Springing Up

Oh the glorious beginning of spring. So nice to see some green sprouting up. Or should I say “springing” up?springing up

Winter Remnant

It’s the first full day of spring but winter’s snow remains. Here are a few photos from today’s walk near Duke Island Park and the Raritan River in New Jersey.frozen canal

tree reflection

raritan river

bridge

Hawk’s Breakfast

hawk with grackleA few mornings ago, I walked into the backyard to put something away; suddenly a hawk flew from the grass, right in front of me, up into a tree branch. The spot where he had been on the lawn was covered with the feathers of a grackle. The feathers were fresh. I left momentarily to get my camera and returned to take a few photos of the hawk in the tree before it decided to fly away. I didn’t realize until I downloaded the pictures (and could look at them closely) how fresh those grackle feathers really were — the grackle’s body was being firmly held underneath the hawk. I had interrupted the hawk’s breakfast. The grackles had only returned to our backyard in the past week or so after being absent all winter. The hawk must have been thrilled with their recent return!
hawk with kill

Woodpecker Glimpse

So happy to catch a glimpse of a pileated woodpecker the other day. He was busily moving up and down a large tree trunk in the woods, but I wasn’t able to get an unobstructed photo. They truly are the jackhammers of the forest.pileated woodpecker

Hawk’s Backyard Behavior

backyard hawk

Backyard Hawk

Most of the time, when hawks visit our backyard with lunch in mind, they follow the same pattern of behavior. They position themselves on a high tree branch, in an incognito location, quietly waiting to see what prey moves around down below. Not so, with the hawk that stopped by the backyard today. He perched on the most prominent lower branch of the tree, right in the center of the yard. This branch is only a foot or so above the hanging suet cages and is adjacent to where the bird feeders are. After only a minute or two of sitting and looking around (while I hung out of the sliding glass door and quickly took some photos) the hawk dove directly into the nearby spruce tree where the sparrows like to hide. It vanished completely from view for a few seconds, but came out of the tree empty-handed (or empty-sparrowed) and flew away.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Split Second Story

golden glow split secondThe sunset was quite pretty at the park last night, but that goldeny-glow on the park bench lasted only a short while, a.k.a. a split second. A few quick clicks on my camera and the glow was gone. See other interpretations of the “Split Second Story” theme at: Weekly Photo Challenge.

Pothole Bathing

pothole bathrobin bathWe have two areas in our yard where birds in the neighborhood can get freshened up on a dusty day. In front, there is a large stone birdbath. In the rear, we have a small pond with a very shallow stream of water running over a ledge. Many birds land by the pond and walk over to the ledge for a quick rinse. By far, however, the all-time favorite bathing spot is the pothole in the street in front of our house. Every time it rains and water collects in the hole, a variety of birds come – some solo, some in small groups – to bathe. Maybe the hole is the perfect depth and width to attract them, or maybe they just like muddy rainwater, whatever the reason, it attracts more visitors than the birdbath and the pond.grackle bath

Sunset Fence

picket fence sunset
Linking to “Good Fences” at Run-A-Round Ranch.

Reblog: The Song Sparrow’s Friend (or Foe?)

Reblog: The Song Sparrow’s Friend (or Foe?).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

rat inside flower pot, backyard wildlife

Our backyard wood rat. He pilfers birdseed from inside an overturned flower pot.

We have a new backyard visitor. Actually, he thinks he’s a long-term resident. A wood rat has been living in the yard for at least 6 months. For the past month or so, he’s been burrowed underneath a thick layer of snow and ice. Now that spring is coming and the snow is melting, the rat is no longer staying inside. We’ve been watching him prancing back and forth along his self-made trail. First, he runs straight from his den to the seeds that have spilled from the bird feeders. Then, he returns back to store the seeds inside. Today, he found a nice cache of seeds that had fallen inside an overturned flower pot.

The video below shows him racing back and forth to collect the seeds. You can see why they are called pack rats.

See other interpretations of the “Inside” theme at: Weekly Photo Challenge.

Winter at the Beach (Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes)

1. Setting the scene: Snow on the beach

1. Setting the scene: Snow on the beach

2. Interaction: The snow has mostly melted near the rocks and ocean

2. Interaction: The snow has mostly melted near the rocks and ocean

3. Detail: Snow inside a seashell

3. Detail: Snow inside a seashell

See other interpretations of the “Threes” theme at: Weekly Photo Challenge.

Identifying the Red Tail

Are they red-tailed hawks?

Are they red-tailed hawks?

The  red feathers are starting to fan out

The red feathers are starting to fan out

Notice the distinctive red tail feathers

Notice the distinctive red tail feathers

I have trouble identifying hawks because they all seem to look so similar. Looking for clues to a raptor’s identity — by zeroing in on features such as size, shape, coloring, stripes on the feathers or behavior — doesn’t always help me figure out what I’ve seen. Factor in distance or poor lighting and it’s even more difficult; if the hawk is a fledgling or a juvenile, “fuh-gedda-boud-dit!” The young ones are almost impossible for me to distinguish. Despite my difficulty ID’ing hawks, there is one type that is not too difficult to determine from the rear.

The red-tailed hawk is aptly named for its distinctively colored reddish tail feathers. Like many other hawks, the body and wings are brown and the breast is lightly speckled, but the color of the tail really stands out. It’s especially noticeable when the feathers are fanned in flight.

About a month ago, I saw two hawks perched high in a tree. I was uncertain about their identity, although I assumed they were red-tailed hawks because they are so common in my area. Once the hawks began to fly though, the red-brown tail was clearly evident. When you are out and about, look for the red tail to identify the red-tailed hawk.