Friday, February 27, 2009

The Acrobats

March is nearly upon us and our resident birds are singing. The tufted titmouse is looking smart in its gray suit, short, stout bill, orange sides, and short, gray crest. The male is whistling loud and clear, Peer, Peer, Peer. Its cousin the black-capped chickadee is also whistling a clear tune, fee-bee-ee. Donald Kroodsma, professor of ornithology and author of The Singing Life of Birds, insists that the male chickadee is singing hey-sweetie, hey-sweetie. I like that.

The black-capped chickadees and tufted titmice roam about in bands in winter. Handfuls come to the feeders together. They are quick and acrobatic, their strong legs allow them to hang upside down even at the tip of a small twig. Their calls are similar, the titmouse sounds a bit more like it is complaining or scolding.

To quote Donald Kroodsma again, "It's all in the eyes." Seeing birds as they sing helps hear the details of their songs and makes it easier to identify birds later by song alone. Before the flush of warblers, thrushes, and other migrants, this is the time to learn the spring songs of our resident birds.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mad Cows

I have watched a mad cow chase Bella (she was smiling, Bella not the cow) and so far I have avoided mad cow disease, but this is about neither of those things. MAD Cow stands for Maple-Ash-Dogwood and Catalpa, the native trees around here that have opposite leaves.

Most deciduous (hardwood) trees have alternate leaf arrangement so it is nice to have an easy way to remember those that are opposite. This red maple twig nicely shows the paired bud and twig arrangement.

This white ash twig does not show buds this time of year, but you can see the paired leaf scars (sites of last year's leaves).

The beech is already showing its bronze, cigar-shaped buds alternating on a zig-zag twig.

Of course there are always exceptions, such as the alternate-leaved dogwood! And many shrubs have opposite leaf arrangement. I will save that for another day. In the meantime, think about Bella being chased by a mad cow and you'll remember the opposites: maple-ash-dogwood and the catalpa.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bella Meets Brutus

Last weekend as we walked along one of our favorite woods road we found a huge, really huge, canine track. We assumed it was a dog, as it was very fresh and wandered about like a domestic dog not a straight, business-like track of a wild canid. Besides, this track would have to be a large wolf (which we don't have in these parts) if not a big dog.

Today we met Brutus, our big-footed track maker.

Bella and he (a very friendly St. Bernard), both about the same goofy 14-16 month old, hit it off immediately. I met Brutus' owner William, a 50-something unemployed high rise construction manager. We shared dog stories and he a little bit about building high-rises, buildings that I try to avoid at all costs. The dogs were happy, whether their owners were employed or not.

As we parted I wished William well with his job search or in looking for a new career that he was considering. Brutus and Bella gave a final chase and then nudged their good-byes, hoping for a meet-up on another day.

Bull Pine on Bald Hill

I stood still at the top of Bald Hill (at 281 feet the highest point in our town), warmed by a February midday sun. The woods were quiet, so quiet that I could hear puffs of snow falling from tree tops and the soft rustle of beech leaves. On the hillside below a pileated woodpecker flew gracefully from one tall, mature red oak to another. I continued onto the Bull Pine. I had not visited this massive tree in many months, this white pine that started as a seedling when Bald Hill was bare of trees, cleared for pasture sometime around 1900 or before.

This grand tree, now surrounded by a forest of younger oaks, beeches and birches, measured six feet across at its base. Its curving side branches as big as some of the main trunks of other nearby trees. Although not a source for lumber given its crooks and curves, this tree stands tall and wide in the woods and shares a story of past land uses.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Winter Beauty

Another one of those beautiful winter days. I snowshoed along a trail at Northwood Meadows State Park, still blanketed in snow from Sunday's storm.

The gray birches along the trail bent over with heavy snow.

A tall white pine cast a long shadow onto the pond.

Fresh pileated woodpecker holes in a hemlock.

Northwood Meadows State Park is part of an informal group of public and private landowners that are working across their stonewalls on common landowner objectives. Last year the group -- Northwood Area Land Management Collaborative or NALMC -- built a 5-mile walking trail. This year I will be working with them on an ecological assessment of the "NALMC neighborhood." The goal is to help people learn what is in their backyard, share information, and work together on projects, such as trails, wildlife surveys, managing habitat, forestry, that cross property boundaries.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tapping Time

Overnight temperature 20F. Daytime temperature 40F. Sunny. No wind. Conditions are right so our neighbors down the road have tapped their sugar maples. They do it the traditional way with spiles (spouts) and buckets, rather than the newer way with a network of rubber tubing snaking through the woods from trees to sugar house. The tubes are surely more efficient but somehow lessen the wonder of turning sap to syrup.

