Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Squirrel Head Caught In Yoplait Cup

Poor squirrel! But oh so funny.

Update: Chickadee Feeding

Some of you might remember my First Day post where I asked whether the feeding behavior was that of parent to fledgling or mating behavior that I read about online.

Pamela Llewellyn of the Golden Gate Audubon Society took a look at the post and had this to say.
You have multiple photos of fledgling chickadees. These individuals can be identified by their bright yellow "gape" - you can look up that word in any bird book but it is essentially the flesh along the sides of their beak. This is a visual aid and stimulus for the parents to help in the feeding process - both of whom are bringing back food (protein such as worms etc.) to the young.

The buzzing sound and the fluttering of the wings are both fledgling behavior. Fledglings in general make really crazy call sounds.

During the courtship phase of breeding season the female will (also) use the fluttering wing behavior to solicit mating from the male.

Feel free to share this information with your blog friends.

Thanks! I will!

Mystery solved.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Golden Gate Audubon Bird Walk

I went on my first bird walk with the Golden Gate Audubon Society last week. Pamela Lewellyn led us through some of the restricted access breeding areas at the Hayward Regional Shoreline. She was decked out with her Leica spotting scope on a Gitzo tripod. Mmmm... gear. Not exactly my flavor, but it's still gear.

It was cool getting to go beyond the locked gates. There were quite a few birds I'd never seen before, like a Ruddy Duck (who knew?), Killdeer and Black Skimmers. There were also lots of shorebirds. I think we saw Avocets, Godwits, Curlews and Dowitchers.

Female Red-winged Blackbirds

Marsh Wren nest

Female Great-Tailed Grackle

American White Pelican

Most of the birds' nests were on these islands.

Colony of Forster's Terns
There were lots of Tern and Avocet chicks on these islands.

Forster's Tern in flight

Black Skimmer flying with terns Black Skimmers are supposed to be rare in the San Francisco area, so this was a real treat.

2 Black Skimmers in flight - The most we saw.

Black Skimmer

Killdeer Parent & Chick

I had a photo of one from the trip, but I can't seem to get it into the blog post for some reason. I didn't get any shots of American Avocet chicks, so here are some from another time.

Snowy Egret

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bleached Baby Ducks

We had some baby ducks and their parents visit our pool for a little swimming lesson.

Six chicks in all, not doing so well at getting out of the pool. Only two could get out consistently.

Mom had to keep jumping in to show them how it's done, and every time she jumped in, any chicks that made it out followed her back in the water.

They finally all got out.

Then there was trouble getting out of the gate.

Mom and Dad took them back home, across the street.

We went to visit them a couple of days after their swimming lesson, and only two had survived. The lady that lives in front of their pond told us that she saw raccoons get 2, 1 just disappeared and she found one badly injured that she was trying to rehabilitate on her own.

Only these little guys survived.

They had gotten to be really fast little swimmers, but they liked to run off on their own. Needless to say, they were gone a couple of days later, too. On the plus side, the other mallard mother that shares the pond had all 12 in her clutch survive. They were fledging and getting ready to leave the nest, according to the woman in the house.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Conan Goes Birdwatching in Central Park

This is an oldie but a goodie. I didn't know it was archived on Hulu, but Piffle posted it on his blog.

Monday, June 29, 2009

New Sibley Books

Bookstores are my crack houses. I can't resist entering, buying a cup of coffee and browsing books. I just can't. The same is true of online bookstores. Not quite as fun, but engrossing nonetheless. Coffee's not quite as good, but hey, I get to wear my pajamas. Anyway, I'm browsing Amazon for bird-related and road trip-related items, when I run across two new Sibley books that will be available in the coming months.

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior looks really interesting. It might have helped me with my chickadee question in my last post, and a slew of other questions I have while watching birds. I can't always have an ornithologist at my side, so maybe this will be the next best thing.

I want it to be exhaustive, but it can't be, but at 608 pages, it's not exactly light reading, either. The description does say that he's broken it down by bird family. Maybe that's all that's necessary for the recreational birder. Hopefully, there's more informatio than you'll find from some of the free online resources, like Cornell Lab of Ornithology's, All About Birds, but for those of us infinitely more curious, will Sibley's book have more or less information than Cornell's pay for use guide, Birds of North America Online. I guess we'll see.

The Sibley Guide to Trees sounds interesting, but I'm honestly not sure if I'll buy it. I am interested in habitat, and I can name most trees in my region, but beyond that, I'm more of a, "Ooohhh, what a pretty tree!" This is definitely one that I think I will have to flip through at the store and read the reviews for.

