Yesterday was cool (it never reached 60 deg. F), cloudy and damp (there were sporadic showers in the morning)… in other words the odes were not flying. Thus, I turned my attention (and lens) to birds and I staked out the feeders for a few hours in the afternoon.
The damp weather brings out the red efts and yesterday was no exception. There were half a dozen in the small patch of lawn behind the house. As usual there were chipmunks and squirrels scavenging what they could from the bird feeders.
The usual feeder birds were present, among them were a female rose-breasted grosbeak, a male goldfinch and a number of tufted titmice. None of which presented themselves well for photography.
Also present (and photographed) were what seem to be a pair of downy woodpeckers, a hairy woodpecker, at least one male ruby-throated hummingbird and a lone turkey.
The turkey has been a regular visitor to our yard for the past few weeks. I’m no expert, but I would hazard a guess that it is either a female that did not nest or a immature male looking for a territory.
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We keep a few bird feeders out by the greenhouse, just off the deck in back of the house. Watching (and occasionally photographing) the birds the feeders attract is a source of great pleasure in our lives.
However, the feeders are also the cause of great consternation… the neighborhood
chipmunks seed thieves have decided that the sunflower seeds in the main feeder have been put there for them.
I keep telling them that the devices are called bird feeders for a reason but they do not seem to listen at all!
The best I have been able to manage is to train the critters who live under our shed to run for their lives when I open the doors leading out to the deck.
The individuals who live in the woods (judging from the direction they run when I chase them off) are still very brave… I have to walk up to the feeder and give it a whack to get them to jump off!
The “fellow” in the photo below sat atop the big rock by the deck and vocalized for some minutes last evening. I am not sure what it was saying (my ability to communicate in chipmunk-ese is poor; see above), but I imagine that s/he was warning all of the other chipmunks to stay away from the feeder.
The beginning of September brings three harbingers of the autumn that is just around the corner…
The hawks and other raptors begin their migration. We, in the Monadnock region, are lucky to have a wonderful spot from which to observe this world-class spectacle. New Hampshire Audubon organizes and staff an observatory on the summit of Pack Monadnock in Miller State Park during September and October each year. Visits are always interesting; I tend to go on weekdays when it is not quite as busy.
The swamp maples begin to turn red. For some reason, the swamp maples at the north end of Gregg Lake seemed to turn especially early this year; there were signs of red in late August. Currently, these trees are about at their peak and there it little change most of the other trees.
The chipmunks become manic. Living more-or-less in the woods, with a property bounded by stone walls, we are well acquainted with chipmunks. However, in early September as the acorns start to drop, the chipmunk activity really picks up. One does not even have to go outside as their squeaking vocalizations are clearly heard when the windows are open.
Late yesterday afternoon, I noticed “nice light” on the chipmunk highway (i.e. the stone wall) down by the road. I headed down, with camera in hand, hoping to get some photos of “flying” chipmunks as they jumped from stone to stone, often with an acorn in their jaws. I failed miserably… they are just too fast for me! I did manage a couple of frames of individuals who stopped to eat along the highway!
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How is that for an attention-getting post title!
It might be attention-getting, but it is a good description of the ode activity in our yard yesterday. There were dozens of whitefaces, at altitudes ranging from one to twelve feet constantly on the move and feeding. There were also smaller numbers of other species both hunting and mating.
In addition to the odes there were also decent numbers of butterflies around… small orange butterflies down low in the vegetation, many swallowtails nectaring (especially on the blackberries) and a single black butterfly on the edge of the road looking for salt. (The last two butterfly photos as of the same individual.)
There were often groups of three or four swallowtails doing their in flight dances… is this mating behavior or is it about territory? More stuff to learn!
Through it all, the chipmunks living in our stone walls would chatter at me. I guess that they want the yard to themselves.
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After getting off to a late start, spring is progressing nicely.
The last of the ice on Gregg Lake finally disappeared over the weekend, the daytime temperatures have been in the fifties and sixties and even though it has been getting down around freezing at night we have not been lighting the stove every evening.
The chipmunks have become active over the past few days and “new” birds are appearing regularly.
I spent a couple of hours down by the lake yesterday morning watching a trio of wood ducks wend their way around the lake north of the bridge. The female spent most of her time feeding. The males spent most of their time jockeying for position and posturing.
Yesterday evening, I watched a pair of loons fishing near the public beach. They were too far away for good photos.
Lastly, chipping sparrows and juncos have appeared in small numbers around the feeders by the house. They are mixed with all of the “year rounders”.
Chipping Sparrow #1
Chipping Sparrow #2
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I spent Saturday afternoon at the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory again. It was a slow day, only six birds total, but one of those six was a rough-legged hawk. I missed seeing by a few minutes. This was only the second time ever that a rough-legged had been observed at Pack Monadnock.
The other highlight for the day was a golden eagle (the fourth of the season) which I did get to see at a distance.
Lastly, another merlin alit in the same tree as the one I photographed one on Friday. I was again able to get a decent (although highly cropped) photo.
On Sunday, Joan, Sally (Joan’s childhood friend who was visiting from Lewes, Delaware) and I took a “stroll” through our neighborhood. We hit all of the high points: the lake shore, Brimstone Corner, cellar holes, the beech tree with bear claw marks, and all of the nearby beaver-made wetlands. We covered about 4.5 miles in roughly 4.5 hours and a good time was had by all.
Well, spring has finally really arrived in our neck of the NH woods. There is no snow left in the yard, although there are still small patches here-and-there in the woods.
On Saturday morning, I filled a bird-feeder with black sunflower seed and hung it by the deck in the back of the house just to see what we could attract. I was amazed at how quickly the “word” spread. Within a couple of hours there were chickadees and nuthatches present as well as the perennial feeder nemesis, the gray squirrel! Within a day, the juncos and sparrows had found the feeder as well as the red squirrels and the chipmunks.
I, as you might have expected, spent some quality time with the camera set up near the feeder!
Here are the resulting “keepers”:
On Sunday, we watched a female turkey amble though the yard as she picked over the remnants of last year’s acorn crop which were newly emerged from under the snow. In the afternoon on Sunday, Joan and I took a spontaneous break from the yard work and walked down to the beaver swamp at the back of our property. Eagle-eyed Joan spotted a porcupine sitting way up in a tree right at the edge of the woods. No photos though, too high and too well hidden… maybe next time!
As I knew from the beginning, the environs of the new house were going to be great for wildlife (and photography). Our short time here has certainly proved that true and odonate season has not yet begun… although Joan did attract a few early blackflies as she worked turning over the vegetable garden on Monday!