Thursday, July 30, 2015

Uninvited Guest Part 2

The Bear problem

Nothing happened for over a year.  I found no evidence that the bear was still visiting.  I placed bird seed on a plate so I could remove it every night.  That worked well for awhile.  

The second encounter

My dog was recovering from knee surgery and I was taking him out the front door since there was no stairs.  I took my dog out the front as usual in the morning and let him do his business.  We went back inside.  My deadbolt wasn't working properly so I reopened the door to fix it and this is when I saw it.  It was walking the same path through the front yard towards my feeder.  I quickly shut the door and grabbed a camera.  These are the shots I got of it through the front window of my house.  The crazy thing was it had to be close by when I was outside with my dog.  I didn't notice it at the time but my dog was sniffing the air more than usual that morning.

I watched it through the window as it walked up to my empty feeder and then kept walking through the woods.  I did some research on Black Bears and it appears this was an adult female that weighted about 85 lb. I haven't seen her since but I now have a healthy respect for these beautiful creatures and lets just say I look around before walking out my front door now.   

Have you had an encounter with a bear or other animals? Tell us in the comments or on the Facebook page here.  If you missed part one click here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Wake up Junior!-Updated

Eastern Bluebird Family

Papa Eastern Bluebird
I was lucky enough to have a family of Eastern Bluebirds in my backyard over the last few days.  The female and male were busy catching bugs in the woods and on my lawn.  An immature male was also following them around.  He was displaying some strange behavior.  Here is what I mean.
Hopefully sleepy not sick.

At one point, he was laying on the ground and I thought he was dead but when I went to investigate he flew off.  This morning, he was laying on the branch while mom and dad were catching bugs.  He flew off after them but hopefully he is healthy.  He looks really young so maybe the new task of flying makes him tired?  I am hoping for the best.  Here are some more shots of mom and dad.  

Male Eastern Bluebird

Female Eastern Bluebird 

Update- I am happy to report, I saw the Bluebird family this morning.  Junior now has his immature plumage and looked healthy.  After talking to some fellow birders online, it seems  Junior was probably trying to get rid of parasites by lying flat on the ground or on the tree branch.  

Have you ever seen immature bird acting like this?  Tell us about in the comments.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Uninvited Guest Part 1

The Bear Problem

The raider of my feeder.

I used to feed the birds year round.  I always loved seeing the spring and summer visitors to the feeder. The colorful Cardinals and Goldfinches were among the those that came to my feeder.  I had two feeders in the front of our house.  One was a standard hanging feeder on a large pine and the other was an old bird bath that I used as feeder.  The first thing I noticed, when we moved into our new house in the Albany, NY area was how much seed I was going through in the spring. We lived in a wooded area and I had seen several deer around so I assumed it was just them emptying my bird feeders.

I thought it was only these guys raiding my feeder.
I continued to fill the feeders a lot over the course of the spring.  I also found the hanging feeder on the ground or hanging funny at least a couple times over the next few weeks.  Again, I thought it was the deer.  I had heard of Black Bears destroying feeders but still wasn't convinced.  My parents in Vermont had a couple of feeders destroyed by bears and their back window broken by a bear trying to get at their Hummingbird feeder.

The First Encounter

We had been away all weekend visiting relatives and we had gotten home in the early evening.  It was early June and I had been battling Carpenter Ants all spring.  I unpacked the cars and then went outside to continue the battle with the ants.  I had just finished spraying in the back and was working on the side of the house nearest the two feeders.  I looked up from spraying and I saw something black walking in the front woods.  I assumed it was a neighbor's dog that had gotten loose.  I stood up and started walking towards it to get a better look.  That is when I noticed this dog was walking funny and was pretty big.  I stupidly kept walking towards it(bad idea looking back on it).  I got about 150 feet away from it when I saw this was no dog.  It was bear!

At that moment, I'm not sure who was more surprised the bear or me.  Looking back, I did the wrong thing and ran as fast I could to our back porch.  I know, I know you are suppose to walk backwards slowly but it's easy to forget when you are surprised by such a large animal.  I started banging on the backdoor slider for my wife to let me in.  "There is a bear! Let me in! Let me in!"  She and my son thought this was very funny.  They finally let me in and couldn't believe the story I told them.  We looked out the windows but the bear was long gone.

