Tag Archive for birds

Social distancing? Gimme a break. We’re squirrels.

Neither of these guys is the baby, who comes as soon as I fill the feeder, before the bigger squirrels and the birds get here. I think he sits and waits. These two are siblings, two of the four born in the tree this year. Things were not this amicable for long. They kept whacking each other over the head and diving for the best seeds. They did share the feeder without actually chasing each other off, though. A big crow came to watch, but he clearly decided the whole thing was just going to be trouble, so he left. Bella practically lost her mind over the two squirrels, but she was a little intimidated by the size of the crow. So was I.




Snowy Owl!

Despite the 17 degree temps when we left in the morning, I went out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Reserve with the intrepid Keith Michael in search of Snowy Owls, which Keith had seen out there last week. And look!

According to another birder we met out there, this one is a juvenile — you can tell because it’s not pure white. She — I don’t know how he knew, but he kept calling it “she” — was just snoozing on the marsh. The above photo’s a zoom-in; she was a  dot from where we were and we wouldn’t have seen her except the guy had a massive camera on a tripod pointed right at her.

She’s the first Snowy Owl I’ve seen (yay!) and following the Urban Birder’s Owl Protocol, which I only learned about yesterday, I’m not supposed to say exactly where she was so she doesn’t get overwhelmed by gawkers while she’s trying to sleep, owls being nocturnal creatures and birders mostly diurnal ones. But she was at Jamaica Bay, so you intrepid birders, dress in your five thermal layers and get on out there!


Early morning at the Rancho

Well, not exactly at the Rancho. On the causeway nearby. Went for a sunrise walk, and can report we are rich in egrets this year. That must mean the marsh is rich in fish. Also was dive-bombed by some smaller shorebirds I can’t identify, but this also happened last year when I walked too close to their nest. (How come you nest so near the road, guys, when you have the whole marsh to choose from?) All the osprey nesting platforms are full, and a few telephone poles have been colonized with those big, sloppy nests osprey build. We have robins, redwinged blackbirds, catbirds, sparrows, cardinals, house finches, some kind of warbler I can’t identify, starlings, crows, Baltimore orioles, and woodpeckers (don’t know what kind, have heard but not seen them) in abundance but no wild turkeys, of which last year we had two broods marching around on their route from house to house, chowing down. The butterfly bushes I planted last year are just starting to bloom, so I’m expecting hummingbirds when we come back next weekend.

#resist #rememberwhatyou’refightingfor

And the river still flows

Lots of action on the river this morning. A pair of Canada geese swam south; a pair of Brant geese swam south a few minutes later, then turned around and swam north. I wondered why until I saw, about twenty feet behind them, the Canada geese also swimming north — that is, escorting the Brants out of Canada goose territory. A cormorant flew low over the water and dropped into the area at the end of the piling field where a male bufflehead was already fishing. A male red-breasted merganser popped up from his underwater fishing grounds. I saw the female yesterday. He must have been finished with his breakfast because he swam a ways out, groomed his feathers, and stuck his head under his wing for a nap. A pair of mallards glided in for a landing on the pilings. Then the male Canada goose set up a major squawking fest, as another pair of Canada geese swooped overhead, but lifted again and didn’t land. Mid-February, Canada goose mating season. This land may be your land, but this stretch of the river is mine all mine!

Red-breasted merganser photo not mine; it’s from allaboutbirds.org. I thought this post needed a visual, and he’s so cute.

Thirteenth Saturday

Seagull circles, lands,
Pecks at food scrap, changes mind,
Floats on rippling waves.

Second gull soars in,
Tries same scrap. Same opinion.
Bobs beside his bud.

Big blackback swoops down.
Others lift off, flap away.
Empty kingdom’s his.

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River report

Still chilly here, but you can’t fool a duck. Two male buffleheads chasing each other around, feeling the start of mating season. Buffleheads fly back to the Arctic to nest and raise chicks, but they start the process down here. Not a female in sight, but still, after they finished arguing over fishing rights (which argument included the losing duck diving, twice, and the winning one diving to chase him up from underwater) and the loser flew away, the winner did the dip-the-head-and-preen thing they show off with. Nobody around to be impressed with him but me.


Not a great photo, but: Da Winnah!

A little later, four red-breasted mergansers paddled by, with their seagull escort. The gulls don’t like the ducks — the gulls don’t like anybody, really — but they often hang around the diving ones because they bring up fish and occasionally drop them. The male mergansers were both showing off for the same female, while the other female just swam on, probably wondering when she’d become chopped liver.


