Blog Archives

[Video] Lovely Owl Gets His Wee Head Scratched

I once knew a screech owl that liked to have the top of his head scritched; he would close his eyes and lean into you while you did it. I wish, oh, how I wish, that such fantastic music accompanied those moments as they do in this video. (Especially when they focus in on Mr. Grumpy Great Horned.)

I have no idea where this was taken, but the birds sure look happy and healthy, which pleases me substantially. Enjoy!

Advertisements

[Video] Starling Murmuration

Wow. Wildlife synchronization at its finest.

 

[Video] Slow-Mo of an Eagle-Owl

So apparently I have a thing for slow-motion predators, like last week’s shark video. This one is an eagle owl coming in for a landing, and at first it’s a little slow but don’t worry, the video is playing right. I prefer it with dramatic music in the background so if you have a favorite tune, play it while you watch. Pay particular attention to the incredible use of wings and tail for steering, and the beautiful ruffling of the wing tops as she comes in for a landing. After working for years with raptors, I could literally watch this all day…and then daydream about having one of my very own. So. Awesome.

(Check out vurtrunner’s youtube channel for more freaking awesome highspeed vids!)

Scrub Jay Nostalgia.

Came across some photos this evening that I don’t think I posted of the Brothers Jay back in spring before their release. These images depict some of my favorite things about birds: the tenacity they have in wanting to fly and shit wherever they please, how they must – if they are forced to be in the presence of a two-legged – sit on that two-legged’s head, and how, regardless of their lack of human-esque forms of affection, the site of two birds huddling together as they slept can warm the cockles of my little heart. Thanks for sharing this with me folks. :)

Hipstamatic Scrub Jays!

I’m not at all much of a techie, but I finally joined the nerd movement and downloaded the Hipstamatic camera app on my little-used iPod. The schtick of this app is that it basically takes photos like an old Holga, messing with depth of field, color saturation, and format, and making all your photos look like they either 1) were taken in the 1960s or 2) went through your washing machine.

I’m a photographer-wannabe so I’ve been playing with the new app this morning. It’s kinda fun, don’t you think? It reminds me of flipping through my mother’s photo albums of when she was my age, traveling through Yosemite National Park with her true love.

They’re not exactly National Geographic quality, but at least you can see the babies getting a little bigger (and the eyebrow! I love the eyebrow!). Happy happy Wednesday!

Tail feathers and Tuesday night musings.

I’ve spent the last 10 days working on the annual wildflower show that I organize at the nature center each year. We collect and display labeled local flowers, weeds, and other plant species and sell native plants as a fundraiser. It’s a lot of work, but honestly, I love it so much – seeing that room full of beautiful wildflowers in bloom, causing smiles and spreading education, and sending people home with happy, bouncy plants for their gardens. Placing that plant order gives me the same feeling as saving up and buying myself a special birthday present! Here’s a short gallery of my favorite pics below from the event:

Anyway, I’m getting that place of exhaustion where you start feeling a little delirious and maybe you could try sleeping standing up just to take the edge off but you’re not sure where the safest place to stand might be. Paired with that, I had an excellent, invigorating walk with the dogperson today and the combination is making me a little reflective. This quote keeps passing through my mind, the last part in particular:

This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body. — Walt Whitman

What would it be like to live every day with so much integrity, compassion, and truth that your very flesh becomes a lyrical song? I want to live that way.

The babies continue to grow, especially their little tail feathers. Half a week ago, the feathers were incredibly short and essentially useless for flying. Now it’s a different story: the feathers are growing quickly towards their adult length. They’re both molting through some primary wing feathers so their flight efforts are shoddy, but enthusiastic nonetheless. Gump works his tail like a little rudder, trying to gain clearance, catch a little lift, or avoid landing on the bamboo flooring at an angle and speed that propels him into the dark, mysterious underworld beneath the sofa. They take risks, they clamber on window blinds and their mesh enclosure, and, when they’re tuckered out and resting, they make quiet gurgling, chortling noises to each other. And, I’m delighted to see their little white eyebrows are coming in!

They’ll look something like this when they’re adults. Wiki via Greystork

What they’ll look like in another week or so. Wiki via Tyler Karaszewski

What they look like now.

What they look like now.

