Birds and other mobile features in the garden 2012 #6

claireplymouth z6b coastal MASeptember 15, 2012

This thread is intended to give people a place to post photos and/or talk about birds, critters, wildlife, fish, whatever - topics you might not want to start a whole thread on, but are still garden-related. You can see the range of possible topics in the previous threads:

All of the threads in the Birds and other mobile features in the garden series prior to 2012 are now stored in the New England Garden Forum Gallery. See the top of the main page to switch between Discussions and Gallery. For 2012, see

Birds and other mobile features in the garden 2012 #1,

Birds and other mobile features in the garden 2012 #2,

Birds and other mobile features in the garden 2012 #3,

Birds and other mobile features in the garden 2012 #4 and

Birds and other mobile features in the garden 2012 #5.

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What would a new thread be like without turkeys as a starter? Some might say refreshing, but I stick with my obsession with the big dinosaur lookalikes.

They spend a lot of time lounging at the top of the coastal bank - grass is useful sometimes - and lately they've been climbing onto the old Adirondack chairs (so rotted that I would hesitate to sit on them, but I don't have wings).

These two turkeys aren't really headless, they were just preening themselves.

Claire

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corunum z6 CT(6)

Turkeys are now tradition...it's a must. They're still among the luckiest birds on Earth to live on Cape Cod Bay in a bird lover's yard.

Sped - and fellow spider observers - almost reached through this web. yuck. Spiders and sn*kes are not on my Valentine list, but...
Jane (who just walked away)

Here is a link that might be useful: Black and Yellow Argiope http://www.fcps.edu

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 11:52AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

This is not the clearest or best shot I've ever taken, but it gladdened my heart. I'm trying to rid my feeding stations of the 40-50 gang of house sparrows that overtook everything to the near total exclusion of all others. This afternoon, a hummer passed by, ate and rested in a serviceberry tree. When a sparrow flew in and disrupted the hummer's rest, that hummer took aim and the sparrow left! Sure will miss those hummers.
Jane

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 2:37PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Good on you, hummer!

Twice lately I've seen a hummer chase off a chickadee that was drinking from the center moat of the hummer feeder. These were chickadees that were holding onto the hanger rod and bending down to drink.

However, today a chickadee settled itself down on the feeder and got comfortable. A hummer buzzed around but apparently decided not to attack. The chickadee does look a bit like it's spoiling for a fight.

Claire

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 4:04PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Oh, and that's a great web that the spider made, Jane. I think I would have walked away too. Yesterday I brought in a whole bunch of sanseveria houseplants, some of which had spider webs on them. I tried to remove some of the webs but decided to leave the others. Let the spiders overwinter inside if they want. I'll just be careful watering the plants.

Claire

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 4:08PM
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spedigrees z4VT

Those hummingbirds are plucky little creatures! I miss mine but winter is coming here and they need to go where the food is.

I normally harbor a pretty lenient attitude toward most invasives, but my generousity doesn't extend to English sparrows, aka house sparrows, aka HOSPs. I fought a war to rid my property of them about 5 yrs ago, and still I ended up having to close up the entrance on my birdhouse out in the meadow, formerly home to generations of bluebirds and house swallows. I'd recommend sparrowtraps dot net for the only way to catch English sparrows. Don't make the mistake of releasing the captives 20 miles away as I did; they'll beat you home. They really need to be killed, which is an unpleasant business that I hope to never go through again. But they will breed like rabbits otherwise, except they are not nearly as innocuous as rabbits. Anyways good luck getting rid of your population Jane! They are the devil's spawn AFAIC! The only other creatures I harbor a similar vendetta against are hornets and wasps!

Your spider is impressive! I'm not normally a fan of spiders either, but these exotic colorful ones are intiguing.

I agree that your turkeys are among the luckiest turkeys on the planet to live in your yard, Claire! They have their own water dishes and seating/perches. What a life!

Reintroducing the wild turkey in New England has to have been one of the most successful wildlife efforts in my lifetime. I remember when they released the first pairs here in Vermont in the 1970s, and were wondering if they could survive in the wild. It was such a treat to see them back then. Now they're everywhere, even in and around NYC! Amazing!

Your turkeys are sort of the NE garden web's mascots, Claire. I can't imagine one of these birds & mobile garden features threads without them!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 6:39PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

The 2nd chickadee photo immediately brought the image of a Whitehall guard, lol. Brave little chap he is and good shot, Claire.

Sped - I'm trying new food (safflower seed)that hopefully they will refuse for cheaper food somewhere else. After one day, the group was reduced by about 70%, I'd say. The young swimmers showed up for an afternoon dip, but none of them treated the new food with any enthusiasm. I killed the McDonald's they loved. We'll see if this holds through the next week and beyond because trapping is out for me. About the only thing I can catch is a cold. Have removed the bird houses in hope that they build in the two Os in the signage down at the Stop & Shop.

