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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.

A Walk in the Woods

3 Mar

DSC_8871 DSC_8877We took Rufus for a short walk down the Black Marsh trail at North Point State Park on Sunday. Brad and I hope to continue to bring Rufus along on our birdwatching jaunts. This was a test run and Rufus passed with flying colors. Though he walked nearly the entire trail with his nose about an inch from the ground (no doubt gorging himself on all the exotic smells of the wild) and he tugged at the leash (a behavior we hope to control once we all begin obedience class)  what I found to be most significant is that he did not bark or howl. Even when we spotted wildlife off in the distance or when approached by fellow hikers. Speaking of the latter, we stopped and chatted with some other birders in search of snowy owls and they oohed and ahhed over Rufus and his velvety ears and his handsome coat. Why, who ever could resist such charms?

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.

Wild Violets

13 Apr

DSC_7680To some they are weeds. As for me, I love seeing the wanton splash of purple across springtime lawns. I also think it would be the perfect name for a punk rock girl group. Ladies and Gentlemen, the moment you’ve been waiting for … The Wild Violets!

Natural Phenom

1 Dec

It’s not nearly as striking as the half red/half green apple I read about recently in the British press, but I was duly impressed with this specimen I brought home from the local grocery store.

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I took some photos of it and then I ate it.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

26 Sep

Aside from ready access to some of the greatest historical sites in the world and top-notch middle eastern cusine, here are a few of the things I will miss about living in Israel:

The view outside my studio window.

Being able to walk from our house to the shores of the Med in 15 minutes.

Being able to walk down the middle of the highway once a year on Yom Kippur.

The bougainvillea outside my kitchen window.

Predictable weather.