Monday, January 21, 2008

A Brief Pause for Mammals

I'm stepping away from posting about birds for a moment so I can present to you, The Fox Squirrel.

I hadn't seen one of these guys for a while until one showed up today at work. Fox squirrels are much more solitary than their gray squirrel cousins. There can be 16 gray squirrels under the feeders at once but only one fox squirrel ever shows up. Given their size, they are bigger than gray squirrels, you would think they are bruisers but they are pretty shy and retreat from conflict.

They are called fox squirrels because their fur has a rusty red wash to it similar to a fox. You can really see it on the face of this one but it is most noticeable on their belly. It isn't at all white like a gray squirrel's would be.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

First 20 Birds of 2008

January 1st would have been a sad day if I hadn't seen any birds. Luckily, I was not disappointed. Even though I was home bound I was able to add two birds to my new 2008 bird list. They weren't the most interesting or rare birds but I'm pretty limited when it comes to my still somewhat sad back yard. I took a look at the feeders on and off all morning and there weren't any birds. I looked in the afternoon and there were a bunch of house sparrows doing their best to deplete the feeders. There was also an adorable cottontail sitting under the feeders picking up whatever they dropped. I wish I had gotten my camera as it was a cool sight. That would have been my only bird sighting for the day but I looked up and happened to see an American crow flying overhead. So, that's two birds in the first day of 2008 and I know Thursday will net me a handful more on the drive to work and at the feeders.

January 3rd, I saw no new species on the way to work but I did manage to spot a hairy woodpecker, white breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker, black capped chickadee, and a brown creeper a the feeders. The brown creeper was a nice surprise, I usually see one but not so easily. He wasn't using the feeders he was just hanging out near them. The photo on the left is the hairy woodpecker. I love how you can see he is just barely holding onto the side of the tree.

Downy woodpeckers look very similar to hairy woodpeckers only they are smaller.

Speaking of nuthatches, I took these next two photos of white breasted nuthatches on the feeders out at work.

On this nuthatch photo where he is upside down you can actually see the bird band on his leg from our bird banding program.

I strolled past the feeders after filling my coffee mug and spotted a Red bellied woodpecker in a tree and a red breasted nuthatch on the suet feeder.

The red breasted nuthatch was banded too. Okay so he's on the peanut feeder here. I took the photo another day. It is a little odd that he's hanging out at the feeders. We caught him in a mist net up in the prairie where there are some pine trees. He was released near the building and instead of going straight back to the prairie he discovered the bird feeders and we see him daily now.

A few hours later I peeked out at the feeders on my way downstairs and the goldfinches had arrived. Here's a fun picture I took with a goldfinch on the right and a black capped chickadee on the left. Later in the day I spotted a pileated woodpecker in the woods as well as twice at the feeders.

Sunday January 6th I taught snowshoeing at lake elmo park reserve. On my way to work to pick up the snowshoes I saw 5 red tailed hawks, and rock pigeons. Heading to the park I spotted a huge flock of turkeys in the corn fields along Norell Ave. Sorry, no camera. There were more than 30 of them. After snowshoeing I saw a pheasant just outside the park boundaries. I thought I caught glimpses of a blue jay and a starling as well but a good ID will have to wait.

Monday, January 7th I was thinking I was going to go the whole day with no new birds. I had an outreach event so I figured I would see something while driving. Nope. On the way home in the last rays of light I came upon Keller lake and wondered if the Bald Eagles would be checking out their nest tree on such a warm day in the winter. Sure enough, as I drove past I could make out the silhouette of an eagle perched high up in the nest tree.

Friday, January 11th on my way to another outreach program for work I spotted a bird on the phone line along Norell Ave and the turn to 61. It was watching over an evergreen plantation. I didn't expect it to be much but as I caught a glimpse passing by I saw a grey bird with black wings. It could only be one bird this time of year, the Northern Shrike. Very cool, I wish I had binoculars with me though I was on a tight schedule to get to my program so I probably could not have stopped anyhow. It was not there on the way back. As I left work for the day I spied a flock of birds on the shoulder of Manning Avenue. I had my suspicions and as I passed I saw they were indeed European starlings. That brought me up to 18 species in 11 days.

Sunday the 12th was a great day for birds in that I added a great and unexpected one to my list. While leading a hike I gathered all the kids around to look at some tracks in the snow and a little girl asked, "What's that white thing up in the tree?" It was a barred owl. How very cool. That same day I took the photos in this post at lunch. I was hoping to see the owl again but it was gone by the time lunch came and I could get a camera. I may try getting photos of some of the other birds I spot this year. It will make these long posts more fun to read. I know some of these aren't great photos but that really isn't the point. By the way, you can click on any photo to make it bigger.

Sunday the 13th I stopped at a pond near southdale mall that never freezes over. I saw tons of mallards but nothing else. I thought there was a chance of something else, maybe geese but no luck. Anyhow, the mallards count as species number 20. Not too bad. 20 species in 13 days.

