Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Waiting for Snow

Tufted Titmouse 2-6-18

On this gray winter's morning I sit here awaiting the next winter storm. We have been in a pattern of snow, warming rain, melt the snow, deep freeze,  then warm and snow again. Today, a winter storm is expected to arrive in about an hour or two. Then I will be stuck inside until the roads clear, but more stormy weather is on the way, with only 1 clear day expected in the next seven.

Bonnie keeps watch.
My yard is full of birds at the moment. They are in a feeding frenzy before the snow arrives. A Cooper's Hawk has found my feeders and now stops by on a regular basis. Yesterday as I stepped out on the deck to keep an eye on our new puppy I caught movement overhead and saw the hawk land in a tall pine. It must not have seen me as it dropped. I saw the look of astonishment on its face as it saw me instead of birds below, and it quickly took flight. This morning when I was out filling feeders before the snow arrives I heard the hoarse croaking of a raven and looked up just in time to see a magnificent pair flying low over my yard. Their wings made such a rushing sound as they swooped by that I could just imagine their dark wings brushing my upturned face. I watched as they flew in unison, diving and soaring up and over the pine treed border of my yard.

Since moving into this house last April I have counted 93 Species of birds. This yard has surpassed all my other Yard Lists except Mere Point at 117 species, and my Jefferson, Maine Yard at 109 Species. But, I lived at Mere Point for 18 months and in Jefferson for a full year. I have only been here for 10 months. Being near the water, as I was in the two previously mentioned yards, has its advantage, but being in the woods has its advantage as well. I picked up a lot of warblers in this yard, as well as migrating thrushes. Some of the most unusual sightings I have had in this yard are a migrating flock of Glossy Ibisies last spring, a migrating Snowy Owl on a stormy day last November, three Rusty Blackbirds that showed up in my yard this January, and a recent sighting of a White-winged Crossbill during a snowstorm last week!

Rusty Blackbird 1-14-18
3 Rusty Blackbirds and a Blue Jay 1-18-18

Rusty Blackbirds have dropped in population by 90% since the middle of the 1900's. These have become rare birds to see at anytime of the year. To have three show up in my yard is just amazing to me.  You can learn more about the birds by clicking on the links at the end of this post.

A Northern Cardinal with dark-eyed juncos beneath one of my backyard feeders.

American Goldficnhes 2-2-18
Of course, we had a big snow storm on Ground Hog Day, because, why wouldn't you? That is when the White-winged Crossbill showed up. The goldfinches are fickle. sometimes I have 20 to 30 f them in my yard, and sometimes only 1 or 2. As for the other finches, I have only seen a Pine Siskin once last July, and I have yet to see a Common Redpoll here, or a Pine Grosbeak, despite having almost 20 acres of pine trees! I had Purple Finches all summer, but no House Finches.

My yard after the February 2nd storm. 

Mourning Doves and Juncos

More Mourning Doves and Juncos

A young turkey in the snow 2-2-18

Miss Coda 
 We have recently added a new member to our family. This is Coda, our little Cavalier Spaniel. She has brought so much joy to our lives since we got her last fall. She has changed the way I bird and I often take her on birding expeditions with me. Cavaliers are bred to be companion dogs and this is proving true. She does not like to be left alone. She always wants to be with you and preferably touching you at all times. However, she is definitely a bird dog, because she likes to eat bird seed and chase the turkeys out of the yard. Of course, she cannot get them, but it is fun to watch. And before anyone gets upset about the birds, let me just tell you that a flock of 10 to 20 turkeys can do a lot of damage to your yard and they leave behind droppings the size of golf balls! Plus, this is much better than the former owner of this house, who used to shoot them!

American Tree Sparrow 2-1-18
I saw my first American Tree Sparrow here on December 17th. It hung around for a couple of weeks, then disappeared for all of January. On February 1st it showed back up again, and has been here sporadically ever since, but only just 1. I have never seen more than one in this yard...yet. I look forward to the return of the spring birds and I continue to hone my birding skills. Recently I won an online contest through eBird to a Raptor Course through their Bird Academy. I was one of 10 people selected for submitting at least one eligible checklist during December. I have submitted over 12,000 checklists since I first started eBirding back in January  of 2008. I do it because I love it, but it was nice to finally win something. Anyone can become an eBirder. Just click on the links to find out more.

Three Rusty Blackbirds in my Waldoboro, Maine yard 1-18-18

Sunday, January 7, 2018

It's Been Too Long

The Waldoboro Town Landing 
It's been a very long time since I have written a blogpost, and of course so much has happened. Suffice it to say that we have moved 4 times in 4 years since moving back to Maine in 2014, but we have finally bought a house and plan to settle down. After spending a year at a lovely house in Jefferson, Maine, we fell in love with the midcoast. So, when we decided to buy, we searched this area and could not believe with when we found a house that met all of our needs, plus sat on 20 acres of land! Finally I would have my very own wildlife sanctuary!

The previous owner left behind a single bird feeder riddled with buckshot holes. While it is still in the backyard, it did not take me long to set up my own feeders and my birdbath.

