Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Year Day

I guess

My 96 year old mother with dementia/Alzheimers had a stroke late this morning. So I spent the afternoon and part of the evening with her at the hospital. She was alternately screaming, I guess because she could, and telling me I was a no good so and so for having her taken to the hospital. Sigh

Birding/blogging is on hold for at least a few days.

If you are a praying person, pray for some patience for me. Thanks.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Went out to Branched Oak Lake again this afternoon. In the melted area there were more Canada Geese than yesterday. Added to yesterdays mix were Common Goldeneyes and Redheads. Yesterday there were three Ring-billed Gulls, today there were at least fifty. The two Bald Eagles were still there, though not sitting in the trees keeping watch.

There has been a large nesting box that I have often wondered about. Today I found out who is, at least presently, using it. When I saw him, he was about half way out of the box. When I stopped, he retreated, but kept an eye on me. I opened the sunroof and got this shot of him. Was sure opening the sunroof would totally spook him, but it didn't.

larger image

Headed south to Pawnee Lake to see if the lake was melting also. It was. There was a nice sized mixed flock of Canada, Cackling, and Greater White-fronted Geese. There were also two Snow Geese.

There were also at least two good sized flocks of Cedar Waxwings.

larger image

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More Evidence Spring Is On the Way

I went out to Branched Oak Lake this morning. There are areas of the lake that are beginning to melt. In one area where the most melting had occurred was a small flock of Canada geese, several Mallards and two or three Ring-billed Gulls. Watching over them in the trees on the adjacent shore were two Bald Eagles. Another small bit of evidence that spring is on it's way.

Like the absent minded professor, I left the camera sitting on the kitchen counter. The camera bag was in the car, so I didn't notice the error of my ways until it was far too late. Hence, no pictures today.

On a personal note. Regular readers will know I have a 96 year old mother with dementia/Altzheimers. She has been living in an independent living facility. For the past year or so there have been Home Health Aids with her 24/7. It has become increasingly difficult for them to care for her on every level. Mostly because the dementia/Altzheimers is progressing at a steady rate. I have had her on a waiting list for the "best" nursing home in town for awhile. I have been notified that they have a room available. So my energies for the next while will be directed to getting her moved and settled. I do not know how that will impact my ability to be out and about observing the spring migration, or posting on this blog.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

At This Time Of Year....

one appreciates any sign at all that spring is on the way.

Melting ice

larger image

First flock of Red-winged blackbirds of the year

larger image

That picture shows just a very small portion of a humongeous flock

Friday, February 22, 2008

Sandhill Cranes

In the birding world Nebraska is well known for the migration of the Sandhill Cranes every spring. Every year 500,000 cranes (more than 80% of the world's Sandhill Crane population) descend on the state of Nebraska between late February and early April. It is truly a birding spectacle.

I wasn't into birding when I moved to Nebraska. The first spring I was here, a number of my co-workers told me that I had to go see the cranes. So one Sunday a friend and I headed off to see the cranes. We were so fascinated we found a store and each bought a pair of binoculars to see them better. (Turned out to be pretty crummy binoculars, but they served the purpose that day!) I took a bunch of pictures. Some of the pictures I took were of some white birds...took the pictures into work and learned they were Snow Geese. The seed was planted and eventually I became more and more interested in birding or birdwatching...whichever term you prefer. I frankly think the parsing of those two terms is kind of silly, but whatever.

A few facts about Sandhill Cranes

  • They are 3 to 4 feet tall
  • Their wingspan is 6 feet
  • They weigh 8 to 12 pounds
  • Their flight speed is 38 mph
  • They can migrate 170 to 450 miles in a day
  • They nest in Northern Canada, Alaska and Siberia
  • They begin to mate at 3-4 years of age
  • They mate for life
  • They lay 2 eggs per year
  • Their lifespan is 20 to 40 years

The cranes come to rest and refuel before continuing north to their respective breeding grounds. They need the time in Nebraska to put on weight and store energy for the rest of their migration. About 90 percent of their diet is corn, which quickly adds fat. The other 10 percent of their diet includes insects, earthworms, snails and plants which provide essential proteins for migration and egg production.

They roost at night in the shallow waters of the Platte River. The river provides protection from predators, and spend the days in the surrounding fields.

In the next few days I'll do at least a couple more posts on these glorious birds.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cackling Goose Sighting

In 2004 the four smallest subspecies of the Canada Goose were split into a separate species. The smaller species is known as the Cackling Goose. The main difference is in overall size, a smaller bill, and a white ring at the base of the neck. The books say their voices are similar, but the Cackling Goose is higher. From observation today, I would say thats pretty accurate. Sort of the difference between a tenor and a soprano. I must confess I generally pay little attention to Canada Geese, except for the spring time when the goslings are cute and eminently photographable! So, while I knew that Cackling Geese winter in this area, I have never really sought them out.