1. House sparrow
2. American crow
3. Hairy woodpecker
4. White breasted nuthatch
5. Downy woodpecker
6. Black capped chickadee
7. Brown creeper
8. Red bellied woodpecker
9. Red breasted nuthatch
10. American goldfinch
11. Pileated Woodpecker
12. Red-tailed hawk
13. Rock pigeon
14. Wild turkey
15. Pheasant
16. Bald eagle
17. Northern Shrike
18. European Starling
19. Barred Owl
20. Mallard duck

Guesses for next 6 species: Canada Goose, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, American Robin, Junco, Mourning dove.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Chloroform for Kids

I've embarked on a new writing project. I'm don't want to give away too much yet but I think it is a real marketable idea that I'm going to try to get published as a book. The book in part features some chemistry experiments and so I've been going through old chemistry books looking for good experiments no one does anymore. There are often good reasons they aren't done anymore. Check out this gem from a 1960s era book for kids.

"Sniff carefully" indeed. Chloroform is now considered to be a carcinogen and OSHA considers it "immediately dangerous to health and life." It can apparently cause fatal cardiac arrhythmia. Still, I'm not sure how much this would make and I'm not sure this experiment would produce enough to be of any danger. It would be interesting to know if it actually makes a dangerous amount.

Please don't use this information to trap-door-spider "chloroform sandwich" any of your friends.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Master bird list 2007

Well, here they are. All the species of birds I identified in 2007 in the order I saw them. This was my best year ever for birds. Of course, this was only the second year I've done this so it wasn't too hard to beat my old record. I ended up with 136 species. That's not too bad for not really trying all that hard. I know I could have stretched that to around 145 if I had put more effort into it. Oh well.

I did add 46 birds to my life list. Some of them I had seen before just not since I started the list. 2008 doesn't promise to be easy for birding. I will be shocked if I make it to 136. A number of these species were from Arizona and I will not be heading out there this year. I also now have a baby at home so he will be taking up a lot of my spare time. As I write this I'm keeping my eye out for birds at my house. Being January 1 I'm back at a count of ZERO.

2007 Master List

1 Crow
2 Rock Pigeon
3 White Breasted Nuthatch
4 Black Capped Chickadee
5 American Goldfinch
6 Red-bellied Woodpecker
7 Downy Woodpecker
8 Hairy Woodpecker
9 Pileated Woodpecker
10 House Sparrow
11 Blue Jay
12 Northern Cardinal
13 Pheasant
14 Junco
15 Canada goose
16 Turkey
17 Brown Creeper
18 Red-tailed hawk
19 Mourning Dove
20 American Robin
21 European Starling
22 Mallard Duck
23 Tree Sparrow
24 Horned Lark
25 House Finch
26 Red-winged Blackbird
27 Rough-legged Hawk
28 Purple Finch
29 Eastern Phoebe
30 Ring-necked Duck
31 American Coot
32 Gadwall
33 Fox Sparrow
34 Sharp-shinned Hawk
35 Song sparrow
36 Hooded Merganser
37 Turkey Vulture
38 Great Blue Heron
39 Great-tailed Grackle
40 Green Heron
41 Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Audubon's)
42 Black Chinned Hummingbird
43 Gambel's Quail.
44 Gila Woodpecker
45 Pied Billed Grebe
46 Cooper's Hawk
47 Inca Dove
48 Broad-Billed Hummingbird
49 Anna's Hummingbird
50 Costa's Hummingbird
51 Black Phoebe
52 Vermilion Flycatcher
53 Bell's Vireo
54 Verdin
55 Hermit Thrush
56 Phainopela
57 Yellow Warbler
58 Spotted Towhee
59 Abert's Towhee
60 Black-Throated Sparrow
61 White Crowned Sparrow
62 Lesser Goldfinch
63 Killdeer
64 Golden Eagle
65 Common raven
66 Curve-billed Thrasher
67 Mandarin Duck
68 Wood Duck
69 Cedar Waxwing
70 Brown Crested Flycatcher
71 Northern Pintail
72 Violet-Green Swallow
73 Cinnamon Teal
74 American Wigeon
75 Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
76 Rock Wren
77 Peregrine Falcon
78 American Kestrel
79 Sandhill Crane
80 Great Egret
81 Bufflehead
82 Winter Wren
83 Yellow Bellied Sapsucker
84 Redhead Duck
85 Lesser Scaup
86 Osprey
87 Harrier
88 Trumpeter Swan
89 Tree Swallow
90 Eastern Meadowlark
91 White Throated Sparrow
92 Chipping Sparrow
93 Common Grackle
94 Yellow Rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
95 Brown Headed Cowbird
96 American Woodcock
97 Chimney Swift
98 Barn Swallow
99 Eastern Kingbird
100 Scarlet Tanager
101 Ruby-throated hummingbird
102 Swainson's Thrush
103 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
104 Gray Catbird
105 Baltimore Oriole
106 Common nighthawk
107 Eastern Wood Pewee
108 Indigo Bunting
109 Common Yellowthroat
110 Great Crested Flycatcher
111 Warbling vireo
112 American redstart
113 Bobolink
114 Yellow-throated vireo
115 Common loon
116 Blue-grey gnatcatcher
117 Clay-colored sparrow
118 Blue-winged warbler
119 Golden-winged warbler
120 House Wren
121 White Pelican
122 Western Meadowlark
123 Lark Bunting
124 Lazuli Bunting
125 Red Breasted Nuthatch
126 Swainson's Hawk
127 Barred Owl
128 Tennessee Warbler
129 Tufted Titmouse
130 Ring-billed gull
131 Ovenbird
132 Broad-winged hawk
133 Blue headed vireo
134 Swamp Sparrow
135 Redhead
136 Ruby Crowned Kinglet
AND, one I saw but forgot to record for some reason . . .
137 Red-shouldered Hawk