Belize Wildlife, Part 1 of 2

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Resplendant Quetzal

I remember seeing some of these wonderful birds on a hike in Belize. Also in Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama – the rainforest is a treasure trove I had to write about. I have to reblog Jet Eliot’s post ( click link below)!

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CR motmot

Motmot

 

reblogging from Jet Eliot via Belize Wildlife, Part 1 of 2

Wildlife at Horicon Marsh

I haven’t written a Nature post for awhile and couldn’t top Jet Eliot’s on the this marsh in Wisconsin, USA.

Jet Eliot

Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

One of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States, Horicon Marsh offers a plethora of wildlife. Located in the southeastern quadrant of Wisconsin, U.S.A., and covering 32,000 acres (12,949 ha), the marsh is a critical rest stop for migrating birds.

Wikipedia Horicon Marsh. 

I love the solitude and beauty of this marsh, have written posts outlining how it was shaped: first by the glaciers, then by humans. But today I’m focusing just on the wildlife, because this is what I find so enchanting.

Previously written post: Horicon Marsh

Common Yellowthroat, Horicon Marsh

Painted Turtle, Horicon Marsh

Black Tern, Horicon Marsh

One of the most elegant terns on earth, the black tern migrates to North America from South America, and breeds at the Horicon Marsh, as well as other sites in northern U.S. and Canada.

Forster’s terns also breed at the Horicon Marsh.

Forster’s Tern, Horicon Marsh

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Baby Birds

 

We’ve had two nests next to the house. The first was by the back door. We tried to avoid going out that way, but when mom (a house finch) flew away one day I peeked in and there were at least two half-naked chicks had hatched (click to enlarge).

almost ready to fledge...(See photo of adult finch above)

almost ready to fledge…

The handsome red-breasted dad helped too. A week or two later the nest was empty – I hope they made it!

Note the strong bill on this male house finch (www.wilddelight.com)

A male house finch (www.wilddelight.com)

 

 

I discovered the second nest when (almost starting) to clean a window that isn’t used a lot. There were three little blue eggs and a week later these two chicks. When I opened the shade to take this picture, they opened their beaks thinking mother was back with food.

hungry chicks.097

I’ve peeked once since and they are bigger now with wing feathers marked dark  and light. I read they only nest for about 10 days and then they are on their own! Want to guess what they are? I haven’t got a good glimpse of the mother but she is a “grey-brown twitter” larger than a finch, with a long, square tail. Maybe a California towhee?

(Hey guys instead of sending me emails, please comment below to share with all. {I know the “comment” lettering is sometimes hard to see…but it is there should you wish to click on it!}  Thanks.)

Serendipitous Nature – Wildlife Week

I had several encounters with local wildlife recently. I was photographing wildflowers and headed over to this marsh to eat my lunch – and be entertained by a few ducks and elegant egrets. Scroll down to see what else swam into view.

White egret near San Francisco Bay.

White egret near San Francisco Bay.

Look closely…see the swans?

Look closely...see the swans?

… closer… a little family of swans

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Swan family

Swan family

And then to my delight the parents brought them near the water’s edge for a photo-op.

Baby swans

Baby swans

Second encounter:  I was staring out my window yesterday when a robin flew right towards me and knocked himself out on the glass. To add to my astonishment, he was being followed by a falcon that immediately put on his brakes when he saw me.  He perched on a chair on the deck twelve feet away, eyeing his prey…. and me, no doubt with annoyance.

Peregrine falcon(I think this is him). from iStock Getty images

Peregrine falcon (I think this is him). fr. iStock Getty images

As I decided whether to race for my camera or save the robin, the magnificent falcon took off, deciding to leave his (no longer so) easy prey. I wrapped the unconscious robin in a rag – just like we do for people in shock (well maybe not with rags) – and put him in a box for protection and further warmth.

Robin (from a blog in Russian)

American Robin (photo from a blog in Russian)

Fifteen or twenty minutes later I went out and the robin was still quiet until I lifted  him gently from the box. As I began to unwrap him, he struggled and swiftly flew off – without so much as a thank you.

I’ve done this before over the years and my success rate is three saved, one DOA. Least you criticize me for my many large windows which reflect the garden at certain times, I have put large, ugly stickers of hawks on most of them as well as garden chimes, but the birds either ignore them or are flying too fast to stop – like this robin.

Close Encounter of the third kind: I walked out in my backyard two days ago and a fawn scampered in front of me. This time I did run to get my camera and to my surprise there were two of them – twins. They still had their white, baby spots. I couldn’t figure out how they got in as we have a “deer-proof” fence, but went to open the back gate and shoo them out; I hoped mama was watching from somewhere. Then today they were back! I still don’t know how they get in, but now I wonder if their mother leaves them here thinking they are safer from predators inside the fence.

We actually live in a semi-rural town, but with a creek corridor in back and most of the property encouraged as native vegetation, we get to see a lot of wildlife. You never know what you are going to see – whether venturing afield or in your own back yard!

I could have called this post “Of Swans and Fawns.” Do you have a wildlife story to share? Or any suggestions on lessening the perils of windows for birds?

Ode to Birds and Persimmons

A little late, but this goes with my last post.  I found this silly poem I wrote one year to the birds feasting on the persimmon* tree:

Twas the day after 12th night… (and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…etc.)

But out on the *tree my eye caught a fluster,

I sprang to the window to see a great cluster…

And what to my wondering eyes should appear,

but flickers and waxwings (no nary a deer).

Northern flickers  are a species of large woodpeckers (fr: ibc.lynxeds.com by Lee Hunter)

Northern flickers are a species of large woodpeckers (fr: ibc.lynxeds.com by Lee Hunter)

As hungry as eagles the coursers they came,

They ate, and they called to each other by name.

