Saturday, December 29, 2012

Feather Mystery

Late yesterday I headed out to take the dog for her usual afternoon walk.  Her internal walk clock goes off and she will become quite insistent until it is just easier to give in and go.  It was a hard feeling cold to me yesterday with the winds feeling like they were coming off ice and I really did not want to go out.  We took only a short walk but when I got back home, I noticed all these feathers floating down off the roof.  I stepped back to look and the roof was covered.  There was no sign of any other bird remains.  When either the Red-Tailed or Red-Shouldered hawks are around, they are usually fairly vocal so I know they are near.  I can only assume that  this was perhaps the work of the Cooper's Hawk.  It is a very stealthy and quiet hunter.  Poor dove.  I sort of hate this because the doves were just beginning to return and I feel a little guilty because I had thrown down a handful of seed on the ground for them.

A Pine Warbler was sitting in the tree over where I was looking at the feathers trilling away and wanting me to get away from the suet feeder.  The cold temps have been bringing in the birds.  Used the last of the suet cakes yesterday and with rain today, making more will be a good inside project.

House Finches have started returning.  I usually have quite a lot and up until now, have been absent for the most part.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Sandy Hook Snowflake Project

A little diversion from nature posts for something I think is very important.  The recent shooting incident in Connecticut was beyond understanding.  I have refused to read anything regarding the shooter as I feel it only incites those seeking attention to perform similar or more shocking acts.

The focus should be on the children.  I just learned of a project to make the school the children will be going back to a winter wonderland.  This is not the school where the shooting took place  The PTA is asking for many snowflakes to help decorate the school.

These are a few that I completed today and 18 more ready to embellish tonight.  We have a group of us who are going to be working on a mad rush to get at least 24 done.  A small contribution but we are going to work as hard as possible to make each snowflake different with embellishments.

More information can be found at the PTA site here.  So folks, pull out those scissors and paper/felt or dust off that embroidery machine and get busy.  FYI if you have an embroidery machine, Embroidery Library is currently offering a free download of a snowflake pattern for use.  That pattern is available here.

Snowflakes cut from felt can be stiffened by "painting" the felt (both sides) with a liquid fabric stiffener/startch/sizing.  Let dry flat.  These turn out nicely and can then be glittered or otherwise embellished.

Snowflakes are asked to arrived by January 12, 2013 to:

Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT  60514

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Camouflage By Nature

Mother Nature does a pretty good job at providing camouflage.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

And The Winner Is?

Rain, rain, and more rain last night and all today..  We needed it but I am soooo tired of rain and gray skies.  Tomorrow should be sunny even though cool, at least blue skies.  Yesterday was beautiful for the most part of the day but family stuff and visiting left little time for anything else.

Late this afternoon when the rain finally stopped I walked down in the woods to retrieve the trail camera.  Back to the house for boots then back again.  The normally dry to damp creek bed was filled with water.

I love seeing the interaction between species.  Based on size, who would you think would leave first?

Poor young buck!  He just keeps getting his feelings hurt.  One shot between these two is just a blur where the male fox charged at the deer.  It really surprised me.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Battle of the Bucks

The high wind continues today and with the cooler temps, it cuts right through you.  The last minute Christmas rush is on with a cookie exchange yesterday so I have not been going out much.  I have some last minute projects to finish this afternoon. 

Last week, a new buck showed up.  His rack is not quite as impressive as the largest buck but he is definitely one I have not seen before.  I have not seen the largest buck in about two weeks now so I have some fear as to his well being.  I will be glad when deer hunting season is over on 1 January.

The smaller buck has just made himself at home like he is the ruler of the territory.  The new buck gave it a challenge last night but the younger buck stood its ground.

The male fox (on the left) has been showing up for the last few nights.  The female has nipped at him several times so I am not sure she is too happy to have him around.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Racing Duck

Winner by a bill!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Blue Jay

Sort of a slow day out.  Mostly cloudy with brief periods of sunshine.  A steady wind kept the birds hunkered down.  For a couple of years, I have been trying for that one outstanding shot of a Blue Jay.  No, today was not the day either.  There is one particular area where they like to search for insects but it is always in deep shade regardless of the time of year it seems.

They are noisy and boisterous but really quite pretty.  Oh well, for another day.

Blogger seems to be having issues tonight so short post.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Young Red-Shouldered Hawk

There is a young Red-Shouldered Hawk that has taken to hunting on a fairly regular basis in the wetlands in the park.  It flew in this morning as I was starting across the boardwalk.  After a night and morning of rain, the hawk found a spot in the tree where during our brief period of sunshine, it could warm and dry out. 
It was doing some serious feather spreading and preening.

 After about 10 minutes of drying, something down in the grasses caught its attention.  It leaned forward watching and planning its attack.  Finally the moment of attack and it flew. 

