Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Birds with Red Patches and a Mystery Lump in a Tree

Mr. Red-bellied Woodpecker was back today. He sat for a few moments on the edge of the iced over bird bath and looked up. Marian Anderson, my partner in the Owl Who Wasn't escapade had called early and said that the Sandhill Cranes were migrating through. She'd gone outside and it sounded like they were on a branch over her head they were so loud but of course they were high in the sky flapping by. Perhaps they're even higher now and Mr. Red-belly can see them and I can't.

Yesterday V after V of Canada Geese passed over. It's been cold enough north of here for long enough that some of the open water has begun to ice over. With that, a good breeze, and a prediction for snow in northern Wisconsin it seems the Sandhills and the Geese have decided to go while the going is good.

Enough with the staring at the sky, Mr. R-b leans over, shows his red patch to the sky, and gives some hefty taps at the edge of the ice, bringing water from underneath the frozen top to the surface. When he leaves, actually even before he leaves it turns out, the small birds make a dash for the liquid. I'll remove the ice and fill it again when he leaves. Then I focus on his back. Now what would that blend with for camouflage? Light through leaves dappling on bark?

That's when I notice the checkerboard on his side. The common wisdom taught to visual artists is that there are no true straight lines in nature. And these aren't true straight lines but they are the closest I've seen growing on a bird's back certainly.

And later when I'm out, I hear them too. Yes, the Sandhill Cranes are moving back through on their way to their wintering grounds. They have the second red head patch for the day.

More red on the head but this is more rose. The House Finches try out the new feeder. All that sanitizing of the wooden one was taking it's toll. Then it's off to see my mom at the nursing home. On the way back, just as I turn onto County Road M, I do a double take. I've just gone past a dark Red-tail with a heavy belly band sitting on a wooden fence post a few feet from the road.. And I mean a short wooden fence post. The kind the Bluebirds prefer. I stop. He's still there. I get out the stuff. Still have a Red-tail. I push the camera on button, nothing. Bird's still on the post. By the time I push three times with frozen fingers it does come on but of course he took off when I wasn't looking.

Therefore I got a photograph of this Bluebird preferred and now Red-tail preferred wooden fence post.
Okay, what do the Red-tails usually do when they blow me off. They cruise over to the tree row on the far side of the back forty, and thumb their beaks at me. I'll just peruse the tree row and see if I can spot him.

Not a Red-tail, but a red male Cardinal. They do show up so nicely in winter.

Then I scan the trees on the side of the field. What is that?

I pull in closer. I've still no idea. It's not a wasp's nest. It isn't hanging right. An animal? Some sort of weird tree disease? Fungi? Wait, it does look like on the right that there are three dots that might be claws. Foot pads? Is that an ear? A raccoon? Any ideas?

Stunning sunset this evening with the fleeting shapes of birds flapping across the sky now and again.

And last but not least, a link to a NYTimes article on rare Piping Plovers, from the astute, Karen Anne Kolling, grand link finder.

2000 doesn't sound like very many to me, especially since their nesting areas are so vulnerable.
Karen Anne Kolling

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