Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Woodpecker War, Bitter Antifreeze And It's John Blakeman by a Neck!

The woodpecker feeder war.

 Remember the backyard accipiter?  Ohio Red-tail expert John Blakeman-by a neck!


The accipiter is a Cooper's Hawk, probably (from leg tarsus width) a tiercel.
Why a Cooper's and not a Sharpie? This bird has a discernable, clear neck. Sharpies look like their heads are attached to the torso without a neck of any length. 

John A. Blakeman

And excellent news gleaned by Robin of Illinois-  It is thought that Pyewacket, who had been a stray before I took her in and suffered temporarily from liver disfunction may have been a victim of antifreeze.  

A bitter flavoring agent will be added to all antifreeze and engine coolant manufactured for sale for the consumer market in the United States, a change voluntarily proposed by the manufacturers. The Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) had partnered with the Humane Society Legislative Fund to pass laws in seventeen states to require the addition of bitterant. "Today, all major marketers are placing the bitterant in antifreeze in all 50 states,” said Phil Klein, executive vice president, legislative and public affairs for CSPA.

Donegal Browne

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Friday Miscellany-Accipter at Dusk, Quicksilver Eats the Pie and Menaces Squirrel the Kitten, and the Rodentia Squirrels Sit in a Square

A blizzard is coming and the smaller birds have been gorging at the feeders until suddenly there isn't a one.  Not at the feeders anyway, but a glance up and there is the Accipter reason.The tail being either damaged or wet doesn't help at all in this case.  But she's near male Red-tail size and I'm going with a Cooper's Hawk. 
She sees me and when I look down and then up again she's gone.  Well gone from my view but not from the smaller birds as night falls without their making a visible return.
The squirrel square.

This is Quicksilver the African Grey's expression when busted for being on the counter, sitting on the edge of the pie plate, eating the pie.

The expression is slightly reminiscent of how a small child with a hand in the cookie appears facially.  It's the "I just might be in trouble" look.

Though as parrots pupils are more telling than children's are, note that his pupils are expanded at the uh-oh moment.

Now to a moment in which Silver sees himself as the disciplinarian.
Quicksilver and Squirrel the Kitten are companionably watching a Cottontail Rabbit from the front window.
Before long, typically, Squirrel looses interest in one thing and decides to investigate something else.  In this case Silver.  Note that Silver's pupil has radically contracted, his posture shifted and his feathers are beginning to stand, at the approach of the cat.
Silver's feathers continue to rise and his neck lengthens and his head lowers.  
 Silver draws a bead on Squirrel's left ear.  I'm about to intervene when Silver, being a parrot, decides on a more amusing tack.
 He opens his beak and lets out a perfect imitation of me saying loudly and with feeling, "NO!"

 Squirrel snaps back on his bottom and stares. 

 And a moment later they're both back watching the bunny.

The moral?  A confused cat instinctively doesn't follow through on the initial impulse.   And cats do appear not to like being confused.  

Remember Silver's technique of meowing loudly in Pywacket's fact, at which point she'd run under the table and appear to be confused and thinking it over?

It's the same basic strategy

Donegal Browne 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sandhill Cranes Gather Their Kind Before the Snow Flies, Catfish Hunt Pigeons, More Adventures of Pyewackit and Squirrel/Cardiac Plus Is it a Sharpie or a Cooper's Hawk

 I heard the readily recognizable sounds of Sandhill Cranes from inside the living room. 

Yes, from inside the house. They are the loudest bird in the Americas and can be heard from two miles away.

  I headed outside and stared  north in the direction of the sound and stared some more.  Not a crane in sight.  I went back inside.
 Then some minutes  later I heard Cranes again this time from the north west.  
 There they were!   Over 50 of them heading SW!  And it was LOUD!
 And then out of the west came 30 or so more.  Also trumpeting.
The cranes then regrouped.  They sort of mingled together almost as if they were seeing individuals they might know and were greeting, then some formed a line and headed out.  While the others mingled momentarily.
A slightly closer view of the proceedings. 

They're all going about organizing themselves and no one ran into anyone else while I was watching.
Then they began to turn into the distance.

After observation they  appeared to be circling, calling, and drifting to collect all the cranes within hearing distance in order to collect all their brethren they could and be on their way before the bad weather closed in.

The photographs don't really do the moment justice.  Try double clicking on the photos to see larger images.


 Yes, ladies and gentleman, we are back to the age old question-  Is it a Sharp-shinned Hawk or a Cooper's Hawk?  

This time, check out the captures from a video from a friend of Sally of Kentucky.

What's your take?