The interview with David Sibley in the Amazon description has some interesting information and is worth a read. Below is just a small excerpt from the interview.
The tallest tree ever measured was a Coast Redwood in California at 377 feet tall. The largest single tree by volume was another Coast Redwood with a trunk measuring over 88,000 cubic feet of wood and estimated to weigh over 3300 tons! The oldest tree is a Bristlecone Pine in Nevada known to be nearly 5000 years old. But these records of age and volume are both challenged by the Quaking Aspen, which often grows multiple trunks from a single large root system, and can be considered a single organism. One such plant in Utah covers over 100 acres with 47,000 trunks, and contains an estimated 6000 tons of wood, making it the largest single organism known. Estimates of its age range from 80,000 years up to one million years. The average age of any individual trunk is about 130 years, new trunks are constantly being produced by the root system.
He also talks a little bit about trees that are facing extinction, and he mentions the American Chestnut, which was wiped out by the Chestnut Blight of the 1900s, which reminded me of Bill Bryson, author of A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. He discussed the loss of native plants in North America and the ever changing landscape, even in protected lands, but he specifically mentioned the American Chestnut. By the way, if you like to hike or you love nature and quirky facts, you have got to read that book. I finished this book a few months ago, and I highly recommend it. It has inspired me to try to hike the Pacific Coast Trail... in sections... but I'm still inspired!

Certain oaks are experiencing strain on their populations. In California, the coast live oaks are faced with Sudden Oak Death disease, which can adversely affect the foraging activities of many of the birds that rely on oak arthropods. Chickadees may survive, but the oak titmouse will have more difficulty. I've been trying to photograph a titmouse, but no luck yet.

I've found a hummingbird nest and baby. I'll post that a bit later.

Monday, June 22, 2009

First Day

I think I'm going to start my next five posts with, "Moving is tougher and longer than I remember." :) Unbelievably, my husband wanted to move us in himself, maybe with a little help from the kids. Thankfully, he gave in to my teases about after-move hospital bills. It was hard enough watching the movers!

The first real day at my place, I got a glimpse of some of my new noisy neighbors. There was a huge chirping commotion outside the window, and lo and behold, there were about 3-4 chestnut backed chickadees in the pine tree right off the balcony.

They made the cutest, strangest call. One of my birding books describes it as a "buzzing" noise, which is fairly accurate, but the buzzing is accompanied by little, quick high notes.

Originally, I thought the buzzing sound was somehow made by the rapid flapping of their little wings, but I was wrong.

I also thought that maybe a parent was feeding a fledgling, but through some internet searching, it seems that this behavior might be a courtship ritual. One of the birds, presumably the female or baby, just sat on a branch and screamed at another bird that would fly out and bring back food. The bird being waited on hand and foot would focus their call directly at the foraging bird. The very specific direction of the calling, or screaming if you prefer, was what made me think it might have been a fledgling-parent relationship. The jury's still out on that, but if anyone knows for certain, give us the scoop!

No More Dragon Tails?

Getting settled into a new place took much longer than I expected, but it's finally starting to come together. I miss my squirrels, but I saw them a few times before we were completely out of the old place.

If you might recall, we were worried about a few things, primarily the fate of Preggers' young and Dragon, because his tail was injured. Well, Preggers did in fact have one baby left. She came by with a little squirrel that got so scared when we opened the blinds that it jumped up and over the porch's lower railing. It desperately tried to hang on with its claws to the decking, but it fell (just a foot or so) and ran off. Preggers caught up with it after grabbing a bite to eat.

Dragon also came by, which was a nice surprise. He was getting along okay with his limp tail, but we were worried about how long he would last.

Unfortunately, just like the cat Crazy57bus mentioned in the comment section of my previous post, it appears Dragon's tail fell off because of the injury. We were hoping that it would heal over time because he was getting more and more use out of it, little though it was.

You can see the broken tail bone. Poor little guy.

Now to some old business.

@Daffy - How about naming your two-toned squirrel "Tommy Two-Tone"? That's my husband's idea. I came up with some really stupid names, like... two-tone. :)

@Ratty - I haven't seen very many tame squirrels either. I think some of the squirrels at my new place may be more tame. They at least don't run when they see a human, but I've only seen a couple and they don't know me yet.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Puppy Flushed Down Toilet (Loo)

A cute, goofy little boy in the UK flushed his 1 week old Cocker Spaniel down the toilet while trying to give him a bath in the bowl.

