Thursday, January 26, 2023

Symbolic Pink Sunrise

Chilly, windy and gray days have discouraged outside activities. Poor light presents photographic challenges, especially when most of my wildlife subjects are in the deep shade outside our north-facing window. 

As if to complement my earlier discussion about the similar plumages of the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, both made appearances on January 22.  The male Hairy Woodpecker arrived first and dwarfed the suet feeder:

The female Hairy was waiting on a nearby branch and flew in immediately after the male departed:

Note the female's head pattern:

The male Hairy Woodpecker's head has two red patches, above the horizontal black stripe:

The male Downy Woodpecker arrived only few minutes later:

Its single red occipital patch covers the vertical stripe:

Two Eastern Bluebirds showed up briefly and did not visit the suet. We see them occasionally during the winter, usually in small flocks of 5 to 8. This was the male. The images are particularly poor, as I had to shoot at an angle through the double window pane:

Dark-eyed Juncos dominate the area but prefer to forage on the ground under the feeders. These are male and female juncos:

I spread some millet seed in a few natural "shelves" in the granite ledge to attract other ground-feeding sparrows. Song Sparrow:

White-throated Sparrow:

Our granddaughter spotted this Red-tailed Hawk from an upstairs window and texted me. It was down in the area below the fence and I  could not see it from our perpective, so I ran up and photographed it from the upper patio. It was quite distant but at least there was no window glass to interfere:

We saw it again during our walk along the lake shore. I think they had a nest near this spot last season: 

On the mammal front, January 21 was Squirrel Appreciation Day. I  obtained this window view of a Gray Squirrel a day later:

The Red Fox continues to chase the squirrels and we saw it appear to catch one just as it started to climb up a tree. However, the squirrel  may have escaped its clutches, as this one showed up a few hours later, missing a lot of fur from its tail and evidencing other signs of fresh injury. We never saw this individual again, which may be a bad sign:  

The fox surprised me (and probably the squirrels) by showing up just outside our door. It was looking straight at me, but after I grabbed my camera it turned and started running away. I obtained only one exposure, standing about two feet inside the window. It was  so close that it did not fit in the frame:

The fox returned on January 24 to look for squirrels after the snowfall. He found none but our Ring camera recorded his visit (best viewed full screen):

There was an unusual pink sunrise on January 19. The color suffused the landscape-- photos do not capture its depth.

 "Pink symbolizes youth, good health, and playfulness. It’s the flush of first love and stands for nurturing femininity. It’s used as the symbolic color of the movement to support breast cancer research, and we think of pink as an innocent, cheerful color." (Symbolism And Meaning Of Pink)  

Only the evening before, our beautiful, talented and so lovely niece lost her long and courageous battle with breast cancer. She was a very successful entrepreneur, had many friends in business and entertainment sectors, a world traveler who advocated for early detection and treatment of breast cancer. Her spouse was so loving and caring. I cannot imagine the pain he is suffering at her loss.

This Week's Header: Pink Sunrise

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Birbs, Borbs, Barbs and Floofs

The sun has turned the corner and the evenings are noticeably brighter.  After a few mild days we experienced cold, windy, dreary and rainy weather, but no significant snow. The deer must all be bedding down in the valleys where there are evergreen trees and shelter from the wind. Still hoping for some winter finches to arrive, but we have not seen a single Purple Finch so far this year.

Before I was a "Birder" (then called "Bird Watcher") I obtained my limited knowledge of birds' names from my parents and grandparents. The circling bird I later came to know as a Turkey Vulture was simply a "Buzzard," and my grandfather called any soaring raptor a "Chicken Hawk." Grandma fed bread crumbs to the "Chippies," which my first bird book identified as English Sparrows. Any long-necked wader was a "Crane." 

When I was given my little Reed  bird guide I had serious problems with  pronunciation of names, as I had no friends who knew anything more about the birds. My lexicon expanded without a tutor, so I pronounced the name of the big accipter as "Gosh-Hawk" and that of the large falcon as "Peg-ereen Falcon," the even bigger one a "Gyro-falcon" and the beautiful exotic-looking yellow warbler as "Pro-to-nary Warbler." 