Jane

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 7:14PM
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spedigrees z4VT

Well Jane, changing the feed and hanging out the no vacancy signs on your birdhouses are the most effective recommended measures, short of trapping, and it sounds like it's having a positive effect. Nesting on the 'O's at the Stop & Shop sign! LOL I hope they do and you will be rid of them! That's a great shot of the hummer flying in to attack the sparrow.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 10:02PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I was photographing my winterberry wall yesterday, concentrating on getting a good shot of the ripening berries, and not noticing the birds there until they popped up on the camera screen (that's not berries!).

Eastern Towhee

Juvenile Song Sparrow, maybe, I'm not sure

There's going to be a good winter feast for the berry eaters.

Claire

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 10:22AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Claire - glad you have a healthy crop of berries this year. As I recall, last year was not bountiful. Should make for good photo opportunities. Lucky it's not a HOSP!

Sparrow Update: I'm now working under the assumption that 1/2 a loaf is better than none. A little more than half of the group appears to have vacated the premises. Unfortunately, the remainder, some 15 sparrows or so,are trying their darndest to develop a taste for safflower seed. They no longer dominate however, and the titmice, nuthatches, BC chickadees, cardinals and jays are having a fair go at the new fare, with the titmice leading the way. Had to remove the BOSS, because the sparrows literally 'bellied up to the bar' and held the feeder hostage.

Last evening when the winds were beginning to pick up in speed, there was a fairly loud thud outside on the deck. It was not an umbrella, it was a sparrow-less hawk that had crashed into the house in pursuit. He sat in the serviceberry for a few minutes perhaps recovering. It was quite a thud, but every sparrow is accounted for. sigh

Jane

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 11:19AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Jane: I've heard that VERY LOUD THUD against the side of the house or a window and then saw a hawk fly off. I wonder what the prognosis is, even though the hawk (or other bird) manages to fly. Maybe it's like the professional football players who suffer multiple concussions and exhibit brain damage later on....

Fifteen house sparrows sounds manageable - that's probably the average of what I have here, although it fluctuates greatly, and the other birds get to eat.

I wonder, though, how much difference it makes if they're feeding on the ground or on a hanging feeder. Do you spread seed on the ground too, as well as fill the hanging feeders? I would think that it's harder to dominate a ground-feeding area where the other birds can just find an open spot, rather than fighting over a limited number of ports in the feeder.

Unfortunately, ground-feeding can get messy and is not compatible with neat, tidy yards. Luckily, that doesn't bother me too much (in a rural area) and I have several separate ground-feeding areas (besides the accidental ones under the feeders). The nyjer path is very popular with native sparrows, doves, finches and turkeys, and not so popular with house sparrows. Granted, house sparrows can't easily chase off a turkey.

Claire

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 5:18PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Oh, I undoubtedly aided the attraction of more HOSP by sprinkling seed around the feeder for the mourning doves and the RB pecker would sift and sort in the tube feeder searching for cashews all the while spreading more seed/millet under the feeder. As of this morning, it's still a smaller group of HOSP so I'm hopeful the other 20+ found cheaper food somewhere down the road, like in southern Jersey. This experiment will be ongoing - still haven't got the mixture of my money and their tastes worked out. And, some feeders can leave some birds feeling bereft. Now this is sad: All that seed, a place to stand, and he can't reach it.

Jane

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 8:28AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Jane: Cashews? Cashews? You feed your woodpeckers cashews? I always think twice before buying cashews for myself, looking at the price for a can of "Deluxe Cashews". That is indeed a luxury seed mix you use.

Is that a nyjer feeder? What happens when the level gets near the bottom? Is there a cone in the center to shunt the seed off to the sides, or does it sit there out of reach?

The poor dove definitely needs help, maybe a seed saucer to hang under the feeder to give it something to stand on?

Claire

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 11:17AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Well, the mix I've been using does have cashews, but they're not the pretty kind. I don't know, I just bought a mix and they plow through it. No, that's not a thistle feeder - it has BOSS in it. The dove makes out very well UNDER the 3 feeders, so you don't have to feel sorry for him, lol.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 12:15PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

I wonder if this was an embarrassing moment for the squirrel?
That's the trouble with eating bird seed, lol.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 4:07PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

The chipmunk looks horrified so this may be a serious rodent faux pas (in chipmunk eyes), but the squirrel has a look of glee (I have a feather on my nose!).

Great picture.

Claire

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 5:21PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Just spotted this young couple this afternoon resting next to the nyjer feeder. I'm guessing a juvenile male/female rather than a molting adult male and juvi female...what do you think? Either way, they're really sweet.

