FEATHERY PHOTO BOMBING – Marilyn Armstrong

I always know there’s a bird on the other side of the feeder by the way it swings in the air. A lot of the ladderback woodpeckers like to stay where they can’t see me … and I can’t take pictures. I also know they are there because sometimes I see a feather sticking out of somewhere or suddenly a beak — or even the bird’s head appears, then vanishes.

Goldfinch

I sometimes stand for half an hour with the camera aimed and focused … and there’s nothing. I give up, put the camera down, turn around and there are half-a-dozen birds. Cardinals, woodpeckers, and a whole flock of goldfinches. And more.

Today, there were a lot of birds when I got to the kitchen and almost none after that. It was a warm but drippy day. It wasn’t exactly raining, but it wasn’t exactly not raining. We had to put the dogs out for more than three hours. It was just drizzling and 55-degrees. Yesterday it was closer to 10 — but sunny — so we’ve been having some rather sizable shifts in temperature.

Getting more yellow as the season progresses …

I gather it’s going to snow on Monday. A long, slow accumulating storm.

Not one of those blizzards where we get two inches an hour. No, this is going to be one of those slow, lazy snowstorms. I have to assume it’ll be colder than today but I don’t know how much colder. Since they are forecasting only snow (minus the usual sleet and freezing rain), I’m assuming it’ll be freezing or below.

Unless it stays warm or the storm blows out to sea. You never know.

I don’t know what bird is sticking his head in the picture, but he’s a lot bigger than the Goldfinch! I think it’s one of the Ladderback woodpeckers. The Goldfinch looks better.

I took some pictures of a very determined Goldfinch. Note the head poking out from behind the feeder in the last picture. Photo-bombed again!

AND THEN, IT WAS WARM AGAIN – by Marilyn Armstrong

It was bitterly cold and it snowed. Then, it sleeted. Eventually, it rained, but not so much around here. Mostly here, after the sleet blew through, that was pretty much it.

The Mourning Dove who waited for me to focus. He was very patient.

The ice and snow lay on the ground and the plow came and scraped us clean. Of course, if he hadn’t come, it would have been clear by lunchtime anyway, but what the hell. We’ve got plenty of money to blow, right?

Tufted Titmouse

I started to take some pictures, but on blue sky days, the birds are not nearly as interested in our food as they are in the forest because they are getting ready for spring.

A bright Yellow Warbler

The Warblers are back and the Goldfinches are changing to their brighter breeding colors. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Juncos decided to fly north, but with all the good food on the deck, they might just hang around.

Pair of Goldfinches

And moreover, it has been warm so often, there are live insects in the trees and the woodpeckers are pecking their hearts out. It’s going to be a bad year for the bugs, but I think I vastly increased bird flock will help keep it in check. My ant guy assured me that birds love ants and will eat a lot of them if they get the chance.

We use non-toxic insect killers around here for what I assume are obvious reasons. There are our dogs and all those birds. The Chickadees, Titmouses, the Goldfinches, and Warblers with their long, strong beaks.

And then, I decided to adjust my camera.

Bright yellow Warbler. Welcome back.

Lacking a “real” manual, there are lots of things in the menu — oh so many things in the menu — which say things like: “ADL – OPTION: YES/NO/OFF” without any explanation of what ADL does. I’m at a complete loss, so I leave it on “OFF.” Too many times I’ve changed one setting somewhere and the camera won’t work until I figure out what setting it was and under which sub-menu.

More Goldfinches

I wound up spending at least half the day setting my camera, then I had to go back and changed some of the things I fixed so the camera would work again. Like it used to, though I did change a few things and whether or not they will change anything, I do not yet know. By the time I finished adjusting the camera, it was too dark to shoot.

Downy or Hairy? So hard to tell!

I have a few pictures I took before the adjustment, though.

Oops.

THE BOBCAT’S BACK – Marilyn Armstrong

The bobcat’s back and I hope we don’t have any trouble. We never had dogs running loose before, but we can’t keep the Duke in the fenced yard, so I just hope they don’t intersect anytime soon.

