Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Little Green Burrs

The feeders were so busy today. The birds seem to love the new location. The old location was prone to getting squirrels climbing up into the feeders (both gray and red squirrels). The feeders are now out in the open, away from shrubs. The birds I have noticed this has negatively affected are the ones who like to be able to quickly hide in brush if they have to, such as the Black-capped Chickadees, American Goldfinches, and Chipping Sparrows. They are all still around, but they aren't at the feeders as much. I did, however, get a good laugh out of watching a male goldfinch today. He was sitting on the other side of a tube feeder, totally out of view, but you could see filler seed shooting in all directions.

Mid-afternoon was the busiest. Also, unfortunately, the new location has attracted more Common Grackles (we only had one juvenile visiting occasionally; today there were four individuals). I scare them off if they are the only ones at the feeders. They're also the ONLY birds I've seen really getting aggressive with the others, and that is why I'm not happy with them. People typically believe that Blue Jays are the bad guys, but the four juveniles we have here tend to back off if another species is near, even if they do seem to get a kick out of bullying the House Wren. There's one bold one who even let the Downy Woodpecker sit 6 inches away. The Downy had just finished the last of the suet and sat on top of the metal holder, watching the Blue Jay picking through some peanuts. They didn't seem to mind each other at all, and it appeared they were merely curious of the activities of the other.

So during this time, the feeders also got a young Tufted Titmouse who sat around and pecked at everything near it (except for other birds). Sitting in the nearest trees were two other Titmice, calling "Peter peter peter!" I wondered if it was the parents keeping an eye on the youngster. There were two American Robins hopping around below. Two Mourning Doves seemed absolutely delighted at the new location, as it is in the shade in the afternoon, and for whatever reason this spot has been a Mourning Dove favorite for years. A male Northern Cardinal visited very briefly, much to my excitement. We rarely have them, as they are well hidden by all the bushy habitat nearby. Both House Wrens perched nearby, one of them constantly making a dry rattle. Ever since the babies were born, that is the only call I've heard out of them. In the little patch of woods across the driveway from the feeders were two White-breasted Nuthatches calling to each other. I love how solitary they can be even when there's a busy flock nearby.

Also spotted, I have no idea what this bird was. I was stumped, and too far away from the feeders by the time it got to them. Bigger than the Downy Woodpecker, seemingly brown plumage, except for a thick white supercilium and black crown that gave the appearance of wearing a yarmulke, and having what appeared to be a dark gray cone-shaped bill (like that of a grosbeak). VERY strange-looking. It also made a single, brief squeak here and there that sounded like a Hairy or Pileated Woodpecker. I could only think of it as a juvenile, with the brown and strange appearance. But species? No idea. I hope my eyes were playing tricks on me.

I sifted through more of the wildflower patch today. Distracted again by all the delicious-scented Sweetfern. I watched some sort of large, orange butterfly with beige spots on it's lower underwing lazily float around searching for something sweet. And then I spotted, just on the other side of a low rock wall, all by it's lonesome in cool, moist soil, a viney sort of plant with weird heart-shaped leaves with two lobes at the base. The stems seemed an odd purplish-brown from where I was. I couldn't help but to have a closer look, it was too interesting. Upon closer inspect I could see bunches of green oval berries and other bunches of bright red ones that resembled tiny cherry tomatoes. The shade of red made me think, "Uh oh, not edible." Peeking around at the rest of the plant, I found a tiny bunch of delicate purple flowers with protruding yellow stamens, the purple petals furled backwards. Solanum dulcamara! Woody nightshade. Definitely berries I did not want to eat, nor the rest of that plant. I was so excited. I can't recall the last time I had seen one, but it is a name I was familiar with. People I've known who are interested in edibles have always told me about the dreaded nightshade, haha. I wandered through the wooded patch nearby and found two other fairly good-sized plants of it, one only bearing unripened berries, the other a tiny stem with a tiny grouping of those purple stars.

I also found one pokeweed plant (I can't help but to find them ugly plants). The buttercups around here look absolutely awful. Maybe they are just dying. I also found a lot more St. Johnswort, and the woods are loaded with blooming yellow wood-sorrel. I'm so tired of pulling it up all around the rest of the yard! There's also a plant I have yet to ID that every year leaves my shoelaces and pants covered in tiny green soft burrs. My terrier's fur gets covered in them.

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