Birds through my Office Window

The leaves are starting to swirl…but there are still enough on the trees to block the view of birds there. I’ve been lucky enough to catch some coming to our deck for seed or water. There was a Blue Jay with a scruffy head; most that I see are better looking. Sometimes the birds come alone…sometimes with buddies. They seem to like investigating the contents of the gutters.

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The Carolina Chickadee was in a rush….I barely got one picture!

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My favorite this month was the White-breasted Nuthatch. The birds seemed to be coming to the feeder very frequently. Did they have a late season nestlings they were feeding? They have such distinctive postures….always seem to move with precision.

The Chipping Sparrows also enjoy the feeder. One small one sat at the feeder looking around and I wondered if it was newly fledged.

The juvenile Red-Bellied Woodpecker is still around too. I’ve seen adults but they tend to be faster moving. The juvenile sits for portraits.

Overall – September was a good month for birds through the office window!

Summer Camp Volunteering- Week 4

The theme for last week’s Howard Count Conservancy’s summer camps was ‘Friends in Flight – Bees, Birds, Bats.’ For the activity at Mt Pleasant – I added ‘Butterflies’ to the Friends in Flight list – playing a Monarch Migration game (instructions here) with each of the three groups. The numbered and laminated cards were taped to colorful cones and mug box dice were used for the cards that needed them. The route of cones was set up on the bricked path in the Honors Garden because the grass was so wet everywhere.

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All the campers discovered that there are a lot of hazards along with way during migration….and most played the game about 3 times. We tallied the successful and unsuccessful migrations…with the unsuccessful being slightly ahead!

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At Belmont, I started the Zentangle® session with a discussion of blue jays and their feathers using some pictures.

Then the two groups of campers made mono-tangles with a feather-like pattern. For the first group (skewed toward the older in the 5-12 years old range), I used 3” square coasters and a finer point pen than they had used before. The younger group used Apprentice tiles and the Sharpie ultra-fine pens. Some, but not all, of the campers had been in the previous Zentangle sessions. Overall – it was an impressive week!

It was the last week of summer camp. I’ll take a little break – but am already looking forward to the fall field trips ramping up soon.

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The Zentangle® Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. "Zentangle" is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.

Blue Jay at the Birdbath

I was pleased to see a Blue Jay at our bird bath. Back in July, my husband I had found blue jay feathers to the side of our house and we didn’t see or hear them for several weeks. A week or so ago, we started hearing them again and then one came to the birdbath! I liked this picture because it shows the wing feathers so nicely…the blue with white bars on the flight feather, the more down-like feathers covering the top of the wing and the neck.

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This week is at the Howard County Conservancy Camps is about flight and I’m going to bring this picture and the feathers for the campers to look at closely….flight feathers up close. It’s a great supplement to the rest of the activity I have planned.

Blue Jay Feathers

One morning when my husband and I were working in the yard, we noticed quite a few blue jay feathers in the grass beside our house. I picked them up to photograph. They were not in great shape so had probably be on the ground for a few days.

Some of them had bands on only one side…probably indicating which side of the bird they came from. This group has bands to the left of the rib.

And these feathers have bands on the right.

There are too many feathers for this bird to have survived probably. We have quite a few blue jays that come to our yard for the water and the trees. Sometimes singly but more often in small groups. During some seasons they are very noisy but recently they have been coming through silently. Smart birds since there must be a predator around.

Ten Little Celebrations – August 2018

I thought August might be a slow month with the summer camps ending and nothing new starting….but the month developed….not hard at all to pick 10 little celebrations to highlight.

Solitary hike – Usually I hike with other people – most recently with summer campers. Hike my myself at Mt. Pleasant was a change-of-pace and something to celebrate. Getting a artsy picture of two butterflies on Joe Pye Weed with a clear blue sky background was the image to remember of the morning.

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Surviving a long hike – Then there was the much longer hike with camper up and down…across a stream and along muddy paths. I celebrated when that hike was done!

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Blue Jay feather – A special feather is always a celebration for me…and from several perspectives: finding one on the ground, photographing it, remembering my daughter’s feather collection when she was very young, and realizing that know what kind of bird it came from!

Weekend in State College – Deciding to take a weekend trip – spurt of the moment. And dodging the rain to enjoy every minute! Celebrating family.

Butterflies – August seems to be my peak month for butterflies roosting on me in the butterfly exhibit. It’s special every single time.

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Hummingbirds – Last weekend my husband and I attempted to photograph hummingbirds at Brookside gardens for two mornings. We were reasonably successful (a post about our experience is coming) but we’ll both improve with more practice. The birds are fast movers. Both of us are celebrating the photographs we got with the birds in focus!

Blooming bananas – Seeing something familiar but in a little different stage of development….I’m celebrating being in the conservatory at the right time.

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Rulers for 25 cents – I celebrated that several stores in our area had wooden rulers for 26 cents. That’s inexpensive enough I can have my own supply for field trips with children just learning to measure sizes of what we find on our hikes.

Dragonflies – I haven’t found dragonflies in the wheel formation (mating) but I did find two at our neighborhood storm water management pond that were half way there! I celebrated the photographic opportunity and an still looking for the wheel.

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Sweet potato leaves – Yummy sweet potato leaves. Our Community Supported Agriculture must have harvested part of the sweet potato crop in August so we got leaves in one of our shares this month. I hope there are still some left for later since we normally get them in late September. They are probably my favorite salad green….and I get them a couple of weeks a year….so worthy of celebration when they are available.

