Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpeckers have returned to my yard and are very visible.  A couple of days ago, I was surprised to see that they had returned to the suet feeders.   It is a real treat to have pileated woodpeckers visit so check out your backyard to see if you see these very large woodpeckers visiting. 

Pileated Woodpeckers are large beautiful birds that are black with a white stripe down the neck and a bright red cap-like crest on their head. It is easy to tell the female from the male.  The female has a black mustache and the male has a red distinctive mustache. 

Pileated Woodpeckers prefer to live in mature forests.  They can also be found in younger forests with decaying trees as well as in neighborhoods like the one in which I live.  I often hear their loud thunderous pecking at the dead trees in my backyard. Pileated Woodpeckers loud pecking or drumming is also a way to attract mates and to announce the boundaries of their territories. Pairs of Pileated Woodpeckers establish territories and live on them all year long (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/p/pileated-woodpecker/). 

Pileated Woodpeckers drill large rectangular holes in trees looking for their favorite food, carpenter ants.  Even though carpenter ants are their favorite food, Pileated Woodpeckers also eat other ants, beetle larvae, termites, and other insects such as flies, spruce budworm, caterpillars, cockroaches, and grasshoppers. They also eat wild fruits and nuts, including greenbrier, hackberry, sassafrass, blackberries, sumac berries, poison ivy, holly, dogwood, persimmon, and elderberry (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Pileated_Woodpecker/lifehistory). 
The holes that Pileated Woodpeckers make looking for food often become shelter for other birds and animals.

More about Pileated Woodpeckers at: 
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/p/pileated-woodpecker/
http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/pileated-woodpecker
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Pileated_Woodpecker/lifehistory

Check out their calls and sounds:
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Pileated_Woodpecker/sounds

Photos of the Pileated Woodpecker

 

 

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Monarchs are back!

So happy to see Monarchs back in the garden. They were flying around and perhaps laying eggs on the milkweed.  Photos taken June 23.

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A Snowy Day

Spring arrived yesterday and snow today! A few images from the neighborhood: birds, flowers and landscapes.

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Early Spring Flowers

Spring arrived today at 12:15 pm.  It is cold and rainy in Athens and we are expecting more winter weather. Spring flowers have started to bloom.  Hellebores (Lenten roses), crocuses, dwarf irises, and daffodils are blooming.  Soon there will be tulips, hyacinths, wood poppies and maybe other spring flowers.  I plant many bulbs in the Fall but I often have to share them with the moles, voles, squirrels, and chipmunks that visit my yard so I never know what might appear. Even though they do not like daffodils, they often dig them up and I have to replant them if I see them before they rot. 

Photos of early spring flowers from my garden.

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Eastern Bluebirds

On Sunday, March 11, I was thrilled to see Eastern Bluebirds visiting my yard.  There were at least 6 in the yard at any given time and they stayed all day.  They were mainly eating suet from the suet feeders even though there were mealworms in the other feeders. When they were not at the feeders they were sitting on branches or walking around the yard.  

The Eastern Bluebird is a thrush larger than a Sparrow but smaller than Robin.  The male is a bright blue with a reddish breast and throat.  The female is a grayish with blue wings and a light orange-brown breast.   

They live in meadows and opening surrounded by trees.  They like open spaces. They are cavity nesters and live in holes trees and have taken to using nesting boxes.  The male attracts the female by carrying materials in and out of the nest hole and perching and fluttering their wings. The female builds the nest.  The nest is made of grass, pine needles, fur, and twigs. The Eastern Blackbird's eggs are usually blue but occasionally white. 

The Eastern Bluebird eats insects-caterpillars, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, and spiders.  In fall and winter when insects are not available, they eat fruit and berries- blueberries, dogwood berries, juniper berries, mistletoe berries.  At feeders, they eat mealworms, fruit, egg shells, shelled sunflower seeds and suet.  It has also been documented that they eat salamanders, shews, snakes, lizards, and tree frogs. 

The Eastern Bluebird population increased from 1966 to 2015.  The increase is a result of the establishment of Bluebird trails in the 1960's/ 1970's.  The global population is about 22 million with 86% of the population in the US. 

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Mute Swans

Mute swans can be found in lakes, ponds, and rivers but are not native to North America,  They were first brought to North America to decorate ponds and lakes in towns and cities.  According to the Cornell  Laboratory of Ornithology , " their aggressive behavior and voracious appetites  often disturb local ecosystems, displace native species, and even pose a hazard to humans". 

Mute Swans were very visible at Lake Logan until two years ago when Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) removed them from the lake , a point to controversy even today.  A news report about the event: http://nbc4i.com/2015/10/21/odnr-shoots-much-loved-mute-swans-at-lake-logan/ and a  book written by Bud Simpson further details the event:  Nature's Way: The Mute Swans of Lake Logan, Ohio.