Squirrel survivor

I looked out on the back yard this morning. It was covered in a couple of inches of snow on top of a crunchy batch of solid sleet. I could see Duke’s prints too. There was an interesting crosshatch of bobcat and dog prints and I got to thinking that I really hope the Duke doesn’t try to take on the bobcat. I’m pretty sure the bobcat would win that one.

A local bobcat. Smaller than ones in other parts of the continent, but able to leap 30 feet in a single bound. I’ve seen them do it. It’s amazing.

It’s a small bobcat, about the size of a large house cat, but those little guys are strong. And hungry. We only have one bobcat at a time except when we get a mother with kittens. As soon as one of the kittens lays claim to the area, all the other cats disappear. There’s only one bobcat in an area at a time and unless they are mating, they don’t pal around with each other.

Our perching Mourning Dove … He actually sat there long enough for me to finally get a few clear shots. Then he flew away but he was really patient with me and the camera.

It also explains why the birds have been so nervous. The squirrel that showed up this morning looked healthy, but something — my best guess is an eagle or a hawk — took a piece out of his neck. Somehow, he wrenched free.

Red-Tailed Hawk – They live in Canada and the U.S.., coast to coast.

It’s a battleground out there. We have always had more predators than we have prey. That’s why we don’t have a cat. They get eaten, as often as not by coyotes, but a big red-wing hawk can take a cat or a small dog … or a baby goat or lamb. They always warn us not to leave puppies outside unless they are in a cage with a roof. And even with that, keep it close to home.

We have a lot of these guys, too. You can see them in the driveway around twilight.

Raccoons can easily kill even a pretty big dog. They have super thick skin, long teeth, and claws. Adults can (and do) top fifty pounds. They are a lot stronger then they look and can under the right circumstances.

They come in all sizes and no matter how cute they are, be careful. If they aren’t tame, they can be pretty rough.

And then we have our own polecat, the Fisher, which will pretty much eat anything but prefers fish. We tend to get very romantic about animals in the wild, but they are the hunters and the hunted. The small ones hunt bugs and the eggs of smaller birds. Bigger ones hunt them … and then, there are even bigger hunters.

The Fisher who is not actually a cat. He’s a weasel with a beautiful coat. Nearly extinct from hunting and is now making a serious comeback. He likes our backyard. It’s sunny and he will sit in the middle of the sunny area and he won’t leave until he’s good and ready. They come in very dark brown, black, and deep red. They are not friendly and they are bigger than they look in pictures.

In the end, there is us. We hunt everything because we have guns … and we can. Meanwhile, I hope my little wild dog doesn’t decide to take on a bobcat. That isn’t a match I want to see.

And then, there’s the Duke

PICK YOUR COLOR AND I CHOOSE RED! – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Color of Your Choice

There’s been a lot of red flying around my feeders, not to mention a lot of red on my rose bushes. So we’re going with red. And feathers!

AND THEN IT SNOWED AND WE CANCELLED THE DAY … Marilyn Armstrong

I’m not afraid of winter. I’ve lived most of my life in areas with serious winters, the most serious of all here where we live.

This year, we’ve had the least snow ever recorded for any winter. It isn’t that there wasn’t snow elsewhere. It’s just the storms blew out to sea south of here, or took a path past us and went straight into northern New England and Canada. So we’ve been surrounded by snow, but it missed us.

Snowy Goldfinch

Not this time, though this isn’t exactly a monumental snowfall. In fact, it’s just a nasty little snow and sleet combination. It’s the sort of storm that makes the roads dangerous without adding any of the beauty of the season. It lands on the ground and gets sodden then hard as a rock. Not a really fun kind of snow. You don’t build snow people from this kind of storm.

Woodpecker in snow

What you do is cancel non-critical appointments and wait until they clean up the roads … or the rain takes care of it for you. Regardless, we live on a pretty lethal road. People drive as if their four-wheel-drive cars make them impervious to road conditions. Maybe (only maybe) on snowy roads, but 4WD is no better for driving on ice than any other car.

Goldfinch in snow

No one seems to have conveyed this to the drivers. We have more fatal accidents on this road than on any other road in the state … which is saying something because Massachusetts drivers are not known for their cautious driving habits.

