Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wildlife sightings 2007

January 20, 2007
Quite a cold snap two weeks ago, with temperatures here at home hovering -25 to -33. Dogs were miserable, and we had multiple systems failure. But even worse, Fred’s ran out of Woodpecker Seed!!! We tried various substitutes, but the birds don’t like anything as well as their Woodpecker Seed. The Pine Grosbeaks ended up leaving, though I (Sine) saw five about 2 miles south on Old Nenana last week. Once we started getting the right seed again, the Grosbeaks returned. Now there are about three dozen small birds out there—a handful of Chickadees, Boreal and Black-Capped, and the rest seem to be Hoary and Common Redpolls. A male Hairy Woodpecker is an occasional sighting, though we suspect he is a daily regular while we’re at work.
The temp has warmed up and this week it has been around zero to ten above. Nice weather, snowing nearly all the time with fine, light flakes. The feeder needs to be filled once a day, but the birds only empty out ½ to 2/3 this last week. Just a few days ago they emptied it more than once a day, and we commonly filled it twice a day just to keep up. Must be the warmer weather so that they can find other food besides our feeder.
We have a very aggressive moose who ate my ice candles (booo!) and hissed at us once when she was standing in front of our door on the porch. She often is spotted sleeping and/or lying under the bird seed vacuuming up seeds. We have an occasional fox visitor, but we’ve slowed down leaving treats on the buffet table because of our moose issues.
We take the dogs for a walk every day, sometimes more than once a day. Borys is teething, and we have collected five baby teeth. Her appetite is affected, and her digestive system, and there are nights when Kayt (and me) have to get up 5-6 times in the night to let her out. We will be glad when she is an adult, but I know we will miss the exuberance of puppyhood once it’s done. Last Saturday Borealys learned how to fetch Frisbees, and lost another tooth in the process. All of a sudden she just seemed to “get it”, whereas in the past, she has watched Ursa, or even chased Ursa, but refused to put her mouth on the Frisbee. We’re pretty excited about having another good Frisbee dog, and Kayt is looking forward to showing her off at the Ester 4th of July picnic this summer.
Just got back from an hour-long walk in the valley with Borealys and Ursa. Borealys has never walked that far from home before, and Ursa was having a good time showing her how to be a trail dog. They would run far ahead of me, and then come charging back. At the beginning, Ursa was always the lead dog in the charge back to MamaSine, but near the end of our walk, Borealys was playing lead dog role. We had lots of fun, and Ursa and I are exhausted. Borys, though, is ready for more action.

February 25, 2007
Kayt is upstairs doing a job application, and I’ve been helping. It’s cold again. Been in the minus -20s and -30s here at our house, and even colder in town. Cecile says that it’s only -10 to -15 at her house; quite a difference even though we’re so close to her. About 3 dozen birds out at the feeder. We have both a male and female Hairy Woodpecker, and yesterday he fed on seeds while she fed on suet at the same time. He’s really plump or fluffed out, and Kayt was sure he was pregnant with eggs back before the light returned. Seems likely that he’s just fluffy, but he is much plumper looking than the female. Kayt counted 9 Pine Grosbeaks two weeks ago, and our fox has been a continual presence this weekend. Borys didn’t eat her breakfast yesterday, so Kayt took it out for the fox. We think she is the one who got it, because the buffet table was cleaned off about an hour later. We fill the feeder once a day now, and they empty it out before dusk.

April 7, 2007
Kayt is in Chicago at the MSS meetings presenting her Transforming Survival into Resistance Paper. Sine at home alone with the dogs. Yesterday, it warmed up significantly in the 50s, and the snow melted enough to scoop the deck. Borys was thrilled and couldn’t believe the sights and smells associated with spring. We sat outside for an hour in the sun, and then in the evening built a fire and mused, but she was afraid of the deck. But today, she loves going on and off the porch—on the right side nearest the ground, the steps are still scary. I read and worked on the porch for a few hours this afternoon, and she and Ursa grooved on the deck. Mostly Ursa and I grooved, and the puppy sniffed and scooped snow with her nose. She found an old frozen chew-chew and thought she was queen of the world. The redpolls seem to have disappeared; we lost them two weeks ago when Fred’s ran out of woodpecker seed. But our Hairy Woodpecker couple is still around, and lots of Chickadees and Boreal Chickadees and at least one Pine Grosbeak pair. We have two seed feeders, and fill them once a day or so. It’s light when we get up (5:30AM with the puppy) and light when we go to bed (11:00PM). We hear Great Horned Owls, mostly in the valley and to the north. Three squirrel regulars at the feeders.