After that I stopped filling both of the feeders and was a little more careful when I went outside especially if I had my son with me.

Stay tuned tomorrow for part 2 of the story.

Have you had an encounter with a bear or other large animals?  Tell us about it in the comments.  


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bird of the Day

White-Breasted Nuthatch

One of my favorite birds is this little spunky tree climbing bird.  The White-breasted Nuthatch has a huge personality for such a little bird.  The largest of the Nuthatch family is still small compared to most birds.  To make up for its small size, it has a very loud call of "wha-wha-wha" which, does vary in dialect by region.  It is a common sound year round in forests across the United States.  The most interesting behavior of the Nuthatch is it's ability to walk up trees backwards, sideways and any way they like.  They frequent bird feeders and even hide seeds in the bark of trees for later.  Most of their spring/summer diets consist of insects, and other bugs they find in the bark of trees.

Another user of old woodpeckers holes, the female builds a nest of bark, mud, and fur then lines it with softer material.  She lays between 5 to 9 eggs once a season. They continue to use the same cavity season after season.  I have witnessed the fledged brood in action in my backyard.  Talk about a loud family!

 Fun facts about the White-breasted Nuthatch

-The White-breasted Nuthatch doesn't use it's tail to balance on trees while walking on them like woodpeckers.
- They form mixed flocks in the winter with Titmice, Chickadees, and Woodpeckers most likely for protection.  
-Attract Nuthatches to your feeders with seed, peanuts, peanut butter, and suet.  
So the next time, you are in your backyard keep your eyes and ears open to see these fun little tree walkers. Share your experience with the White-breasted Nuthatch in the comments.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Which is Which? The answers

How did you do?

1.) Common Raven

Photo credit: Christian O. Petersen/Wikimedia Commons 

The longer tail, heavy bill, and longer shaggy feathers under the throat help ID this one as a Raven.

2.) American Crow

A smaller bill, smooth feathers under the throat, and duller coloring help to ID this one as a Crow.

3.) American Crow

The small bill and smooth feathers help to ID this one as a Crow.

4.) Common Raven

Credit:Omar Runolfsson @Flickr Creative Commons

The heavy bill and shaggy long feathers under the throat help ID this one as a Raven

5.) American Crow

This was the trickiest of them all.  It appears at first glance to be a Raven but the smooth feathers, and dull feathers help to ID this one as Crow.  How did you do? I hope you had fun and I will be doing more of these tough IDs in the future.  What birds do you have the most trouble telling apart? Tell us in the comments.  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Which is Which?

Crow or Raven? Can you tell?

There are some bird identifications that are very tricky and sometimes stump even the most experienced birders.  The Crow and the Raven are one of these tough IDs.  The main difference is size but it's not always clearcut.  There are some minor differences between the two. Lets have some fun and test your identification skills.  Can you ID which ones are Crows and which ones are Ravens?  






Thanks to Chandler W for the great suggestion.  Share your answers in the comments and why you think they are a Crow or Raven.  Stay tuned for the answers.  I will acknowledge the photos in the answer post.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Bird of the Day

Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is a very large North American woodpecker.  A lot of the time, it is heard but not seen.  I was lucky enough to get this video of this one in the rain in my backyard.  "Pileated" are known for being very loud.  They drum on trees to communicate as well as let out a loud "Wuk" call that pierces through the forest.  They need a forest that has lots of dead trees where they can peck out insects, mostly their favorite snack the Carpenter Ant.  Pileated Woodpeckers are very important makers of cavities in trees that other birds and animals use to live in and raise their young.

Pileated Woodpeckers are monogamous and tend to keep very large territories.  You might see a pair together but it is rare to see several Pileated Woodpeckers together.  The nesting pair will make a new cavity every year.  They construct the hole in a large dead tree and then chip away from the inside.  The only thing the adults add to the nest is theses shavings.  They have a brood size of 3-5 once a year.

Fun facts about the Pileated Woodpecker

-The male can be identified by the red stripe on his face
-Ants make up 40% to 98% of the diet of a Pileated Woodpecker.
-Pileated Woodpecker make a rectangular hole in trees to find food.

Share your experience with the Pileated Woodpeckers in the comments.