Ducks galore


I spent the weekend at North Chagrin Reservation in Ohio where I attended a wood duck photo workshop. I arrived on Friday afternoon in a light rain and checked out the pond. To my surprise the birds were so tame that even the great blue heron I saw did not fly away when I approached. Apparently, the waterfowl and shorebirds are so used to people that they don’t get spooked.
On Saturday morning, we joined plenty of other photographers on the boardwalk to photograph wood ducks and mallards in the early light. We learned that about ten years ago, wood ducks began to breed in the nest boxes that had been built for them. More nest boxes followed and the reservation now is home to a beautiful flock of wood ducks. Before migrating south in early November they have molted into their fresh plumage. Against the backdrop of fall foliage reflecting in the ponds they are truly beautiful. Mallards and Canada geese were also plentiful. And the trees around the ponds and on the trails are home to many songbirds. Although the workshop ended on Sunday evening, I spent Monday morning at the pond before I packed up and it began to rain. It has been a cold, breezy weekend but at least the rain held off until I was finished. The fall foliage, which was probably at or near its peak in Cleveland, added to the beauty of the experience. Now I am back in our warm house, tired and excited about the happy task of editing hundreds of photos. I think I have found another favorite spot to visit.

We’re ready

We took down our hummingbird feeder over the weekend and cleaned our bird feeders. We have already stocked up on black oil sunflower seeds, safflower, and cracked corn. Now we only need to buy or make suet and we’re all set. And I bought a new hopper feeder today. Let the birding begin!
Next weekend I’m going to a wood duck photo workshop and hope to return with plenty of great photos to add to my stock. I’m hoping to get more than one species of birds, of course.
At home we’re seeing plenty of birds, mostly sparrows. The fall flowers are still in bloom and yesterday I actually saw a monarch on our New England aster. It was probably coming from the North and passing through our yard. I wonder how many visit our flowers without our knowlege?

Fall Has Arrived

It is now officially fall and the leaves are certainly changing. Last week we headed to Presque Isle. I was hoping to see migrating warblers, but we saw nothing but a few mallards and plenty of ring-billed gulls. Instead we almost got eaten alive by mosquitoes and decided to never return in September.
At home things are getting lively. While the hummingbirds have probably all departed (we saw a straggler over a week ago and none since then) we are spotting more birds overall. My husband saw four flickers in our backyard at once and the blue jays are noisy and numerous. I also observed a red-bellied woodpecker yesterday as it pecked at our neighbors house. It won’t be long now until we hang up our feeders again.

Pre-Season

Last week we had such beautiful weather that I headed out to the Audubon nature reserve in Beechwood for the first time in almost a year. The reason for my “abstinence” was, of course, road work. I just couldn’t seem to find a direct route to Fox Chapel that didn’t include massive detours. Finally I decided to use backroads.
Unfortunately, it was quiet at Beechwood. Birds were in short supply, except for that one hawk circling overhead. There weren’t even any Canada geese or mallards. In the end, I photographed a painted turtle sunning itself on a log in the pond.
At home we often hear the not too melodious call of blue jays. They seem to have had a good year. Occasionally I hear a pileated woodpecker. And the hummingbirds are still here, at least the females. It will probably take a weather change to force the migrants to fly south and the warblers to pass through our area.

Hiatus

We are experiencing hot and sticky weather right now and don’t venture outside much. No matter, the birds seem to be on hiatus too. All, except hummingbirds. They are performing aerial combat around our syrup feeder, chasing each other away from the energy drink. As if there weren’t enough for everybody! Why can’t they just get along? It won’t be long now before they start heading south, the first sign that fall will be approaching.

