Saturday, September 30, 2006

Habitat Hawk Finally Photographed

No observed visitor to the Habitat has been harder to photograph than the occasional hawk. This past summer, one hawk was observed swooping through the habitat and catching a cardinal. The hawk did this while in flight continued to a nearby tree and then flew off. This happened so fast that I was unable to photograph the incident. Two weeks ago, I walked out onto the back porch only to spook a hawk that was on the group under the feeder. Last week, I observed a hawk flying about 25 feet over the habitat and the feeder. He finally landed in nearby trees. When I finally caught up with him, he moved on through the woods and I was left without a photo.

This morning, one of the hawks visited again. I observed him flying over the feeders at about 6 feet above the ground. He perched in the dogwood tree. By the time I got the camera and ran into the habitat, he had moved to one of the back maples tree, where I took this first photograph. As I attempted to get closer, he flew away.
My younger son, Ryan, actually managed to photograph a hawk in the habitat in December 2003 (the second photograph). Ryan always reacts quickly to get the camera and the shot.

My best guess is that both hawks (today’s and the one in 2003) are red-tailed hawks, as these are the most common hawks in the mid-Atlantic. Also, I offer the following observations, the white chest, rust tail with barring (seen when he was flying), and yellow cere.
I did photograph a red-tailed hawk (third photograph) in flight this past spring at the Pickering Creek Audubon Center on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 29, 2006

Black Snake Donates Skin

Each summer, less than a half dozen snakes visit the Habitat. This year, only two were seen. The first was this black rat snake, by far the most common snake that visits.
This guy was far more interested in getting into my garage than visiting the Habitat, but eventually I prevailed.
Two days later, I found this skin - complete from eyes to tail - clearly from a black snake. Given the size and timing, I am guessing the skin belonged to the black snake that visited two days earlier. The rough mulch provided an excellent snag allowing the snake to leave the old skin behind.
I mounted the skin in a framed set of zoo snake photos. To the delight of many young nature lovers, the framed skin toured preschool and kindergarten classes in Virginia and Texas. The skin now resides with a six-year old snake lover in Frisco, Texas. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Great-tailed Grackles in the Great State of Texas

Grackles are all too common in the Colvin Run Habitat. Here in the great state of Texas, they have Great-tailed Grackles and they are everywhere in the state. The males are dark black.
The females are dull brown and smaller.

I’m not sure if this last photo is an immature grackle at the end of his first season. Any Texan know? Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 22, 2006

On the Road in Texas - Killdeer in Flight

No postings from the Colvin Run Habitat this weekend, as I am visiting my daughter and her husband in Frisco, Texas. To say the landscape is different would be, well, an understatement.
Nevertheless, I am on the lookout for interesting backyard wildlife. One bird never observed in the Habitat, but which I enjoy seeing in Texas is the killdeer, or as my dad used to say, a kill-dee. This bird has a distinctive call, which like other birds is simply its name – kill-dee. Sorry for the poor quality of the photos, but I was unable to get very close to this guy.

The killdeer is found in the Mid-Atlantic States, but has just not been seen in the Habitat. Posted by Picasa

Migrating Hummingbird

In a recent post, I asked the question if we had seen the last of the hummingbird in the Habitat for the summer season. As a footnote, for the first time in 10 days, I saw a humming bird at the feeder at 8 AM on September 21st. Sorry, no photo, the camera was packed for a trip. The most amazing thing, was its size – it appear to be at least 50% larger than any hummingbird I had seen during the entire season. Was this one the last? I’ll keep a sharp eye out.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dad Deer Brings the Family

This morning, mom and the two young ones strolled through the Habitat. This evening, dad brought the two young ones through.
They were eating grass, which means that all of our flowers are completely gone. In the twenty-plus years that we have lived here, it is fairly rare that a male with a rack is observed, and even rarer for him to have young ones with him.

As the white-tailed deer are constant visitors (more like residents than visitors I guess), they tolerate me to photographing them. My normal practice to take a parallel path to theirs. I attempt to get closer, but I do not directly approach them. Finally, they always raise their tails and run.
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Deer Family Strolling

This mother white-tailed deer and her two young were constant visitors to the Habitat this summer. Like all of the deer that have visited since 1984, they act like they own the place. This first photo is not particularly a good quality photo, but it is the only one I got of them this morning.
The second photo is the smallest of the two young. I'll post later the photos of this one as a clear fawn with spots, etc. They strolled through the Habitat on a path that they often repeat. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Last of the Hummers?