It takes 40 gallons to make 1 gallon of syrup. We use several gallons of syrup a year in granola, on pancakes, for cookies. So, here's wishing that our neighbor Mr. Nichols and our friends have a good sap year. Our pantry is ready for the 2009 batch.

As we were thinking sweet thoughts about blueberry pancakes with delicate amber syrup, another spring sighting caught our eye. Two turkey vultures soared overhead, their distinct two-toned black and gray wings, v-shaped (dihedral) wing form, and rocking flight. Turkey vultures, like the robins in our crabapple, seem to be staying longer and arriving earlier, some probably spending the winter.

Turkey vultures are big, as big as eagles. Interestingly they are more closely related to storks than to "Old World" vultures (the ones you see on Nature tearing into a wildebeest carcass on the African savanna). Back here in the New World (someone needs to change those names), our turkey vultures are searching and smelling for road kill and other dead things; yes, they can smell pretty well which is unusual in birds. I'm not sure I needed to know this, but like their stork relatives, turkey vultures squirt liquid feces onto their legs, which evaporates and cools the bird.

Back to sweeter thoughts. Winter returned overnight (although not sweet it looks pretty). The juncos, chickadees, goldfinches, and nuthatches are busy at the feeders this morning. Two red squirrels briefly sit side by side beneath the feeders. And now a gray and red squirrel are sitting together. But that lasts less than ten seconds. Three grays are commanding the feeders. The red squirrel tries to dart back in, but these gray squirrels are looking like couch potatoes, not ready to budge for their fiesty cousin.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Surf Clams

We returned to the beach yesterday under another clear winter sky. A cold sea breeze kept the beachgoers to just a few of us. There were more black-backed and herring gulls than people and dogs. We discovered that the Rye Beach, which is separated from Wallis Sands Beach by a breakwater, is formally open to people and their pets from October to Memorial Day.

The tide was going out when we arrived. Left behind along the high tide line were dozens and dozens of surf clams (Spisula solidissima).

The clams were all empty of life; perhaps the gulls had already dined on them, but they didn't appear to be disturbed. More like a still life painting, created by the rough action of the ocean waves.

These clams were big, up to five inches across (apparently they can grow to 8 inches and live to 30+ years). Their shells are sturdy. The surf clam is the biggest bivalve (shells with two halves) in these parts. The shell makes for a good sand shovel or brought home for a decorative dish.

The surf clam makes up a big part of the commercial clam harvest off New Jersey and other areas, but is not harvested in the Gulf of Maine. Much of the harvest is canned and is probably the kind that goes into my Mom's clam chowder recipe. Ummm, I think I have a few cans in the pantry. Might be a nice lunch on a cold winter day, with 6 more inches of wet snow on the way.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Brown Creeper

From my home office window I was admiring the large, male hairy woodpecker, his heavy weight twirling the house feeder. The dab of red on the back of his head set in sharp contrast to the white and black feathers that looked freshly washed covering the rest of his body. His huge, sturdy bill easily stabbed the sunflower seeds. A movement behind him caught my eye. A small piece of white pine bark was floating around the base of the tree.

Oh, a brown creeper. One of our resident "little brown birds" that is easy to identify and fun to watch. As its name suggests, this small bird creeps along tree trunks, starting at the base and spiraling upward around the trunk. When it reaches a certain height, the creeper flies to the base of another tree and starts its spiraling ascent. Its small size and brown and white colors is suitable camouflage against the bark of pine, hemlock, fir, and other softwoods where it lives.

The creeper's long, thin curved bill is used to pluck insects and spiders from bark crevices. Like woodpeckers, the brown creeper braces its long, stiff tail against the trunk as it climbs. The brown creeper has one of the prettiest early spring songs -- several high, clear thin musical notes, sometimes mistaken for a warbler or kinglet. Soon the creeper will be looking for a suitable nest site behind the flap of loose bark on a dead or dying tree, gathering spider egg cases, cocoons, moss, fine bark, and other soft materials for its nest.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Four Naked Bulbuls

The bulbuls have hatched!