Jane

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 5:02PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I don't know which they are, but they certainly are sweet.

A Red-breasted Nuthatch just came to the dish on the deck, the second time I've seen it. I reached for the camera very slowly, but the nuthatch grabbed a peanut and left before I was ready. The first time was on Sept. 21; this is the best I could get then. I was hoping for a better pic today.

Last week I finally got around to ordering bluestone pavers to extend my path and fill in a few areas. I've been mulling this over for about a year now but kept finding excuses not to do it (heavy to haul around, other things were biting into the budget, etc.).

Anyway, the pallet of pavers and the yard of sand were delivered and then I went off to run a short errand. I got back less than a hour later and some birds had apparently seen the mountain and conquered it, at least those are tracks all over the sand. I'm not sure if it was turkeys or grackles. They probably climbed the paver pallet too but didn't leave any tracks.

Claire

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 6:17PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

That's a good-looking pallet of pavers you have there, Claire. Looks like Pennsylvania tumbled bluestone - very dear, but very nice. It will make a lovely path. Good luck with the project.

Jane

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 8:53AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Thanks, Jane. I don't know if they're from PA, but they are tumbled bluestone, the same as my existing path.

I expect this project to last well into next summer, since I want to pace myself (those things are heavy!). Weather will make a difference, of course - once the ground is frozen I won't be able to dig for the sand bed. Enthusiasm will probably ebb, too, when it gets colder.

I haven't seen a hummer since Sept. 20, and they were rare then. The feeders are still up just in case, and the chickadees are ostentatiously drinking out of the central moat and looking around as if daring a hummingbird to attack.

Four chickadees are now alternating at the dish on my deck. They make a little cheep sound as they look at the dish, not the dee-dee call. These pics are from last week.

If there's peanuts there, the titmice will come too.

The catbirds and thrashers and grackles, lots of grackles, are still here.

Claire

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 11:01AM
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spedigrees z4VT

You have your work cut out for you, Claire, but I bet your path extension will look lovely when finally finished. It looks like the birds are enjoying the buffet you've set out for them. I wonder if they are the same birds who left their foot prints on your sand pile...

Nice shot of your pair of goldfinches, Jane. The goldfinches had quite a feast on my sunflowers this past month. Lucky for me (and for them next year too) that I had already harvested seeds for the 2013 crop, because when I went out to start cleaning out the veggie patch, all the flower heads remaining were picked completely clean of all their seeds. The finches were like animated yellow flowers themselves, zigging in and out of the sunflowers these past weeks.

This little guy was out and about yesterday. I always think of that old song "Woolly Bully" when I see these caterpillars! Ha ha. I found an interesting article about woolly bear cats that described research in the 1940s and 50s which points to the fact that the orange stripe, while not a predictor of the severity of the coming winter as folklore dictates, does reveal the conditions of the previous winter. If the orange band covers more than a 3rd of the caterpillar's body, it is supposed to indicate that the previous winter was mild, and since this one had a LOT of orange, and last winter was the mildest on record, it has the ring of truth. It's funny they turn into very nondescript, unspectacular moths, given how interesting and unique they are in their caterpillar phase.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 12:14PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Such a cute caterpillar, spedigrees. It makes sense that the colors would be determined by the previous season, not the future.

A few weeks ago I saw a wooly (woolly? - both seem to be accepted) bear caterpillar that was all black. I'd never seen one like that before.

I just googled and it was probably the caterpillar of the Giant Leopard Moth which can get up to 3.5 inches wingspan (the moth, not the cat). I think I would have noticed one of those. Massachusetts is within their range, so maybe so. I didn't look closely to see if it had the red bands when it curled up; I think I was busy so I just picked it up and moved it to the side of the path so I wouldn't step on it.

Claire

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 5:33PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

He is a cute little guy, Sped. That orange stripe makes all the difference. Across from a horse barn up the street, the woolies sometimes seemingly march in a row across the road from one meadow to another. Wonder if other people slow for caterpillars? Oh, well.

HOSP Update: Almost 2 weeks have passed since the feeder and food change and so far, only about 12-15 come here daily. That's about a two-thirds reduction. Here's hoping...

Jane

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 5:19PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

The new bluestone path is slowly growing (I guess you could call the pavers a mobile feature since I'm hauling them around). On September 30 some cardinals and a towhee were checking out the new surface and particularly the newly dug areas for food.

This morning a chipmunk surveyed the latest work - I'm averaging three or four pavers a day finished and walkable. Not exactly expeditious, but my aim is to finish with my back still functioning.

The critters are pushing me to get beyond their birdbath and out of their feeding area.

