Hummingbirds at the Feeder

May 24th, 2008

We have a few thirsty hummingbirds that visit the feeders each day.  The only resident species here in Missouri is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  The female in this picture seems to take turns with the male at the feeder many times during the day.  In a few weeks there will be young hummingbirds flying all around, and then it’s like a festival at the feeders with little birds zooming everywhere.   

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird

It’s hard to believe these little birds migrate all the way to Mexico and Central America.  It doesn’t seem possible for an animal that weights 1/8 of an ounce, but their tiny hearts beat faster than 4 times each second while resting and more than 20 times per second while flying and feeding.

Bluebirds Leave the Nest

May 17th, 2008

 I was walking along minding my own business when I was dive-bombed by a Bluebird.  They had been  rearing young in the nest boxes, and as I looked down I found this little guy sitting in the grass.  Another fledgling was in the garden a few feet away.  Very strange because they couldn’t even fly yet.  I left them alone and when about my business. 

Fledgling Bluebird

Later that evening as the sun dipped below the horizon, I found another one near the door of the barn, all alone.  Not a Bluebird adult in sight and that one looked even more pitiful.  I usually leave wildlife alone knowing that nature knows much better about how to take care of itself than I do, but we were due for cold and heavy rain that night and I had a feeling the little guy wouldn’t make it.  So I plunked him back in the nest box near the garden.  He (she?) hopped right in and looked at me hungrily.  I said goodnight, and the next day checked the box again.  The bird was gone.  Maybe it’ll grow up around here with the others. 

There are quite a few Bluebirds flying about the grass now, eating crane flies and other morsels, with the little ones hopping and flying about.  I love how they eat so many bugs.  Of course I wasn’t too thrilled with the Phoebe’s the other day- they were perched above the beehives snacking on my new workers!


Gandering at Geese

May 2nd, 2008

Sometimes I think I should call this blog The Pond Watcher based on how often I find myself looking wistfully at the water.   Mostly I simply enjoy watching all the critters that live in, on or around it.  Many animals just visit briefly, which keeps it interesting.  But lately we’ve had a family of Canada Geese visiting with their youngsters. 

So I guess I’m gandering at the gander, the goose and the goslings :)  There are a few ponds in the area, and the geese actually walk for hundreds of yards through the fields to different ponds with the goslings in tow.  They have also nested here in the past, but I discourage that due to all the, well… you know what.  We live right here at the pond, and with too much of the ah, you know what laying around, it becomes quite messy.   But the geese have prevailed this year, and I’ll enjoy watching them swim around the pond.

Of course the little goslings are very cute to watch, but the harsh realities of nature takes its toll as there were seven little guys following the parents around last week, and now there are only four left.  We have a lot of hawks, coyotes, foxes, fish and turtles around…  But maybe these four will make it to adulthood?  There is no shortage of Canada Geese in the midwest, but it’s neat to watch them grow and learn to fly.

Family of Canada Geese in May

Toad Love on Earth Day!

April 22nd, 2008

Its been a busy few days and the pace of spring just amazes me.  We finally had time to get most of the garden planted, even earlier than last year.  Hooray! Not being satisfied with last year’s cucumbers, I planted four different kinds this year.  Now if I can only remember which ones I planted where… doh!

We’ve been planting many small trees around the property, and transplanting a few others.  Isn’t it wonderful to dig in the earth once in a while?  My hands are sore but somehow after packing a tree in it’s new home in the ground it actually feels like you’re doing something.  This year we need to put up some deer fencing, or the trees won’t make it to next spring. 

Ah, but I just remembered it’s Earth Day today!  I hope everyone has a chance to get outside and enjoy the wonders of spring. 

The American Toads (Bufo americanus) have been trilling in and out of the pond, and their chorus is amazing at the height of mating season.  We had a picnic down by the pond and watched them calling and laying gelatinous masses of eggs.   

The toads can be found all around the ridgelines and around the house during the year, so it’s interesting to see them in the water during breeding season.  My picture of Toad Love last year was about 20 feet from the water’s edge. The males grab tightly to the back of the females and they find a weedy place near the shoreline to lay the eggs.   It was funny watching them swim tandem under the water for 4-5 feet at a time, and then come popping up!

Male and female American Toads

We must have seen about 30 toads along 50 feet of the pond shoreline.  Here’s a lone male trying to lure a female to the sound of his voice.   From what we saw, most of the female toads were already spoken for.  Keep tryin’ fella! 

A lonely male American Toad

 They didn’t seem to mind our presence… they had a job to do.  These masses of eggs will become thousands of tadpoles in a few weeks.

American Toads with egg masses in a pond

We appreciate the toads because they eat a lot of insects as well.  In mid-summer, they can be found near the house under the porch lights having bugs for dinner.

For those not inclined to appreciate the merits of toads, here’s a bloom of Wood Sorrel.  But it’s funny, my toad post from last year also had a picture of Wood Sorrel. 

My new late-April spring saying:  The Toads are in love when the Wood Sorrel blooms. 

Wood Sorrel blooming

And the Baltimore Orioles have returned, although they only stay for a few weeks it seems.  This one’s plumage is a little dull compared to those I saw last year, but it’s also about two weeks early.  Maybe a female? Or will the coloration become brighter orange with time?  I may try to set out some orange slices and a feeder to see what happens.

Baltimore Oriole

And I did see the first Hummingbird today already.  I put up the feeders yesterday in case, but didn’t know they were really back yet.  Our Barn Swallows are busy working on their nest, and it seems we’ll have two mating pairs this year.  So lots of Barn Swallows to take care of the bugs too.  I was hoping for some Purple Martins, and one actually landed on the Martin house this week- but was promptly chased away by a House Sparrow of all things.  I’ve got to remove that sparrow’s nest…  For now it’s back to planting trees.   Enjoy the day!

A Hungry Visitor

April 12th, 2008

Our friend the Great Blue Heron has returned.  It doesn’t nest here, but makes the rounds in the morning to try and find a meal or two.  I was walking back toward the pond the other day and saw it flying away with a very large bulge in its neck.  “That better not be our koi!” I shouted.  Last year we found a huge bluegill laying on the bank with big scissor marks down both sides of its body.  The heron had grabbed and tried to eat it, but couldn’t.

Great Blue Heron at the pond

All things being equal (which they’re not), I would rather the heron feed somewhere else.  I’ve heard that some koi owners lose all the fish in their ponds to herons.  Can’t blame them for finding food where it’s most convenient. They are beautiful birds, but we like managing our own fish population!

As I walked closer to the heron it flew away over the pond with a raucous “Aawwwk!”.

 Great Blue Heron flying over pond

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