Showing posts with label My Yard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label My Yard. Show all posts

Snow Day

Back at the beginning of March, a winter storm whipped through Virginia and deposited enough snow to cause things to close. Most of Virginia panics at the mere mention of snow, so even a few inches is enough to close schools, businesses and bring out the "best" drivers ever!

I stayed home on snow day and worked, but it was hard not looking outside the window at the snow. And occasionally, I would see something outside my window that was simple, yet too precious to pass up.

Dark-eyed Junco


Dark-eyed Junco


Dark-eyed Junco


Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-shouldered Hawk

I live in a small house on the northern edge of the suburbia associated with Richmond, Virginia. My house is situated on a small lot right next to an interstate highway. When you walk out of my backyard, you are in a thin strip of trees next to the interstate. The sounds of cars and trucks whizzing and thumping past is constant (you get used to it :-).

My nearness to such a significant bit of humanity's infrastructure has set my expectations fairly low when it comes to the number of, and variety of, bird species that I might see from my backyard. A visit from a hawk is always a pleasant surprise.

A few weeks back (the first Sunday in March) I was in my house when I noticed the call of a Red-shouldered Hawk. I realized that it was fairly close, so I grabbed my camera and crept out onto the deck behind my house to see if I could catch a photo or two. I immediately located the hawk, perched in a tree in my neighbor's yard. He saw me too, and took flight before I could even raise my camera.

Instead of soaring away and leaving me a frustrated photographer, however, he circled a few times, and then came back to roost in the same tree. How lucky for me! I snapped a bunch of photos before he took flight once more. The results are below. Here are three photos of a Red-shouldered Hawk: one facing away, one facing towards and one in flight.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Northern Walking Stick

Through this past summer, as I have taken the occasional photo a butterfly, dragonfly, damselfly or something else, I have had to use various available resources on the Internet in order to identify what I was seeing. This often included me relentlessly perusing page after page of other people's bug photos in the hope of seeing something that was close to what I had photographed. This would sometimes get old, as my eyes teared up from the strain of oodles of bug photos. Or I would see some really neat looking bug that would distract me from my search.

One such neat looking bug that distracted me at least once was the Northern Walking Stick. I would see its photo, read about it, realize that they occur where I live, and then wonder why I never saw them. Maybe I just thought they were sticks on the ground and were ignorantly trampling them?

Then, this past September, when I returned home from my trip to Hog Island WMA, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a stick clinging to the side of my house. Not just any stick, but a Northern Walking Stick. Here are some photos of me and my new friend. It was an interesting challenge attempting to take pictures with a DSLR in one hand and this bug in my other hand, all while the bug tried to crawl up my arm! Guess which end is its head!

Northern Walking Stick
Northern Walking Stick
Northern Walking Stick

The Zen of the Fly

While traipsing about my backyard, I came across this little fly sitting all alone at the very tip of a pointy green leaf. I snapped a couple of photos of him and his bulbous eyes and then moved on without much thought.

Last week, however, I was trolling through my photos and I found this one. It is not a great photo. My subject, the fly on the leaf, is not in excellent focus. But the more I looked at it, the more I liked it. Maybe it is the overall greenness of the picture, and the way the leaf fades into the blur of the background. Or maybe it is the way that fly is perched on the tip of that leaf. I even applied some anthropomorphic magic to the fly, and imagined him there, perched on that delicate edge, watching the world go by, just relaxed and taking it all in. Kind of like I would do if I had a nice "see for miles and miles" type view.

Anyway, I liked it enough to make it the background picture on my work PC's desktop. It helps me relax at work. Your mileage may vary.

Fly on Leaf

Spiders

At some point in the middle of July, when it was too hot to hike on the weekends, I took a stroll through my backyard looking for bugs and flowers that would be good photographic fodder. I have a tiny backyard, with an interstate just beyond the fence, so any strolling does not take much time. Nonetheless, there are plenty of bugs if you look close enough. And even some flowers.

