Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Acorns

Acorns, a.k.a. Oak Nuts.  There is no shortage of them this year....at least here at the house.  And not small ones, but very large!  For the past two weeks it sounds like someone throwing rocks on top of the house.  If a good wind happens to blow, it sounds like you are under attack.  Needless to say, I have not been sleeping very well.  I spent the day getting up buckets of them that were already beginning to sprout.  Every spring it seems I have hundreds of young oak trees starting to grow.

Have you ever noticed that squirrels tend to eat only one half of an acorn?  I tried one and indeed, one side does seem to be a bit sweeter.

Acorns play an important part of the diet for several birds, squirrels and deer.  Depending on the type of oak tree, the degree of tannin differs.  The more tannin, the more bitter.  Native Americans and several other cultures would leach the tannin out by soaking in water then drying in the sun..  The nut can then be toasted which gives a sweeter flavor and ground into a flour like substance.

During the Civil War, acorns were often used as a substitute for coffee when there was none available or limited due to rationing.

So what else can you do with an acorn?  Did you know the top can be made into a whistle?  It works! Sort of a cool thing.  It drove my dog nuts while I was trying it.  Here are the directions.  It takes a little practice to get the hang of it but just purse you lips and blow.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cooper's Hawk

Yesterday my friend and I watched as a hawk chased a Kingfisher, not just once, but twice.  We could not believe what we were seeing.  It almost appeared as if the Kingfisher was trying to engage the hawk in a game of chase.

This morning, we went early hoping to catch eagles.  Yes, we saw several but overcast skies made for difficult shooting.  We had just walked back up to the berm that extends beyond the dam when in flies the same hawk and sat in a nearby tree.  We were both thrilled at the sighting and could not believe it came in so close to us.





Thursday, October 23, 2014

Down at the River

It was such a beautiful day my friend and I took a trip down to the river.  It is a fairly isolated area so I won't go by myself but an outing with a friend is more fun anyway.  We arrived a little later than anticipated so we are going to try again in the morning in hopes of catching some eagles.




The sky was Carolina blue with not a cloud in sight.  Just a wonderful day.  There were a pair of young osprey hanging around and one absolutely showed very little fear of us.  What a time to forget you long lens!  Hopefully tomorrow some really fantastic shots.  With them leaving soon, we want to try again.
















The Great Blue Herons were competing with each other for prime fishing spots and squawking when one would intrude.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bird Check at Lake Mattamuskeet

My friend and I went back to Lake Mattamuskeet this past Monday mostly to try to see what waterfowl was coming in now and hopefully get some shots of Blue-winged Teal that were supposed to be in a certain area.

The grasses are still fairly high as there has not been any cold weather yet so most of the ducks in the  marsh area were hidden from view.  There were lots of Northern Pintail in and would get up and fly en mass when the Harrier or an eagle would buzz by.  Lots of both Great and Snowy Egrets.

A few Tundra Swan were in but flew over to some fields at first light.

There were still lots of Common Yellowthroats around as the insect population was still fairly high.  The best shots I have had of them all year so that was a bonus.












Lots of Palm Warblers around and they seemed to really like the Cypress trees.














Tons of deer!  You could definitely tell it is mating season.  Almost every path we took, deer.

While not looking forward to the really cold weather, I am looking forward to seeing the waterfowl.  I have a feeling this may be a good year.  The wetland areas have been flooded a bit more than last year which was not a good year.  Hopefully the additional water in the impoundments will attract the ducks.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Autumn Sightings

We have had an exceptionally and thankfully very mild fall this year.  The insects are enjoying the last of the warm days taking advantage of the warming of the sun.

I am always inspired how Mother Nature provides for her own.  Fields of late blooming flowers are available as Monarch Butterflies arrive on their migration trek.  It was a beautiful sight to see thousands of flowers in bloom only to be matched by an almost equal amount of butterflies.



















The contrast of the bright yellow of the flowers with the brilliant orange of the butterflies was quite striking.

They are the only butterfly that like birds, make a two way migration.  The eastern population of North America generally over-winter in Mexico and the southern most part of Florida until late March when they begin their return journey.






















I  saw more Blue-eyed Grasshoppers (Orchelimum pulchellum - male) yesterday than I can remember seeing in some time.  They are very striking in color with their blue eyes and red legs.



Sort of alien looking when you look at them close up.















This grasshopper jumped in the car and tried to hitch a ride home.  They always remind of the Jiminy Cricket character even though it is a grasshopper and not a cricket.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Green Heron

It has been a busy week getting some of those fall projects around the house done while the weather was so nice.  I cleaned out the gutters, patched and resealed the top of the chimney and completed a raised bed to plant some Jerusalem Artichokes, aka Sunchokes.  I still have one flower bed to do over before cold weather hits.

Friday morning I took a bit of a break and met my friend at the park.  I was quite surprised when I saw a Green Heron fly in.

Ferns were bathing in a bit of sunlight filtering through the trees now that some leaves are beginning to fall.  It really made their green pop.

We did not stay too long as both of us had our photo entries to take to the fair.  I also took mine and my nephews gourds and his mobile.  Keeping my fingers crossed for him.  He wants a ribbon so badly.  Late yesterday afternoon I made my zucchini bread and will take that in today.  I had debated waiting until this morning but decided if I goofed yesterday, it would give me time this morning.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Last Minute Road Trip - Raptors

My friend and I made a last minute decision to leave early yesterday morning (0330) to go to Lake Mattamuskeet.  The weather was simply beautiful.  We arrived just as the sun was coming up.   As we crossed the lake, hundreds of swallows were swooping about.  We stopped trying to get some shots but none came out very good.  Too dark and they were moving too quickly.

Upon arriving at the refuge the first bird we saw was a Red-tailed Hawk.  We took this as a good sign we would see some raptors today.

We had hoped to see more waterfowl and after stopping by the refuge office, we got some intel on where some fairly good size groups of Ibis and Blue-winged Teals were spotted.  This was on the back side of the refuge and after getting some directions, we took off.  This area is closed after 31 October to prevent disturbing the migrating waterfowl so we were hoping to get some good shots.

We found the area, parked and packed to hike in.  After a little more than 1/2 mile, we realized we took the wrong path,  All was not lost though.  There were a couple of young Merlin that were desperately trying to catch some prey.  Their hunting skills were definitely lacking and repeated swoop downs on large flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds that were feeding on seed heads in the field yielded to results.  One young one that was nearby unfortunately was sitting in the shadows.  We had to jack the ISO up to 2000 to even get a shot light enough to get any detail.

Finally moving on to try and find the correct area, we soon realized we were looking at another 1 1/2 mile hike to get to the location and back.  With limited time and shorter days, we decided we would come back another day before the area was closed.  On the way back out we spotted an Osprey sitting in a tree doing some serious grooming.




Back to the front side of the refuge, we hit the back area.  We were quite surprised to find one area that was still warbler rich.  In one small area we found a Black-and-white, American Redstart, Northern Parula and still a few Prothonotary Warblers.




























The day was getting late and we decided to make one last run down Wildlife Drive.  We spotted a Kestrel hunting and stopped to watch it for a while.  They are such pretty birds.






















As we were watching we noticed a brown bird swooping low over the marsh.  Yeah!  A Northern Harrier.  They are such magnificent fliers.  Immediately the little Kestrel flew off yielding to the Harrier's presence.












One last stop going over the lake and an eagle popped out of a small island of trees and starting flying across the lake.  A nice bird to end the day with.

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Nature lover, animal lover, lover of life.