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!