Monday, January 30, 2012

Duck, Duck Duck, Goose

Female Merganser stretching after mating

Merganser couple looking pleased with themselves

Mr. Bufflehead and the Mrs. below

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Red-Shouldered Hawks & Eagle Cam Info

Lazy start this morning as temps dipped to about 29 last night.  It has warmed up fairly nicely this afternoon but temps are about 12 deg cooler than yesterday but still a beautiful day for the end of January.  I was getting things together to go out for a bit this morning when I heard the hawks calling,  Following was the alarm honking of the geese on the pond and the fussing of birds and squirrels.

I stepped out to see if I could spot the hawks.  They have been visiting the yard frequently and I believe checking out potential nesting sites.  It has been three years since they nested in a tree by the side of the house where I had opportunity to closely observe them.

One was sitting in one tree and the second flying from tree to tree checking them out.  Not sure if they were hunting on scoping out territory.  Photos of one are a little iffy because it was still fairly shady.  The last tree where the one below flew was about the area where the nest was several years ago.

I went on to the park after these shots where I had an outstanding birding morning.  Nothing really out of the ordinary but lots of activity and some pretty decent duck shots.  There were Buffleheads, Mergansers, Grebes, Ringed- Necks, Mallards and the always Canada Geese out this morning.

 I have been having such a major flair up of carpal tunnel that I am limiting mouse use and keyboarding time until the inflammation chills out a bit so going through photos is a slow process right now.

And lastly, I found the link for the "EagleCam" at Jordan Lake which is in the next county over.    They had one last year in a little different format which I liked better.  It was fun to watch the young eagle chicks grow until they fledged.  The camera is active daylight hours eastern time.  There are two chicks in the nest now.

"This Bald Eagle Nest Camera is located on Jordan Lake near Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, NC. It was set up last year as a joint project b/w NC State, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Maxim Intergrated Products, and Lineberger Tree Service."Lake Jordan Eagle Cam

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Nature's Engineers

Back in October, the beavers began increasing the size of a small dam they had across a creek.  Steadily since then, the dam has increased in length as water routed around and they attempt to stop the flow.  By November, you could begin seeing a significant impact on the marsh area.  Previously dry areas were now flooded and more waterfowl were beginning to use the area.

I didn't visit the area much in December as I was travelling to other places.  Today was such a beautiful day I decided to go see how things had changed.  I took the small point and shoot to get a wide landscape shot but I think my card has gone bad as nothing was on it when I returned home.

I went back and looked at shots from Oct, Nov and compared to today.  Almost the entire back marsh is now flooded and work continues on the dam.  The difference was quite amazing to see.  The damming is changing the entire ecology of what was a marsh area.  The destructive nature of beavers is beginning to show with the loss of trees.  The small ones were the first to go but they have moved on to more impressive tree sizes.  I saw this one and had to wonder did the beaver just decide to call it quits on this tree?  Many more trees are being girded which I am sure will lead to their demise.

There were probably 10 mallards and a dozen Canada Geese that had taken up residence in the now flooded marsh.  Far back I could also see the Great Blue Heron wading.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Decoy Update

Update on progress of merganser decoy.  Going very slowly but I am trying to be careful.  One thing for sure, you can easily take wood off, you can't put it back on.  Months to go...unknown.  These are the photos from after class #3 and 4.

Monday night I started working on the head a bit.  Getting a little more duckish looking after each class.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday at Home

It has been another dreary day with a chill that cuts through to the bone.  My only journey out was to pick up a couple of ingredients to make some suet cakes and a new thistle sock.  The finches swarmed in early and finished off what was left of one and I felt very bad as they would fly to the empty searching.

The last suet cakes I made I chopped some cranberries and blueberries very fine and mixed with some applesauce that I added to the mixture.  They all definitely like it.  Visitors on the suet feeder today have been Carolina Wrens, Bluebirds, Cardinals, Chickadees, Titmice, Downy WPs, B. Thrasher, WT Sparrows, Juncos,  finches (both gold and house), 1 male Purple Finch, 1 Brown Header and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  It has definitely been a hotspot of activity.
(and 1 Pine Warbler who has sat in a nearby tree and trilled away all day)

Within about five minutes of hanging up the new thistle sock the finches arrived.  Funny how you don't see them until you put out the food.  Most were willing to share a space on the sock with others but there was one that wanted to bully and fuss with any arriving finch.  This one stayed to the top and guarded his space. 
Sorry for the poor quality.  Dark day out and these were taken through the window so flash was not possible.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Gray Day

The weekend has arrived, it should be time to play,
but the gray, gloomy clouds won't go away.

