Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Busy Backyard

Our backyard is very busy at the moment. Birds and butterflies visit regularly, and squirrels pop in regularly, too. Hornets are building a nest on top of one of our deck beams, and digger bees have taken over a small patch of ground outside our living-room windows.

All this activity is keeping our cats occupied.

Our older cat, Petra, spends hours looking out at the scores of digger bees, which seem to spend all day staging dogfights. Luckily, the bees restrict themselves to "their" patch and don't bother us when we cross it. Petra also likes watching hummingbirds and there currently are enough migrating Ruby-throated Hummingbirds arguing over our feeders to keep her happy.

Our younger cat, Tiger, has taken to sitting near our shed and watching a small hole in the fence that blocks off our brush pile from the rest of the yard. We couldn't work out what she was stalking until two nights ago, when we caught a young possum finishing off some leftover cat food on our deck.

The possum was back last night. It snacked on cat food, washed this down with a drink from our fountain, and then disappeared through the fence hole into the brush pile. So it's now pretty clear what Tiger has been watching for.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pleasant Morning at Bear Creek Park

Yesterday morning I drove down to Bear Creek Park. After all the rain of the past week, I expected much of the park to be flooded and so was hoping to see herons, egrets and ibis. I was also expecting the mosquitoes to be fierce.
As it turned out, there were no flooded areas, no wading birds and - most surprising of all - no mosquitoes. Instead, the park was busy with warblers. I saw several Pine Warblers and a Black-and-white. Worm-eating Warblers were reported earlier in the week and I'm 99% sure I spotted one. (This would be a life bird for me.) Unfortunately, it was one of those mornings where my glasses and binoculars steamed up every time that I focused on a bird. Since I can't be 100% sure of what I saw, I can't add the Worm-eating to my list.

The park produced plenty of other birds, including many Eastern Bluebirds and American Crows, plus a Great Crested Flycatcher.

American Crow

However, the highlight wasn't a bird at all. It was a raccoon. I love raccoons and I don't see them very often, even though they are very common here. This one was particularly obliging and allowed me to take several photos from just a few yards away.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Better Late Than Never

I've been thinking about it for a long time but I could never quite bring myself to take the plunge. Going vegetarian, I mean. But now I've decided and I have sworn off meat.

I know that at 62 I've left my decision rather late. But at least from now on I won't need to feel so guilty about:
a. eating animals
b. eating animals that have been reared and slaughtered in the most appalling way
c. contributing to the widespread destruction of habitat that is caused by the production of beef.

I can foresee only one major difficulty with my decision: I don't really like most vegetables and fruits. (Thank goodness chocolate isn't a meat product or I'd be sunk right away!) I suppose I'll manage, though.

What will I miss the most? Bacon and ham. I really love bacon and ham. Cooked breakfasts are never going to be the same again.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Yard Birds

This past week, we've been too busy painting and getting floors tiled to fit in any birding trips. However, I have had time to look out of our windows and also to look around our yards while watering them.

Our backyard hummer feeders and Turk's Cap plants are the scene of constant skirmishes between 3-5 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. It's hard to know how many birds we're seeing, because only one female is tough enough to stay and feed for more than a few seconds. The others fly in and are immediately chased away.

The front yard is busy with a variety of birds. White-winged Doves are frequent visitors to the feeders, a Mourning Dove often browses the lawn, and a pair of Inca Doves turned up the other day to use the bird bath. Whenever I put the sprinkler on, several Blue Jays and some of our 6-7 resident Northern Cardinals sit on branches and preen in the spray.

One female House Finch is a constant visitor, but a family of six others also comes to eat our sunflower seeds. The latter draw a Carolina Wren and Carolina Chickadees, too.

The suet feeder in our elm tree really belongs to our resident Northen Mockingbird. However, when he/she isn't around, it attracts White-winged Doves, Carolina Chickadees, a pair of Downy Woodpeckers and another Mockingbird. The elm is also very popular with our family of three Red-bellied Woodpeckers. On Saturday, the latter were outraged to find another Red-bellied trying to muscle in. They kept chasing him away. Then they'd leave and he would sneak back. They would return and chase him off again. It went on like this for hours.

So although there are no unusual or exotic birds in our yards at present, the antics of our normal residents and visitors are always worth watching.