Junco on the railing

Once we decided to not test the roads, we settled down and I made chili, my favorite cold-weather dinner.

As soon as we get “weather,” the birds get crazy as if this is going to be their last seed, ever. The moment it started to snow, there were dozens of birds on the deck, knocking each other off the feeders.

This was one of those days when many beautiful birds appeared and the moment I raised my camera, vanished. Sometimes, I think it’s personal.

This Junco has an attitude!

I’m sure Duke’s excursions into the backyard don’t encourage the birds to get friendlier, though to be fair, he showed no sign of being interested in hunting the birds. He was just curious about them.

Junco atop the Frog

And for the day, my favorite show. There were not only a lot of birds on the deck. They were also very active. Lots of fluttering and flapping as they knocked each other off the feeder. Normally, we’d have filled the feeder today, but it was snowing a bit hard and there are still plenty of seeds left if they’d stop banging each other around!

It’s difficult to show the activity, though. This picture shows it as well as I think I can!

Some fluttering in the snow

BIRDS, THE DUKE, AND GOOD MORNING WORLD! – Marilyn Armstrong

I wanted to use someone’s prompt this morning, but nothing fit and I don’t have much time. We have a doctor appointment in less than an hour, so we have to run — and it’s snowing. Lightly so far, but the roads are going to get slippery and I’d rather be home for the slippery part.

Cardinal in the woods

I stood at my bathroom window this morning and was amused to see how many birds were around. Waiting on tree limbs, on branches, in the bushes. I figured they seem to know when the weather is about to turn and like to chow down in advance. Then suddenly, all the birds were in flight.

In flight?

The Duke
Bright Chickadee
Tufted titmouse

It’s The Duke. He has jumped the fence (you can’t keep him in) and is examining — but not chasing — the birds in the backyard. He isn’t supposed to BE in the backyard because we have a fenced front yard. Not for him, but for every other dog we’ve ever had. Just that The Duke is a flyer and I thought he’d stop flying so high as he got a little older.

I was wrong. He’s getting increasingly airborne.

Lately, he has taken to leaping the fence and jumping into the driver’s seat, looking eager. “Dad, can I drive?”

No Duke, you don’t have a license. Pass your written exam first.

Junco

Eventually, I mentally push him back into the house and luckily, he has no interest in the road. Just the woods. He likes hanging around the woods.

But he scattered all my birds this morning and only the sound of me opening the treats carton got him back inside.

A few pictures and we’re outta here. Now it’s REALLY snowing.

I think maybe we aren’t going to the doctor. If it keeps up like this, it is going to be icy and unplowed and now, I can’t even see the road from the front window. Not an emergency. It’ll wait till next week.

It wasn’t supposed to start until around four or five. OH well. I should have known when they canceled school last night that they weren’t sure when it would start. We’ve had a lot of school bus accidents and why they don’t fit them with snow tired, I still don’t understand. But I guess we’re home for a little while. Maybe the birds are back?

GOOD MORNING FRIENDS, BIRDS, AND A SQUIRREL – Marilyn Armstrong

This is another one of those “lost days” for me. There seem to be more and more of them, like I’ve been saving them up. But the suitcase got too small and everything is bursting out and blowing all over the place.

We had a long summer of nothing much going on, preceded by a long slow winter and spring, suddenly, as summer rolled around … everything went wild and crazy. For us, that is. For someone else, probably not so much but we don’t move fast.

I never seem to have a whole day to just relax. Or even a  half a day.

Squabbling Juncos or a Junco and a Nuthatch. Hard to tell.
The reddest bird of all birds
The red one’s lady friend
Chickadee and Goldfinch
Early Squirrel

Tomorrow we get our taxes done. I’m hoping for the best and hopefully, we won’t have another government shut-down and we’ll actually get our refund. This year. Like … soon. Because we need an infusion of money.

Finances are running a bit thin. And did I mention that it’s gotten very cold again with sleet and snow and maybe freezing rain tomorrow? But not to worry because it will be 50 degrees by the weekend, at which point, it will all melt.