A gray bird on a gray day,
sun come out so I can go play.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Will La Niña Influence Spring Migration?

The roller coaster weather continues.  Today, almost 70, tomorrow only a high of 49 is expected.  The weather effects of La Niña are expected to continue through March.  The milder winter has had a noticeable affect on the number of migratory warterfowl and songbirds that normally winter over.

By this time last year, we had already received a couple of rounds of snow (granted not that much in our area) and January was a miserably cold month.  This year, two weeks before the end of January,  I still have petunias blooming out on the deck.

There has been a noticeable decrease in the number of Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Juncos, Kinglets and even White-Throated Sparrows which are generally everywhere in winter.  Last year it was not unusual to look out at the suet feeder and see 5 of 6 YR Warblers clinging to the feeder at one time.  This year I feel lucky to see one or two in a week.

I have to wonder how or if this will influence the arrival and departure times during spring migration.  Will those that arrive early be even earlier?   Time will tell. 
Timelines for March Arrivals

Arrive       Depart       Bird         (approximate dates)
--------       20-Feb      Lapland Longspur
8-Mar       ---------      Chipping Sparrow
--------      15-Mar      Fox Sparrow
18-Mar      3-May      Henslow's Sparrow
26-Mar     --------       Yellow-throated Warbler
27-Mar     --------       Black-and-white Warbler
27-Mar     --------       Black-throated Green Warbler
30-Mar     --------       Common Yellowthroat
31-Mar     --------       Louisiana Waterthrush
31-Mar     --------       Palm Warbler

Timelines for April Arrivals

Arrive        Depart       Bird 
---------      4-Apr        Song Sparrow
8-Apr        ---------      Northern Parula
---------      12-Apr      Dark-eyed Junco
12-Apr     ---------       American Redstart
13-Apr     ---------       Yellow Warbler
14-Apr     ---------       Ovenbird
14-Apr     ---------      White-crowned Sparrow
15-Apr     ---------       Prairie Warbler
18-Apr     ---------       Hooded Warbler
18-Apr     ---------       Prothonotary Warbler
19-Apr     ---------       Grasshopper Sparrow
21-Apr    28-Apr        Le Conte's Sparrow
23-Apr     ---------      Yellow-breasted Chat
24-Apr     ----------     Northern Waterthrush
24-Apr     ----------     Worm-eating Warbler
27-Apr     19-May      Black-throated Blue Warbler
28-Apr      ---------     Chestnut-sided Warbler

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hermit Thrush

Long ago I gave up on growing grass in the highly shaded back yard and keep it natural.  No grass to cut but leaf mulching is required.  I usually wait until closer to spring when the sight of a copperhead sends me running for the mower but with the warmer winter, went ahead and mulched early.

A good thing that has resulted from an early mulching is there always seem to be birds out scratching finding something to eat.  Today it has been a fiesta for the Robins, Towhees and sparrows.  As I would pass the window I noticed a bird that looked different from the usual visitors.

Out with the camera to get a shot.  Very glad to see the Hermit Thrush in the yard and it has spent the majority of the day here.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Signs of Spring in a Winter's Chill

A cold front that moved through Thursday night brought howling winds and cold temperatures.  Early in the  morning I was awakened by the sound of a crash on the roof.  Fortunately, no real damage from the rather large limb.

Early yesterday morning the wind cut through you and made it seems much colder.  By late afternoon the winds moderated somewhat.  Having gone to work very early, I left shortly after 1400 and was able to spend a few minutes outside when I arrived home. 

As the last rays of sunshine for the day flooded into the yard, 20-30 robins arrived giving the yard a once over.  They took turns splashing in the various bird baths then finding a sunny spot to warm and dry.  When I see the robins start to flock in, a case of spring fever always follows.  Seeing the daffodils starting to peek through the leaves only adds to the desire for spring to arrive. 

After the robins finally left, a dove that had been huddled close by watching all the commotion and antics of the robins settled in on the bird bath for a drink of water and to catch the last of the sunshine.

