Happy hummers

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Unlike many backyard birders, I don’t often see multiple hummingbirds when I look out the kitchen window. This month has been different, and today was a really lucky day.

Enjoy the happy hummers and a couple of misfits at the end of today’s post.

And now for today’s surprises…

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That’s it for today’s backyard birding post.
See you soon!

~Trail Walker

An abundance of pileated woodpeckers

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For the past month, these Woody Woodpecker look-alikes have been regularly visiting the trees in our backyard. They’re not nesting here, but every day, morning, noon, and night, they fly in, help themselves to the woodpecker blocks and suet cakes, and provide us with entertainment. Just look at this pair. I’m no woodpecker expert, but I am guessing, from their behavior, that they are juvenile woodpeckers.

I’m not sure if they are playing, attacking each other, or maybe engaging in some kind of romantic ritual. Hopefully someone can explain it so we will all know.

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When I watch them cavort from tree to tree, I’m reminded of my days as a middle-school teacher. There’s never a dull moment!

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Enjoy their antics as you watch this slide show. Some of their expressions are hilarious…

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That’s it for today’s backyard birding post. I hope you enjoyed your visit.

See you soon!
Trail Walker

Backyard birds online again

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Since early June I’ve been off the trail more than on it! Two months have passed in what  has been a very busy summer, and I have chronicled very little of it. Shame on me! So to get started again, I am posting a few pictures from my backyard birding collection, starting with a few hummers who stopped by the feeders yesterday:

Like the hummingbirds, the pileated woodpeckers, both male and female, have visited every day for weeks, early morning, again at lunchtime, and finally in the evening. Take a look:

And yesterday the bird featured at the top of this post and also below made an appearance. The bluejay I recognize, by sight and sound, but the other bird is not a regular at my backyard feeders, so I’m not sure what it is. Can someone please tell me?

That’s all for today, Trail Walkers.
See you soon!

Nothing better than a walk in the woods!

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Another overcast day, but even so, a walk in the woods is a good way to while away an hour or two, and a much better use of my time than lounging in an easy chair reading yesterday’s news in the Plain Dealer (or today’s news for that matter). Even though the dampness may turn to drizzle at any moment, I find trailwalking preferable to the alternative.

So down the trail I trod, avoiding the puddles and slippery mud, curious to see what I will find along the trail today. I hadn’t gone far before I heard some mysterious munching, and, following the sound, I spied this little long-tailed critter enjoying a feast.

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A chipmunk enjoying her breakfast.

In my opinion, a chipmunk is a cute critter, although some people won’t agree. They are  small but destructive, and, if one finds a secret entrance into your house, its ability to create havoc far outweighs its size. Many years ago, at the beginning of summer, one chewed on the wires and totally destroyed the AC in our daughter and son-in-law’s home. That was a hot (and very expensive) experience, so chipmunks are not welcome anywhere in their neighborhood. However, I will categorize them as cute, IF they stay outside and I only see them along the trail in the park.

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Farther down the trail, I spotted this chipper.

Some movement off the trail to my right led to the discovery of a much larger and very familiar critter that was also enjoying her breakfast.

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Whitetail deer are native to the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, Ecuador, and South America as far south as Peru and Bolivia. I didn’t realize how extensive their range is until I looked it up. I just knew they are common critters in northeast Ohio, so common that it is not surprising to look out the kitchen window and find one standing on the other side of the window staring in at me. (And, incidentally, nibbling on the expensive seed cylinders we hang out for the birds). The whitetails are another animal I prefer to see in the park, but they have no trouble crossing the road and wandering through our neighborhood. In this recent blog post I wrote about a fawn I spotted in our backyard, apparently left there temporarily by a doe that went off exploring for a few hours.

The tiniest critter I photographed along the trail today was spotted by Bob, who, along with Mabel, was leading our walk today. (You can read more about Mabel on this blog post. This critter, a daddy-longlegs, is so common I would have walked right past it, but Bob thought it deserved a mention in today’s blog, so here it is.

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In my brief (online) research to clarify the name of this critter, I learned that they are not poisonous and apparently do not bite humans. I also learned that there are several variations of these long legged critters and that one common name for them is “harvestmen” and another is “cellar spiders” because they can be found in cellars. If you are curious and want to know more, you can start your research here. You might even decide to become an arachnologist (a scientist who studies spiders and other arachnids), but personally, my skin is already crawling, and I’m ready to move on to another common variety of woodland critter: birds.

The birds in Chagrin River Park are regularly featured on my blog, and today I saw a cardinal, a catbird…

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Northern cardinal
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Catbird

…and a wood thrush, which was so cooperative I was able to capture several pictures of it. The wood thrush, which is the official bird of the District of Columbia, is closely related to the American robin, and obviously eats worms. Click on one of the pictures below to take a look at a larger version to see if you agree that it is a beauty.

 

 

That’s all the news and pictures from the trail for today.

See you soon!
Trail Walker

Mabel’s Morning Walk

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We woke up this morning and it wasn’t raining…finally! So after breakfast, we put Mabel on her leash and drove to Chagrin River Park for a morning walk. The first stop was  the deck overlooking the Chagrin River, just to see how high the water was after yesterday’s rainfall. It wasn’t flooding, but it was pretty high, and it looked like this:
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On the path to the deck, there was a little excitement when Mabel caught sight of a rabbit, but to her disappointment it hopped away and disappeared in the underbrush. Unfortunately for Mabel, she was attached to a leash and the other end of the leash was firmly gripped in Bob’s hand, and he wasn’t about to chase a rabbit through the weeds.
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So they headed down another trail…
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…where they encountered a lot of dogs. That could have been fun, but Mabel absolutely isn’t allowed to have meet-and-greets with strange dogs for fear she will be r-a-m-b-u-n-c-t-i-o-u-s. Things could get out-of-control you know!  So, to Mabel’s dismay, every time a new dog came along, Bob stepped off the trail and took Mabel with him…until they went past. In Mabel’s opinion, that was no fun!

