Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Gloom

I haven't been out much over the last few weeks because I've been taking care of Cocoa. Back and forth the to vet. After 2 weeks of trying to figure out what's wrong with her, she had open heart surgery. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say Cocoa has less parts now than she did a few weeks ago. Furthermore, she isn't better. In fact, she is back in the hospital in critical condition as I type this post.

When she's home, I'm home with her. We can't go on walks. When she's in the hospital, I can't bear to walk without her. I forced myself to go to Pennypack on Friday. It was really tough to use binoculars. They just magnify the tears so I couldn't see anything at all. Boo hoo hoo.

Anyway, the Phoebe is back under the train bridge. A sign of spring. Robins were everywhere chasing and singing. Another sign of spring. Red-wing Blackbirds are taking up territories in the field. And Bluebirds are sitting on the nest boxes. Spring will come whether I'm there to see it or not.

I just hope Cocoa can go with me soon. She really is a good bird dog. By that I mean she prances along with me when we walk and she sits or lays next to me while I find something interesting to look at. Birds don't seem to be spooked by her (except Turkeys that are spooked by everything). Other birders don't mind her on the trail because they see that she is a very good bird dog. I promise that my next post will be more upbeat.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Garden Buddy - or - Pheasant Anyone?

As most of you know by now, Cocoa had major heart surgery last week. I am home from work today looking after her and working in the garden. I decided to raise the beds in the vegetable garden, so I went to Primex and bought bags and bags of mushroom compost, humus, etc and some 4"x4" rails yesterday in anticipation of making the most of my "sick day" today.

I was back and forth with the wheel barrow and supplies including the power saw to trim the rails and kept hearing something walking around in the leaves. I assumed it was a robin or junco or something. As I was trimming the rails, I saw something moving around outside the garden.
Well, there he was - a male Pheasant only a few feet outside the vegetable garden walking around. I froze in place and watched him walking up and down the hill for awhile, but then I had to move and keep working. So I got the power saw going, banging the rails into place, raking out the leaves etc, and he didn't seem to mind at all.

On my next trip to the garage to get supplies, I grabbed a handful of mixed bird seed and put it on the ground where he was poking around. Yep, he came right out from under my arborvite to eat it.

He isn't really afraid of me. He casually walks into the cover when I pass with the wheel barrow. But he is definitely afraid of the landscape crew next door with their leaf blowers. He really took off and hid when they showed up.

But then he was back. This time at the pond for a quick drink. Right on the patio.

I haven't seen one of these in 20 years. I hope he stays around. And I hope Cocoa doesn't catch him.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Caught Red Handed

Wow. What a year it has been at the feeders. I changed the feeders around a little bit during the fall. First, I purchased a "squirrel proof" sunflower seed feeder. This has 6 feeding ports and holds a ton of seed. I also added a niger sock thanks to Lori and Tara's input. I also changed to hulled seeds so that there is no mess to clean up. I use the Patio Mix from the Wild Bird Center on the ground and the hulled sunflower seeds in the tube feeder.

Well, the results have been really good. We have Goldfinches by the dozen at the sunflower and niger feeders. We also have 20+ Pine Siskins as well which we have never seen at our feeders before this year. We continue to have the usual suspects including:

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Chickadees, Titmice, Juncos, Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, House Sparrows (but only 2), House Finches, Cardinals, Blue Jays (occassionally), Mourning Doves (although we had 2 killed by hawks this year), Carolina Wrens, and Robins (in the yard, not at the feeders).

Last week, the suet feeder was on the ground behind the garage. I thought that a squirrel got it. The other morning, I found the sunflower feeder on the ground, open and empty. Hmmmm.

Last night, I left Cocoa out to pee and saw the whole tree that holds the feeders shaking. I looked up to see the racoon holding onto the sunflower feeder. The little sucker wouldn't let go even with me yelling at him! So there I was at 10:30 PM on the ladder taking all of the feeders into the garage. Little sucker.

Monday, March 9, 2009

FINALLY - Snowy Owl!

Well, it finally happened. The temperature was supposed to be in the upper 60's and maybe hit 70. Not exactly Snowy Owl weather. We had this trip planned for weeks to Cape May for ducks and other sea birds. 5 of us set out in the comfort of the Excursion at 7:00 AM. We started at Turkey Point and helped an older couple identify the Harriers scanning the marshes. Then an explosion of Snow Geese took off which proved to be the harassment of 2 Bald Eagles. The Eagles landed in the mele, so we assume they caught one.

We left there and made it to the Concrete Ship where we got really great looks at Red Throated Loons a few feet off of the beach. Thousands of Black Scoters were cruising into the Bay, but too far offshore in the haze to get really good looks. We also saw 4 Northern Gannets - always a treat. At the Lighthouse, we saw other ducks on the ponds including Widgeons, Gadwalls, Scaup (Greater?) Ruddy Duck, Ring Necks, Swans and Coots. They are working on the beach, but we went out anyway in front of St. Mary's convent house and saw Purple Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones and one Oystercatcher on the jetties.

We toyed with the idea of the "poor man's pelagic" trip on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, but opted to drive to Stone Harbor after lunch instead to try for the Snowy Owl. It was reported on the blogs on Thursday, so I thought we had a chance.

Stopped at Nummy Island for Brant (Lori identified right away), Bufflehead, Red Breasted Merganser.

Success! We went out to the new platform at Stone Harbor Point. I scanned each dune and viola. The owl was sitting on top of a dune as plain as day. Just sitting there. Awesome. Dogs and people on the beach and everything. It just sat there.

We pressed our luck and went to Avalon Seawatch in search of Harlequins - no luck there but we did get Long Tail Ducks, Common Loons and closer Black Scoters.

The Owl photo is really hazy, but you can make out the owl shape dead center. Enjoy.

Red Throated Loon:
Common Loon:

Long Tail Ducks:

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Diane's first post - New species identified at Tinicum

This is my first post to this blog and I'll do you all a favor and keep it short. This is a quick report on an outing with Linda, Connie, Lori, Tara, Barbara and me (and Sam and Cocoa) on this chilly, windy first of March. Suffice it say that we saw some good stuff this morning whilst at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, including - yes, I'll be the first to report, a bald eagle (immature).

The real find this morning was of a new spec
ies entirely. It was that of the "nutjob", or in the derivative looney-tus birdnerdus. We see this species mostly in winter. There were several different varieties and I have posted photos of all of them here. These are life-listers, for sure:
Grey-hooded Nutjob
(aka Nerdganser)
Rough-legged Nutjob
Red-hooded Nutjob

Lesser-striped Nutjob
Belted Nutjob

Buff-legged Nutjob

Linda will likely post more about our outing today, as we did see some good ducks.