Monday, May 21, 2018

our fowl-weather friends

We found a tiny park not too far from our house that has the strangest-looking ducks.

They're called Muscovy ducks and are apparently wild and spreading in the south, just like Canadian geese.  They're wonderful domesticated, though - friendly, and practically eating their weight in mosquitoes and flies every day!  And the ducklings...

...pretty cute.  We also saw black ducks.

Feeding time was highly anticipated.

A nice group of ducks!

Meanwhile, our goz at home are growing and growing.  Their parents are taking them out of the water more, ranging far into the yard for tender greens.

Our youngest group has gone from six to four, but the older ones have stayed steady at three.  They're starting to get their first feathers, right at the tips of their wings.

I love watching them grow!

Another exciting discovery in the pond this week:

I watched this aquatic bird bob and dive for fish for quite a while.

Anyone who read Island of the Blue Dolphins as avidly as I did as a kid would understand how delighted I was to discover that this was a cormorant!  I loved reading about Karana and her skirt of cormorant feathers (incidentally, that book was based on a real-life woman who was found alone on an island off the California coast, Juana Maria).  Apparently there's been quite a scandal about cormorants here in South Carolina.  They are so adept at out-fishing local fishermen that a federal law was passed, allowing hunters to slaughter tens of thousands a year.  In 2014 - 2015, over 25,000 were killed.  Thankfully, enough of an outcry ensued to gain attention, and the law was suspended until further research can be done. 

I'm still seeing lots of familiar birds...

...included a very persistent pair of house finches, who daily try to build nests in my hanging ferns.  We have nesting boxes all over and plenty of small shrubs and trees, so they have endless places to make their nests.  We have so much activity through the front door that it is just too disruptive for them, so I take out their nest foundations.  They're quick.  They can build a nest in an afternoon, and I have to catch them before the female lays eggs.  If she does, we have to leave the nest alone.  So I'm trying to keep an eye on it! 

Something else we're watching out for...Clotilde!  She has shown up for breakfast and supper daily for months.  She's not one to miss a meal...

...but I haven't seen her for several days.  The perils of an outdoor cat are many - stray dogs, coyotes, foxes, cars.  I just have to hope that she's all right and is spending time at someone else's house right now.

Have a great week! 


Monday, May 14, 2018

snake double take

With the temperatures climbing into the mid-90s every day, I'm trying to do my prowling around the property in the mornings.  I haven't seen the little fawn, but evidence of its existence is evident in the daytime pacings of its mother.

It's rare to see a solitary deer in daytime, unless there's a baby about!  Meanwhile, our goz are playing coy.  Most of their time is spent at the far end of the pond.

But sometimes they'll come by for a visit.

Six is now five, but we still have three older goz in our other group.

Meanwhile, we have a lot of other activity.  A turtle traversed our driveway on his way to the pond...

...and an anole watched me from a fence post.

Another snake slithered by as I walked the pond edge.

It looked like a copperhead at first, but I then verified that copperhead markings, while similar, have an hourglass shape. 

This was a non-venomous banded water snake.  Harmless!

Someone didn't make it...

Of course, the outdoor cats that we feed are usually around, getting into some sort of mischief!

Our indoor cats are somewhat less active.

Borga, however, watches everything with taut-nerved attention.

Have a great week!

Monday, May 7, 2018

empty nest syndrome

Every couple of days, I've been peeking into the house finch nest in our front porch fern.  Normally the babies just stare at me, and I replace the fern quickly.  But last week, I noticed a lot of activity.  Birds were standing and stretching in the nest...

...and the parents were hovering nearby, making a lot of noise.

I decided to investigate.  When I peeked inside the nest, there was a moment of startled silence before the babies exploded out in different directions.  I checked the ground around the fern, but they were all truly airborne.  I was afraid that I'd frightened them into prematurely leaving the nest, but after a little reading discovered that once they can fly, they're fine.  I'm just left with their feces-studded nest.

Yuck!  This fern went straight into the trash.  But speaking of empty nests...

That's right!  The nest I've been watching has been vacated.  Now we have an additional six goz!

They were so tiny and continually stumbled as they tried to walk.  Even though the weather was warm, they rushed to squeeze under mama's wing.

They tend to stay on the other end of the pond, where the bank has a gradual slope and they've got lots of grass.  Our end has a more angled bank, and lots of ivy and wild ajuga.  Hopefully I'll see them once they get a little older.  Of course, our original three goz are still around!

An old familiar face is making an appearance...the southern toad!

And another unseen friend:

Nearly unseen in the underbrush at our property edge: a newborn fawn, just a few hours old!

Mama was nearby, hovering nervously.  I moved away quickly to minimize their stress.  So sweet!  Later, I stumbled on another newborn in our front flower bed!  Tis the season!

Tabitha keeps a close eye on things from her usual perch.

Nothing gets by her.  Have a great week!

Monday, April 30, 2018

...and then there were three

These first peonies are fading fast...

...but I planted many different varieties.  Ruffles and more ruffles.

Peonies are such great old-fashioned flowers.  I'm going to have a massive bed of them when we finally settle somewhere!

Our house finches are growing quickly.  Do you see the feces around the edge of the nest?  For the first week or so of their lives, the adults eat the feces of the young, but after that, the babies void at the rim of the nest.  The rim of feces grows and grows until they, at last, fly away. They're considered pretty messy birds, although so far everything is staying in the fern.

The big news around here, though, is...GOZ. 

The nest I've been watching is still occupied, but ANOTHER clutch of eggs has hatched in an unknown location, probably a week or so ago.  First we had four little goslings, but now (gulp) there are three.  And we love watching them!

I was weeding by the pond this weekend and the adult geese brought the babies, bumbling, over the bank.  I sat quietly and watched as they fed all around me. 

Actually, it's quite wonderful to just sit outside with a camera.  I did the same thing in Indiana and there's so much to be seen.  This weekend, the weather was mild, and I worked quietly as the goz padded around.  Small brown birds skimmed the water for gnats and mosquitoes.

A pair of ducks preened and swam in lazy circles.

A slug, disturbed by the sudden loss of weed cover, headed for darker pastures.

A black rat snake popped his head up in the ivy to watch my progress.

It was so peaceful.  The weather has been so delightfully cool around here, mostly in the 60s and lower 70s, so it's been the perfect time to get outside and work in the yard.

Everything is fully green now...

...and maybe the long, hot summer won't feel quite as long, since spring has been so good to us this year.

Have a great week!