wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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The Easy Way

While Charlie and Chester the chickadees got their sunflower seeds from the sunflowers in the garden, Nathan the nuthatch found an easier way to get his share.

This jar of seeds is meant for the squirrels, but when they aren’t looking, Nathan zips in and steals a seed. He doesn’t linger at all, making it more of a Dine and Dash situation. At any time Jasper or Lincoln might come and put the run on him. It was hard to get a clear picture, zoomed in from the deck of the house, and needing to snap it quickly as Nathan only stays at this jar for a split second.

“Do you know who’s been into my stash?”

 

Nathan Nuthatch loves his seeds,

Not so much the work.

Squirrel food will meet his needs,

Though his theft might irk.

 

Jasper tries to guard the stash,

Lincoln also helps,

Nathan is afraid they’ll bash

In his skull, and yelps.

 

“Look how much you have to eat,

Yet you will not share,

Food laid out for you so neat,

This I just can’t bear.

 

“If the seeds you will not share,

I will have to steal,

Flying quickly I will dare,

But won’t stay to peel.

 

“In a pinch I’d get my own,

From the tall sunflowers,

But until my cover’s blown,

This will save me hours.”

 

 

 


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Bald Eagles

I saw an eagle land in a tree below my house, so I went out onto the deck to take its picture.

Then I zoomed in on it and got a close up of it, but had no place to steady the camera and just took my chances.

In a second closeup, I saw that he had his beak open and I could see its tongue, but I see that the photo is quite small on the blog, so if you want to see the eagle’s tongue, you’ll have to click on the photo to make it bigger. Even so, it will be hard to see.

These birds are much bigger than they look. If you had one sitting beside you with its wings spread out, tip to tip those wings could span 8 feet. The bird might weigh about 14 lbs., the size of a small turkey. 

Anyone walking a small dog or worse yet, letting it run around in their backyard in eagle territory, had better watch out for it. They make a nice snack. Although eagles are not water birds, they will do what they have to do to procure food. I have seen an eagle with a loon in its beak, dragging it across the surface of the water as the eagle swims with one wing paddling like a lifeguard saving a drowning person, until it got to shore where it cold devour the bird. I have seen it do the same after swooping down to pick up a coho salmon just below the surface of the water. They are incredibly strong birds.

At this time of year, the herring come close to shore to spawn. This means a bounty of food for the eagles. You can see these birds showing up in the tall trees near the beaches in greater numbers to await the arrival of the herring. 

Eagles are not totally scavengers, but they are like a cleanup crew of a different kind. They are opportunists and will eat what is already dead, but they pick off sick or injured animals, whether they be land- or sea-birds, small mammals, or fish.  A crippled duck won’t suffer long with eagles around.

This is why you will often see eagles high up in a tree. They observe a large area, watching for stragglers in a flock of birds, or any weakness in animals small enough for them to pick up.

 

This raccoon may have been sick, injured, or dead, and became an eagle’s meal.

“Hmm…. There must be a little morsel left.”

 

“He’s messed up my nice white head feathers, but it’s worth it. What’s a bit of blood when you can fill your boots like this?”

“Just a few tidbits left. I hope I can still fly up into that tree with my stomach so full.”

 

Once when I was playing with Ruby, our late springer spaniel (then a small puppy), in the backyard, two eagles had been sitting unnoticed by me, in a nearby fir tree. They swooped down low across the yard, heading for tiny Ruby. I ran for Ruby and spread out my arms to provide an “umbrella” over her, and the eagles lifted up like two jets making an aborted landing. If I hadn’t been out there with her, she would have been eagle food that day.

 

So take care if you live in eagle country and have small dogs or cats. 

 


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House Finch

This little guy was waiting for his turn to have a bite of lunch at the birdfeeder. In the photo I managed to get, I saw that his eye looks good.

I hadn’t known about the eye disease that went through the finch population in the last thirty years or so, but after reading about it, I made sure to take care of my feeders, keeping them clean and raking up the ground under the feeders where mould might collect around dropped seeds and bird poop.

The bacteria that affect the finches appear to have originated in chicken feed. Possibly some finches helped themselves to it and then got sick, spreading the disease to each other.

Scientists found that when the population of finches went down, the disease seemed to spread less easily, and future populations were less affected. Social distancing? However, the problem has not been solved completely, and it was noted that even as surviving birds recovered, the bacteria mutated and got more virulent. The bacteria causing eye disease are still out there, stronger than before, so we have to be aware and clean those feeders.

By the way, does this house finch look like he has only one leg? He must have two, but where is the second one? Maybe he’s got it pulled in close to his body to warm his toes. It’s been cold out there.


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A Case of Harassment All Around

It was a glorious morning, very early.

Ruined!

“Caw! Caw! Caw!” came the ugly croaking call of a crow, summoning his cohorts to make a try for the breakfast that was about to happen when Robbie, Ryan, Ross, and Roberta left their robin’s nest.

I picked up some pebbles from the yard, grabbed the slingshot and went looking for the murderers who threatened to skewer the baby robins with their sharp beaks, much like hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party.

As I walked down the path in front of my house, the crows flew away, and I stood a moment to admire the view.

I took a few breaths of fresh sea air and turned to go back home. Just then, something burst out of the two-foot-high St. John’s wort shrubbery at the side of the road. It flew up onto a fence rail about ten feet away and stared down at me.

It stared and stared and stared, for maybe 30 seconds, and then it flew up into a nearby fir tree.

I hurried into the house and traded the slingshot for a camera.

It was much farther away now, and I had to zoom the camera. It’s a bit fuzzy, but I was still thrilled to get any kind of a picture of this great horned owl.

