10/18/2008

Do you know of any owlcam/owl box sites?

I'd like to add some links to my blog to other owlcam and owl box sites, so if you know of any please leave me a comment.

Soulful Sparrow

If music be the food of love, sing on Song Sparrows!



10/17/2008

Sparrow ID



Any takers on this Sparrow ID? Please click to view a larger image and add your thoughts on an ID in the comments box.

Owl box V3.0

Owl box version 3.0 is ready to roll. This year I focused on improving my squirrel determent system. I had squirrels in the box this summer, which wasn’t a big deal because they weren’t competing with the owls. Having said that, they made a mess of the inside of the box and even took my handy dandy owl perch out of the box. They did such a great job of it that I haven’t found any traces of the perch. So the short story is that they made me mad, so I added more flashing around the middle of the tree and I actually tacked it onto the box. In Owl box V2.0 there was just the 20" flashing around the top and the bottom of the box, nothing in the middle. I also added a much larger roof which has flashing on it too. The theory is that if they come from the top of the tree, they will land on the roof and either slide off or it will be harder to enter the box given the new overhang. The new roof was tacked onto the old roof and I just framed out the roof with lath and then added a small support piece in the middle. I then wrapped the roof in flashing metal. This design makes it light weight and easy to remove. To take the eye sore factor out of the metal I sprayed it with spray paint to disguise the flashing a little.

I don’t think I’ve ever really posted the dimensions of the box so here goes:
The bottom of the entry hole is just over 12 feet off the ground. The entrance hole is 3” x 3”. The floor is 8” x 8” and the box is 15” deep. The new roof is 21” by 15 ½”.

These dimensions were taken from various site and modified to my specific needs. If I ever rebuild the box I would make the box a little deeper to allow me to place a really nice big roof on it. In order not to block the entrance hole too much I had to place the roof with the longest piece across the box. If I rebuild the box I will put a 21 x 21 roof on it with more of a pitch and then have the entrance hole a little lower down so the roof doesn’t obstruct the entry. I would use the same light weight design for the larger roof and tack it onto a smaller existing roof. This makes it easier to get the box up and down the ladder as you can just take the larger roof off. That’s probably the only major change that I would recommend based on my current design. I guess it really depends on your local squirrel population.

10/16/2008

Yellow rumped Warblers

As promised here are some pics of Yellow Rumped Warbler. I found them in a Cedar stand which is a great way to snap some photos of these little guys, as they were a little distracted by all the food. They were eating Cedar berries as well as some cream colored berries from another tree. Any ideas on what it is?





What berries are these - I love 'em?

Fire prevention: You can help!

October is fire prevention month and I want to encourage you to change the batteries on your smoke and CO detectors. In New Jersey these are now mandated in all house and if you don’t have them in your house I would HIGHLY recommend that you run out to Home Depot or Walmart and purchase a couple. Smoke detectors have been so successful that it’s led to a high majority of both volunteer and paid departments’ call being “smells and bells”. Fire departments are running a lot more calls and luckily the majority of these are alarm activations from fire alarms. For most of us in the fire service the thrill is getting on the truck and hearing the siren and air horn blow, so we don't mind the positive change. Yip, we’re all kids that haven’t grown up and we love it! For some more information on smoke detectors here’s the link to Wikipedia, which includes some placement tips. Stay safe and enjoy Fall everyone!
Who needs boots, bunker pants and helmets when you can wear fashionable pink all the time?

10/15/2008

Welcome to Fall

Gratuitous photos of Fall. Last year the leaves were pretty disappointing so I’m making up for it this year. This is officially my 250th post - thanks for reading and commenting!





A Kinglet morning

If you haven't had an opportunity to watch Kinglets they are amazing. They are little birds that move around like they're on speed. This morning I took the ultimate photography challenge trying to get some half decent photos of these little guys. Although I missed a couple of decent shots while my lens was focusing I’m relatively happy with the results. I also took some shots of Yellow Rumped Warbler with also came out ok, I’ll post those in a bit. The photos I’m attaching are all Ruby Crowned Kinglets (I think) although it can be pretty tough to tell them apart from Golden Crowned Kinglets. This site outlines some of the major differences.

