Monday, February 16, 2015

Great Backyard Bird Count, Days 3 & 4 and Farewell to Comet Lovejoy

Day 3

A Tree Swallow flew around today! This is early for our farm. The main mass usually arrives a couple weeks after the first bird has been here. I have only recently finished cleaning out the gourds that have been stored over winter. Usually I clean them out when I take them down in the fall but I was low on energy this fall, so they were under cover but otherwise untouched until a week or so ago. After I saw the tree swallow, I dashed out and hung 20 of them. I wouldn't want this early scout to go tell his flock that there are no homes to rent here this year.

But the very first bird to attract my attention was this Great Blue Heron, perched atop our tall and rotting snag when I went out at 6:30 to feed the horses.

 For once, I took mostly bird photos today. I sat in a chair out where I throw seed every morning in front of the barn and watched the hordes of California Quail, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Steller's Jays, and the accompanying Fox and Song Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, Scrub Jays, and one busy Chipmunk.

Towhee, Steller's J, G-C Sparrow and lots of quail

chipmunk, quail, Scrub J

distant G-C Sparrows, chipmunk, Steller's Jays, Towhee, lots of quail, and a Fox Sparrow lower right

Scrub Jay with quail

 It was another beautiful, sunny, warm day. I took my clippers and hiked through the woods, liberating young Sitka Spruce trees I had planted several years ago from the relentless Himalayan blackberries. To my surprise, I found the first blooming little Cardamine sp. (Spring Beauty, Spring Queen, or whatever) in the middle of a path. It really is an early spring... at the moment. But there are no guarantees that it will last...


 I also made good progress with catching up on goat hoof trimming with just two more left to do. I had finished horse hooves on Saturday. Now it's on to goat udder clipping.

It was another incredible star-filled night so again I lay out in the wet grass in the horse arena and looked for Comet Lovejoy. The constellations are recognizable without binoculars, because their stars are bright. But when I look through the binoculars, suddenly the sky is filled with billions of points of light. It is amazing how many stars are in the sky. I did think I found the elusive comet once, but could not refind it. I tried to take a photo of the jillions of stars, but, of course, the camera was not looking through binoculars. It only caught a few of the very brightest. Honest, they're in this photo.

A Barn Owl flew over me silently as I lay staring upward. And a Screech Owl serenaded me the entire time. I heard no Barred Owl this night. But I did see a shooting star. A nice... but cold... end to a lovely day.

22 species, 3 of them new: Great Blue Heron, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Tree Swallow, for a cumulative total of 28

Day 4, the last

This day started with frost. My hat had fallen off my head the night before, while staring up at the stars. It was frosty in the frosty grass this morning.


A Great Blue Heron flew in at dawn's early light on this President's Day.

After morning chores and Qi Gong practice, my walk through the woods provided me with tender young oxalis leaves for my dinner salad...

And the cheery song of a Bewick's Wren, giving me 29 species for the four days. I was hoping for 30 and this little bird near our house that I thought was a Hutton's Vireo would have given me 30. But the photo turned it into a Ruby-crowned Kinglet instead... because of that pinkish or yellow foot... and I had already seen a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

A warbler appeared in the very top of trees along our little creek. It would not hold still in the clear for my binoculars or my camera. I followed it as it moved from tree to tree until I finally lost it. Another potential #30 got away.

I went back to gathering salad greens from my flowerbeds...Spring cress (western bitter cress)...

and violets, purple and white, but I apparently only took photos of the purple ones. The yellow wood violets are not yet blooming. They will add to my later spring salads.

 With a little parsley from my garden and radishes from a friend, I had a colorful salad.

 While gathering greens, I had heard the llamas give their alarm whinnies. I looked where they were looking and saw the three wild turkeys that often frequent our farm. I walked down to the field where they were feeding to take photos. The tom displayed, apparently to warn me to stay away from his two hens. At last, I had my 30 species for the four days.

President's Day ended, as Valentine's Day had, with a lovely sunset.

Again, I stretched out on the ground after dark to look for Comet Lovejoy. This time I'm quite sure I saw it... very faint and fuzzy, close to Andromeda. But it's leaving our view... indeed, without very dark skies where, with binoculars, you can see a jillion stars, it would not be visible now.

24 bird species today and a grand total of 30 for the four days of the Great Backyard Bird Count. Not a spectacular list but respectable considering how little time I spent looking... and how much work I got done between birds... with zero expenditure of fossil fuel.

And it was fun.

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