Saturday, December 23, 2006

Wildlife sightings 2006

March 16
Mama moose and Hank (young male) ripped up birdfeeders and scared the bejesus out of Kayt and me. We took down what was left of the birdfeeders and purchased another tube feeder and suspended them in birches on the edge of the yard. The black-capped chickadees found the new location before we finished stringing it up, and the boreal chickadees also moved quickly. They swoop in and out from the suet, still in the window, and visit the feeders.

March 19
Kayt saw what she thinks may have been the female Hairy Woodpecker on the new feeder location. She’s been a frequent suet and seed feeder visitor this year. We’ve seen only three Redpolls this year—quite a contrast to the last two years when they were frequent large flocks of them this time of year.

March 26, 2006
Kayt spotted a male Pine Grosbeak on the ground under the feeder, and promptly went out to fill up the feeders and to spread sunflower seeds underneath. In the evenings these last few weeks we hear Boreal Owls and up to three Great Horned Owls. Two nights ago, we heard what we think is a juvenile Great Horned Owl, as it seemed to stutter in its answer to the two adults. All seemed located in a triangle, with us in the center.

April 1, 2006
Pine Grosbeak pair hanging out and eating under the feeder. They stayed under the feeder for quite a while, then went to the big tree root pile beyond (and between the two trees that the feeders are suspended from, from the view we've got out the livingroom window) and picked up little pieces of dirt (to help in digestion I found out when I read Stan's Wisconsin Bird Guide). They also took little baths in the snow covering some of the tree roots (also something Stan talks about). The Pine Grosbeaks sure are beautiful birds. So glad that they have come to feed under our feeders.
Oh, cool, a female Hairy Woodpecker is out eating under the feeders now. I heard a lot of talk out there, so looked out and there she was. I'm so glad that she announces herself so that we get good sightings of her. I love to see the birds that are distinguishable as male or female. Especially the Grosbeaks that are so very beautiful. A squirrel is out there now, trying to find something good left on the ground. Sunny is in the window watching.
Lots more bird and squirrel activity all day. Ravens calling, more visits from both Pine Grosbeaks and from just the male, some Gray Jays, and the usual chickadees.
The past few nights there has been lots of owl activity. In fact last night the boreal was so loud (must have been really close) we could hear it from inside the house. Boreal and Great Horned calling last night.

April 5, 2006
AM, about 8:00, seemed to be the signal for birds to come munch at the feeder. First the male, then the female Pine Grosbeak came to eat under the feeder. They were joined by two Gray Jays, multiple Black Capped Chickadees and Boreal Chickadees, the female Hairy Woodpecker, and at least three squirrels. Lots of activity out there! We haven’t heard owls at night for nearly a week; it’s really light even at 10:00 PM, so perhaps they just aren’t out yet.

April 8, 2006
We sat on the deck to enjoy the sunlight. Still about four feet of snow on the ground, and it will snow all week (we didn’t know that yet). It was cool, but quite comfortable on the porch in the snow with the house behind us. A butterfly came by—the next day Sine looked it up online, and we think it was a Hoary Comma. Since it has been cold and snowy since, we worry about what happened to it. But the online reference said that the adults over-winter, so perhaps it just found a nice place to hang out until the sun returns.

April 10, 2006
The Pine Grosbeak pair continues to hang out and eat under the feeders. The male seems protective of the female, and scouts out the site before she flits in to eat. Still lots of Chickadees of both persuasions, and the female Hairy Woodpecker is a daily visitor. It warmed up to 40 and 50, then has been snowing off an on for days, though it melts quickly. Still have quite a bit of snow on the ground. We saw a Red Fox at the pond in Ester last week. Watched it cross the road, really wary of both us and the road, it seemed. This evening, a male Junco appeared on the deck, and flew back and forth carrying on its business.

April 11, 2006
Ursa scared a flock of Spruce Grouse as they were picking up little pieces of gravel in the driveway this morning. No sign of Redpolls in days.

April 13, 2006
Most exciting sighting in years. Snow Buntings! Last evening, I sat on the porch for awhile and noticed the sweetest warbling among the trees. There seemed to be at least three of these new birdsongs, but I didn’t see the singers. Then tonight, when I arrived home, four of them were feasting on the ground around the log buffet table. They all moved to under the seed feeder until they flew away when I came out to put out more seed. They are stunningly beautiful—pure white with black backs and wing tips, and a bit of rust on their heads and breasts. Since there are four, I assume they are two pairs, but can’t tell them apart. Chubby little birds, definitely in their white stage. Still have loads of snow, and the ground is covered 100%.

April 14, 2006
Snow Buntings still here. One seems aggressive and chases the others, and they are wary of squirrels. Another male Junco is out there, bringing our total, it seems, to two. This evening when I brought Kayt home from the airport, the four Snow Buntings flew away from the buffet table, so she got to see them briefly. Then—another cool sighting—late evening, still quite light outside, Kayt saw a Red Fox in the back yard. It moved swiftly along the path just on the edge of the woods, slipped behind the buffet table and glided deep into the woods.

April 15, 2006
The Snow Buntings walk and hop to get around, more than they fly. They also seem to nestle into the snow and just sit for long periods. Grooving in the sun, it seems, as they face the sun while they are roosting. Sun-roosting, perhaps. Kayt worked outside digging the greenhouse out from about four feet of snow, and Ursa ran around with her Frisbee, yet Kayt reports that the Snow Buntings did not seem fearful nor did they fly away. No sign of the Pine Grosbeaks for three days now. Seems they have moved on for the season.

April 16, 2006
A fox ran through the back yard. Kayt saw it, then Sine, Kayt and Ursa all got to watch it go through the back yard and then off through the trees to the West. Snow Buntings are still here.

April 17, 2006
A BIG Hawk flew through the yard and perched somewhere near, as Sine saw it first, then 5 or 10 minutes later Sine, Kayt and Ursa saw it fly away through the trees behind the house (south). Sine saw the Snow Buntings flying to the south outta here right before the Hawk sighting. We are hoping that the Hawk didn’t get the Snow Buntings, or any of “our” birds or squirrels.

April 18, 2006
Not so much bird activity at the feeders today. At least there wasn’t so much seed gone today as there had been. We did see one Snow Bunting tonight after getting home. Watched The Sting on DVD upstairs, so didn’t spend a lot of time bird watching tonight.

April 19, 2006
Sine left for Hollywood this morning. Kayt and Ursa walked out to play Frisbee and flushed a Grouse who flew up on top of the house and was on the front peak of the roof for a long time. Wish we’d have had the camera so we could have taken a picture of our Grouse roof ornament. Pretty cool. A female (I think it was a female) Hairy Woodpecker was out pecking around under the bird feeders after Kayt and Ursa filled them up.

April 23, 2006
Snowed right smart this Sunday morning. Got a couple of inches. It might melt though, as the temp is right at the freezing mark, and the sun looks like it is coming out. The roof is dripping as are the trees. A group of Juncos were pecking around in the gravel under the truck (where the snow hadn’t covered the ground) and then they came around under the windows where the bird feeders used to be and were picking up bird seed that has surfaced under the windows as the snow has melted.

April 25, 2006
Kayt had mentioned seeing several Dark-Eyed Juncos this past weekend. Today there are easily a dozen of them scuffling through the leaves under the seed feeder and under where the feeder used to be here at the house. Also two Common Redpolls, which makes me think that this is a different flock than the one who flew in earlier in March. Three Hoary Comma butterflies were trapped in the north kitchen window, like last year (only one last year, though). I think a year or so ago a butterfly laid eggs, and they are now hatching. I loosened up half of the staples so I could get them. I laid them very carefully on the logs on the porch, and two of them remained upright. Unfortunately, one seemed not to have made it. It just lay on its side, showing no signs of life. An hour later, the other two had moved into the sun but it had not. I moved it into the sun, though it still just laid there motionless. Lo and behold! An hour later it was revived and also standing upright in the sun!

April 26, 2006
This morning all three Hoary Comma butterflies are sunning themselves, but remaining motionless. With their wings closed, they look absolutely like spruce bark, right down to the jagged edges and silvery streaks. By the time Sine got home, two had flown away. By late evening, the third one left. This evening, Sine sat on the deck for a couple of hours. There were at least a dozen Dark-Eyed Juncos—the dark slate color—and Chickadees flitting about, singing and twittering. Squirrels all around also, chattering and whirring. Lots of activity, the trees filled with it. Suddenly, all of the birds and the squirrels scrambled or flew for cover and the forest slid into immediate silence. So quiet, in fact, that I could clearly hear what they had heard! A hawk—immense and low flying—cruised the yard, its wings making a whooshing sound as it passed overhead. The forest was quiet for several minutes, and then, one-by-one, the birds returned, the squirrels crept out, and activity returned to its normal level. Quite an experience! Don’t know what kind of hawk it is, but it is very large. It must be the individual we saw last week, but I didn’t get enough of a sighting to be able to identify it. It seems to have a largish head—an eagle, owl, or harrier, perhaps? Long wings. The Northern Harrier, for example, though uncommon in the Interior (per Armstrong book), flies with the down-turned wings like this individual did, and has the largish head and smallish tail.

April 30, 2006
Kayt and I were picnicking on our porch for lunch in the sun (Kayt got credit for the most brilliant idea of the week), hanging out and enjoying the birds. We still have quite a bit of snow covering the ground. Suddenly, silence descended, and birds disappeared. A large gray bird that we at first thought was a Gray Jay flew into the feeder area and perched on a log. I commented how the silence was just like the time the Northern Harrier came through, and that the birds must have mistaken the Gray Jay for a Hawk. Then Kayt said, I don’t think it’s a Gray Jay. At that moment, it took off after a little bird that had been trying to hide at the feeder site and chased it into the woods. We saw brown bars under its wings, so we knew it wasn’t a Gray Jay! It chased another bird, then flew off. We think it may be a Sharp Shinned Hawk, but didn’t really get enough of a sighting to be able to conclusively identify it.

May 3, 2006
Ursa and I just saw the fox in our yard. This is the second time we’ve seen a fox in our yard this year. It's golden red, Dulce color (my beloved dog who was the color of fall grasses.) It came up the path from the South Woods like before, and was headed to the bird feeders on the West side of the house. It spotted us about the time it got to the log buffet table, and we all looked at each other for 15 seconds, and then Ursa couldn't help making noise even though I was holding her and telling her not to bark. But it didn't flee, just turned and sauntered off back into the woods. I think it must be a regular visitor. Jordan had one a few years ago who ate under her feeder, (seed, not birds), so I suppose ours does, too.

May 7, 2006
On Friday, I heard what I thought might have been a robin at UAF, and then heard a similar call at home while we sat on the porch. We could not see the singer. But then today, two days later, an American Robin is cruising our yard looking for bugs.

May 14, 2006
Worked outside, all three of us, Saturday and Sunday. Lovely days. Saw a swallow—not sure what kind, but it was iridescent on its back and circled over our new orchard many times. Flew right over our heads seeming not to care that we were present. Stan’s description of a Tree Swallow seems to fit, but we just can’t tell. Only saw the one—but heard a strange call. Robins sing all night, and it’s still quite light out at midnight.

May 23, 2006
Sine has been working outside for the last several days, putting in our first Alaska garden and planting perennials and fruiting trees and shrubs. Both of us saw the golden fox last week, late in the evening. Yesterday Sine saw a hawk with its prey dangling from its talons. A mouse or shrew, perhaps? Lots of robins in the woods who sing all night and all day. Juncos and the Hairy Woodpecker are the only regular feeder visitors. Well, and the red squirrels. Kayt saw lots of Sandhill Cranes behind her chiropractor’s office yesterday, and we see ducks often when we go near rivers and ponds.

June 19, 2006
On our walk this AM, we heard ravens cro-acking and squawking constantly near the Owl Cabin. We wondered what was going on, as it seemed to be quite the party. Then when Sine left for work, she saw a black bear in the power right-of-way. We wonder if the ravens were following the bear on its meanderings like they are said to do with wolf packs.

July 26, 2006
Kayt spotted what we think is black bear poop on the margin of the road just at the property lines between Owl and Sunana. It had lots of long ivory-colored hair, and what I think look like cherry pits (Kayt thinks there are some other seeds; we had just put out cherries on the log buffet table, so it is to our emotional advantage to think that the seeds in the poop are something other than what would have been in our yard). Looks like VERY LARGE dog poop, but with lots of hair clumped on one end, and the seeds on the other end.

August 15, 2006
Sine is at home working in the garden and yard. Early afternoon I heard what sounded like a hawk ki-ki-ki-ki on the north side of the garden—perhaps unrelated to the sighting. A few minutes later, I saw a very large dark bird. At first I thought it was a raven, but it’s a Great Horned Owl! It perched on a branch and has been there for several hours now. It seems completely unafraid of me or Ursa, and watches me intently. I was able to get very close to it and peer at it with the binoculars, and it just blinks and follows my gaze. It’s a bit unnerving to be the object of a raptor’s attention!! After Kayt got home, we examined the photo I took and we agree on its identity. I had heard a Great Horned Owl for the first time this summer two evenings ago, the night I saw the first star. Quite exciting! BTW—the picture of the Owl here is one I took.

August 20, 2006 – Sunday morning
Foggy (or Sunana in the clouds) this morning when I (Kayt) got up at 8:15 to feed dogs (Evie is here while Tim is away) and kitties. Ursa went back to bed after she ate. Evie stayed down here with me though and kept watch on the squirrel and bird action on the deck. LOTS of squirrels running back and forth, chickadees on the feeders, and a female junco, I believe, hopping across the deck. Evie had to go from the freedom doors to the windows to follow the squirrel action. She is quite a good watcher dog. Didn’t make a sound either, which was very good, as Sine is upstairs sleeping off a BAD cold/flu. While I was eating my breakfast the sun burned off the fog or clouds, and the gray jays were swooping back and forth outside as well. Then I heard what sounded to me like a ki-ki-ki-ki so I got up to see if I could see what it was. Out beyond the garden I saw something on top of a birch that is broken off about 15 feet high. I got out the binoculars and saw what I believe to be a hawk owl. The size, coloring, and markings seemed to match those of the hawk owls, and there were no ear tufts for sure. The owl perched there on the top of the broken birch for quite a while, seemingly surveying the garden and surrounding clearing, then flew up into the birch trees beyond the bird feeder. While the owl was out there the gray jays, squirrels and other birds seemed to take to the trees, perhaps in hiding. When the owl flew into the birch trees I saw some chickadees scatter and clear out of that area. I lost sight of the owl, haven’t heard anymore owl calls, and the chickadees are back, so I imagine the morning hawk owl visit has concluded.

September 23, 2006 – Saturday
Sine is in Anchorage speaking at the ACLU membership meeting so I’m here on solitary duty with cats, dogs and all assorted duties. [We got the new puppy a few days ago, on September 16]. Today when I was out filling/cleaning out the feeders I heard a woodpecker and a lot of tapping on the trees to the southwest of the feeder hander trees. I looked over and there were two woodpeckers following each other up those trees, especially the dead standing ones. I was so happy to see that our woodpecker has a mate. Interesting thing is though, I don’t think that there was any red on either of the woodpeckers. I think they are both female. I didn’t have the binoculars out there with me, so can’t say for sure. The woodpeckers were out there going up and down the trees for some time though, and flying around the area. I kept looking but didn’t see any red. On Old Nenana on my way into town to take Kali in to the vet for the yeast infection in her ears I saw a rabbit that was turning white. Its legs and a few other spots were white. I also saw a grouse with its tail all spread out like a turkey. This grouse was on Old Nenana too. I saw a couple of grouse on Old Ridge that seemed to be starting to turn white as well.

September 24, 2006 – Sunday morning
Sine is still in Anchorage. Called while I was writing this. She is started home now. Earlier Ursa saw Mama moose and her baby. Baby isn’t such a baby anymore. Really is growing. Probably 4 foot tall. Ursa had to woof and woof. Not too loud, just to let the moose know that she (Ursa) was guarding the house. Lots of squirrels chasing each other around out there. Simmy is sitting in the window watching the squirrels and gray jays. Tim reported seeing a lynx at Owl Cabin, but we assumed that he’s a city boy and wouldn’t know a lynx from a fox. But then, Kayt saw strange poop on the road near where the bear poop was earlier this year. She showed it to Sine, and we looked it up in the field guide. Sure does look like lynx poop to us, as it matches the book’s drawing. Makes us nervous to be out with the little puppy, who is just the size of a loaf of bread, and a lynx nearby.

September 30, 2006
Sine: On my home from Anchorage last week, it was a brilliantly clear fall day. I saw Denali several times, and took great pictures. First time I have ever seen Denali without clouds up so close. Sheer awe. A black bear crossed the road at a fast trot somewhere in the Matanuska Valley. I stopped at a stream to see what I could see, and found a set of what I think are caribou bones. The hips and several vertebrae. Brought them home for Kayt. Snowed last night for the first time—we got about 2 inches, but today it is melting. We harvested the last of the garden in the snow, and Kayt’s hands got so cold they turned red and were very painful. Still, I think it was worth the discomfort! We had broccoli soup last night made of the leaves, and we froze celery and fennel tops for this winter. Also pulled the beets and carrots; we were surprised at how many carrots there were, and how big they had gotten. but the beets were disappointing. It was a bad year for root crops I think because of the lack of sun and the chronic cool weather and rain. Borealys is 6 weeks old this weekend. Maybe today is her 6th week birthday. She’s a mellow puppy compared to Ursa and certainly to Aki!! She is afraid of the dark and gets cold really quickly. Still, all day today she has been good about going outside to potty.

November 19, 2006
It’s -20 these days and nights. Last night, we heard the Great Horned Owl every time we took Borealys out to potty. First time we’ve heard it since early fall when we saw it on the ridge and then heard it in the evening. Last week Borys learned to fetch, the week before that she learned to sit and once she scratched on the door to be let out. Training is going pretty well. She has a “thing” about collars, and sulks and hides whenever a collar is apparent. She is 14 weeks old this weekend. Kayt took out sweet potato leavings to the buffet table, and a Gray Jay is feasting on it. We have had several fox sightings. We think it’s a male because “someone” has pooped and peed on the buffet table—marking it, we think. He uses the same path as the fox who was our frequent visitor last year. Really pretty red fox, who comes early in the light and cruises the buffet table. If there is something interesting on it, he gets on top to snack. Apparently, if the buffet table doesn’t hold interesting snacks, he marks it with his dissatisfaction! This is quite like the fox at Bold Moon who would poop outside the doggie door to leave a message for the dogs. We have about 6” of snow, and it’s been very cold. Linda Hester was here in October, and we saw the Aurora Borealis her first and second nights. We also heard what we think was a flock of Sandhill Cranes, Trumpeter Swans, or maybe Snow Geese overhead migrating south in the dark. We couldn’t see them, but we could hear them clearly. They sounded most like trumpets, which is why I think they may be Trumpeter Swans. And earlier, when I was in the Matanuska Valley in September, I saw a pair on a river. It looks like we have a nesting pair of Hairy Woodpeckers. We have been seeing a couple of them at a time, and then yesterday we confirmed that the one feeding at the seed feeder had a red skullcap. This year is the first year we have seen a male at this house. This morning a Redpoll was taking a snow bath on the post on the back porch. There is a flock of other birds in the woods too far away for us to identify, but we think they are also Redpolls. Chickadees at the feeder for the last several weeks, and this past week we saw Boreal Chickadees.

November 22, 2006
It’s definitely a male Hairy Woodpecker! I (Sine) went out to feed the birds this morning about 9:30. It’s still dusk out and snowing a little. It’s been in the -20s for several days, but today it’s just below 0. I was able to get really close to the feeder before the woodpecker flew away—I was no further than 15 feet away so I could clearly see the bright red patch on his neck. He was contentedly feeding from the seed feeder, and had been for quite some time. We are having to fill the seed feeder about every other day now, as they are going through it fast. Looks like we have about a dozen Black-Capped Chickadees, a couple of Boreal Chickadees, and about a dozen Common Redpolls. Kayt noticed that the Redpolls here are more rusty than they are red. Regional variation? At work, there is a flock of Pine Grosbeaks that are hanging out in the courtyards around Gruening. I counted 30 of them this past week. They twitter and have such a sweet sound. The trees they roost in seem alive with sound.