Yes, a poor little sparrow saw its last day but that is the cycle of life.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Slow Saturday

After several frustrating days of attempting several major embroidery projects, I finally gave up taking the machine in this morning and went to walk at the park for a bit around noon.  I figured not much would be out which there wasn't.  There were the usual Mallards and Canada Geese but not much else.

Lots of preening, wing stretching and chasing going on.  I have to say, where the males of most species are generally the most attractive, I have to give it to the female Mallards.  I believe their nicely patterned feathers make them more interesting than the males.

After leaving the trail camera out for several days, I decided to retrieve it this afternoon.  The last couple of cooler days have the deer coming in earlier looking for food.  I can see now that the twin fawns born this past spring are males.  You can definitely see where little spikes are attempting to grow now.

The fox has learned that where the corn is, there will be squirrels.  It has gotten pretty good at catching one.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Late yesterday afternoon, I noticed several Eastern Bluebirds coming to the suet feeder, bird bath and checking out the nest boxes.  Only an hour earlier walking the dog, I noticed some Bluebirds taking in nesting material at a house up the street.  I believe the warm weather as of late has the birds a bit confused.  Today though temperatures have dropped and they showed more of an interest in coming to the suet feeder than thoughts of nesting.

It did however remind me that I had not cleaned the boxes from the previous nesting season which I usually do on thanksgiving day.

While cleaning the boxes I noticed they are beginning to show some age.  I remember when I went to get several boxes for myself and my parents from a gentleman in Bailey, NC who was known as the bluebird man.  There is a tribute to Mr. Jack Finch here.  He was such a nice gentleman with a kind spirit about him and a definite love of bluebirds..  He could hold out his hand with a bit of bluebird food and the birds would come right to him.

Their blue really stands out in the drab of soon to be winter and it just makes you feel good to see them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I am finally feeling a little bit better and went out for a short time this morning just to get out of the house. With it being so close to Christmas (hard to believe in 14 days), a little themed post seems appropriate. I had noticed in one particular area, that mistletoe was beginning on several trees in that area. Curious as most of the time you see bunches high in the tree where this was only head high.
The custom of kissing under the mistletoe was described in 1820 by American author Washington Irving in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon.  “The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush.  When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.”
In Old English, mistiltan, current day mistletoe, is of possible German origins from Mist for dung and Tang for branch.  Mistletoe is generally spread by birds eating and excreting the seeds then sprouting on the host tree from which it absorbs nutrients.  The North American variety, Phoradendron flavescens is native and grows in trees from New Jersey to Florida.
There is much legend, lore and history associated with mistletoe in many countries.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Under The Weather

A bit under the weather the last two days.  I attempted one short outing which didn't last long.  Not too much lost as the overcast skies have not been conducive to decent photography.  It did give me a kick in the back end to go ahead and start some projects I planned to give for Christmas gifts.

Feeling a bit crafty, I pulled out the embroidery machine to work on some of the designs below. (image source) I love the works of James Audubon and the person that digitized these designs has done a really excellent job for embroidery patterns.

They are quite complex with many layers of shading which means massive color changes.  The first project I completed (at 0130) this morning was the Wood Duck.  93 color changes for this piece.   It looks great though.  After ironing and placing on an adhesive foam board, I added a mat and framed.  It turned out to be a really nice looking piece.

Hoping for some clearer skies tomorrow but looking at satellite weather, more clouds coming in.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Shades of Sage, Brown and Gray

In a landscape palette of sage, browns and grays, there is still beauty in the richness of texture that nature provides.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hey Baby, How About a Walk in the Woods With Me?

Deer activity has been exceptionally high and with rutting season quickly coming to an end, looks like the bucks are trying for a little one on one time while they can.

The doe does not appear to be receptive to the invitation by either Buck Jr. or Big Daddy Buck.  From other photo captures, she was definitely more relaxed around the younger buck and for a while, they even ate together.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Food Stashing

I watched in amusement at a White-Breasted Nuthatch was flying back and forth to the suet feeder and most of the time taking small bits back to a hiding hole.  I have seen it on several different days repeat the behavior.  I guess since dogs hide bones and squirrels hide nuts, it stands to reason birds would also stash food.

What had me so tickled was there was a Red-Bellied Woodpecker watching from a neighboring tree and as soon as the Nuthatch departed, it went and stole the food.  Who says birds are not smart?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cedar Waxwings

What an absolutely beautiful day for anytime of the year but particularly for December.  High of 75 today and blue skies.  I did alot of work in the yard today hopefully the last big leaf blow.

The Cedar Waxwings were very active today.  They would fly to the holly tree which in turn brought the Robins and all the activity and chirps brought in yet more birds.  While the Robins were brash, noisy and not shy about being out in the open, the Waxwings stayed deeper in the tree and in the shadows.  Ocassionally, the Robins would run all of the Waxwings away from the tree and they would sit planning their next swarm.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Nuthatch is a Nuthatch is a Nuthatch

So similar, yet all different.  They all strike the nuthatch pose.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

White-Breasted Nuthatch

Brown-Headed Nuthatch

Friday, November 30, 2012

Downy Woodpecker

As soft and sweet in appearance as their name implies.  Even their little call and murmuring as they go about searching for food is sweet. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Original Recycling Concept

I found out about a local photo contest late yesterday afternoon and set out early this morning with determination in search of something to fit the context of the exhibit.  With an entry deadline of 30 November, no time to waste.

