Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Rocket J. Squirrel

Well, I can check another item off of my life wish list. I got to touch a flying squirrel! I have had a fascination (bordering on obsession) with flying squirrels for a few years since I first saw them in my back yard. A family of four moved into this very expensive carved bird house. On closer inspection, they had chewed the nostril to enlarge the entrance, but I didn't care because I had never seen such beautiful little creatures. We learned to time it so we would stand by the tree when the squirrels left the house for their night of hunting and gathering food. They seemed not to mind our presence at all. They were hard to keep an eye on though because they are FAST.

Sadly, they abandoned this nest after the gray squirrels sniffed out their food stash. I feel partly to blame because I had put out so many nuts for the flyers. This spring we hung a "flying squirrel condo" - it's amazing what you can find on ebay! A few weeks ago we found that flyers had moved in!
On Saturday my favorite bird store had a presentation by a fellow who owns several flying squirrels. Just look at that face! I had read that flying squirrel fur is very soft. This little guy's fur felt like warm silk.

Here you can see the stretchy flap of skin (patagium) that allows the squirrel to glide from place to place. You don't need to go to Fostbite Falls, Minnesota to find flying squirrels. I found them in my back yard.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Buddy in the Garden

Every morning our dog Gidget and our bunny Buddy race me to the back door for their morning romp in the back yard. I usually take my coffee outside with me because it take a bit for Gidget to do her business and thoroughly sniff the yard for overnight intruders. Buddy always hops straight for this flower bed and checks it over from one end to the other. When he's satisfied that all is in order, he tears across the yard to follow Gidget on her rounds.

"Can you see me back here?"

"The meal worms are all gone- you better fill it."

"This looks tasty!"

"We want to go in NOW!"

"Tired... "

Monday, September 18, 2006

Along the Creek

I just finished a long and difficult weekend working nights in a local trauma center. I need to see something pretty. Don't have much to say though.

Joe-Pye weed.
Square-stemmed Monkey Flower.
Dock-leaved Smartweed.
This fern was four feet tall. I really need to get up north.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cooper's on the Shed!

This gorgeous Cooper's hawk has been buzzing the feeder station all summer, and finally she landed long enough for me to drink in a good long look.

The feeder station (converted swing set) is about 6 feet to the left of this shed (converted play house!).

The yard is dead silent when she's around.

She hopped down the fence to the right of the shed. In front of her is a brush pile that the songbirds like. She watched that pile for quite some time looking for movement. In the past I've seen her punch down into that brush pile trying to shake out a meal.

I watched her open her mouth repeatedly, it looked like yawning, then she bent over and coughed up a pellet. I ran out after she left, with a baggie in my hand, and looked for a good 20 minutes for that pellet- no luck. My kids came outside to see what I was looking for. When I explained, they just looked at each other and shook their heads. John told me "Mom you're sooo weird. You need to get a life."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Brown Thrasher at Home

I've had a new visitor in the back yard at home. This handsome Brown Thrasher has been in the lilac hedge and around the back feeding station for almost two weeks. He is the first thrasher that I've seen in my home yard in the northwest suburbs of the Twin Cities. I've had a wonderful opportunity to watch his feeding behavior. He runs quickly back and forth on the ground, fluttering his wings, then turns quickly and scans the ground behind himself (thrashing... thrasher!) checking for disturbed insects.

He uses his long, curved bill to noisily flip over rocks and leaves.

He has spent A LOT of time stuffing himself with suet.

I feed mealworms in the cups of this jelly feeder. It took him only a few minutes to find the mealworms after I put some out and he empties the feeder whenever I fill it!

It's been fun watching the thrasher interact with the gray squirrels. Just after the photo above, they had a face-off. After a few seconds and lots of squirrel chatter, the thrasher charged the squirrel and ran it off! GO THRASHER!! Stay as long as you like.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Beaked Hazelnuts

Hasty Brook is thick with beaked hazelnuts. They grow well in shade under old growth trees. Nut production goes up with available sun. The bushes along our road have really taken off and we've enjoyed watching the nut crop grow.

When we went up there last week this was all we found of the bumper crop and an insect got the nut before a four-footed critter could!

I hope he enjoys the nuts!