Wednesday, April 30, 2008


This time of year makes me want to run around the yard screaming my head a good way.
It's a thrilling time, with a freshly arrived migrant around every corner, or a sleepy overwintered butterfly.
Field sparrow camp dennison
I get all mushy with field sparrows. Those girly pink legs and bill. Oooooo.

Eastern tailed blue camp dennison
I remembered today how fun last summer was, when I discovered "butterflying".
(Eastern tailed blue)

orange black
A crescent? I need to dig out my butterfly field guide. I'm rusty.

Gratuitous Nellie photos:
Nellie the basket case
Running. With one of my nice hanging baskets in front of her face. Der.

And the reason Nellie failed the Emily Post class:
Nellie is no lady
Good grief, Nellie. Can you ever act like a lady?
(There's also a female cardinal on the feeder right outside the window)

The newest member of the Yard:
The Yeti
This is a weeping, it's not a native tree. But I wanted one anyway. This spot is where the pond will go, when Geoff says it's okay to do it.
On the way home, Lorelei was in the back seat with the tree (sticking into the car from the's like 7 or 8 feet tall), playing with a doll and the leaves. She started acting like the tree was a yeti, and I thought that would make a good name for a tree who will someday be 40-50 feet tall and 40-50 feet in diameter.
So let's all give it up for The Yeti.

Monday, April 28, 2008

If you don't talk to your cats about catnip, who will?

This morning, I was in the right place at the right time. While at my favorite spot at Lake Isabella, I was listening to a Northern Parula and not seeing it...for like 30 minutes. I was listening so hard, my ears started to hurt, and I actually got mad at the little bugger.
While I was scanning the rapidly leafed-out trees, I noticed a few blue-gray gnatcatchers.

Blue gray gnatcatcher

I also noticed that they kept landing in the same tree, on the same branch.

blue gray gnatcatcher nest building
Nest building! I guess that qualifies as a confirmed breeding pair, huh?

I got the cats a few "cat tents"; basically vinyl cubes with windows. To sweeten the deal, I sprinkled a little cat nip inside...and let the games begin.
Catnip is yummy
"Oh, wow. This is some goooooood sh*t."

Looking at imaginary bugs on the ceiling
"Mom? (in a panicky voice) Mom? Am I the only one seeing the giant bugs on the ceiling?"

I'm so high...Hoopers upside down
"Hooper. Hooper, dude. Help me, man. You're upside down. IT'S FREAKING ME OUT!"

Catnip butts

Hooper did you get into the catnip too
Oh, Hooper. Did you get into the cat nip, too?
"S'okay, Ma. I can quit whenever I want."

In other news, the FOS hummingbird showed up yesterday:

FOS hummingbird
Thank goodness. Now where the Hell have YOU been?

I have been watching this particular house finch for about 2 weeks. (I would call this guy a "marker bird", since he is the only male house finch who looks like a prize fighter.)
He's eating well, he can fly...let's hope that he can get a girlfriend and pass on that immunity.

This is for Rachel, my soon-to-be sister-in-law (Geoff's brother Kevin FINALLY popped the question).
Rachel gave Isabelle sea monkeys for her birthday, and while I was leery (remember how short-lived sea monkeys used to be? They would live for like 24 hours and then go belly-up), we gave it a shot. I guess the sea monkey scientists have improved the formula.
They have grown really fast, and they are at that tender age when they feel that know that knock some boots!
Sea monkey porn
Sea monkey porn. In all its watery glory.
If you look at the two "stuck together", you will see a dark spot between them. That's an egg sack.
I gotta say, must suck to be a female sea monkey. These gals have been carrying these slacker males around for days.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Say What You Will

I was planning this post all day, and it seems that Mary beat me to the idea.
But that's okay.
I wasn't able to transfer this song from my Napster thingy to my blog, so I had to resort to YouTube.
There are a few misspellings, but the song grabs you anyway.

This is for Lynne.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Answer to Friday Feathers

NCMountainWoman (who really needs a blog, BTW) was correct. And I guess I need to give her a jewelry prize. Kathi just got one of my necklaces and a pair of earrings, so the prize goes to ncmountainwoman. Send me your address and I'll send you some bling! I guess it wasn't that easy....sorry. Maybe next week I will give pithy clues.

