Thursday, April 27, 2023

Out of step

Sorry I missed being on the computer last week, but I had an excused absence. More about that later...

Chipping Sparrows have returned in good numbers.  I got out into the back yard and was able to photograph some without the intervening window pane:

A couple of portrait crops emphasize their subtle color and beauty:

A male Northern Flicker showed up and permitted a few brief views:

The Dark-eyed Juncos have all departed for their northern breeding grounds. This was the last one I saw before my unexpected lapse:

An American Robin flew in and settled on the fence:

It also posed for portraits:

The male American Goldfinches had attained full breeding plumage, but most of the tree buds had not yet opened, on April 11:

Red Maple buds were just beginning to burst on April 11:

Their winged seeds were nearly fully developed by April 23:

The floor of the back-acreage clear-cut showed no new growth on April 7: 

The cleared area was beginning to green up on April 21. Clumps of Sow Thistle were emerging. In mid-summer their fluffy pappus and seeds will provide nesting material and food for the goldfinches:  

On April 21 the lawn and surrounding woodland were finally beginning to look as if spring had arrived:

The twin chimneys of our home cast long morning shadows on April 25:

This was the first time in years that I failed to post a blog every Thursday. I just spent 5 nights in hospital and got out Tuesday. The illness began Thursday night with high fever and shaking chills, diagnosed as septicemia. I was hospitalized and administered IV antibiotics. 

View from my hospital room. I hoped to see migrating warblers amid the fresh foliage, but I spent most of six days lying flat on my back:

Presently I am at home taking oral antibiotics. Fever had been up to 102.6° F (39.2° C) but my temperature has  returned to normal up to present . Feel pretty good but my chemotherapy (which weakens my immunity) has been delayed for another week. 

Effects of the infection and more aggressive chemotherapy have driven my platelet count down to 38-47 (normal is 120) and also caused anemia with low white blood cell count (pancytopenia). I feel pretty energetic now-- if not too cold and windy I got out to sit in the back yard and even took a 1+ mile walk along the lake.

Our lovely granddaughter tried on her gown for a High School senior ROTC Military Ball. It is such a joy to be living as a member of  this three-generation household:

This week's header: Clear Sky on April 25

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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, April 13, 2023

Talking Turkey about acorns

Why have we not seen any Blue Jays at our feeders all this winter? Why are Wild Turkeys and deer suddenly so abundant in back yards?

Connecticut has lots of trees, in fact it is the 14th most forested state in the USA (as well as the 4th most densely populated by humans). Acorns and other nuts and tree seeds ("mast") make up more than half the diet of White-tailed Deer and Wild Turkeys. Oak trees produced a bumper crop of acorns the previous fall and winter (2021-22). Turkeys and deer thrived and multiplied. 

This winter there were almost no acorns. A combination of factors produced failure of the mast crop, including depletion of the energy stores of the trees following the abundant yield in 2021. Oaks face increased competition from maple, birch and ash trees whose shade kills oak seedlings. They crowd out the lower branches of mature oaks, turning them into "poles" able to produce acorns only high on their sunlit narrow crowns. 

Drought conditions prevailed during spring and summer of last year, and there were damaging late spring ice storms, making the trees more subject to diseases and insect invasions, virtually eliminating production of acorns. State botanists forecasted widespread acorn crop failure for the fall 2022 season (Reference below).  

On the morning of April 4, while driving to the market, we encountered a band of a dozen or more Wild Turkeys along the edge of the road near our home. Luckily, there was no traffic and I was able to stop, open the car window and get a few photos with my iPhone before they disappeared into the brush: 

Breeding season is just about over. Two large males (Toms), instead of pursuing females, were displaying to each other. This one appeared to dominate the other: 

In fall, Blue Jays are usually very busy collecting acorns and burying them. They have an uncanny ability to remember the locations of their cached winter supplies. Normally, most Blue Jays migrate south for the winter. A varying number, either local birds or those from further north are seen during winter, depending upon availability of food.  While I failed to obtain any photos of Blue Jays this winter, this is one of many which visited our back yard in October, 2022:

A few spring migrants have arrived. Chipping Sparrows disappeared during the coldest months, but I photographed this first one through the window, also on April 4, an unusually warm and sunny day:

Some Carolina Wrens occupy the lower elevations around the lake all winter, but rarely venture up to our yard. This one visited on April 4, singing in the budding Red Maple at the back lawn, photographed with no intervening windows:

The Gray Squirrels fare very well without acorns by raiding the feeders The feeders are brought inside every night to discourage bears, which also suffered from the failure of the mast crop:

Black-capped Chickadees were active as usual:

Taking advantage of the break after more than a week of miserable weather (also on April 5) MaryLou and I were able to walk down to the lake, about 120 feet lower in elevation. We took note of how the flowers were more than a week ahead of ours. These are Creeping Myrtle (Periwinkles), escaped from cultivation:

Daffodils were already blooming along the lake, while ours had not yet developed buds:

The clear-cut back acres do not yet show green, but the tops of the trees are tinted red by fresh buds:

The first day of April was marked by the arrival of a powerful cold front. The skies had been clear, but before sunset a very menacing solid cloud bank approached from the northwest. The clouds blotted out the sun and loomed like a mountain behind the distant hills:

In a hardwood forest, a minimum of 15 oak trees, 14 inches diameter at breast height (dbh) or larger, will provide the necessary food source for mast dependent wildlife species such as deer, turkey and squirrels.

In Connecticut, oaks are the most valuable mast producer. White oaks produce a very palatable, sweet mast every year and red oaks produce a bitter mast crop every other year. White oak acorns, because of their palatability, generally do not last through the winter, while red oak acorns remain available, providing a food supply during critical periods of scarce food.

This week's header: Cold front approaching

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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, April 6, 2023

Crops & Clips: Flashback to April, 2020

As I do on the first Thursday of each month, I enjoy looking back over my archived photos, taken three years previously, to remember how things were then as contrasting with events this year at our new home in Connecticut. As usual, I searched for images which reflected favorite memes: critters of all kinds (especially birds), skies and clouds, reflections, flowers and scenes which speak for themselves.

On April 1, I visited the local Bald  Eagle nest to check on the welfare of the two eaglets which were about two weeks old. When I arrived, the female was roosting above the nest:

She flew down to the nest and fed the larger eaglet, probably the first hatched:

On April 3, as MaryLou and I  were walking into the wetlands, an Eastern Screech-Owl was roosting on a street sign:

A Barn Owl uttered a coarse call from the top of a Royal Palm. I would later find its nest nearby:

Loggerhead Shrike posed in early morning light:

Bobcat sightings were becoming more frequent:

A Raccoon rushed across the path in front of us:

Another Raccoon reflected in the flooded tracks of off-road vehicles:

White-tailed Deer group into same-sex flocks during the non-breeding season. We startled these does in early morning twilight:

In our back yard, a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker visited sap wells on the Mahogany tree:

Songbird migration was warming up. Among the transients were Cape May Warblers... American Redstart...

...and a Blackpoll Warbler:

By the end of the month, both eaglets had grown considerably but they will not fledge until late May:

Adult male Bald Eagle in flight over the Wounded Wetlands:

A male Anhinga basked on the duck decoy which floats our irrigation sprinkler intake:

A Tricolored Heron waded at the edge of our back lawn:

Boat-tailed Grackle males displayed on the clay roof tiles of a neighbor's home:

Pond-apple flower with developing fruit:

Zebra heliconian and White Peacock on Lantana blossoms: 

A thunderhead cast a long shadow before sunrise on April 20:

A few minutes later, clouds reflected on the lake's surface:

This week's header: Male Bald Eagle

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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