In a recent post, I promised a photo of a male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. Here are my best two photos of the males. The ruby-colored throat stands out in daylight and after dusk (the second photo was taken with a flash).
But, the hummingbirds have not been seen in the Habitat for five days.
As I mentioned in that recent post, the hummers were very frequent visitors to the habitat. However, since that post on September 12, no hummers have been seen. I changed the sugar water in the hummingbird feeder yesterday, and I will leave it in place for another few weeks, but I suspect that the last hummer has headed south. According to, "Some adult males start migrating south as early as mid-July, but the peak of southward migration for this species is late August and early September. By mid-September, essentially all of the Ruby-throated at feeders are migrating through from farther north, and not the same individuals seen in the summer. "
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With fall beginning this week, these three weekend visitors to the habitat are enjoying the last rays of summer sun. Clearly, they are showing some wear and tear on their wings.

I know next to nothing about butterflies, other than they are at times difficult to photograph. So, if anyone knows what kind of butterflies these are and other interesting facts, please post a comment.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

National Wildlife Federation Certified

Colvin Run Habitat is now officially certified by the National Wildlife Federation. I am using the NWF Habitat Scrapbook as a way of attracting human visitors to this blog. Actually, this is a great way for NWF to raise money - $15 for each certification.

You can visit the Colvin Run Habitat entry in the NWF Habitat Scrapbook. From there you can click "on-line scrapbook" to visit other NWF habitats. But, if you are interested in the Colvin Run Habitat, this blog will continue to be the place to get the latest information and photos. Posted by Picasa

Fox History

I first observed a red fox in the habitat on January 2003 at 9:45 AM. Wearing his quite impressive and bright winter coat, he walked up the front drive like he owned the place. Then, he simply sat down on his rear. Honestly, I had never seen a fox sit like that - but now know it to be rather common. He stayed 3 minutes (I know his arrival and departure times from the magic that is digital cameras). He simply left the front driveway and walked between the two houses, then broke into a trot through the backyards.

Although I continued to see a random fox or two at night while driving within a mile or two of the habitat (and there was the all too frequent road kill), it was another year before one appeared in the habitat again. It was a bright sunny afternoon in February 2004. I was watching as a doe (female white-tailed deer - more on the deer in later posts) led a young deer (several months old at this point I am guessing, but still noticeably smaller than the doe) out of the pine stand in the habitat.
What happened next was quite surprising. All of a sudden, both deer took off running. At this point, I noticed that a fox is chasing the young deer. As the two deer ran up the habitat and towards the houses, they split, each going a different direction. The fox continued to chase the young deer. As the young deer went through a patch of scrubs and trees, the fox broke off the chase. The fox slowed but was still running as he entered the nearby woods. The young deer continued a hard run through the meadow and into a different section of the woods.

As I do not believe a fox would really attempt to bring down a deer (even a young one), I suspect that the two deer, as they were walking out of the pine stand, simply passed a fox. As they saw the fox, they took off and the fox instinctively chased.
All of the photos in this post were taken in January 2003 with a fairly primative Nikon Coolpix 950 camera. In a later post, I tell you about the pair of foxes that were frequent visitors to the habitat this past summer. And, I do have some great photos. I'll even describe another fox-deer encounter. But, that is another post.
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After the Blue Jay Bath

After his bath, the blue jay immediately did what the jays do best in the habitat - he made noise. In this photo, you can see the jay screaming.
After splashing and drying off, the jay visited the feeder for a bit of suet and then took a favorite place in the dogwood for more squealing.
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Blue Jay Bath

Splashing water caught my ear this morning. With the help of my camera, I caught this blue jay taking a bath in one of the flower pots.
I do not plant in several of the pots so that the birds, squirrels, and chipmunks have a different place to get a drink (or take bath) after it rains. With the 1/2" of rain in the last two days, this blue jay found the water in this pot inviting and enjoyable.

With West Nile Virus in Virginia, I only leave the water stand in these pots (and the other water sources in the habitat) for 24 hours. Posted by Picasa