August 2, 2007
Summer quickly slipped by. Borealys will be a year old on August 16. Shy, beautiful, mostly a good dog with a few quirks to be worked out. She got over her collar “thing”, and her car “thing”, and her leash “thing”. Now she has a “thing” about the truck, won’t ALWAYS come when called, though usually she will. She is afraid of deep water, but loves to wade and to chase Ursa chasing sticks in the water. Sits reliably, fetches balls inside, catches reliably inside or out. Has not yet figured out that to play Frisbee, one has to fetch it back to the person instead of chewing it to smithereens. We took the dogs to drive on Standard Creek Road last weekend for Kayt’s 55th birthday. The full adventure is best told by Kayt. Borealys seemed to learn to swim; she had only waded before, and got dunked and frightened by the water. But the next day she seemed to have forgotten. SA saw a Sandhill Crane where they were swimming a couple of days earlier. We all saw a snowshoe hare, gray summer colors, with HUGE feet. We have a male moose hanging out at in the neighborhood, and Wilson says he’s gonna be dinner if he’s still here come hunting season. Have not seen anything of the aggressive female moose of last year. Hopefully, she has moved on to other territory. Borealys rolled in moose poop, the slimy wet kind, and got a 10:00 PM bath the other night. SA is anxious to see stars and goes out every night as late as she can and scans the heavens. Still light most of the time, though twilight is getting deeper and longer. Put up a chickadee and woodpecker box. Thought they would be cruisable all winter, and then available for nesting in spring. Garden is doing well; lots of rain this summer. Moose fence seems to be holding! A squirrel broke the rope holding up the feeders, so we have not fed birds all summer. The chickadees are cruising them today, and have been munching on the old suet. Looks like it’s time to get the feeders back in operation. Melanie moved into Owl Cabin two weeks ago, and saw a moose her first night. Weather is cool, few mosquitoes but lots of no-see-ums, and rain most every day or so.

August 3, 2007
First star 12:20 AM this morning; this evening, two owls calling.

August 31, 2007
First aurora borealis. Didn’t look like much at 11:00, but as soon as Kayt got outside, it blossomed into quite the show.

September 2, 2007
Downy Woodpecker on the suet feeder! Looks like a male. Kayt spotted it. First we have seen here at Sunana.

September, 2007
So. Kayt and I were sitting in the living room in early evening, still light out, but getting towards dusk. Suddenly, there were two bull moose in our back yard, sparring. They were jostling their antlers, and strutting around rubbing their antlers on trees. Later, we saw huge scrape marks on the trees where they had been rubbing their antlers, and one of them pulled the bird box off the tree. The two boys were having quite the time, play charging, and stomping around, and clacking their antlers. One was quite a bit smaller than the other, and he finally left the party and slunk off into the woods to the west of the house. Big Pretty Boy realized he had won this fight, and strutted over past the garden and up the driveway. He was king of the woods, at the top of his game. He had won his big fight. He was something to see. We were taking videos of him as he strutted his stuff and cockwalked up the driveway to the road. A truck went by, and suddenly, sixty seconds later, two gunshots rang out through the woods. Big Pretty Boy strutted his last walk.
We have struggled with this, and we were pretty angry at our neighbor for killing the moose. We finally found some peace with this because Big Pretty Boy had been at the top of his game, had been King, when he passed from this life. And he went for a good cause—our neighbor is feeding many children, and it was an easy kill. But he was shooting in our direction, and all of us were out in the yard, and that was scary.

September 14, 2007
Downy Woodpecker at the feeder—suet is his favorite. Has a tiny red nape; Kayt thinks she has seen a female also. And definitely a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers. The puppy is now a year old (as of August 16), and it’s a lovely fall. Warm, with no frost yet. The leaves are falling like rain today, and it seems just last week that we saw the first hints of yellow in the trees.

October 6, 2007
One morning this past week a Hawk Owl visited our yard. It first perched somewhere need the feeder, then swooped past the window on its way to the garden to catch a vole. Then it landed on the garden fence and flapped its wings while holding the (dead) vole in its talon. After a minute or so, it flew to a top of a broken off tree and seemed to stash the vole there. As soon as it left on some errand, a Chickadee went over to see what had been stashed there! It came back, perched on the top of the woodpecker nest box, ate its vole and perched in a birch for a nap. Sine took the dogs for a walk, and when we came back, noticed the screeching and flapping of a pair of Gray Jays. As it turns out, they had spotted the nesting Hawk Owl and were dive-bombing it and mobbing it! No rest for the weary Owl! Today is our first real snow. About 2” so far, and still coming down. The feeders are busy with a female Hairy Woodpecker, male Downey Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadees, Gray Jays, Black-Capped Chickadees. A Dark-Eyed Junco is still here, flitting around and around. The puppy, now a little over a year old, thinks snow is wonderful.

October 7, 2007
A female Pine Grosbeak landed on the feeder bar, but didn’t dine. She flew off pretty quickly. There was a female fox under the feeder this morning, driving the dogs crazy. And us crazy, with the barking . A female Downy Woodpecker ate on the suet in the window, so for sure we have a pair. And Kayt thinks the Hairy Woodpecker that was out on the far feeder was a male, so looks like we still have that pair, too. Gray Jays galore, and what seems to be a solitary Raven. It snowed for about 36 hours, and our total accumulation looks like 2-3 inches. Still warm—just in the 20s—but the birds, fox, and squirrels are feasting up for winter! Last week we heard a flock of something flying overhead just at dusk. Spooked the puppy, who was on the deck with Sine. I called Kayt out, and we couldn’t exactly figure out what they were. Not Canada Geese, but not so sure they were Sandhill Cranes, either. They left several weeks ago. Different from what we thought were the Trumpeter Swans last year when Linda was visiting.

