December 12, 2012

Bluejays and Egg Shells

Yesterday afternoon I went out to fill the bird feeders and dump the bucket of kitchen scraps into the compost bin. I made sure the egg shells were visible at the top of the pile so that the bluejays would see them. 

Sure enough, this morning at first light, the blue jays were out there carrying off the shells! It happens each time. I wonder if they fly over every morning to check?

November 24, 2012

Young Red Shouldered Hawk

 This beautiful immature red shouldered hawk was sitting on a tree branch right outside the dining room this morning. It was waiting for the birds to come to the feeders for breakfast so that he could get his. They must have known he was there because come they did not! While he was patiently waiting, I went up one flight to the bedroom, opened the window and took several photos. I love the fluffed up feathers. I wish I could pet him!

September 9, 2012

Seedheads and Messy Gardens

Six goldfinches suspended on the tips of some of the Echinacea seed heads in the perennial garden are a reminder that it is time to let the faded flowers remain on the plants. All summer the horticulturist in me has been dead heading the plants to ensure a continuous production of new flowers. This also ensured that the butterflies, bees and other pollinators would remain in the garden. As the season is beginning to wind down, the naturalist in me reminds me that it is okay to let seed heads develop and leaves to gather on the ground. This will provide food for the many birds that will be visiting this fall and winter. And what seeds they don't eat may just sprout and grow, producing new plants next season. Again attracting the butterflies, bees and other pollinators to them. Oh yes, the circle of life! Why do we humans need to mess with it?

September 5, 2012

Comings and Goings

The catbirds and wrens were gone from the garden for a few weeks, but as of the past week, they are back.  I haven't seen or heard a mourning dove in a week or two.  And robins have not been here at all this summer.  I wonder if they now migrate north for the summers and spend their winters here.

I regularly see a group of cardinals, about 5, taking turns flying to the different feeders placed throughout the gardens.  Three of them are males woh were born this spring and who had been wearing their "punk" outfits until recently. Now they are sporting their red coats, which are growing brighter every day.

I've changed the seed in the feeders to only black sunflower seeds. All of my favorite birds enjoy it, including the gold finches, and the sparrows do not. The population of house sparrows has diminished, I'm thinking because they prefer the millet in the wild bird food mix and now are not getting it.  It could be that they have moved on like the birds mentioned above. Or maybe they are living over by Kate's house, eating her bird food.  This may be the case with the mourning doves too. Maybe they don't care for the sunflower seeds.  I would see them on the raised beds in the enclosed garden most of the summer and think it was they who ate the dill, nigella and zinnia seeds I sowed.  I saw them in those beds and those plants didn't sprout. So even if they didn't like the sunflower seed, wouldn't they be in the gardens? I can't believe we are all out of weed seeds!

I saw a hummingbird yesterday.  I want to look for and record it each day.  There were a few days when I didn't see them.  As soon as I changed the sugar water in their feeders, they were back! The weather had gotten cooler at that time so I thought maybe they were on their way south.  I expect them to be gone any day now.  Or can I expect to see more hummingbirds for a while as the ones who were north of here begin to head south?  An incentive to keep up with the feeders!

Also for the past week I have heard some new bird calls, but have not seen who they belong to.  One bird may have been the catbird, though I did see what looked like a phoebe on the wire in the area the song was coming from.  I remember in the spring hearing the catbirds singing a lovely song, very unlike their usual screechy cat alert call.  I've also heard what Bob calls the "clothesline" bird. It was alternating its call with the blue jays, so maybe this is an alternate call/song of theirs. And there was a third call that I cannot describe, but was new as well. I will go through the different bird calls on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

It is to to refer to the Sally Roth book, Backyard Bird Secrets for Every Season, to see what is in store for the autumn season.  I bought the book last January and have learned a lot from it so far. Autumn is the last section in the book still to read.

Birds Seen Today as of 10 a.m
Blue jay (hear)
downy woodpecker
mourning dove - flying
wrens (hear)

Weather: humid, overcast, thunder and lightning in the distance.

August 20, 2012

Birds in the Garden at 7 a.m.

red bellied woodpecker
downy woodpecker - male and female
mourning dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
male downy woodpecker

female ruby throated hummingbird



mourning dove

August 18, 2012

Hummingbirds and Their Favorite Flowers

The hummingbirds (there are at least 2 - two females have been keeping each other company the past few days - mother and daughter?) are regular visitors to the feeders now. They also enjoy the nectar from the:
butterfly bushes
Verbena bonariensis

Having the hummingbirds here has been the highlight of the summer! I have set out feeders for them in years past, but wasn't home enough to pay attention and probably didn't change the sugar water often enough so they stopped visiting. It is a daily treat to see them!

