat sighting of a pileated woodpecker. But this is the first time that this woodpecker has visited the suet feeder.   

When I first glanced out the window this morning, I thought that this crow-sized bird was, well, a crow. But with a quick second take, I caught the distinctive red crown. Note that these photos show two individual birds.  The woodpecker in the first photo is a male - has a red mustache. The woodpecker in the second photo is a female - has a black mustache.

Of course, the ever-faithful and daily-visiting Northern Cardinal was a bit jealous and insisted that he get into the photo.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Injured Snapping Turtle

I found this amazing snapping turtle walking in circles in the middle of the road about a mile from the Colvin Run Habitat. He appeared to have just come from being buried in mud and leaves.

I could not get him to move to the side of the road, even with the encouragement a large and guiding stick. I could not even get him to snap at the stick.
I estimate his height at about 7" and his length at 15", minimum. Given this length, and the fact that a 25 year old male is typically 11 inches long, this snapper is not only large, he may be 50 or more years old.
If you clook closely you will see that he only has one eye. And, I know that snappers do not have teeth, but it surely looks like small teeth in these photos.
Unfortunately, the reason for his walking in circles became clear - this snapper had been run over by a car - the rear right shell was damaged and bloody - the rear right leg clearly damaged. I finally managed to move him (using the stick) to the side of the road. I doubt that he made it. You can find a great snapping turtle at http://www.tortoisetrust.org/articles/snappers.htm.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Red-Tailed Fox Eating Sunflower Seeds

This spring we have had a fox hinting in the Colvin Run Habitat. We have seen this fox chasing squirrels - one time successfully. We even have squirrel parts to prove his presence. But, no photos - until today.
This young fox came on two occasions - separated by about an hour - and feasted on sunflower seeds on the ground under the bird feeder.
Although his coat is clearly dirty and wet (it has been raining in Northern Virginia for at least three days, this fox appears in good health. He has no signs of mange and he has clear eyes. As the photos show, he and I spend several minutes eye-to-eye (or eye-to-lens). I stayed on the porch hoping not to spook him.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tight Fit for Blluebird

A few minutes ago I took a break from the office work and walked the Colvin Run Habitat. Having noticed yesterday that in the last ten days the bluebirds had built a nest and laid several eggs, I was interested in shooting a few photos of them.

I approached the bluebird house hoping not to scare the female sitting on the nest (technically it is after sundown, so the male has left for the day and the female has taken over for the night). When I was about seven feet from the house, she eased up to the opening and began to watch me (first photo). Then, she bolted out of the house and flew to a nearby tree branch.
If you ever wondered how tight a fit it is for a bluebird to get into and out of their house, this second photo shows clearly that it is a very tight fit. The bluebird launched herself from the house and when clear (and falling down) opened its wings and flew.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Chickadees Move In

While the bluebirds seem to have selected the older of the bird houses in the Habitat, a pair of Carolina Chickadees see to have moved into this house that I put this past winter. The house is attached to the main truck of the dogwood tree, which is located intentionally within twenty feet of the house.
I put this bird house up with the expectation of having one house wrens or Carolina wrens take up residence. Both wrens and the bluebirds have been seen going into and out of this house, for now the chickadees seem to have taken up residence. We'll see if they actually build a nest.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Blubirds Inspect the Bird House

As with all photos in the Colvin Run Habitat Blog, click on any photo to get a 'zoomed-in' view.
The bluebird pair continue to look at the prime nesting boxes in the Habitat. While they continue to check out the inside of the boxes, I have yet to see them move in the materials required to build a nest. In this first photo, you can see how they land with their claws on entrance hole simultaneous with putting their head in the hole. After landing, the bluebird wlll take a few seconds to pull up and into the box.

The male perched on top of the house is part of the "Nest Demonstration Display" where the male attracts the female through song and wing flapping. The male also will provide the nesting materials (dried grasses and pine needles). The female will then enter the box and build the nest.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Eastern Bluebirds Arrive

I took 30 minutes away from the office work to capture and post a few photos. This pair of Eastern Bluebirds arrived about 3 weeks ago. They have continued to check out two of the bird houses in the Colvin Run Habitat - one in which they nested last year and a new one installed two months ago that I thought was two small for bluebirds.
The first two photos show the female resting in the yet to bloom dogwood tree. The second two photos show the male in the oak tree and sitting on the roof of one of the bird houses.
As you can tell the female is slightly duller in color than the male. These photos show off the brilliant orange breast blue backs of the bluebirds.
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Space Available

With the bluebirds and chickadees moving into the smaller bird houses in the Habitat, this recently installed large box (referred to as a wood duck box) remains vacant. I took 30 minutes last weekend to install this box 20 feet up in one of the line of maple trees in the Habitat. This box is actually suspended from the top with a cable running through a fixed pulley (so I can get the box down without the ladder at the end of the season) and then held steady with two stabling cables out the bottom/sides of the box.
I have not seen an birds inspect the box. But as you can see from the white mess on the from of the box in the second photo, at least one bird has visited. The goal is to attract a large woodpecker, red-shouldered hawk, of with great luck an owl.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Earth Hour 2009

I hope that all of you will participate in this Saturday's Earth Hour 2009 event. Event organizer,
World Wildlife Fund, is asking individuals, businesses, governments and organizations around the world to turn off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – to make a global statement of concern about climate change and to demonstrate commitment to finding solutions.