Claire

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 7:57AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

That's a nice pathway and lucky critters. I didn't see the mystical midnight weaver, but something was trying to connect some autumnal dots.
Jane

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 8:44AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

That's a nice genteel spider web, Jane. Imagine what your yard would be like if you had just weathered a massive flood and were inundated with spiders uprooted from their homes. The Australian town of Wagga Wagga found out.

Claire

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 10:32AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Yuck, that's gross. New Englanders are very fortunate geographically. Mother Nature is also the Wicked Witch.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 12:13PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Sometimes things just don't work out well. Window Alert Failure.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 5:26PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Is that a bird splat mark above the decal? Ouch! I'd say that you've located the perfect spot for another decal.

Claire

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 11:28AM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

One of the things that significantly diminished bird strikes on our picture window was to close a bedroom door in our house. Sometimes if birds see a way through, they will try to fly through your window. It's not always true, but it's worth checking to try to cut down on these dangerous and sometimes deadly strikes.

Steve

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 5:39PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Very good point, Steve. I have several windows with a clear view of a large window on the other side of the house so you can see through, and birds do sometimes try to fly through. In one case it's a breezeway. Unfortunately, there are no interior doors to close for these areas - I do have decals placed to try to block the visual access.

In other windows it's the reflection of trees in the window at certain times of the day that seems to cause the birds to try to fly to those trees. I have decals placed there too. It makes it challenging sometimes to photograph through the windows, dodging the decals (why is this pic out of focus?).

Claire

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 8:42PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Why does the wooly bear caterpillar cross the path? I have no idea, but it may be thinking "this wasn't here the last time I came through." I guess it's easier for the caterpillar than crawling through grass, but when it grows up it will fly right over.

Claire

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 1:04PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Steve, Claire-- Even with the window blind down, the mourning dove smacked into the window to make that impression. Little guy lived, although stunned. The triple window is only 30" away from me, so I know when they hit. The hawks hit the outside of the house (no window)while in pursuit, the woodpeckers smack into the screens, and they all whiz at mach 1 around the house corner where the feeders are, so after putting up window alerts where previous strikes have occurred, they are now on their own. They miss me by bare inches when I'm out there, so if they're all Barney Oldfield bent, let it be.

Jane

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 5:01PM
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pixie_lou

Jane - I realy love that photo of the spider web.

I'm really amazed at the bird activity in the back yard these days. Especially mid morning. I barely get any work done since I spend so much time looking at the birds. Though they all disappear as soon as I get my camera out!

Found this daddy long legs climbing on my hollyhock.

The bees have been feasting on the verbena bonasiris.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 11:20AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Pixie_lou: I haven't seen a daddy long legs for years,thanks for the reminder. That's a nice photo - the hollyhock looks good too. That's a really pretty color (the hollyhock).

Some of my miscanthus seedheads are opening and the birds are enjoying them. No glamorous birds here but I enjoy seeing them negotiating a floppy stem with a seedhead on the end.

House Sparrows

Brown-headed Cowbirds

I wish I could grow a huge ornamental grass that would form a canopy like this for me to sit under.

Claire

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 3:29PM
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pixie_lou

Not quite my garden. And a crappy photo taken on my phone. But this turkey was wandering around Harvard Square causing traffic jams yesterday afternoon. This was down on Mt Auburn Street by Bow Street.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 8:07AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

New admissions policy at Harvard? Probably had high SAT's though. Or maybe fruitlessly looking for Elsie's for a sandwich...

Claire

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 10:34AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

For the last week or so I've been working around a spider that's laid eggs in my bluestone paver pile. There's a chip on the side of one paver which is apparently a good spot to lay eggs since there's another paver on top protecting it. Every time I lift the top paver I see the spider and the egg sac in the depression and each time I carefully replace the paver and pick up a different one.

Sooner or later, though, I'm going to have to relocate that spider family (I don't want to kill them and I'd rather not abandon a whole stack of pavers to spiders. I also don't want to be bitten by a spider protecting its eggs).

Today I decided to try to get a photo and identify the spider so I lifted the cover paver again and now there are two spiders there. The light wasn't good enough for a real closeup.

I don't know spiders so I googled around and ran into a post on the Garden Clinic Forum by prairemoon2 from a few years ago showing a pic of a spider that was identified as a funnel weaver/grass spider. Looks like mine, so I'm tentatively calling it/them grass spiders, but I'm open to any corrections.

Anybody have experience relocating spiders on bluestone pavers?

Claire

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 5:25PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

A little more googling and I learned how to sex grass spiders. The one on the left is probably a male and the one on the right a female.

The reference, SuttonMass.org, says:
"There are actually sub-groups of grass spiders but they all look alike and can apparently be told apart by looking at the spiders' genitals. We're not quite that interested. We're happy enough to know it is a grass spider."

Well said.

