That was me, early on the morning of June 13.
I’d been watching and filming a Wood Thrush nest, expecting nestlings to fledge at any time. This morning, I set up my video gear at the first light. I positioned my tripod and zoomed in on the nest… almost ready to record… then, crash! I knocked over my big stainless steel coffee cup, which landed on a flagstone. The startled nestlings squawked and leaped in unison.
My eyes witnessed the fledge. My camera did not.
Continue reading A Wood Thrush Story
Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.
Wood ducks seemed to be studying our squirrel tree.
We call it that because squirrels like to shelter inside. And each spring, at least one new family grows up there. One year, a pregnant raccoon took over the entire tree. But otherwise, for some twenty years, we have watched squirrel mamas, and eventually their pups, scurry in and out of the largely hollow tree.
But last week, I wondered if wood ducks might be moving in.
Continue reading Duck Drama
It’s almost time for the annual duck dance.
The Red-breasted Mergansers put on quite a springtime show. They scoot. They splash. The handsome boys bow to impress the ladies. I never tire of watching their annual courtship display.
Continue reading A Red-breasted Ballet… For Now
Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.
The persistent pounding caught my eye.
A woodpecker appeared to be pecking for prey. Red-bellied woodpeckers have a varied diet. Cornell’s Birds of the World says their main fare consists of fruits, nuts, insects, lizards, tree frogs, and the eggs and nestlings of small birds. But a woodpecker could take those foods in a single snatch. It seemed odd that the bird was taking so long to snag his prey.
Looking at my camera’s tiny screen, I couldn’t identify the woodpecker’s quarry. The bird flew off after some two minutes of work, and I stopped filming. I didn’t give him another thought. That is, until later when I downloaded the video.
My full-screen view revealed a horrifyingly fascinating sight.
Continue reading A Red-bellied Predator
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!
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
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