Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some bird action

Well, first off, the spring thaw is picking up! The creek (officially a municipal drain) broke its banks last week and is now receding like Donald Trump's hairline. The birds love it, especially the Canada geese.

As you can see, there's a lot less snow than there was a week ago today! And there are bazillions of Canada geese in them thar fields, should you wish to click on the photo to enlarge and see some of them:

But the best thing is, I saw a pair of Northern Pintail ducks yesterday, a first for me, and I even managed to get some not-so-hot photos with my long lens. Not easy with a couple of dogs jumping around you, wanting to play ball. Ducks are not really keen on Labrador retriever types.

I looked at the pintails through binoculars as well. Very beautiful, and yes, the male does have a long "pintail":

A mallard joined in the fun:

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, er, farmhouse... I was sitting in my office when an explosion of birds flew past my window, the sort of thing that tells me somebody is hunting at my birdfeeders. I looked out my window and wondered why a common grackle was sitting quietly in the hedge:

And finally I said to myself, "Duh! Grackles don't have tails with bars across them! Matter of fact, grackles aren't shaped like that at all. That thing would have to be a grackle on 'roids in heavy make-up!" What I spied through my dirty window (hence the bad picture) was the perpetrator of the birdfeeder attack, a sharp-shinned hawk (correct me if I'm wrong, Happy Wombat Boy! For sure it wasn't a Cooper's hawk -- too small!) The picture is (obviously) NOT great:

I also saw an American Kestrel on my walk yesterday. No pictures of that one, alas. I'm always seeing them around here, sitting on the power lines overlooking the fields; very attractive small killers, formerly known as sparrowhawks.

And here's one of my perennial favourites, the hairy woodpecker, on our suet feeder:

If you want to learn more about birds, check out Happy Wombat Boy's blog! He is extremely knowledgeable about all things avian.

And to show you how spring is slowly progressing in my garden, this is the latest state of affairs in one of the flower beds:

Daffodils, tulips, lilies and others are doing their best to grow!

This is the bed that had the metal roof from the granary on it all winter. My manly-man husband got out his reciprocating saw on Sunday, cutting up the roof and hauling it away. Much, much better..

We spent Saturday looking at zero-turn lawnmower beasts to cut the acres of grass on this farm... sigh. Right now we own a pushmower, and I like that. I hate wasting gas on grass, but we'll see what we can do in the future.

By the end of this week, it is supposed to hit almost 70F. Do you think spring may finally be sprunging? Spranging? Springulating?


  1. Anonymous12:36 pm

    OH BOY!!!!! TWO new entries with lots of pictures. When I saw that I started them loading and then got another tea and some toasted bread with olive oil.

    Ahhhh yes. Sooooooo enjoyable to see your pictures and to see how spring is approaching there ...finally.

    I love the pic of the hawk .. just sitting there waiting for some action. Kinda catlike!

    and the creek is definitely out of its banks! .. but how nice for all the water fowl.

    really really excellent pics! I love seeing the snow gradually disappear.

    now on to the dogs entry!!

  2. It is always a pleasure telling the difference between a Sharpie and a Cooper's from a photograph (and what a photograph!) but I would agree that you have yourself a Sharp-shinned hawk.

    Size isn't always the best determining factor. Sexual dimorphism in both species means that a male Cooper's and a female Sharpie are about the same size (females being around a third again as large as the males of the same species). However, a male Sharpie beside a female Cooper's is rather obvious as one is half the size of the other.

    I have tricks to tell them apart in flight, but they are of no use here. Similarly, in breeding plumage, the white undertail coverts of the Cooper's are fluffier and can extend so that they are seen from the back. However, the lack of them in the picture is far from indicative.

    The best characteristic for a sitting hawk is their legs - Sharpies have thin little spaghetti legs. Too bad your bird is facing away.

    Of course from the back you can still tell the difference; the Sharpie has a "hooded" appearance whereas the Cooper's is "capped". Which is to say that in the Sharp-shinned the black on the top of the head extends further onto the nape. Unless the bird is in shadow, in which case it all looks dark.

    Which brings us to the last comparison (and the one on which I'm basing my diagnosis)... the tail. The Cooper's hawk has a rounded tail with a slightly broader white terminal band. The tail of a Sharp-shinned hawk squares off. That guy does not have a round tail.

    Hope that helps.

  3. A shaw-shank hawk! COOL! This week at work (I have a corner office with windows on two sides, on the 4th floor, ya know!!!) I saw TWO hawks flying gracefully together. It's the beginning of mating season here. The boy turkeys are strutting and showing off their feathers! Need to get pictures.

  4. My Happy Wombat friend, I KNEW you could solve this for me. My comment on its size was only based on the fact that it looked smaller than the smallest listed size for a Cooper's.

    And you know what? I actually THOUGHT the bird looked like it was wearing a hood! Not so obvious in my awful photo, but to my naked eye, I could see it! THANK YOU!

  5. Mo, you have a corner office with two windows? YOu are WAY powerful!! Yah, get some pics!

  6. No, I have 2 walls with 3 sets of windows on each wall. 6 windows total. One set faces west, one set faces north, over looking pine trees and and scrub oak trees.


Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!