Claire

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 1:24PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

This morning I tossed out a few defective blueberries from my breakfast bowl, but I didn't throw them as far as usual (didn't want to bother putting shoes on so I leaned out the door and tossed. That rarely works well.)

Anyway, I looked out a little later and a robin had found the blueberries. I just got one photo before it got annoyed and left.

I usually don't see robins in the fall until the winterberries are ripe. I don't know if this is a leftover summer robin or a winter robin newly migrated down here.

Claire

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 11:19AM
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molie(z6 CT)

Pixie-Lou, loved the spider photo and the pink hollyhock. I had, but lost, one just like yours. Is it an old standard that you've grown from seeds? And HA! --- turkey at Harvard--- looks like something a Yalie would cook up in photoshop.

Claire, I know that spiders have an important role to play but, gee, that link to Wagga Wagga was gross. I loved the pictures of birds-on-miscanthus. Being away for a month, I came home to find my grasses with tired, floppy seed heads and most of my perennials done for the season. So I missed the rush for seed that makes gardening and bird watching so special in the fall. We're getting ready to move our bird feeders closer to the deck and just got more birdseed--- also a new 'squirrel-proof' bird feeder. (Well see about that.)

Sped, interesting facts about little Mr. Woolly Bear. I didn't know about the connection between color and the winter cold, but it makes sense. At this stage in his life, he's a plumb tasty treat that can't fly away, but that large orange segment probably works as camouflage as he ambles through fallen leaves.

Jane, I love that pic of the squirrel with a feather in his mouth and the startled chipmunk. The squirrels are so cheeky this time of year. We find them, and blue jays, on our deck railings every morning because that's where we put peanuts.

Molie

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 1:27PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

That's interesting Claire. I had forgotten about that spider. Yours is only the second time I've heard of that one.

About the only suggestion I can come up with, is to move the pavers where you want the spiders to go, with gloves on. Maybe keep the two pavers away from each other so there is no protection for them to get shelter and I would imagine they would relocate on their own. Just leave the paver in that location until they are gone. ???

I've had a group of robins eating the white berries on our Cornus racemosa for the past couple of weeks. I wonder if the berries ripen gradually instead of all at once? They are not stripping the shrub of berries, just keep coming back in a steady stream.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 3:35PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

PM2: If it was just the adult spiders I would have carefully shaken them off the paver (wearing heavy gloves) and taken it away. They wouldn't have been hurt and they would have found a new home.

The problem was that the female spider was valiantly protecting her eggs every time I lifted the top and I was touched by this really small spider standing up to a very large giant (me) even though she seemed to be terrified.

I finally made a small pile of stones (dug up during excavation for the path) in a quiet spot away from the bird feeding area, and I found an old concrete paver I wasn't going to use and made it a roof. My plan was to catch the female spider in a plastic container then carefully lift the egg sack with a spackle knife and move it to the stone pile. I would then release the spider in the stone pile and cover it, making a new spider shelter.

One cold morning I went into action, and it was easier than I expected. The spider was motionless, probably because of the cold, and I just scooped her up and moved the spider family into the new shelter. In the spring the spiderlings should hatch and move out and I can demolish the spider shelter. Mission accomplished.

I now have the whole paver pile to myself again and I haven't found any new spider eggs.

Claire

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 5:42PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

LOL....you are amazing, Claire! You are so 'one' with nature. Thinking about how the spider thinks and seeing his defense against you the giant. Very nice story and love the ending. Good job!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 7:42PM
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molie(z6 CT)

Great rescue, Claire! And I'm sure when Spider-Mom thawed, she was completely unaware of the move. You certainly did the babies a favor by moving them away from the bird feeding area.
Molie

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 2:34PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

There is a family of six crows that lives on our/their property and this afternoon it appeared that Mom had a heart-to-heart with one of the kids. Had to overexpose these photos a bit to show as much detail of their eyes meeting as possible (it was a distance away). I was struck by their intensity and the amount of lasting attentiveness over the few minutes of meeting between them that I saw. There was a steady exchange of soft verbalizations during this eye-to-eye exchange. No food involved. One could innately know that they were relating perfectly.

And, a very free cardinal that appears to be caught in one of nature's nets:

Jane

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 6:25PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Claire? Are your chipmunks still with you? The pair that was here since last spring is gone. They have been noticeably absent since the arrival of the dark-eyed juncos two weeks ago...really. Just wondering.

Jane

Here is a link that might be useful: blueplanetbiomes.org

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 1:30PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

OK, I'm back. Finally finished the pre-storm preparation - the deck always takes longer than I planned, mostly because I told myself (to get me moving) that I could just shove all the junk in a corner, cover it with a tarp, weigh it down and voila! secure deck! It would have worked too, but once I got moving I decided to do the job well, which involved storing or dumping all that junk (this happens most years).

