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!”
A squirrel perched on a patch of snow.
Why, I wondered, had he selected this icy spot? There was plenty of dry seating nearby. The furry fellow sat perfectly still, his face disclosing no sign of discomfort. I zoomed in to see if he was shivering. That’s one way that squirrels stay warm.
Studying the squirrel through the lens, I could count his whiskers. But seeing no sign of a shiver, I stepped back from the camera.
That’s when I saw the second face.
Continue reading “Snag Face”
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”
Squirrels get a bad rap.
Some people even think they’re abominable. Sure, the little critters tuck into garden tomatoes. They steal seeds from bird feeders. But even the most hardened, anti-squirrel gardeners and birdwatchers must admit: They’re cute. Adorable, even.
Especially in the snow.
Continue reading “The (Not So) Abominable Snow Squirrel”
In a driving rain, a squirrel sat on my favorite snag.
Snags are dead and dying trees, like the broken beech behind our home. Over the years, this tree has welcomed nesting woodpeckers, starlings, flycatchers, and wood ducks. In winter, squirrels move in. They leave their summer dreys—the leafy nests we see in the crooks of branches—for warmer quarters.
On that wet, cold morning, I wondered: Why wasn’t the squirrel sheltering inside the tree? There are several cavities within the hollow snag. He wasn’t scampering for food. Instead, he sat placidly in the rain, perched on the very top of the tree.
Then—well, with a small dose of imagination—I realized what he was up to.
Continue reading “No Soap Needed”
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…”
Our screen house took a direct hit. Bang! In a long bounce, the acorn slammed the deck below. Clang! It ricocheted to a metal table. Seconds later, a repeat performance.
This percussion suite continued for an hour until the musicians—squirrels nibbling in the oaks above—finished their early evening harvest. Acorns littered the deck, tables, and chairs.
Along with the mess came a mystery.
Continue reading “Bing! Bang! Clang!”
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”