Later I saw what it might have been after.

Looking back, I was harassing the crows who were harassing the owl who was about to harass the rabbit who was about to harass my garden which held the worms that the robins were about to harass. And what was harassing me? The backyard supervisors, wanting their breakfast.

Sorry for the blurry picture of Emma. She can NEVER sit still.

And Ruby, patiently waiting for her breakfast.


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Sneaky Thief

Shhh!!! The squirrels are away …  I think …

 

Quick! Quick! I’ll grab one of their sunflower seeds.

I need to crack the shell. Here’s a stick. Hurry, hurry, before they come back. Those two squirrel brothers have been doing their best not to share with me.

 

Do I dare believe my sharp brown eyes? It’s a towhee. The sneaky little thief!

 

Hey brother! We got trouble …  again!

 

Ooh! Talk about greedy! He didn’t leave much.

 

 

Holy smokes!  There’s hardly anything left. I’m really hurt. 

 

I just can’t believe he did that. He’s almost cleaned us out.

 

But wait a minute. Heh-heh-heh! He doesn’t know about the ones I have … “squirreled” away.

 

I’d better add this one to the stash.

 

On second thought, I should eat what I can before he comes back.


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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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This ‘Hood is for the Birds

Not meaning to make light of the very real shortage of affordable housing for people, I thought if  birds had any shortage of housing, here is one person’s way of dealing with it and helping them out. This tree with its “decoration” is located in a remote part of Vancouver Island. A handful of people live nearby and while some of them are very creative, all of them love nature. So this tribute to bird life is appreciated and admired by all. Some other objects have crept into a space among the birdhouses, but they don’t look out of place because they are part of the lifestyle there.

*Taken with the Captain’s little Fuji.

Do you see any objects that stand out for you?


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A Flicker of Light

Sitting in the dark in my living room at about 6:30 this morning, I was surprised by the contrasting colour of the two levels of clouds — one layer of light gray and one of very dark gray. It gave me the shivers to think of the wind and rain that were coming our way.

I was not disappointed. It blew and dumped rain on us. Once the moisture had been thrown into our faces, the clouds lifted (that’s not the same as going away) and the sky brightened up.

The flicker looked up from his perch in the black walnut tree and called to his buddy who had just flown away, “What do you think, Dear? Is this it for today, or is there more coming? Should we find a more sheltered tree to peck on?”

 

Flicker eyes the roiling sky

Shakes himself and gives a cry,

Shudders at the force of storm,

Sodden feathers, not the norm.

Hoping sun comes shining through,

Flicker asks, “What will I do?

If the next storm is as wild

While I’m wishing it were mild.

Friends will fly away from here, 

I’ll be left alone, I fear.

Wait! I see a glimpse of sun.

Surely I’m the happy one.”


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Working to Eat

 

The pileated woodpecker has to work for his meals. This is Woody, who came to check out the old fir stump in my overgrown veggie garden. Notice how his tongue sticks out now and then to help lick up anything  he finds crawling around inside the wood.

After he had his meal, he flew into the forested area around the side of our house to have dessert at one of the other stumps we’ve left there.

I followed him to try to get another photo and was surprised when Junior flew in and landed in a tree quite close to me. You can tell that this is a young bird, maybe a female because of no red malar stripe (moustache). The red on her head is not as brilliant as it will be when she matures.

By the time I recovered from the surprise of her appearance, and refocused the camera, the backyard superintendents woke up from sleeping on the job, and came along barking their fool heads off, scaring the birds away.

I sighed, but couldn’t really reprimand them. After all, they are bird dogs.

 

 


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It’s Just Lunch

The songbirds always let it be known when there’s a killer in their midst, be it a cat, a raccoon, a hawk, or a crow. Today, it seems that every bird in my little acre was shrieking with alarm — not just the usual robin whose nest was threatened, but the chickadees, nuthatches, and many others as well. When all the birds sing happy songs, it’s background music, but when they sound like several fire alarms going off, something is wrong. I went out onto the deck to have a look.

In the tall firs next to the house, many songbirds were divebombing a preditor who sat and watched from her perch on a dead broken branch. I ran back into the house for my camera. The merlin (a small falcon) didn’t seem to care about me being there. She was either a juvenile or brazen or both. However it was, she allowed me to take many pictures, even posing a bit.

She ruffled her feathers, being Mrs. Cool. I’m not afraid of you!

??????????

The songbirds set up the alarm in the whole mini forest around my yard. A chickadee and a nuthatch, both tiny birds who are often chosen by the falcons as appetizers, bravely sat on the branch directly behind the merlin, scolding her.

The merlin merely gave them a look that said, “Who? Me?”

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Then she looked down at the ground to see if her lunch was still there. I suspected she had done something because she had blood on her hands…er…beak.

033Yes, it was me, she says. I’m not proud of myself.

035

She shrugs her shoulders and says, “It’s just lunch.”

039My little puppy, Emma, found the falcon’s intended lunch, lying on the ground below the tree. A juvenile red-shafted northern flicker, one of my favourite birds in this area.

??????????

I was choked. I don’t want to hear another person say a word about “Mother Nature.” There is nothing “motherly” about nature. As beautiful as nature is, it is also very cruel when we apply our human values to it. But that’s how it has to be.

And I do think the falcon was sorry.

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I waved my arms but the falcon didn’t want to fly away. It was only when I opened the big patio umbrella that she flew off. The songbirds settled down and silence hung in the air.

??????????

When I picked up the flicker, a single tail feather fell to the ground and as I walked away, I heard one lonely bird calling. It had to be the mother giving one last quavery call to say an anguished goodbye to her baby.