So, turn your lights out for an hour this Saturday at 8:30 PM local time and join a worldwide community to make a statement bout climate change.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Enjoying the Maple Sap

I believe that the sap is beginning to run on the maple trees. A good indicator is that the red-bellied woodpecker was observed pecking the maple tree bark. With a little luck in the next view weeks, we'll observe the yellow-bellied sapsucker, which has only been observed during February in the Colvin Run Habitat.
This second photo shows the red-bellied woodpecker beginning his flight from a position of clutching the bark.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Tufted Titmice

Along with the Carolina chickadees, the tufted titmice come to the feeders in the Colvin Run Habitat every day. They help to consume the one and a half gallons of sunflower seeds consumed by all of the birds each and every day.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Red-Shouldered Hawk in Flight

Some more red-shouldered hawks for the Owlman. In three of the last four days, a red-shouldered hawk has been observed in the Colvin Run Habitat. Today, this hawk was perched in a tree and observed at sundown. With his dark brown back facing me, the tree being about 50 yards away, and his static position at sundown, he was very difficult to see.
Our house, located on a hill, overlooks a meadow that is about 40 feet below. As I approached the hawk, he took off for the meadow. The result was a rare opportunity to photograph the hawk from above while he was in flight. In this photo, you can see the white barring and striping on the top of the tail and wings. Even in the dim light of dusk, this is a large and beautiful predator.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Day of the Hawks: Cooper's Hawk

In addition to the pair of red-shouldered hawks today, this Cooper's Hawk also was observed. I got a photo of the Cooper in one of the azalea bushes, but also observed him on the ground under the bird feeder as he attempted to grab one of the smaller birds to eat.
As the Cooper's and red-shouldered hawks are about the same size and have some similar color traits (feddish chest, reddish under the wings), here is how I tell the two apart:
>Cooper's back is dark gray while the red-shoulder's back is dark brown with some white specks.
>Both have barred tails - Cooper's is black bar, red-shoulder's is white
>The red-shoulder's neck is much thicker than the Cooper's. When observing them with a bright or blue-sky background this can be very helpful.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Day of the Hawks: Red-Shouldered Hawk Pair

A pair of red-shouldered hawks arrived was observed early this morning. As red-shouldered hawks are known to return to a given locale for many years, I would like to think that today's pair is the pair observed on three occasions in 2007 (1, 2, 3).
Later in the afternoon, a single hawk was observed on two occasions - or was it on observation of each of the two hawks.
I managed to catch one of the red-shoulders in flight also.

Friday, January 30, 2009

White-tailed Deer Herd

They now come as a herd of at least eight. Yes, these photos show only six, but out of camera width are another two. If you get too close, one of the mothers will raise her head and stare you down. With so little vegetation left and this week's snow on the ground, they eat any seed on the ground. They also will bump the feeder to put more seed on the ground. I have to work hard to get them to leave - which I must do as they consumer large amounts of seed and water that I put out for the birds.
Of the eight, three are the mother who delivered twins last spring (we lost the male father in late fall) and two are the mother and her single fawn from last spring. No idea where the herd picked up the last three in the herd of eight. Now, last spring's fawns are the same size as mom.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Update and Summary: Foxes with Mange

A quick summary of previous posts about foxes in the Colvin Run Habitat and about mange illness in foxes. There many postings about Red-tailed Foxes visiting the Habitat, but only three postings about foxes infected with mange. I am posting this update to make sure that all information we know is easily found in this blog.

First and foremost, regardless of how cute they are, foxes are wild animals. Kids - talk to your parents. Parents - make sure you use good judgment and appropriate caution.

Fact and Fiction about Foxes with Mange:
>It is very common for individuals to believe that if they see a fox near their homes, looking or acting sick, that it must have rabies. 99% of the time this is not the case.
>The animal most likely is suffering from mange; a debilitating condition that causes severe scratching, open sores and loss of hair. >The good news is that it is easily treatable.

Information to help you understand an animal with mange:
>A fox with mange is very weak from an inability to hunt for food.
>They are tired and suffering from constant itching and burning sensations.
>Because they must eat they will venture close to homes looking for food. Pet food that is left outside is a frequent choice.
>The fox will not attack cats, dogs or children. Even under normal circumstances it is not aggressive. It will react however, if trying to be captured.
>They do not want to take up residence in your area permanently. If treated and allowed to recover they will move on.

However, mange, like many illness, needs to be treated with medication:
>See this site from upstate New York for details
>Mange in foxes is treatable with Ivermectin which is inexpensive and easy to obtain.

I am hoping that the recent anonymous commenter from Great Falls, Viriginia (a community adjacent to the Colvin Run Habitat), will continue to keep us up to date on the progress of treating his foxes.

If you have observations of foxes with mange and especially if you are able to treat mangy foxes with Ivermectin, I hope that you will post a comment and let us know your actual experiences and results.

In the meantime, 9 months have passed since we have observed a fox in the Habitat. But hope springs eternal, and we continue to wait for another blessing of foxes.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Unidentified Slug

In addition to the Leopard Slug, we also have this slug in the Colvin Run Habitat.
I do not know what kind of slug it is...a banana slug??? Since someone identified the spider, I am hoping someone will identify this slug. Anyone???
This slug was moving around the nylon grill cover. In the first two photos, you can clearly see the slim trail left.
These photos were taken last summer.
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