Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Bit O' Birding

Despite the fact I needed to be home cleaning up the yard, I decided to go out for a bit this morning just to see what was out. I sort of expected it to be a great morning after the storm yesterday and from the number of birding groups out, assume they thought the same. Turned out to be sort of a disappointing morning. A Kestrel and Loggerhead Shrike that hang in the area are back in for the fall and winter seasons. Maybe this is the signal that good things are about to start coming in.

What I have noticed more and more in the last two weeks is that the females are out. During nesting season you rarely saw the females of the migratory birds. Now you tend to see the females as it seems the males have already departed.

There were a group of four birds sort of hanging together fluttering about and hunting insects. I have sort of debated but think they are young Indigo Buntings and all seemed to be female.

Mockingbirds seemed to be everywhere. There must have been a bumper crop this year. Mostly out of boredom and nothing else to shoot I took a shot of one and glad I did. I think this photo will go in an upcoming slide show my friend and I are giving in October.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Waiting for Irene / Good-Bye Irene

SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE / 28 Aug / 0431: A long day of seemingly endless wind and rain bands that started early and ended late. Lost power on five separate occasions with the last about 1500 Saturday and when I went to bed, still no power.

Around 0330 this morning I head the dog barking and having had way too much sleep, got up with the flashlight to see what caught her attention. Lights and radio talk. Yeah!, the power company. Could not have been better timing as I had just decided about the same time I needed to go crank the generator and let the refrigerator and deep freezer run for a bit. It makes you realize how spoiled a society we are to have power at virtually the flip of a switch. I stepped out to thank the gentleman and wish him a good day. With several hundred thousand power customers out of power just locally, they have a tough and thankless job. I am sure there are those further east who will be out of power for several days.

My thoughts this morning are with the folks along the coast. They are dealing with flooding, destruction and power loss. I am thankful we only had a brush in our area versus what could have been. I remember the one that came up through our area in 1996 that caused major destruction and 10 days of no power.

Today is suppose to be beautiful and I look forward to going out for a bit of birding this morning and then it is back home to pick up limbs. I did a bit of pick up to clear the driveway yesterday but there is still several hours of work left.

SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE / 27 Aug / 0640: Just getting home from work. Locally, bands of rain started coming in late last night. The wind has continued to gradually pick up speed. The power here has blinked several times since I arrived home but is still on for now.

Further east, heavy rains are causing localized flooding, trees have started falling and several ten's of thousands are already without power.

The hurricane has weakend to a CAT 1 which is good news for all. We are still several hours away from the period of greatest impact however it appears right now we are going to make out fairly well.

Power just blinked again so I will sign out for now.

It has been a long 18 hour workday and it is back up tomorrow early. I went in to work as normal this morning and about 1430 was told I had to go back in at 1830 tonight until 0730 Friday morning.

Finally with pretty much all set until the hurricane gets closer and weather conditions deteriorate, some of us were cut loose around 2100 tonight. You can only stare at a computer screen just so long. I couldn't quite figure why so many of us were pulled in tonight with the hurricane still several hundred miles away.

The wave of tropical air that precedes the arrival of a hurricane is definitely moving in. The air feels hot and humid tonight. It is now just a wait and see what happens. Despite all the predictions weather forecasters make, a force of nature that size is still largely unpredictable.

I fully expect we will lose power at some time on Saturday but keeping my fingers crossed for a realtively easy and non-destructive storm. The rain will be welcome down east where fires have smoldered since the spring.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Early Migration and Forecasting Winter?

With temperatures still in the 90+ range, it is hard to think that fall and winter weather are just a few months away. This morning was warm and muggy, very much still feeling like a summer morning. The Cicada chorus was loud and constant. Yet shorter days and some tree leaves beginning to turn a more yellow shade of green tell another story.

There is much speculation among birders in the area that we are in line for an early fall migration this year. There has been a serious lull in birding over the last two weeks.

On Saturday, my friend and I went out and there were still lots of Grosbeaks to be found but today, none. It is almost as if someone gathered them all up and moved them. The male Indigo Buntings have all but disapperared however today I did spot two female I-Buntings. A White-eyed Vireo was hunting deep in some trees so the photo is not very good.

We were surprised however to spot a pair of Dickcissel's that arrived early summer. We speculated then from their behavior then they were nesting and since they are still around, suspect indeed they did and will return next year. There have been an increase in hummingbirds probably coming in from further north. There is usually a short period of time their numbers increase then they depart.
My Dad and I were talking and have both noticed a huge increase in the rate the birds are eating seed at the feeders. Are they stocking up for a bad winter? The berries on the dogwood trees are already turing red which is much earlier than usual. I have watched a squirrel today work on one of the trees here in the yard. The Elderberries have all been eaten with the excpetion of a few that have yet to rippen. Many of the plants that provide natural food sources to the birds have simply not produced this year. I suspect this is going to be a difficult winter for the birds.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Waning Days of Summer

Despite continuing high temperatures, signs of the approaching fall are everywhere. The Goldenrod is blooming which is a sure sign. Already many of the birds of summer are departing for parts unknown. The song of the Indigo Bunting once so prevelant is now rare.

The fevered activity of nesting and fledging have passed and now the birds seem to be eating at a frantic pace knowing what is ahead. The angle of the sun is lower in the sky and slowly but surely daylight shortens.

It has been a very different birding year here. Very good in many respects but the migratory summers birds seem to be departing much earlier. Normally mid-September through mid-October is prime time for fall migration in this area so I will be anxious to see.

The acorns have started falling here at the house. I suspect the extremely dry weather has had a definite impact. The acorns are much smaller than last year so hopefully that will equate to not much snow. Seems when the acorns are large, we have a snowy winter. If we have as cold a winter as we did a hot summer, we are in for it.

Not much out today. I think all the birds had the commom sense to stay in the shade. A Green Heron flew in briefly across the pond but did not stay long. Mostly Mockingbirds, Catbirds and a whole brood of young Carolina Wrens.

The only thing with wings that seem to like the heat were the invertebrates. The pokeberries are turning dark purple and their bright fushia stems seem to call to the birds yet warn away others.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Late Summer Wildflowers

Went out for about an hour this morning just to walk a bit. I knew I would be stuck at the house waiting for the delivery truck with the new computer. And no, it has not come yet. I could have gone to work after all. Tracking sight still says delivery today.

I had been keeping my eye on several wildflowers waiting for them to bloom. With the lack of rain this summer, I am amazed they have bloomed at all but they seem full and beautiful. I would have loved to been able to get closer but with the exception of the Cranefly Orchid, they were all out in the swampy area where I am sure there are some large no-shoulders that live there.

The Cardinal Flower prefers a wetland habitat. The hummingbirds absolutely love this plant. I have one at the house and watch the hummingbird hit it every morning before coming to the feeder.

The Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia Discolor) is a member of the Orchidaceae family. Unlike many traditional orchids, it is a terrestrial orchid found growing in woodlands over most of the southeastern US.

The Monkeyflower is a member of the snap dragon family. It too preferes wet meadowlands and streambanks. The name is suppose to be because the flower somewhat looks like a monkey's face. I guess if you squint and use your imagination maybe?

And yeah!!! The new computer was just delivered. Now the work begins.