Thursday, February 23, 2023

Sly Fox catches squirrel - Post #1051

Any wildlife watcher, even if "just a birder," can't help but tune in on the behavioral traits of squirrels. If surprised out in the open, they normally run to the nearest tree and disappear on the opposite side of the trunk as they climb upward. 

If it has a choice of trees, a squirrel will avoid a lone tree which is a dead-end death trap if the predator can climb, as it does not provide a path of escape to neighboring trees. It will run to a safer tree as soon as possible. As the sequence of videos at the end of this post prove, humans are not the only mammals aware of this behavior. 

Driven by instinct, a Gray Squirrel made a fatal mistake. Squirrel-lovers may wish to skip the three videos below, but first...

A Red-shouldered Hawk roosted in the back yard again this week:

It lifted into flight. The backlight from the cloudy sky was a bit softer and I was able to adjust the exposure compensation more accurately to show better plumage details: 

Also from the back yard, I obtained photos of a busy White-breasted Nuthatch as it searched the branches for unwary insects:

The heated bird bath proved its worth after the overnight temperature dropped to 19°F (-7.2°C):

Hartford skyline early in the morning:

The gray sky of a dreary morning reflected on the lake: 

The Red Fox finally dined on squirrel, after a masterful act of deception. 

This first of three RING surveillance camera videos looks to the west and incidentally captures action of a portion of the bird feeders at the north corner of the house, to the extreme right. (Best if viewed full-screen on tablet or desk-top.)

Foxes hunt most actively around sunrise, which was at 6:46 AM this morning.  The first video starts at 6:45 AM. Be sure to see the fox chase the squirrel in the very first two seconds! The fox has been hiding under the conical juniper tree, awaiting the arrival of the squirrels, day feeders who forage for spilled seed under the feeders. In a flash, a squirrel narrowly escapes the jaws of the fox and dashes up the nearest tree, a lone leafless aspen.

The fox watches as the squirrel climbs higher in the tree.

(This second video initially overlaps the earlier view, but stay with it. Action is now on left side of screen.) This north-facing camera, nearest to the action, shows the fox, apparently frustrated in its pursuit, watching and waiting, but possibly intimidating the squirrel to climb to the very top branches of the lone aspen. Finally, the fox barks a couple of short yelps and turns away. 

The third clip starts only a few seconds later and shows the fox loping away, seemingly deciding to find an easier prey item before twilight ends. The squirrel now perceives no immediate threat and instinctively vacates the lonely perch in hopes of reaching the safety of the adjacent wooded area. In the meantime, the sly fox, once out of view, quickly ascends the rock face and returns downslope at top speed, perfectly timing its arrival just as the  squirrel has reached the ground. It chases its quarry and overtakes it, but before it reaches the safety of the trees, the squirrel desperately dodges out into the open grass. The fox captures and subdues the squirrel (at about the 13 second mark) and then carries it off. There is no further action after the 25 second mark.

This week's Header: Hartford  in early morning sunlight 

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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, February 16, 2023

Water in the desert

Our former home in New Mexico was at 7000 feet (2133 meters) elevation amid the Pinyon-Juniper woodlands. The period between late winter and mid-summer usually had scant precipitation. There were no constant streams or springs within a mile of our home. When I was watering a flower bed with a hose, it was not unusual for birds to respond to the sound of the running water and approach very closely for a drink. I installed a pre-fabricated pond with a small waterfall which was very attractive to wildlife. A cattle trough heater kept it open all winter.

Winter at our new home in Connecticut can also produce dry spells as we have been experiencing lately. The ground has been mostly free of snow and temperatures regularly drop below freezing. When our small bird bath started icing up, the birds lost a reliable source of drinking water, so I purchased a heated bath. It is just outside our main door. The birds that visited were too close for my long lens, so I took some of these window shots with my iPhone. 

