Saw a most amazing sight this morning while looking out what we call "critter window", which is in our "country kitchen", or breakfast nook, looking out over a variety of bird feeders and our two bird baths, next to our deck door.
This combination moth and dragonfly flew away from near the window across the yard. I didn't know such a creature existed, but it was clearly dragonfly-like in that it had two pairs of wings working in opposition. Yet it was clearly moth-like, in that it was light gray, kinda fuzzy, in body covering -- not at all like a dragonfly!
For a moment I wondered, is this the dawn of some brave new species of insect, charging out on an early Sunday morning to eat, reproduce, and perhaps give rise to a whole new world of four-winged moths? Was I perhaps the first human being in history to both observe the rise of a new species and have some understanding, thanks to a modest amount of formal, modern education, of what he was witnessing? Could I be witnessing the hand of God at work, creating a new kind of bug that billions of young children would delight in discovering for themselves?
Then, just as it got near the trees on the other side of the lawn, a bluejay swooped down and ate it!
No, I'm not kidding, that's exactly what appeared to happen! I didn't know bluejays ate bugs; we "feed" them corn, peanuts, and stuff, but it definitely flew right down and, from my viewpoint through a window about 20 feet away, seemed to eat the "dragonmoth", since it disappeared right at that moment.
(It was such a slow-flying bug that I probably could have jumped up and gotten it into my mouth, had I been outside at the time, so I doubt it flew away quicker to avoid the bluejay. But maybe it did, or maybe it just dropped down or got behind a leaf or something.)
Haven't yet done any research on a bug of this type, so if anyone knows of it offhand, lemme know via email!
In other news, my wife and I finally bought a digital camera yesterday. Stay tuned for pics of critters as we acquire them!
Sighted a beautiful sharp-shinned (or Cooper's?) hawk perched about fifteen yards outside my basement-office window just this morning! I noticed it when it flew up from the ground to its perch, probably trying to catch something or other. Last time I tried watching one for a long time to watch it "pounce", I lost patience before it did, and an hour or so later when I checked in on it, it was enjoyed its supper. This time, it disappeared within about half an hour or so, and smaller birds are again happily flying around the area.
Early last week, I spotted what I believe is one of the two albino crows that a bunch of us spotted over the past year or so (see below).
George L NWW Hardin
emailed me the following:
Did a web search and found your note on the albino crow. Recently saw one, Nov. 25, 2000, across the street from me in a church parking lot. I am in Walla Walla, WA. Thought you might be interested.
Definitely interesting to know that albino crows, while somewhat rare, aren't so unusual in the context of the Internet!
Watched a hawk (probably sharp-shinned) wait around just beyond our little yard (in the wetland area) for prey for nearly a couple of hours.
It outwaited me. Not surprising they're more patient than I, since I've got food in my fridge.
I'd occasionally check on it and, sure enough, a couple of hours later it was taking its time enjoying a meal of what looked to be a modest-sized bird. Perhaps a mourning dove, possibly a bluejay? Didn't see how it got ahold of it in the first place, though.
Before that, it was interesting to observe how confident the chickadees were around it, relatively speaking. They didn't exactly fly onto its breast and tease it, but they flew to and perched within what looked to be just a few feet of it, often two or three at a time, while the other birds generally gave it a very wide berth.
Both my wife and I have caught fleeting glimpses of chipmunks the past couple of weeks! Are they really done with hibernating, or just checking out the warm weather before going underground again?
Given that we went from a 70-degree-Fahrenheit day Thursday to rain, then snow, then bitter cold (down in the teens) Friday and Saturday nights, I don't blame the little guys if they did go back to sleep for a few weeks!
Also a couple of weeks ago, I spotted three deer making their way along the brook that courses near our condo. I've seen one or two together before, not three, and it has been years since I'd seen any!
My wife, then a few days later I, have again seen, after a long hiatus, the white (albino) crow. Good to know it's still in our "territory"!
Saw a hawk (probably a sharp-shinned) perched just beyond our yard a couple of days ago. Had only a few seconds to recognize (and admire) it before it flew off. Our neighbor, Val, told me a couple of weeks ago that she'd seen a hawk flying around, so this wasn't a complete surprise. But it was the first time I'd seen one for myself in a couple of years!
Wow, I finally spotted a fox in the back yard this morning! It was chasing up and down our deck and its stairs after one of "our" squirrels. At first I thought it was just a large cat, it moved so fast! But the squirrel must not have felt there was any clear escape, as I had time to open the garage door, walk around, and scare off the fox, which was still trying to figure out how to "corner" it.
(The problem being that if the fox goes up the stairs, the squirrel could easily run down the pole at the other end of the deck and scurry off. But the fox can't run up the pole itself, and even if it could, the squirrel could then just run down the stairs!)
I debated a bit whether to let "nature" take her course, but decided I really don't want to let foxes get accustomed to hunting in our yard, because that could culminate in my watching a fox devour a squirrel or a chipmunk, not something I would want to see while working in my office.
I had been told by a friend that she saw a fox cross one of the little streets in our condominium complex as she drove to our house for a visit, back a couple of weeks ago, so it was fun to finally see one for myself, close up!
Meanwhile, a neighbor (about .2 miles away) reported to my wife that she saw a "white bird" that was hangin' with the crows. Just one, though. I guess my wife told her the story (see below). Nice to know there aren't totally gone, even though we haven't seen them ourselves for some time.
