Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Hummingbirds, Goldfinches, Bears and Buddy

Our home with the bog in autum.
The grasses around the beaver bog now are tall enough to hide a white-tailed doe. I think they have their fawns in the meadow because the red-winged blackbirds call the alarm if anything dangerous trespasses in the bog. But the red-wings are gone now. They have nested, raised their young, and left, as they do every year, to congregate for the long flight south. I wish I knew where they congregated. It must be a raucous time wherever it is. Now I know that summer is heading into autumn. The tall grasses glow golden in the sun. Their seed heads are ready to plant more grass for next year. In the past, hundreds of starlings have moved into the meadow grasses after the red-wings have left. They are quite raucous themselves when they settle down for the night. But they have not come the past two summers.

great blue heron mobbed by blackbirds - 2
A heron mobbed by blackbirds.
The great blue herons have returned. The red-winged blackbirds won't let the herons in the ponds when they are here. But now that they are gone, the herons are free to fish. We have two herons this year. Every morning and afternoon they fly over the ridge from May Pond and circle overhead. I think they are looking over the chickens. The hens run under a car or into the woods when the herons fly over. I suppose herons are capable of eating a hen but I wonder if they would seriously try. The chickens recognize that huge birds overhead, or shadows of birds racing over the fields, mean danger and they instinctively hide.

Every morning now I walk behind on the house, on the mountainside, to try and photograph woodland birds in the choke cherry trees. It's a beautiful time of day with the mist rising from the warm bog water into the colder air. The sun is perfect for bird photography. This is something new that I am learning now, how to photograph birds in trees in the summer. I've been learning and growing in technique. Some mornings the cats walk with me, which means I may not get a photograph at all. But I won't run the cats off from walking with me.

Buddy hunts field's edge
The other morning, Buddy caught a shrew and brought it into the garage. He lost it in a woodpile, and it quickly eluded Buddy by running across the garage floor to another woodpile. It was badly injured and only had the use of three legs. The fourth, hind leg, dangled uselessly behind it. I probably should have mercifully killed it but that is out of the question. I can't. Zorro saw it escape Buddy and chased it for a few more minutes. Buddy and I left and went on a bird walk.

Since he lost that first catch of the day, Buddy returned to the trees at the edge of the field that he likes to hunt. I watched patiently as he first sat, alert, listening for mouse sounds in the grass. The dew was heavy on the field and the sun lit the water drops up like millions of diamonds. Buddy heard a sound, crouched, lifted himself up in the air and landed a foot ahead of where he had been sitting. He poked the grasses with his muzzle and lifted another shrew into the air. He carried it to a clear area nearby, sat down and ate it immediately. He wasn't going to risk losing more of his breakfast by carrying it home.

I heard a goldfinch and watched as it flew the familiar bouncy flight pattern in the air. It was making a great circle around the apple trees around the barn. His call became more distressed or angry and he began to fly straighter. A hummingbird was chasing it. The chase continued for over five minutes and followed the same path over and over again. Occasionally the goldfinch tried to hide in a tree or would dive erratically. But the hummingbird was like a heat seeking missile and never lost the finch. What had the goldfinch done to so thoroughly anger the hummingbird?

Bear in the yard
John and I sat outside one morning this week. It was very early. This is the best time for observing life in the bog. No other humans were up. Even the cats had not yet begun to hunt but were sitting nearby pondering their plans for the morning. John noticed movement in the grasses behind the beaver ponds. Something was raising its head and doing something to the trunk of a dead, drowned birch tree. It was a black bear getting either bees or ants from the dead tree. We were quiet, we thought, but it heard us in the morning air and disappeared into the grass and the woods beyond.

Otter in the beaver pond
The mother moose that was living on the edge of the bog for weeks is no longer here. A mother otter and four to six babies are visiting the bog this week. I haven't even tried to photograph them because they are more skittish than usual. There is a new, large deer yard in the apple orchard. This summer is rich in life and drama in the bog and the woods.  We have been working hard on the house. Hiking, church and library are taking a lot of time, also. I am over six weeks behind on editing photographs and blogging. Our first married summer is rich beyond reason.
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  1. Everything is blooming with life again. Lovely.

  2. So many interesting creatures to observe there! You are indeed fortunate.

  3. What a great life. I couldn't handle your winters but I could do with a day or two of watching the wildlife.


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