I was hoping to get a picture of a Ruby Crowned with its crown up, but alas no dice. I briefly saw a crown up while the lens was focusing, while the Kinglet zoomed off……damn! By the way, my next post will be number 250!!






10/14/2008

Plant ID needed: Virginia Creeper?

The more I blog the more I realize how little I know. I think I screwed up and mis-ID'ed the creeper berries that the birds were chowing today. I thought it was Poison Ivy, but now that I've done some reading it appears that it may be a Virginia Creeper. Am I correct about this? Click the thumbnail to see a larger image.





Another new garden bird: Hermit Thrush

Well the good birding continues. I was out today still searching for the Black headed blue warbler (who seems to have moved on by the way Mr. Thick skull) when I noticed that the American Robins were furiously stuffing themselves full of Poison Ivy berries. As I was watching them a little bird popped in and I snapped a few pics before taking a look at him with my binocs. I initially thought it was an Ovenbird but then I realized that he was a little too red. I confirmed this when I looked at the quick pic I snapped of the back of the bird.


I stayed in the same spot for a while watching the Robins and I also had a few Yellow Rumped Warbler zooming around chasing insects. I tried taking a few pics but sadly this was the best of the bunch….


Interestingly Warblers also love Poison Ivy berries which I didn’t know and none of the Warblers ventured close to the Ivy berries. While I was watching the Warbler the Thrush popped back in and landed for a perfect quick photo op. For once my SLOW lens was able to capture the moment.



I was left with a warm and fuzzy feeling although I did miss a pretty decent photo op with a Pine Warbler earlier in the day. Oh well, that’s what tomorrow is for…..

If you interested in attracting birds to your garden I would HIGHLY recommend checking out this article – it lists berry trees and shrubs (How to hide a berry treasure around your home
National Wildlife, Feb-March, 1996 by Michael Lipske).

Less than a month to go - ? Screech owl ?

I am getting owl fever! Fall is upon us which means that I’ll soon have the opportunity to potentially see Long eared owls, Short eared owls and if I’m VERY lucky Great horned and Saw whet. I’m also hoping that the Screech owl box gets another visitor like last year, although I promise they’ll be treated much better this time. I was looking through my picture I took last year of the Screech owl in my box and I realized that it’s less than a month before the one year anniversary. Will the owl come back to the box this year?

Being the optimist that I am, I’ve made a few improvements to the site/box. I added more flashing around the tree and I’m also adding a larger roof area with flashing on top. All of this is being done to discourage the squirrels. I am not delusional enough to imagine that I can ever keep them out, I just hope that the new measure will discourage them. When I cleaned out the box this week, I realized that the squirrels had totally removed the perch I put in and they also made a huge mess in the box. I replaced all the nesting material and placed a fresh batch in the box. I removed the screws for the perch as I decided to leave the nesting area as open as possible. At this stage I am doing all I can to make the nest as attractive as possible. I’ll post some pictures of the new improved nest box when I get a chance. If nothing else you have to give me credit for being stubborn! I’ve always wanted a nesting owl pair in my garden and I hope 2009 is my year….

10/13/2008

Awesome garden birding

This weekend brought some great birding to my garden. On Saturday I was working on making it tougher for the squirrels to get into the owl box. I added some extra flashing around the tree and I am also thinking about adding a bigger 'flashed roof' to make it harder for the squirrels to enter the box by jumping onto the roof from the top. Anyway, as I was finishing up I saw a little blue bird jumping around in the trees. I looked a little closer and I realized that it was a blue warbler. I knew I’d seen him in my bird book but I wasn’t 100% sure what he was. I watched him for another 5 minutes and then I took off to the house to get my bins. Upon returning the little bugger was gone! After flipping through my bird book I ID’ed the new Warbler as a Black Throated Blue Warbler – awesome a new lifer and garden bird for me! Determined to see him again I looked around on Sunday. Although I didn’t see him again, I did see a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker – a new garden bird for me. I've always been surprised that I haven't seen a Sapsucker in my garden and I'm glad the dry spell has been broken. I also saw some Golden Crowned Kinglets zipping around in the garden. Kinglets and Sapsuckers are both winter visitors to my garden and the cool weather shouldn't be too far off...