Sunday, December 27, 2015

Warm Weather Equals Fewer Winter Waterfowl

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, my brother, nephew and I headed to Lake Mattamuskeet early yesterday morning.  I suspected that this may be an odd year because of the weather and there was a noticeable difference in the numbers and diversity of waterfowl.

The lack of really cold weather sufficient to kill back vegetation in the wetland marsh made viewing more difficult.  There were lots of ducks but they were hidden from view.

The weather has been so warm that even some of the reptiles and amphibians don't know it is winter!  Looking at the photo of the Eastern Box Turtle, I wish now I had put something down as a scale.  She was a rather large and beautifully marked turtle.  We stopped and moved her out of the path for fear someone else may not stop and would hit her.

A bullfrog was sitting out catching some rays and enjoying the warmth.

The numbers of Northen Pintails were down significantly.  The waves of hundreds taking off and landing was not happening. Those that were present were hiding in the grasses.

The numbers of Northern Shovelers was also down but of those that were present, it was fairly easy to get a nice shot of them.

There were several species whose numbers appeared to be greater than normal for the past several years.  The American Wigeon is one of those.  After attempting a decent photo of them for the past couple of years, this year it was fairly easy to get some decent shots.

The numbers of Ring-necked ducks were high this year.   I had to add two I liked but I also like to show the female of the species.

There were also quite a few more Gadwalls, or at least they were more visible,

The number of Tundra Swans was also down.  We did however find that a rather large flock had shifted over to the Gull Rock Gamelands,  It appeared that there had been quite a lot of work done on one field to attract them and indeed, the swans had responded.

Scanning the trees as we were departing the refuge, an eagle was sitting looking regal as if surveying the activities.  We had seen several juvenile eagles earlier in the day.

Always with an  eye open, we spotted a couple of turkeys in a field on Hwy 94.  Not the best shot.  The vibration of the car is definitely picked up in the photos.  They were there, then gone.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

It seems hard to believe December is almost gone.  With the warm weather it definitely does not seem like Christmas.  Best wishes to all for a great holiday season.

A few photos of December at a glance.  With the beginning of the year, I plan to begin making regular posts again.  It has been a rather long hiatus from the blog and I am ready to come back now.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Mei and Bei Bei at the National Zoo

Well it has been a very busy spring, summer and fall trying to complete house and yard projects.  I think I am finally about to wrap things up less one final room to paint.  I have really missed going out but wanted to focus some much needed attention to house and yard projects.  I will look forward to spring now to see which of the yard projects have been successful.

I am definitely looking forward to the incoming waterfowl this winter.  The fall migration was just kicking in good with lots of birds starting to come through when the two weeks of unending rain hit.  That pretty much doomed the remaining fall migration.

I definitely have not been spending much time on the computer except for checking email and a quick check in on Mei and her cub Bei Bei.  The link to the panda cam at the Smithsonian National Zoo is here.    The cub is really growing and over the last week has shown quite a bit of effort on getting it's back legs working.

Mei, the adult female panda appears to be a really good mom.  I really enjoy watching her when she sits back and using her two front legs like arms, holds the cub for feeding or grooming.  This photo is a screen grab from this morning.  Makes you say awe!  I am looking forward to when she finally brings the cub out.  I haven't been to the National Zoo since I was a child so this will be a good reason to go again.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Family Gathering

I have watched over the last couple of days as the bucks have been arriving.  The doe with the fawns at first chased the bucks away but they would not go far and just stand and watch.  Gradually, the doe have permitted the bucks to come closer.  It makes me think that these are perhaps the fathers of the fawns.  One of the fawns attempted to engage one of the bucks in play but no-go.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


First there was one, then two and yesterday, a third fawn arrived.  The new doe arrived with fawn in tow and became aggressive towards the two doe that had already brought their fawns up.  Even the new fawn came in with an attitude but both were quickly put in their place by the two doe that had already been visiting.

Around noon today I went out and set up the trail camera hoping to get a shot of all three fawns together.  Shortly after 1500 when I put some food out they all arrived.  The old timers arrived first and settled in to eat.  As the newcomers arrived, they came up slowly today.  The old timers stopped eating and watched them carefully as they arrived.

I was able to get one shot on the trail cam of all three fawns.  The new fawn then moved directly in front of the trail cam and blocked all other shots.  The two standing side by side on the left are so close they almost look like one.

The newcomers did not stay long and soon things were back to normal.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Bullfrog and the Bird

I was out early cleaning up camping equipment from the weekend when I noticed the Bullfrog sitting by the fountain.  I could see something in its mouth and at first assumed it was probably a dragon fly.

I thought to myself that it must be one heck of a dragon fly in size and started looking closer.  Of course I went inside to get the camera.  Sorry the photos are a little blurred but it was still pretty shaded in that area.  Was I surprised!