Small flock


Showing off


Seagull escort

River report — winter birds!

Two weeks ago a pair of male buffleheads came splashing in for a landing at the piling field near my bench.  It was early for our locals who winter here, so I figured they were headed farther south and just taking a rest.  Didn’t see them again, so I was probably right.  But this morning, a single male landed, floated around a piling with a seagull on it, and dove for fish, looking right at home.  About twenty minutes later a flight of Brant geese went by, showing their plump white behinds in a messy V.  The winter visitors have arrived!

Also this morning, a gull swooped into a float of debris and came up with a small eel.  He flew away and was immediately mugged by another gull, who stole it.  Then the first gull and about a dozen others all chased the thief, not to bring him to gull justice but to steal the eel themselves.  Or maybe that is gull justice.  Anyway, I didn’t see who ended up with the prize, but I started to wonder: do gulls hold grudges?  Will Gull #1, who caught the eel, be gunning for Gull #2, who stole it?  Will he knock #2 off a perch, or hang around on purpose to see what he finds to eat so #1 can steal it, turnabout being fair play?  Also, are some gulls better at finding food, or quicker at catching eels or whatever, and are they therefore stalked by other gulls, who find it easier to steal a faster gull’s prize than to fish themselves?

These are the questions that come up in the early morning, by the river.

fog 004



River report

The grass is still green and thriving, but the leaves are fading, crisping brown at the tips, or turning glorious colors as they variously will.  The air is cool, though not yet cold.  The wind has started to raise sharper waves on the river.  The gray slate pathway is dotted with gold and tan, this leaf-trickle soon to be a flood.  Many of the migrating birds have come and gone.  The local mallards and Canada geese are still here, as are the local cormorants, though bands of cormorants can be seen overhead heading to their winter quarters.  Yesterday, to my surprise, a sloppy V of Brant geese raced chaotically south along the river. Way too early for them in the usual way of things, but climate change being what it is, they must have had a good reason for leaving the Arctic this soon. I hope they find a welcome where they’re going.

New month, new Rancho, new blog

Okay, we had some technical glitches here at SJR Central, but we’ve persevered, overcome, vanquished all obstacles, and by “we” I mean my webmaster because Lord knows I have no idea how to do this stuff.  But we said a few months ago the blog will be moving over here and here it is!

The reason for moving to WordPress is largely the technical ease of inserting images, something Journalscape didn’t offer.  There are a few other bells and whistles over here, too, and all together they makes the switch worthwhile.  I want to tip my hat to Kenny and the folks at Journalscape for hosting me since 2003.  They set up the free site as a way to pay forward to the cyber-community and I benefitted greatly.  Thanks, guys, and I wish you well.

So it’s July, and my buddies and I are occupying yet another new Rancho Obsesso here on the North Fork of Long Island.  We’ve been together as a summer house for twenty-one, yes that’s 21, years and we’re a pretty tight bunch.  Our problem is, houses keep getting sold out from under us and every three or four or five years we have to get used to yet another house.  I thought to celebrate — well, and to test out — the ease of posting photos to the new blog, I’d show you the latest incarnation of Rancho Obsesso.



This Rancho is on a hill so here I am peering up from below.


photo 3(1)

Roses climbing up porch.


photo 2

Fabulous long porch.

The birdfeeder outside the kitchen has already been visited by sparrows, cardinals, house finches, catbirds, robins, cowbirds, and a squirrel.  So much for “squirrel proof.”  I was, of course, rooting for the rodent.  Ospreys with fish to feed their chicks have passed by overhead three times that I’ve seen, and an egret and a blue heron crossed paths just above our roof.  And we only got here yesterday.

Oops.  In publishing this I notice the comments section is closed.  As I say, I have no idea how to do this magic.  I just emailed the web genius, because I certainly, as always, want to hear from you!  Soon…  Happy fourth!

(Web Genius says: Please, the title is capitalized. Please review your contract.  Comments are fixed, assuming commenters can do simple math.  SJR sez: Of course they can, my commenters are polymaths!  Little joke, see what I did there?  Web Genius says:  Also, a new subscription form is there to be tested. I’m sure we’ll hear if it doesn’t work. If it does, it’s magic.  SJR sez: I love it that my Web Genius can also do magic.)

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