October 20, 2007
Got lots of snow the last day or so while Sine was down in Juneau giving her Evening at Eagan lecture (which I got to attend via webstreaming from the UAS cable TV & webstreaming programming! Sine and Nicole were great!) Last night driving home I saw a fox cross the road on Parks. Looked larger but not as plump and beautifully furred as the on that visits here under our bird feeder. A female downy woodpecker was out eating on the wooden (and now wire) suet feeder outside the window (only one suet out there, the other suet feeder outside the window was open again and the ones out between the trees had been eaten all up). The chickadees were on the porch flitting around on the tree roots we’ve got displayed out there and making lots of noise to let me know that their feeders were empty so I went out and filled up all of the feeders. Soon a female Hairy woodpecker came for lunch, and a trio of gray jays and lots of chickadees. Now there is a squirrel out there eating on the cedar and wire feeder. So far it doesn’t seem to be destroying anything so I’m going to keep an eye on it but let it eat. I want to see if it is the one that opens the other suet feeder. If it starts causing any trouble I will chase it off. Oh, now a gray jay is flying by close trying to intimidate the squirrel. So far the gray jay is having no luck. Ohhhh, glad I am still watching! A male grosbeak just showed up. It really looks beautiful up there in the snowy tree. Now it is down on the snow under the feeders picking up seeds that have fallen. The squirrel is still on the suet eating. Now it just jumped off and dive bombed into the window ledge right where Otto was watching. Quite the excitement. The dogs had to come over to woof and protect us all. Now the squirrel is back and Otto has quite the observation spot, right at the window. Otto doesn’t seem to get all excited and chatter like Sunny & Sadie. He is just watching. If Sine’s flight is on time she should be taking off from Juneau about now. Guess I’ll get online to see if Alaska Air is on time. The male downy woodpecker came to partake of the new suet. The squirrel is finally done eating for now, I believe. The grosbeak has made more visits. And now a boreal chickadee is out on the new suet I put out. Quite a carnival out there today. Now the female downy is back! On the new suet. The sun has come out and now there is a female downy on the wooden suet feeder (looks bigger than the other one, could it be that we have two female downy woodpeckers and at least one male?) and a couple of boreal chickadees on the springing suet feeder. After my bath I’m back bird watching. and see another downy on the springing feeder. Couldn’t tell if it was male or female though. Female grosbeak out in the tree now, and a boreal chickadee on the springing bird feeder.

October 30, 2007
Cool sightings today, a momentous day as it is Sine’s Peer Unit Promotion & Tenure Review day. Sine went in earlier than I, and I was still here at home so took the dogs for a walk and we’d just gotten back when I was looking out the kitchen window and saw the fox out under the bird feeders. Saw the fox come in and circle around the birdfeeders so that it was facing the house and the windows to eat. The fox was eating when a BIG bird flew over and landed in one of the trees beyond the bird feeder. I didn’t know what the bird was, except the it was BIG. I got out the binoculars so that I could see it better and realized that it was some sort of hawk. When I got out the binoculars Ursa realized something was up and went over to the window to see what I was looking at. Ursa and Borealys saw the fox then, so had to bark and bark, and bark. The hawk moved from tree to tree watching the fox, I think. Then, I think, got tired of all of the barking and flew further into the woods, and then away. I got enough time watching it to figure out that it was a Northern Goshawk. Pretty cool to see.
Really was striking looking, and more the blue gray and white colors that show up in the picture above with the goshawk flying. As I said, the Goshawk left, then after awhile the fox left too. I had to get to town to teach Ross’s class, so was getting ready to head in. The fox came back, but I couldn’t wait any longer to leave, so went right out with the fox there under the birdfeeder. The fox watched me while I unplugged the car and wrapped up the cord, then stepped back behind the birdfeeders and sat down and watched me leave. I imagine it went back to eating after I was out of the driveway.
Here is some more information about the Goshawk:
“The northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) is the largest North American member of the genus Accipiter, or "true hawks." An adult goshawk is 21-26 inches long with a wing span of 40-46 inches. Females are usually larger than males. Its wings and back are blue-gray and its underparts are white with fine black barring. The undertail coverts are white and fluffy, and quite noticeable in the field. The top of its head, called the crown, is dark and separated from the blue-gray back by a white eyebrow that flares behind its deep red eye.”

November 2, 2007
Sine saw a big bird swoop past as she was sitting on the couch reading tonight. She figures it must have been an owl, since it is pitch black out there. Probably no other birds out flying this time of night.

December 26, 2007.
Sine got up in the morning and said, huh. Kayt, still upstairs, said what? And Sine said, oh, only two bull moose sparring in our yard! They heard us, and slipped away into the woods. Quite the sighting, as we have only rarely seen bulls, much less bulls sparring in our yard.

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