There's more of the little boy in this video, and you can hear the poor little puppy whimpering in the drain pipe.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Comic Book Guy & Me

I've been in the middle of what The Comic Book Guy from The Simpson's would deem, "Longest Move Ever."  I'll miss the squirrels, but I still have some of their stories to tell.

In the mean time, this is a little acrobatic Black Phoebe that's usually flitting around snatching bugs in my yard. 

Be back soon.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dragon Tails

Sorry for my long absence.  There are a lot of squirrel happenings going on.
We have had a new, small squirrel visiting us for a few weeks now.  We didn't know what to call him.  He acted a lot like Scamp.  The first time he came by, he walked right up to me and jumped on my leg, so I just started calling him New Scamp.  Due to my lack of ingenuity and originality in naming our squirrels, my husband stripped me of naming authority.

One day, "New Scamp" came by with a broken tail.  (His tail is broken in the digging photo above, too.)

From that point, we started to call him Dragon, as in draggin'.  Watching his little tail drag and sway behind him as if he was pulling a sweeping broom was hilariously sad.  

As most of you probably already know, a squirrel's tail is vitally important to their survival because it helps them balance on tree limbs, etc.  Fortunately, Dragon's tail seems to be broken only midway.  He seems to have no trouble lifting the base of his tail, so that's a bit of good news.  We weren't sure what Dragon's fate was going to be, but he's been coming by every other day or so.  
He's still unafraid of me, and aggressive toward other squirrels, even with his broken tail.  Fatty was minding his own business, eating a nut on the porch rail when out of nowhere, Dragon lunged at him like a linebacker and knocked him straight off the porch!

Friday, May 1, 2009

It's Raining Squirrels!

Around 9 PM last night, Hubby and I were sitting in our living room, having a quiet conversation when we heard a loud, "Bang!  Bang!"  Something had fallen, or landed very hard, on our roof and then our garbage cans.

We looked at eachother quizzically, and he said, "Raccoon?"

I said, "Maybe, but that's exactly what it sounded like when that baby squirrel fell out of the tree."

I grabbed my coat and flashlight and went outside to see if there was another injured squirrel.  It wasn't windy last night, but it had started to rain lightly.  I opened the door and didn't didn't see anything, but I heard rustling leaves and a squirrel barking.  It was a persistent bark, but I could not tell where it was coming from.  I checked the ground around the tree and the cans but found no animals of any kind.  

I could still hear the barking.  It was constant.  It seemed to be moving away from me.  I went back inside and checked the backyard with a flashlight.  Nothing.  Just on a hunch, I checked the driveway one more time, and that's when I saw a flash of a squirrel and its big, bushy tail streaking across the driveway toward the oak tree.

I don't know if it was a baby or adult that fell, if it was being chased by something or if it was Preggers trying to find a baby that fell.  It was too dark to discern. This morning, there weren't any hurt or injured squirrels around, so I'm hopeful that it was nothing.

On the Preggers front, I saw her while I was out grilling the other day.  I heard a scratching noise and turned to see Preggers heading for a little "V" in one of the tree trunks.  There was another squirrel up at the "rest stop" that I initially thought might be one of her younguns, but upon closer inspection, it was too big.  

I think he was chasing her because she sure seemed to be trying to hide.

I watched her awhile, and she let me get pretty close until she scurried away.

She ended up on one of our trees and started eating the buds.  I have lived in this house for years, and I didn't know this was a flowering tree.  It has not flowered once in the time I've been here.  Now I know why!  I think she's mocking me.  Look at the smrik on her face!  ;)

Here's another little guy reaching for something to eat in our Oak tree.  I knew squirrels relied on trees for homes and food, but I thought the food was limited to nuts and things.  Now, I've seen them eat roots, loose bark, buds and flowers, too!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Baby Squirrel Vid

Something cute today to lift the spirits.

Friday, April 24, 2009

An Awful Afternoon

Friday started off like any other squirrel day.  I worked during the day, but I was planning on blogging about Preggers and her family playing in our Oak tree.  She also beat up Norman the Doorman, aka Fatty, despite the injury to her right front paw.

She had come by the porch midweek, and she was particularly calm.  She walked right up to me, took a peanut and, instead of turning her back to me, she planted herself next to me and looked at me while she ate.  Then there was a high pitched scream.  It was the familiar scream of a baby squirrel.  She became tense and started eating at a furious pace.  

I grabbed my camera and waited for her to react.  She eventually calmed down again, but she left after a few more nuts.  I tried to follow her and found her climbing up our Oak tree with a baby squirrel following close behind.

If sexing squirrels is anything like sexing rats and mice, this baby may be a girl.

