Fledglings through the Window

I moved my home office to a room that does not get as much direct sun on summer afternoons…and discovered I have a better view of our bird feeder through the window. One of the first birds I noticed on the feeder was a downy woodpecker that seemed to be coming very frequently.

And then came the explanation…the parent was showing the way to the feeder to a fledgling! It could have been more than one fledgling because these pictures were taken over several hours….and then I haven’t seen the birds again. Perhaps they are finding plenty of food in the trees behind our house. They are – after all – woodpeckers.

A few days later – I saw a titmouse that was very tentatively perched on our deck railing. It didn’t go to the feeder but succeed in fluttering off toward the maple tree…maybe back to the nest.

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Fast forward almost a week and I saw 2 types of fledglings: 1) There were parents and fledgling Carolina Chickadees at the bird feeder (there were several smaller and somewhat clumsy birds with the two adults)…moving too fast for me to get a picture. 2) A crabby fledgling on the deck railing in the rain. I think it was probably a Catbird fledgling. It didn’t go to the feeder but flew off to the sycamore.

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Overall, it’s been a busy month at our feeder. In some cases, it was probably the first meal away from the nest for the young birds…and certainly fun to watch from my summer office window. I enjoy these kinds of distractions!

Ten Little Celebrations – February 2019

February is usually a quiet month for me – not much going on. February 2019 was dominated by the birding after the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in January, family visits, and celebration of the staff where I volunteer. It seemed like a busier than usual February.

Conversations with my daughter – I celebrated my daughter being more available recently. Seeing her forging ahead in her career and life is something to savor. It feels good to see how wonderfully independent and caring she is these days.

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Icy day – staying indoors – Ice is much worse than snow but has its own beauty. This one was easy for me to celebrate since I didn’t need to get out and none of our trees were damaged.

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Snow day – What’s not to like about a snowy day if I can stay at home. Since I am retired…staying at home when I want to is easy. I celebrate every snow day – taking pictures and making snow ice cream. On our most recent snow day, the weather was warming to 50 degrees the next day, so we didn’t even shovel the drive way.

Spring-like day – And then we had a breezy day in the 50s. I celebrated that this will become the norm in a few short weeks.

Books – On all the cold days, I enjoyed good books on my PC, on my iPad and regular books. Celebrating all the forms that books come in these days.  

Cleaning out progress – We have so many things in our house that we no longer need or use but getting motivated to collect and then donate, recycle, or trash things is challenging. I am celebrating that I am making some progress…building the will-power to continue the trend.

Howard County Conservancy staff – The volunteers held a big celebration for the staff of our favorite non-profit this month. The staff makes volunteering a pleasure and a shared celebration is one way we show it.

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Downy woodpecker – I was home in cold, snowy, or icy weather and enjoyed birding from my office window. I celebrated many of the sightings…the downy woodpecker the most. It’s small, it’s hyper, and it seems to enjoy both our trees and our feeder.

Pink egg salad – I discovered that adding a few slices of beet to hard-boiled eggs and mayonnaise in the small food processor makes beautiful, spreadable egg salad…celebration worthy food.

Headspace app – I subscribed to the Headspace app and am doing a meditation prompt every day. I am celebrating how easy it is to get started and keep going with this app.

Birding through a Window – February 2019

It’s great to see birds from my office window – I take a little break to observe while staying warm…and I get other things done between sightings.

Some kinds of birds I see every day.

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The Blue Jays generally make a lot of noise, so I notice when they are around. They come for the water in the heated bird bath and then for seed if it’s spilled out from the feeder (the feeder itself does not work for jay-sized birds). Somehow, they always seem to be looking in my direction when I take a picture of them.

The Dark-eyed Juncos are also around every day. They come for the seed and, sometimes, the birdbath.

The Northern Cardinal also is a frequent visitor. We have a resident pair that stays around our area. They made their nest in the bushes in front of our house last season. Sometimes more than the pair are around…but not every day.

