Thursday, July 23, 2009

Contributor Karen Anne Kolling of RI wrote a concerned email about the interactions between the Riverside Hawks and the traffic on the Henry Hudson Parkway, asking if signage might be installed to help protect the hawks. And guess what? Here is the response she received--

To All;

Due to the danger posed to the hawks in the area, we have issued orders to install “20 MPH Speed Limit” signs for the ramp exiting the southbound Henry Hudson Parkway at West 79th Street . We are trying to get these installed as soon as possible. It is important to note that the enforcement of this speed limit is the jurisdiction of the NYC Police Department.

Thank you for your concern regarding this serious condition.

Josh Orzeck
Community Coordinator
Office of the Manhattan Borough Commissioner

Hurrah!!!! Will wonders never cease? It certainly can't hurt and it might just help. Next they need signs for Red-tails that copy the style of the deer crossing signs.

Like this turkey, I'm about to make a getaway. I'll be at the Pennsic War, the 38th of that name, for the next two weeks. The one place during the year where my two daughters and I are all in the same place at the same time.

Postings will depend on space availability at the Mystic Mail tent.

For those who would like to know more about the Pennsic War, (the loser has to take Pittsburgh), go to

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Blank Blog: Deer and Turkeys

Photo by James W. Blank Jr.
I told you about Jim Blank's eye for White-tailed Deer. Well he's done it again. Look carefully and you can see that she's eating something off an oak. Leaves or baby green acorns, perhaps?

Photo by James W. Blank Jr.
The doe and fawn check him out. Remember the discussion awhile back on the blog of the use of white tails in various species to get predators to take their eye off the ball so to speak?

The fawn is in the midst of a dandy example.

It's also a cue that they're likely to take off at any second.

Photo by James W. Blank Jr.
If you look carefully this guy doesn't feel nearly as exposed as he looks. He's peering through a few stalks of tall grass. Besides he's well aware it isn't hunting season.

Photo by James W. Blank Jr.
Now I have people telling me every other day about the flocks of turkeys that walk through their yards. Yards decidedly not in suburbia but still. And here is yet another example of turkeys having a great time foraging in a yard.

There is an adage in Wisconsin which plays to the difference in wariness of deer vs wild turkey. It goes something like this--A deer sees a man and thinks he's a stump. A turkey sees a stump and thinks it's a man.

These two fowl are pretty positive they're seeing a man.

Photo by James W. Blank Jr.
This Tom (see the "beard" coming off his breast) has spied something obviously delicious and hasn't caught on yet.

Photograph by James W. Blank Jr.
Delicious or not, he's spied the photographer and has begun a slow turkey trot for the bushes.

Photograph by James W. Blank Jr.
Followed briskly by a couple of his buddies.

Photograph by James W. Blank Jr.
The second group, is heading the other direction. Though Mr. Middle there has spied a goody and is taking time to nab it so things haven't gotten too scary yet.

Photograph by James W. Blank Jr.
Here is Sneaky. He is tippy toeing for the other side of the tree.

Photograph by James W. Blank Jr.
My, my, left turkey is distracted. He is still pecking away over there.

Photograph by James W. Blank Jr.

Suddenly he looks up and realizes he's being left behind. He finally gets it together and heads off with speed. Note most of these Turkeys are male. The hens are off doing family business.

P.S. In the it's-always-something category-- I've been unable to access my email box for over 24 hours. So I'm not ignoring anyone, I just can't get there. :-)

Donegal Browne

Monday, July 20, 2009

Eggs in the Wheat Field, What's Up at the NYBG, Live Garden Decor, and Fledglings

This weekend the wheat was harvested on the grounds of the Rock River Thresheree. I take pictures for them and they let me run around and look at the wildlife whenever I want on the property. I'd just come up to the north field with my camera when overall sporting Gaylord Hooker called, "Donna come over here. Hurry up!" So off I went trotting between the stalks and there, miraculously, nestled under a sheaf of wheat, untouched by all the machines, wagons, and feet that had passed by, were ten large eggs.

See what I mean?

The binder (above) no doubt, being there is a sheaf practically on the eggs, had passed directly over them with nary a crack. But the hay wagon and its contingent of gathers with pitchforks would very very soon be round to pitch the sheaves onto the wagon. What to do???
Suddenly a young man, who I didn't know, came up to ask what I'd found. He said, "Eggs, eggs, we've got to do something." And he took off and came back with a dented plastic barrel with dayglo pink streaks. Quite noticeable actually.
I took off. I found a tall stick, grabbed a file folder out of the car, a pen and, proceeded to write EGGS in large letters on the folder, poke the stick through the folder, and into the ground.