Fascinating crow conversation and well photographed! If it had happened here, I would suspect the mom was telling the kid to stop baiting the Cooper's Hawk, they can turn on you! For a while here, one of the juveniles was baiting a hawk and getting the hawk to chase it into the surrounding trees. I'd see a crow flying quickly and making ruk-ruk-ruk sounds, closely followed by a hawk. The two would fly to a tree and somehow the crow would go home without the hawk. At least once I saw the triumphant crow meet with the other youngsters, and I heard the ruk-ruk-ruk sound again like laughter.

Nice capture of the cardinal with the branches enclosing him.

I still have at least one chipmunk here; I saw one yesterday on the deck.

First junco today!

Claire

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 3:57PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Taking my mind off the Sandy storm, I saw robins today on my winterberry and they were eating the fruit! I've never seen robins (or any bird) eat the berries this early. They shouldn't be ripe yet but the robins don't seem to agree (what do I know). They usually start feasting at the end of December when the leaves are long gone and we've had a hard freeze. I'm curious whether they'll come back tomorrow, or if the unripe fruit gave them a stomach ache.

The photos are a little blurry because I shot through the windows which were wet/dirty from the storm.

Claire

    Bookmark   October 30, 2012 at 6:21PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

The setting is perfect, Claire. Hope you can capture them when you're outside. That beautiful winterberry should keep them happy for a while. One protective robin is now guarding both the ornamental pear and the Prairiefire crabapple that each have a bumper crop of fruit this year. I did see a robin trying the chokeberries recently, but like you, I thought it was too early. He took one and has not returned to the bush. I think the berries need to freeze twice before the birds find them delectable. Don't remember - do you also get Cedar Waxwings on the winterberry? They come in February here to glean the crabapples and chokeberries.

Jane

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 5:07PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I haven't seen the robins on the winterberry since Tuesday, Jane, so I guess the berries weren't really ripe yet. I'm sure they're still checking it though - robins are very good at planning ahead.

I do get Cedar Waxwings on the red cedars and the winterberry, but that's usually in December.

This year my little seedling winterberry also has berries, but on a much much smaller scale so it will probably be stripped in a few hours when it's ready.

Claire

    Bookmark   November 1, 2012 at 5:58PM
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pixie_lou

A little hard to see - but I have had an otter visiting the pond. He gave me the big stare down as I tried to take his picture. Then he sauntered out of the pond and out to the brook. I took this photo Monday. But he was back yesterday and again today.

Not sure how happy I am if an otter takes up residence. On the one hand I think it is pretty cool - I can pretend we have a pet otter. Yet I have no idea about the life style of otters - are they going to eat all my fish? And I hope otters don't eat flowers!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 9:00AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

It looks like you have a Loch Ness Otter! I don't know much about them except that they're supposed to be playful. I just found this National Geographic video:

Otter Chaos

Maybe you could build it a slide by your pond?

Claire

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 10:32AM
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pixie_lou

That video used the perfect work - frolicking! He has been having a blast swimming and splashing around.

DD no longer plays on her backyard slide. Maybe I could put it in the pond. Still not sure if I want to entice the otter to stay.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 10:44AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Forget the envy. PIXIE! I want your pond! How great is that?...unless one is a fish...now known as l'entree. Otters are great. There must be a river nearby. I keep hoping to see them on the Connecticut River. Ever thought about setting up a nature cam on your pond?

First snow of the season is happening now.

I hope 'Snowbird' is happy! (Dark-eyed junco)

I can't even pretend this an otter.

Jane

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 12:29PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

No snow (or otters here), got squirrels though. Lots of wind and some token rain. I'm now seeing grim little birds out that stayed in shelters for a while, probably hoping the wind would let up, but got hungry. I've put seed on the ground in relatively sheltered places so they can eat.

I put a suet feeder back up a few days ago and a Tufted Titmouse discovered it. It's hard to see but the grass is whipping around (the feeder is partly protected by a big rose).

A chickadee is on the feeder now but it's too dark to photograph.

Your squirrel looks like it could use a blanket - one of mine apparently stole one. I put my usual Halloween ghosts (made out of frost blankets) out under the white pine the day before Halloween and only brought them in when this new storm appeared.

A few days ago I noticed one of the ghosts had come loose and seemed to be stuck partway up the pine trunk. I was surprised because it hadn't been particularly windy and I thought it was well anchored, but I figured I'd get it down when the rest of the ghosts came in. Well, yesterday I went to get the ghosts and the loose one was completely gone. That's when I remembered seeing squirrels in past years yanking at burlap trying to get a piece loose. I think a squirrel now has a nicely insulated nest up in that pine, lined with soft warm frost blanket. The squirrel is probably purring now, if squirrels purr.

