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Grackle #115

25 May

grackle115I came home at lunch time today so I could take Rufus for a walk…or at least play with him in the yard. It’s nice living close enough to my workplace to be able to take a break like that now and then. While I was in the backyard with Rufus I heard a bird chirping loudly and insistently. Rufus was totally disinterested in the bird but I felt compelled to investigate.

It wasn’t long till I discovered a bird lying on its back under our holly tree. I went in for a closer look. It didn’t look as if the bird had been attacked by a predator but I was mystified as to how it had been injured. It wasn’t anywhere near the house so it was unlikely it had flown into a window pane. It seemed to be a juvenile but certainly not a fledgling that had fallen from a nest. I brought Rufus inside and began researching what to do for the little critter. I posted some photos and a query on two bird groups I belong to on Facebook. The birders quicky identified it as a Common Grackle. I also called the Maryland Department of Natural Resources who referred me to a wildlife center in nearby Columbia.

Luckily Judy Holzman, who operates the center, picked up on the first ring. She advised me to place the bird into a well-ventilated box lined with towels. She said to cover the box, secure the lid and place it somewhere warm where my pets couldn’t get to it. I did as she instructed but explained I had to return to work and that I’d bring the bird to her center after I got home from work.

When I did return home, I was fearful about what I would find when I opened the lid of the box. The grackle was still very much alive and alert but also still unable to support itself, much less fly. He remained on his back. I secured the lid back on the box and trekked on over to All Creatures Great and Small, Judy’s wildlife center.

Judy agreed that the bird is a young grackle and logged him in as Grackle #115. She seemed as puzzled as I was about how the bird had gotten injured. She weighed him and said he was underweight. She gave him some meds (I think it was amoxycillin) and placed him in a truss to keep him upright inside a cage.

Grackle #115 has plenty of company at the wildlife center—a room inside Judy’s home. The injured animal ward was lined with cages and crates. There was already another grackle there who had a visible injury to its breast. I also saw what looked like a chipping sparrow. Hard to tell because all the bird cages were covered with cloths, I presume to make the birds feel more secure. In a very large crate, not covered with cloth, were several squirrels.

Judy said she’d give my little grackle fluids and keep an eye on him for improvement. If he does recover, she’d like me to pick him up and release him in the same area where I found him. I do hope that comes to pass!

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This Year’s Crop of Robins

5 May

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In the past, we had robins nesting under our deck year after year. Sometimes a previous year’s nest would be reused. But since returning from Israel in 2012, the deck has not been adorned with nesting birds. This weekend Brad was trimming the shrubs in the front yard and he discovered a nest of robins in one of our yews. He hopes he didn’t disturb the robin family too greatly as the chicks are just beginning to hatch.

Rufus Update

27 Apr

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At Rieve’s Pond

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The Beavers Have Been Busy

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Inspecting The Beavers’ Handiwork

I haven’t posted in a while… been too busy keeping up with the antics of our puppy. Rufus has been with us for a little over 2 months now and we’ve seen him go through some changes during this time period. He was a bit shy when we first brought him home but he has begun to come out of his shell and assert his distinctive personality.

Some of this is for the good: he definitely knows his name now and will respond readily when called upon. When he chooses to. Brad can play with him in our backyard without fear he will run away, even though we haven’t put up a fence yet (we are working on that!). But the down side is: he has begun to bark a lot, as Brad says, sometimes seemingly at molecules. We don’t know what it is that sets him off but we are sure getting a chance to hear the beagle in him. On our walks, when encountering people or other dogs, he often responds boisterously. Early this morning I took Rufus outside and I was amazed as he went stock still and pointed…at a fox. Not a peep out of him. But he barked his head off at the little neighbor boy the other day. Go figure.

We’ve been making progress with the dog obedience classes. Rufus is very good at “sit” and “down” commands. He has begun to master “stay” and “wait.” He has learned to play a couple of games with us…but we are struggling to get him to learn the concept of fetch. He still pulls at his leash a lot, mainly because we have failed at being consistent in training him in that area. We have a no-pull harness on order.

Today we took a long walk at the Patuxent Research Refuge and he had a grand time. We walked some lovely trails, visited a pond where there had been evidence of beaver activity and we added some new birds to our list: bluegray gnatcatcher and an orchard oriole.