An interesting fact: "The Mute Swan is reported to mate for life. However, changing of mates does occur infrequently, and swans will remate if their partner dies. If a male loses his mate and pairs with a young female, she joins him on his territory. If he mates with an older female, they go to hers. If a female loses her mate, she remates quickly and usually chooses a younger male".

More information about the Mute Swan can be found at: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mute_Swan/lifehistory

A few photos taken by me of mute swans and Lake Logan and elsewhere. Enjoy!

Ross Goose

A new and unusual visitor to Athens Ohio, the Ross Goose.  The Ross Goose is a tiny white goose with black wing tip.  He is similar to the larger Snow Goose.

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The Ross Goose breeds in the central Arctic and winters in California, the Southern United States,  and Northern Mexico. Migrates in large flocks in October and November but can also be seen mixed with other geese such as Canada Geese.   

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They mostly eat grasses and grains. 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information visit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Rosss_Goose/id;   http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/rosss-goose; https://biology.eku.edu/kos/goose_id.htm

Check out photos taken on the Hocking near the CONVO in Athens OH

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Cedar Waxwings in the Neighborhood Today

Cedar Waxwings usually visit my yard in the spring and fall.  They are passing through and do not stay for more than a day or two.   In the spring, they are often looking for water and drink and bathe in the little pond in the backyard.  In the fall, they are looking for water and berries. 

The Cedar Waxwing is a beautiful bird but it is difficult to see them without binoculars.  They seem to blend into their natural world. The Cedar Waxwing is a medium-sized, thin bird that has been described as having a brown, tan or cinnamon body with a black masked face.  They have waxy red tips on their secondary wing feathers and a yellow band on the tip of their tail. 

The Cedar Waxing prefer to live in open woodlands and near fruit trees and orchards.  In winter, they live in wooded areas where berries are plentiful. I wish there were more year-round berry trees and bushes in my yard.  Maybe next year I will not only plant a few more but they will grow!

Cedar Waxwings are very social birds and travel in flocks except when nesting. They usually have two broods of 3 to 5 eggs each year.  The incubation period is 12-13 days and both parents feed the young.  Initially, their parents feed them insects such as caterpillars, beetles, and ants.  After a few days, they are fed berries.

In the spring and early fall, Cedar Waxwings along with flocks of Robins are often seen on the campus of Ohio University near Walter Hall.  

For more information: 

http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/species-and-habitats/species-guide-index/birds/cedar-waxwing

http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/cedar-waxwing

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Cedar_Waxwing/lifehistory

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/c/cedar-waxwing/

Photos of the Cedar Waxwings Today

 

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Blue Jays In My Backyard

Winter is on the way and it is time to put feeders up!  Birds are returning to feeders even though there are still many seeds in gardens and fields.  I keep my feeders up all year-fall, winter, spring, and summer.  I love seeing the different behaviors of the birds throughout the different seasons, especially the young birds in spring and summer. With the cooler weather, birds are visiting in large numbers.  In the coming weeks, I will write about the different birds that visit my yard.

Blue Jays are very common highly adaptable and intelligent bird in my backyard and in yours!  They are large noisy, blue birds with blue, white, and black plumage.  They have a very loud, boisterous call.   Blue Jays often alert other birds when hawks or other predators are near.   They can mimic the call of hawks which tells others birds that a hawk is near.   They seem to recognize when I am putting seed on the deck and often call the other Jays to eat.  

Blue Jays love peanuts and I offer them shelled and unshelled peanuts as well as sunflower seeds and corn.  They also enjoy fruit and I have observed them pecking and eating the apples from my apple tree.   Blue Jays also eat insects and may even raid the nests of other birds.  They are also known for eating and spreading acorns increasing the number of oak trees. 

When eating Blue Jays hold their food between their feet while pecking the food open.  They are often putting lots of food in their mouth at the same time storing the food in their throat or gular pouch.  They hide the food for another time similar to the way squirrels store their food.

Blue Jays like to live in forests near oak and beech trees.  They are very social and live in pairs, family groups, or small flocks.   They are monogamous and stay together for life.  They breed from mid-March to July.  Both parents are involved in caring for the hatchings but the mom is the primary caregiver. 

The oldest wild, banded Blue Jay was at least 26 years, 11 months when it was found dead in 2016.