Claire

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 3:53PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Ah, life and its contrasts. From Halloween above to winter below with the stroke of a Nor'easter.

Got 8" of wet snow and a busy birch tree.

Jane

P.S. Frost blanket ghosts--do frost blankets really work better than old sheets or a tarp?

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 11:40AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I think one advantage of frost blankets is that they let a lot of light through, just diffused. I've kept house plants under frost blankets outdoors for weeks and they've been happy. The frost blanket is also light so you can easily put it on a frame.

Under that blanket is two clivias and two Christmas cacti. I don't have appropriate place indoors to induce the cacti to set bud, so I count on cold outside.

I waited until the night temps got close to freezing and then brought them in. The Christmas cacti were covered in buds. This is them today.

The clivias just ignore me but I keep trying.

Claire

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 12:53PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Forgot to mention that the first photo was taken on October 10. As it got colder I threw some heavier frost blankets on top, but the light still came through.

Claire

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 12:58PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Thanks for the explanation, Claire. Lovely colors on the Christmas cacti. A neighbor who is moving after living here for 55 years, offered me her clivia a few months ago; I declined. She said words similar to yours about its willingness to bloom, but when it does bloom, it is lovely.
Jane

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 2:48PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

The robins are back checking on the winterberry ripeness.

It's hard to tell from up here (they did go down later).

I know this isn't a robin - a starling just showed up. I don't see them often but it sure looks pretty here with the berries.

Meanwhile, the practical cardinals continue to work on the dried pokeberry fruits. This female is particularly beautiful, to me at least. I like the soft coloring of her feathers.

Claire

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 9:41AM
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Tina_n_Sam(CT-Z6)

Jane, your yard looks beautiful with the snow.

Claire, thanks for the explanation about the frost blanket. I have christmas cacti that have buds too. I'm crossing my fingers that they will bloom this year.

I bought a couple of winterberry bush last month for 40% off at VanWilgens. They have since lost the last of their leaves with the snow but the berries are still there. I hope the birds here will like them.

As for the female cardinal, she is a beauty. I like the peachy color with the brown in her feathers.

-Tina

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 12:45PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Wonderful shots, Claire! That winterberry creates a perfect setting. I planted a m/f pair about 6 years ago only to have them eaten by deer. I sprayed too late apparently. Same thing just happened last night; my yard became the Deer Buffet. Had not sprayed recently because of the storms, snow and wet leaves on the shrubs, now the hydrangeas, shrub roses, purple sand cherry, et al, are a lot shorter. So, for those of us with no winterberry, please keep shooting.

Jane

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 2:28PM
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Tina_n_Sam(CT-Z6)

Jane, your yard looks beautiful with the snow.

Claire, thanks for the explanation about the frost blanket. I have christmas cacti that have buds too. I'm crossing my fingers that they will bloom this year.

I bought a couple of winterberry bush last month for 40% off at VanWilgens. They have since lost the last of their leaves with the snow but the berries are still there. I hope the birds here will like them.

As for the female cardinal, she is a beauty. I like the peachy color with the brown in her feathers.

-Tina

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 6:54AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Ten robins here yesterday sampling the winterberry, none so far today (although I haven't been spending much time looking). At the rate they're eating the unripe berries there won't be much left when they're actually ripe.

Pine Siskins have arrived! One yesterday and four today. It's a nice change to see "goldfinches" with tiger stripes.

And for the crow appreciators here, I saw two very shiny crows today on the shepherd's crook, a favorite crow perch and staging area.

Claire

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 11:21AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

For the love of Mike, I had pine siskins and thought they were juvi goldfinches? Apparently so. Good thing you posted this, Claire. Also saw 1 - only one - yellow warbler last month - first sighting ever. Was definitely a "butter butt" - haven't seen him since. But, IF these are pine siskins - without the tinge of yellow on wings, then they arrived before the hurricane. Good looking young crows (for those of us who feed them).

Jane

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 1:53PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I don't think that's a Pine Siskin, Jane - the bill is too thick and it doesn't have the wing bars. It looks more like a female House Finch.

Check the Similar Species pic at the bottom of the Pine Siskin page on All About Birds.

Do you have other photos showing the back and head? The siskin is the same size as a goldfinch if you've seen them together.

Claire

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 4:37PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Yup, I believe you're right. Honestly, it would be easier if they didn't all shop for feathers at Macy's. Do only blue-feathered birds and woodpeckers go to Bergdorf's?
Anyway, I do have another shot, but, they're probably finches and my 'Pine Siskins' folder will remain empty until a thin little beak shows up finch outerwear. Good thing I didn't do the PFW count yet.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 4:56PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Jane: Those two look like siskins to me - they're much less stocky than your first bird and have that quizzical look to them with a forked tail. I would send the photo off to PFW for confirmation, but I think you do have siskins (along with House Finches).