Speaking of that....Kitt and Mel didn't send any addresses...still want jewelry?

From Hummingbird.Net:

The brilliant, iridescent colors of hummingbird plumage are caused by the refraction of incident light by the structures of certain feathers. Like any diffraction grating or prism, these structures split light into its component colors, and only certain frequencies are refracted back to the viewer. The apparent color of any particular part of a feather depends upon the distance between the microscopic ridges in its grid-like structure. The resulting colors are much more vivid and iridescent than those of birds with only pigmented feathers. Not all hummer colors are due to feather structure, however; the duller, rusty browns of Allen's and Rufous Hummingbirds are the result of pigmentation. Iridescent hummingbird colors actually result from a combination of refraction and pigmentation, since the diffraction structures themselves are made of melanin, a pigment.

So, the pretty epithet "Flying Jewels" isn't too far off.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Feathers

Most Fridays, I wrack my brain for something interesting to post.
I started thinking that someone had to start "Wordless Wednesdays" and cute things like that.
So I thought I would try to start up Friday Feathers. I post a picture of a feather and you guess what kind of bird it came from.

Here's the first, an easy one:

Photo slide by Barry Ellam

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Barred owl quickie video, etc

Two nights ago, Nellie and Hooper needed to go out and do their business at 1:00 am. I stumbled to the back door and let them out. As I was closing the door, I heard our barred owls calling:

It's really, really faint, so crank up your speakers.

Kathi and I went for a bird walk today, and we actually saw birds this time.
Blue-gray gnatcatchers
Turkey vultures
Eastern meadowlark
Song sparrows
Chimney swifts
Tree swallows
Did I miss any, Kathi?
We also saw a millipede.

Holly Go Lightly
Miss Holly Go-Lightly came along, too. Isn't she a happy-looking dog?

Yesterday,while sitting in my favorite spot at Lake Isabella (By the way, reports of the GHOW chick branching are coming in), I heard a long, drawn out bird song. I grabbed my trusty Les Beletsky's Bird Song book and found the warbling vireo. I played the song a few times and got him to land about 20 feet from the car:

Warbling vireo
I did a program today at the EPA. Yes, the E P freakin' A. I was a little nervous about it, but it was great. It was awesome. I totally killed. I had an A game. I feel really, really good right now.

And now, the gravy.
Our crab apple tree is in full bloom, and to see little bird faces peeking out of all that pink is just a handful of joy:

Titmouse in crabapple(1)Mockingbird in the crabapple(1)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

One weird bird

First: Lynne's sister passed away gently on Saturday. Please go to her blog and give her some Cyber-Hugs.
I wish I had stellar vulture pics for her, but I do have this one weird bird:

I had three programs today: Two at an elementary school (Every kid in the school....every single one) and one at a Cub Scout meeting. My voice is shot and my eyes are blood-shot.
The beginning of the day was actually at 1:00 am, with vocally-sparring barred owls (video tomorrow when I can stay awake long enough to upload them). As Geoff and I were getting Lorelei into the car to go to school, Geoff pointed out a bird on top of a tree..."Honey, that's a weird bird up there." I've learned to listen when GEOFFREY points out a bird. Remember when he found a barred owl in the yard for me?
This is the weird bird....

White mystery bird 1
At first, I thought I was looking at an escapee parrot or cocketiel. But the bill is straight.

White mystery bird 2
As far as I can tell, this is a leucistic tufted titmouse.

mystery bird 3
He or she sampled the catkins on the "whatever" tree and also the big maple.
Is that a weird bird or what? If anyone has any other ID thoughts, I would love to hear them.

Mommy-Brag: When Isabelle got home from school (and I had stopped in between programs) I showed her the pictures, and she said, without prompting from me, "That looks like a leucistic bird, Mommy. Maybe that's a titmouse? See the little crest?" I do love that kid.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A post without birds

Migrants are flying in all over the state, but I haven't had the opportunity to go see any.
My time has been spent doing all those boring yet necessary things that keep me from birding: Parenting, programs and sleeping. Well, programs aren't boring, but it does tend to cut into my prime birding time.

