This weekend was a good weekend for observing raptors. On Friday, I noticed a large hawk high up in the branches of an oak tree. Using binoculars, I confirmed it was a rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus). Supposedly the rough-legged hawk winters here in Minnesota but I have only seen it in the spring as they pass through on their way to northern Canada.
The camera on my phone couldn’t do justice to this bird, so I downloaded the image below from Wikipedia.
I’ve occasionally observed sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiter striatus) in our neighborhood and yard, but, last year, a pair of sharp-shinned hawks moved into the neighborhood and they returned again this year. While they are interesting birds to watch, I’m concerned they will scare off the chickadees, nuthatches, and other small birds that have made our yard their home.
Again, I couldn’t get a good photograph of the sharp-shinned hawks with my phone, so I downloaded the photograph below from AnimalSpot.
Later on Saturday, we were relaxing on the patio when a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) flew over head. When we moved into our current place, we rarely saw bald eagles flying over head. We now regularly see bald eagles flying above us.
The following photograph is from Wikipedia.org because I haven’t got a picture of a bald eagle flying over us.
There are two bird feeders hanging under the eaves outside of our living room, one for seed and the other for suet. I placed the feeders there so that we could enjoy the coming and going of birds as fed. I recently installed a game camera to photograph the birds that frequent those feeders. While I was happy for the photographs of the birds, I was disappointed with the quality of said photographs.
American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) are beautiful summer visitors. Unlike chickadees and nuthatches, goldfinches tend to hang out on the feeder for as long as it takes to eat their fill.
White-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis), like the black-capped chickadees, are year-round visitors. Also like chickadees, nuthatches dart in for a seed and then quickly fly off. Nuthatches are the upside-down bird. They can frequently be seen walking upside down along tree trunks.
Our mailbox is a curbside mailbox and, as a result, gets knocked down on a regular basis by snowplows. After having our mailbox taken out two years in a row, we got a PO box at the local post office and now have most of our mail delivered there.
After the city had replaced our mailbox several years in a row, they must have talked to the snowplow drivers because the snowplow drivers now leave plenty of room between their plows and our mailbox. We haven’t had any snowplow mishaps with our mailbox for a few years now.
But the good can’t be allowed to stand. Last fall, I came home to discover our mailbox had been hit and knocked askew. After carefully inspecting the damage, I determined that some jackass backing out of our driveway had probably backed into it. It is a daily occurrence in which a driver pulls into our driveway to turn their car around to go the other direction. I’ve watched many of these lost souls and it is clear to me that they are more than just lost. Indeed, they are barely in control of their vehicles and that operating them in a safe manner is a great challenge for them.
After I had straightened out the mailbox, we had no incidents for half a year. I was beginning to hope the mailbox would survive winter when one last snowstorm came. It was one of those rare April snowstorms we seem to get every ten years or so. The night of the snowstorm, some jackass lost control of his vehicle going up the street. By up, I mean that the street inclines towards the west. Since we are on the south side of the street, this jackass, who was either drunk or driving a vehicle with bald tires or both, crossed over into the oncoming lane and drove up onto the curb and took out our mailbox.
The reason I suspect the driver was drunk was that it takes a lot of effort to lose control of a car on our street such that it crosses over into an oncoming lane of traffic, hops the curb, all while going up a hill! And, on top of that, the driver got out of their car, walked up our driveway and around to the side of our garage to relieve his bladder!
Every Spring, a pair of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) visit our yard. They hang out in our yard for several weeks before moving on to where ever they go. They can usually be found at the bottom of the hill in our backyard, where usually there is flowing water. Occasionally, however, they come up the hill, closer to our house.
I took this photo in 2012 when a drake and a hen mallard ambled along the sidewalk between our house and garage.
Two years later, I took this photo of a drake mallard hanging out on the roof of our garage.
The summer of 2013, we shared our yard with an whiteEastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) that we called Whitey. White and black squirrels are morphs of the Eastern Gray Squirrel. Unless they have pink eyes, white squirrels are not albino.
Whitey had balance issues. He never seemed capable of running in a straight line. As he ran, he would veer to the right. He would then stop, correct his direction, and start running again, only to veer to the right. He also had issues staying upright on his hindquarters while eating. He often tipped over.
His being white was a marked disadvantage when it came to escaping predators. The local hawks often hunted him. We did our best to protect him by chasing off the hawks by throwing rocks at them. Unfortunately, Whitey lived with us only a year before he disappeared. I suspect a hawk got him despite our efforts to protect him.
We often found Whitey eating and digging under the shrubs next to our side patio.
I recently bought a game camera, a ruggedized motion-activated camera used by hunters and wildlife watchers. I plan to use it to record the comings and goings of the birds using one of our nest boxes. Since the nest boxes are not yet being used, I’ve been using it to record activity of our back steps. I was hoping it would record the activities of squirrels visiting the feeding stations but all it seems to record is Lizzie coming and going.
Early one morning, Lizzie walked out the back door and knocked the camera off the steps. The camera captured her looking down over the steps at the camera.