This was only the beginning.

New feeders
 A birding friend gave these two feeders to me when she came to visit. They have since become some of my favorite feeders because they are easy to fill and clean, and the birds seem to like them. Thank you, Lois!

The birdy corner of the yard.

A mourning dove discovers the birdbath.

Spring Sunset shortly after moving in.

What lies beyond these rocks in our woods?

The side yard uphill from the house.

The weeping cherry tree just starting to blossom in spring.

A Gray Catbird in the birdbath this summer.

I have both Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers here almost everyday.

The birds and the bees and I all loved these azalea bushes in bloom.

Song sparrow in summer

A wild Tom turkey struts his stuff in Spring.

A raccoon tries to raid the feeders.

Storm clouds gather

Run for cover, turkeys!

Web covered bushes
 These webs would show up only on misty, fogy mornings in late summer. They would last for a few hours and then disappear. But when it happened, it gave the yard a mysterious, spooky feeling. I never saw what creature made them.

My summer yard

Turkey with poults.
Towards the end of the summer I had three hen turkeys with their poults coming to the yard to feed beneath my feeders almost everyday. If you look carefully you will see there are chicks of various sizes. It seems one hen takes charge, and all the poults follow her, but the other hens follow along and help out as well.

Front yard deck with new table and stools.

Female Ruby-throated hummingbird at the front yard feeder.

This species of hosta was a late bloomer but attracted many hummingbirds in late summer.

The front yard on a misty Autumn morning.

Nest boxes on the North Hill
 These nest boxes were here when we moved in. There are actually 4 of them. I had at least one, if not two pairs of tree swallows that nested here last summer, but in the fall when I went to clean the boxes out, I found two of them with mice nesting in them instead!

Teaching my grandson about the birds.

A goldfinch on the birdbath.

A boundary marker in the old stone wall.

My cousin, George, helps me walk our land for the first time since we moved in.

We found a moss and root covered ledge.

Our neighbor bush hogs the yard.

We left part of our yard to grow wild for the butterflies and birds. After nesting season we cut it down for winter to grow wild again next spring. 

The yard after the mowing.

Azalea leaves in Autumn

Autumn Gold

The sun kissed oak tree at sunset.

Gus cuts our Christmas tree from our own yard!
 Yes, it is a small tree, but we wanted it that way so we could put it up on a table out of reach of our new puppy!

Merry Christmas 2017

Winter came in with a bang!

A little Red Squirrel steals a snack.
 I had to switch to the heated birdbath for winter. All the birds love it, but so do the squirrels! During the blizzard and the arctic blast we just endured, this little birdbath provided water for all creatures great and small. However, on Saturday when the temp never rose above -4 degrees Fahrenheit and the windchill was 20 below, it did start to form a thin sheet of ice in the center with a bridge attached to the edge. I broke it up this morning, and added fresh water.

Here comes the hungry hordes!
  Did I mention I have turkeys in my yard?

No feeder is safe from Wild Turkeys

Who knocked the feeder down? The turkeys or the squirrels?

American Tree Sparrow: Species number 91 for my yard.

December 17th was the last day to add a New Yard Bird to The 20 Acre Wood Yard in 2017. This single bird was here for only a week or two and then was never seen again. Last year in Jefferson I had dozens in my yard all winter.

I had to stop tossing seed on my deck for the juncos because these hungry dinosaurs would not stay off the deck!

Turkeys in the snow.

Dark-eyed Junco

Snowing hard

We have had 4 storms with plowable snow since mid-December 2017.

American Goldfinches at the feeder. 
I had goldfinches all spring and summer, but when Autumn came they disappeared and I did not see any for a couple of months. We had a very mild September through November, but once the cold weather returned, so did the birds. I keep hoping for a Common Redpoll or a Pine Grosbeak, but so far, no such luck.

American goldfinch outside my window in winter.

The turkeys are back...again!

Red-bellied woodpecker
This female Red-bellied woodpecker showed up this fall and has stayed ever since. She is species number 88 since I moved here in April. I have had Red-bellied Woodpeckers in every yard since moving to Maine, but they are usually only there in Winter. They must go someplace else to breed and nest.

Now they have gone too far!

Get off the deck, you turkey!

The snow has brought the birds back to my feeders.

The woodpeckers really love beef suet and the bonus is the squirrels don't!

A goldfinch trying to stay warm and find food on my front windowsill.

The turkeys trample down the snow and make it easier for me to get to the feeders.

This is how I birded during the blizzard on 1-4-2018.
Author's Note: I have not written in so long because so much has changed with computers and the programs that run them and process photos. It soon became too overwhelming for me with everything going on and I gave up. I bought this new computer in October of 2016, but have since barely used it. However, my youngest brother has been encouraging me to write again, and my Best Birding Buddy was just here visiting and he inspired me to get back at it. On a whim I turned my computer on tonight and decided to see if I could add photos from my cell phone to my blog easily, and low and behold, I could! So, while these are all cell phone shots, at least it is a start. Hopefully I can keep this up, because I have missed it.