From the other room, I heard Melanie call out that she saw a Red-headed Woodpecker in the backyard. I hurried to take a look. It faces a challenging future according to All About Birds. We seldom see them since local habitat for this handsome bird was removed with the addition of streets and housing near us a decade ago. This one visited behind our house several times that day giving opportunities for a few photos. We hope to see it more this year.
This is not a story about trimming trees for the holidays. We have trees 50-60 ft tall behind the house. Their branches were extending out over the roof dropping debris and small twigs during the year. It was time to cut them back. There was no way I could reach them. The tree service had the equipment and personnel to do it safely. A few years ago they removed two large dead Elms. The video below of this recent work takes about 2 minutes.
It was early on 20 Jan 2018. There they were, nicely paired behind the trees. Venus is the brightest. I set the iPad on the mantel for a long exposure (~20 min) to document their rise. Some stars joined them.
Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are marvelous tiny creatures. They arrive in the eastern half of the U.S. in the spring from over-wintering in Central America. We keep track of their progress toward eastern Iowa with Hummingbird Central. Users input the date of first sightings in the spring. Some hummingbirds fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico for hundreds of miles. Wings flap an average of 53/sec. They flap up to 3 million times during the long flight.
They will be departing our area by late September. We will miss them. Here are an adult male and an adult female borrowed from the All About Birds Macaulay Library.
Any day with an owl visit feels like a lucky day.
Last evening as Jim and I ate dinner on our deck, the sun was dropping in the sky behind the trees. A squirrel broke the peace, screaming a few feet away from us. There are a number of neighborhood cats that roam, so we often hear a squirrel or bird sound the cat alarm. The squirrel was persistent and I looked into the trees to locate it. On a branch 15 feet away and above my head was a grey tail hanging down. That was no squirrel tail — it was an owl!
The angle of the sun and the deck screening made photos tricky, but Jim was patient and got several. Click any photo to open the gallery and see more detail.
Soon the squirrel alerted the robins, who took up the chatter. They scolded and dive-bombed the owl a few times, brushing their claws through the owl’s feathers. The owl remained unperturbed, though at a point it turned its head to face down its harassers.
While Jim watched, the owl stretched a wing out, and then swept the wings up and back while spreading its tail. The setting sun and screening added a lot of sparkle to these photos.
As we fell asleep later, we heard the owl call, reassuring us that it was still in the yard.
Jim has been watching the phoebes for weeks. A few days ago he noticed the nest was empty, and it seemed the family was gone. Just this morning he spotted them again. Though the fledglings are out, the phoebes are still in our yard.
The nest, a “permanent” structure, sits on a beam under our deck. With the babies gone, Jim drilled a small hole between floor boards to get a better view. The hole is only about a quarter inch across, but the camera lens on the phone is smaller than that. He was able to get this photo looking down into the nest.
Of course the photo makes it look as large as an eagle’s nest, but in truth, the cup of the nest is less than 3″ across.
The wrens also seem to have sent their first brood out into the world, as it’s become less noisy out our back door. Often they have a second brood, so we’ll look forward to their chatter returning before the summer is out.
We still have the catbirds. Early this year we were treated to several of the plain, grey birds in our yard. Usually we’re only aware of one or two.
What birds are hanging around your yard these days?