August 12, 2012

Goldfinch and Downy Woodpecker

I like how I was able to capture both of these birds, on different plants, in the same photo.

July 31, 2012

Spicebush Swallowtail

Saw this beauty today.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Goldfinch on Sunflower

The beautiful large sunflower has faded and its seeds have ripened. The goldfinches have been plucking the seeds out daily now. Being surrounded by tomato plants, I could not see the action from the windows of the house, so cut the sunflower and hung it on the shed. This I can see from the kitchen, dining room and bedroom windows. Once I spotted the goldfinch, I had to go outside to take its picture!

July 17, 2012

A Hot Summer Day Filled with Wildlife Activity

The front and back porches are too hot to sit on right now and I want to be outside while reading and taking notes.  The temperature is 90 + or - a degree or two. I moved one of the cushiony chairs and side tables from the back porch out to a shady spot on the grass overlooking the hummingbird feeder, butterfly bush and perennial garden.  Turning my head to the right, I can glance out over the meadow and see the pond. A slight turn to the left and I can see what is going on at the bird feeders.

There is a lovely breeze that cools the skin and sends the luscious fragrances of lily, buddleia and greenery past my nostrils.  Yellow tiger swallowtails, a black swallowtail, monarchs, cabbage whites, sulphurs, azures, and a variety of bees and wasps, including the large blue ones, are flying about and feeding on the nectar of the catmints, butterfly weed, buddleia, cosmos and other flowers in the garden, as well as on the white clover blossoms in the lawn.

The neighborhood is quiet except for the passing cars. No lawn mowers or weed wackers today. No radios or people swimming and shouting in the pool across the street or the houses behind the woods.  No children shouting, no dogs barking.  Quite nice for meditating and watching the butterflies silently flit about.

I borrowed some books from the library yesterday that I hope will help to identify all of the varieties of pollinators I encounter in the garden and also learn which host plants are needed to keep them around year after year.

The hummingbird just came to the feeder.  This is the closest I've been able to see it. I hope she comes back and isn't startled by movement from me. I'd like to put the binoculars up to my eyes to get an even closer look, but that may frighten her away.

July 3, 2012

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

Spied this beauty a few minutes ago.

Rose Breasted Grosbeak

I saw this Rose Breasted Grosbeak at the bird feeder this morning around 6:40 a.m. This is the first time I have seen a real one. Yesterday I went outside with binoculars to get a closer look at what I thought was a new sparrow to the garden. I had noticed white stripes along either the side of the head. I then looked in my Birds of Connecticut book, but could not identify it. I did see a photo of a female rose breasted grosbeak that looked similar, but without seeing them here before, was reluctant to identify it as such. Spotting the male this morning does confirm the bird I saw yesterday. Though it could also have been a juvenile grosbeak. This is probably the case because it was the size of a sparrow with a larger-than-sparrow-sized beak.

July 2, 2012

So Much Living and Activity Going On in My Big Backyard

I've been spending quite a lot of time outside gardening, weeding, watering, filling bird and hummingbird feeders, birdbaths, and walking, roaming and sitting. It is amazing what you will see when you are outside, quiet and observant.  Today I discovered that it is a chipmunk who made a hole in the hill behind the perennial garden. I saw him go up the hill to feast on fallen seeds from the bird feeder. When I got too close (he did let me get quite close!), he scurried down to the hole and sat very still in the opening, hoping I wouldn't notice him I suppose! Again when I got too close, he turned and went inside.

The Monarch butterflies are enjoying the butterfly weed flowers. They stay put on them sucking out the nectar with their proboscis. Again, I was able to get quite close to observe this. Cabbage butterflies, sulfurs, blue azures, commas, red admirals and painted ladies all can be seen flying around.

Then, while picking blueberries, a mass of ants came from under the fence, across the grass and seemed to be heading to the exact spot I was at! I moved out of the way. They continued on their way, like a river swimming through the grass, up the raised bed, across it, down the other side and kept going! I went back to picking the blueberries, then looked for them when I was done, but could not locate them. They moved quickly! I have never seen that before!!

Again I saw the hummingbird at the feeder. As always, the house finches, maybe purple finches, assorted sparrows, cardinals, titmice, chickadees, hairy and downy woodpeckers, nuthatches, mourning doves, bluejays and grackles took turns at the different feeders and the wrens,sparrows and catbirds foraged the plants for insects.

I really must bring my camera with me every time I go outside.

June 27, 2012

Today in My Big Backyard

tufted titmice
female cardinal
female and male house sparrows
blue jay
a bird calling "here, here"
mourning doves
male and female house finches

Butterflies & other Insects
Red Admiral
Blue Wasps

Sassafras ?