Mornings with Blue Jays.

June 2nd, 2011

This morning I awoke to the stirrings and twitterings of Bubba and Gump. Boy, were they ready to take on the day. I took Gump, who was being awfully spunky, out of the cage and placed him on top. Last night they both spent some time up there with Bubba throwing down a little dance move that told me he wanted to try flying, but wasn’t quite sure where to go. At some point, they started making a raspy little chirping noise that I hadn’t heard before. It coincided with me sucking air through my teeth at the dog, but I’m not sure if the two are related.

Feed me!

This morning it was Gump’s turn. He crouched, stood up, crouched, fidgeted, and leapt! His first flight!

Oh hai!

Read the rest of this entry

Baby Birds 201 – Bluejays Steal My Heart

So a small clutch of baby Scrub Jays came into the nature center several days ago. The deliverer had found momma bird deceased and was clearly distressed to have discovered her babies orphaned. There were three. They were lethargic, quiet, cold, and in shock.

I called my rehabber and explained the situation. Instead of her usual response, “Okay, when can we meet up?” she said, “Okay, here’s what you do.” Rehabbers are typically overwhelmed in the springtime and apparently she thought I could handle baby birds solo.

I was up for the challenge.

Read the rest of this entry

Signs of Spring

When I lived next to the Chesapeake Bay, there came a point in April where there was no going back; there may be chilly days and plenty of rain, but you could rest assured knowing that snow was another seven months away and your gardens wouldn’t succumb to a freezing night.

Where I live now, there’s no such thing as a line between winter and spring. Yesterday we had nearly two inches of snow on the ground in the morning. It melted off by the afternoon, but the day was still cold unless you had the chance to stand in direct sun during a brief moment when the wind wasn’t blowing.

If any of you follow me on Twitter, you’ve read my griping all winter about how I ache for heat and sunshine. Even though we can get snow at any time of year, what quickens my little naturalist heart is the fact that despite the cold temperatures, the world here is still rousing itself for the shifting of the seasons.

Today, I just felt like listing a few of those signs, because if I – and you – stop for just a moment to watch, listen, and feel, your whole day can change. We’re so used to ignoring our natural rhythms that we forget to be a part of the wild, so even just ten seconds a day can reconnect you and ground you.

Inside the Nature Center…

…the Pacific Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris regilla) spend a portion of the day croaking. There are three males in the tank and one female (poor girl looks tired), but only one usually does the croaking. They’re so incredibly loud you wouldn’t believe such a noise could come out of such a tiny body! They’re also moving around the tank whereas they didn’t do a lot of moving during the winter, just staying hunkered down instead.

Image with permission by Mike Bernard from mister-toad.com – please, please, PLEASE check out this amazing site, especially the page of Chorus Frog info (click the image to get there). There are amazing photos of frogs (my two favorites include a misguided frog trying to mate with a newt and a frog being eaten by a giant water bug!) and sound clips of the frogs to listen to. Phenomenal site!

…the Western Skink (Eumeces skiltonianus) has come out of hiding; he stays buried beneath the substrate for most of the winter and doesn’t eat any of the crickets offered to him. He’s now basking his little black and blue body, flicking his tongue out to taste the air, and chases down crickets like a mad thing before devouring them.

…the Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer) suddenly has an appetite again. This animal can go nine months without eating, despite the heat and light we keep in the tank year-long. It’s a beautiful testament that all of the reptiles and amphibians here have a natural, ingrained cycle that all the false environment in the world can’t take away. Which tells me that we do, too, no matter how hard we try to ignore it.

…the Long-Toed Salamanders (Ambystoma macrodactylum) have risen to the surface of the tank. This may not sound like much, but I never get to see them throughout the winter, as they’re always buried in the soil. This time of year, however, when I lift their water dishes to change out the water, they’re right there beneath them, and they eat voraciously too.

                          Long-Toed Salamander with its aposematic coloration.                                    Image via Wiki, by Thompsma.