For more information check out the following websites.
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Blue_Jay/id
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Blue_Jay/lifehistory
http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/blue-jay
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/b/blue-jay/
https://owlcation.com/stem/Blue-Jay-Bird-Facts-Pictures-Behavior

Photos of Blue Jays in My Backyard

 

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Emeriti Park at Ohio University

I was on campus yesterday taking photos.  One of my stops was Emeriti Park.  Emeriti Park is one of the most beautiful places on the campus of Ohio University.  According to the website, it is a scenic four-acre site along South Green Drive, situated on the former bed of the Hocking River. It includes a pond, picturesque flowerbeds, benches, trees, fountains and a waterfall. A gazebo has been added at the northwestern edge of the park.  The entranceway is named for Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Emeritus William Kennard who retired in 1997 after 31 years of service with the university. 

 

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Blendon Woods

A couple of weeks ago, I visited Blendon Woods, another one of the amazing MetroParks in Columbus.  The color of the trees was gorgeous with the brilliance of red, orange and yellow leaves everywhere.  There were about 40 wood ducks at Walden Pond.  The serenity and quiet of walking through the woods even on a Saturday morning was worth the trip.   Birders with binoculars and cameras seemed to be the main hikers even though there were a few couples with and without children.   

According to the website (http://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/blendon-woods/ ) : “Blendon Woods is a spectacular stream-cut ravines with exposed ripple rock sandstone and open fields surrounded by beech-maple and oak-hickory forests. The 653-acre park is a great place to see a variety of songbirds, waterfowl and other wildlife, especially the flock of wild turkeys meandering about in search of food. The 118-acre Walden Waterfowl Refuge with its 11-acre Thoreau Lake provides a sanctuary for hundreds of birds, ducks and other wildlife. Open year-round, it features two elevated observation shelters with spotting scopes for viewing waterfowl”.

Fall at Blendon Woods Photos

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SLATE RUN

Friday was a beautiful Autumn day in OHIO.  I spent the day visiting Slate Run and taking photos.  Slate Run is a 1,705-acre park and wetlands in Canal Winchester.  There are viewing areas along the wetlands to watch the water bird.  Unfortunately, today there were only a few water birds so I spent the day shooting the landscape which was quiet, serene, and beautiful.  I could have stayed all day.  If you are looking for peaceful place to hike and observe nature, visit the wetlands and hiking trails at Slate Run.  Check out the website at : http://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/slate-run/.

Even though I was disappointed that there was very little visible wildlife, I did enjoy taking photos of the scenery. 

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HOT AUTUMN and the BLOOMING FLOWERS

 

Many of us have experienced a very warm Autumn but now the weather is quickly changing.  In Athens we are expecting a heavy frost so the flowers that continued to bloom into Autumn are at risk of freezing tonight. 

Today I took photos of the flowers that continued to bloom in my garden.  Today was the first day that the bees and butterflies were not around and the hibiscus did not bloom.  I guess it is a sign that soon cooler weather will be here to stay. 

The last flowers of summer!

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Pickerington Ponds

A couple of weeks ago, I took a trip to Pickerington Ponds which is about one hour and a half from Athens.   My first trip was almost two years ago and this was my second trip.  I will become a frequent visitor because there is so much to see: http://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/pickerington-ponds/park-map/.   The Fall foliage was beautiful and there are many shore and water birds.  Unfortunately, I did not have my extra-long telephoto lens because it was out for repair.  The sun was also reflecting on the water which created shadows.  I will visit again very soon since my lens should arrive as good as new tomorrow. 

According to the website: “Pickerington Ponds is a premier spot for birdwatching, with more than 260 species seen. The combination of seasonal ponds and rich wetland vegetation, with bordering woodlands, serve as a magnet for migrating waterfowl, shore birds and land birds. Deer, beaver, fox and other wildlife can be seen near the ponds and adjoining woods and fields of this 1,608 acre park”.  

See the website for trail maps and directions: http://www.metroparks.net/parks-and-trails/pickerington-ponds/.   


A few of the sights ......

  Pond at Pickerington Ponds

Pond at Pickerington Ponds

  Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-Crested Cormorant

  Wildflowers

Wildflowers

  Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

  Mallards Flying Over

Mallards Flying Over

  A Favorite Tree

A Favorite Tree

  Carp in the Pond

Carp in the Pond

  Great Egret

Great Egret

  Milkweed Pods

Milkweed Pods

  Crows Hanging Out in a Tree

Crows Hanging Out in a Tree

 Egret Flying Over

Egret Flying Over

  Fall Foliage on the Edge of the Pond

Fall Foliage on the Edge of the Pond

Fall at White's Mill

I was visiting White's Mill a couple of days ago buying bird seed.  My birds are very happy because they love bird seed from White's Mill, especially the Woodpecker Mix.  I had my camera with me so I asked permission to take photos.  They are geared up for Fall! 

 

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I must say that even though I am not a cat person, a cat was there to greet me as I exited the car.

