wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


25 Comments

Brave or Foolish?

Mother merganser had her hands full. Her brood was something to be proud of, but the full-time babysitting was nerve-racking to say the least. It was especially bad when one (there is always one!) had to march to his own drum.

“I just saw a little fish go by. See him there, just under the surface? He flipped me the fin and said, ‘Bite me!’ So I thought, ‘Why not? It’s what mergansers do.'”

“Seems he got away, but wait a minute. Where’s my mother?”

And yikes! Look who’s giving me the hairy eyeball.

“Muh – muh – muh – mu-u-u-u-um! Help!”

“Oh whew! Those people in the boat scared the eagle away. Wait up, Mom! … What’s that? I should stick with the group?  But, er … I was … just trying to catch us a fish.”

 


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Birds at Vernon Lake

We parked our trailer and unloaded the skiff to have it ready for use at the edge of Vernon Lake.

The campsite was visited by many birds. Here are only a few of them. Many stayed hidden though they sang their hearts out all day.

This is a hairy woodpecker. I thought at first it was a downy, which looks very similar, but the hairy woodpecker has a much heavier and longer beak than the downy.

One of the birds I heard a lot, was Swainson’s thrush. I love the song he sings, “You’re pretty, you’re pretty, oh really.” But he is very elusive and I couldn’t get a photo of him.

He’s a very plain version of an immature robin but without any hint of black or red. If you click on this link you’ll see a photo on the bird site: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Swainsons_Thrush/id

Next to visit, was a Steller’s jay, but I almost mistook him for something else. He is a bit pale and scruffy, and this has me wondering if it is an immature bird.

Below, we have the red-breasted sapsucker, probably the very one I took pictures of for a previous post. He was hanging around the campsite the whole time we were there.

And no wonder! He has already made quite an investment in this tree, sipping sap and nabbing insects.

But do you see what I see? Circling the tree just below the chipped bark is a nasty looking petrified snake. I think he’s guarding the dinner table for the sapsucker.

You won’t see me trying to get near him. He looks mean. Is that blood on his lips?


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Flashy Redhead

Some time ago this bird visited my yard, and at the time I had no idea what it was except that it was a type of woodpecker. Since then I have learned that it is a red-breasted sapsucker.  In the second photo you can see the light dot in front of its eye, one of the main identifying features. It also has a vertical white bar along its wing.

This fellow visited our campsite at Vernon Lake on Vancouver Island last week.

It was a treat to see him there, as they are not seen as often as the more prolific birds of the area.

Don’t you bug me while I eat,

As I’m looking for a treat,

I like insects, but as well

I make holes in trees — don’t tell!

I peck holes into the bark,

What a shame, it leaves a mark,

Not so healthy for the tree,

But provides some food for me.

Sometimes insects, always sap,

Either way it’s food to lap,

With my tongue, I slurp it up,

Better than a sippy cup.

Folks aren’t happy when I peck

In the trees, but what the heck,

Everybody needs to eat,

Tree trunk sap just can’t be beat.


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Hugging Trees

Okay, Junior, forget about pecking at houses. This is how we find the best bugs — on the trees. You hold on with your toes and hop around all sides of the tree. The tree doesn’t mind. It thinks we’re hugging it.

And keep an eye out for hawks. They like to snatch up flickers, especially young naive little morsels like you.

You got that? Look, I didn’t mean to frighten you, but we have to watch out for them at all times.

Okay, Mom.  Sheesh! It sure is a long way down!

Oooooh, look! A rabbit!

Yikes! So it is! Keep looking up, Junior!

Never mind the rabbit!

 


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Persistence

For at least a week I heard this red-shafted flicker pecking at something. I thought he must have found his favourite fir tree. Finally, camera in hand, I went looking for him and zeroed in on the sound. Here is where I found him, on the wall of an empty house.  I zoomed in from afar to see what he was up to.  It seems that the siding of a house was more appealing to him than any of the many trees surrounding it. Why is  he so determined to peck through this siding? Apparently he prefers the density of cedar to fir but flickers don’t eat wood, so he must be after something else.

If you look closely to his left, you can see a patch from where he made a hole last year. Above and below him also on the left are patched places where he had picked at the edges of the wood.  There must be something very tasty inside those walls. Maybe a delicious lunch awaits him.

 


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Quick Like a Bunny

M-m-m! These tall grasses smell delicious!
Oooh! Yummy! They are exquisite.
I wonder if I should turn on the tap and give the grasses a drink of water to make them grow.
This long stem is so good, and it gets better the closer I nibble it to the top. Hahaha! I could come to a seedy end!
Uh-oh! Did I hear the backyard supervisors? Those dogs are F-A-S-T! At least, the little black one is. The other one is getting pretty old (thank goodness)!
I’m just going to hide here for a minute. If I stand straight, I’ll look like part of the pipe. I think I’m slim enough, don’t you?
On second thought, maybe I should crouch down and hold still. This is when I wish my ears weren’t so long.
Just to be on the safe side I think I’ll skedaddle, quick like a bunny, until the coast is clear.

I found some grass with flavour grand,

Beside the tap and in the sand,

I nibbled it and loved the taste,

I could not let it go to waste,

But then I heard a vicious dog,

My eyes bugged out, I stared agog,

I tried to hide but then I thought,

This battle’s one that can’t be fought,

The dog has biting teeth and jaws,

I sure don’t want to give her cause

To bite my soft brown bunny fur,

I’d rather run away from her.

