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.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Domestic "Wildlife"

With another day of overcast skies in the forecast, I decided this was a good morning to do my yearly ritual of cleaning out old photographs and those you keep until you get a new and improved.  Happily I found some photos on a portable hard drive that I thought had been lost during a computer change.

The memories came rolling back in of the last five years.  The first photo I have of Ali  is about a month after I received her from a friend.  She was a wide open little puppy full of vim and vigor.  From the time she was a puppy and still to this day, she has had a knack for getting herself into the oddest places.  I don't think I have ever had another dog in my life that liked to climb as much as she does.  It is like she wants to be at your eye level.

There have been vet visits for strange objects eaten which necessitated action.  Crazy dog ate a spool of thread and when the vet went in to retreive it, also found a rather large hex nut.  Yes, there have definitely been challenging times getting her to adulthood but she can also be so sweet that sugar wouldn't melt in her mouth.  Despite her size, she still thinks she is a lap dog.

She is now a  beautiful, healthy and happy dog.  The joy that comes with having a fine, loyal companion is well worth it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Robins Attacked the Holly Tree

Every fall, all of a sudden the Robins decide it is time to flock in and attack the American Holly Tree.  Around noon today, I noticed a sudden flurry of activity in the yard.  A huge flock of Robins came in and swarmed the tree.  Over the last couple of years, I have noticed that several other non-native species of holly shrubs/trees on the street that have orange colored berries, are never touched despite being full of berries..

They took over the bird baths and water fountain and stirred up all the other birds.  The bird activity went from 0 to 60 within seconds.  Their chirping and activity brought in other birds to see what all the fuss was about.  Brown Thrashers, Mockingbirds, Gray Catbirds joined in the fray.  With all the large birds, a small Kinglet could not resist checking out the goings on.

Even a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker flew in to check out the commotion.  The day as been very overcast and gray with only the ocassional mist now and then so the photos are not the best.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


The dried seed heads of the Crepe Myrtle blossoms are a favorite of the finches, both the Gold and House.  The seeds will provide a valuable food source for a good month. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Red-Shouldered Hawk

After a rainy miserable day yesterday, the sun came out today and out I went too.  I walked up on a Red-Shouldered Hawk that was patiently hunting the wetland marsh and was able to ease up on the hawk.  I watched it for quite a while.  Eventually when I turned to move on, it flew to another tree but not too far.

I thought as I watched, how would we humans fare if we had to get out and hunt for food on a daily basis ( and I don't mean go to the refrigerator door, open and stare)?  It was obvious from watching the bird and a couple of failed attempts that it was hungry. 

I moved on and watched a Great Blue preening for a while then ran into a gentleman I see at the park fairly regular.  We began talking about the hawk and both of us decided to walk towards the back again. 

As we started down the trail, right in front of us there was the hawk.  It flew down to a log in a very brushy area.  Success!  It found breakfast.  The lighting conditions were terrible and mostly impossible to get a shot due to the brush.  I am guessing probably a sparrow but who knows.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Catching Up

The last couple of days have been busy.  The weather was phenominal over the weekend and while it was warm yesterday, clouds moved in around noon and rain predicted for today with a cold front moving through.  I have been trying to keep ahead of the massive falling of the leaves.  Much easier to blow when dry than wet.  Up on the roof yesterday to blow off those that get captured in a valley that were knee deep.

The trail cam captured a disturbing sight on 10 November.  As if one possible coyote was not enough, a second has shown up and the male showed definite interest in the female.  I have been talking with the wildlife folks on the best way to discourage their attempts to take up residence in the area.  I definitely fear for the foxes that I adore and have not seen them for the last couple of night despite the camera being set up on what has been their regular run for the last several years.

I have been asked to consider doing a beyond photography exhibit "Altered Nature" after the first of the year.  I have been looking through photos over the past year and for the last couple of weeks, focusing on textures in nature that show promise of being altered/manipulated.  I have come up with several end result pieces that I am pleased with but not sure I can get the number needed and have them high quality.  It gives me something to work on and for sure this time of year, it is much easier to focus on the texture of things.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Bucks Stop Here

Two nights ago, a 6-point smaller buck showed up on some of the trail camera shots.  He is new to the area and I wondered how long it would be until he encountered the 8-point daddy buck who's territory he had invaded.

