Sunday, March 31, 2013

Nemesis No More-Black Vultures Millbury!

Signs of spring continue to appear each day including the Turkey Vultures who stage around my house every morning just as I head to work.  I'd see them again yesterday as I went to the dump and kick myself for not bringing my bins but did a quick stop just the same in hopes for a Black Vulture but all that would be around were the usual TV's.  I'd decide to do some local birding nearby this morning and make a quick stop where the vultures hang out and I'd spot my Black Vulture naked eye as soon as I got out of the car.  I'd remember something Alan had told me last year when everyone was getting this bird but me and he told me that I'd know it when I saw it and sure enough he was right as it was unmistakable next to the TV's.

As you can see in tho photo above where the TV looks more like a basketball player and the BV more of a football player when it comes to body composition.  Also notice how flat and glossy the BV's plumage is compared to the TV.  Almost like the BV's use hair get and the TV's go au natural!  ;-)

Another thing I'd quickly pick up on where the white fingers as Alan called them when he sent me his photos of the ones in Barre where again, everyone got the bird but me.  Now that I've gotten the bird I'm glad I never got it in Barre as I've always said that yes I would get it and it would be in Millbury so it was nice to be right for a change!

Feeling lucky I'd continue to Rayburn in hopes for my Barred Owl.  Bird song would be heavy including the Dark-eyed Junco's singing away that almost sounded a little House Wrenesque to me at first which is something I'd never picked up on so made sure I made a mental note of it as it was kind of neat.  I'd strike out on the Barred despite my lousy imitation of one that's worked in the past so it looks as if I'm going to have to hit that spot again as I really want the Barred on my list this year.

Next would be St Philips in Grafton in search of the Wood Ducks and spring would be in the air with many birds a courting including the Northern Flickers above.  How romantic and if I'm not mistaken the plumage on the back of the birds head to the left of the photo above kind of looks like a heart making it even more appropriate!

There would also be a Northern Mockingbird starting to try out some of his imitation songs for the year but would do so in more of a whisper in an attempt to warm up the voice box I'm guessing!  ;-).  The other highlight would be hearing an Eastern Phoebe across the wetlands where I'd get an okay look at it through the bins but not good enough for a photo.

The Eastern Bluebirds would be out in full force as well as my FOY Belted Kingfisher and after what seemed like forever two Wood Ducks who would fly by doing their call before landing in the water close to a pair of Hooded Mergansers which made for a very productive stop.

Last would be Martha Deering back in Millbury in search for the Barred again and bird song would again be heavy with many Red-bellied Woodpeckers like the one above.  The weather would be perfect with a nice gentle breeze and while I didn't get my Barred it was stick a perfect way to spend an Easter morning.

And besides that much has been quiet on the home front.  The birds are all active including the American Robins who now awaken me every morning with their singing right outside my bedroom window and I'm sad to say my thistle feeders are not getting refilled and the feeders put away as the finch conjunctivitis is starting to appear in both my House Finch's and American Goldfinches.  Seeing them in that state makes me depressed and helpless as I hate to see any bird suffer and I know their fate but am glad it happened now instead of the dead of winter when food is even more scarce than now.  I've done a little canning including the Asian Pickled Asparagus I made in the photo above.  I'm now at the stage in my canning where I know the safe food guidelines when it comes to canning so am making up my own recipes including the ones above which has ginger, hot peppers and star anise which makes these pickles very yummy coupled with a sandwich or with a salad.

And some canned pineapple I put up yesterday which are out of this world as I made my syrup with a juice I simmered from the pineapple peels and cores and then added some sugar to it.

All in all a good weekend and way to spend Easter with the Black Vulture being the highlight of the weekend of course.  Hope you all have a wonderful Easter.

Take care all.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Waiting for Spring

I don't know about the rest of you, but my patience level for snow and cold is wearing thin.  I yearn for 45+ degree days with plenty of sunshine and little wind but winter's not quite done with us yet much to my dismay.  I'd wake up early Saturday and head to the transfer station with a couple of scheduled stops in between with one being Howe Pond in hopes for some early Wood Ducks as I had a dream about them earlier in the week so took that as a sign of course!!  The water that was open late Friday was starting to refreeze and the only waterfowl I'd see at first were a couple of lone Mallard's and a handfull of Canada Geese.  I'd scan all the nooks and crannies of the small pond with my binoculars and it wouldn't take me long to find a bird that made me do a quick WTH?

Pardon the lousy shot but the sun was just rising and the bird was all the way across the other side of the pond!  This my friends is one of the Canada Goose x Graylag Goose from over at Brierly and child of Cottontail and who ever it was she shacked up with this past summer!  First time I'd ever seen one of them this close to home and lead me to wonder why this one flies off to explore Millbury while others stay close to home.  I'd make one more stop at Singletary and there would be nothing on the water but was rewarded with the sound of Red-winged Blackbirds which is always welcome this time of the year as I take it as another sign of spring.

The cold weather quickly demotivated me to continue with my unfruitful birding so headed back home to continue my winter hibernation.  It wouldn't take me long to see a new yard bird of the year for me which would be none other than a Common Grackle.  By the time I'd get my camera out it would fly to another house nearby to hang out with the others.

Again, another lousy photo but I'll take it.  Very frustrating though as I always get grackles in my yard as well as Red-winged Blackbirds but they never do me the honors of going into the feeding station for snacks which has always been a goal of mine since the 1st year I started birding.