 Yes, it is difficult to tell size.  One of the many inconclusive ways to tell these  two species apart.  But from the comparison of the hawk with the leaves on the bushes, it appears smallish to me.  Plus the legs look twig like.
 But then in this frame ,the legs look a little less twig like.
 Wasn't it our raptor man from Ohio, John Blakeman, who said that Sharpies always look kind of bug-eyed and hyper-thyroid?

But Sally of Kentucky, thought the legs seemed thicker like a Cooper's Hawk and I have to admit that the tail in the center photo does look decidedly curved on the end as she suggested.  A rounded tail being a clincher for IDing Cooper's Hawks.

Any thoughts? 
 Photo courtesy of

A find from Robin of Illinois!  Longtime readers will remember my discovery of city rats hunting pigeons in NYC but this one is even more astounding....European Catfish coming out of the water to nab pigeons.  Click the link below.

Here we have the kitten, Squirrel? Cardiac, playing with a stick jammed in the joint of a canvas camp chair.  See the claws looking a little dangerous?
Check out the instantaneous transformation to Feline from Hell as he spat at visitor Tig the Basenji.  And it truly was instantaneous.  Check out those laid back ears.

A study in cat expressions in the aftermath of a dog.  

One gets the impression that kittens don't hold any one thought for any amount of time. Or really think in a conscious way at all frequently, as they are often totally in the moment.   

Pye on the other hand is definitely holding a grudge.

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

A Wednesday Miscellany

Sorry for the lag folks.  My internet connection evaporated days and days ago and hasn't yet reconstituted itself. ???? 

Therefore I've broken down and come to the library to let you know where I've been and to check out the computer facilities. 

There doesn't seem to be a way to post photos therefore you're just going to have to use your imagination.

The geese have been going over in droves so bad weather isn't far behind. 

 I walked out back and WAAAAAA, the Cooper's Hawk, who has been attempting to predate the sparrow pile, nearly flew into my head.   Adelaide, the Cooper's Hawk, then landed on the sparrow pile as if nothing had happened. 

 I've named her Adelaide, after the character in Guys and Dolls, as she, like the original female, isn't really embarrassed by much.

Remember the black kitten with the white patch on her chest shaped like a heart? 

Oh! Oh!  Betty Jo and Anon get the prize!  Kitten is definately a male.  If I'd had my wits about me I would have flipped Pyewacket over and compared genitalia.  Sometimes...

Also kitten's name has been changed to Squirrel. 

 (The vet thought Cardiac might not be the best name on a medical record.)

  Whereas even though the name Squirrel  might cause initial confusion a vet would have to be pretty drunk not to notice the difference between a kitten and a bushy tailed member of rodentia.

Why Squirrel?

Because he climbs everything!  The curtains, furniture, and people's legs to name just a few examples.  And, we mustn't discount the fact that when someone is told the kitten's name is Squirrel they often crack up or at least give a smile and chuckle.  Therefore Squirrel and I are lightening people's day a little.  It also helps that they have a good feeling about him before he climbs their leg as they may never have another about him afterwards. 

And for those who missed Marie Winn's  post with a letter from Caroline Greenleaf of community relations with the Central Park Conservancy concerning Sandy and the loss of trees in Central Park--  Click on the link below and scroll down to November 20th.

See you again soon...

Donegal Browne

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Crows are Modifying Food in the Bird Bath Again! Does That Constitute Cooking in the Modern Sense...Just Add Water?

This is a Crow with a very large mouthful of stiff cheese.  She has now noticed that I've noticed her.

There is a back story here.  

A week or so ago, I made a toasted cheese sandwich, looked at the clock and realized, I didn't have time to eat it before having to rush off.  I quickly wrapped it up, jammed it into my coat pocket and thought, " I'll eat it on the way".    Then promptly forgot all about it.  

Fast forward.    

 Last night, I found the aforementioned, still wrapped thank goodness, in my pocket.  Needless to say,  it was one very dry breaded, tough cheesed, sandwich.  I put it on the Goodie Stump.  

Then about an hour before the above Crow was caught with a completely full mouth of stiff cheese, she or one of her cohorts, there was a three member Crow foraging party in the yard, saw me and  attempted to pick up the sandwich.  Either it was too heavy or decidedly not aerodynamic enough to fly with as it was abandoned and they all took off.  

And back to this post's starting point, the sandwich has moved to just the other side of the sparrow pile, and the Crow has a load of stiff  cheese stuffed in her mouth and partially down her throat by the looks of it.

Crow works beak.  Note the peanut gallery of sparrows waiting to fall upon the sandwich at the first opportunity.
Stretching her neck and tipping her head a bit to the side isn't helping much either. 

