Monday, May 28, 2012

The Brown Headed Nuthatch: Courage and Comedy

   You can't always rely on the experts, we're not supposed to have Brown Headed Nuthatches here in Roanoke, Virginia, but you better believe we do. They're supposed to be restricted to the pine forests of the Tidewater and Piedmont areas of the southeast, but somehow we've managed to have a reliable population for several years here in the mountainous southwest of the state. Small, fast, and animated like a Chickadee, the BHNH (birder code) will surely win you over if you see one, or in my case, nine! Yes, I counted nine individuals as they flew away from our feeding station, presumably two parents and seven offspring. Clutch size is usually between 3-9 eggs, so seven is not uncommon.
   Needless to say, we feel extremely fortunate to have provided a habitat for these birds, even though they didn't nest specifically here in our yard, the parents have been visiting very regularly all Spring. These little dynamos have squeaked their way into my heart, I can't help but smile any time I hear their call. You can learn more about them and listen to their unique call here at the Cornell Lab.

Courageous, because they tolerate my presence quite well, much like Chickadees and Downys.

Comedic, because, well, they sound like a dog's squeaky toy and they're just plain silly to watch.

Here's an adult BHNH accompanied by a male House Finch, for size comparison

Typical nuthatch acrobatics...

Do you think they get headaches?

Juvenile BHNHs have grey heads instead of brown

Friday, May 25, 2012

100 Cedar Waxwings Can't be Wrong! Plant a Black Cherry!

I'd been hearing Cedar Waxwings in the area for the past few days, now I know why, Black Cherries!
   We who garden for nature don't really need an excuse to add another plant species to our yard, but in case you do ;) or you're actually more of a birder than gardener, let me recommend our native Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). Jeff and I call this particular tree the "Flicker Tree" because in winter we often see Flickers hanging out in the top. This tree actually sits on the far edge of our neighbors yard but we have a clear view of it, and so do the birds. It happens to be the highest vantage point around, which makes it the perfect roosting spot for the birds and bird watching target for us. The fact that it a fruiting tree makes it all the more attractive, making the insects buzz with delight in the spring and a living bird feeder in the summer. Some of the birds we regularly see here are, of course, Cedar Waxwings, Bluebirds, Flickers, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Kingbirds (when in the area), Cooper's Hawks, Robins, and occasionally a Kestrel. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few.
   So there you have it, plant a Black Cherry and get yourself some nice binoculars to watch the action that will surely ensue!

Hey guys, they're not even ripe yet!

The "Flicker" tree, as viewed from our yard, a classic double trunked specimen

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Snakes!

Uh, ahem...Jeff happened to come across these two black snakes gettin' familiar with each other and managed to capture this video with his iPhone. They are seriously twisted up tight!

Pretty wild, don't you think?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Praying Mantis Hatch!

*Sorry I've been absent for a few weeks, between rehabbing my foot, playing catch-up with the gardens, and getting ready for and going on a week long trip to Cape Hatteras, blogging had to take a backseat.

So, where was I...oh yeah! The praying mantises (what is the plural of mantis? mantids? I like the sound of mantises better :) ) finally hatched and I was lucky enough to notice. It happened sometime in the week before last, and being a lover of mantises, it was awesome! There had to be at least a hundred or so of those little micro buggers emerging from that egg case. Although I read they're supposed to disperse and rarely are seen again, I'm still seeing dozens in the surrounding flower beds. I guess all that work making our yard a happy habitat is paying off. By the way, have you noticed more insects this year? (particularly bad ones like earwigs) I sure have, perhaps as a result of our mild winter?

For all you (beneficial) insect lovers out there, feast your eyes upon this...

Getting the camera to focus on the right thing was SO HARD! Here's one squirming out of the egg case.

Look at all those mantises! By the way, they're on a Caryopteris shrub and they are not responsible for the leaf damage you can see here, some other yet to be unidentified bug is.

Totally rad, dude! I wonder what could they possibly be eating since they themselves are so tiny (8-10mm).