Blue Jays

June 26, 2012

Blueberry Visitors

Sketching out in the garden this morning at 7:30 near the blueberry bushes. A family (I'm guessing) of five wrens were checking out the blueberries. There is netting over the bushes, so they weren't able to get in. They were intensely trying to figure out how to sneak in, not caring that I was about five feet away.

A female finch is on the sunflower feeder very close to me. I must have been sitting still enough for her not to notice me.

Crows are out this morning saying "un-uh".

The catbird is trying to get to the blueberries now.

June 20, 2012

A Baby Bunny - The Newest Visitor to Our Backyard

Last Friday I was doing some weeding and planting in the fenced garden and thinking how nice it would be to discover a new creature here. I prayed and asked God to show me a small animal up close; not one that could bite like a snake, but maybe a toad, salamander or chipmunk. Not more than a half hour passed when out of the corner of my eye, a very tiny rabbit scrambled from between a row of raised beds and scurried under the compost tumblers! This was a first! I consider that a prayer answered!

The question is how the baby bunny got into the garden. There is chicken wire running the bottom of the entire length of fencing as well as under the tool shed. I did have the garden gates open, so it is possible he scampered in through one of those. We can see him from the windows of the house, happily eating the grass and weeds that are growing on the ground. He is too small yet to reach the raised beds. Yesterday while watering, he appeared and did not seem too afraid of me, but I got a little too close so he escaped into the toolshed.  When I was done watering, I got my camera hoping to be able to snap a picture of him. I placed a handful of freshly picked dandelion greens in the doorway and waited. He didn't appear. I got tired of waiting so set about taking photos of the plants and insects also inhabiting this garden.  The bunny did emerge once again and I was able to get this photo! Cute isn't he? (or she?)

Here is a link to the other photos I took of the garden:

June 5, 2012

Bird Visitors

For a while (about one month I'd say) the activity at the bird feeders dropped drastically. Only house sparrows were constant visitors taking endless trips to feed their babies.  Mourning Doves were constant as well, but everyone else seemed to move on or switch to eating bugs and worms.

Lately the house (and maybe some purple) finches have been feeding here on a regular basis. Lots and lots of them! I'd say about 5 males and 20 females and/or juveniles! Yesterday there were 7 goldfinches - all males - at the bird bath! I believe I saw an oriole chase a crow last Sunday.

Today I saw a downy woodpecker at the back feeder, a nuthatch at the front feeder, red winged blackbirds on the ground below the large feeder in the enclosed garden, and a red bellied woodpecker on top of one of the cedar posts. Other visitors to the garden and feeders today were grackles, black birds, blue jays, cardinals, catbirds and robins.

And I saw a cotton tail bunny out back by the sour wood tree! It is so cute and tiny!! Saw it or another one last night too.

May 12, 2012

Mockingbird, Turkey and Snowy Egret Sightings

Finally spotted a mockingbird here. There have been mockingbirds in the neighborhood at work (Bridgeport) for a few weeks now. Or at least I believe they are by their singing. I haven't heard or seen one here at home until today.

Also spotted a lone female turkey walking across the field and a snowy egret wading the the pond!

May 9, 2012

Wrens and Catbirds Are Here

Got back from Nashville last night. This morning saw that the wrens are here now. They (or he) are/is building a nest in the new house that Bob built for them and hung up last month. I also see that the catbirds have arrived. They are perched in the viburnum beneath the leaves, giving them great privacy and protection.  I wonder if they are building a nest in there.

May 1, 2012

Cocoon Identified

The cocoon I discovered last fall, hanging from a branch of a hazelnut hung on all winter. I came across it again the other day and finally remembered to do some research to see what type of creature made it. I believe it is the cocoon of a Promethea or Polyphemus Moth. Both are in the silk moth family. I do have a dead, ragged specimen of one of these moths found here a few years ago.

I'm really intrigued by how the leaf is wrapped with silk to form the cocoon.  It looks like an embossed pattern. It is also impressive how it has survived this long. When I first came across it late last fall, it already had the opening on top, so I am not sure when the moth emerged. I hope this summer and fall will bring new opportunities to see a cocoon in the construction stages.

April 23, 2012

Cedar Apple Rust

I went outside after the rain with my camera to capture water droplets on leaves. I really enjoy taking photographs when the weather is overcast. The lack of sunshine enables colors to be more distinct and vibrant.  I caught a splash of bright orange within the stand of junipers from the corner of my eye. A closer inspection revealed an intriguing, unusually shaped and rarely seen organism that I had only read about - Cedar Apple Rust.

This fungus needs two host plants in order to live. On this native juniper, Juniperus viginiana, it has produced this very showy gall. (It looks a bit like a sea anemone or sea urchin.) It also needs an apple or crabapple tree near by to finish its life cycle.

