Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Northern Walkingstick

I checked our porch light the other night to meet some nocturnal inhabitants of our new yard, and I was totally surprised to find this amazing creature:

A Northern Walkingstick (Diapheromera femorata)! I swear I've never seen a walkingstick (or as I usually call it, a stick insect) outside of zoos and nature centers, so this was an exciting visitor indeed! This creature was big, too, about the size of my hand. When I went to pick it up, it demonstrated a great defense mechanism and dropped immediately all the way to the ground and out of sight. (I could practically hear it saying "I'm just a stick, really!") Our Ohio yard just gets more fantastical every day!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Friendly Neighborhood Phoebe

The Eastern Phoebes in our yard are remarkably calm around people. Perhaps they fledged here and are used to human activity; all I know is I've been closer to these birds than any phoebe I've met before. On Friday morning, I was out walking in the yard and I ended up just feet away from a young phoebe before I even noticed it was there. The little guy kept an eye on me but basically went on with business as usual. Hello, beautiful bird:

I love this flycatcher's broad beak and those whiskers on its face -- all the better for catching insects on the wing, I imagine:

See anything good up there?

The phoebe took the time for some nice big stretches; it really just didn't seem to care at all that I was standing nearby. Look at those amazing wing feathers!

Stretchy bird, I didn't know you had pale yellow armpits:

I took a brief video of this obliging bird as well. I think the constant tail wagging -- an Eastern Phoebe trait -- is super endearing, and I love the hunter's instinct that takes over when an insect flies by a few seconds into the video:

Phoebe's are such fun little birds, and I'm very grateful to this creature for letting me observe its morning activities up close!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Blue Sky Birds

The past couple of days have been cool and sunny, perfect weather for hanging around in the yard and watching various birds cruise by overhead. I'm having great fun figuring out who regularly uses these airways. Turkey Vultures make dark slouching shapes as they soar by:

These birds are so big and imposing, and their silhouettes look so cool against the clouds:

Here's another big dark bird, but it's not a vulture.... Yes, Bald Eagles are apparently fairly common here (so awesome), and I've seen immature birds like this one over our yard a couple of times already:

This morning, a young Cooper's Hawk swept into the yard, scattering the smaller birds. It didn't manage to catch a meal, and the Barn Swallows promptly chased it away again:

Barn Swallows are pretty much always swooping around over the yard, which makes me really happy. Swallows and swifts are definitely becoming some of my favorite birds; these guys are just so much fun to watch as they zip and swerve all over, and Barn Swallows especially are super fancy in flight:

Hooray for beautiful days and aerial activity!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Welcome to Ohio!

Whew. The move is over! I have now left the east coast behind (goodbye Connecticut) and arrived in northern Ohio, where we'll be living until June. And now that we're here, I feel like I can gush a bit about our new (temporary) home. This place is amazing, and I anticipate many, many interesting sightings here in the months to come. Just wandering across the few acres of this property, there's woods, fields, a creek (and a bigger river off the property but still in walking distance), plus fruit bushes and trees. I'm sure I'll be driving to check out some parks and other areas while I'm living here, but mostly I plan to take huge advantage of the nature right outside my door. What a change from our tiny yard in Connecticut!

And the creatures are already proving just how different this place is. On our very first day here, a bedraggled Luna Moth showed up on our back door. I've mentioned recently how much I love huge moths, and I don't think I've ever seen a Luna Moth alive in the wild before. So even tattered as this creature was (it's missing entire chunks of its hindwings) it was an incredibly special sight indeed (photo courtesy of Paul):

When I found this same moth sitting on the ground later, I took the opportunity to get a little closer. Such an amazing and gorgeous creature! (It flew off soon after I took this next picture.)

The birds around this house are similarly fantastical. Baltimore Orioles and Scarlet Tanagers are downright common here (at least right now), along with the more familiar Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and Northern Cardinals. Eastern Phoebes are pretty much always perched on one fence post or another:

A bold House Wren hopped through a nearby tree and shook itself while I was exploring the field on a recent damp afternoon:

And how about these dramatic storm clouds today:

Oh yes, I am going to enjoy this place immensely. Welcome to Ohio!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ode to a Red Cedar

We're now packing up our last boxes and getting ready to say goodbye to the apartment where we've lived for the past four years. There have been some cool things about this place (my garden comes to mind), but there's only one thing that I've really loved about it, something I don't think I'll ever quite be able to duplicate, and that's the two Red Cedar trees outside the windows. These trees have been the stage for many of my blog posts over the years because -- even sandwiched as they are between two houses -- they attract an amazing variety of creatures, giving us close-up (just feet away) eye-level views of visiting and resident birds (and more!) in every season. Seeing and identifying Yellow-rumped Warblers in these trees in our first year here was one of the things that got me really paying attention to and learning more about birds.

I'm going to miss living next to these trees very much. So to try to remember what it's been like to live here for the past few years, here's a compilation of all the posts I've made featuring these trees and the creatures they've brought to our windows, season by season. (Plus one new sighting that I haven't had a chance to post about yet.) This isn't everything we've seen here, of course, just everything that's stuck around long enough for me to photograph it. Dear Red Cedar trees, thank you for everything, and I only hope future human residents appreciate you as much as we have!

In spring:

In summer: 

  • During occasional (or, in recent years, more than occasional) heat waves, panting House Sparrows (Jul 2011) and Black-capped Chickadees (Sep 2012) hang out in these branches trying to keep cool.
  • Titmice bathe and forage here as well (Aug 2012).
  • This summer, these trees have become a daily relaxing parlor for a couple of Gray Squirrels. Usually, these squirrels doze on separate branches, but a few days ago, they settled onto the same branch for a grooming session:

Fall is a huge time for these trees:
A Cape May Warbler in September 2013

A feasting Yellow-Rumped Warbler in October 2013

    In winter:

    And the year starts over again with spring. Red Cedar trees, you are the best, and I hope you will continue to enliven this place for many years to come!