Here are some pictures of spiders that I took in my backyard in July. After spending about 30 minutes attempting to identify the spider in the first picture (and not succeeding), I gave up and am simply calling these three photos "striped spider with egg sack", "orange and black spider" and "close up on baby spiders".

Striped Spider with Egg Sack
Orange and Black Spider
Baby Spiders

Eastern Gray Squirrel

In addition to the birds, chipmunks and rabbits, I get lots of squirrels in my backyard. While I have successfully arranged my bird feeders so that the squirrels cannot feast directly on the seed, there is still plenty of stuff that falls to the ground to keep them content. On the other hand, I need to do something about my poor excuse for a bluebird house. Having the squirrels turn it on its side so that they can use it as a sunbathing spot is a tad annoying.

Eastern Gray Squirrel
Eastern Gray Squirrel

White-breasted Nuthatch

One of my favorite visitors to my bird feeders are White-breasted Nuthatch. A little bit of anthropomorphism goes a long way here: they just seem so laid back and happy. Even better, they can creep head first down trees. I don't know of another bird that has that behavior.

This particular nuthatch decided that the nuts and sunflower seeds in my feeder were too good to pass up. He would grab one and then fly to a nearby tree to eat it. For the sunflower seeds, he would wedge the seed into a crevice in the bark of the tree, and then peck it open with his beak.

White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch

Common Grackle

I often hear people who maintain bird feeders in their yard complain if they are attracting grackles instead of the birds that are more visually interesting. Common Grackles are large enough that when they come in for food, they will usually startle any of the smaller song birds that are already there. And then there is the fact that they can eat quite a bit. If you have just a few Common Grackles making visits, it might be manageable, but if a larger flock comes through, they can literally clean your feeders out in a matter of an hour or two.

I will get Common Grackles at my feeders. I usually only see one or two at a time (I think there is a pair nesting somewhere nearby). They will spook most of the other song birds when they arrive, but they come and go enough to allow other birds their chance to feed. And if I see the grackles hanging around constantly, I will let the feeders sit for a few days without food just to get them to move on to another food source.

Despite their annoyances, Common Grackles are still interesting to look at. Their yellow eye really stands out. And while the iridescent coloring on their feathers may look oily, it does give them a touch of color. Here is a photo of a Common Grackle in my backyard.

Common Grackle

Gray Catbird

As I hinted at yesterday, my backyard is small. And just beyond my fence line there is an interstate highway. But somewhere near my backyard a pair of Gray Catbirds have made a home. Perhaps it is the stand of trees that run between the houses in my neighborhood and the interstate. Or perhaps it is the collection of plants and trees in some neighbor's yard. Whatever the location, the catbirds have made a home, and they have decided that my peanut suet is worth visiting.

One thing I like about the Gray Catbird is that, despite their overall gray appearance, they have this patch of rust color on their undertail coverts. That is a nice dash of color, on an otherwise drab bird. And when you see that color in the field, it can be fulfilling. It is almost like you have not really seen the catbird until you see the flash of that rust color. From these pictures, you can barely get a glimpse of that rust color, on the underside of the tail near the body.

Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird

Carolina Wren

As I mentioned yesterday, a couple weekends back I was just sitting and enjoying the activity in my backyard. I have a tiny yard, with an interstate immediately behind my back fence, so it is always interesting to me to see how many wild things make their home in and around my little slice of home.

On the weekend I took this picture, there were four Carolina Wrens to be seen: two adults and two recently fledged first year birds. The fledglings were following the adults around begging for food and generally making lots of noise. This adult spent time at one of my suet feeders grabbing some nutty goodness.