Last night they met.  For a little while, there were several shots of them eating in close proximity.  That most certainly did not last long.   Soon the stare down began.

Big daddy buck finally said enough.  The shots of the enounter are just blurs of activity.  The smaller buck concedes moving back and fades into the night.  Several hours later he returned but big daddy had already finished the nights rations.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Red-Breasted Nuthatch and Pine Siskin

Over the last several days, I kept seeing what appeared to be a very small nuthatches coming to the suet feeder.  As quickly as I would try to get a good look, they would fly away.  They were quite a bit smaller than the White-Breasted Nuthatches that are a common sight and displayed the characteristics of grabbing a seed or bit of suet and quickly flying away like Brown-Headed Nuthatches.

I finally realized what I was seeing was Red-Breasted Nuthatches.  It has been many years since I have had one in the yard.  After a little research, I see there is an irruption of these birds this year.  Another sign that it is probably going to be a bad winter further north.

Early this morning I also encounted a large group of Pine Siskins.  Same thing on an irruption with reports of sightings everywhere.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


My concern has deepened with the viewing of these shots from the trail camera on what I initially thought was perhaps one of the kits born this spring.  Daytime photos have raised questions and I am concerned it is possibly a coyote.  Within the last 10 years, the coyote population has spiked now calling for controls via hunting.  I have sent a copy of the photo to the "Ask a Natuaralist" at the Museum of Natural History for help in identifying.

Other than quick glimpes of coyote now and then, I don't have the comparison expertise.  What I can see from comparing this canid with the numerous  Gray Fox photos I have gotten, is it lacks the black mask on the muzzel, appears taller and just has a different look about its head.  Its markings are also quite different with a more mottled appearance of the fur.

Looking at the sequence of photos, fox in the area immediately departed upon arrival of this canid.  I will be anxious to hear back from the naturalist.  I would really hate to see a coyote population get established in the area as they have such a negative impact on the native fox population.

I found the below information in a study done by the NC Wildlife Commission.

Source:  NC Wildlife Commission Report - Fox and Coyote Populations Sudy - April 1, 2012

 "Although they are a relatively new arrival to our state, coyotes are now established in all 100 counties across NC........Extensive efforts have been devoted to controlling coyotes across the U.S., but despite these extensive control attempts coyotes have continued to expand their range.

The first reported sighting of a coyote in N.C. was in Gaston County in 1938.  The first confirned coyotes that were collected came from Johnston County (1955) and Wake Country (1970).  Until the late 1980s, coyotes seen in North Carolina were likely due to illegal importation and release.  By 1990, coyotes began to appear in western North Carolina as a result of natural range expansion from Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Coyotes in North Carolina are smaller than wolves, have pointed and erect ears, and long slender snouts.  The tails is long, bushy and black-tipped and is usually carried pointing down.  Their color is typically dark gray, but can range from blonde to black.  Adjults are about the size of a medium-sized dog and may weith between 20 and 45 pounds.  In N.C., coyotes may be mistaken for dogs or red wolves, and the existence of both dog-coyote bybrids and red wolf-coyote hybrids can make identification difficult.

Coyotes feed on a wide variety of food sources, depending on what is most readily available and easy to obtain.  Primary foods include fruite, berries, pet food left outside, small mammals (coles, rats and mice), deer, rabbits, birds, snakes, frogs, and insects.  Coyotes will also prey on livestock and domestic pets.

Coyote home ranges can vary from between 1,000 and 16,000 acres depending on season, habitat and food availability.  Preferred habitats range from agricultural fields to forested regiuons and suburban neighborhoods.  Coyotes usualluy fig their own den, but they will sometimes enlarge an old animal hole or use a natural hole in a rocky ledge as a den.  Dens are usually hidden from view and use by coyotes to birth their young and sleep.