I went through a period where I kept sending photos of streaky birds to PFW and asking if this was a Pine Siskin, and getting the answer, no, it's another House Finch. Eventually I got a real one. and then many, many siskins last year. This may also be an irruptive year and they've headed south again, at least I've read they're in MA now.

The fact that you thought they were juvenile goldfinches is telling. They do look just like goldfinches, but with stripes and some yellow highlights.

Claire

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 5:17PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

This is a photo of a Pine Siskin on top with an American Goldfinch on the bottom taken in December 2008. Very similar birds.

Claire

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 5:27PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

That's a good example, Claire. The pine siskins, if they are, didn't show up during my PFW count, so no worry about incorrect reporting. Will verify photo with PFW.

Woodpeckers: Other than seeming to be comfortable for tree clingers, do you notice any difference in suet feeding with the new 'tail support' model?

The yellow-bellied sapsucker has returned.

Jane

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 1:11PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

That's a wonderful photo of the sapsucker, Jane! I've never seen one here.

I haven't had that much experience with a free-hanging single cake suet feeder, so I'm not sure if the tail-prop feeder is much better. The bigger birds certainly look more comfortable and even the titmouse was feeding using its tail for support.

The best suet arrangement I had was when I hung a single suet cage in the wisteria standard just outside my window. The birds could perch on the wisteria in many different positions (I'm watching a titmouse on the feeder again using the tail prop). Unfortunately, the squirrels not only climbed the wisteria for the suet, they discovered the wisteria flower buds in the spring and ate those for dessert. That's why I moved to a free-hanging suet feeder. I also had good results with a double suet cake feeder, i.e., rectangular and longer.

Claire

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 2:04PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Well, he crashed into the house again this morning. Poor chap, maybe he needs flying lessons, but in his pursuit of sunning sparrows on the edge of the roof, my house gets in his way. After each crash, he stops for (seemingly) reflection and to regain his composure. This cedar post is right next to the deck, so he's about 15' away from the house (aka 'crash site'). Looks like a sharp shinned hawk to me and if so, looking at those talons, I'd say he is correctly named.


Jane

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:45AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

And a fine hawk it is - I'm leaning to Cooper's rather than Sharpie, but I'm often wrong. (I keep looking at this Tricky Bird IDs: Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper's Hawk site).

Those are serious talons; I'm glad I'm much bigger than hawks.

Claire

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 3:27PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

You're right, I think, after looking at a few other pictures of Cooper's. They are very similar at certain stages of plumage. Might be the same chap who lands in the rhodies outside - still in search of those sparrows.

As an aside, on the most recent PBS Nature program ducks were featured and as they signed off, the next program will be about wild turkeys. Thought you and the other turkeys fans here might like to see it. Should be viewable online next week if TV isn't your thing.
Jane

Here is a link that might be useful: Ducks/Turkeys- Nature, PBS

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 9:19PM
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pixie_lou

Had a red bellied woodpecker on my suet this morning. First time I've seen one in my yard. I think this one is a male.

As for suet - I just buy the unprocessed suet from the butcher. I don't even render it - just put the chunks in an onion bag and hand it from a shephard hook. The squirrels leave it alone. I get lots of downy woodpeckers. And now that it is cold out - I'm getting quite a few nuthatches and chickadees on it. But the woodpeckers dominate.

The depth perception is really off in photo. This hook is on the edge of my patio - about 20-25' from the back of my house. And the edge of the pond you see is at least another 100-150' beyond the patio.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 10:43AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Nice shots of the red-belly, pixie_lou. I see them off and on here but they're still staying in the trees and I hear them more than I see them. It's such a very distinctive call - I hear it then look and see them working their way along the branches.

It's still relatively warm here and I guess they're finding bugs to eat on the trees. Later on they'll come to the feeders. Maybe when it gets colder I'll try the unprocessed suet. I'm afraid it'll get really rancid in warm weather.

Claire

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 5:31PM
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Tina_n_Sam(CT-Z6)

I had no idea what a suet is until I looked it up. Didn't know that some birds will eat it neither.

I learn quite a bit from this forum. Thanks for posting it.

I definitely will put one up in a couple of weeks.

Thanks,
Tina

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 12:10PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Tina: Suet is mostly appreciated by insect-eating birds. I read somewhere that insects contain very high levels of fat and suet is a good substitute in the winter when insects are scarce.

This thread is getting long so I just started a new one, #7. I'm not sure how the RERE got in the title (and got past me) but the new thread works. As always, if people want to continue the discussion here, that's fine with me.

Claie

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 11:29AM
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