Saturday, June 30, 2007

Woodchuck Fans Gather

Excitement grew exponentially this morning as word spread through the Colvin Run Habitat that the co-author of the future bestselling children’s book entitled Paw Pals: Big Adventures of Little Friends in a Big City was coming. The book will be the first of a series – and much better a series it will be than that one of the teenage magician that wears those black glasses – and will feature Woodchuck, the one-time resident of the Colvin Run Habitat who left to seek fame and fortune six winters ago. After the co-author, also know as Smatt, arrived from the Big Apple on a long, silver snake, he immediately visited the Camden Yard Habitat to the north in search of the black and orange birds that frolic in the grass there.
As you can see from this photo, the Virginia friends of Woodchuck gathered throughout the day in hopes of seeing just a glimpse of Smatt. There was no hope of seeing Woodchuck as the previous world traveler no longer travels, but prefers a life of seclusion on the island that is long. When future bestseller co-author, fresh from a game of cards with the nine figure fellows and a Hollywood visitor with the same name as the North River, finally arrived, he immediately began compiling the Colvin Run 400 – a list of the richest (measured in sunflower seeds, not green beans) residents of the Colvin Run Habitat.
To prevent rioting in the Habitat, the Colvin Run Habitat Blog paid top dollar to the paparazzi that frequent the area east of the Bridge that slopes to the Park for this second photo. While not the same as an in-rodent visit, perhaps this photo of Woodchuck will ensure peace in the Habitat until the book is finally published.

What a Day! Fox, Hawk, Deer and Others

Yesterday was one of those exceptional days in the Colvin Run Habitat.

Here is the report filed by the Number 2 Colvin Run Habitat observer:
>>Fox came out of the bush looked around, definitely not Freddy, younger, white tail and chest. By the time I got camera he had gone down into the brush.
>Fox was observed two times later in the afternoon - coming out of the bush, attempted to grab a squirrel, then into the brush.
>Hawk was also in yard today, landed twice by oak tree, pecked at the ground and than fly away. He was too fast for camera.

Freddy is her name for the signature Habitat fox. 'Bush' refers to the overgrown holly shrub that is behind the water tub and bird feeder - the winter home to many birds. 'Brush' refers the the area of tall grass and wild vines where last year Freddy hung out. Given the her description of the hawk, possibly the active red-shouldered hawk (who previously was photographed on the ground) or possibly the returning Cooper's hawk.
With this news, I spent the better part of an hour just watching hoping to get a photo of the new fox - no luck. But within an hour I did observe a wide range of bird types - the photos show a few. The number of woodpeckers - downy, hairy, red-bellied - easily exceed 30 in the one hour period.
At sunset, three deer came to through, eating as they went.
What a day!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Blue Jay Visits New Feeder

The suet feeder installed a few weeks ago on a tree on the other end of the Habitat is not really drawing many visitors - the downy woodpeckers come and occasionally a red-bellied woodpecker. Of course, I am really looking for a pileated woodpecker to come.
Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised when one of the blue jays found the new feeder. Regardless of how often the blue jay is seen, he remains a really beauty.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fox Observed - Fox Captures Squirrel

The Number 2 Colvin Run Habitat observer (aka, my wife Dot) had a wonderful experience this afternoon. She observed a red-tailed fox who had just captured one of the Habitat's numerous gray squirrels. No photos. But we previously posted some photos with a squirrel in the fox's mouth.

As our last fox post clearly showed an ill or injured fox, the question is was the Habitat signature fox observed or was a new fox observed today? Here are the observations:
>slightly smaller or the same size has the previous fox
>appeared to be in good health - no sign of illness or distress in his eyes
>no limp
>initially observed with the squirrel in his mouth, the fox put the clearly dead squirrel on the ground, looked around, picked the squirrel back up, and went on his way

We can draw no conclusion to answer the question of which fox was observed. We would be thrilled if the signature fox had survived and healed. On the other hand, if this is a different fox, the Habitat will have the pleasure of a new visitor.

We're hopeful that this fox will return and we can get some photos. There certainly is a lot of squirrel food (or is that squirrels for food).