 This morning it is a hard cold out.  I just walked out to take the crate off the bird feeder in the backyard (raccoon protection) and the leaves on the Acuba shrubs were curled and frozen.  Early birding this morning....probably not.  Fortunately, this cold snap will be short lived and temperatures will moderate during the upcoming week.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Merganser Decoy in the Making

After three weeks off, then back to work for two weeks straight including weekend, the adjustment has put it nicely, difficult.  This past Saturday was beautiful and it killed my soul to not be out.

A bit of sanity has been the decoy carving class I started on 2 January.  It has been very neat to see a flat pattern go on a big chunk of wood, rough cut out the shape, and after last night's class, beginning to see a "duckish" shape emerge. 

The teacher has many taxidermied ducks of various North American species to serve as models and I have enjoyed getting detailed up close looks at the various species.  It makes me appreciate their fine patterns and coloration.

I thought that the beginning duck was going to be a Lesser Scaup however with a small class, we could choose our duck.  I was torn between several but decided on one that I knew I would have the opportunity to  observe while I was working on it.  My choice, a drake Merganser.

Next came pose selection.  The instructor stated that most do the alert duck with crest high but I chose to do one in a resting position which allowed me to cut out head and body out of one piece. I meant to take a picture of the very first cutout and forgot before I made changes last night.  So from here on, I will document after every class so at the end I can look back.....maybe 4 or 5 months down the road?

It doesn't look like much now yet however from the first cut to now,  I am beginning to see the duck that was hidden in the wood.  While a great many folks dread Monday's as it is the start of a new work week, I now look forward to them.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mid-Week Stuff

Cold weather arrived with a front that moved through Monday.  It has been hard to take after above average warmth up until then.  Cold temps finally killed the summer annuals that had flourished up until now.

The cold has brought a flurry of birds to the feeders.  Around Christmas I made a large batch of suet cakes chopping up some cranberries and blueberries and adding to the mixture.  The birds are loving it.

Just before dark tonight, I looked out the kitchen window and could see the deer wandering behind the fence.  They have been arriving before dark since the cold.  I took a large bag of acorns out of the freezer in addition to the scoop of corn/deer chow mix I spread out.

Usually the doe's come up first however tonight, the buck came up first and made a pig of himself.  I finally tapped on the window which sent him moving on and then the doe's came in.

 All the creatures were looking for food tonight.  Several raccoons scurried about trying to get to the deer chow and then the fox came by.   I am always amazed when I see the deer, raccoon, and fox all  together at the same time, same place, and manage to get along with each other.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Last Day of Freedom - Back to Work

Tomorrow it is back to work after three weeks of vacation.  The time has gone by in the blink of an eye.  If only time working went that quickly.  While I am extremely thankful for a job, it is with much dread that I have to go back to the office we have knicknamed "The Tomb".  It could be a primer on poor design for every architectual and design student on what NOT to do.  No natural light (then battleship gray furniture to boot), pitifully poor layout, loud and absolutely no privacy what so ever.  All combine to create an extremely poor work environment. From about 0530 to 0730 is your only opportunity to get any productive work done.  Yes, the thought of returning brings a nervousness rolling back in like a thunder storm.

So enough of that and on with the good.  I begin my decoy carving class tonight and am very much looking forward to it.  The duck we will begin with will be the Lesser Scaup drake.  I guess for beginner carvers this is suppose to be one of the easier ducks.

I spent some time this morning doing searches on photo sharing sites looking at photos and downloaded quite a few to create my storyboard to help in the anatomical study of the duck.  I think it is great that so many are willing to share their pics and allow them to be downloaded.   I am sure it will be a couple of weeks before we start carving.  I  believe you start at the very beginning of squaring up the lumber, gluing up, rough cutting out then finally start carving.

 And finally to birding.  Early this morning when I first pulled up the blinds, one of my favorite birds, a Northern Yellow Shafted Flicker (male) was paying a visit and giving the yard a once over looking for insects.  I like the subtle coloration of their head that conflicts with the intricate patterns on their remaining body.   Unfortunately this time of year, a huge magnolia in my neighbors yard blocks most sunlight until after mid-day so early hour, low light and high ISO do not good pictures make.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Red Headed Woodpecker

Beauty in classic colors of white, black and red;
you capture the eye and turn the head.

Inquisitive yet shy, a true beauty to spy;
what a delight of color and pattern as you flew by.