Saturday, October 30, 2010

The World according to Chance. Or a Day in the Life of My Dog (Revised)

My name is Chance and I am two years old. THEY named me Chance, because I am giving THEM a chance. HE and SHE adopted me, so I don't know my real mom and pop, but I know this: I am of noble blood.

I like to get up real early in the morning when it's still dark. After SHE puts on the collar so I can't chase the neighbor's cats across the road, I run around the yard and make sure there are no intruders. If I find something I bark to wake everybody up. When I come back in SHE sits at her computer, reading all those birdie blogs. I am not interested in birdies, just in cats and squirrels. Squirrels are my grand passion! Just say the word Squirrel I am out the door! SHE puts bait in the birdfeeder. So far I have chased down five of them!

I get so bored watching her on the computer that I grab Sasha, clamp my teeth around her neck to make her squeal, and that gets HER attention. SHE gets so mad! Sasha is not my real sister. She's just a mutt,  a street dog from Puerto Rico, not noble at all.

Me and Sasha

Sasha is always blurry
Revised as a big chunk of the story went missing - Checked the Blogger Help forum and found a lot of people were having the same problems in Sept and Oct of disappearing photos and text. Should have rechecked it after publishing. So here is the missing paragraph as far as I can remember it:

SHE grabs the long black tube and hangs a thing with two eyes around her neck and we take off in HER car. I love riding in the back of the car looking out. Then we stop at a parking lot by the river and go for a "walk" - nothing that I would call a walk. SHE takes a few steps, stops and points the black tube at some bushes. Then another fews steps and stops again. I get so bored!

So what I do is, I track back. She never notices that I am gone until I am well out of earshot and  can't hear when SHE yells ;-) I head back to the car and the parking lot. I am often lucky. There are people to sniff - I sneak up on them from the rear -- and wow how my nose makes them jump! Then there are other mutts to play with. I already know them all.  If I am by myself though I check out the picnic area by the water - you never know what you find... Then I lie down by the car and wait.

After we come home I watch the yard. There a lots of big stones lying around, hiding places for the squirrels, cats and chipmunks. Sometimes a truck turns into the driveway and after a while drives out again with one of those big big stones.  I have marked them all with my pp : >)

Today I had a really nice day. We went hunting in the woods. There are no squirrels, because all the squirrels are at our house, but look what I found!

Coyote, you think?
 But she always calls me just when it gets interesting!

After we get home, I always take a long nice snooze on the sofa until it gets dark.

 Whatever they are, I am going to catch them!!!

And those pesky trick-or-treaters, when they come to the house? 
They are in for a big suprise! I ate all the candy!
Happy Halloween!
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Friday, October 29, 2010

To Autumn

Northern Cardinal

Downy Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Female Wood Duck


Red-winged Blackbirds

Red-winged Blackbirds

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shorebirds high in the sky over Southern Vermont. Also Yellow-rumped Warbler and Dark-eyed Junco

A fly-over of Greater Yellowlegs? Yesterday early afternoon a flock of 23 long-billed birds was flying high in the sky south over the West River in Brattleboro.

On that same walk a Yellow-rumped Warbler gave me the eye and flew right at me ;-)

Dark-eyed Juncos have taken over from the sparrows. They were everywhere you walked, scattering on approach, the white on their tails flashing.

Dark-eyed Junco in a patch of late-flowering weeds

Good Birding!

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Monday, October 25, 2010

A World of Sparrows

Where I grew up in Germany there was only one kind of sparrow, the common domestic House Sparrow  which was ubiquitous and very social - just as they are here - nesting under roof shingles, in ivy growing over fences or houses, in trees and hedges. Sitting in an outdoor cafe you'd always have the company of sparrows picking up crumbs under the table or off your plate if you weren't looking.