 

Backyard Shenanigans

12 Jul

Chickadee at the new peanut feeder

Chickadee at the new peanut feeder

We had been filling our bird feeders with a premium seed and nut mixture and enjoyed seeing quite a variety of birds visit. Aside from the usual house sparrows and house finches, we saw titmice, cardinals, nuthatches, wrens, chickadees, blue jays, brownheaded cowbirds, and woodpeckers, to name a few. But then the icterids discovered the premium mix. I didn’t mind the red-winged blackbirds, but the grackles and starlings chased the other birds away and gorged themselves, going through the entire contents of the feeder in less than a day. We then switched to plain safflower seeds, having learned that grackles and starlings don’t much care for those seeds. But we lost many other visitors as well, particularly the woodpeckers.

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Squirrel raiding the peanut feeder

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A Hasty Retreat

So, Brad installed a peanut feeder and sure enough the chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and blue jays returned. We haven’t yet seen any woodpeckers. But the peanuts have been a seemingly irresistible temptation for the squirrels. Over the last few days I’ve watched as they pondered how to get to the feeder. I saw many slips and mishaps of failed attempts. Then yesterday I looked out the window to see one squirrel had succeeded in attaching himself to the feeder, but I don’t think he managed to extract one peanut from it. He was clinging to the feeder upside down. I took one fair shot of him through the kitchen window but I wanted to get an even better closer shot. I tiptoed out onto the deck but as soon as I aimed my camera the little bugger flew from the feeder to the deck, lost his footing and fell to the ground. I’m sure he’s okay…he scampered away very quickly. Haven’t seen a squirrel at the feeder in about a day but it has been raining most of the time. Time will tell if they have learned their lesson.

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Sparrow without tail feathers

In other news, we’ve had a cute little female house sparrow without any tail feathers making frequent visits to our feeders. She seems to get along fine without her tail feathers. I only hope a cat was not involved in her disfigurement. Couldn’t have been Baxter or Lulu as they are kept indoors but some of our neighbors allow their cats to roam outside.

The Source of the Yarkon

8 May

Source of the Yarkon River

Source of the Yarkon River


El-Mir Mill, built during Roman times

El-Mir Mill, built during Roman times


Cattle Egret atop El-Mir Mill

Cattle Egret atop El-Mir Mill


Yesterday we visited Yarkon National Park. It is the national park near Tel Afeq which we visited last weekend. Though Yarkon National Park is associated with some important features we found it to not be as enjoyable as Tel Afeq. Yarkon is largely a picnic area/campground. There were a few families there setting up picnic tables and barbecuing foods when we arrived around 10 am-ish. By the time we left, the park had begun to fill up and there were at least a dozen cars lined up at the gate waiting to enter.

This national park contains the source of the Yarkon river. The Yarkon meanders westward from this site, through Tel Aviv and into the Mediterranean. The area did look a bit swampy and not very picturesque. The lily pond was murky with only a few shriveled-looking yellow lily flowers in evidence. We did not see much bird life during our visit. Perhaps we had arrived too late in the day for the birds and too early in the season for the water lilies. We saw the ruins of El-Mir Mill built in Roman times. Nearby is the site of an old farm owned by an Egyptian during the mid-1800s and later sold to Baron de Rothschild.

Flight of the Bee-eaters

21 Apr

European Bee-eater

European Bee-eater

I stepped outside late this afternoon to place our garden waste on the sidewalk for pickup when I heard some distinctive bird calls. I looked up to see some unfamiliar bird silhouettes circling overhead. I went back home and grabbed the binoculars. Wow. I saw a bright yellow neck, turquoise underparts, long thin beak, chestnut head and back and a tail with a single long point in the center. A new bird for my list of birds in Israel! They are European Bee-eaters. According to my bird guide, they are in passage possibly from India (where they winter) to North Africa or Southern Europe (where they breed).

I put the telephoto lens on my camera and tried to get some photos of them without much luck. It was dusk and they were perched fairly high up a tree. My digital SLR refused to focus on the birds in the tree, but zeroed in on the branches instead. Even with the manual focus setting it was a problem. I finally managed a half-way decent shot by focusing first on a branch further out and then moving the lens onto the bird.

I feel pretty fortunate to have caught a glimpse of these colorful birds.

Hoopoes, Here, There and Everywhere

4 Apr

One of the delights of walking around my neighborhood are the sightings of hoopoes along the way. I often, but not always, see them in pairs. They seem somewhat tame and have allowed me to approach rather closely. They are difficult to capture on camera without a blur as they are constantly moving and pecking into the ground. When they are startled they raise their crests and fly away. I’ve yet to grab a shot of one with its crest fully opened but I did manage to get a shot of one in flight (a happy accident).

Click here for more of my photos of birds in Herzliya.

A pair of hoopoes in Vriesland Park

A pair of hoopoes in Vriesland Park

Hoopoe in Flight

Hoopoe in Flight

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This hoopoe is keeping an eye on the strange woman with a camera

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Beginning to open his crest