Winged Perambulation

There are no two ways about it. Saturday’s Great Backyard Bird Count installment on The Quarry Farm was cold; 0 degrees F cold. Beautiful, with thick frost and snow and blue sky for the walk, but the cold filtered through Thinsulate, wool and whatever else each of us could layer over our pasty winter skins. To quote Jean Shepherd’s Randy, I couldn’t move my arms. But I could move my fingers well enough to record the different species of birds that chattered at us as we hiked the main nature preserve trails.

Our first sighting as a group was of a Downy Woodpecker in the great oak south of Red Fox Cabin. It’s feathers were so fluffed that I was sure it was a Hairy Woodpecker, a larger Downy look-alike that forages along trunks and main branches of large trees. Our frequent-flyer birders Deb Weston and Linda Houshower corrected me. Since I had made the first official recording of the morning–a group of European Starlings who shelter each February and March in the vent above our bathroom shower, I licked my frozen ego and left further identification to the experts. After all, that is one of the things we do here: invite people to share their own areas of expertise with everyone who wants to learn more about the natural world from different perspectives.

Down in the floodplain along Cranberry Run, Brown Creepers and White-breasted Nuthatches circled tree trunks and bobbed in and out of habitat piles created by David Seitz’s ongoing bush honeysuckle and grapevine removal. Bright, berry-red Cardinals chirped and sang. Wild Turkey foot and wing drags crossed the upland path. Woodpeckers left freshly-drilled holes in dead trees for us to find. A Red-bellied Woodpecker who flew above the canopy was one possible culprit. I thought I heard the Red-tailed Hawk that Steve had seen earlier that morning. Instead, it was a sassy Blue Jay mimicking that raptor and everything else his or her big bird brain has mastered.

Thursday birding with Deb and David

Our count from Saturday and another done on Monday is now part of the official GBBC 2020 observation list. Deb and her friend David blazed a birding trail of their own on Thursday. They added their findings to the eBird count. Deb and David will lead the Spring Migration Bird Hike here on April 25.

This morning was a balmy 18 degrees F. The exotic peahens who arrived here recently sat high in a hackberry as the slightly less exotic chickens, donkeys, pigs, goats, geese, ducks, and a llama murmured, snuffled and scuttled from food pellet to seed and hay. The two big birds stared down at me as I left food at the base of their tree, not so much waiting for a chance to eat, but for the frost to melt from the window that they preen in front of as the wilder creatures go about their march to spring.

 

Winter news

2014 Winter NewslettercoverS'moreWith temperatures above 0°F and sun overhead, the visuals are breathtaking on the banks of Cranberry Run today.

Turkey track

Goat-tracked corridors criss-cross the upland sanctuary. Wild turkeys are on the move on the paths as these elusive birds forage in the floodplain and on the cover of the 2014 winter newsletter. Click of the cover to the left to read more.

Hope to see you under the stars later this month. Don’t forget to RSVP.

Talking Turkey

Ready For Love

Ready For Love

It’s spring, the time of year when love is in the air, or, as Walt Disney put it, when all the animals are twitterpated. Insofar as The Quarry Farm is concerned, noboby shows their love quite so dramatically as the two bronze turkeys we recently took in. The fact that both birds are male hasn’t dampened their ardor. Not one bit. They strut about the property, feathers fluffed and tails fanned, gobbling for all they’re worth. But it’s their heads that provide the real entertainment.

Not in the mood

Not in the mood

Turkeys, both wild and domestic, have two prominent features on and about their heads: wattles and snoods. The wattle hangs below the beak while the snood sprouts from the cere just above the bony part of the beak. During peak periods of romantic interest, both the snood and the wattle fill up with blood and turn bright red. Contrarily, when they’re scared, tired or simply don’t find you attractive, both features turn a grayish blue.

Name that Bird

There were undoubtedly many photos taken of this morning’s glorious sunrise over Northwest Ohio. I have seen a few already. However, none can compare to the west-to-east view of the Quarry Farm above the oxbow wetland. That’s the cut-off for those of you who are old friends and frequent wild raspberry scavengers.

November 19, 2012, from a vantage point west of the sun and east of the moon

Can you guess which silhouette is not like the other? Here are a couple of close-ups to assist.

Closer and closest

Talking Turkey

Five wild turkeys ambled through our yard today, not two hundred feet from our home. We frequently hear them in the morning back on the quarry and occasionally see them in the evening, well behind our house, roosting in the cottonwood and walnut trees. They’ve never come this close before, though, and even though I know that they’re simply wandering to and from the soy bean fields across the road and so are likely to pass close by either here or Red Fox Cabin, it still caused me a bit of concern. I worried that they were becoming less wary, less concerned about our presence and, by association, the presence of other people, as well. I worried about the upcoming turkey season and how they’d prove easy targets if they were comfortable around us.

I worried, that is, until I tried to get a photo.

It was Anne who first spotted them and pointed them out to me. They were walking down a path along the tree line that separates the farm part of The Quarry Farm from the nature preserve side. I grabbed my camera and headed out to where Anne had last seen them. I moved to the far side of the tree line and worked my way up the path on the other side, then down the path on our side of the trees. Then up again. Then down. You’re looking at every photo I was able to get. You see them, right? The photographs, here between the lines of black and white text? Yeah, neither do I. That’s because I couldn’t get any. I can’t say that I didn’t see them. I did, at least in bits and pieces: the glide of a blue-gray head; a bronze-feathered body slipping through brush; a quick flash of red from a wattle. But that was all I got, quick glimpses. They ran me round and round an area about the size of an American football field, always on the other side of the field and always virtually concealed in thick scrub. So, no worries about their growing comfortable with humans. And no photos, either, not of turkeys anyway. But, since a picture paints a thousand words, here’s a shot from the winter before last.

It is autumn, though, and there are plenty of other animals moving about. In the back field, a leopard frog boasted better than average camouflage. If it hadn’t jumped, I never would have seen it. In the woods, the last of summer’s dragonflies are torpid with the cold, allowing for some pretty extreme close-ups. Closer to home, in the crabapple tree some thirty feet from our front door, a wheel bug traveled leaf to leaf, hunting an increasingly rare meal.

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