Friday, May 30, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Here's a little bird feasting on the grape jelly in her oriole feeder. Sissy says she's had these little ones coming for a couple of weeks, but the numbers have started to decline this week as migration continues.
She was calling them Ruby-Crowned Kinglets and that's kind of what I thought also, just because they were so tiny. But as I was posting these pictures to my blog tonight, and looking a little bit closer at this photo--
I don't think it's a kinglet at all--especially because of that white eyebrow, darker eye stripe and lack of any wingbars. So what is it? Anybody have any thoughts? I'm leaning towards Tennessee Warbler. I think the size and color are about right.
After enjoying the backyard birds for a while, Sissy and I headed off to the walking trails of nearby Bear Cave Park. As we were crossing the footbridge, I spotted this little bird fly over to a rock in the middle of the river. I'm even worse at shorebird ID than I am at warblers, but based on size, actions of the bird, and description from my Kaufmann Field Guide, I'm going with Spotted Sandpiper on this one.
Of course, the picture was taken into the sun and the bird was a distance away, so good field marks can't be seen, but I was still excited to see this bird--we just don't get many shorebirds in this area. If anyone else has any thoughts on this bird also, I'd appreciate your input.
Our walk through the woods didn't reveal as many warblers and other birds as we thought we'd see, but the scenery was quite beautiful.
We did hear and see the Red-Eyed Vireo and Cedar Waxwings, along with the usual wrens, robins, and crows.
As we followed the trail out of the woods, we came to an area that has been restored to native prairie. Sissy and I marveled at this as we didn't even know this area existed! We headed over to the viewing platform in the middle of this prairie and were treated to the sights of Tree Swallows, Eastern Bluebirds, and Indigo Buntings. In the farm fields beyond this prairie area, we heard and saw Eastern Wild Turkeys and the Ring-Necked Pheasant.
Soon it was time to head for home as Sissy had to get ready for work. But what a fun trip. I know Sissy and I will definitely bird these areas again since gas prices are keeping us all closer to home this summer.
I'll leave you with this picture of Mrs. Red-Bellied Woodpecker enjoying a suet treat from the log hanging in my Sissy's backyard.
Monday, May 26, 2008
It was so coincidental because I had just let the gourd rack down earlier this afternoon to take out some of the doorstops (put in earlier this spring to keep sparrows, starlings and tree swallows out till the martins arrived). I just had kind of a feeling that martins might be arriving soon, but I expected it would be the sub-adult martins. The pair that visited tonight were adults (the male was completely dark purple).
It's actually been pretty dry here for the last week, so many of the farmers have gotten their crops in the field and some of the corn and oats are already coming up. Here's what it looks like around here--lots of flat fields and and the clumps of trees you see are either farmsteads or sinkholes. The arrow is pointing to a tractor--but you can only see the cloud of dust from the planter or whatever he's pulling behind. The majority of these fields are probably planted in corn, so by the middle of summer it will be a "sea of green."
Here's what hungry deer can do to an arbor vitae hedge during a long snowy winter. I think it's a funny picture, but I'm sure the homeowner who lives here doesn't!
As we were trying to figure out what was planted in the field near our deer hunting area, I noticed a large dark shape in the middle of the field. Binocular review showed me that it was a juvenile bald eagle.
The crows weren't happy about this eagle sitting in their field......
.....and after a few fly-bys, the eagle finally got tired of the harassment and flew away.
Our drive continued up the road and as we came over a rise we saw all the huge, dark birds in a field ahead. "Look at all those turkeys!" said Mr. Johnson. I grabbed the binocs again for a better look.
"Drive closer," I said, "those aren't turkeys, they're turkey vultures!"
I have never seen this many vultures together and on the ground--there wasn't even anything dead there! Here's a close-up for my friend Lynne.
They're not the prettiest bird in the world, but you have to admit they're magnificent in flight.
Continuing on our journey, we turned down another back road that used to be a good "parking" road for us back in the 70's (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). The road has been redone, so there aren't any isolated spots anymore, plus there are many more people who live out this way. One of the farms there had these magnificent animals in their field. Holy cow indeed!
I have never seen horns like these. I don't know my bovine species very well, does anyone else have any idea what kind of cattle these are? Those horns were massive.
UPDATE: After googling "texas longhorn cattle," I sent an e-mail to Mike Crawford at Red Peak Ranch in Mills County, TX asking if he could ID these cattle, since my pictures didn't look like the Texas Longhorns on Mike's website. I got a note back from Mike today and here's what he said, "It looks like they are a cross between a Watusi and Texas Longhorn. When their horns are thick and twist up they are Watusi which it appears 2 of the cows horns in your photos do this. The younger one where her horns are more lateral has some longhorn blood."