However, when I went back to visit my mom and sister in Hamburg last year, I couldn't find any. They seemed to have vanished. I probably wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't been looking for the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, which in the USA is confined to a small area in the Midwest.  Trying to figure it out I did a search on Google and found that the House Sparrow, along with the Starling and the Eurasian Tree Sparrow,  had actually been placed on the Red List of endangered birds in the UK.  The list cited both long-term and short-term breeding decline, most likely due to loss of agricultural habitat.
House Sparrow courting
Although they have disappeared  from the center of many cities, they are still present in most towns and villages. And that's were I eventually found them. I was visiting my cousin's farm to look for the Eurasian Tree Sparrow.  The ivy covering the old brick house was swarming with nesting House Sparrows, and the sought after Tree Sparrows were roosting in a tree behind the barn, where they had ready access to grain.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow with characteristic chestnut cap and black cheek patch
Eurasian Tree Sparrow chick and parent

Fall is the time for sparrows after most of the other songbirds have left for their winter quarters.  Most of them feed on the ground, in the grass and frequent brushy weedy habitats.  It is often difficult to get a good look at them, since the scatter as soon as you approach, fly low over the ground and plunge back into the vegetation

The White-crowned Sparrow is present in VT during their spring and fall migration. They breed in Arctic or alpine tundra. I think they are the most handsome of all our sparrows.

Immature White-crowned Sparrow

Immature White-crowned Sparrow
Adult White-crowned Sparrow

The White-throated Sparrow stays with us all year

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow showing the characteristic "half and half" beak and the dot on the chest

Immature Swamp Sparrow. At first I thought this was a Lincoln's Sparrow, but was corrected by a  more knowledgeable birder.

Adult Swamp Sparrow in post-molt fresh feathers

The Song Sparrow often looks colorless and boring; so I was happy about the vivid colors in this photo 

Song Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow with characteristic yellow lores are abundant in our area.

The chipper Chipping Sparrow

Juvenile House Sparrows on their  home turf in a barn window

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sharp-shinned Hawk and Crow

There was a lot of silent commotion in the woods ahead, large crow and small hawk flying in and out, wending their way through the dense branches, one in pursuit of the other - or the other way around? I was surprised that no others joined the lone crow. Usually they raise a ruckus when a predator is around to harrass and drive it away.
Sharp-shinned Hawks are aggressive accipiters, very agile in pursuit of small song birds through dense woods. Crows are not on their diet plan.
Crow sees the Hawk

Crow goes after Hawk

Crow and Hawk tussle in the air.

The tables turn. Hawk goes after Crow

In hot pursuit!

The Crow turns tail and flies away.
After a while the commotion ceased. I don't know the outcome but expect that eventually both went their different ways. 

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Immature Red-tailed Hawk

What's in his crop?

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

(1) More small passerines; and (2) how do you prevent deadly windowstrikes?

The other day I walked up the Nature Conservancy trail that leads from the West River up to Black Mountain. Just as I reached the gate a Blue-headed Vireo was flitting through the birches on the side of the path, foraging for insects on the leaves. It paused for a moment and sat still for a photo shoot:   

Blue-headed Vireo

Until looking at a close-up I hadn't realized that the vireo has a small hook at the tip of its beak, probably the better to hold onto a squiggly worm or beatle.

After a few seconds it spied a tasty tidbit and flew off.

Nearby a Palm Warbler sat still for a minute. but then flew off.

At the edge of the cornfield by the Marina today I saw flocks of sparrows but as usual as soon as they saw me from afar they flew off. I managed to get photos of a White-crowned Sparrow and a Savannah Sparrow. I have been looking for a Lincoln Sparrow but it has continued to elude me.  

Immature White-crowned Sparrow

Adult White-crowned Sparrow

 Savannah Sparrow. I don't know what caused the tail to curl up.

Changing the subject:, in the last few days I have become more aware of window strikes on our porch glass doors. Yesterday it was a White-breasted Nuthatch, the day before a Chickadee. Fortunately they were just stunned and flew off eventually--although I remember reading a report that the birds actually don't survive for very long after such an injury. So I have to come up with a remedy and will try this:

I painted this pattern on the glass with  a moist bar of white soap, not very pretty but it may make the birds aware of the barrier. The window shows the reflections of the leaves on the slope behind the house. Here is a view from another angle.This time you can see the deck through the glass door on the front side of the porch. I hope this will work.

This morning the sky was so full of promise.

It turned out to be a gorgeous fall day, time to get outside!

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