I could not believe the frog had gotten a bird but sure enough, feathers were sticking out.  When I first started trying to photograph it the feathers were sticking out more but the photos were too blurry.  I finally came in to get the flash to try for a better shot.

The frog was fat with whatever bird it had caught.  I had never really minded the frog being in the fountain but I may have to give consideration to trying to catch it.  It has been in the fountain for several years and this is the first time I have ever seen it with a bird.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Doe and Fawn

This afternoon I looked out the window and saw the doe and fawn across the street.  That neighbor also puts some corn out for the deer.

The fawn pretended to eat some while the doe was focused on eating.

Eventually the fawn became bolder and bolder and took off running across the yard.  It would run out about 40 feet or so then turn around and run back to its mom.  It would jump, twist and kick up its heels.  It was so cute I just had to let out a little giggle.

Testing boundaries, the fawn began to wander in the street  (at the end of a dead end street so no worries on getting hit).....

eventually making it over to my yard.

Mom soon realized that her fawn had wandered off past her comfort point and came running.  She gave the little fawn a nip and they moved off into the woods.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Birding Outing

The trip to the river Monday yielded lots of bird sightings.  I really enjoyed the trip and getting out to see what was around.  Lots of young birds that were born this year were feeling their oats and very active.

A few of the sightings:

female Orchard Oriole
Indigo Bunting

male Orchard Oriole

female American Redstart

Yellow-throated Warbler

immature Northern Parula

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's Fawn Time

About two weeks ago, one of the doe brought her fawn up.  I did not see it all last week and was beginning to wonder if something had happened to it.  When she first brought the fawn up it was so very little I feel certain it was just a few days old.  It is amazing how much it has frown in just a short time.

Late yesterday afternoon I looked out the window and there it was.  I dared not try to lift the window to get clear shots so these photos were taken through the window.

The fawn kept trying to nurse but all mom wanted to do was eat.  I always look forward to this time of year when you start seeing the fawns.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Yellow-throated Warbler and the Cow Bird

immature Yellow-throated Warbler
After several weeks of hellishly hot, humid and miserable weather, we caught a brief break yesterday and today courtesy of a cold front that came through Saturday night.

Since most of the entire spring passed with very little birding I headed out early this morning. There was fog at the river early but it burned off fairly quickly.

The area I visited is a rich environment for Yellow-throated Warblers.  The feeding frenzy began early.  This year's fledglings begged and squabbled with each other for the parents attention.  Most trailed behind the adult bird and made some attempts at searching for insects.

My attention became focused on one particular adult that hunted with a sense of urgency beyond that of the other adults.

After several minutes of watching it fly off then come back I realized why.  The poor little warbler was trying to feed the insatiable appetite of a bird several times its size.

I really dislike when the Cow Birds show up.  I know that some poor bird is going to be suckered into taking care or a large bird that ultimately usually pushes the other chicks out of the nest.  Knowing the size difference between the warbler and the Cow Bird, I am sure the warbler chicks were pushed out early.  What a shame.

Regardless of how many insects the warbler brought to the young Cow Bird, every time the warbler flew off, the young bird was still begging for more.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Solving the Suet Feeder Problem

I had just about reached the point of taking the suet feeder in being so frustrated with the Grackles and the Jays going through a suet cake within an hour every morning then to top that off, the Cooper's Hawk decided birds feeding was her/his own personal buffet table.

The feeder I had been using had worked well until the Grackles showed up.  The suet cage within the cage did not provide enough distance from the outer to the inner cage.  The Grackles were able to reach through and hogged the space and chased other birds away.

I started with an idea and worked on the fly.  In hind sight, I would do some things differently if I had a do-over but for now, the new suet cage is working.

It has been an interesting watching the learning process of the birds getting use to the new feeder.  The first bird to give it a try was a Tufted Titmouse, the second a Carolina Wren.  Initially, I had two openings on each side and they were towards the bottom of the cage.  Neither of the birds were able to find their way back out and I ended up opening the door to let them out.

I made adjustments and added more openings at the top and middle of the cage.  After watching for a bit, the birds generally enter at the bottom of the cage and exit towards the top.  Also at the bottom hole, I added a wooden dowel through the cage.  This seemed to give a reference point for some of the larger birds such as the Cardinal, Catbird and Bluebird.

The birds, such as the Downy WP that I expected to have the least problems seemed quite confused.  Not sure if because they are still juveniles are contributing to the uncertainty.  They have eventually figured it out yet still check out almost every opening prior to going in.

The Red-Bellied WP was very hesitant to go in at first but eventually, hunger won out.

And has it worked to keep the Grackles out?  You betcha!  I watched for 15 minutes as they went all over the cage attempting to get in.