Carolina Wren

Chipmunk Action

A couple weekends back I enjoyed the show that Mother Nature put on in my little backyard. There were lots of birds gathering food for nestlings, or leading fledged birds around and feeding them. There were also plenty of critters out and about. The usual gang of squirrels were out munching, chasing and generally being squirrels. But I also have two chipmunks (I think they are Eastern Chipmunk) that like to gather food in my backyard. Whatever bird seed falls to the ground, the chipmunks are there to get their fair share. They like to poke around and fill their cheeks up with as much food as possible. Then they take it to their stash, unload those cheeks, and come back for some more.

Here are three photos I took of the chipmunk action. The first is with unfilled cheeks ready for some new gathering, the second is an action shot with the chipmunk actively filling up those big cheeks and the third is a somewhat blurry photo of a chipmunk whose pose seems to suggest that they may have over-filled those cheeks just a tad.

Eastern Chipmunk
Eastern Chipmunk
Eastern Chipmunk

Baby Rabbit

Last weekend Tammy was helping me with some yard work. Part of the plan was to remove some English Ivy. This is an invasive species that is currently attempting to overgrow anything in its path on one side of my back yard. We had only removed a few feet of it when we noticed that there was something moving around underneath the ivy. Actually, multiple somethings.

We had only considered a couple possible causes for the movement when the answer came hopping out: rabbits. In this case, there were three baby rabbits, all heading in different directions. We ceased our efforts removing the English Ivy and I instead grabbed my camera.

Seeing baby rabbits was a tad ironic. I commented to Tammy on how only that morning I was wondering why I never saw any baby rabbits around. It is not uncommon to see adult rabbits in my yard, or other yards in the neighborhood. And where there are adult rabbits, it is extremely likely that there are also baby rabbits. Mystery solved.

Baby Rabbit
Baby Rabbit
Baby Rabbit

Backyard Birds

Today was much colder than yesterday, but still sunny. This afternoon I took a moment to sit outside (in the cold...I was bundled up) to watch the birds come to the feeders. I sat on the steps of my deck with my camera in hand. If I do not move, the birds quickly adjust to my presence, despite the fact that I am only about fifteen feet away. Either that, or they were really hungry.

Here are my three favorite photos: Carolina Chickadee with seed in beak, Mourning Dove and Downy Woodpecker.

Carolina Chickadee
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker

Another Hawk

One of my weekend morning rituals is to sit in my study, sip coffee and read. I am not reading a newspaper (it has been years since I subscribed to one of those), but instead various things on the Internet. This morning, for example, I was researching Puerto Rico bird watching.

My study has a couple of windows that look out on my backyard. It is fairly common for me to see movement out of the corner of my eye as I sit reading at my computer. This is usually the squirrels chasing each other or some variety of songbird visiting my bird feeders. This morning, however, it was a bit different. I saw something larger fly by.

When I stopped reading to peer out the window, I saw a rather large bird perched on my fence. It was a hawk. I immediately ran to my kitchen to fetch my binoculars. When I got back, he was still there and one look told me it was not the Red-shouldered Hawk I took pictures of a couple weeks back. I had an idea of what it was, but was not sure. Instead of looking more to get the identification correct, I ran back to the kitchen to get my camera.

The camera already had the big lens on it, so I was ready to go. I pulled up the window blinds and then aimed the camera...nothing happened. Huh? Oh yeah...the memory card was on my desk. I quickly popped that into the camera and then realized that the camera's battery was dead. Sheesh. I had another on standby, so I fished that out and replaced the battery.

I was happy to see that the bird was still perched on the fence. I took a few pictures through the window, but this window was very dirty, and had a screen in it. I had pictures, but they were quite lame (so lame, they are not even posted on Flickr). So I moved one window to the right and was pleased that I still had a view of the bird. And this window did not have a screen in it (yes...my "to do" list at home is pretty long).

I managed to get a small number of reasonable pictures through the second window of my study. Here is one of them. The bird is an immature Cooper's Hawk. If you click through that link and read the description of a Cooper's Hawk, you will see "A medium-sized hawk of the forest, the Cooper's Hawk specializes in eating birds." My bird feeders might be attracting more than hungry song birds. Here is a link to another picture of a Cooper's Hawk that I found on the web that shows the tail from the back.

