Thursday, May 31, 2012

What Does the Vietnam War Have to Do with Birding?

Well, not that much, actually. However, I did employ one rather unpleasant booby trap used during that war to keep the rascally raccoons out of my bird feeder: punji sticks.

Remember this beautiful bird lure that I set up about a month ago? See the gorgeous flowers in the base?

Well, after a month of being trampled by rogue squirrels and raccoon night-invaders who were trying to get to the bird seed, they weren't looking so hot. In fact, "dead" would be how I would describe them. So annoying. I also realized my pot didn't come with any drainage holes (WHY?), so that wasn't helping matters either.

I decided to remedy the situation. I cleaned out the remains of the dead flowers, punched drainage holes in the bottom of the pot, and transplanted some miniature rose bushes Josh had given me on Valentine's Day into my container. I was hoping the thorns would discourage the unwanted visitors. However, I decided a little added discouragement was in order.... Hence, my idea of miniature punji sticks (I used bamboo skewers with the pointy ends up):

So far, so good... I'm hoping that the roses will fill in and cover the punji sticks, and that the raccoons don't figure out how to use pogo sticks.

How do you keep unwelcomed pests out of your bird feeders?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nesting Frenzy

Found yet another nest, this time out in the bike shed. I wasn't able to spot Mama bird visiting it yet, so I'm not sure what this is... It's WAY up against the rafters - hence the blurry pic. I had to stick my hand up in the nook above the nest and shoot down from very close. I'll keep you posted!

Eastern Bluebird

For some reason, the only time I ever see Eastern Bluebirds is when I'm driving my car... Fortunately, today I had my camera with me and there were no cars behind me! I pulled over and snapped a few shots of this elusive little fella.

Isn't he gorgeous? Look at that blue!

Spotted 5/29/12 about a block from our house.

Orchard Oriole

This isn't the best picture, but from the colorings I'm thinking it's got to be an Orchard Oriole or possibly a Baltimore Oriole, although I'm leaning towards the Orchard Oriole because of the darkness of the tail. What are your thoughts? I wish I could have gotten a better photo - but one flash, and he was gone...

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

I changed the sugar water out in one of my feeders yesterday and moved it to a more visible location. It paid off!

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird: spotted 5/29/12 in the side yard.

Hummingbird Food Recipe:

1 part sugar to 4 parts water.
Boil for two minutes exactly, stirring to dissolve sugar, then allow to come to room temperature.
Replace often - they like it fresh.

Monday, May 28, 2012

American Goldfinch Revisited

I've already spotted an American Goldfinch for my Not-So-Big Year, but I got some better photographs of my pretty little friend, so I thought I'd share them with you... Enjoy.

Ta-Da! The End!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Nests, Snakes, and Jokes

Josh spotted this nest up in the rafters of the porch of Shirley's Restaurant near Watauga Lake after we at there the other night. We didn't get to see the Mama bird, so I don't know what these are... They certainly were ready to eat though...and they were in the right place... 

I guess they'd read some of the comments in Shirley's guest book:

My favorite comments:

"Yor Food wus so good, Imma gonna think about it all the time cuz my wife dont cook good."

"Youins got some Good Eatins."

Ahhh... Tennessee. :o)

In other news, who would have thought I'd spot a Flamingo, Canada Geese, and a Great Horned Owl on the same street?


All joking aside, I'm really enjoying birding these days. Of course, birds aren't the only wildlife we see on our excursions....

Yesterday at the lake, we saw four different snakes within about 10 minutes of heading up the Watauga River that feeds into the lake. Eek!

This snake was trying to attack our boat. It came straight out towards us like it was going to eat us up. Crazy!

This snake was minding his own business, sunning himself on a rock.

This snake ran away from us and crawled up onto the log (see the dark line along the top of the log near the right side?).

I'm not sure where this guy was off to....

Needless to say, we didn't get out and swim anywhere near here!

And a few other less threatening finds:

That's all for today! Have a nice weekend!

Brown-Headed Cowbird

Well today my mystery bird (Unknown #2) from the other day was back, and I was able to get slightly clearer photos....

After much internal debate and cross-referencing of my Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds, iBird Plus, and Google Images, I'm tenatively labeling this bird as a female Brown-Headed Cowbird. I'd love to catch the male with her one day just to be sure. If I'm wrong on this, please let me know.

Spotted 5/26/12 on the feeder in the side yard. (Forgive the blurry photos - this bird only comes around at dusk!)

Downy Woodpecker

This little female Downy Woodpecker was having a bit of lunch on my feeder today.

Isn't she cute?

Good thing she's so cute, considering the mess she made!

Spotted 5/26/12 in the side yard. 

American Kestrel

I was walking Harvey in the back field today when I spotted this bird sitting waaaaay across the field on a fence post. My telephoto lens didn't capture it too well, as it was a long ways away, my hands shook too much, and it was a really humid, hazy day. However, I had a hunch that what I was seeing was an American Kestrel... You can kind of gather that from the profile and general coloring...

Fortunately, it flew closer to me, and I was able to snatch a few shots from below.... Here you can definitely make out the American Kestrel markings... Such a cute little falcon...

Spotted 5/26/12 in the back field.

Rough-Winged Swallow

Ok, these aren't the best pictures, so my best guess for this guy is a Rough-Winged Swallow. It's either that or a Bank Swallow. It definitely had a "swallow"-like flight pattern, shape, and call. He was so stinkin' fast though, that I couldn't get a clearly focused shot. Both the rough-winged swallow and the bank swallow like to live near or around rivers or lakes, and this bird was nesting underneath my parents' boat dock.

Both species have brown backs, which you can see this one has...

Here you can see it lacks the long, pointy forked tail of a barn swallow...

I'm going with rough-winged, however, because in the photo below, it looks like it has a dusky throat, as opposed to the clearly marked dark breastband that bank swallows have. So, Rough-Winged is my story, and I'm stickin' to it. If you have other thoughts, please let me know...

Spotted 5/25/12 on Watauga Lake.