Today was one of those days that gives one hope that spring may come sometime. They were forecasting 40 degrees and that sounded like a heat wave after the temperatures in the past week. Schramm Park was among my destinations today.

In the pond by the old fishery was a Cackling Goose,

larger image

larger image

And for size comparison with a Canada Goose

larger image

Guess I'll have to pay more attention to the Canada Geese...cuz' one never knows, there just might be a Cackling Goose in their midst

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bird Cams

Have been meandering the intertoobz this evening and came across a couple of raptor cams. They are located at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland.

The refuge site describes the history of the cams:

In 2001, the Friends of Blackwater embarked on a new project whereby they mounted a small camera on an osprey nesting platform near the Wildlife Drive at Blackwater Refuge. Images were then wirelessly transmitted to a monitor at the Visitor Center and also to the Friends of Blackwater website. Every season since 2001, the Friends have operated the Osprey Cam and allowed visitors at the Refuge, and on the Friends' website, to witness the miracle of seeing numerous osprey chicks hatch and fledge.

Due to the overwhelming success of the Osprey Cam, the Friends decided to mount a camera over an active bald eagle nest on the Refuge property beginning in 2004. The live Eagle Cam has proven even more popular than the Osprey Cam, and numerous eaglets have hatched and fledged on the cam.

Currently the Eagle Cam is live from December through July (when the eagles are at the nest), and the Osprey Cam is live throughout the year, even though the ospreys are only on the nest from March through September. After the ospreys migrate to South and Central America in the fall, bald eagles take over the osprey platform and use it as a riverside perch, so the Friends leave the Osprey Cam on all year to allow cam watchers to see the visiting bald eagles.

The Osprey Cam is here.

The Eagle Cam is here.

I love this kind of technology because it allows us the opportunity to see something that we would otherwise have the opportunity to see.

UPDATE 2/15: Was transferring my favorite birding blogs to a different RSS feed provider and came across this post by Nervous Birds about an afternoon of birding at Blackwater NWR. Some nice photos!

Monday, February 4, 2008

From the Local Paper

It takes a very special kind of person to do these good works.

Lois Moss first started rescuing wildlife about 18 years ago, after her husband had a stroke and she was looking for a new pastime he would enjoy.

He died not long after, but Moss continued taking in injured or orphaned animals every year.

From about March to October, she spends nearly every waking hour caring for primarily birds, occasionally other animals.

When baby birds start falling from nests in the spring, they bring them to this 80-year-old woman nicknamed The Bird Lady.

When a bird flies into a window and is too stunned to move, they bring it to The Bird Lady.

The newborns go on a heating pad in the spare bedroom. She uses a dropper to feed them a mixture of canned dog food, applesauce, eggs, turkey mash and vitamin powder. Every hour.

Birds eagerly open their mouths, and squirrels (which her daughter, Gail the Squirrel Lady, rescues) wrap their tiny paws around the dropper. Bunnies — they’re not so easy to feed.

Possum formula is much more complicated, and they’re not as grateful.

“Even when they’re little, they’ll open their mouth and hiss at you,” Gail says.

The older birds go in a cage in the garage until they’re ready to be released into the wild.

During the quiet before the storms that will bring birds to Lois’s modest little ranch home, the only sound in her living room is the kitchen clock that chimes bird sounds, and the one tenant, a ringneck dove, softly cooing in the basement.

Lois and Gail are part of the nonprofit volunteer Wildlife Rescue Team, which takes squirrels, bunnies, possums, raccoons, minks, bobcats, wolves, foxes, beavers, woodchucks —- even a hedgehog.

Over the years, Lois has had ducks, turkeys, geese, pheasant, crows — all kinds of birds. She takes in hundreds every year; she’s liable to have 30 to 40 on any given day during the busy season.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Red-tailed Hawk At Squaw Creek

Meant to include this photo of a Red-tailed hawk taken yesterday

larger image

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Nice Day Trip

Have spent the last couple of weeks chasing my tail. Some days going clockwise, others, counterclockwise. An elderly parent with dementia/Alzheimers can keep you going sometimes....

Haven't been out birding for awhile...last night when I realized today might be a day to go do something, I checked the Squaw Creek NWR site. Their Waterfowl Survey page showed that there were Trumpeter and Tundra Swans there. I went hmmm to self.

So this morning the Mandy dawg and I headed off. She can no longer be left alone all day as she is on water pills...and though she doesn't travel as well as she did when she was younger, she does eventually settle in and down.

The tree damage from ice storms earlier in the winter season was evident throughout the refuge. Most of the wetlands was frozen and the area that was still open was quite far out. I've cropped some photos of the Canada and Snow Geese, Mallards, and Trumpeter Swans.

In the last photo, on the left hand side, there is a Sandhill Crane. I was absolutely dumbfounded when I saw two of them through the spotting scope.

Other highlights of the day were a Pileated Woodpecker and a flock of about six Tufted Titmice. No photos, unfortunately.