Monday, May 18, 2020

My CRAZY Yard This Spring

When we saw this house 20 years ago, the yard was overgrown but definitely had potential. The house was perfect for us but needed a lot of work. We fixed up the house and the yard over the years. We built a pond with a little stream that attracts birds. We have come to know many backyard bird species over the years and even seen some good migrants come through. A few warblers have stopped by here and there. This year is different. Really different.

First - we had our old sunroom torn down and rebuilt last year. The construction tore up the back yard pretty bad. It has taken some time but we finally have a landscaper trying to make the backyard livable again.

Second - we are in the midst of a global pandemic which is forcing both of us to work from home everyday. Connie has claimed the new sunroom as her makeshift office.

Third - the weather has been wacky. Lots of rain and colder than normal. But it is finally beginning to feel like spring.

I guess those factors all add up to WOW in the yard. It stared last Monday when I spotted this male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the Dogwood tree above the pond.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Later that same day, I saw a bright red streak go across the patio and into the pond. A male Scarlet Tanager taking bath!

Scarlet Tanager
We've had Common Yellow-throats in the yard before. I photographed this one through the window from my office so it is not a great photo. 

Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Kingbirds are birds of open country so imagine my surprise when this bird showed up at the pond on Tuesday morning.

Eastern Kingbird
I looked to the left and spotted this male Baltimore Oriole in the next tree. 

Baltimore Oriole
The funny thing is that I was actually working while all of this was going on. It's a good thing that my coworkers understand my obsession. I had to hang up on a video call when this Chestnut-sided Warbler started splashing around in the pond.

Chestnut-sided Warbler
A Black and White Warbler isn't unusual but he showed up as I was outside watching the other birds, so I snapped a photo. 

Black and White Warbler
Northern Parulas are also a common visitor to our yard. 

Northern Parula
I know this isn't a bird, but it just goes to show how active the yard has been this week. I found a soccer ball in the yard and assumed it belonged to the neighbor so I kicked it into their yard. The next morning, Peanut started barking at the window. Connie and I looked out and saw the neighborhood Fox trotting down the hill. He stopped and to our surprise, he started playing with the ball! 

Bird action slowed down on Thursday and I headed to the shore which was a kind of a bust for birds. We did have a few good birds including this Bay-breasted Warbler at Cox Hall Creek. This is probably the best photo I've been able to get of one. 

Bay-breasted Warbler
Back home and to work today and here come the birds again! Today, I peered outside and to my surprise, another Bay-breasted Warbler in our pond! Unfortunately, I missed the photo. I also missed a photo of a Tennessee Warbler in the pond. I did manage to photograph our resident Blue Jay getting a quick drink. 

Blue Jay
And, the Scarlet Tanager seems to be hanging around the neighborhood. He patiently waited his turn for the pond.

Scarlet Tanager
Our Ruby-throated Hummingbird is making the most of the trumpet honeysuckle. 

What a week! 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Owl and the Pussycat

Great-horned Owls begin their breeding season in the depths of winter. Courting begins in December when you can hear them hooting a lot in the evenings and see them perched out in the open during the day. Nesting begins in January and once that happens, the owls disappear. The female is hidden on the nest which is usually in a large cavity in a tree and the male is hiding out nearby keeping a careful watch on his mate. This continues through February and March. We hike the trails and never see an owl. In late March or April, things change again and we begin to see an adult owl sitting out during the day. She is watching the nest from nearby now because her babies are so big that she doesn't have room to sit with them in the nest.

Dad is also sitting nearby to keep an eye out for trouble.

The babies are big enough to move around and can be seen in the nest cavity most days. Connie and I have been keeping tabs on the family for the past week.

And now for the pussycat. Well, not exactly a cat. More like our dog Peanut acting more like a cat than a dog. While Connie and I were watching the owlets (who were watching us right back), Peanut found a tree to climb.

She was up there so high, it scared me to death. Here she is scrambling back down.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

That's Why They Call it Fox Chase Farm

Like all of America, I'm doing my best to stop the spread of Corona Virus by staying home and keeping up with the social distancing requirements. I generally work from home anyway, so that part is easy for me. Connie and I are set up in different parts of the house to work (somehow, she got the sunroom). We still get outside every day to walk Peanut. We are going to Pennypack and Lorimer parks which is really nice. Lorimer Park butts up against Fox Chase Farm which has big open cow pastures and a beautiful view.

The other day, I noticed a fox one of the cow pastures at Fox Chase Farm. And, as the name suggests, I watched her as she stalked and chased her prey. She would sit very still with laser focus on the grass in front of her.

Listening for critters
Then, she would leap into the air and come down hard hoping to pin the prey.

The Pounce!
She did this several times. Stare. Pounce. Stare. Pounce.

And finally, one last pounce lunging directly away from my camera lens . . .

Victory! A rodent of some sort to bring back to her kits. She looked directly at me as if to say "Got it!"
She trotted off through the field. What a way to spend 15 minutes before going back to the reality of our pandemic situation.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

In The Box

There are many birds that nest in cavities. Cavities are created naturally when trees loose a branch. Cavities are created on purpose by woodpeckers who drill out holes for themselves. Cavities are also created by us humans in the form of nest boxes. This week, I have photos of 2 nest boxes that I purchased and installed that actually have birds in them. First up, our resident Screech Owl. He or she went missing for a while but is back and sitting in the hole almost every afternoon.

Screech Owl
The second species is the Bluebird. We walk Peanut up at Lorimer park which butts up against Fox Chase farm. The farm is owned by Philadelphia Parks Commission and has acres of pastures and cows that are tended by the 4-H club. Someone, a long time ago, installed Bluebird boxes on the fence posts. I remember seeing Bluebirds in the park years ago but haven't seen any lately and wondered why. 

At a recent DVOC meeting, the speaker told us that Bluebirds need clean boxes to build their nest. It dawned on me that the Fox Chase Farm boxes were probably filled with old nest material so I went around and cleaned out 9 boxes and purchased 5 new ones to install where I saw long stretches without an old box.

My work paid off! Today, Connie and I saw Bluebirds at 3 of the boxes including one of the new boxes.

Eastern Bluebirds
I can't wait to see if the couples actually have babies.