Thursday, December 19, 2013

Frosty Mornings

In between holiday preparations, snow shoveling, and dog walking, I took some pictures of the birds that flocked to my feeders this week during the snowfalls and frigid temperatures. They looked striking against a frosty backdrop. When the feeders were crowded, the goldfinches and juncos opted for seeds from the garden flowers. A Red-bellied Woodpecker jabbed at an apple on one of the trees in the yard. A Carolina Wren ate privet berries from my neighbor's hedge. The juncos and American Tree Sparrow hopped under the dried, snow topped Miscanthus sinensis grass for cover. It was five degrees one morning when I took some of the shots. I didn't last outside for long.
Dark-eyed Juncos

Tufted Titmouse

Miscanthus sinensis grass
American Tree Sparrow and Goldfinch

Blue Jay

Carolina Wren

Monday, December 16, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

Project Feeder Watch

The first week of November, I began my eighth season of participating in Project Feeder Watch. From November through early April, I will watch my bird feeders two consecutive days of the week. I'll record the temperature, precipatation, amount of snow and the greatest number of each bird species that I see at one time at the feeders, eating flowerhead seeds or insects in the the yard and garden. My own data collection site through Cornell Lab of Ornithology, allows me to easily look back and see what birds were in my yard a half dozen years ago, how much snow we had and what the temps were. I always have a hard time transitioning to less time spent outside as winter approaches. This citizen science project connects me to the outside world even on the most frigid of days. Peering out into the yard, binoculars in hand, I have begun to have an appreciation for the garden in winter.  I enjoy seeing the many shades of brown, rust, and wheat that the perrenials and grasses have taken on as they wither and dry. I leave most everything up in the garden beds for winter interest, as well as, so the birds can eat the seed heads of the plants and so that wildlife has cover. Just today, three White-throated Sparrows and a half dozen Dark-eyed Juncos foraged in the leaf litter in the garden and yard. They were joined by a couple of Blue Jays and several Mourning Doves all looking for food on the ground. I noticed how the female junco blended in so well with the ground cover.  Chickadees clung to the Northern Sea Oats, a native grass, and nibbled on the seeds. A Carolina Wren sat quietly at the feeder seeming to contemplate its next move. Unfortunately, it didn't stick around for a picture. Over the last eight years I have had thirty different species of birds in the yard. I'll let you know if that number changes this season.
Goldfinch Strikes A Pose

Female Dark-eyed Junco

Feeder for two, please!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Out and About : Round Lake Nature Notes September 2013

    Recently, I had a brief, one-sided, yet informative chat with a wood chuck.  Only five feet apart, garden flowers between us, he didn't flinch an inch when I asked him how his apple tasted.  He likes apples.  A half dozen of them were beside the deep hole he had dug under my garden shed.  He was lying half way out of the hole, casually munching an apple piece.  The coloration of his coat matched the dark dirt of the garden, camouflaging him nicely.  "So you've moved back in," I commented.  He is smart.  He chose a great location, prime real estate for a chuck.  There's two apple trees loaded with fruit in his side yard, while hostas hide his front door and lily of the valley gives privacy to the back one.  He is bold.  I went and got my camera and he came further out of the hole for the photo opportunity and some more apple.  Unfortunately, the pictures were too dark.  He is fast.  I have caught him out in the garden eating violets, parsley, and even hot pepper plants. ( A bite was actually taken out of a jalapeno pepper but it only happened once!)  I have yelled when I've seen him and he has sped back under the shed.  I saw one of his buddies last week come barreling down the sled riding hill with an apple stuffed in his mouth. He shot under a house foundation in a flash.  My dog had no time to catch wind of him.  So entertaining!
    Along with watching wood chucks, I have been waiting and looking for monarch butterflies.  Fifty-three milkweed plants have been growing in the back and side of my house all summer.  Milkweed is the monarch's host plant and it is only milkweed that this butterfly will lay its eggs on. The larvae then eat the leaves.  I have checked all the plants routinely for eggs and leaf chew.  Nothing.  By the middle of August I realized I hadn't seen any  monarchs drifting through the garden or nectaring on the flowers.  In fact, I wasn't seeing them anywhere.  Reading up on their situation, I discovered a cold, wet spring caused a decrease in their numbers coming up north.  Additionally, habitat loss in Mexico, where they winter over, as well as habitat loss in the U.S., the use of the herbicide round-up which kills milkweed, and changing weather patterns are all contributing to their sharp decline.  As of September twenty-fourth, I have only seen three monarch butterflies.  I am sending my sightings to Journey North.  It is a citizen science program that tracks monarch migration.  Data will help scientists figure out more about the monarch's plight.  I have plenty of milkweed seeds if anyone's interested.
Milkweed Plants