Outside the Nature Center…

…the Chickarees (also known as Douglas or Pine Squirrels, Tamiasciurus douglasii) are in a state of complete hyperactivity. One in particular has claimed our Nature Center as his very own. Not only does he chase Gray Squirrels three times his size away from the bird feeders, he manages to get inside some of our outdoor buildings and pilfers items. He’s known for stealing insulation, paper towels, and once I even watched from a window as he attempted to stuff his face full of mop-head fibers – still connected to the mop – and make off with the whole thing. It proved too large for him to handle, so he quit, but sliced fibers were found in his nest (the place where all of the stolen items end up). If our head of maintenance makes the mistake of leaving his lunchbox open in the shop, the squirrel also makes off with baggies of peanuts and Doritos. This squirrel is so tenacious that he squeezes inside of our squirrel-proof bird feeders (ha) to eat the delicious sunflower seed, already hulled for his convenience. He and I had a battle last year where I’d run outside when he was in there to yell like a maniac or squirt him with water. He was utterly undaunted and if he bothered running off, he came back mere moments later. I eventually gave up, and he’s now earned my undying respect and admiration. Visitors often ask if he’s “supposed to be in there?” when they see him in the bird feeder. My answer is, without a doubt, yes.

                  Chickaree, photo by Karen Dingerson at Critterzone.                        Naughty embodied in a squirrel suit.

…the Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) – which are not called Canadian Geese – make an unholy ruckus every day. The chase each other, battle it out on water and land, and even spar on our rooftops, scaring the bejesus out of our administrative ladies as they think someone’s trying to break into the building. They stand up there and honk at each other or at us. Ah, mating season.

…this morning as I walked down the path to the Nature Center building, a little Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli) landed on the entrance of a nesting box that I’ve never seen anything use, with a huge hunk of moss in its beak. It eyed me for a moment before disappearing inside, and I hope hope hope HOPE she makes a little family this year!

…the swallows are back! I’m not going to list any scientific names because, truth be told, I have no idea what kind of swallows they are, but they’re out there darting over the water after insects. They’re absolutely amazing in that there could be a dozen of them in one small area, and they swoop and maneuver around each other without colliding.

…the coyotes (Canis latrans) are back in action. They’ve been spotted a number of times close by the Nature Center in the early mornings, and we hear them yipping to each other as they hunt. Visitors are reporting them as well, and there’s something just really magical about wild dog cousins out roaming around, looking for voles and emerging squirrels.

Image via Wiki, by marya (emdot).

…the Belding’s Ground Squirrels (Urocitellus beldingi) have come out of hibernation and have returned to a system of tunnels behind our administrative building, hopefully to raise another family. Last year we were privileged enough to watch through a window as baby squirrels emerged from the sandy tunnels to practice climbing and playing and to sun themselves in the summer heat. Talk about cute-overload. They fell down a lot.

GOO. Baby Belding’s. Image via Wiki, by Alan Vernon.

So far, the hummingbirds and the otters haven’t shown up yet but as you can imagine, I eagerly await their arrivals. I listen each day for the distinctive buzzing of hummingbird wings so I can get the feeders out, and keep an eye on the lake for the sinewy, graceful lines of swimming mustelids.

In the plant world, the manzanita (Arctostaphylos) has beautiful hot-pink flowers hanging from beneath its leaves already, and the tiniest tips of fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) are poking out of the ground where I planted one last year. Soon the Ponderosas will start smelling sweet!

            Image via Wiki, by kallerna.               Beaaaauuutiful fireweed in full bloom.

I am so, so fortunate to experience all of these things each day, and I want you to know that you can experience them too. This world is just outside your door, even if it’s only in the microcosm of the cracks in the sidewalk where dandelions and ants are the predominant species.

What are the signs of spring where you are? I would love you to leave a comment sharing the things you’re noticing about the changing of plants and animals as the seasons shift in your part of the world. Thanks for reading!

[Video] Suzie Gilbert on Raptors

At the Nature Center we do a limited amount of raptor rehab. Last year we were able to successfully release three beautiful raptors after they healed from injuries. Suzie Gilbert is a passionate rehabber and this beautiful video tells a piece of her story. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in learning more about Suzie or raptor rehab, check out these two books, written by her:

“Flyaway,” by Suzie Gilbert.

“Hawk Hill” is out of print but clicking on the link will take you to its Amazon page, where you can purchase it used.

Do you have a local raptor rehab center? Post a link to them in the comments section so others can visit! Thanks for reading. :) GO RAPTORS!