You’ve probably seen birds fluff their feathers in winter.
The fluffy feathers form little puff pockets of air warmed by the birds’ bodies. But… have you ever seen a bird with feathered feet?
In the past few weeks, I’ve watched geese stand immobile for thirty minutes or more on ice and in shallow, frigid water. They seem unconcerned about freezing their feet. Turkey vultures poop on their feet to cool them off in summer. Is it possible, I wondered, that the geese are dropping little toe warmers, and I never noticed?
I reviewed hours of video featuring geese on ice. Nope. Nary a plop.
Continue reading “Fluffy Feathers and Frigid Feet”
Mites and lice and fleas: Oh my!
Have you ever watched a scratching squirrel? Those little paws move incredibly fast, and I swear, their under-the-armpit maneuvers mimic taking a shower. I wrote a blog post about itchy squirrels a year ago, surmising that their den was infested with fleas. This past week, quite a few creatures’ itchy behavior caught my eye: the squirrels, a juvenile bald eagle, adult and juvenile swans, and two kinds of ducks—goldeneyes and mergansers.
So, what’s with all the picking, poking, biting, and scratching?
Continue reading “Scratch that Itch!”
The Bald Eagles were brawling on the ice.
At least, that’s what I thought I saw. I had been watching two juveniles for about twenty minutes. Motionless in the frigid wind howling over Lake Allegan’s ice, the eagles appeared to be scanning for fish.
That was unusual, however. Our eagles typically conduct surveillance from high in the nearby trees. An island—aptly named Eagle Island by Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources—provides a broad view of the surrounding water. But these birds stood next to a narrow gap in the ice. Their horizontal line of sight would allow only a limited view of open water flowing in the lake’s main channel.
Then, as I pondered, one of the eagles dive-bombed the other. Perhaps they were not fishing, after all. Were they having an avian tiff?
Continue reading “An Icy Eagle Encounter”
Fall is a fine time to flirt.
If you’re a Hooded Merganser, that is. We think of spring as nesting season, but these little ducks form pairs as early as fall. I didn’t realize the ducks are such advance planners, so when I noticed their lively antics on Lake Allegan below our home, I assumed the birds were just reacting to the November cold.
Then I noticed some familiar behavior.
Continue reading “Merganser Musings”
A woodpecker was foraging on my tree.
I wondered if she knew who was drumming nearby.
Woodpeckers drum for several reasons. Pairs signal each other during courtship, or when approaching to take a shift in the nest. But it was late September, not April. This was no time to begin a brood in Michigan.
Thrum-m-m-m-m. Another drumroll.
The lady peered around the curve of the tree. She seemed to be searching.
Continue reading “Knock, Knock…”
What a racket!
It sounded like a squeaky-door orchestra playing in double-time staccato. I looked out the window, expecting to see a flock of agitated birds. But there were only two, and they seemed to be squabbling. One stood on our long-dead snag, the other on a nearby tree. They launched verbal tirades at each other, as though trading insults.
I did not recognize these birds.
Continue reading “A Bit of Bird-Watching Humility”
That seems an apt descriptor for a Bald Eagle. Lacking any natural predators, these powerful birds have little to fear in our placid Lake Allegan neighborhood.
That doesn’t mean they’re not wary. We’ve learned not to dash to the window when an eagle lands in one of our trees. They notice the tiniest motion and move on. You can picture me tiptoeing across the room like a Great Blue Heron, trying to sneak to my camera unnoticed. If I succeed, I shoot video through the glass, lest I make noise moving the sliding glass door.
A few weeks ago, an eagle stopped by. True to form, it saw my careful approach and bolted. But the creature didn’t go far. It took a short hop to the aptly named Eagle Island opposite our home. He was far enough away that he didn’t care if I stepped out of the house, but (barely) in range to capture some decent video.
The entertainment started when I realized he wasn’t the only bird perched on an island branch.
Continue reading “How to Annoy an Eagle”
I’m forever looking out the window.
Even when I’m immersed in a banking or children’s writing project, my peripheral vision keeps an eye on the treetops surrounding our house. I don’t catch fascinating critter behavior every day, or even every week. And of late, I seem to be in a wildlife dry spell. I suspect they’ve all been hiding from the recent scorching heat and thunderstorms.
So, I thought I might have to skip a blog post (I shoot for about every two weeks).
But this morning, I was searching for bird video related to a children’s book I’m working on, and I found an irresistible clip to share.
Continue reading “Noisy Neighbors”
The cute Eastern Gray Squirrel appeared to have nefarious intent.
Woodpecker nestlings are loud, and their high-pitched squeaks are constant. Every squirrel in the neighborhood was no doubt aware they’d taken up residence in the tree.
So, when I spotted the bushy-tailed rodent repeatedly peeking into a Hairy Woodpecker nest cavity, I was pretty sure it was shopping for a meal.
Continue reading “High Drama”
There’s nothing more graceful than a swan swimming on perfectly still water.
We see swans quite often on Lake Allegan. They’re drawn to the weedy, shallow water surrounding Eagle Island, a few hundred yards from our home. Swans mate for life, and they’re social creatures. So usually, they feed in pairs—or herds or banks or bevies—of six or eight (who comes up with these collective nouns?).
So, when a solo swan floated nearby for days, I wondered if something was amiss.
Continue reading “Solitary Swan”