See my post on February 13th for the back story. Shanti and family are occupied now with chasing away stray cats. Nephew Sidharth is expert at finding and handling snakes, but they are plentiful in the yard and it will be hard to keep them away from the noisy chicks. The snakes are part of the wildlife community too so we'll have to follow the lives of the bulbul family to see what happens next.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bright Lichens Under Gray Skies

The sky is bleak today, mood-changing after the bright winter sun of past weeks. Snow fell last night, turning to rain by morning. At midday Bella and I roamed about at one of our nearby haunts. I trudged along, focused inward and seeing little around me, as the gray skies merged with the damp woods and the slush underfoot. Meanwhile, Bella, oblivious or carefree to the change in weather, plunged under trees and ran back and forth through the field.

On the way back to the car I suddenly noticed the lichens. The sweeping view through the wetland flooded by beaver exposed a forest of red maples covered in bright (at least beneath today's gray sky) green lichens. The lichens appeared unexpectedly, but of course they've been there all along. I have walked by this wetland dozens of times, listening to the trees and birds, looking for animal tracks, peering into the stream. Today, distracted with other thoughts, my eyes wandered, until I suddenly saw the lichens. Much like those 3-d images that instantly come into view after you cross your eyes and let them them float around the image. Fortunately I could see the lichens without crossing my eyes.

Here were all these lichens, in their spring-like greens, clasping the tree trunks. Lichens are two different plant forms -- an alga and a fungus -- living together in a shared partnership. The alga produces the food through photosynthesis and the fungi provides protection and nutrients. Sometimes there is a third partner, a cyanobacterium, or blue-green algae. The fungus gives the lichen its shape and its name.

New Hampshire may have more than 500 different species of lichens, although only a couple hundred have been identified. Lichens can be crusty, leafy, or shrubby. I know the British Soldiers, with its scarlet red fruiting bodies that are thought to resemble the British Revolutionary War uniforms. They brighten our split rail fence along the perennial bed. Perhaps a new name for this particular lichen would be more suitable for this organism that is really two living together and sharing their respective resources.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Robins -- a Harbinger of Winter?

Much like the shriveled orange that I have ignored for weeks in the bottom of the crisper, our winter robins seem to avoid the shriveled fruits on the crabapple and highbush cranberry bushes that we planted several years ago. But there is not much else for these fruit-eaters to eat in mid-February. So, every day a couple robins harvest a few more fruits from our plantings, but they don't fill up on them. I imagine the rest of the day they are searching high and low for any remaining winterberries, red cedar fruits, sumac, or other more palatable berries. They do seem to prefer fruits from these native plants, since they are the first to disappear in fall and early winter.

Just as Puxatawny Phil's winter forecasting seems to be a bit sketchy, perhaps robins are waning as our harbinger of spring. Many are remaining behind in winter rather than migrating south as their scientific name (Turdus migratorius) suggests is the proper behavior. Those that remain tend to move about in flocks looking for the next big bush full of fruits. Still, I often see them in ones and twos, clucking as they evaluate the food situation. Are they saying "tut, tut, tut, tut," or "yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck" given the bitter fruits on display.

Yet, I look forward to the first sweet spring song of the robin in our yard. The male, with his dark, almost black, head and puffed up red breast and the modest female looking about for the first, best nest site of the year. Maybe it will be under the deck or in the crabapple tree. Or maybe one in each as she raises two or more broods in our yard.

In the meantime, with six more weeks of winter (thanks to Phil) I think I'll go forage in my refrigerator for that shriveled orange.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wallis Sands Beach

On Sunday we discovered the dog-friendly (in winter) Wallis Sands Beach on New Hampshire's seacoast and returned on President's Day since the dogs had such a good time and the weather and views were spectacular. Bella met these new canine friends -- it is worth noting how most dogs make quick friends with strangers and enjoy life.
Our 11+ year old Shepherd, Aria, hampered by arthritis and fused vertebrae chased after sticks in the water and jogged down the beach. Her aches and pains washed away at least for a few joyful hours at the beach.
Six miles offshore, the nine islands of the Isles of Shoals shimmered and floated under the bright sun. The islands are bisected by the New Hampshire/Maine border. Appledore, Smuttynose, Malaga, and Ducks Islands are in Maine; Star, Seavey, Cedar, Lunging, and White are in New Hampshire. The Isles of Shoals Steamship Company runs narrated trips from Portsmouth Harbor out and around the islands; the islands are all privately owned so landing occurs by permission only. The islands are steeped in history. A few points of interest include the poet Celia Thaxter's garden and the Shoals Marine Lab on Appledore, the largest tern colony with over 2000 nesting pairs on White and Seavey, the oldest house in Maine on Smuttynose (the image on Smuttynose beer bottles), Star Island's retreat center.

The best time to visit the beach is in winter!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Reds and Grays

The most visible wildlife in our yard are the squirrels. Although we spend time trying to baffle the squirrels so they can't reach the bird feeders, they are just as interesting to observe as the birds. The gray squirrels are clever, patient, calm, and they get along with their neighbors. It took one squirrel just a few hours to figure out the baffle on the feeder post. It ran up and down the tree several times, climbed out on thin branches, then back down to the base of the post. We think that it was measuring jumping distances. Sure enough, a short time later, it leaped from the tree to the feeder. By the next day several other gray squirrels had copied the feat.

Each day 3 or 4 gray squirrels visit the feeders, hanging out peacefully together. The gray gathers a sunflower seed in its paws and quietly opens and eats the seed. This is unlike the solitary red squirrel that darts in after attempting to scatter the grays, collects one seed, then scampers back to its hideout in the back woods. Red squirrels are feisty and like their territory all to themselves. Even the males and females don't like each other, except one or two days a year when they mate.Red squirrels cache or store large numbers of pine and hemlock cones in one place. They also have favorite eating spots, usually a tree stump or low branch. Over time, a large pile (known as a midden) of spent cones and scales accumulates below the dining area. In contrast, the gray squirrel stores one nut at a time (acorns being a favorite). In winter they go about digging up the solitary nuts, apparently remembering where they buried most of them. Those they miss will sprout and mature to produce their own crop of acorns.

Red squirrels often chatter and scold from their dining perch or a higher branch. Gray squirrels are not nearly so chatty, not being worried about warning intruders since they are not territorial like the red squirrel. Both of these squirrels build leaf nests (with some twigs) in trees. The gray squirrel builds its nests higher up in the tree and it is a sloppy builder, whereas the red squirrel builds a tight roundish ball of leaves.

That is the beauty of these common squirrels -- their tracks, nests, and dining spots are easily spotted in winter, and their antics are easy to see, even from inside my own cozy house.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Survival Living

Thirty-one years ago this month I was gathering rose hips and black birch to make tea and twigs and birch bark to make a fire. I was 17 and in my last semester of high school. Our science teacher, Mr. Camp, taught a Survival Living course and was the Advisor to the Outing Club. I don't remember much from my senior year of math, chemistry, or English, but survival lessons of building fires in snow and rain, an overnight hike, canoeing Lake George, orienteering, a three-night solo final exam -- these experiences are still vivid and more influential in my life since. We got two matches to light our fire for boiling the tea on that cold February day -- we used only one, striking it on the zipper of my jacket.

Looking back at my journal from 1978, I am amazed (and feel quite fortunate) at the activities we did and the life challenges they afforded. I am certain that these can not be repeated in schools today. On February 10th of that year, Mr. Camp dropped us off (about 8 students) at midnight at a powerline along Route 47. Our task was to hike the distance to Route 116 as a group. We had a few compasses, pen lights, and some supplies in a backpack. Two teaching assistants trailed us in the woods in case something happened, although as I recall we did not know that they were there. The hike was strenuous -- powerlines in New England often go up and down and up and down, following the contours of the rocky terrain. We made slow progress, pausing for a drink and to catch a breath.

It was during one of these rest periods, about half way through the hike, that we realized one in our group was having problems. We all had been conscious of checking in with each other as we hiked, a key lesson in outdoor leadership that we'd already learned in our class. Despite this, one person was in trouble, she was having an asthma attack and didn't have her medication. As a group we discussed what to do. It was cold and dark and we didn't know how far we still had to go. Our teaching assistants, hidden in the nearby woods, realized that something was wrong.

They emerged from the woods to help. We built a fire to get her warm, removing her boots to warm her feet. Hypothermia was starting to set in. Together we built a stretcher from the materials at hand - logs, branches, clothing. We carried her down a steep hill, then another 1/2 mile to the truck. We all climbed in and took her to the local hospital. Fortunately she was fine and able to go home later that morning. Our teacher praised us for our actions, although I think we each felt somehow that we should have done more to avoid the emergency. I guess we all got an "A" for that assignment, that provided an unexpected "teaching moment."

In future posts I'll relate more from my senior year survival living experiences and outing club adventures, including hitchhiking to Fort Ticonderoga on our canoe trip to Lake George.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Red-vented Bulbul

I've ventured far from New Hampshire with today's post. My sister-in-law, Shanti, sent me this photo of a red-vented bulbul nest in a shrub outside her flat in Pondicherry in southern India. She had been watching a bulbul poke around the yard for several weeks and eventually she was able to find the well-camouflaged nest. I looked back at my bird list for my first trip to India in December 1987 -- the red-vented bulbul was the 13th bird that I saw after arriving in Delhi. A few years later in 1991 on a visit to Madras, India, the red-vented bulbul was third on my bird-sighting list.

Most of the published accounts of the red-vented bulbul mention a clutch of 2-3 eggs; interestingly this nest has four. The red-vented is one of several bulbul species that are easily seen in India, although it is the most common. Bulbuls are perky, their calls and whistles are clear. The red-vented bulbul has expanded its range (a popular pet bird, it has likely been transported and released outside its native range), even occuring in the southern U.S., and is considered an invasive species in some places.

Thinking about the bulbul sitting on its eggs, basking in a warm breeze blowing in from the Bay of Bengal, I can almost feel spring just around the corner.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tom & Atticus

The first blog that I started reading and continue today is The Adventures of Tom & Atticus. Tom and his miniature (but bigger than life) schnauzer Atticus (M. Finch) have been hiking the high peaks of the White Mountains for the past several years and blogging about their adventures. Atticus may be the cutest dog ever and his hiking exploits are amazing. Tom is a great writer and photographer so each blog entry is worth a read. The photos reveal the beauty of the mountains and sometimes harshness of the weather, here where mountaineers come to train for trekking in the Himalayas. Atticus is quite photogenic, but seems most at peace when he is looking away from the camera and out at the spectacular view before him.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tree Bark I

Winter is the time of year to take note of tree bark. I expand on this in my post below (Tree Bark II).

Try to identify the trees in the photos before scrolling down to read Tree Bark II.

Tree Bark II

In winter you really do miss the forest for the trees. Absent the leaves I see deeper into the woods, noticing each tree and the variety of textures and colors of tree bark. The first thing that I notice is the color - brown, gray, golden, white. Texture is easier to discern if I get close, even better if I can touch the tree, feeling the bark with my fingertips (reminder: always check for spines or thorns first!).

Most trees when they start out as saplings have smooth bark. As trees age, their bark changes, much like (unfortunately) our skin. Without buds, leaves, or flowers to help identify a tree in winter, the bark offers good clues. The golden-yellow bark of the yellow birch glistens in the setting sun. The tight curls of the peeling bark can be used to start a fire even when wet. Always a great find to have yellow birch bark lying about near a campsite (peeling bark off a tree is to be avoided). The slender twigs of yellow birch have a slight wintergreen flavor. Black birch, another native species in New England, has a strong wintergreen flavor. So, taste is another clue.

The American beech. The only large woodland tree with smooth bark in this area. The pale, gray bark resembles an elephant's leg. An accidentally imported (in late 1800s to Nova Scotia) tiny scale insect has scarred many beech trees. The insect, less than 1 mm in size, carries spores of a nectria fungus that weakens the tree enough to kill it. The sap-feeding insect inserts its needle-like mouthpart into the bark, creating an opening for the nectria spores. Beech trees infected with this disease are scarred with lesions and calluses. Fortunately some beech trees seem to be resistent to the scale insect.

The well-named shagbark hickory stands out. The pale gray shaggy bark of mature trees peels into vertical strips that curve outwards. Tha large hickory nuts are a favorite of the squirrels around here. In the fall, the squirrels from high in the tree canopy drop the heavy fruits, eventually climbing down to gather up their treasure. This can be dangerous for the squirrels. Our morning walk takes us up Bald Hill Road, which is lined along one stretch with stately shagbark hickories that reach across the road. The squirrels have to be quick when they retrieve their nuts strewn across the road; sometimes they aren't quick enough. A falling hickory nut can also cause quite a jolt if it hits the top of your car or your head.

The last photo above is a bit tricky, since it is a California black oak, taken in King's Canyon National Park along the Zumwalt Meadow Trail. A lovely place. Our eastern black oak has dark ridged bark, but it is not as deeply furrowed as its California cousin.