According to the White's Mill Facebook Page, White's Mill has proudly served southeast Ohio since 1809. Feed, Bird Seed and Feeders, Great Local Products, Chimes, Dog and Cat supplies, Lawn and Garden Supplies, Native American Jewelry and much more can be found at White's Mill. Uniquely Athens for over 200 years ( https://www.facebook.com/pg/Est.1809/about/?ref=page_internal).  

Fall At White's Mill !  My  Photos! 

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Early Fall at Hoot Owl Hollow

Hoot Owl Hollow Nature Preserve and Botanical Garden, a place of peace and serenity.  

On Wednesday, I spent the morning with Jane and Hank at Hook Owl Hollow and saw the early Fall changes.  The seasons at Hoot Owl Hollow are always beautiful. Spring with daffodils, peonies, forsythia, and azaleas and many other plants. Summer with day lilies as far as the eye can see and poppies, hollyhocks, and many other summer blooms.  I have not been to Hoot Owl Hollow in winter but I would guess that it is magical when there is a snowfall.  Truly a beautiful place!

Hoot Owl Hollow is open in the summer and other times by appointment.  Worth a visit especially if you are in need of daylilies or other special plants for your flowerbeds.

According to the website “The Perennial Gardens at Hoot Owl Hollow have been in existence for over 40 years, gradually evolving from very practical vegetable gardens, to less filling, but more soul satisfying ornamental beds. Over the past twenty or so years they have been greatly expanded to the point where, despite having 108 acres available, we are running out of space on the ten or so acres that we intensively garden. The rest of the land is primarily in woods, lovely to walk through any time of the year, but especially in the spring to see the wildflowers”.

Check out the website at http://www.hootowlhollow.com.

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Great Egret

The Great Egret is a tall, long-legged white feathered bird with long black legs, a long s-curved neck and a yellowish-orange bill.  They live in fresh water and salt water in marshes, ponds, mudflats, lakes and rivers in wooded areas.  They mostly eat fish but will eat salamanders, snakes, frogs, rodents, grasshoppers, and small birds.

In the 1800’s the population declined because of plume hunters.  Conservationists stopped the slaughter. The Great Egret became the symbol of the National Audubon Society (http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/great-egret). 

In Ohio the Great Egret is a bird of concern.  They only nest in the West Basin of Lake Erie on the West Sister Island NWR and Turning Point Island http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/species-and-habitats/species-guide-index/birds/great-egret.

For more information https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Egret/id and https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Egret/lifehistory.

Photos of the Great Egret

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Signs of Fall

The weather is cooler in Athens and sunrise is later!

Cooler days, shorter days, leaves changing colors and falling, pumpkins, apples, flowers turning to seed are all signs of Fall or is it Autumn.  Fall is near or is it Autumn that is near.

Fall is the Americanized term for Autumn.  At one time there were only two seasons-summer and winter.  Fall/Autumn is a relatively new season.  Autumn first appeared in the 14th century meaning harvest. In the 17th century Fall was introduced in writing.  In the 18th century, Fall and Autumn became the acceptable terms for the season between summer and winter. https://www.livescience.com/34260-fall-autumn-season-names.html. 

When does Fall begin?  There are at least three beliefs about when Fall begins http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/does-autumn-start-2017-autumn-equinox/.
             Using the Meteorological Calendar Fall begins September 1.
             Using the Astronomical Calendar which is used by most of us, Fall begins September 22
             Using Phenology, Fall is fluid and is dictated by changes in the natural world such as the changing of tree colors and ripening of fall fruits.

A short walk capturing early signs of Fall yesterday!

 

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Green Heron

 

The Green Heron is one of my favorite shorebirds.  I saw my first one a few years ago.  They seem to blend into their environment often looking a dark dusty blue-gray.  Up close or through a camera lens, they are a very colorful bright velvet-green bird with a brownish body.  They are quite beautiful.  

Green Herons are often seen standing motionless on the water’s edge of ponds, marshes, rivers, and lakes.  You can also find them in trees.  They have a unique call. Their call is a sharp kyowk! or skyow! 

Even though I have never seen a Green Heron use a tool, they are known as “one of the world’s few tool-using bird species.  They create fishing lures with bread crusts, insects, earthworms, twigs, feathers, and other objects, dropping them on the surface of the water to entice small fish” (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/lifehistory). 

Green Herons eat mainly small fish such as minnows, sunfish, catfish, pickerel, carp, perch, gobies, shad, silverside, eels, and goldfish. They also feed on insects, spiders, crustaceans, snails, amphibians, reptiles, and rodents.

Green Herons are still common, but their population suffered a gradual decline of over 1.5% per year from 1966 to 2014, resulting in a cumulative decline of 68%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.  They are apparently stable today. 

More about Green Herons at http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/green-heron

Enjoy the photos of the Green Heron!

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