And just in time as the crew is on their way back. Not that they'd intentionally squash them, though they'd tease me that they might, but they're working and eggs aren't exactly the first things on their mind at the moment.

The two gentleman on the ground with the pitchforks are, left, Gaylord Hooker who pointed the eggs out to me in the first place, and on the right is Larry Langer.
Which is a great stroke of luck. Larry is a very interesting man. He was raised on a farm--one of the last of eleven children. His woodland craft is incredible. Nearly all of it is from absorbing what is around him with an acute perception as opposed to the study of books or specimens. So as I'm standing there with my sign and barrel, Larry outpaces the wagon and asks what I've found.

I show him and that's when he does "it". He stands very still, becomes almost limp and absorbs everything. It isn't at all like someone who is thinking, this is different. It's as if all the stimuli flows to him, he isn't searching it out with his eyes. He just is and the immediate scene enters him like a sponge absorbing water. I've never seen anything like it.
Then he quietly mulls over a few possibilities for species verbally, letting me in on the process.
He was raised on a farm and was one of the younger kids in a family of eleven of them. Commonly these sort when coming to a possible hypothesis, verbalize their last thoughts just in case somebody else (the siblings in childhood) wants to present an alternative idea. Farm kids from big families are innate team players. I'm not forthcoming with anything brilliant having seen the eggs of very few ground nesters. That's when he finally moves.

Larry bends down and points out the comparative size of the eggs, the brown speckles, and the fact that the eggs lay on bare ground without nesting material. His conclusion? Wild Turkey.

He then goes further. This nest is likely abandoned. The first clue is the egg farthest to the right. It is smeared with mud. Highly unlikely if it were being tended. And by now, this year's poults should be half grown. I ask if Turkeys ever second clutch. Unlikely, particularly as like Red-tails, they don't lay more eggs if there are still eggs to be sat on. If the eggs don't hatch they eventually give up and go about their business. And it was a terribly cold, wet spring. Neither of us has spoken to anyone who has even seen young poults this year.

That dealt with, he goes back to pitching sheaves on the wagon, which has done a lovely curve around the eggs--just in case. One never knows with birds exactly what they'll do and Mom just might be in the woods waiting for us to leave. Not likely but maybe.

And bringing in the sheaves continues.

Today I went back to look and they had taken the barrel and sign away so as not to scare a possible mom as they'd promised. No bird. And no eggs either. Without a hen to protect them or the tall grain to hide the eggs, a raccoon, a fox, someone, had had a very fine dinner.
In nature nothing is ever wasted.

Photo by Pat Gonzalez
Who's hanging out at the New York Botanic Gardens? An update from Pat Gonzalez--


Sorry I haven't been posting. I'm between PCs and was just able to get my imaging software to work. Here's the latest from the NYBG:

On June 17th, I saw a funny looking bird with no neck that I'd never seen before, hanging out in the green waters of the twin lakes. After looking it up when I got home, our mystery bird turned out to be a male, black-crowned night-heron. The attached photo of my new friend was taken on June 24th. Notice the red eyes.

Photo by Pat Gonzalez
A very vocal Blue Jay

Also, on the same day I came across three wet furballs. Baby muskrats! I'd always seen the adults swimming and enjoying themselves, but this was a first for me. The attached two photos were taken yesterday, Tuesday, June 30th.

Photo by Pat Gonzalez
But the kicker was the SCARY snapping turtle in the wild wetlands.
Pat Gonzalez

Thanks Pat!

And in from longtime contributor Robin of Illinois-one of nature's beauties, though perhaps the nose might be best better hidden the next time--

Neighbors Letriana and Greg of E. Peoria, discovered this unexpected live "ornament" in their garden this past week.

Photo by Karen Anne Kolling
Karen of Rhode Island, who has the Fox attracting Gonzo Deck, has some youngsters for today's offering-

And sweet too. Not nearly as dangerous looking as his yellow eyed glossy parents.
Photo by Karen Anne Kolling

The sparrows like to take baths in this shallow basin at the edge of my neighbors' koi pond.
House Sparrows seem to do everything in gregarious and highly vocal groups. It is certainly working for them when it comes to survival. There isn't a bit of stealth in their little feathered bodies. Pluck, speed, and strength in numbers are more their strong suites.
Donegal Browne