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Winter Mornings on the Homestead

Winter Mornings on the Homestead

Winter Mornings

Winter mornings have taken on a new way, or more accurately, returned to old ways. I woke this morning, excited about the day ahead, and snuggled up to Steve. As of last night my freelance writing days are on long-term old…or maybe over. I’m still working on cutting back and refocusing, and I’m making a lot of progress. I’ve kept one publication, Walden Publishing, and let the rest go so that I have time to finish writing a book or two.

We lucked out with only four inches of fresh snow.  chirp  The call was familiar but I couldn’t place it and couldn’t find the bird. There are few deer on the game cameras now. It’s so cold at night the batteries are either slow or don’t work at all. They’re here according to the activity in the snow. The kale stems are nibbled down a little more each night. The deer stop short of eating the terminal bud. If they don’t come back to eat more before spring the plants might break dormancy and grow again. Fresh kale in the spring would be nice.  chirp 

Back in the house…

Back in the house, winter mornings are feeding the dogs and the sour dough, laundry to wash and hang by the wood stove, supper to plan… Speaking of supper, Steve is doing some of the cooking on a regular basis now. I love love love having a meal cooked for me, and he’s a great cook. He made chicken enchiladas and American chop suey (goulash) on Sunday. I’ll cook only twice this week and spend more uninterrupted time writing. We’ll have baked cranberry chicken tonight. Anyway, we’re talking about mornings. I brought in a bin of white pine, eastern hemlock, white cedar and balsam fir and went about making a wreath and three swags.

A blue jay napped in a hydrangea bush outside the sun porch, puffed up against the cold wind, barely flinching when the thin branch bounced. The feeders are full of suet, energy blocks, corn, sunflower and other assorted seeds.  chirp  I found the chirp when I brought fresh water to the ducks and chickens.  chirp  A robin huddled under an apple tree behind the hen house, pecking away at a frozen apple. It flew into another tree so I left quickly. Will it stay the winter? Time will tell. The photo is a maxed out zoom on my phone. I’ll take a different camera with me on a warmer day.

winter mornings, evergreen wreath, Christmas wreath

winter mornings, kale, deer
winter morning, terminal bud, kale, food plot

winter mornings

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American Bald Eagle

American Bald Eagle

American Bald Eagle

A sneak peak at an upcoming blog. Look at this American Bald Eagle….or is it eagles? This happened today near our home. I remind myself often that there are people who would have the thrill of a lifetime if they saw one bald eagle once. Today we saw two, up close and personal. We interacted with these huge, powerful birds on a level most people never will. Incredible. I don’t know how many times I said “I love this life” today. More later. It’s a crazy week so it might take a while but I’m going to do my best to tell the story by the end of the day Wednesday. Til then, here’s a sneak peak.

Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owls

great horned owls, nest
great horned owls, soaking wet, maine
great horned owls, osprey nest

What was supposed to be an early morning turkey hunt with Peter turned into sleeping in thanks to or because of, depending on how I felt at the moment, pour rain, and hunting later. Hunting later turned into hilarity between Steve and I and a Saturday wildlife drive. Oh we saw turkeys…two hens. By then we’d given up setting up decoys and yelping. We were driving with hopes of seeing a tom somewhere. Anywhere. Didn’t happen. We visited the great horned owls on their nest.

The first time I saw the nest there was one adult great horned owl and two owlets. This time we could see two adults but no offspring. The adults were drenched after the downpour and looked downright cranky, and who can blame them. I love bird watching and  surprises like this Chestnut-sided warbler, and never thought I’d get to watch two great horned owls raising owlets. They’ll fledge in about 42 days so we’re running out of time. I want to go back one more time, on a sunny day, and take better photos before the youngsters leave.

Great horned owls sometimes use other birds’ nests. This nest was built by osprey so it’s on the typical power line pole and is at the edge of a large body of water. Osprey are also known as fish hawks. The nest is huge for owls and there’s lots of room to move around. The adults were hovering over the owlets when we arrived. We stayed about five minutes the first time, as we pulled away one of the owls left the nest, presumably to hunt. On our way back through both were on the nest and tearing something into bite sized pieces. The hunt was fast, we were gone less than 20 minutes, and successful. They eat skunks and porcupines (!!!), hare, water fowl and other birds, rodents, and house cats and small dogs. I wouldn’t want them out here near our ducks and chickens but I wouldn’t mind a pair that would pare down the porcupine and skunk populations. You have to admire anything that can handle skunks and porcupines.

Chestnut-Sided Warbler – bird watching

Chestnut-Sided Warbler – bird watching

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

Bright and early this morning, we made a stop at the edge of a field to call for turkeys. Steve has one of his two tags filled, Peter is tagged out, and I have zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nine days of hunting, sometimes twice a day, and I’ve yet to see a turkey close enough to even pick up the shotgun. Peter called but there wasn’t a turkey around interested in gobbling to a hen. They started talking (they say women talk a lot but seriously, we have nothing on men in that department) and kind of forgot what it was we were supposed to be doing. I heard a bird call I wasn’t familiar with, zoned in on it, and discovered this male chestnut-sided warbler. This is an addition on my birding life list, a first for me. Excuse the quality of the photos. He moved every few seconds and was 50 feet away. Birding is one of the reasons I desperately want a new camera.

Chestnut-sided warbler in an old tree early in the morning
Chestnut-sided warbler side view
Chestnut-sided warbler, white chest
Chestnut-sided warbler face on
Chestnut-sided warbler, breeding plumage
Chestnut-sided warbler, back to
A male chestnut-sided warbler is easy to identify. Its song told me it is a warbler. And its sides – chestnut colored. This was a simple one. The yellow forehead is easy to pick out in the trees and if you look closely, he has an unmistakable mustache. They frequent the sides of fields along the edge of the woods as they search for insects. It was cool this morning and the insects weren’t moving yet so he was busy moving from branch to branch and tree to tree.

I learned this morning that they over winter in Central America and return to the same area each spring to rejoin birds they know. It’s incredible. I can’t imagine knowing how to get back to the same area, or being about four inches in size and flying to Central America… Isn’t nature wonderful! So much energy in a little bird called chestnut-sided warbler.