I’ll come back later, in the night,

When she is sleeping curled up tight.

And then I’ll munch and lunch till dawn

Cause I am safe while sun is gone.

But, oh, what is that hooting sound?

I think I’d best not stick around.


27 Comments

The Nuthatches Make a Move

I’ve decided this is a better location, Martha. Even the exterior is more interesting with its designer bark siding.

You go ahead up there, Nathan. I’m going to check out this one at the lower level. Less of a target, maybe? And the chipping is easy. Look at me! I’m almost halfway in already.

What if Martha’s right? I’m kind of conspicuous up here. Besides I’m wondering if I’m getting too close to the inside of that crater on top.

 

How ‘re ya comin’ along down there, Martha?

Eeeeuuuw! What is THAT in there? If it moves, I’ll eat it.

Oh … ah …  er … fine, Nathan …

but I seem to have come up against a gnarly knot in this hole.

Sheesh! Just look at ‘er. She’s halfway through to the other side. Maybe that gnarly knot will slow her down and put me back in the running.

Now let’s see. Where was I going with this fibre? Mustn’t let on to Martha, but was I going to put that fibre in the nest or did I just chip it out of there? Is this how it sneaks up on you? Forgetting things?

Nathan, what’s wrong with you? Put that fibre into the nest already. Dithering around like you don’t know if you’re coming or going? Unless you’ve decided on my nest after all?

Oh, this is too frustrating. I need a break. Up this tree looks like a good place to get away for a while.

 

Nayyyyyy-thannnnn! See me up here? Catch me if you can!

See me?

Here I am.

Just to the right of the trunk. If you can find me, I’ll help you with the building again….

Look at Nathan! Isn’t he just so cute, but I have to play hard to get or he’ll take off after Mitzi. She’s been mooning around Nathan, especially the other night when the moon was full.  C’mon, Nathan. Up here, in the tree. Come and find me.

Martha or Mitzi,

So itsy and bitsy,

They’re both after me

As I chip on this tree.

 

Martha is strong,

And with her I belong,

But I’ll let her dangle

Until I finagle

A way to find love with them both.

 


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Family Planning

Have I ever found a good tree for making a nuthatch nest in! Hydro poles don’t fall easily. Say, Martha, come check out the house I’m building for you.

 

I’ll just catch my breath before she comes. Don’t want her to think I can’t handle this job. Although it is a bugger to excavate all this wood to make a nice bedroom for the children.

 

Hmm … still a way to go. But she can help when she gets here. IF she gets here.

 

Where the heck IS she? I need her to help chip the hole deep, and also to put the resin on the inside of the entrance. Oh, I’ll do the outside, but she can do the inside.  That’ll discourage any other birds from bothering us. They don’t want to get sticky. And we’ll just slide through with our sleek bodies and we won’t even get any on us.

 

Hey, Martha! Bring that stick you found for smearing the resin droplets around. Hope she hurries up. I’m getting a bit frazzled from all this work. Having a bad hair day, too. Ah … here she comes.

 

Nathan, I thought you said it was ready for the resin! This is nowhere deep enough yet. We’ve got work to do!

 

Whaddaya mean, Martha. That is …  how many kids were you planning on having? … Martha? Where’d she go?

 

Maybe if I bring her a little treat from the feeder, she’ll get into a better mood. Just hope she doesn’t want ten kids.

 


33 Comments

Great Blue Heron

Blue herons don’t have a dark patch on their shoulders, but this one does. I think something (like an eagle) tried to grab him and he got away. Not unscathed, but he’s alive.

I once saw a heron circle around and around, going higher and higher, until he was nearly out of my sight. In the airspace below him, an eagle was doing his best to climb higher as well, to get at the heron. I think herons must have lighter bones and probably a lighter body in proportion to the wings. They can outdistance eagles  and stay very high up in the air until the danger has passed.

I suspect that this one was caught napping and was attacked at ground level. Somehow he managed to escape the eagle’s clutches, and he lived to tell about it.


34 Comments

Owl Pellets

I found these pellets (not poop, and most likely from an owl) on my driveway yesterday. Thanks to the many trees, we have a lot of owls in the neighbourhood.

When the rabbit, mouse, or rat populations get too high, the owls show up in greater numbers and stay until those populations are down again.

By the way, did you know that while rats and mice belong to the order rodentia, rabbits do not? They belong to the lagamorpha order.

You might think that owls are greedy, eating the whole animal from head to toe (and they literally do start at the head), but they have it all figured out. The crunched up fur, bones, and claws are  cast out in pellet form. In plain English, they throw up the parts they don’t want to digest. This is sometimes called casting.

In the pellets below you can see that the owl probably ate something with gray fur. A few bits of bone are showing in one of the top left pellets.

If you think this is a rather  disgusting way to eat, consider how we might tackle a piece of meat with our knife and fork. We cut around the bone and we cut away pieces of fat and gristle. The owl, lacking a knife and fork just does this job in a different way, but the result is the same. The unpalatable parts are discarded.

You might not give a hoot about this info, but owl bet you learned something. 😉