Commonly seen cabbage white butterfly

Monarch on asters

Bee loaded with pollen

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Garden Visitors July - September 2013

Several visitors I caught with the lens.
Hummingbird Moth

Giant Swallowtail

Giant Swallowtail

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird



Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird Preening

One late August morning while having breakfast on my porch, I noticed two hummingbirds flying wildly around the garden.  I didn't even to try to take a picture of the two female hummers that zoomed through the garden chasing each other.  They each wanted ownership of the small tube nectar feeder hanging from my garden shed.  For about ten minutes, each one would attempt a drink and the other would fly at it and chase it away.  My coffee got cold while I watched their frantic antics!  Finally, one won out over the other and drank in peace.  After a very long sip of nectar, she retired into the apple tree.  I quickly got my camera and through the lens could see that she was preening herself.  She must have sat on the branch for fifteen minutes  carefully cleaning her wings, back, stretching around like I never imagined one could stretch.  She even brought her tiny foot up to scratch her face.  So wonderful to have been able to view this.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gotta Love Round Lake

Quick paddle to see what's Out and About.  What?!  Three Bald Eagles, two Ospreys, one Great Blue Heron and fourteen Great-crested Cormorants sitting in a dead tree.  Gotta LOVE Round Lake!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

BEWARE!!! The Red Lily Leaf Beetles are Feasting.

I noticed the Red Lily Leaf Beetle on my Stargazer lilies over a month ago.  I saw that the beetles were going to town munching the leaves and flower buds.  Since I use no chemicals in the garden, I made attempts at picking them off the plants by hand.  They seemed to drop off and out of sight before I could try to squish them.  The larvae was draped on the plant leaves looking like mushy rotted banana.  I made a mental note to address this all later.  Over a dozen and a half house guests have come and gone over the last two weeks.  I finally found a quiet moment to go out to the garden and check on the flowers and vegetables.   My  Stargazer lilies were devoured!  GONE.  Disgusted, I pulled out the stems with attached bulbs, beetles clinging to them, and threw them all in the garbage can.  Three days later, the beetles have survived in the can and are eating what's left of the leaves.  AMAZING!  They have no predators here  in the U.S.  They come from Europe and Asia.  The beetles winter over in the soil.  Their defense mechanism when sensing danger, is to drop upside down to the ground.  Their underside is black and so they blend in to the soil when they land.  As beautiful as they are, I am done with the liliuim species.  I am planting some native flowers in their place which are not palatable to the menace Red Lily Leaf Beetle.  Below are pictures taken of the lilies and beetle in the garbage can!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Birthday Earth Day Present

I never had an Eastern Towhee in my yard but on April 22, 2013 this beautiful bird appeared.  I haven't seen it since.  Can you tell it's a rainy day and I'm catching up on my blog?
Eastern Towhee beneath my feeding station

When Spring Sprung

Garden Flowers

When spring sprung there was so much to do and see that I haven't been at the computer to write or post pictures.  Here are a few spring photos.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak returns each year in early May

Yellow-rumped Warbler in Maple Tree
Jack-in-the- Pulpit and Red Trillium
Female Cardinal in Flowering Apple Tree

Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes May 2013

    What a tedious wait for Spring but finally I think it's here.  Flowers are blooming; birds are singing, and woodchucks are making their rounds.  When you're out and about be sure to look up from time to time.  Many residents have spotted the Bald Eagles flying all over the village.  In fact, one evening a group of us saw three eagles soaring above the Zim Smith trail at the front of town.  On a March morning, while walking my dog, I saw an eagle glide into a White Pine to the left of  the Marchand's house on Covel Avenue.  I dragged my dog over to check it out and sure enough, the eagle sat regally in a top branch of the pine.  It had a view of the tennis courts and the lake.  I ran my dog home, grabbed my camera, looked up Marchand's phone number, and hurried back to the spot.  The eagle had remained in place.  In my excitement I forgot the phone number, knocked on Marchand's door and pulled Diane out to see the bird.  How often is a Bald Eagle perched beside your house?  I got some good photos of it which you can see on my blog,  As it sat in the tree it looked up toward the tree's top.  Was it considering a nesting spot or did it see a smaller bird hiding and cowering in fear?  It stayed for twenty minutes before flying off  to the lake.   Fifteen minutes later a Red-tailed Hawk soared into the same area.  When it flew off its gorgeous red tail feathers were fanned out and gleamed in the sunshine.
    That same day, in the afternoon, I felt I was on a roll with nature sightings and decided to check on the Wood Duck nest boxes.  I thought I would do a little Spring cleaning as apparently, Wood Ducks like fresh cedar shavings in the box each new nesting season in order to consider moving in.  I brought work gloves, cedar shavings and my camera along for the job.  I went down to the box at the end of Cleveland Avenue and a little to the east.  I took some pictures of the box, adjusted the metal predator baffle and then opened the side door.  A paper wasp nest was in one of the upper corners.  I took a picture, then put on gloves and scraped it out.  The old cedar shavings had feathers and fluff mixed in with it.  The fluff could be from cattails or thistles.  I reached in with gloved hands to scoop the shavings out.  From the bottom of the box sprang two mice.  I don't recall if I screamed but let me tell you I was VERY surprised!  They flew up the inside etched front wall of the box.  The etching gives traction to baby ducks so they can climb up and out.  One mouse ran up on the roof and just looked at me like " what the %#*^ are you doing?"  I found myself apologizing to it, took its picture and thought about eviction proceedings.  After a couple of minutes, I wished the mouse well and left.  At least the box was being used.
    I went down to the second box at the end of Peck Avenue and knocked a number of times before opening the door.  The shavings looked clean but I forced myself to change them.  No surprise inside this time.  I called it a day after that!  During the month of April the Wood Duck pair has been sighted in Schoolhouse Park, the Galloway's yard, and by Bob Sweet's basketball hoop.  Hopefully, they will make a good nest spot choice.  They need a spot close to water as the babies drop out of the nest and are immediately led to water by the mother.  Shoo them towards the stream if you see them!  Check out pictures of the mouse and ducks on my blog.  Enjoy Spring.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring Cleaning

After having seen the Bald Eagle in the morning of March twenty-sixth, I decided to do some spring cleaning in the afternoon.  I got out work gloves, fresh cedar shavings, and my camera.  Oh I wasn't cleaning my house but the two Wood Duck boxes I placed last year by the stream on the south side of the village.  Apparently, Wood Ducks like clean shavings each nesting season in order to consider moving in.  I went down to the box that's located at the end of Cleveland Avenue and a little to the east.  I took a picture of the box, adjusted the metal baffle and then opened the side door.  I saw feathers mixed in with the cedar shavings and some fluff that could be from cattails or thistles.  I saw a paper wasp nest in an upper corner.  I took a picture of it and then put on a work glove and scraped it out.  I took off the glove and took another picture of the nest which I had placed on the ground.  I took pictures of the feathers, fluff, and shavings before donning gloves to scoop it all out.  I reached in and grabbed a handful of  old nesting material.  Out of the bottom of the box, from under all the shavings, jumped two mice.  I don't remember if I screamed  but let me tell you, I was VERY surprised.  The mice shot through the opening in the front of the box and one of them came around the back and looked right at me.  I still had the camera around my neck and got a picture!  I found myself apologizing to it.
  Wow!  Now what to do?  After a couple of minutes, I decided not to evict the mice.  I would check out the other box and see if there was a surprise inside.  When I got to the box at the end of Peck Avenue, I knocked first before opening the door.  I knocked several times more.  The shavings looked clean but I forced myself to reach in with gloved hands to clean it out.  No surprises.  Spring cleaning accomplished!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bald Eagle in Village

I was so excited to see this Bald Eagle fly into a White Pine on Covel Avenue next to Diane and Paul's house!  I dragged my dog home, grabbed my camera, looked up their phone number, and hurried back to the tree.  The eagle was still there.  I forgot their number in my excitment, knocked on their door instead and Diane was able to see it too.  It was looking up at something, perhaps a cowering smaller bird hiding in the upper branches.  It flew off after about fifteen minutes being up there.  Less than twenty minutes later, a Red-tailed Hawk flew in to the same area, swooped down on the ground and then flew off.  So if you see me looking up, you'll know why!  Every so often I get rewarded by an amazing viewing.