Monday, March 28, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Of the three Kestrels to be released, two were anxious and ready to go, bursting out of the crate as soon as they saw the sky! The third one was more reluctant, and John had to encourage it to take off.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Mockingbirds are very territorial, of course, and prefer to perch on the highest spot in their territory. At home the Mockingbird will chase others away from the feeders with little provocation.
I went back to the Falls of the Ohio for a while, to see how the river is receding. The Ohio is no longer flooding, but not back in its banks by any means, and debris leaves a clear high water mark along the shore. This Hairy Woodpecker is the first I've ever been able to photograph. He must be after some yummy bugs that drowned on this floating log.
I must really like the Internet. I am webmaster for two different websites, Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve and Beckham Bird Club, plus my own blog. This week I started a nature blog for the Nature Preserve called KY Natural Inquirer. Tavia and I will work on it together, focusing on the seasonal changes and natural questions that arise at the Preserve. Hope you will enjoy it too.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Oh my! While this Mallard drake gleams serenely in the sun, lots of things are going on. The earthquake in Japan - such a difference between it and the one in Haiti. Even in the videos on TV, I did not notice the buildings completely collapsing as they did in Haiti. Of course, the Japanese probably know more about earthquakes and how to survive them than anyone anywhere else. One of the volunteers at Raptor Rehab is a pilot for UPS, and she flies all over the world. We learned that she was in a hotel in Osaka when the quake struck, and had to walk down 44 flights of stairs. I had to go down 13 when someone pulled the fire alarm in college and thought I would die! She'll be aching for days. We were all glad to hear she's OK. Just hope the airport gets working so she can fly out again.
This morning I went birding with Beckham Bird Club at a lake I'd never been to before near Elizabethtown, KY. We saw a good variety of water birds, including a Horned Grebe in breeding plumage (a first for me), and the first Tree Swallows of the season. A Red Shouldered Hawk carried a snake away in the distance. The Ky Birdlist has reported a Ross' Goose here, and we found it with a group of domestic gray geese. Over 200 Sandhill Cranes flew over on their way north.
We saw more American Coots than I've ever seen in one place together too. I didn't realize how small they really are until some swam next to this Mallard. You expect Gulls to swoop and dive down to the water, but not Crows! These Crows were out there swooping with the Gulls like they do it every day, and came up with something in their beaks. It almost looks like Cheetos...I'm sure Crows will eat Cheetos, but why would Cheetos be floating in the middle of a large lake?
I was impressed with the accurate predictions about the tsunamis after the quake, and how quickly they crossed half a world. We have flooding on the Ohio River too, but nothing as bad as other places. Some of the lower roads are covered. You can see the size of the logs that float downstream and end up at the Falls of the Ohio.
Those large logs get past the dam because the Army Corps of Engineers just opens the gates entirely, as you can see from this photo of the dam, just above a railroad trestle at the falls. What you can't see is the rest of the dam extending from the gates to where I am standing, which are completely covered with water. I know the dam is about 30 feet taller than the fossil beds, and it's completely covered. Water extends from shore to shore.
Downstream at the George Rogers Clark cabin, the dam is also completely submerged. This photo is taken from the cabin and you can barely see the gates at the lower end of the dam by the LG&E power plant, shut down when the river gets too high. It must be over a mile from the cabin to Shippingport Island and the power plant.
Last spring we had the very first Bald Eagle nest in Jefferson County, KY, here at Shippingport Island in the middle of the Ohio River. Unfortunately, the nest failed, and no young hatched. People have asked me why, but I never heard any theories. Well, the same pair are back, and she's sitting in the same nest (you can barely see her - remember the distance). I ran into some birding friends who really know their stuff. They asked if the male was around but I hadn't seen him. They shook their heads sadly. They think the nest failed last year because this male is a dead-beat dad. He didn't do his share of incubating the eggs while the female hunts, nor did he bring her fish while she sat on the eggs. Thus the eggs were exposed too much during bad weather last spring and died. I wonder if Eagles ever divorce?
Saturday, March 05, 2011
"Let's go for a walk," my daughter said. "I've got the day off, and have never seen Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve. You always talk about it, so Bailey and I want to go." What a wonderful idea! And how nice to have your adult daughter suggest it! The sun is shining through the bare trees, while buds and small plants bravely poke their way out from winter's hiding.
We started down Mahan Lane and said hi to the volunteers working to prepare the six acre fern garden for more planting. Things were quiet at the Frog Pond, so we headed down towards the waterfalls and Little Huckleberry Creek. One of my favorite places is Hidden Spring, and as we climbed up to its outlet, I saw a slight movement on the ground. It's a beautiful common garter snake, about a foot long.
The March Open House Saturday is going to be about snakes. One of the naturalists from Salato Wildlife Education Center in Frankfort will come on March 19th with some of his snakes, but I thought it would be great to have a local representative. Mary Beth had a plastic bag in her pocket, so we caught this one, and put him in a tank back at the office. According to the internet, they eat earthworms, frogs, and mice, among other things. In turn, they provide an important food source for many birds and mammals. The red-shouldered hawk, in particular, relies on the collection of snakes to help feed their young during the nesting season. This little guy felt very strong as he wrapped around my fingers. And his tongue is red! When the event is over, we'll take him back where we found him for release.
With all the rain we've had in Kentucky lately, the creeks on the Preserve were full, but not cloudy at all. The Fallen Rock waterfall usually just trickles behind the stones, but this time the water actually falls over the front of the rock. Other springs burst from the limestone hillsides, merrily rolling toward the largers creeks, and ultimately, the nearby Ohio River.
Bailey, my granddog, had a great time. She's spent most of her life as an apartment dog, and isn't too interested in taking walks when she stays at our house. But all the smells intrigued her, and she stayed as far out on the leash as it goes the whole time we walked the trail. Finally, she couldn't stand it any more, and had to wade in the creek. "After all," she said, "I am a Retriever!"