November 23, 2006
Thanksgiving day. We are cooking and cleaning and preparing to have Susan and Lillian over for lunch. It’s -17, and cloudy. Kayt spotted a pair of Pine Grosbeaks at the feeder! The male was the first to be spotted—he’s whistling such a sweet tune. Stan calls it a rich sweet tone, and he’s right. The female is more olive than dull yellow, as Stan describes her. They are hanging out near the feeder, but not sure if they are feeding from it. The male woodpecker has been eating and eating, with a lot of hullabaloo going on around him, but he’s concentrating on his breakfast. Kayt counted well over a dozen Common Redpolls, and there are at least a dozen Black-Capped Chickadees and a handful of Boreal Chickadees. There are three or four squirrels who have quite the paths established to the ground under the feeder and to their various caches in the woods and shed. The feeder is busy today. We are filling it every day now. Had a moose hanging out in the yard for quite a while as we were cooking Thanksgiving dinner and cleaning this morning. Ursa saw her as she (the moose) was out checking to see what was on the buffet table. When the moose found nothing much on the buffet table she went over under the bird feeder and was eating there. Then the moose started nibbling on the hanging bird feeder so Kayt went out and told the moose that she could eat seeds off the ground but not out of the bird feeder. Then the moose came up on the porch and was checking out stuff on the porch so Sine went out and took some pictures. Then the moose went back out to the bird feeders (and had to be talked to again about not pulling down the birdfeeder) then went around the yard eating herbs and grass, etc. Finally when Kayt turned on the vacuum cleaner the moose didn’t seem to like that and moseyed down the trail in back of the house. Quite a long moose visit, and a moose we didn’t really recognize. She sure was BIG though.

December 10, 2006
Kayt fed the birds first thing this morning. We have to fill up the seed feeder every 24 hours to keep up with the demand. Looks like four Pine Grosbeaks, two girls and two boys, who have been here for at least a month. Lots of Black-Capped Chickadees, a handful of Boreal Chickadees, and Redpolls. It looks like we have at least two foxes; one seems cowed by the birds and ducks and cringes when it eats the seed on the ground. Another seems nonplussed. The foxes seem to enjoy the buffet table spread. Last night we slept in Stella and at 1:00 when we went to bed there was still some stuff on the table. But not when we got up! And Kayt said there were little pee spots around, so looks like the male got the feast. Borealys learned to fetch balls this week and does so rather reliably. We got the dogs red blinkers for their collars, and we are so much more comfortable taking them on walks in the dusk and during the dark. Which is nearly constant now. It’s either dusk or completely dark now. Haven’t seen the sun down here in our valley for a couple of weeks. It’s very mild weather—in the high 20s and even up to 30 last evening, which is why we slept in Stella.

December 16, 2006
Saturday noon, Sine left for the office a few minutes ago. There is a woodpecker out eating the new “no waste” feed from the tube feeder. Still lots of chickadees and redpolls all over out there, and a squirrel hanging out of one of the sticks out there , and going down to pick up good stuff off the ground. The new feed is a big hit.
During the half hour that we were on the first leg of our walk someone (don’t know who it was because we weren’t here to see) ate most of the bread, cake, etc. that we’d put out on the buffet table (left overs from the Education celebration). There are two gray jays out there eating now, so they must have been the ones to get the bounty from the School of Ed. Throngs of red polls and chickadees, and at least one squirrel are continuing to enjoy the new birdfeed in and under the feeders.
After the second leg of our walk, a half hour of walking to Owl Cabin and down the trail in back of Owl cabin and a half hour over with Evie, in the house and getting Evie out to potty, we came back to gray jays cleaning up what is left on the buffet table, and continued throngs of appreciative red polls and chickadees, and at least one squirrel. Ursa and Borealys cornered one squirrel (don’t know if it is the same one that has been enjoying the new bird seed) under the woodpile, then chased it over to the shed. Quite the exciting time with wildlife! Ursa is tired and taking a rest, Bory just laid down with her. I’m expecting some quiet after our walking frenzy.