I'd heard of Watusi cattle (native to Africa), so I googled "watusi cattle" also. If you're interested, learn more about Watusi cattle at this Wikipedia link.
It was starting to get closer to dark, so Mr. Johnson drove me past the old trout farm where he had seen an eagle nest earlier in the year. The eagle nest was obscured by leaves now, but we did see one of the adult eagles sitting nearby. There were lots of geese on the trout farm ponds and I spotted Mom & Pop Goose with some fuzzy young 'uns.
I asked Mr. Johnson to take one more detour on our way home to see if the Western Meadowlark I have seen previous years was still in the same area. We finally spotted this meadowlark in a small tree, but it never sang, so I can't confirm whether it was Eastern or Western. Any guesses from this picture?
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Here's Dad with his 75th birthday cake.
Great-Grampy and Ethan share a moment of mutual admiration for each other's hair styles!
Happy Birthday Dad and I hope you have many more!! Thanks for inviting us to your party!
Friday, May 23, 2008
So Mr. Johnson helped me assemble the boards on Tuesday and I called to order my dirt for delivery on Wednesday. Here's where the disaster begins. I had 3 choices of places to get black dirt, mixed with compost and delivered, but because I had a budget, I went with the cheapest place (black dirt = $19 per yard and I needed 4 yards). When I called the garden place and gave my order to Wendy, she asked me what I planned to use the dirt for and when I said a vegetable garden, Wendy said the black dirt I was ordering did have some chunks in it and she would advise that I use the pulverized dirt instead (at $11 more per yard). I told her it just wasn't in my budget and I could probably break the chunks up (because I assumed they would just be chunks of black dirt) and that was pretty much the end of that discussion.
Monday, May 19, 2008
I walked around the perimeter fenceline just because I wanted to keep watching for warblers at the forest edge. I was lucky enough to spot a Common Yellowthroat skulking around in some shrubs low to the ground. I was also watching the forest floor also, just in case there might be a little deer fawn hiding somewhere. No fawns spotted, but I did spot this remnant of a deer jaw lying under a fence.
At the east edge of the forest, it opens up into a big pasture, with a couple different groves of trees. This is the pasture where the cattle spend the summer. I didn't see any cattle this morning, but saw plenty of fresh "cowpies," so I had to watch my step out here.
I headed back into the woods to start for home. As I got into the woods, I startled a big fat raccoon. I was pretty surprised to see him scurrying away--they're usually asleep at this time of day.
I was still hearing plenty of birds singing, including the Gray Catbird, House Wren, and Great Crested Flycatcher. As I headed out on the road to home, I spotted this bird across the way. I couldn't get a very good picture, but I'm pretty sure it's the Great Crested Flycatcher.
I was disappointed that I never saw any Wild Turkeys......there used to be a small flock in our neighborhood that has disappeared without explanation. The only evidence I saw of a turkey was this feather ground into the dirt of the road being constructed.
Well, that's the end of my hike. I'm sure glad you were all able to take this virtual hike with me. I especially want to dedicate this post to my mom and all the other folks with physical limitations that make a hike like this difficult or even impossible. As I was hiking, I realized how truly fortunate I am to have the opportunity to just go out and walk without any difficulty, and also to never take my physical abilities for granted.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Not one but two Indigo Buntings (a poor picture taken through the window screen, but there's no question about the identity of these birds!)
American Goldfinches (I've had lots of these in my yard for the past several days and they're all singing like crazy too)
Mrs. Rose Breasted Grosbeak
Chubby Cheeked Chipmunk
Finally got the cola-colored water and a wheelbarrow full of leaves out of my little goldfish pond. The grackles will probably drop dozens of fecal sacs in it tomorrow (sigh). I'll let the water warm up for a couple days and then release my goldfish back outside for the summer.
Crabapple blossoms are just starting to open.
This tree is covered with buds--it should be FABULOUS by Sunday!
Thanks to all of you, my faithful readers for checking in and commenting--especially when I haven't had the time to post regularly or check in with many of you on your blogs either. I can't remember how I managed to get so many posts done last year at this time and still have time for my other activities. I guess my time management skills have declined over the past year. I just want you to know that I'm not deliberately ignoring you, but I've actually been pretty busy at work and when I get home---> the backyard beckons. I guess I need to look into getting a wireless laptop so I can post from the hammock or lawn chair. I'll try to get caught up on the next rainy day!!
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Turn up the volume and enjoy this Mother's Day concert by the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak.....go ahead and listen even if you're not a mom! :-D
He's been singing in my crabapple tree for most of the morning. I think he enjoys harmonizing with the windchime!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
While I was working in the garden, I spotted this little bunny. What a cutie! Mr. Johnson first spotted him earlier in the week.