We were seeing rose-breasted grosbeaks for awhile, both male and female (I thought the female was just a large, slowish sparrow at first!), and I've spotted a flicker or two, plus a few birds I haven't been able to identify, due to not being experienced enough (maybe a mockingbird or something).
Sadly, we apparently failed in attracting any baltimore orioles to our second-floor feeder. Maybe it just isn't high enough or something. We have friends who were attracting them to their 30-foot-high feeder. The trees near our house are definitely quite a bit taller than the house, which might be the problem, as we're told Orioles tend to feed around the tops of trees.
The red-winged blackbirds arrived just this week! Robins have been around for weeks, and, last week, I happened to see one bathing in the brook at the end of our driveway.
This morning, I had fun watching a squirrel playing with a flower blossom in my wife's garden (no, she wouldn't have enjoyed it quite as much!). The squirrel played with it just as a cat might, and destroyed it just as surely.
In the past, I've been a bit surprised to see other activities the squirrels engage in that I assumed were reserved to "higher-order" mammals. For example, I saw one squirrel clearly grooming another, much as primates do, last fall.
Particularly interesting to watch is the "macho" announcing a (presumably male) squirrel sometimes engages in. I've seen this in the late afternoon to early evening. They (just one at a time, around here) take up a position of prominence, such as the top of our deck railing, and engage in heroic "barking" at the world, changing direction on occasion. Their "bark" isn't so much a dog-like yell as a really loud "squish", and their posturing is fun to watch.
Also delightful has been the return of the chipmunks from hibernation several weeks ago. I'd worried they'd been killed off by the neighborhood cats, as my last sight of one, last fall, was in the mouth of a cat, just outside my office window. I'd seen the 'munk run along the grass out of the corner of my eye, heard a "thump", then watched as a neighbor cat happily trotted off with it. I'd hoped the dearth of chipmunks around that time was more due to their going into hibernation, and, now, that seems to have been the case.
In any case, I suspect Nature has an endless supply of chipmunks.
They're certainly fun to watch. We've got a "ferris wheel" of four screw-in mounts for corn stalks mounted on the deck stairs just outside my office window.
Now, the squirrels have learned to hang upside-down to retrieve the corn. At first, they would only retrieve it from the top stalk, by sitting on the support for the wheel. That was easy enough, but once they'd stripped that stalk, the other stalks would be too heavy to stay at the top.
Soon (this was Spring 1998, I believe) they learned to hang upside-down to get their fill of corn, sometimes falling off, never hurting themselves that I could see (it's only a couple of feet anyway). (Even so, it's fun to watch them get caught off-guard, as they try to track down a stalk, and have the entire wheel start spinning around on them!)
This Spring, they've been so accustomed to hanging upside-down, I watched them bypass the easy-to-reach top stalk, filled with corn, for hours, before realizing (if squirrels can be said to "realize") that they could just sit there and nibble at it.
It was so funny watching them hang upside-down, strenuously obtain a few kernels, pull themselves back up, sit on the support, and nibble at the hard-won kernels, while a perfectly full stalk hung about a half-inch from their squirrely little faces.
I guess, to a squirrel, just as to a US President, when you're got a hammer, everything looks like a nail, so to speak.
Anyway, the chipmunks are quite the little acrobats. Not much climbing and hanging for them. They just crouch on the edge of a deck step, usually the second one below the support, take aim, and leap out towards the stalk of their choice, wrapping themselves immediately around it. Then they stuff their cheeks with corn, and depart, either elegantly (by climbing back up onto the step) or by just falling off.
Much of the last half of 1998 involved the appearance of a pair of mysterious white birds, which we've pretty much all (in the neighborhood) come to decide are albino crows.
This year, I've seen only one of the pair for sure, up close, and just once, about two months ago.
I'd originally thought maybe they were exotic white doves, they were so big (crow-sized, which is noticeably bigger than the mourning doves that always hang around). Their beaks weren't right for any sea-birds, and a bit too big for the crows listed in our books, though we have some regular (black) crows that have exactly the same (unlisted) beak geometry.
I took some (fuzzy) pictures of the pair of albino crows while ground-feeding outside our breakfast-nook window last fall. Maybe someday I'll put these, and other fun critter-pics, up on this site! Right now, I don't have the equipment, or the time (and probably not the money anyway).
Other critters we've seen include cardinals, blue jays, goldfinches, house finches, sparrows (not so many the past year or so), downy woodpeckers (the occasional hairy and rarer pileated, too), crows, grackles, titmouses, rose-breasted grosbeaks, flickers, carolina wrens, juncos, chickadees, mockingbirds (they rarely visit our yard, for some reason), hummingbirds, a sharp-shinned hawk, skunks, raccoons, possums, foxes, woodchucks.
We successfully got rid of the one woodchuck that was nibbling at my wife's garden awhile back. (She was given a recipe for a nasty mixture to spray around her flowers. It did the job!)
We're hoping to attract some baltimore orioles (birds, not ballplayers) this year. Last year was a bust, as, apparently, the unusually mild winter made for such an insect feast that the migrating orioles skipped our fruity offerings.
Copyright (C) 1999, 2000 James Craig Burley
Last modified on 2002-07-14.