April 19, 2012

White Throated Sparrow

Today I saw and identified a white throated sparrow. It is the first time I have ever seen one. It has two little patches of yellow on the top of it's head, in addition to a white throat and black and white stripes on its head.

April 16, 2012

Where Are the Birds?

We had an early start to spring which means an early season of hatching and growth of insects as well as plants. The robins were here in numbers early, as were the phoebes, and many of the winter visitors to feeders must be concentrating on the insects for food. I haven't seen a titmouse, nuthatch, woodpecker or flicker in weeks and a single chickadee appears once in a while. The house sparrows and house finches are still regulars though. I haven't seen the juncos in a few days, so I guess they finally headed north. But I am still waiting for the arrival of the wrens, cat birds, mockingbirds and Baltimore oriole.

March 14, 2012

Moths and Peepers

I was out tonight and when I got home, there were about eight moths flying around the porch light AND the spring peepers were singing! Plus Jupiter and Venus are shining very brightly in the Western sky. What a lovely spring evening in late winter!

February 20, 2012

The Great Backyard Bird Count 2012 Tallies

Saturday, February 18, 2012
Location: The Family Homestead, total of 13 acres
A mix of decidous woods, wetlands, suburban backyards, small pond and stream.

Birds observed through the course of about five hours:
Mallard - 2
Turkey Vulture - 1
Red-tailed Hawk - 1
Mourning Dove - 12
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Northern Flicker - 1
Blue Jay - 2
Black-capped Chickadee - 1
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1
European Starling - 1
Dark-eyed Junco - 9
Northern Cardinal - 3
House Finch - 4
 House Sparrow - 12

Sunday, February 19, 2012
Location: John Chanda Park, Stratford, CT
A large pond, deciduous woods, ball field and playground.

Birds observed in 15 minutes time:
Canada Goose - 53
Mallard - 3
American Robin - 1

Monday, February 20, 2012
Location 1: at the backyard feeders:

Birds observed in 15 minutes time:
Mourning Dove - 6
Dark-eyed Junco - 3
House Sparrow - 2

Location 2: Dunkin Donuts parking lot outside Cracker Barrel Restaurant, Milford, CT

Birds observed in 5 minutes:
Herring Gull - 12

Location 3: Woodmont Beach, Milford, CT
A beach along Long Island Sound

Birds observed in 30 minutes:
Herring Gull - 75
Rock Pigeon - 4
Monk Parakeet - 4

Location 4: Silver Sands State Park, Milford, CT
A beach with marshlands along Long Island Sound

Birds observed in one hour (not all species recorded):
Mallard - 2
duck sp. - 11
Herring Gull - 18

Location 5: back home in front yard:

Birds observed flying overhead:
10 Monk Parakeets

I really enjoyed participating in this count. I am a bit disappointed that my "regulars" didn't show up at the feeders or down at the pond. I so wanted to include them in the count to let the Cornell folks know about the variety of birds that frequent the Family Homestead.

February 18, 2012

This is the Weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count

Yesterday began the annual weekend long bird count sponsored by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. It goes on until Monday, February 20th.

This will be the first year that I participate and I hope to continue to do so each year for as long as I am able. February 20th happens to be my birthday, can't think of a better thing to do to celebrate than to spend some time with my feathered friends! Its a good excuse to get out to a nature preserve too!

I'll keep you posted on the species I was able to see and hope to get some good photos too! Going out now to fill all the bird feeders so I can count the visitors when they stop by for their dinner.

February 1, 2012

February 1, 2012

This first day of February feels like the first day of April or May! So gorgeous!! Already the crocuses, daffodils and tulips are up along with dandelions and chickweed. And last night I saw a moth outside the kitchen window!

January 18, 2012

Hawk at Feeder

Five bird feeders are visible from my dining room window. It is my morning routine to sit at the table next to the window, drink my coffee and read. When the sun comes up I pull aside the curtain and scan the feeders for visitors. Depending on the day, I have more or less time for this morning meditation.

This morning I spotted a hawk perched on the fence near the feeder closest to the woods. Through my binoculars I could see that it was an immature one, though I could not identify the species from my field guides. He looked majestic with his thick dark brown cloak draped over his shoulders.  How wonderful it would be if the binoculars were a camera!

January 14, 2012

Heron at the Pond

A heron, looking very big with his fluffed up feathers, was waiting patiently for some dinner this afternoon.  He was out looking for lunch earlier today and by the time I gathered the camera gear, got the tripod set up and put my coat on, he had flown away. Luckily he came back and I was at home to see him. The lighting was better at 3:30 p.m. than it was at 11:00 a.m. anyway. So glad I was able to catch him. I wonder if he caught himself anything to eat.

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