Saturday, August 15, 2009

Go Away, Grackles!

I stayed at WFA house today because it was blazing hot. Due to 2009 summer being so cool and rainy, I can't recall if this is 'normal' summer weather or a heat wave for upstate NY, but it's unbearable.

I did wander outside a bit, the main task being to scrub the bird bath. It was horrendous, as it was full of droppings. To me this is a good thing, a sign that it's being well used. I didn't mind it, and now the birds have a clean bath to enjoy (it's in the shade too). Some chickadees came by to watch what I was up to - they regularly do this when I'm cleaning the bird bath. It makes me think they are eagerly awaiting the clean water. I noticed it's also good for thirsty bees!

Common grackles have started to invade the feeders, and I take it upon myself to scare them away many times each day. Apparently, four juvenile chipping sparrows have caught on to my behavior. I was standing near the feeders today, looking over some juniper. Suddenly these four flocked around me and began loudly calling their cricket-like trilling alarm calls. Knowing that they love the feeders, I had a glance over there and noticed a large, obviously well-fed adult grackle hogging a favorite perch for them and making quite a mess. I slowly walked right at the grackle, scaring it off, and the chipping sparrows immediately went to the feeders. It was cute that I got to play guardian for them.

A downy woodpecker flew around the trees in the shade. I never caught sight of it, understandably so. I didn't want to be in the sun, either.

Two of the juvenile blue jays also regularly visit the feeders. One of them is quite fond of the suet and will rip large chunks off of it, gulping them down. This one is also quite curious. Today it perched, with head tilted, watching one of the dogs as it walked around the yard. It then watched as a mourning dove was stalking through the grass picking up loose seed. I also had a first-year male American goldfinch sit on top of a bush and watch me walk around the yard for a bit.

I have a total of six wildflower books out from the Crandall Library, and I can't say I'm totally impressed with a single one of them. It's incredibly difficult to find one single book with all the possible flowers I can see in my local region. Many of them do not include a single Lobelia and some of them do not have groundnut. This is incredibly frustrating because those plants are common around here. And the books that do have some Lobelia in them are severely lacking in variety. I had to go back to the WFA house bookshelf to pull out the 1982 'Reader's Digest North American Wildlife' book (seriously, this book rules so hard that I could weep happy tears) to find out that my yard has a bunch of Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco). A group with about 375 species deserves the common ones to be included in every wildflower book, especially when you are likely to run across at least one of them in your daily adventures. I also used the Reader's Digest to ID the pretty paintbrush-like crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) that has popped up in my yard. I can say that I also appreciate the field maps in the Reader's Digest which are sorely lacking in many wildflower field guides, though it does weird me out to find out fivespot (Nemophila maculata) supposedly only grows in the Pacific Northwest, as it popped up in my backyard one year here!

It has become apparent that birds and wildflowers are definitely two different worlds when it comes to field guides. It would be unheard of to leave out species from a bird guide. It's nearly impossible to include every species in a wildflower guide, I guess, there seems to be way too many to include into one book. And that lack of range maps in wildflower guides...ouch. Not handy.


suep said...

hey, I can comment now!
sometimes those "old" books are the best!
don't laugh but I have been using Peterson's Field Guide to Wildflowers (of NE and N-Central N America)for 30 years and Lobelias of all sorts are in there! It also specifies blooming-times by month, which to me is the only weak point of the Newcomb's Guide. Together, they are great.

Lindsey said...

Oh how I agree that the "old books" are typically the best! That's the same with the bird guides too. Actually, that Reader's Digest - I have been using for probably 20 years now! It is well-loved.

I'm definitely going to hunt down those two books, that's a combo I could love and appreciate! Blooming-times would be absolutely great!

What's missing in a bird guide is dates of spring and fall migration for each species!