Friday, October 19, 2007

Who Will Win the Battle of the Bath?

When I first noticed the action at the bath there were several House Finches on the edge, a Bluebird bathing, and a Nuthatch trying to decide exactly why he'd come and if he should stay.

By the time I got the camera on them, the bath was down to two House Finch and then suddenly Mrs. Goldfinch dropped in for a drop.
Suddenly the House Finch bolted. And there was Mr. Cardinal eyeing Mrs. Goldfinch.

Eyeing her did nothing to cause her to vacate and she's so into bath ecstasy that she could care less about Mr Cardinal. He isn't thrilled about being disrespectfully splashed.

He tries the I'm big-and-close-tactic. Not a chance, she could care less.

Actually the splashing feels rather good the bath may be big enough for the both of us after all. In fact, the more splashing the better the bath. Two birds mean half the work. Notice the "ghost bird" taking off bowl left. Got me. I've no idea. I really didn't see another bird involved at this point. until the photo exposed it.

Wait! What happened? Is it something I did?
Mostly likely not as Mrs. Goldfinch probably saw Mrs. House Finch coming and decided she was finished bathing, drinking, or doing anything with water.

Then like a bolt from the blue Mrs. House Finch is back and Mr. Cardinal is so startled, he leaps for the edge trailing a wing and leaving his splash behind.

Not only is she back but she's being downright menacing.

That worked but wait, just what is that boltng through the air like a buzz saw?

Guess who? The smallest combatant yet. he has a peaceful drink--ALONE!

Tuesday there were eight squirrels in the yard. That was a new record as previously I'd never had more than five and usually only four. Getting all eight in a photos with all the scurrying and zooming around proved impossible. I only was able to manage five. As at any given moment a number had scrambled away with another racing at their heels.
Watching the war, I began to wonder just why was there a turf war today. There are lots of feeders in the neighborhood. They can't all be empty. Daily, there are numerous scuffles between individuals but this was much bigger. Much much bigger.
What was it?
Ahhh. Possibly a coincidence but possibly not. Usually I fill the feeder with a wild bird mix in which I've added to the already existing sunflower quotient another very healthy helping. But the day before I'd run out of the bird mix and today was an all oil seed day.
It could just be. Who needed the other feeders? Not these guys, they are going for the ice cream sundae of bird food.
The moral of this story? Never under estimate the power of fat.
Donegal Browne

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Coming Soon: Another Championship Battle of the Bath!

Who'll be the winner?

And the Second Feature....Are eight squirrels at the feeder too many?

Donegal Browne

Just in time for Halloween, Eleanor Tauber's Creepy Crawlers From Cape May

A gorgeous orb awaiting prey...

A Garter snake that's changing tacks,
Argiope Spider

with egg sacs
And here's the mystery of the day,
Alert and creeping round Cape May.
All photographs by Eleanor Tauber.
Donegal Browne

Monday, October 15, 2007


A Bluebird Question From Betty Jo

Male Bluebird
Long time correspondent and blog reader Betty Jo sent in a Bluebird question that I'd wondered about myself...

Hi Donna,
If Bluebirds find fence posts a nice height for hunting, did they perhaps increase in numbers when settlers began fencing their gardens and later on entire farming areas? How did they hunt before?
Betty Jo

Very astute, I looked into it and there is some thought that Bluebirds did increase in numbers with the arrival of the Europeans, as the birds tend to like a mixed habitat of trees, bushes, and pasture/grassland. Therefore the type of original European farming methods in the country was likely conducive to their food supply in the first place, add the fence posts for hunting perches and cavities, cavities being nifty nesting spots and always at a premium, and TA DA, more Bluebirds.

I've seen them hunt as I mentioned from power poles also from trees and do ground sallys from twigs on bushes as well. But I think the movement of the bird leaving the bush wiggles it enough to send the bug off in some cases. Also hunting from a post gives a 360 view. No doubt Bluebirds used stumps as they're similar in advantages. But stumps have become far less prevalent as well, due to the ease of stump-away chemicals.

The unenlightened do find the sight of trunks strangely unsightly though they are a treasure trove of nutrients for all sorts of species that pop up only in that decaying trunk habitat and turn into quite wonderful mini-habitats of the strange and wonderful.

A little off topic, but another use for a rotting stump is a stash place for seed by Nuthatches. I watched one yesterday shove at least 25 sunflower seeds into the old trunk in the backyard safely packed away for some cold hungry day coming up this winter.

Donegal Browne

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Role for the Appendix? There working for you if you need it. And if you needed it more often it just might not go bad on you.

Courtesy of

Remember the little mysterious appendix at the juncture of the large and small intestine?

Ever since I was told that the appendix was a vestigial organ that basically could cause trouble and if a surgeon were inside a patient already, the surgeon should just clip the little sucker out, I've had a sneaky feeling that it wouldn't be there if it didn't have a role to play of some kind. (Ditto tonsils!)

And by the way just why does the appendix go bad on occasion if it's just down there being "vestigial", it's lost the ability to do anything and is nothing but a little extra tissue that just sits there ? Why would it have any reason to go bad?

Therefore when the research done down at Duke Medical School about a possible dual role for the appendix hit the news, I started scanning the articles. (Unfortunately the original research was on the net and one had to pay to see it, therefore people without a lump of spare cash to spend on appendix research, were at the mercy of reporters of the story. )

And some of those reporters, and even more so the headline writers should have been paying a little more attention in science class if that is what they really got from their interviews and reading the research or if they do know better and have made it seem utterly conclusive on purpose, should be thumped for yellow journalism.

Then of course there was the abc blurb that was so concerned that people weren't very bright and that when they heard that appendices might have certain functions, that they'd refuse to have a mortally inflamed one removed, that they used half the word space saying that the appendix was unnecessary. Untrue. It might be unnecessary for hordes of people in an over hyginated society but then again someday if you happened to pick up amoebic dysentery or cholera somewhere without lots of people around it might just come in very handy.

And then there are the folks that say your appendix is vitally important;

It goes both ways.

"Might" and "may" are extremely important words when taking about what we know when it comes to science.

Below, very interesting stuff, about possible appendix functions (and journalistic incompetence) can be gleaned with a quick (or not) scan of the following good, bad, and indifferent articles.

HAVE FUN! It's all about Gut Flora!

Exploring The Appendix
Harvard Courant,0,1361752.story

Your Appendix Has a Reason After All

That appendix might be useful to you after all

The Appendix Protects Us From Germs And Protects Good Bacteria

Study: appendix provides good bacteria, still not necessary

Appendix: It’s not useless after all

What Doctors Don't Tell You, UK - Oct 11, 2007
It’s suddenly occurred to medicine that that “useless” appendage, the appendix, is nothing of the sort, and in fact plays a vital role in maintaining good gut bacteria ...

What does the appendix do? Finally an answer!
Researchers at Duke University Medical Center say that the function of the frequently discarded appendix, an organ often credited with little importance and often dismissed as having no significant function, does it seems have a role to play after all.

Donegal Browne