Yard Work - August 2018

I did some weeding in the front flower bed (pulling up weeds and cutting vines that were opportunistically growing into the bushes or climbing the brick façade of the house) earlier this week.

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I filled a trash can full of ‘greens’ to take to the compost pile; I also had some paper shreds and veggie scraps from the kitchen to add. I took the pitchfork to punch the material down and turn it over. The compost in the bottom is already looking ‘done.’

The next job was to cut some horizontal branches in the cherry tree – trying to reduce the risk of the tree splitting if we get an ice storm this winter. I noticed a spider in a web between the house and the cherry trees…some long silk lines that I tried to avoid. It was an interesting spider although I haven’t been able to identify it yet. I’ll have to take better pictures next time.

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As I walked around the house dragging the branches to the brush pile – I noticed that the sycamore had several collections of fall webworms. At least they were the native webworms and not the exotic ailanthus webworms (I saw the moth a few weeks ago at Mt. Pleasant).

Most of the branches with web worms were low enough for me to cut with the long-handled pruners. There was one higher branch that my husband cut using a ladder and saw…with me pulling the branch downward to stabilize it.

On the way back from the brush pile with the sycamore branches – I noticed a blue jay feather…a little the worse for wear but worth photographing. I left it on the stairs to the deck so I could photography it late. I picked up handfuls of sycamore leaves to put in the compost bin.

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I carried my tools up to the covered deck after I was finished and awakened the cat that was enjoying a morning nap there. He seemed more curious than grumpy!

Kenilworth Gardens – Other Stuff

Of course – lotuses, water lilies, buttonbushes and dragonflies were not the only things to see at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens last weekend. Even in the island of garden in the parking lot there were things to see. The most interesting (to me), were some tiny acorns on a lower branch of an oak

And a blue jay that seemed very acclimated to people.

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I didn’t spend much time on the boardwalk out to the river but was there long enough to capture a sleepy duck.

There were some colorful canna leaves in the morning sun and

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A gall on one of the trees with shelf fungus make it look something like a face (with a few too many eyes and eye brows!).

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The showy flowers of the rose mallow seemed to be everywhere. I love the flowers with their deep red centers but maybe the tightly wrapped petal in bud form are ever more interesting. Enjoy the mallow slide show below!

Birding through a Window – March 2018

I was out and about more during March than earlier in the year so I wasn’t around to see birds through my office window as much. I did catch the birds that seem to always bee around: the blue jays,

The cardinals,

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The mourning doves,

The juncos (they’ll be leaving for their nesting grounds in the north soon),

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The titmouse, and

The Carolina wren.

There are the ones I see less often – so continue to view them as special:

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the pileated woodpecker and

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The northern flicker.

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There seemed to be more flocks of birds in the yard and around the feeder/bath: cowbirds,

Crows,

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Grackles,

Starlings, and

Robins of course (I always associate springtime and flocks of robins coming through…some staying for the season and others continuing northward).

All in all – a good number of birds around in March through high winds and snow….the swings of temperature. It’s been a wild weather month.

Birding through a Window – February 2018

I’ve posted many of my bird pictures for the month already (bluebirds bathingbefore (woodpeckers) and after the Great Backyard Bird Count) so this post will have the ‘best of the rest.’ There were birds that just come to the birdbath – like the blue jays (we have a small flock that makes the rounds in our neighborhood most days with a stop at our bird bath…one bird at a time)

And the flickers (sporadically).

Sometimes the little birds visit the bird bath together. I managed to photograph a chickadee, goldfinch, and nuthatch together. It’s interesting to see how chunky the nuthatch is compared to the other two birds.

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I saw the nuthatch and chickadee several times during the month…but didn’t get any more worthwhile pictures. The goldfinches comes to the feeder and bird bath more frequently. They are still in their winter plumage…I keep looking for the more brilliant yellow feathers to appear.

At the bird feeder – a house finch and downy woodpecker shared for a few seconds. The woodpecker is a little bigger than the finch…but they both are light enough that their combined weight does not pull down the metal ‘flowers’ to cover the seed holes (the squirrel proofing of the feeder).

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The house finches are probably the most frequent visitors to the feeder. We have a resident group that makes rounds in our neighborhood.

The resident cardinal pair prefers seed on the ground but has developed a technique to flutter near the feeder and get seed when there is not enough scattered around underneath.

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A mockingbird came to the bird bath recently….which is unusual for us. They are around our neighborhood (I hear them and see them) but we haven’t had one that frequents our deck…maybe this one will stick around.

Birding through a Window – January 2018 (1)

I was at home more in January than December…and saw a lot more birds through the window. I posted about the bluebirds back on the 16th but they have continued to visit our bird bath and deck; most of the time I don’t have my camera but I did manage to photograph one just yesterday – perched on the old weather station pole.

The blue jays are regular visitors too. They come to the bird path, the maple, the sycamore and the tulip poplar…staying still long enough for good pictures.

The cardinals alert me to their presence with their chirps. Both the male and female come to the deck for seed and I often see them in the trees around the yard and into the forest.

When we had the very cold days, the Carolina Wrens were entirely missing; I didn’t see them or hear them. But they have returned now that it is a little warmer. They are heard more often than seen.

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The doves were missing during the cold days as well but now they are back and frequent visitors to our deck.

More birding through the window from this month in tomorrow’s post.