But then, something really exciting happened!  A huge group of cross-country runners came dashing down the trail toward them, and one of the boys paused and leaned over to greet Mabel and scratch her ears, and, as they ran past, one of the girls called out, “Your dog is SO CUTE.”

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That, Trail Walkers, was easily the high point of Mabel’s walk this morning.

Near the end of the trail, Mabel spotted her friend Louie…
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but to Mabel’s disappointment, Louie’s owner didn’t stop for their usual meet-and-greet. And to Mabel’s further disappointment, Dave, the friend Bob would always stop and talk to, sometimes for a very long time, wasn’t anywhere to be seen on the trail.  Dave doesn’t walk a dog, but he always pulls a treat out of his pocket for Mabel. As you may know, Mabel is on a diet (not her idea), so her quota of treats is really low, and that makes  Dave one of her favorite park people. Not seeing Dave, and not getting a treat, was a double disappointment!

Finally, it was time to head back to the parking lot for the ride home, but to Mabel’s delight, Bob decided they needed a little more exercise. Consequently, he headed to the big stairs that lead to the top of the sledding hill. Mabel loves to climb the stairs because she gets to be the leader as they charge up the hill, and Mabel especially loves to be in charge…at any time and in any place! On really good days, Bob will climb the stairs two or three times, which, in Mabel’s book, is really fun and a great way to end the morning walk.

 

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So that’s it for today, Trail Walkers. We’ve reached the end of the trail. Things look a little different when you traverse the trail on four feet and closer to the ground. I hope you’ve enjoyed Mabel’s version of the morning trail walk.

Signing off for today…
Trail Walker…and Mabel

A magical moment

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One recent Sunday morning I glanced out my kitchen window and saw this very small fawn resting in the grass by our neighbor’s shed. Reaching for my camera, I captured a few pictures as the baby stood up and looked around.

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Its mama was nowhere to be seen, but I hoped she was nearby. After a few moments, the little one wandered, on wobbly legs, behind the shed and out of sight. Later, when I returned home from church, she was gone, and I haven’t seen her since. This is not the first time we’ve seen a deer in our neighborhood, but each time is a magical moment, and one to remember.

Trail Walker

 

Idle observations at the hopper feeder

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When the pileated woodpeckers visit the backyard buffet, they are mostly ignored by the other birds. Despite their size and fearsome-looking beak, they don’t seem to be feared, but they are certainly not included in the community activities. They operate solo! The pileated pictured here is a male who is interested in food, but isn’t looking to enjoy a friendly meal with his neighbors.

On the other hand, the smaller birds like the sparrows and finches are more community-minded (although not always friendly). At least as far as I have observed. Here they are, during their social hour at the hopper-feeder on a sunny morning:

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Now don’t take this seriously, but do you know any people who act like that? Are any neighbors in your community isolated or do they all share the communal space? Are they accepting of strangers or openly hostile? Do you see any familiar behavior in these pictures?  This is just a non-scientific, layman’s observation, based on the body language and the expressions on some of those beaks, but I’m wondering if, like some humans, not all little birds are friendly and welcoming during their social gatherings. Can we learn anything from the birds? As I said, this is strictly non-scientific, so don’t take it seriously! Just have fun watching the behavior of the birds in your neighborhood.

See you soon!
Trail Walker

 

Correct me…

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If I’m wrong, please correct me, but I’m guessing this is a male American Redstart. I found a hot-spot for migratory birds along the trail today, and this colorful bird was among the crowd. A later spring migrant in northeast Ohio, redstarts arrive around mid-May. It is a medium-sized bird with bright orange patches on its wings and tail that it flashes to attract insect prey so it can capture them. It definitely attracted my attention, and I was able to snap a few pictures of the male and one less colorful female.Here are the others:

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Male American redstart
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Male American redstart
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Male American redstart
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Female American redstart

Trying to grab a few pictures of these small, quick-moving birds was a fun challenge. I was delighted that I captured this many pictures. The spring migration is in full swing here in Ohio, so a walk in the woods can be an exciting experience for this amateur photographer, as well as a lot of fun. If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, I’ll head down the trail to check out this hot-spot again.

See you soon I hope!
Trail Walker

Rainy days

Rain, rain, go away
Come again some other day.
Little Johnny wants to play.

Running through my head repeatedly, that rhyme, remembered from my childhood, couldn’t be more true to the way I feel about April…and now May! Little Johnny and Little Sally would like the rain to stop and the temperature to warm up so they can put on their shorts and sandals and go out to play. And Little Carolyn would like to get outside to take trail walks and play with her camera.

We have had so much rain recently that the ducks and geese have turned our swampy back yard into their personal swimming pool. Mowing the rapidly growing grass has been almost impossible, but the geese and ducks are loving it! Take a look!

First a pair of geese landed. Together they wandered through the wet grass.


And if it’s possible, the mallards are even happier than the geese. They wander through the grass, swim in the large puddles, and don’t mind the mud at all. I didn’t get any pictures of the actual swimming yet, but trust me, it really happens, and they love it. Every year this pair of mallards returns to our neighborhood, and we smile to see them. It’s almost as if they are coming back to their favorite vacation resort: plenty of water for swimming, green grass galore, and no lack of tasty food. We provide everything a duck would love. Is it any wonder they return year after year?

That’s it for this blog post.
Thanks for stopping by to catch up on the backyard news!
Trail Walker

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