Some pics from the past few days:

The Kroger ensemble
She insisted on wearing this daring ensemble to the grocery store. A high-end dress from an uppity boutique, with red rubber boots. Well, could I argue with that?

The accidental redbud in the yard is in full bloom. This is "accidental" because it looks like the previous owners of our house found this growing along the property line and bracketed it with boards. We almost chopped it down years ago, but we stopped when we saw tiny buds. A dogwood is right next to it, also bracketed by boards. Two of only a few native plants that existed when we bought the place.

When I showed Isabelle how close the chipping sparrows allow us to get, she devised a plan:
Isabelle pretends to be a tree
...she disguised herself as a tree. (Holding dismembered honeysuckle branches)

While I was tearing out honeysuckle in a native-loving fit, she brought over a few new friends:
Baby centipedes on Isabelles finger
Baby centipedes. Great. Now put them back before Mommy has a seizure.

Wisteria ready to pop (and Nellie)
My wisteria, having sat there for 4 years, is almost ready to bloom. Last year, I got to enjoy a few blooms (strangely, in July) for about 12 hours before the flippin' Japanese beetles ate them.
(And Nellie sneaked into the photo, too)

The first tree I looked up in books and actually identified myself:
Hawthorn blooms
A hawthorn. I found it 2 years ago while tearing out the honeysuckle in a native-loving fit. It was covered by a huge patch of honeysuckle, and I might have torn it out too, but I got stuck by one of the thorns. The flowers are reminiscent of apple blossoms, and in the fall, are replaced by
golf-ball-sized fruits. I'm not going to hazard a guess as to what kind of hawthorn it is...there are a bazillion different species.

During a walk with Lorelei today at Kelley's Nature Preserve, we were treated to a carpet of wildflowers. (For a very nice, informative post on Ohio's native and non-native wildflowers living at the Cincinnati Nature Center, go see KatDoc here)

Wild blue phlox...a huge flower compared to the Creeping Phlox I planted in the flowerbed a few years ago.

Lorelei Kelleys Nature Preserve
It was nearly 80 degrees today. Sitting by the Little Miami was a pleasurable experience that even Lorelei couldn't find fault with.

The backyard interlopers:
Slug on dandelion
Slugs. Lots and LOTS of slugs. I'm not well-versed in slug ID's, but Ohio has both native and exotic types.
They seem to be enjoying the dandelions, so I can't complain. And I mean, they are on EVERY. Single. Dandelion.

Slug eye
Ever look a slug in the eye? There's intelligence there...I swear it.

Shy slug
This one is shy...."Blushing Slug". Sounds like a bad rock band.

Slug sings the blues
Just to make this picture more enjoyable, imagine this slug singing "Weekend in New England".

And for my Boston-philes out there:
I heart my boston!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Raptor Fun Facts

(By the way, I am watching America's Funniest Home Videos...and a father and son have the son's mouse outside cleaning the cage, I guess. They put the cute little white mouse on the top of the cage and 3 seconds later, a hawk barrels in and snatches the mouse and flies away. Oops!)

rough legged hawk 2
(Rough-legged hawk)

There are 320 species of diurnal raptors worldwide (that includes hawks, eagles, kites, falcons, harriers and osprey). 71 of those are just eagle species!
There are 200 species of owl worldwide.

A breakdown of families and orders:

There are three main orders:

1a) Hawks and relations (Accipitridae in the order Accipitriformes)
1b) Ospreys (Panionidae, also in the order Accipitriformes)
2) Secretary Birds (Sagittaridae,alone in the order Sagittariiformes)
3) Falcons and relations (Falconidae in the order Falconiformes)

(New World vultures were considered in the order Falconiformes, but some authorities place them in Ciconiiformes (storks and herons) and might be considered a subfamily of the stork family. Still others feel they should be in an independent order of Cathartiformes, not closely associated with either storks or birds of prey. Confused? That's okay. The experts can't agree on it either.