Mourning Doves are plentiful. One morning we heard one seemingly very close to our breakfast area door but couldn’t see it. My husband opened the door and it flew from it’s hiding place under the deck railing. These birds are also too big for the feeder, but they enjoy any seed on the ground and the bird bath and just sitting around on the deck railing or the roof of the covered deck.

The Tufted Titmouse makes rapid transits between the feeder or birdbath and the red maple. It must feel safer in the maple. We have at least one pair, and maybe more, that frequent our deck.

The Carolina Chickadees are very similar to the titmice in that they don’t linger on the deck. They prefer to get seed and take it back to the maple.

This year we have more American Gold Finches coming to the feeder. In previous years we’ve had more House Finches but I’ve only seen one this year and I didn’t get a picture.

And there are birds I don’t see as frequently.

One American Robin came to the bird bath – and I got a picture. There will be a lot more of them around soon.

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Sometimes we have Northern Flickers visit – usually as a pair. They like the heated bird bath in very cold weather. The area under the pines appears to be a good place for them to find insects.

The Downy Woodpecker returns again and again to some damaged branches not that far from my window. I’ve seen a male and female…only got pictures of the female this month.

European Starlings are not an everyday occurrence in our yard. There must be better food sources for them elsewhere. That’s probably a good thing.

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We have a White-Breasted Nuthatch that comes to our feeder occasionally. It moves very quickly and goes back to the forest.

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There are birds that I remember seeing but didn’t manage to photograph this month: Red-winged blackbirds, Turkey vultures, Black Vultures, Pileated woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, and House sparrow. Overall – not a bad month for birding through window.

Ten Little Celebrations – February 2018

February 2018 has been busier than usual for me than in previous years since ‘graduation’ from my career (that does sound better than ‘retirement’!). The activity that caused that was the day long HoLLIE (Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment) classes once a week. I celebrated 1) after the first one – realizing what a rich learning experience the institute was going to be – and after 2) after the second week when we are at Goddard learning about how and what satellites help us understand the Earth…and having the serendipity add on to the class seeing the big rock with dinosaur and early mammal tracks. I could have counted all 4 days as ‘celebrations’ but decided to choose some other items to add variety to this post.

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I celebrated seeing 3) 2 kinds of woodpeckers within about 10 minutes from my office window: pileated and downy and 4) the springtime tussling of male cardinals in the maple tree while the female looked on and stayed out of the way (a sign that winter in waning already).

The old crock pot being replaced by 5) an Instant Pot was a little celebration (because of immediate success using it) and continuing.

Usually I don’t find anything to celebrate in the news…but the 6) successful launch of the Falcon Heavy was something to celebrate. It’s great that there is a heavy lift capability available - a capability we need to further our exploration of space.

Several things came together this month – focusing my attention on how much I’ve enjoyed being a 7) Maryland Master Naturalist…I celebrated the 4-year journey.

I vicariously shared some of my daughter’s experiences this month – 8) celebrating her post doc – teaching – and ‘what next’ search. It’s invigorating to understand how full her life is --- how much we still share so easily.

The weather after mid-month has turned very mild here in Maryland. Earlier I celebrated 9) enough snow to be pretty and that I had 10) no commitments and could stay home on the day it turned icy.

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.

Gleanings of the Week Ending February 17, 2018

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Who’s still smoking: Report highlights populations still at risk -- ScienceDaily – I rarely see people smoking these days. The overall smoking rates in the US has dropped from 42% in 1965 to 15% in 2015. The analysis of the types of individuals in that 15% reveals that there are populations vulnerable…and that novel interventions will be needed to further reduce smoking in the US.

Top 25 Wild Birds Against Spectacular Landscapes – National Geographic Blog – I’m thinking about birds even more than usual this weekend – participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count!

Being A Homebody Has A Surprising Environmental Upside | CleanTechnica – I know that I used less gasoline and don’t spend as much on clothes as I used to when I went into the office every day….evidently there are enough people that are working at home or retired that the energy savings is significant. Now to just make the energy we use at home skew further toward the renewable variety!

Magnesium makes chromosomes: A new chemical tool, MARIO, shows how free Mg2+ ions regulate chromosome shape -- ScienceDaily – Some work by Japanese researchers. They note at the end of this blurb that this new understanding about magnesium may be a piece to the puzzle of how cancer happens…and maybe treatment.

LASER SCANS REVEAL MAYA “MEGALOPOLIS” BELOW GUATEMALAN JUNGLE | National Geographic - National Geographic – more than 60,000 houses, palaces, elevated highways, and other human-made features….under the jungles of northern Guatemala. The civilization peaked some 1,200 years ago and was comparable to ancient Greece or China. There were probably 10-15 million people in the area too – far more than previously estimated. The LiDAR also revealed pits from looters.

Woodpeckers show signs of possible brain damage, but that might not be a bad thing -- ScienceDaily – Analysis of woodpecker brains from collections of the Field Museum and Harvard Museum of Natural History. The picture with the article is of a downy woodpecker…one kind of woodpecker we see in our area.

Mushrooms Are Good for You, But Are They Medicine? – The question is still open…but they taste good so why not enjoy them even if they aren’t medicine!

Another Kind of Migration: A Visit to Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve – National Geographic Blog – I just found out recently that they’ve planted milkweed at all the schools in our county…and will be monitoring to make sure it thrives…a little action to help the Monarch butterflies as they come through our part of Maryland on their way to Canada.

Surreal Images of Frozen Niagara Falls at Night by Adam Klekotka – Winter eye candy.

Black Lung Study Finds Biggest Cluster Ever of Fatal Coal Miners’ Disease: NPR – So sad. It’s happening to younger miners than it used to; ‘improvements’ in mining equipment? This is probably another reason we should move to renewable energy as quickly as we can.

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Are you participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count? It starts today and continues through Monday (i.e. February 16-19). I am doing it from the comfort of my home office window that looks out to our deck with a birdbath and feeder…and then forest. The forecast for my area is rain and snow…with only Sunday being sunny. It will be interesting to see which birds are out and about. I’m ready with the binoculars on the window ledge.

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Recording the birds I observe in my backyard in eBird is about as easy as it can get: through a window, most of them already familiar, and not during a busy time of the year for me. Earlier this week I observed two different kinds of woodpeckers in our yard within about 10 minutes: Two pileated woodpeckers and

A downy woodpecker at the feeder.

I hope they come back during the event so I can include them in my sightings during the event!

Skunk Cabbage

Last week I hiked down to the marshy area where the skunk cabbage usually grows at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm – and it was already coming up out of the muck. There were no blooms yet; those will be left for February. I used the zoom to get pictures since the area was muddy both from rain the previous day and the usual water from the small spring. It was warm enough that there was no ice in the area where the skunk cabbage was sprouting.

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In other areas there was more ice – further from the spring (the water that emerges from the ground must be a little warmer) or where ice got thicker when the temperature was very low and it takes longer to thaw. It wasn’t freezing on the day I was hiking so part of the stream that has accumulated more water and the flowing more rapidly was entirely melted.

Other highlights from the leisurely hike: the stump for the elementary school hiking groups to climb and count tree rings is surviving the winter…will still be good for the spring field trips,

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Shelf fungus group just about everywhere – even on stumps of invasive trees (these were probably Callery pear).

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The bird feeders in the Honors Garden were active: nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, and goldfinches beginning to get their spring plumage were the ones I managed to photograph.

Downy Woodpecker

We have a pair of downy woodpeckers in the forest behind out house – at least, I think that is where they come from. I’ve seen then closer than the forest and photographed them over the past month: At our heated bird bath where they stop for sips of water on very cold days (frost forms on the rim when it is very cold),

On the deck railing where they seem to pay attention the knots. There is one know that is now a hole…must have been some goodie that the bird was keen to eat there, and

At the bird feeder where the bird managed to extract a sunflower seed.

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I like these little birds. The little patch of red always is eye catching.