Category Archives: Birdwatching

Redheads

“Yikes!” This guy was caught red-handed – well, maybe more like red-headed – vandalizing the maple tree. Just look at the holes he’s put into the bark! I guess they make great toeholds for him.

Who would think there is something inside that bark that makes it so enticing for him?

“Hold on,” he says. “I think I can hear something wiggling around in there.”

“Mmyeahhhh … worth having a poke around.”

“There he is! I can feel him in there. Tasty little morsel … if I can only get him out of there. I’ll follow it up with a slurp of syrup from the sap.”

“Yum! That was good, but what a lot of work for a snack. Gotta take a breather for a sec.”

“What’s that you say?” He’s shocked that I’ve questioned him. “Holes in the bark? So what? There’s tons of them. What’s one more?”

“But don’t you see that if you keep going around in a circle you’ll soon ring the tree?”

“So…?

“Well, the sap has to go up and down the tree to keep it alive.”

“But I’m a sapsucker. Duh! It’s what I do!”

“I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I held so still for her when I saw she had her camera.  But enough is enough.”

“I’ll pose for this one last picture and then I’m off. I can always come back later, when her arm gets tired, or her eyes hurt from squinting against the sun, or – hee hee – when her battery dies. All that zooming really eats batteries. 

Now. Where was I? Oh yes, continuing on this line of holes my buddies and I were working on last week.”

A Honkin’ Good Time

Skies are still a bit hazy from the wildfire smoke, but somehow the geese have found their way to the estuary. Many of these birds will move on further south, but many will stay for the winter, putting up with wind and rain, and possibly a day or two of snow. The farmers’ fields will provide food for them with leftover cobs of corn and grain seeds that have missed being harvested. In case of severe frost or snow, the geese have the estuary to find food as the salt water doesn’t freeze.

The arrival of the geese always tells me that summer is ending and the northern latitudes are cooling off already, driving the birds south.

For now, life is still comfortable for them and they chat and preen and enjoy the warm days and nights. Some stretch their wings while others preen their back and neck feathers. A few are resting, some are dabbling at the water’s edge, and the farthest one has his neck stretched up tall and alert. It’s like kiddies’ day at the beach.

Just before leaving, I snapped one more quick picture. When I got home I noticed that one of the geese was flying past the camera just by the tree on the left. Or was it? I zoomed in for a closer look.  You can see it on the next photo.

Here, below, is the flying goose at the end of a skinny branch.  It’s all dressed in leaves. Sure had me fooled.

Mrs. Goose is on the loose,

Chattering, she’s quite obtuse.

“There’s a party at the beach,

And I hear it’s out of reach.

Nobody will bother us,

We can honk and spit and cuss,

Holler loudly as we wish

And the place is one big dish.

Food aplenty ‘cross the way

in the fields  where corncobs may

Still be lying on the ground,

Seeds are scattered all around.

People stop and look at us

But they’re harmless, make no fuss.

It’s just heaven being here

Even though the winter’s near.”

“Honkin’ right,” the gander said.

“Still some pleasant days ahead.”

“Watch your language, Gander Dear,

Bloggers won’t approve, I fear.”

Gander stretches out his wings,

Rolls his eyes and up he springs.

Goosey scurries, much impressed,

Goes to give her mouth a rest.

 

 

 

The Dinner Table

My garden is a tangled mess this year because I’ve hurt my back and can’t bend down to pull out the weeds. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.) The flowers have been so generous about hiding the weeds until I’m feeling better. They’ve done such a good job that no self-respecting bird would think it was a place for humans only. One of my visitors recognized it immediately as “tamed gone wild” and made himself at home there.  He exuded confidence and a sense of ownership, only knocking once he was already  in the door.

What he knocked on was once a huge fir that stood too close to our house. We had to cut it down many years ago and only a low stump was left. After today, I’m glad, for the first time, that we didn’t try to auger out the stump and get rid of it. Apparently it made a good dinner table for Woody, the pileated woodpecker. The spellchecker insists on calling him a pillaged woodpecker, and it is partly true. He does have a pillaging nature.

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“Pillaging? … Me? A bird’s gotta eat!”

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“Now, hold on just a minute. I think some of my dinner fell off the table top.”

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“Do you think it would be polite to crawl under there to get it? I suppose if it fell on the floor, I should leave it … but it looks so good.”

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“Hmm … What to do … what to do???”

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“Oh, to heck with it. I think I can get it from up here. I’m gonna go for it.”

 

Stay tuned for the next installment, coming soon to a computer near you.

 

P.S.  I have just found out that the male pileated woodpecker has the red malar stripe (moustache), while the female does not have it. So this is definitely MR Woodpecker.

Humming and Buzzing

Who’s that humming such a happy tune? Oh! It’s my friend Humphrey.

“Thanks for planting these red hot pokers,” he says. “I love the sweet nectar in them.”

“My long beak and even longer tongue are ideal for reaching down into  these petals shaped like tubes.”

“But, look out Humphrey,” I call to him. “A dangerous character is heading right for you.”

“Eeeee! Thanks for the heads up,  Anneli. These guys usually mind their own beesness. Still, I have to be careful or I could get stung.”

“Maybe he’ll pass right over my wings.”

“Look over your shoulder, Humphrey!”

“Oh no-o-o-o! Here he comes again. Buzz off!”