Eventually, they made their way over to a branch over the driveway and reunited with another baby, while the baby that was following Preggers tried to snaggle leftover food from Preggers' mouth, at least so it seemed to me.

Preggers is sprawled on the branch.

Anyway, I was pretty excited to have seen Preggers and her family cavorting in our tree.  I planned on looking for the family over the next few days, but it was cold and windy.

Friday afternoon, she came by the window begging for peanuts.

She wasn't as calm.  She wouldn't eat in front of me, which isn't that unusual, but it usually means she's agitated.  It was probably due to the bad weather.

I gave her some nuts and grabbed my camera, coat and shoes.  She ate for a while longer, so I settled in and watched a little TV.  All of a sudden, there was a huge "thud, thud, thud" right over my head.  It was so loud I thought my husband had accidentally dropped something heavy out the window.

I looked for Preggers and saw her standing on the fence looking down into the driveway.  When I came out on the porch, I spooked her, so she headed for the fence bordering our neighbor and then crawled down to the driveway.  She stopped in front of our oak tree and just sat there eating the nut she had carried in her mouth.

She jumped onto the trunk, and I thought maybe I'd get in some shots of her on a tree, but then she started to act very bizzarre.  She was very agitated and nervous, jumping back and forth from the tree to the ground and back again.

That's when I saw it.  There was a squirrel lying in the leaves underneath the oak tree.  I tried to get a better look.  It looked like a little baby.  It wasn't it's size, but something about its face, shape and fur made me think it was a baby and thus, Preggers' baby.  

Preggers was going back and forth between jumping on the tree and approaching the baby squirrel.  I realized that I was making Preggers incredibly nervous, so I backed away and watched through a slit between the fence and the house.

Preggers kept sniffing and touching the baby.  I know we shouldn't anthropomorphize animals, but I thought she was trying to comfort and acknowledge the baby while assessing its condition.  She could have just been curious, but that's not what I thought at the time.

I didn't think Preggers was going to be able to take care of this in the nest.  I called my husband and told him that a baby squirrel fell out of the tree and was hurt and not moving.  He rushed down with a towel and we picked up the baby.  When we came around the corner, Preggers took off and the baby started to twitch.  I originally thought that maybe it was a seizure, but I think it was probably reacting instinctively to run.

We brought him inside.  Now that we had the baby, we weren't sure what to do with it.  We wanted Preggers to see that we were taking care of it, so hubby took him by the closed porch window where Preggers had returned.  She looked at it through the window and then grabbed a nut and started eating.  

We debated letting Preggers handle it, but after examining the squirrel, we knew for certain that it would need professional attention.  It was bleeding from the mouth and nose, and its breathing was really slow and getting slower.  There were some dents in the side of its chest, too.

We decided to call an urban wildlife rescue organization instead of a vet.  Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue & Education Center is about 20 minutes from our home, so we called and Lila was ready to meet with us.

We jumped in the car.  I was holding the baby.  A couple of blocks from our house, it looked like it took a huge yawn, and then it kicked and struggled.  I was really freaked out and had my husband pull over.  It was dead.

That night, I had nightmares about the squirrel's last moments.  It kept replaying over and over again in my head, and I couldn't sleep thinking about how much pain and horror it must have felt.  I thought that maybe if we had done a, b and c differently, it would have survived.

After having the baby's death replayed in my memory, I think it suffocated to death.  I suspect that it was on a branch above the house.  A strong gust of wind blew it off the branch and the wind threw it across the roof, hitting the roof at least 2 times before hitting the ground.  It may have also hit its head on the gutters on the way down.

Its lungs were filling with blood until they were full.  What I thought was a yawn was its attempt to get a last breath of air.  It kicked in its struggle to breathe before it died.

The towel was so soaked in blood that it had to be thrown away.  We left the baby out there to let Preggers get a look at it before we disposed of it.  We couldn't bring ourselves to throw it in the trash.  We wouldn't throw a dog in the trash if it died, so we buried the squirrel underneath the oak tree.

Squirrels mark good and bad tree limbs with different scents to denote danger.  I was worried that Preggers would think that we put the baby back outside after it had expired as a warning and never come back.  Sort of like the squirrel version of putting heads on pikes at London Bridge.

After a morning of fretting, she came by late Saturday, and she seemed normal.  Her right front paw is healing, too.  She has started to put weight on it again.

Since our squirrels aren't marked or tagged, I'm hoping that maybe we were wrong and it wasn't one of Preggers' babies.  It's more logical that it is one of hers, but we're still looking for visual confirmation that she only has one hanger-on.

I'll keep you posted.