Monday, February 26, 2007

February 22nd -- Spiky Ice

Ice like tiny thorns all over everything (neither of these plants actually has thorns, it's all ice.)

I've never seen anything like it and neither has anyone here that I showed the picture to. But then, they didn't notice it this time, either.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Bird Count February 16

Minus seven degrees this am; first day of the birdcount. We have had a few weeks of changeable weather and broken pipes in the house. Cold and dark and snow and ice; no birds and not much of anything else! The patch of open water above the dam got smaller and smaller until finally only swans remained; I don't know if they were just too close for the other birds, but it seems they were too close to each other. One swan finally drove the other away -- they are called "mute" swans but the dispute was quite noisy, I could hear them over the sound of the falling water. The one paddled around below the dam for a while -- I was surprised that the bird is strong enough to swim against the current -- and left. The other one presided alone over it's patch of water, occasionally stretching out its neck and vocalizing. Finally it left too. Jim was driving down to Constantine and saw "forty or fifty" swans on the open St. Joseph below the dam there.

Two days ago a pair of swans reappeared, probably the same ones? No other water birds. An occasional titmouse (Parus bicolor), a white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) and oh, something I've never seen before, a brown creeper (Certhia familiaris) skittering up the trunk of one of the elms. The way they move is very different from the nuthatch even though they seem very similar; quicker, darting movement. The markings on its back were very pretty, a sharp clear pattern of brown and white that made me think of a newly-shed gopher snake.

Nothing out there for the bird count except the swans, who are asleep on the ice with their heads under their wings. Too cold! (9am)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Very cold

Minus nine degrees this morning. In just a few days, Hoffman Pond has completely iced over except for a patch of open water just above the Boys Dam. The swans have moved onto the ice at the edge of the open areas, but haven't been swimming much. A flock of doves sat around in the trees by the edge of the water for a while, and the kingfisher showed up although I didn't see him fishing. There is a busy grebe, that's about it.

Yesterday there was more open water and more birds. Six very very tiny diving ducks, which I think are female bufflehead, were fishing in the open water along with several coots and a grebe. No mallards. The swans were swimming around the open patch, normally the other birds avoid them but there is really no room.

I've been watching the birds hunting. The female bufflehead spend a while underwater, while the coot seems to leap up out of the water with a dive that's more like a pounce when he sees something edible. All of the birds have to dodge thin sheets of ice that rapidly sail toward the top of the dam.

I saw a coot with a fish too big to eat; the coot was smacking the fish on the surface of the water, trying to eat it, then smacking it again. Eventually he ate the head off, and finally the rest of the fish. Maybe it just tasted bad.

I looked up the word "bufflehead" and it seems to be "buffalo-head". Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) are closely related to the goldeneye ducks (Bucephala clangula) that I've seen a lot of this winter. I'm still surprised by how tiny the bufflehead are.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

February 1, 2007

A very grey day. The swans, and a single, very busy coot are the only birds. It's about 20 degrees and due to get colder.
Yesterday there was a flock of "mystery ducks" feeding above the dam (divers.) Brown, white under tail, small white spot or line beneath the eye.
The skunkcabbages haven't changed much in size; mostly they are under the new snow.