(You’ll have to look hard to see what’s over Humphrey’s shoulder.)

“I know you’ll think I’m a coward, but I’m going to hide for a minute. These guys can be dangerous. Their sting can pack quite a wallop for a little guy like me.”

“You can come out now,” I tell him. “I think he’s gone.”

“Thanks for watching out for me, Anneli,”  Humphrey hums between slurps of red hot poker syrup.

“Well, take it easy on the dessert, Humphrey. You’re starting to get a little belly.”

“Ha ha, very funny.” Humphrey sips  as fast as he can, then suddenly stops and glances down to his right. “Oh no-o-o-o-o. I thought I heard him buzzing. Here he comes again!”

“Bzz-bzz-bzz,” says the little critter. “I’m just beeeeing a beeee.”

Do you see him?

 

 

What Good is a Crow?

Sometimes in the winter, the extra high tides peak just when extreme winds blow the waves towards the beach and up over the edge of the road. Sand  churned up in the shallow water of the beach is deposited on the pavement as the waves retreat. At its most furious, the storm makes the road impassable due to waves carrying logs and sand, crashing on the pavement.

Something had to be done.  Why not use the logs that keep washing up on the shore to build a breakwater?

The only drawback was that access  was limited for people wanting to  spend time on the beach. Only a few pass-throughs allow access, but this is a small price to pay for keeping the beach material off the road. On the left foreground of the photo below, you can see the root system of a tree used in making the breakwater.

It makes a great perch for this crow to survey the beach and assess the possibility of nabbing a bite to eat.

Closer to the bluffs where the spit begins, people are enjoying the sunshine in spite of the cold brisk breeze.

Apparently they have brought some picnic food, and our crow is on the alert. See him in the foreground (below), keeping an eye on the people?

Those pebbles can twist a crow’s ankle. He hops up onto a better stand while he talks to us.

My name is Corby, I’m a crow,

A useful bird, I’ll have you know.

I clean up beaches, parks, and schools,

‘Cause people are such messy fools.

“A scavenger,” they say and sneer,

But really I’m an engineer.

A sanitation engineer,

Patrolling beaches without fear.

I’m much despised for baby theft

Of eggs and fledglings, moms bereft,

But on the beach and in the park,

With my intentions not so dark,

I use my observation perch

And beady eyes to scan and search

For chip bags, Ding Dongs, peanut shells.

I simply follow kiddies’ yells

For fast food wrappers, greasy hits

Of french fries, ketchup, burger bits.

I hop-skip over, spear a fry,

And poke some Cheezies with a sigh.

I fly up high, and watch, and call,

My cawing soon assembles all.

The local corbies cruising by,

Spy the garbage as they fly.

They’ve come to lend a helping hand

To clean the litter off the land.

They caw, “We are the cleanup crew,

Don’t look at us with eyes askew.

Don’t throw those rocks to chase us off,

You need us still,  you silly toff.

As long as you mess up the land,

Be thankful for the crows at hand.”

 

Large Flakes?

Looking out the window this afternoon, I saw huge snowflakes. Or were they leaves? But they were floating so easily, like snow. More and more flakes came down, and yet, not enough to say, “It’s snowing,” and besides, it was just a tad too warm. Something didn’t feel right. I went to investigate.

I picked up some of the “snowflakes” and saw that they were feathers. They kept falling from the sky. I thought of the German folk tale about Frau Holle who shakes the featherbeds (goosedown duvets, in our modern western world) in the sky and makes it snow.

I traced the path of the feathers to their origin and strained my eyes to study the top reaches of a fir tree. For a few minutes I saw nothing, but at last I made the culprit nervous.

A huge eagle took off from the tree with its dinner in its talons.

I knew from the feathers that the eagle’s meal was a duck. The harsh reality of  life and death in the animal food chain always leaves me with mixed feelings. Both are beautiful birds, but why does one have to eat the other? Couldn’t they just eat pancakes instead?

 

 

Are We Hungry?

When I went outside in the bitter cold the other day to refill the birdfeeders and put out more suet, I was surprised that there were no birds around. I wondered if a hawk had passed by to bully them. I refilled the feeders anyway, and hung more suet in the wire cage along with the half finished suet block. As I worked I heard one bird tell another, “She’s bringing fresh food,” and another bird answering, “I know, I know. I see!”

It reminded me of standing in a Chinese smorgasbord line-up, looking at the dregs of a pan of … something … and then seeing the waitress bring over a new steaming hot pan of fresh chow mein.

As soon as I left the birdfeeder area, a flock of tiny birds (bushtits, I think) came to the suet and covered the whole block with their hungry little bodies. When I looked back I couldn’t even see the suet block, only a swarm of feathers. I think now, that maybe the suet had frozen and was hard to pick at. It was that cold. The fresh block was not frozen and everyone ate well that night. My photo shows only six of the birds, but I’m sure there were more than ten or twelve on the suet in those first moments after I left.
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Harshest winter, freezing cold,

Tests survival of the bold.

Icy winds pierce feathers fine

As the tiny creatures dine.

They know they’ll die if they can’t eat

So at the feeder they all meet.

New suet hangs there in the wire

Perhaps their fate is not so dire,

Internal furnaces will warm

The bodies of the little swarm.

They’ll live to see another day

And soon the spring will come to stay.