Cooper's Hawk

Squirrel Nest

I have a shed in my backyard that houses a few tools, a lawnmower, bird food and such. I keep it locked up just in case anyone feels like "inappropriately borrowing" something. While I am probably in there for some reason a couple times a week when it is warm out, the winter months usually see the shed lonely and locked up for several weeks at a time.

The last time I was in the shed was a few weeks back. I was in there to get at the bird food so I could refill my feeders. It had been quite a while since I had been in there. I noticed that there were lots of leaves in the back corner of the shed and I had a suspicion that the damage caused to the shed when Ernesto came through last summer was allowing squirrels to get in and out of the shed very easily. Since I keep my bird food safely stored in containers that the squirrels cannot get into, and there is really nothing else in the shed they can mess with (not since I returned Richie's lawnmower), all they are really doing is piling up the leaves.

Today I once again refilled the bird feeders. This required me to go into the shed. When I unlocked the door and opened it, I scared a whole flock of squirrels out of that big pile of leaves. I purposely made a bunch of noise when I stepped into the shed. One at a time, the squirrels came out of that pile of leaves and ran frantically up the wall and out their new special Ernesto-entrance. I could imagine one of them saying "I thought you said this place was safe?!?!?" as they ran up the inside wall of the shed.

I counted five squirrels in total running out of there. That was about four more than I was expecting. I think tomorrow I might go out there with my camera in hand, barge in on them again and see if I can capture the "Flight of the Squirrels" on film.

Backyard Hawk

Today was kind of a dreary slow day. It was gray, cloudy and eventually rained a little bit. It actually got cold enough for a little snow. When I write "a little", I mean it. I do not think I would have noticed had I not been outside at the time.

Why was I outside? Well, officially I was (and still am as I write this) procrastinating. I have some work that I must do this evening. I will not have time tomorrow morning and it is due tomorrow. My procrastination included me refilling the bird feeders and moving some trash from inside the house to the outside trashcans. It was when I was coming back in from these chores that I noticed a hawk sitting high up in a tree above my house.

After a couple trips in and out of the house (to fetch first binoculars, and then the camera with tripod), and relocating the bird after it flew into a tree in a neighbor's yard, I did manage to snap a few pictures. This was when the snow mentioned above actually occurred. When I took enough pictures for me to decide that it was not going to get any less fuzzy, and my fingers were getting cold quickly, I came in to complete my procrastination with this blog post. Oh, I almost forgot. This is a Red-shouldered Hawk.

Red-shouldered Hawk

I Bought This

Truck

I bought this. I actually bought it last Monday. It is a 2002 Ford Ranger. Now I can haul things.

Imperial Moth

I was just too curious. So, after several searches (starting with the search phrase "giant yellow pink moth") I ended up coming the conclusion that my previous post was a picture of an Imperial Moth.

Follow the link. It will take you to a wikipedia entry for this moth, and you will read one of Rich's favorite phrases that he has ever heard Todd say: "Sexual dimorphism". This is just fancy scientist talk for "girls look different than guys". I used that phrase one day when talking to Rich about some species of bird. It was an attempt to make Rich think that I was smart because at the time I really did not know anything about that species of bird.

Because of the wonders of sexual dimorphism (and the Internet), I think it is safe to conclude that the moth in my previous post is a female Imperial Moth.

Mothra

Imperial Moth

Imperial Moth


When I got home tonight, I noticed this giant moth clinging to a tree in my backyard. It looks fuzzy and velvety, but I resisted the temptation to touch the darn thing. I have no idea what variety of moth this might be.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren


The last of the tiki bar photos for today. This critter is a Carolina Wren. I also think this is a first year bird. He just seems a bit rough around the edges.