1) American Robin; 2) Daffodils; 3) Ozzy; 4) Glory-of-the-Snow
A Texas City Girl In A Small New England Town
Downy Woodpeckers give a checkered black-and-white impression. The black upper parts are checked with white on the wings, the head is boldly striped, and the back has a broad white stripe down the center. Males have a small red patch on the back of the head. The outer tail feathers are typically white with a few black spots. Downy Woodpeckers hitch around tree limbs and trunks or drop into tall weeds to feed on galls, moving more acrobatically than larger woodpeckers. Their rising-and-falling flight style is distinctive of many woodpeckers. They make lots of noise in spring and summer, with their shrill whinnying call and drumming on trees. The woodpecker in open woodlands, particularly among deciduous trees, and brushy or weedy edges. They’re also at home in orchards, city parks, backyards, and vacant lots.
It was so nice today: warm temperatures and lots of sunshine. The Harbinger-of-Winter, Crocus, and Periwinkle are blooming. The snowdrops should be done blooming, soon. Birds chase each other and sing the songs of reproduction. That sounds better and more kid-appropriate than calling it the “Screams of Sex”. Soon, we will have birds building nests and tenting for their offspring. The bears come out of their Winter dens after a long Winter of hibernation. Nature begins to wake up. I’m still waiting for my little chipmunks to appear in our yard. I haven’t seen them, yet. They might snooze for another couple of weeks.
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers live in both hardwood and conifer forests up to about 6,500 feet in elevation. They often nest in groves of small trees such as aspens and spend winters in open woodlands. Occasionally, sapsuckers visit bird feeders for suet. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers perch upright on trees, leaning on their tails like other woodpeckers. They feed at sap wells —neat rows of shallow holes they drill in tree bark. They lap up the sugary sap along with any insects that may get caught there. Sapsuckers drum on trees and metal objects in a distinctive stuttering pattern. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are mostly black and white with boldly patterned faces. Both sexes have red foreheads, and males also have red throats. Look for a long white stripe along the folded wing. Bold black-and-white stripes curve from the face toward a black chest shield and white or yellowish underparts.
American Crows are familiar over much of the continent: large, intelligent, all-black birds with hoarse, cawing voices. They are common sights in treetops, fields, and roadsides, and in habitats ranging from open woods and empty beaches to town centers. They usually feed on the ground and eat almost anything—typically earthworms, insects, and other small animals, seeds, and fruit; also garbage, carrion, and chicks they rob from nests. Their flight style is unique, patient, and methodical flapping that is rarely broken up with glides.
Two months into the new year: Today ends the meteorological Winter. Tomorrow begins the meteorological Spring. Some of the bigger bushes and small trees begin to bud in our front yard. But Spring needs another four to six weeks to make its way to Connecticut. We still expect snow in March. And the nights are bitterly cold. Spring is so close and still so far away.
Since this Winter was very mild, we didn’t get much snow this season. Kevin was giving up on snow for this Winter. But, I warned him: “It might all come down in March and April until Easter. And we have snow. Well, it’s still February and Winter after all. However, soon this will get old. We need warm weather for gardening.
Today, the whole continent celebrates Australia Day. It marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip, in 1788.
Western scrub-jays have long tails and small bills. The head, wings, and tail are blue, the back is brown, the underside is gray to tan, and the throat is white. Unlike the Steller’s jay and the blue jays, they do not have a crest. Western scrub jays include several subspecies that live along the Pacific coast and in the interior West. The Pacific coastal group has a distinct blue collar and is brighter in color than those of the interior West. They also have beaks that are short and hooked for eating acorns, while interior scrub jays have longer, more pointed beaks for extracting pine nuts from pinecones. Their behavior can be bold and inquisitive, and their calls can be loud and raucous, although the jays of the interior tend to be quieter, and their calls are lower-pitched than those of the coast. Western scrub jays are about 11.5 inches (29 centimeters) in length and have a wingspan of just over 15 inches (38 centimeters).
I miss those warmer January days in North Texas. Don’t get me wrong, Texas can have some cold Winter days. But on a lot of days, it was warm enough to sit on the backyard deck to enjoy wildlife feeding on berries, and watch the clouds go by in the sky. It also was easier to photograph the birds in the trees, in January and February. There was no leaf to obstruct the view.
A bird with a lovely, melancholy song, the Hermit Thrush lurks in the understories of far northern forests in summer and is a frequent winter companion across much of southern North America. It forages on the forest floor by rummaging through leaf litter or seizing insects with its bill. The Hermit Thrush has a rich brown upper body and smudged spots on the breast, with a reddish tail that sets it apart from similar species in its genus.
Scissor-tailed Flycatchers breed in savannas with scattered trees, shrubs, and patches of brush in the south-central U.S. and just over the border into northern Mexico. They also breed in towns, farm fields, pastures, and landscaped areas like golf courses or parks—areas with a mixture of feeding perches, open space, and trees for nesting. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers spend the winter in southern Mexico and Central America, in humid savannas, pastures, agricultural lands, scrublands, villages, towns, and the edges of tropical deciduous forests. They commonly stay below 5,000 feet elevation but occasionally winter at up to 7,500 feet. Sometimes they roost in towns and disperse to the countryside to forage.
