Saturday, June 17, 2017

My New Habitat

There's been a lot of exciting stuff going on behind the scenes around here, and yesterday afternoon it all finally worked out. We now own a house! And, wonder of wonders, it comes with land. Here's this morning's view of my new habitat:

Our property has about two acres of meadow and about two acres of woods, and it's all surrounded by more woods and fields. I can't believe we get to put down roots in Central New York, and I feel so incredibly lucky to now be able to call this specific place home. It's early, I know, but I already feel like this property is something kind of amazing. I spent two hours there this morning pulling and bagging Garlic Mustard (more tomorrow!) and there was so much wildlife, even just around the house. Tree Swallows are nesting in that old Purple Martin house in the picture, and an Eastern Phoebe has a nest above the front door. A Groundhog was walking its well-worn path across the lawn. A stunning male Indigo Bunting was foraging on some waist-high plants in the tall grass (that's not a bird I'm used to seeing in a yard!), and a Veery was singing from the woods across the street.

This is the start of an exciting new adventure, that's for sure! And there's a lot to do. So if you don't hear from me for a little while, it's probably because I'm off taking care of this place (so it can take care of me, hopefully for a long time to come).

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Baby Robin!

Since discovering the American Robin nest in a trellis in our yard almost two weeks ago, we've done our best to give the incubating mother her space, despite her nest's placement next to the walkway to our cars. Sometimes we forget she's there and walk right under the trellis, inches away from her (oops, sorry!), but she's stoic, and she hasn't yet flushed when we absently invade her space. Anyway, yesterday, we were taking the long way around the trellis when we looked over and saw the mother robin perched on the edge of her nest and looking down into the bowl. Well, that's different. She flew off right afterward, so I walked over and took a quick picture into the nest (phones are so handy!):

There's a little hole! Pipping is happening!

And then today, when I saw that the mother robin was away again, I peeked into the nest and found this brand new baby:

Look at those tiny toes, and a tiny wing, and bulging not-quite-yet eyes! And the way it's all tucked up, it looks like it would still fit in an egg. I can't believe this little creature should be able to leave the nest in just 13 days, let alone become a sleek adult robin some time after that. And I wonder why this family only has the one chick, when 3-5 eggs is the more typical count for robins.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this little guy or girl. Good luck, trellis robins!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Two Walks: Visiting a Bog, Plus a Few Reptiles and Amphibians

On Friday afternoon, I went to check out the O.D. von Engeln Preserve. This Nature Conservancy property has some interesting glacial formations and a variety of habitats, including a bog, which as I understand it is pretty unusual for this area. I don't get many chances to explore bogs, and I very much enjoyed the path through this part of the preserve:

The bog was filled with big and beautiful flowers from the Purple Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea). How does one plant get to eat bugs and have such amazing blooms?

These are some weird flower structures -- fitting, I suppose, for a plant as strange as a pitcher plant:

In another part of the preserve, this small Garter Snake was basking in a sunny patch on the forest floor:

I'm hoping to return to this place in the coming months to see what other interesting flowers might show up. Bogs are fun!

This morning, Paul and I went for a walk at the Roy H. Park Preserve, where we met this creature on the path:

A little Common Snapping Turtle! It's got the long tail and spiked shell of a snapper, but it's just a baby monster as yet:

Hello, little monster, you are very cute:

This morning's walk also featured a singing Blackburnian Warbler and Indigo Bunting (both too far away for my camera), and a small American Toad crossing the path:

I love that it's the time of year when reptiles and amphibians are common, and new wildflowers are appearing seemingly all the time. Summer is on its way!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Lots of Neighborhood Activity

Yesterday afternoon, I wandered around the fields and ponds near our house to check in on our wildlife neighbors. And to admire the scenery, of course:

Yellow seems to be a very popular color around here. There are all those yellow hawkweed flowers that have just recently burst into bloom in the fields (I haven't looked closely enough to identify the species). An Eastern Meadowlark with his bright yellow breast was singing from the top of a tree near the field:

And a female Yellow Warbler was carrying soft nesting material to some secret location:

A couple of White-tailed Deer sauntered out of the woods at one point and took hardly any notice of me before continuing on their way:

I've guessed that Red-winged Blackbirds are nesting at the ponds in our neighborhood, because walks by these ponds in recent weeks have been accompanied by hovering/yelling blackbirds, often at close range. On this walk, I actually spotted one of the reasons why the adult blackbirds are so protective of this area: Look at the little fuzzy babies in their nest, hidden so well among the cattails!

I didn't stay long, especially since a male Red-winged Blackbird made it very clear that I wasn't welcome:

He did a lot of yelling:

But he also interspersed his yelling with grooming, stretching himself into all sorts of shapes:

Then a female showed up and added her voice, and OK, I'm going, I'm going:

When I got back to the house, another interesting creature was watching me from a daylily leaf near the front door:

A large jumping spider (probably the appropriately named Bold Jumper, Phidippus audax) had snagged an equally large fly from among the insects feeding on the chive blossoms nearby. Wow, what a catch:

Here's one more picture of this creature, so you can appreciate its fuzzy legs and beautiful iridescent mouthparts; I think jumping spiders are really cute and cool, and I'm happy to have this big creature for a neighbor:

Spring is starting to wind to a close, but much of the activity out there is just getting started!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Surprise Robin Nest

There's an arching, clematis-covered trellis near our house. Actually, this trellis is along a route with pretty regular foot-traffic, since the pathway between the parking area and our house (and some other peoples' houses, too) goes under this arch:

Well, this afternoon I watched an American Robin fly over to the trellis with a worm in its beak, and then fly away again without the worm. So I looked a little closer, and wouldn't you know it, the robins have a nest in the trellis, tucked behind clematis leaves and up against the wood, right at eye level. Do you see the female robin watching me through her wooden window?