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

American Robin - Top of this Food Chain

Here in the Colvin Run Habitat we sometimes forget the our most common birds are not resident in other parts of the world. So I was somewhat surprised last fall when I posted photos of the American Robin - very, very common in the eastern U.S. - and a chap from Australia commented that he had never seen a robin.
So as I thought about Australia being in winter as we in the northern hemisphere were in summer, I figured I would post some robin photos. This robin is doing what the robins do best - dig worms from the ground. So to feed the robins, I only have to water the lawn - they love to dig in the soft, wet ground. Great fun - unless you are a worm lower on the food chain.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mother Deer Brings Two Fawns to Visit

At 7 AM this morning, a doe brought her two fawns through the Colvin Run Habitat for the first time this season. There are two fawns - one is noticeably larger than the other much like last year. Photos one and three are of the smaller fawn; the second and forth are of the larger one.What a lucky observation - the total time from the first photo to the last was about 50 seconds - they were walking, but with a purpose. They were moving through to find their daytime hangout. They showed no interest in snacking. They clearly are comfortable in the Habitat as no one put up the white-tail alarm single, even though I opened the door and they saw me.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Bluebird Observed - But Is He the New Box Resident?

As posted previously, the first residents of the new bluebird house installed this spring were chickadees. As also posted previously, as soon as the chickadee young left the box, new new residents appeared to move in.
The new residents appear to have completed their construction as the nest made entirely of sticks now reaches the entrance holes.
I finally observed a bird perched several times on the box - turns out the peraching bird was indeed a bluebird. I never saw the bluebird actually enter the box. I have never seen a bluebird nest entirely of sticks. If there are eggs in the nest, I do not see them, but I have not performed a full inspection by pulling the nest out of the box. Has anyone ever seen such a nest of sticks?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Toad Takes a Swim in the Habitat

The American Toad is observed in the Colvin Run Habitat from May through October but usually in the wet mulch of the gardens or on the driveway after a hard rain. So this is another first in the Habitat - this toad decided to take a swim in the large water tub/fountain.
Temperatures were in the low 90s when this guy took the dive. Guess he just needed to cool off.
What is a real mystery is how he got in - the tub us about 20 inches high. There is some wood that holds the water spout, but that would have required him to climb three steps.
As there is no way for this guy to get out once in, I eventually got him out and returned him to some wet mulch. Getting him out was a challenge as every time he saw me approach he dove to the bottom of the tub.
After we lost the chipmunk in the tub and now the toad had to be fetched out, maybe I need to build a ramp for critters to better come and go.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Tigers in the Habitat

Imagine my surprise - there I was stalking a squirrel or woodpecker, when there before me was a tiger! No, not that kind of tiger - rather a tiger lily - the dark orange variety of day lilies found this time of year growing throughout the mid-Atlantic states.
About 14 years ago - when the Habitat was just a backyard - we had hundreds of day lilies blooming from late-June through late July. And then something sad happened - the food chain was experienced - the then small deer population discovered our day lilies. The deer, who are habitual eaters (they come back and back to the same place), totally destroyed the lilies within two years - first eating the blooms, then the leaves, then the stems down to the ground. Then in the following year, the deer seemed to be waiting for the lilies to just break through the ground - and when the lilies did, the deer eat them. In those years the Habitat was known simply as the Deer's Private Salad Bar.

The lilies were so numerous that if they were still alive and well, any photo of the Habitat would include their bright yellow, orange, and even purpose colors. The photo shown here is one of the remaining lilies from that time - I move a few plants around each year, keep them close to the house, sometimes they last a day or two, but most times the deer find them anyway. It is rare that one plant can actually produce a bloom this nice.

Oh yes, for those of you looking for a real tiger, here is one that lives about 15 miles away in the National Zoo.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Chickadee and Goldfinch Visit Hummingbird Feeder

We saw yesterday that others (such as the squirrel) enjoy drinking the sugar water from the hummingbird feeder. While I have seen other small birds come to the hummingbird feeder, they normally just drink from the pan of plain water that keeps the ants out - as in these first two photos of an American Goldfinch and the third photo of a Carolina Chickadee.
While I have read about other birds drinking the hummingbird's sugar water, I had never observed it. Until last evening. As the sun was setting, a number of different birds showed in the Habitat - including the chickadee seen in the fourth photo. The chickadee, like the hummingbird, must have a long tongue to actually reach the nectar in the feeder.Oh, of course, last evening three different hummingbirds visited the feeders (see the last three photos, actually the last two were taken the next afternoon).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Grey Squirrel Gets Looped at Hummingbird Feeder

Here's a new first at the Colvin Run Habitat.
One of the male gray squirrel who are forced to feed on seeds that fall from the bird feeders has figured out how to drink the sugar water from the hummingbird feeders.
He has apparently learned that he can spill the sugar water if he hangs on the side.
Now, is this squirrel drunk or lopped from the fermented water? Or, does he just like to show off his acrobatic skills?
You be the judge.
In either case, the squirrel and chipmunk population is growing each day. The Habitat needs a fox or a hawk to keep order around here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Downy is Down But Not Out

Every few months, one of the birds will fly into the glass windows on the porch overlooking the Habitat. The causes vary - panic as a hawk flies through, pursuing another male which is actually a reflection in the glass, being pushed away from the window-mounted feeder by another bird, youthful flight inexperience, and sometimes, I guess, just not paying attention. Most times when they hit, they drop to the ground and immediately fly away.
Yesterday, after the classic clunk at the windows, I looked to the ground below window and found this downy woodpecker. He (it is a male as you can tell by the red spot on the back of the neck) was lying in the ground cover not moving. Resisting the urge to make physical contact to see if he was okay, I grabbed the camera and got these photos.