As usual, I got sidetracked.  While exploring around an on log tobacco barn, I found some old drink bottles.  These were from a time you took the bottle back in the next time you got a drink so you didn't have to pay a deposit.  You could really get a cold drink in these unlike the plastic bottles now that regardless of how long you cool, they never really get cold and heat up quickly.

The old log barn was a haven for Carolina Anole that were basking in the sun.  They look quite different in their coloration now.  Definitely not the green of spring and summer.  There was a wide variety of brown toned coloration ranging from tan to dark brown.

 As for entry possibilities, well, I still have tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pine Warbler


The flash of bright yellow is conspicuous when seen out in the open.  However..............

when hunting in its namesake tree, easily blends in and is camouflaged.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Curious Fox

Today was one of those exceptional birding days where you get fantastic shots.  To top it off, the weather was outstanding.  Tomorrow is suppose to be overcast with another cold front moving through so I made the most of today.

With so many wonderful shots, it is going to take me a while to go though them.  So what do I post instead?  A fox.  The fox has been spotted in this particular location on several occasions.  It is unreachable by human foot traffic (unless you brave the briars and/or water) so the fox feels safe to relax and enjoy the sun on a soft bed of grass.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Northern Flicker

If I had to choose a favorite bird, this one would rate high on my list.  I like everything about them.  It is as if the Creator could not decide what they should look like and gave them a dash of everything.  This bird was doing some serious chowing down on the poison ivy seeds.  Some acrobatic moves were required to reach the last seeds.

Female and Male

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Busy Beavers

My first attempt at getting the beavers in action was nothing great.  Re-thinking how to set the camera I tried again.  Success!  I was able to document three different beavers, a muskrat and raccoon that showed up all three nights.

I went out early this morning to get the camera as temperatures are going to fall all day and a biting wind out of the north was building.  The beavers made quite a bit of progress last night beginning right a dark and last crossing the new dam site to go back to their lodge at 0630.

I did notice a new area they worked on last night as they are trying to contain an area of water that is already backing up.  I may give that location a go later in the week.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Poor Sportsmanship

I went out early this morning to retrieve the trail camera I had set to try and record the beaver. While I did get some shots, they were not very good so I am trying again tonight.  Moving on.  This park is considered a native wildlife refuge where hunting is not permitted.  A herd of deer come in and shelter in the park overnight and move to deeper woods surrounding the park in the morning.

As I was working getting up the trail camera, the herd came across the wetlands.  They had finished crossing and headed down the path further in the woods when a shot rang out.  Another gentleman who was walking stopped and looked at me.  The shot was very close.   There is no way that anyone should have been hunting that close to the park and in fact, firing into the park.

We talked about whether we should call a wildlife officer but decided the shooter would be long gone before one would arrive.  It showed poor judgement on the hunters part and poor sportsmanship.

I fear that the matriarch of the herd was probably shot.  I have watched them on many occasions coming across the wetlands and she was always at the head of the herd.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Winter Wren

Late this afternoon I went to set the trail camera out in hopes of catching the beavers at work over the next two nights.  They have been working on a new dam over the last two weeks.  As I was studying the area trying to figure out the best way to set up the camera and have it protected, I noticed a little wren going in and out of the branches on the dam.

At first I thought it was probably a Marsh Wren considering the area but it turned out to be a Winter Wren.  Quite a few more markings than our normal Carolina Wren which are in abundance.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Terrific Tuesday Birds

Despite overcast skies, the birds have been very active at the house today.  I spent the morning out blowing leaves and after I finished, sat on the deck for a bit just watching all the activity.  Lots of woodpeckers, sapsuckers and a pair of flickers flying from tree to tree.

The birds appreciated the leaves being cleared away from their watering hole and rewarded me with close up visits with lots of drinking, bathing and general splashing about.

I am really enjoying the addition of the Red-Breasted Nuthatches to the bird community this year.  They are a lively addition and are always moving about.  One thing I have noticed though is that the normally present White-Breasted Nuthatches are far and few between.  Maybe they are just hunting higher in the trees but they normally are a steady visitor and the suet feeder.

A rather large group of Golden Crowned Kinglets came in around noon.  A flurry of activity and high pitched chirps really stirred things up.  They seemed a bit skiddish about coming to the watering rock but after the first brave bird, took turns flying in and out.

The little Ruby-Crowned Kinglet did not have a fear issue.  It came so close to me at one point the camera would not even focus.

A pair of Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers spent most of the morning chasing each other from tree to tree.  Must be mate selection time.

Phoebe was close by steadily annoucing her presence and darting after any insect she saw flying about.