Thursday, March 30, 2023

Sure sign of spring

After a week of dismal wet and dark days, it was very reassuring to see a glint of gold when I happened to look out the window. The subject was poorly lit and off to the side at an acute angle, but the bad quality of my photo didn't matter. This was the first extensively molted male American Goldfinch of spring and I was pleased to document it:

He then visited the feeder:

Conditions had been so bad for walking and photography that I almost decided not to post an update this week. Then I noticed that the Dark-eyed Juncos appeared to be even more active and irritable, chasing each other and sometimes suddenly taking flight together. Last spring, this behavior occured during the week or so before most of them disappeared, undoubtedly migrating northward.

Juncos are so common all winter that it is easy to take them for granted, especially when there is a lack of snow cover. Their black and white plumage stands out against the snow, inviting nice photo opportunities. 

The bare aspen tree directly in front of our windows is sprouting buds. Its twigs provide brief views of the active juncos:

Daylilies are sprouting, heralding the arrival of spring:

A brightly-colored male House  Finch posted on the Aspen:

Black-capped Chickadees are now singing their soft spring "see-bee" songs:

One afternoon the sun was shining bright. I braved the strong breeze and went out into the back yard to obtain a few shots unimpeded by window glass. Who can resist watching bluebirds "in the raw?"

Male Eastern Bluebird:

Female bluebird:

White-breasted Nuthatch:

Six deer walked along the side yard past our window:

iPhone photo from our door:

Although it was still near freezing, the wind stopped blowing on Monday and we were pleased to find a blue sky reflecting off the (almost) undisturbed surface of the lake:

Last night, a cold front invaded and winter returned with vengance, bringing sleet, snow and sub-freezing temperatures.

Sunset as viewed from our kitchen porthole on Tuesday evening:

This week's header: Sunset view through port window

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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, March 23, 2023

Signs of spring #1,055

Although some American Goldfinches stay all winter, they are not commonly seen at our feeders during the coldest weather. A small flock showed up this week on an unusually fair day with a temperature of 50°F (10°C). The males will soon develop their bright yellow plumage:

About a dozen Mourning Doves dominated the platform feeder, stocked with safflower seeds. I prefer to catch their images in the more natural setting against the granite outcrop just outside the door:

This dove was fluffed up against the cold after a light snowfall:

I failed to attract Evening Grosbeaks which, in some winters may irrupt far south of their northerly breeding range. The species has suffered a 50 percent decrease in their population since 1970. They prefer safflower seeds, but this winter i have seen none at the feeder. Although many moved down  into northern New England, very few were reported in Connecticut.

This is a beautiful female Northern Cardinal, another grosbeak which also favors safflower seeds:

Her mate, in the bare branches of the Aspen, awaits his turn at the feeder...

...and later, poses in the White Pine:

The suet feeder is popular with the Downy Woodpecker...

...the larger Hairy Woodpecker...

and the flamboyant Red-Bellied Woodpecker:

The Eastern Bluebirds are already exploring the nest boxes. 

This male  bluebird perched in the bare Aspen just outside the window, in unusualy good light. I cannot resist photographing the welcome visitor:

An American Crow roosted on the back fence:

Sparrows other than juncos were few in number as compared to last winter. White-throated Sparrows often appeared in groups of 5 or 6, this winter we  saw only one, and occasionally two:

The devoted pair of Turkey Vultures were warming their toes on a neighbor's chimney:

Yesterday, the wind had died down and the cold was tolerable, so we took our usual  walk in the neighborhood, down and along the lake. Our home is at 500 feet (152.4 meters) elevation while the lakeside homes are at 380-400 feet (~119 meters).  

The difference in elevation results in about 2.7°F (1.5°C) decrease of average temperature at our home as compared to those along the lake. The lake itself also acts to moderate temperatures, while we usually experience a greater chilling effect from much higher winds. There is a noticeable difference in the emergence of spring flowers. We are a week or more behind our neighbors in the valley.

Here are the Narcissus  (Daffodils, I think) in our front yard, barely emerging:

Those along the lake already have flower buds:

Up on the hill we have no flowers, but along the lake there were many clumps of Snowdrops, probably the earliest flowers to appear in the spring:

were popping up: 

Our most recent snowfall as seen through one of the back porthole windows:

There are no signs of green in the clear-cut. The huge brush pile is settling and should soon be even more attractive to birds and mammals:

This week's header: Fair skies over the preserve

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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 many excellent photos on display

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Bluebirds and a frolicking fox

Dreary and chilly weather has kept us inside and I have had only window shots of the common birds. Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Juncos have been the most numerous avian visitors:

Although I have seen only one pair of Eastern Bluebirds during the past few weeks, they frequently visited the suet. Deprived of their usual diet of insects, they craved the high energy, so readily available.

Light was often poor and my bluebird photos were soft, having been taken through the windows of our main entrance. The male foraged on the ground, appearing to pick up seeds and suet crumbs, while the female occupied the feeder:

Seemingly impatient, he looked up at the female...

...and then displaced her:

It was his mate's turn to watchfully wait:

The Red Fox stole the show early this month, first parading on the back lawn after a light snowfall on March 3:

The fox seemed to be looking for voles (short-tailed "Meadow Mice"), which were quite numerous this past summer:

I credit our granddaughter for alerting us to the presence of the fox. While I was retrieving my camera she captured a very interesting performance:

Is this play, or possibly a purposeful behavior as a way to groom its coat, remove parasites or perhaps give relief for some skin condition? Also, in deeper snow, foxes are known to tunnel under the surface-- could this be a displacement behavior in response to the unusual snow conditions? Their sharp hearing allows them to "see" the prey as they move through passages in the snow. Of course they often pounce into deep snow and land directly on the prey. So far, as winter wanes, our area has had record low snowfall and  no persistent snow cover.

The same fox (identified by the dark mark on its forehead) returned briefly on March 9, again appearing to be hunting for voles:

Something spooked the fox and it ran off:

Colorful sunrise from our patio on March 5. A nocturnal windstorm had tossed the lawn furniture about:

On March 6   the full Worm Moon set over the city of Hartford, 11 miles to the northwest:

The floor of the hardwood forest is very dry. The lake reflected a rare blue sky:

This week's header: Sunset on March 8

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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