For two minutes, he laid (pardon the pun) spread eagle (wings out away from this body) (first photo). Then he regained some consciousness and changed his position (second photo). anther two minutes later, he was up on his feet. At this point, he immediately notice me staring down on him and flew away.
I imagine he had quite a headache for awhile. But then again this was a woodpecker known for beating his head against tree trunks.

English Sparrow - First Time Visitor to Colvin Run Habitat

While the English (or House) Sparrow is the most common song bird in the world, today represented the first time that one was observed in the Colvin Run Habitat. This male is quite distinctive with his white wing bar and white submustache.
Like the starling, this is an old world (that is, European native) bird first introduced into North American by a release in New York's Central Park in the 19th century. Recently, the daily number of starlings has decreased (thankfully!) in the Habitat. Let's hope that the starling is not replaced by a large number of English Sparrows.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hummingbirds Again

I some times think that it is worthwhile to post that some animal in the Habitat has not been seen for a while. It seems that they almost immediately show up.
My last post mentioned that the ruby-throated hummingbird had not been seen since mid-May. Within a few hours, the hummingbirds were back - at the feeder and in the nearby dogwood tree.
These first two photos show a male drinking from the feeder, then flying away.
Less than 20 minutes later, a male was observed in the dogwood tree. This second hummer was noticeably larger (at least 50% larger) than the first at the feeder. From these photos you can see how his ruby throat feathers seem to phosphoresce - depending on his position, the camera captures the throat as back or bright red.
You can also clearly see this hummer's wing and breast feathers. In the last photo, you can see that he is using his long beak to scratch his back and wings.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Update on Colvin Run Habitat Happenings

Here is a general update on happenings around the Colvin Run Habitat:
>The ill or injured red-tailed fox has not been observed this week.
>Beginning in mid-May, chipmunks began being observed. First on a one by one basis. Now as you can see from the photo, they show up several at a time and are active all day.
>Sadly, one of the chipmunks drown in the water tub that the birds, chipmunks, and squirrels drink from.
>For the first time in at least a month, a hawk was observed hunting in the Habitat. Per the standard practice of the Cooper's Hawk, this hawk was seen dropping from one of the border trees down and past the sunflower seed feeder, and then through the dense oak and Bradford pear trees. This hawk was crow-sized, dark brown, tail dark with darker stripes. Most likely given the size, color, and fly-over of the feeder and through the trees, I believe it was a Cooper's Hawk. Sorry no photos as I observed this hawk while looking out the bathroom window while shaving.
>Bird parents are bringing their young to the feeders. Again sorry that I have no good photos. While the young are identified sometimes by coloring and perhaps smaller size, my identification is by behavior. First, the young are only too eager to take food from the parent - even if it is feeder seed. Second, the young have a real tough time landing on the feeders, especially the feeder mounted on the window. The young flutter around the feeder and sometimes stumble into the window or land on the storm windows. Clearly, the young do not yet have complete flight control.
>Although the hummingbirds were observed in May, the hummers have been noticeably absent during the last few weeks.
>Also, the flicker woodpecker is seen maybe once a month. Last year this time, the flicker was a common visitor.
>The red-bellied woodpecker is observed every three weeks.
>The box turtle was observed early one morning in the grass on a path similar to last year.
>In an unbelievably rare event, I opened the garage door one morning to see a pileated woodpecker at the foot of a tree about 20 feet away. Amazingly, this normally very shy woodpecker continued to feed on the driveway tree (insects most likely). Then he flew away, but was heard for the next few minutes giving his unique call from the adjacent woods.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chickadee Chick Flies the Box - New Residents Move In

Last week I posted that the only remaining chickadee chick was nearly full grown and moving around the bird box. So it was not a surprise that when I checked the box today, the chick was gone. Of course, once gone they do not return to the nest or box. So sorry I have not photos.
But what was a surprise was the apparent move in by a different kind of bird. As you can see from this photo, the new residents built (or are building) a new nest on top of the previous chickadee nest. The new nest is constructed of twigs, where the chickadee nest was build of grasses and other very fine material. I'll do some research and see if I can identify likely new residents.