The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher flies in straight lines with fast wingbeats, its tail folded. It also often hovers with its tail spread or makes abrupt turns in midair. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers form large roosts during spring and fall migration, and they flock in winter as well. In some populations, the males continue roosting in groups throughout the breeding season, but breeding birds tend to forage alone or in pairs. Males arrive before females in the early spring to establish and defend territories. After pairing up, both males and females chase and attack other individuals that intrude onto their territory. Trespassing happens frequently, especially in the early morning, so keep an eye out if you see these birds as you may be treated to an amazing aerial chase. Pairs are monogamous within a breeding season but don’t always reunite in later years. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers attack intruding Red-tailed Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Mourning Doves, Great-tailed Grackles, Common Grackles, Northern Mockingbirds, Western Kingbirds, Loggerhead Shrikes, House Sparrows, American Crows, Blue Jays, and Lark Sparrows.
AutumnWhen the trees their summer splendor
Change to raiment red and gold,
When the summer moon turns mellow
And the nights are getting cold;
When the squirrels hide their acorns,
And woodchucks disappear;
Then we know it is Autumn.
Loveliest season of the year.
~ Charlotte L. Riser ~
Before sunset, Kevin, Sara, and I drove to Fort Niagara State Park, at the corner of the lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario in Youngstown, New York. While Kevin and Sara spent some time at the playground, I went down to Fort Niagara State Park Beach. There I’ve got a good shot of Toronto across the lake. Due to our planet’s curve and some mist on Lake Ontario, the lower part of the skyline wasn’t visible from where my viewpoint in the US. Shortly, Kevin and Sara joined me to watch the sunset, which gave the lake a golden hue.
… to be continued …
Nine years ago, Sara and I visited the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve for the first time. It is only seven miles away from our house. But I had no idea it existed until I looked at a park map on Google one morning. Katelynn was in school. And Sara was bored because she had no one to play with in the house. So, I decided I would take her for a hike in the park. The weather was nice and not too warm. It was perfect to see what the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve has to offer. On the way, I said to Sara: “Maybe we will see some wildlife in the park.” When we arrived at the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve, we saw a lot of hikers, sprinters and runners. I told Sara to stay with me on the right side of the trail, for people who work out can pass us on the left. She did very well. We walked into the forested area. And Sara noticed a couple of squirrels chasing each other. One had a couple of pecans in its mouth. And the other squirrel wanted the first one to share at least one of the pecans. Sara and I made it all the way to the Observation Tower, where we had a nice view over a big portion of the park. After a little rest, we hiked back to the parking lot. Sara was counting the bridges, we crossed along the way. She said: “There were three bridges in total. And the squirrels were funny.” I’m glad she got entertained on this little trip to the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. 😉
Common ravens have coexisted with humans for thousands of years and have been so numerous in some areas that people have regarded them as pests. Part of their success as a species is due to their omnivorous diet: they are extremely versatile and opportunistic in finding sources of nutrition, feeding on carrion, insects, cereal grains, berries, fruit, small animals, nesting birds, and food waste. Some notable feats of problem-solving provide evidence that the common raven is unusually intelligent. Over the centuries, it has been the subject of mythology, folklore, art, and literature. In many cultures, including the indigenous cultures of Scandinavia, ancient Ireland, and Wales, Bhutan, the northwest coast of North America, and Siberia and northeast Asia, the common raven has been revered as a spiritual figure or godlike creature.
Ozzy watched a bird for a while this afternoon. The bird must have been resting in our McIntosh apple tree. Since Ozzy climbs only smaller trees, this was the perfect opportunity to jump in the apple tree. First Ozzy tried to chat with the bird, but couldn’t see it. And eventually, it flew away.
The gangly Double-crested Cormorant is a prehistoric-looking, matte-black fishing bird with yellow-orange facial skin. Though they look like a combination of a goose and a loon, they are relatives of frigatebirds and boobies and are a common sight around fresh and salt water across North America—perhaps attracting the most attention when they stand on docks, rocky islands, and channel markers, their wings spread out to dry. These solid, heavy-boned birds are experts at diving to catch small fish.
The ‘Larus delawarensis’ is the most common and widespread gull in North America, especially inland, and numbers are probably still increasing. These gulls are sociable in all seasons; concentrations at nesting colonies or at winter feeding sites may run into the tens of thousands. The Ring-bill has adapted thoroughly to civilization. Flocks are often seen resting in parking lots, scavenging for scraps around fast-food restaurants, or swarming over landfills.
The mournful cooing of the Mourning Dove is one of our most familiar bird sounds. From southern Canada to central Mexico, this is one of our most common birds, often abundant in open country and along roadsides. European settlement of the continent, with its opening of the forest, probably helped this species to increase. It also helps itself, by breeding prolifically: in warm climates, Mourning Doves may raise up to six broods per year, more than any other native bird.
National Penguin Day began in 1972 when Gerry Wallace wrote the event on his wife’s (Aleta’s) calendar in Alamogordo, California. They later brought the celebration to the Naval Weapons Center in Ridgecrest, California where the Penguin Patrol made the news. April 25th is also the date that the Adelie penguins begin their migration northward toward Antartica. There are 18 species of penguins, and all their natural habitats are in the Southern hemisphere.