 Then he turned, gave me this look and I knew she was going to brazen it out and do something.
 She disappears behind the sparrow pile.  The sparrows shift.  We all wait.
She comes striding out.  Pause.  Look.
She marches toward the bowl.  Why isn't she flying?
                                    Up she goes. 
                                      Legs at the ready.
            Knees lock.  Feet grip.  Cheese still in place.
1:56:03 PM  I'm not sure exactly what happened here.  Her head went forward and down.  I don't know if it was just a motion to expel cheese?  She dipped her beak in the water?  She actually swallowed water?

 Look carefully and you will see only one small fragment of cheese back mid-beak, beyond those readily obvious  pieces which she is expelling.
1:56:04PM Now look at the contents of her beak one second later.  She is regurgitating more cheese into the water.  
1:56:06PM  She stretches her neck out and 2 seconds later her beak is again full.  This time there appears to be something lighter colored included.  Either another food stuff, bread perhaps, or cheese that has changed in some way by being "stored" in her body for a short time?

 1:56:07PM She deposits that beak full into the water.
 1:56:10PM  Then she stands and looks into the bowl.  Watching the rehydration process?  

Waiting for dinner to be ready?

But why rehydrate the cheese?  She obviously was able to swallow it as she regurgitated it.

I surmised that when the Crows placed dried out pasta in the bowl, waited, and then ate it, that it was easier to eat that way.

Now I hypothesize that she is doing it because it tastes better that way.   

(I suppose she might think it will aid her digestion but that may be going a bit far.)

Yes, according to the latest, not only are many bird's olfactory sense better than was suspected but they also have a full set of taste buds.  The existence of which had been denied for ages.  The issue?  They aren't located in the same places as ours are nor are they identical in structure to ours.  


 A gross example would be the fact that we have arms and they have wings. Can't deny that one, it's too obvious. 

Yes, we're structurally different to a point. That doesn't mean we don't have a possibly similar sets of basic senses even if they aren't identically processedThe basic senses have proved to be evolutionarily advantageous in most cases,  after all. 
 1:56:18PM  10 seconds from the last cheese deposit. 

At first I thought the light color between the two portions of her beak was cheese.  Now I think we are actually seeing the side of the bowl.  Perhaps she is touching the cheese with the very sensory rich tip of her beak to see if it is "done"?
1:56:19PM  Notice that the cheese no longer has the hard orange color and texture.  Ever get cheese wet, it lightens in color and as birds tend to be drier mouthed than humans, moistening food likely releases the flavor to their receptors just as it does for ours.  

Remember how Silver, the parrot,  always wants people to suck a hard candy first before they give it to him?  I've always surmised that the reason for that is, he can then taste it, as he's no saliva to liquify the sugar on his own.  

(Correct.  He only gets that sort of thing very infrequently.)

Silver isn't interested in say a tidbit of soft caramel being moistened for him.
1:56:21PM  Pause, slightly open beak in bowl.
 1:56:22PM  No tidbit.  Closed beak.  She appears to scrutinize something.
1:56:28PM  (6 seconds later) She waited and now see the dark something inside her beak.  That is the tip of her tongueAnd there is a tiny yellow morsel of cheese in the very tip of her beak.  After all this trouble she is she going to taste that cheese instead of just swallowing it straight away?
1:56:29PM Beak into water.
  1:56:30PM  No bite just a dripping beak.
1:56:33PM  She appears to be touching and possibly moving cheese.

1:56:42PM  9 seconds elapse. She stands and looks around then stares at something on the ground I can't see.  But take a look at her right leg.  Your left.  Is that a band? 

Perhaps not.  A wrinkle in the skin?
 1:56:43PM Look back.

1:56:44PM  Ta DaAnd a tidbit which meets her standards is pulled out of the water.  The focus in the eyes and the curve of her beak makes it very easy to anthropomorphize a smile if one isn't careful.
1:56:46PM  More tending?  That wrinkle looks like a band again.
 1:56:49PM Unclear as to whether that is a food bit on the beak or more water.
  1:57:00PM  Suddenly she turns, alert, nictitating eyelids flash.
1:57:02PM Beak drops down again.
1:57:03PM  I get a BIG look.  

(Upon hindsight this look makes me wonder if she was just putting me on the whole time.)

 1:57:05 She turns to the side.  Is that a tidbit in her beak or is it only slightly open and there is a leaf showing through?  No there is just a trace of cheese visible in her beak in the preceding photo as well
1:57:06PM  She's off!

 1:57:09PM  And off she went across the field.

I don't know when she or whoever came back and ate the "prepared" cheese in the bird bath, but when I went out to clean the bowl and put in fresh water several hours later there wasn't a speck of cheese left. 

Donegal Browne
P.S.  There was a previous post in the last 12 hours so if you've not seen it, keep scrolling down.