After I joined a bird club I noticed that fellow members did not agree whether they saw a "Pill" or a "Pile"-eated  Woodpecker, an " Ée"-gret or E-"Grét."  With sophistication came slang names-- Sharpie, Butter-butt, TV (for Sharp-shinned Hawk, Yello-rumped Warbler and Turkey Vulture respectively). Then came banding codes-- trying to remmeber that the code for Louisiana starts with LO, not LA and whether a Tennessee Warbler abbreviation was TEWA or TNWA and that of the Tricolored Heron warrants a TCHE or TRHE. 

Pop Culture has produced further expansion of slang terms. "I got out early this morning and saw nothing but a few Birbs." I assumed this referred to small birds, but the linguistic conventions have become more refined. (See the references in my end note*).  

The only "new" (Birb*) visitor this past week has been a single Song Sparrow, photographed through the front door windows, fluffed up against the cold (a Floof*):

Numerous Mourning Doves (Barbs*) are regular patrons, this one after a dusting of snow...

...and others competing for a place on the platform feeder, stocked with Safflower seed:

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker (another Barb*) added some color as he fed on a suet cake:

Dark-eyed Juncos (Borbs*) were ever-present:

A brownish female junco blended in with the granite rock face:

Only two White-throated Sparrows (also Borbs*) have appeared. At this time last year they were abundant:

More Birbs-- House Finches were rather scarce:

The male Northern Cardinal provided accent color:

A White-breasted Nuthatch explored the nooks and crannies around the slate garden steps:

Although MaryLou and I braved the cold and usually took our mid-day walks through the neighborhood, we were bundled up and missing Florida. The morning of January 12 dawned bright and clear without any wind. Several Canada Geese and Mallards disturbed the calm face of the lake. The next morning we found ice advancing along the shoreline:

Sunset cast an amber glow, as  viewed through our front door:

*When Is a Bird a ‘Birb’? An Extremely Important Guide*

"The term is seemingly designed for the internet: one syllable, beginning and ending with “b,” connoting a pleasant roundness, a warm mouth-feel. What a good birb, you might say, or I’m so glad we went birb-watching, or I love Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birbs... All birds are birbs, a chunky bird is a borb, and a fluffed-up bird is a floof...  [I have added that a bird with a pointy tail is a Barb]

"...Rule 1: Birbs are often (though not conclusively) small; Rule 2: Birbs are often (though not always) round; Rule 3: Birbs appear cute"

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Downy vs Hairy Woodpecker and Red Fox vs squirrels

Despite the title of this post, these two similar woodpeckers were not fighting. Indeed, I have not yet photographed them next to each other to compare their size and plumage details. 

The Downy Woodpecker is most common. It measures 6 3/4 in (17 cm) and often exhibits an inconspicuous "downy powderpuff" in front of its eyes. Here is one at the suet feeder:

Note the placement of the male Downy's red occipital patch and the black bars on his white outer tail feathers:

For comparison, here is the larger (9 1/4 in / 24 cm) and proportionately longer-billed Hairy Woodpecker:

This male's red patch is split in two by a black band, a variable trait. He also lacks the outer tail feather markings. (When I first learned this my mnemonic was "The Hairy Hain't got Hash marks"):

Despite their significant difference in size, they sometimes can be difficult to separate in the field. While birds in the hand (or on the nearby feeders) often appear smaller than expected, those in the distance may seem to be bigger. Their calls and drumming patterns differ. The head pattern on the Hairy may vary considerably in different parts of its range. It also is regionally more variable in length, but the sizes of these two species do not overlap.

The pair of Northern Cardinals disappeared for almost a month in mid-November. Now they are back in the yard (photographed through the window):

A Red-tailed Hawk roosted in the back yard as the sun was about to set directly behind. It took quite a bit of processing to obtain a halfway decent image:

Two Carolina Wrens were eating seeds beneath the feeders (which I take inside every evening). Predominately insect-eaters, they usually favor the suet:

Through the windows, I obtained rather soft but endearing photos of a Black-capped Chickadee:

Bright lichens covered the south side of boulders in the front yard:

There was a particularly colorful sunset on January 2:

Waning light reflected from the swimming pool cover on January 8:

We had a dusting of snow earlier this week. At 7:15 AM the Ring camera at our main "front" door alerted us to the presence of a Red Fox. It entered running at full speed down the steps and tried to surprise two Gray Squirrels which were scavenging under the feeder locations. Watch the entire video as the fox fails to catch its quarry and returns to see if there are any more squirrels. Then, the fox  moves across the back of the property, entering the rear lawn:

The fox, first visible to the far right, traversed the entire length of the fence along the drop-off at the far edge of the lawn:

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display