This chickadee first tried the old bath. Finding it frozen, it flew down to the heated one:

A Tufted Titmouse then took a drink:

A female Eastern Bluebird visited the suet feeder:

A Song Sparrow displaced the bluebird at the suet:

The male bluebird remained high in the bare branches of the aspen tree:

Mourning Doves were abundant. They competed with the cardinals for the safflower seed in the platform feeder:

The male Northern Cardinal enjoyed the seeds, while his mate foraged on the ground:

Although it was still cold, the winds had died down and I spent some time walking in the back yard. I saw this Hairy Woodpecker some distance away, probing the trunk of a tree which had been damaged during the recent wind storm:

A Red-shouldered Hawk flew in and settled in a tree next to the house. It was partly obscured by tree branches, so I found it difficult to obtain a clear shot:

A second Red-shouldered Hawk flew in, calling loudly and  both circled above, against the overcast sky:

A wintery sunset on February 13:

On February 14 the setting sun shone through the trees and reflected off the back fence before disappearing behind the ridge:

This week's header: Red-Shouldered Hawk portrait

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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, February 9, 2023

Cold feet and warm toes

One of the fondest memories of my Father was how he read to me at bedtime. He, and consequently I, were fond of nature stories. His inflected narratives formed vivid images of the creatures as their habits and activities were revealed. Admittedly, as I began learning how to read, I did not let him know, in fear that he might stop the practice. 

My first and favorite solo readings were the "The Bedtime Story-Books" by Thornton W Burgess (Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1937). A kind neighbor, knowing my love of nature, gifted the series of 18 books to me around 1941. They introduced such favorite characters as Peter Rabbit, Reddy Fox and Winsome the Bluebird. Something I saw this week jogged my memory of another interesting character, "Ol' Mistah Buzzard." 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I grew up calling Turkey Vultures "Buzzards," as did movie cowboys and nearly everyone else. This sight jogged my memories of the behavior of Ol' Mistah Buzzard, who migrated to the deep south in the winter, but had a remedy for cold toes on cool days

Although the vulture's Southern dialect would probably ban this book from classroom use in today's "Woke" culture, this little natural history gem is just one of many that exist as sparks in the recesses of my brain. It burst into flame as I took these photos. Click on the icons if you wish to read the final chapter of the Bedtime-Story "Ol' Mistah Buzzard" as Winsome the Bluebird reveals this secret to Peter Rabbit 

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This Turkey Vulture  flew over the back yard on November 6, 2022:

Three days later, an immature Turkey Vulture appeared. Soon, its dark head will turn pink and the tip of its bill will be white:

Turkey Vultures in New Jersey and all of northeastern US migrated south for the winter when I started keeping my Life List in December, 1948. I saw my first of the year (#29) on March 6, 1949. They have since expanded their year-round range into the northeastern states as human settlement increased, favoring farmland and rural areas. 

High-speed highways provided road kill all year long. A very important factor was the explosion in the numbers of White-tailed Deer. Winter-killed deer, especially yearlings and older bucks as well as carcasses left by hunters became staples of their diet. 

Smaller but more aggressive Black Vultures followed the Turkey Vultures northward, benefiting from the latter species' unique highly sensitive sense of smell which can locate carrion even if not visible from the air. 

Both of our vulture species are now seen all year here in Connecticut, but I had never encountered a Black Vulture while living in New  Jersey. My first sighting was on February 9, 1966 in northern Mississippi (Life List # 228), while I was driving to my first duty station in El Paso, Texas after being drafted into the service. (With only two weeks' notice, I left MaryLou back home with 3 small children in the snow and a house for sale).

The Black Vulture in flight exhibits a black head, light gray-tipped wings and long legs which extend to the tip or beyond its short tail. It flaps more than the Turkey Vulture, which has a shorter neck and long tail:

The past week started with a record-breaking cold snap. Our outside thermometer reached a low of minus 9.4°F (-23°C) at 6 AM on February 4. Strong winds resulted in a "feels like" chill factor of about minus 40°F (-40°C).  Mount Washington in New Hampshire, 250 miles to our north, with a low of -45 °F (-42.7°C), set a new wind chill record for the US of -109°F (-78.3°C).

One of the effects of my chemotherapy is increased sensitivity to cold, especially hands and feet. I was house-bound for several days and collected my wildlife photos through the window panes.

Visits by Eastern Bluebirds brightened our mornings. They foraged on the ground under the feeders and inspected the nest box which was their home last spring:


A highlight was the Red Fox which suddenly appeared in semi-darkness before sunrise on the back lawn just outside one of our windows. It was intently watching two squirrels which were running about near the feeders. For about five minutes it simply froze in place. It was so near that I had trouble containing it in the camera's viewfinder. 

At first the fox's pose seemed relaxed, but its eyes were fixed on the squirrels:

Then, it became alert and more attentive:

Furtively, it crept toward some bushes which provided more cover:

The fox then moved slowly along the pool deck before attacking in a burst of speed:

The squirrels got away.

Gray  clouds reflected on the lake's surface before the deep freeze:

The Snow Moon was setting opposite the sunrise on February 7:

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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