For a beautiful photographic field guide to the buds and bark of trees from this region see Josh Sayers Portrait of the Earth.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Winter's Whispers

This winter's snow has created a white canvas for our resident mammals, large and small, to leave a drawing of their wanderings. Until the thaw of this week, the snow sparkled under clear blue winter days. The soft snow revealed many snowshoe hare tracks meandering between and under young growth, shrubs, and fallen trees on nearby conservation land, one of our favorite places to snowshoe and walk. Fox and coyote trails followed the hare. The dainty trail of the deer mouse emerges from a depression around a sapling or fallen tree. Many gray squirrel tracks crisscross our yard, from the woods to the feeders. A single red squirrel visits the feeder sporadically.

Sunday's thaw followed by Monday's freeze hardened the snow, subverting for now seeing any new animal tracks. During my walk in mid-afternoon yesterday -- one of those bright winter days, cold with a slight breeze, the air crisp and alive -- I shifted my attention from the ground to the woods and sky. Winter is spare, but not silent. I stood still listening to winter's whispers. The dry, bronze beech leaves, hanging firm into winter, maybe to deter deer from browsing their twigs, rustle in the gentle breeze. The red maples creak. A soft tapping of a downy woodpecker and a nasal yank by the white-breasted nuthatch. The white pines whispering above them all.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Feeding birds

I have my three favorite bird feed types-black oil sunflower seeds, niger seed, and suet. The rather expensive niger seed, known as "black gold" by birdseed sellers, is a favorite of goldfinches, siskins, and redpolls. This seed comes from a cosmos-like yellow flower native to Ethiopia, where it is a major export crop rivaling coffee and spices. Niger seed is sometimes mistakenly called thistle seed because goldfinches like thistle and they like niger seed, but the seed is unrelated to thistle plants.

The black oil sunflower seeds bring in the other birds-chickadees, tufted titmouse, both nuthatches, blue jays, cardinals, juncos, and an occasional song sparrow. The downy and hairy woodpeckers peck at the suet. I purposely avoid other seed mixes that include corn and other filler. These seeds are not as favored by the winter songbirds and can create a nuisance of other birds, such as blackbirds, doves, and some sparrows.

I feed birds because I enjoy seeing them in the winter. My personal bird feeding creed is that I do no harm and not create a nuisance. A few weeks ago I spoke with a woman from central New Hampshire who was being harassed by a flock of 30 wild turkeys at her feeder. The turkeys are attacking her as she approaches to fill the feeders. I suggested that she return the unopened bag of mixed seed with cracked corn and instead use black oil sunflower seeds. Turkeys like corn. Maybe they will disperse if the corn is gone. Our state wildlife agency encourages people not to feed turkeys. It can lead to greater diseases and predation and increase in human conflicts. The story above confirms the latter. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department also urges everyone not to feed white-tailed deer, for similar reasons.

My feeders go up in November and come down in late March. Birds are better able to find natural foods-cones, seeds, berries, and insects--the rest of the year. Also, black bears wake and emerge in early April from their winter slumber. They are hungry and bird seed seems to be just as tasty as some ants beneath a fallen log. Perhaps we like to see bears in our backyard, but a "fed bear is a dead bear." Bear attacks on bird feeders become statistics and lead to controls of "nuisance" bears.

A way to keep birds in our yards throughout the year is to provide good habitat. Native shrubs (in New Hampshire this includes sumac, viburnums, dogwoods, blueberries) for food, flowers for nectar feeding hummingbirds, and thickets, brush piles and dead trees for cover.

The red-breasted nuthatch pair is back at the feeders today, enjoying the suet and sunflower seeds. No squirrels, turkeys, or bears in sight!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Aria and Bella

Bella, the one year old squirrel chaser, and Aria, the 11 year old Shepherd, accompany us on many forays.

Welcome to the Spicebush Log

I can skip my yoga and weights today as I am just in from chipping and shoveling an inch of ice off the driveway, leftover from the storm 10 days ago. With temps reaching into the high 40s the opportunity to clear the ice was now. My exercise over I can settle down and submit my first blog post! A red-breasted nuthatch, one of my favorite birds, visited the feeder this morning. It darts from the nearby pine to the feeder and away quickly with its seed. The "white-nut" is a much more regular visitor. The deep snow this winter has allowed the half dozen gray squirrels to jump over the baffle on the feeder post. Bella, our springer, runs in circles in the house, anxious to chase them away, her tail wagging madly as she scatters the squirrels from the feeders.

First Walks of 2024

We rise early, well before sunrise. It helps to go to bed early. Fortunately the New Year's Eve celebratory fireworks in the neighborhoo...