I'd wake up early Sunday and entertain the idea of going to St Philips to look for Wood Ducks there and would quickly rethink my plan when I saw the weather forecast which called for chilly temps and fierce winds.  One quick look at the Bluejays would tell me that it was indeed both as they had their feathers fluffed in an attempt to keep warm.  Suddenly hibernation again sounded more appealing as I accepted defeat and yearned for spring.

My current nemesis birds which are the European Starling who LOVE the freeze dried mealworms.  So much so I can't put any out as they eat them all but I may put some out Monday night and let everyone have some considering we are supposed to get 6+ inches of snow.  AAAAARRRRRGGGGGG

And my current beacon of spring, Mr. Northern Cardinal himself.  He sings non stop in my back yard (in fact doing it while I type this post) and its lovely.  I'd also be treated to an American Robin joining the cardinal in a duet earlier last week which was wonderful.

And besides that the only other task that has me completely absorbed is my bread baking including my very first sour dough.  Pardon the appearance as I used the wrong shaped bread pan and my scoring skills are awful and didn't realize until yesterday that scoring high hydration bread is an issue even for experienced bakers so I don't feel as bad.  Despite how it looks I have to say it's my best tasting loaf of bread so far and was eaten buy us in less than three days!

If you don't know what scoring is and would like to check out the YouTube link.  This man is incredible and I have serious awe and envy going on when I watch it!

My sourdough with morning coffee and a little bit of my strawberry jam on my nifty eBay Boreal Bird towel I love so much!  Bonus points to anyone who can ID the woodpecker on the left bottom of this picture.  ;-)

A loaf of Irish Soda Bread I made that came out really good but I went a little over board with my scoring for practice which caused it to bake funny.

And my last loaf of bread for the weekend which is the Amish White Bread above and as you can see, I got my scoring down pat on this one!  Wish I could say I loved the bread but it was a little too sweet and heavy for me and prefer the European breads more so this will go in the freezer for French Toast Casserole one morning when I'm feeling up to it.

And last but by no means the least, check out what the Curious Birder somehow acquired which is this nifty pressure canner above, WOOT!!  My water bath canner sprung a leak last week so needed a new one and figured I'd spend a little more money and get this as not only can I use it to water bath can but pressure can too which means I can go to the Farmer's Market this year and buy ton's of green beans, corn, etc and can them to last me the entire year. Not only am I using fresh, high quality ingredients, but  also getting them relatively cheap and will know exactly went into every can which has become a current fixation of mine in my attempt to do most things from scratch including vegetables to last me the year.

Take care all.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Catching up and Common Redpolls at the Feeder

Figured I'd catch up since it's been over a month that I've done a blog post.  What can I say except life's been busy with everything happening at once including having to put my oldest cat to sleep, my car that broke down and was out of commission for over a week and big changes at work that has me working at full max so birding and blogging has taken a back seat as well as my canning as I'm too brain dead to do anything requiring much thought on my part.  The snow storm this past Friday helped to get me out of my funk some as I'd get my much loved Common Redpolls at my feeder including the gorgeous male above!

Swwon.  I just love these birds.

Hanging out with the American Goldfinches who were none to pleased with the Redpoll's bossy presence.  I'd have both thistle feeders filled with finches and there'd be plenty of fighting so I called my neighbor to tell her about my redpolls which prompted her to put out another tube feeder of thistle and wouldn't you know the redpolls would feeder hop and with them would be the goldfinches, Northern Cardinals and American Tree Sparrows.  Funny because while my feeders were quiet hers would be active and vice versa so between watching the birds and reporting results to one another it was a good way to weather the storm!

Northern Cardinal looking all regal as he watched the snow.  Has anyone noticed how much these birds have been singing lately!

Song Sparrow in my Blackberry brambles.

Who'd be hanging out with the Dark-eyed Juncos

Full feeders!!  Check out the goldfinch at the bottom.  Does he look ticked or what?  HA!  The arrival of the redpolls prompted me to spend more $ on one last bag of thistle for the season which I didn't think I'd have to do but how can I not now!  Hoping siskins make an appearance as well on their journey up North to head back home.

I'd wake up Saturday and be thrilled to see they were still there and the sun was perfect to allow me to drink them all in.  Just gorgeous!


Picture overload

But how could I not!

Even the goldfinches looked more colorful as the sun shone against their yellow plumage that is indeed getting brighter.

And my favorite feeder bird (besides the redpolls), my beloved American Tree Sparrow's who's giving me the "hairy eyeball".

Another feeder boss which makes them fun to watch.

And while I took a break from canning, I kept up with my bread baking including my son's favorite the rustic White Bread above which goes perfect with cheese and bread and butter pickles I canned last year.

And this baguette that came out incredible with the air pockets I've been yearning for (I found out by accident you get this by over hydrating the bread!).  I am now onto sour dough and have my starter ready to go for this evening which has been one of my major goals this year in my baking so cross your fingers for me as sour dough is tough and unforgiving!

And the only thing I've canned in over 6 weeks which was yesterday where I did a mango, lime and chili pepper chutney for chicken, fish and corn salsa.  Also notice my nifty boreal bird towel I got off of eBay.  Brand new for $9.50 for two of them!  You don't see it, but there's also a Fox Sparrow, Common Redpoll, Boreal Chickadee and Evening Grosbeak.  You so know I had to break my vow and buy that!!

Take care all


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