Summer Musings

We don’t see too many birds right now, but I have seen and heard plenty of hawks lately. The ruby-throated hummingbirds are hitting our syrup feeder hard. Not only do they have chicks now, but they are also beefing up for their upcoming migration. I have to check the feeder often to make sure it is full. They are also visiting our flowers, but I see them on the feeder more often than not.
Lately I’ve been photographing butterflies (yes, we finally have some) and posted some pretty photos on my other blog. Our wildflower garden has recovered from the groundhog’s attacks and even the cosmos is blooming now. The biggest hit is our Joe-pye weed. Sometimes we count almost a dozen bees on it. That’s where I photographed the butterflies.
While we have taken a few wildflower hikes lately the weather is not inviting us to do much this weekend. There isn’t much else to do than making plans for the cooler season. I just signed up for a wood duck workshop in October. I hope it is as exciting as promised.

A Summer Hike


During the summer – and once we take down our feeders – we don’t see too many birds in our backyard. We therefore am more interested in wildflowers than birds right now. Last Sunday, we headed out to Raccoon Creek State Park where we stopped at the wildflower reserve first. After admiring eight to nine feet tall ironweeds we inspected the native garden where we fell in love with the blazing star wildflower. We would love to grow this showy flower that seems to be popular with insects too. Now we have to find a nursery that carries them. After all, gardens are always works in progress.
After the detour to the wildflower reserve we headed out on the valley trail, a trail we had never been on before. I soon realized why: the trail is not wider than two feet and winds up and down around the creek banks. At one point, where the trail went down a steep grade toward a foot bridge, I would have turned around if my husband had not urged me on. Needless to say, he had to lift me up the grade on the way back since this was not a loop. We did see many “first” wildflowers that day. Perhaps we should start a life list?
In our backyard we’re still fighting off rabbits and a groundhog. I don’t mind if they eat grass, but they’re not satisfied with that. They even attacked our purple coneflowers this summer. Survivors of the carnage are our new Joe-pye weed and a nice stand of wild bergamot which I photographed the other day. As if rabbits weren’t enough, other plants (such as black-eyed Susans, for example) suffer from the lack of rain. Last night’s downpour was a nice respite for them. What I am also missing this year are butterflies. Where have they all gone to?

Birding in Germany

I recently returned from a trip to Germany where I visited my family and friends. My parents’ garden is big and it abuts several other gardens and orchards. Fruit trees and evergreens provide ample cover for the many birds I heard. With the help of my dad’s binoculars I observed serins, blackbirds, a blue tit, magpies, and a great tit. Also passing by were swallows, a hawk, and a white stork. The stork nest on top of the fire hall has three inhabitants this summer. And let’s not mention the rooster who lived not far away!
If I had the window open at night I could hear bird songs before four o’clock in the morning. When I was younger I did not notice birds unless they were swans or other showy species. Now that I’m interested in birds I see them everywhere.

Backyard photography


My favorite lighting for bird photography (or flowers, or wildlife) is bright overcast. Last week was just such a day and I set up my blind to take advantage of the great lighting. While I did not get to photograph any new species, I did get a very charming shot of a male cardinal with a sunflower in its beak.
In the meantime, we have taken down our feeder for the summer – the hummingbird feeder remains – and we have to find other ways to lure birds. One way is adding a bird fountain to our new garden. However, we have yet to find one.
Our new garden is having some growing pains, and that’s mostly due to rabbits and a groundhog. My zinnias have been eaten in the front and back yard, making it look like the Munsters’ garden. There are some native plants that the critters don’t touch and perhaps that’s a sign to plant more of those. Trial and error is the motto here and it’s quite possible that the garden won’t take off until next summer.

June observations

We are still seeing many birds in our backyard. In fact, their population has swelled because many have chicks now. Their constant chirping sounds through our yard all day long. My most exciting sighting this week was a Northern Flicker in our front yard. It targeted the ants on our walk. The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are still around, enchanting us with their beauty.
Of course, birds aren’t the only wildlife we attract. The chipmunks have also multiplied and we are trying to save our newly planted flowers from rabbits. The latter find our flowers really tasty. Oh well, such is life in the suburbs.