And inside the archway, here's her tail sticking out from among the leaves:

I kept my distance so I wouldn't disturb Mother Robin on her nest. But a few hours later I saw that she was away, so I snuck over and peered inside the nest with my phone's camera to find one perfect egg:

What a place to put a nest. I wonder if this is the same pair of robins that a few weeks ago built and abandoned a nest in the branches of a nearby tree, and then later spent a few rainy and windy days testing out porch lights at our house and our neighbors' house as possible nest platforms. If so, these robins have been though quite a lot already this spring. I hope their hidden trellis nest will finally be a success!

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Tiniest Eft

Goodness, it's just Red Efts all over the place around here. And I'm not complaining! When I went for a walk at Hammond Hill State Forest yesterday, I crossed paths with six of these juvenile newts, and among them was the tiniest eft I've ever seen (pictured here with a dime for scale):

I didn't know they came so small! Look at this wonderful animal:

I moved the tiny eft off the path to make way for incoming mountain bikes, and the leaf I used as a mini-eft-elevator then made a great stage for one last adorable portrait:

Here's a bigger and bulkier eft I met during the same walk; all efts are beautiful, and it's so cool to get to compare individuals of such different sizes:

It was also great to see Red Columbine blooming next to the path (although I only found the one plant):

A small patch of Indian Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana) made a cool sight with those tiers of whorled leaves:

The small flowers dangling from the top tiers of these plants are lovely, and quite strangely shaped:

I'm so happy to live in a place where Chestnut-sided Warblers are fairly common; they're my favorite warbler species, mostly because of the male's eccentric costume. This male Chestnut-sided Warbler gave me a nice view of his bright yellow cap (one of his best and strangest features):

I also got to admire this female Chestnut-sided Warbler's more muted yellow hat, along with her beautiful striped back:

We really do have lots of cool animals and plants around here!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Efts on a Dewy Morning

This past Tuesday morning, I was back at the Roy H. Park Preserve to walk through dew-covered meadows and woods. It must have been a good day for a walk, because I crossed paths with three Red Efts who were also out and strolling across the damp ground. Efts are the land-walking juvenile phase of the Red-spotted Newt, and they're wonderful:

Hello darling eft, I love your newty face:

And your delicate feet:

This eft was framed by symmetrical cinquefoil leaves:

Happy wandering, little efts!

Some brightly colored creatures were moving around in the trees as well. A pair of Common Yellowthroats stuck close together as they foraged:

A male Chestnut-sided Warbler was singing near the entrance to the preserve when I arrived, and he was still singing when I left a couple of hours later:

It was a lovely damp-morning walk indeed. Yay spring!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mid-May Birds, Bugs, and Flowers

Happy May! I've been doing a lot of wandering outside recently, and there's been so much to see. It certainly is a lively time of year! Here are some assorted sights from the past couple of weeks.

On May 10, during a visit to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Sapsucker Woods, I was happy to see a Brown Creeper alternately foraging along tree trunks and singing his sweet song:

And an Ovenbird was singing (loudly!) from his perch close to the path:

The following day (May 11), I spent some time exploring the paths along fields near our house. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to wander, because it's so close and it seems to always have interesting creatures around. (Bobolinks! Orioles! Warblers singing in the woods!) Plus, the scenery is amazing; I love all the spring colors on the surrounding hillsides:

This male Baltimore Oriole spent several minutes busily feeding among apple blossoms:

I'm still super impressed by the deep orange breast on this fellow:

And the view from underneath was brilliant indeed!

I also love the orange-glowing-through-black effect on the back of this guy's neck when he stretched:

Several Cabbage White butterflies were flying after each other in a nearby field, making a weird swirling swarm that looked more like the result of a computer algorithm than anything I'm used to seeing in nature:

A brilliant Six-spotted Tiger Beetle was hanging out on a bare patch in the path:

When I looked at this beetle from the front, I thought at first that it was munching on something; but no, the bulging white and brown things on the front if its face are just its huge mandibles. I definitely wouldn't want to be a smaller bug with this fast and powerful hunter around:

A few days later (May 14), I was in Maryland visiting my family for a few days, and the wonderfully colorful wildlife sightings continued with a male Scarlet Tanager (a female was nearby as well, but she was even less willing to pose for pictures than the male was):

Back home in Central New York, I went for a walk at the Roy H. Park Preserve late yesterday afternoon, where the fields are filling out with new-spring-green leaves:

And the dark coniferous woods are now speckled with pale green as well:

I wandered down into a small gorge to find the loveliest little stream:

All sorts of wildflowers were blooming in these woods, including dainty Starflower (Lysimachia borealis):

Tufts of floating Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia):

And several Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum), which I don't think I've ever seen in person before; this flower was such a wonderful surprise:

Lady slipper leaves were sprouting up nearby. I didn't see any flower buds, but I'll be sure to come back and visit these plants in a few weeks in case any blossoms do make an appearance:

It's been quite an eventful spring so far. And it's not over yet!