Coyotes mate for life and breeding occurs from January through early March.  Pups are born in March and April and the typical litter size is six to eight pupts.  The family unit usually begins to disperse by late November or Devember.  In many cases, one pup stays behing as a "helper" fo rthe nest year's little.  Coyotes are territorial and actively keep non-family members outside of their home range.  Dispersal rates are high and distances can be extensive; several coyotes in North Carolina have dispersed more than 200 miles in just a few months.  When an individual coyote or family group leaves or is removed, new coyotes will usually move into the vacated terriroty.  These territories frequently overlap with a transient coyote that is searching for a mate or its own territory.  This transient nature of the population makes estimating the number of coyotes in a particular area difficult, which, in trun, makes controlling coyote populations difficult.

Coyotes readily adapt to suburban and urban environments once throught unsuitable and they exhibit great plasticiity in their behaviou and diet.  The  coyote is arguably the hardiest and most adaptable species on this continent.  They are naturally wary of people and will avoid areas in which thtreats are perceived.  They will also become acclimated to humans in the absence of threats, such as hunting and trapping, and in areas where typically unnatural food, such as pet food, garbage and unsupervisted small pets, are readily available.

(paragraph on hunting regulations excluded)

Coyotes can be useful in keeping prey species such as rodents, and groundhogs in balance with their habitat, and removing feral cars, which negatively impact many wildlife species, especially birds.  However, coyotes are currently a focus of attention in N.C. because they also prey on livestock, other wildlife species, such as deer, that are important to our citizens, and dmoestice pets."

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sunny Monday

I was disappointed this afternoon when I pulled the trail camera in.  I was looking forward to some excellent shots of the buck during the daylight but had the camera angled incorrectly or either something had bumped it.  All the daytime shots had the bucks head cut off.  He did however return at night but oh well, another day.

I have seen more Ruby-crowned Kinglets so far this year than I saw during the entire fall and winter months last year.  It must be going to be a colder, snowier winter up north this year.  This is not one of the cleaner shots I got today but like the splash of the ruby the side view shots did not show.

Lots of Eastern Bluebirds out which I love.  Their soft murmuring is so pleasant to hear.

The bright red of the Cardinal is really standing out now that trees are dulling in color.  I think I tend to be more appreciative of them during the winter months.

The appearance of a Brown Creeper caught me off guard today.  I went from light to shade quickly just trying to verify I saw what I thought I did so the shot is a little blurry.

I had one curious shot on the trail camera.  The dark tip of the tail says fox but I swear this fox is quite a bit taller than other foxes in the area.  It almost has a coyote look with the long legs.  The long time resident adults I can identify by sight from their markings and tail as well as one of the kits born this year as she has a distintive mark shape on her muzzle.  I am wondering if this is one of the other kits born this year that I have not seen since they reached adult size.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Slow Weekend

The time change really threw me off this morning.  My usual wake-up time of around 0400 turned in to 0300.  An unexpected thunderstorm rolled in early this morning so going back to bed was out.  Later in the morning however I did take a little nap since the day was so gray and slow.

Yesterday was disappointing.  Though plenty of sunshine, the wind was cool and strong.  The birds were in deep cover out of the wind so I headed home early. I stopped on the way home to pick up some batteries for the trail camera.  When I went to use it the other day, dead batteries.  I used the same set of 8 AA all summer and there were lots of shots taken so I was pleased with the longevity. 

I have not set the camera out during September or October so it seemed like a good time to check in on what was going on.  The female fox looks healthy which is good with the winter months coming on.  She still has one of the young foxes born this summer with her.  It was the one I called Yoda.  When she first brought the kits out, Yoda was always by her side.  I am not quite sure what she has in her mouth.  All the shots were blurry like she was shaking whatever it was.

The twin fawns born in the spring are also looking very healthy and still hanging with mom.  The doe has finally put on a little weight too.

I got a blurry shot of the buck but will wait until tomorrow to post some shots.  I just looked out the window about 15 minutes ago and he was chowing down on the corn while of course the does were standing to the back.  I hope he doesn't make a pig of himself and leaves some for the females.  I was a little concerned that one I saw hit by the road was this same buck but he lives.  I am going to have to resist the temptation to go and pull the camera back in this afternoon but will wait.