A Backyard Visitor

Thursday, June 28, 2012,

Four days ago I was looking out my back window, as I am often wont to do, when I spied a dark shape moving rather quickly across the back lawn. This was too fast and determined to be a bird. Birds foraging on the lawn are mostly step, step, stab or hop, hop, poke and stab. There are variations of course, but there are few instances of birds running in straight lines unless there’s a territorial dispute of some kind. Robins are good for that; they’ve got this thing about personal space but they’re not the only ones. Just yesterday I saw a young Grackle shoo off an Eastern Cottontail. 

  Anyways, back to the story at hand. This visitor racing across the yard was moving much too determinedly to be a bird. I had a pretty good guess at what I was seeing but it was too far off for me to be certain. I stood closer to the window. I squinted. No go. I squinted harder. Again, no go. Squinting just doesn’t work as well as it used to. Maybe I need new squinters. So I reached for my binoculars, and yes, there was a Diamondback Terrapin. ‘Tis the time of year when the females come ashore to lay their eggs. Less than a week before I had found one trying to deposit her eggs in the gravel driveway. This is never a good idea. It’s a dangerous place for her to be, let alone the ten or so so hatchlings come September. Not to mention the very real chance of scrambled eggs in the meantime, if someone’s car should roll over the wrong spot. I moved last week’s terrapin to a nice sandy spot in the yard, but there’s no arguing with a woman. She will plant those eggs wherever she sees fit and and there really is no persuading her. Sigh. At least she’s not asking me to move the couch. JK

Bird’s Nest At Avalon

Saturday, November 26, 2011,

These are pics of a bird’s nest I found in the farm fields at Avalon. It’s probably been there since last spring. It’s only about six feet off the trail and at a height of about 5.5 feet, it’s pretty much eye level for many of the folks that tread these paths but because the wildflowers that grow here are so thick and tall this nest was probably invisible to nearly everyone. I myself have walked past this nest countless times without ever even suspecting it’s existence. It wasn’t until the autumn die-back of most of the flowers here that I discovered it.

I sent this pic out to a few friends and the general consensus was that this was a Red-winged Blackbird’s nest. I was the only dissenter, but only because the only confirmed Red-wing nests I ever see are suspended from  reeds or cordgrass right on the river. I wouldn’t expect to see one here in the farm fields but I did some reading and according to Arthur Cleveland Bent, while nesting near water seems to be a preference for Red-wings, upland meadows are also very suitable. The fields at Avalon certainly qualify as upland meadows and during the spring and summer I often see Red-wings here so I am fairly certain that my friends are right about this being a Red-winged Blackbird’s nest. JK

Baltimore Orioles At Sweetbriar

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sweetbriar Nature Center has a new attraction. A pair of Baltimore Orioles has set up shop in a tree adjacent to the barn. These birds always make me say wow. If you live nearby, come down and say wow yourself. This is a real treat. And a visit to Sweetbriar never sucks anyway. There’s always so much to see.

Both parents are tending to the little ones. In the above shot Mom is checking in. Moments later she wholly disappeared into the nest where I assume she was sitting on her brood. I’m don’t think the male does any sitting but he does stick his head inside to count his progeny. He’s very proud.