A dip of their bills and a bob of their heads,

Soon gave mates to know there was nothing to dread.

Downy woodpecker among the persimmons (CCM)

Downy woodpecker among the persimmons (CCM)

They were dressed all in feathers from tails to their beaks;

some spotted, some colored, but all of them sleek.

They spoke not a word, but went straight to their work,

So many arrived for this ripe fruity perk…

From the top of the tree they flew over the wall,

now dash away, dash away, dash away all!

But I heard them exclaim ‘ere they flew out of sight,

“Merry feasting to all… more persimmons tonight!”

 

CCM with apologies to CC Moore.

BIRD BEHAVIOR

We moved to a semi-rural town situated in wooded hills 20 years ago – the attraction was a lot that is half “wild” and slopes down to a creek. This riparian setting attracts a lot of wildlife. What made a “birder” out of me (not on a level serious birders would recognize) is a persimmon tree that is visited by dozens and dozens of birds every winter.  It stands loaded with fruit and I can spy on birds of all colors and sizes, from little goldfinches to large northern flickers, from our second story picture window.

Northern flickers  are a species of large woodpeckers (fr: ibc.lynxeds.com by Lee Hunter)

Northern flickers are a species of large woodpeckers (fr: ibc.lynxeds.com by Lee Hunter)

Downy woodpecker among the persimmons (CCM)

Downy woodpecker among the persimmons (CCM)

I’ve counted over 15 birds at a time at this persimmon feast, which lasts five to six weeks, before my feathered friends head south with full bellies.  Several types of woodpeckers have visited us, including (once) the pileated “Woody” woodpecker, who is rare in these parts (northern California).

Woody

Woody (courtesy Universal); Pileated woodpecker (by Bob Coggeshall MCMPk)

Having learned a few species names and gained an appreciation, I set out a feeder in the front yard for smaller birds that prefer seeds to fruit etc. A whole different menagerie appeared: sparrows, goldfinches, towhees, and house finches. You can usually identify a seed eater by their thick bills.

Note the strong bill on this male house finch (www.wilddelight.com)

Note the strong bill on this male house finch (www.wilddelight.com)

I sometimes hear a knocking sound on our roof and feared woodpeckers were making holes to store their acorns. Then one day I chanced to see a flycatcher – a small grey bird with a little “cap” –holding  a sunflower seed between his feet and hammering on it with his bill. Mystery solved: the faux woodpeckers were actually birds cracking their seeds to get to the “nut-meat.”

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Look closely and you will see where woodpeckers(?) have drilled holes and stored acorns in this old oak limb. (CCM)

Some species are quite  bold – notably  robins and the towhees. On the other hand the flickers are surprisingly shy for such a large bird; house finches and waxwings can also be skittish. They take flight if they notice even a hint of movement inside the house. Although sometimes they get a bit greedy – maybe even punch drunk on fermenting fruit – and I’ve been able to crouch right next to the window unobserved. A small group of flickers usually arrive the same time as a flock of waxwings – a lovely slender songbird with a black “mask.”   I’ve had no luck photographing either species but  andysj531 has done a fabulous job of video taping these waxwings:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-cl=84359240&v=sr_U9huI03E&x-yt-ts=1421782837

We also put out a bird bath that attracts birds in all seasons – especially in summer when their water sources begin to dry up. It’s fun to watch them dip their heads and splash their wings.

I’ve noticed a definite pecking order. Usually the bigger birds dominate the food, but the house finches will gang up (literally) on birds their own size. A brave little chickadee will dart in and steal a morsel and quickly fly off before they get attacked (pecked or flown at, claws first and wings out.) Juncos will patiently wait in line and jump in the minute the finches leave, although they have to be quick as often a male finch will turn around to scare off the other birds from what they try to establish as the “finch hoard.” They are brave enough to set up nests right on our deck almost every yr. The mother sits on the nest and the father (see photo of adult finch above) feeds her.  When the eggs hatch both parents bring food to their babies.

If you are interested in attracting birds to your yard, put up a simple feeder and you will be surprised at how fast they discover it. And perhaps also surprised at how fast they can devour it – where did the saying “eats like a bird” come from? Putting the feeder close to a window will deter them flying into it kamikaze style. This may seem counter-intuitive, but if it is located further away they are less apt to notice the glass and more likely to fly into the reflection of trees and sky. Another precaution is to find a place where they can see predators easily; cats will hide in low bushes and hunt the birds. I’m often shooing away the neighborhood cats – they may be handsome, but they are good hunters. And then there are squirrels: they don’t kill birds but they can polish off their food in one sitting, so you may need a squirrel-proof cage (Beware: they have some very clever and acrobatic antics).

We also have wild turkeys in the neighborhood – some people say they are “messy” but I think they are both handsome and funny.  One day I woke up to find four of them craning their necks and bobbing their heads at the window to see what we were doing.

And I love the California quails – they like to raise their families in our brush. Below is a handsome Dad looking out for very young chicks (alas as the weeks go by and the “quailets” grow, they also grow fewer in number as they get picked off by predators).

I think this is a red tail  hawk (below); they are fairly common regionally.  He’s hanging out in a tall tree above our house – the same tree that hosts a great horned owl who hoots at night. One day I heard a commotion and came out to find crows trying to scare this big hawk off of “their” territory. I was amazed that they were so aggressive against a predator almost twice their size – strength in numbers.

Hawk

Hawk

 

This may seem a different post than what I often write, but one of my “themes” is supposed to be nature and it has been months since I’ve written this type of post.  Are you a nature lover? “Almost for sure” as a friend of mine likes to say. Share your thoughts, experiences, your favorite places or animals in a comment below.