Saturday, 24 March 2018

Getting My Owl Fix

As usual at this time of year, my Eastern Screech owls have stopped using my owl boxes for day roosts and have flown off to an unknown (to me) location to begin nesting. One of the abandoned boxes has been claimed by a pair of European Starlings. The first thing the male did was to remove the wood shavings that I installed last autumn in an effort to please the owls. The starling's rejection of the bedding reminded me of a new home owner redecorating to suit his own taste. (Ugh! this carpet just has to go!)

 
Early morning sunshine highlights a male European Starling's iridescence.



The female perching nearby, ponders the abandoned owl box's potential.

 

As much as I miss seeing my owls, I do have a compensation of sorts. Live streaming owl cams!

Located in Austin, Texas, the Jollyville Screech owl house hangs about 20 feet off the ground in a large live oak tree. Currently, a pair of Screech owls, named Olivia and Alton, are attending five eggs. I've seen Olivia rolling her eggs on a regular basis and it sounds a little like billiard balls clicking together. Careful there, lady. It's always interesting to see what food items the resourceful dad hauls back to the box for the patient mom. Live feed video of these owls can be seen at:






Blogger friend Jocelyn at Canadian Needle Nana, regularly shares pictures of her tasteful needle-art and of her elegant home and gardens. She also offers excellent recommendations on cuisine, books and films. Last year, she pointed out the live streaming video of a pair of Barred owls living in Indiana. Like thousands of others, we became hooked on watching these owls hatch their three eggs and successfully raise the youngsters. It was amazing to see how well-mannered the chicks were to each other and how patient and devoted the parents were. Again this year, the owl box camera shows a clutch of three eggs. I will be checking on them often, especially in the evenings, when the male is more active in bringing food items back to the nest. Here is the live feed, hosted by Wild Birds Unlimited:




Sometimes we don't see what the camera sees until we download and examine the pictures. Often the backyard bird feeder clientele will all freeze in unison. A predator bird is usually the cause but seldom seen by me, casually watching out a window. One of my snaps revealed a swooping surprise bird, too blurry to identify. It certainly puts me in mind of a hawk.


A Hairy woodpecker eyeballs an incoming bird. A hawk, perhaps?



A hungry chipmunk hoovers up sunflower seeds. Is that a baby-bump?



Remarkably calm-natured for a red squirrel, this cutie enjoys a peanut.



House-mate, Ellie-Mae enjoying a neck massage. Life is good!




Saturday, 10 March 2018

A Spruce Tree's Makeover

A good seventy years ago, my parents planted a small windbreak of pine and spruce trees close to our farmhouse. One of the white spruce trees is now a healthy looking specimen measuring five feet in circumference at my shoulder height. It's life expectancy is 200 years. Maybe not as long now. A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) have given it a dramatic makeover.


Large square holes resemble nesting cavities in the making.


On three sides of this tree, a half dozen deep holes were excavated.


Wounded deeply into the heartwood, spruce gum will surely flow.


Wood chips on the ground clued me to look further up.


 The mystery is why have this pair of pterodactyl look-alikes selected this particular tree? Our bush lot contains hundreds of dead trees that would be easier to excavate and much more private than this one located so close to the house. Are these young birds just practicing their carpentry skills?

Even if they don't follow through with nesting, in years to come other species will surely find the starter homes of interest.


The female Pileated Woodpecker ruffles her feathers as she suns on a spruce tree.


The wary male foraging on an elderly soft maple tree.