The owls (Strigiformes) can be divided into two families:
1) Barn Owls and relations (Tytonidae)
2) Typical or other owls (Strigidae)

Smallest birds of prey:
Elf owl (1 1/2 ounces, 5 inches long)
Largest birds of prey:
American Harpy Eagle (up to 20 pounds, 6 1/2 foot wingspan)

Random neat facts:

Bald eagle 123007
(Bald eagle)

Pound for pound, an eagle's wing is stronger than an airplane's.

The word "raptor" comes from the Latin word raptare, which means to "seize and carry away".

It is against the law to possess even one raptor feather without a permit from the U.S. government. The 1940 Bald Eagle Protection Act and the 1972 Migratory Bird Treaty Act both make it illegal to possess living or dead native birds (or their nests, eggs or parts) without heavy fines or imprisonment.

Eagle talons can strike with twice the force of a bullet.

Fossils of falcons dating back to 50-million years have been found in Germany.

Osprey have a polarized lens over their eyes enabling them to see under water.

lorelei and AK
(RAPTOR's American kestrel)

American kestrels are able to see in the ultraviolet range and can follow the urine trail of their prey.

Merlins mimic the flight of pigeons to sneak up on unsuspecting prey.

Okay...what can you say about this one
(RAPTOR's red morph screech owl)

And sometimes, a bird of prey can have a bad feather day.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Come on down!

I just got off the phone with one of the coordinators of the first annual Queen City Bird Festival at the College of Mount St. Joe here in Cincinnati, on May 3rd. They asked if RAPTOR would like to be a part of it, and I responded with a resounding, "Heck Yeah!". It started out as a small event to sort of coincide with International Migratory Bird Day, but it has grown substantially. Some of the events are bird walks, a blessing of the Clifford Bird Observatory, bird banding demonstrations and of course me and the raptors.
There will also be food, music, vendors...a very fun time, if you ask me.

We talked a good long time, and it turns out that it is this guy:
David Russell OOS and Larri
David Russell, a professor of ornithology I saw at the Ohio Ornithological Society Owl Symposium last year. The bird he is holding is Larri. That's Larri with an I (a female)...a very old education great horned owl at Houston Woods.
The birding world in Ohio is very, very small. ( A story about just how small in a later post)
What a funny guy. His wife is an associate professor at Mt. St. Joe, and is also a bander. Now that's an interesting couple.
So if you are in the area, and want to come have a good time please come on by!
May 3rd, 2008
College of Mount St. Joe and the Motherhouse
5701 and 5900 Delhi Road
Cincinnati, OH

And if you haven't met any of RAPTOR's birds yet, I will have them perched out for the public. Come and learn some cool stuff, get some great pictures of live birds of prey.

(You can come by and meet me, too....)

: )

By the way, the Owl Prowl at the Spring Grove Cemetery will be that night. A full day of birds.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Branching out


Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.

William Feather

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hey, Nellie....your buddies are back

Pick any day, and you can go about it thinking that it will be just an ordinary one.
While getting ready to take Lorelei out for the day, I glanced out the back windows, as I have been doing since March 25, expecting to see an empty spot on the martin housing.
But there was someone there:

A tree swallow.
I said in a quiet but persnickety voice, "Where the HELL have you BEEN?"

Checking out the digs TRES
It even checked out the TRES digs. They failed last year, but the year before they raised and flew off with 5 young. May we have a normal amount of rain this year. We need bugs, and lots of 'em. I can't wait until Nellie sees them. What a wuss.

A new yard bird was nice...but with a sad twist:
Female purple finch
A female purple finch. But she has mycoplasmal conjunctivitis. Dammit.
(It looks like that goldfinch is staring at her, doesn't it?)

Male HOF nic membrane
There's also a male house finch with both of his eyes nearly gummed shut. So that's three birds who are least that I have seen. Looks like it is time to take down the feeders for awhile. The most I have seen with the disease at one time is just one bird. So this is a 300% increase. Dammit.

Let's cleanse with a happy little chipping sparrow. I never get tired of looking at this tiny bundles of sweetness:
Chipping sparrow

And for your additional cleansing enjoyment, a quickie Nellie video: