Saturday, April 25, 2015

Things you see when you're in a tree

A collection of photos from some climbs I've been fortunate to do during the past years.

December sunsets

First warm day of April sky from a white oak

 It becomes clear that trees generate their own heat

A dead branch supports just as much life as a live one

April maple buds

Winter climbs bring their own rewards

This wet day it was a lot about willpower

A sunny summer day my son got to try it out for the first time

Here we are cleaning out a screech owl box where the squirrels have been adding layers for years.

Owl view
 Through tree climbing I've been meeting wonderful people from all over the world. This is Women's Tree Climbing Work shop in October 2013.

My house! I live on the top floor in the blue house. As of this summer, that roof is covered with solar panels.

A stunning May day in an oak
I could have stayed here all week, listening to the spring peepers in the marsh below.
 And I was joined by a pair of scarlet tanagers
 Soft Connecticut hills from a tall tulip tree

My parents in their house, Stockholm, Sweden

My mom did not want to climb but it was great to show her what I have been doing.

Large, old, amazing Elm in south of Sweden. Four trunks spread evenly.

Fantastic lichen cover on this old Elm

Early fall foliage from a hemlock in the Berkshires, MA

Marshes and hidden ponds

And another stunning sunset

 Maples, sugar and red, of giant proportions.

Another fall day, we decided against this oak since it was home to some raccoons

We went up this pine instead

One of few solo climbs for me, in the woods close to home

A night climb in a friend's oak tree

At a tree climbing conference in Atlanta GA, I spent part of the day in this white oak.

The birds that left and came back

In the morning of March 10th I heard a New Sound that had joined the regular morning calls of chattering sparrows, goldfinches and bluejays. I couldn't figure out what it was even though it was right outside my house. Then I looked out at the feeder, and there it was. "A Grackle!" I yelled to anyone who might be around. He had just arrived to my frozen and snowy backyard.

The first flock were about four males. Noisy, conspicuous, gorgeous looking.

This individual had a white spot on his forehead. Later on I also saw another with a white tail feather. 

 A display to deter other males - the females hadn't arrived yet.

 And now the grackles are nesting again in the same conifer tree in my yard for the third year in a row. I don't know if it's the same pair or if it's their descendants, but I've learned to expect them now.
Next to arrive was the redwinged blackbirds. Their loud song is a wonderful spring sound. I felt bad though, since we still had very cold nights and quite a lot of snow left.
My new camera gave me the opportunity to see a new pattern on the back of the blackbird that I'd never seen before.
 And right then came the male brownheaded cowbirds. For a few days they were hanging out around my porch feeder, eating and bickering in the tree.

This little guy stumped me at first. In early morning it came, wet, tired and ravenously hungry after a long night flight. Eventually I learned it was a female cowbird. After eating and resting she was on her way, while the males still hang around for a few more days.

Three kinds of blackbirds in one photo!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The birds that stayed for the winter

 This winter people in Boston were often on "french toast alert", meaning that whenever there was another snow storm coming in everyone went out to buy milk, bread and eggs. I also made sure I had lots of bird food around! There were days when I had hundreds of visits. Since I got my new Canon camera I've been able to zoom in really close and here are some of the pictures I like the most.

Many birds, especially the mourning doves, often spent part of their day in the maple by my feeder. On a cold day their feathers were all fluffy. Often I had up to 30 of them, waiting for me to throw seeds on the floor for them every morning.
Another regular was this house finch. One day in late March he started singing, and soon after he was joined by a mate.  

I think many people have often wondered what evolutionary benefit a bird can get from being so flamboyantly colored, like the cardinal. Surely any predator can spot him for miles? But in the green shades under the canopy, red is not shining bright but looks more brownish-dull. The birds can move from light to shade and use it to their advantage in mating games. At least that's what David Haskell speculates on in his wonderful book "The forest unseen", which I just finished reading.

I find the female cardinal almost more beautiful, once I've seen her subtle colors up close. 

A couple of wrens were also regulars - they kept singing through much of the winter! 
I learned that although nuthatches join mixed species foraging flocks during the winter, they remain in pairs and do not seek new mates in spring.
A junco gets a break from the cold and does some grooming in the sun.

Downy woodpeckers are some of the most frequent visitors, but the redbellied is not as common. Here they are in the same maple, which must now be one of the most pecked-on trees in the neighborhood!
A single tree sparrow was hanging out with the house sparrows this year.

Every morning and every afternoon at dusk the Whitethroated sparrows showed up. This afternoon sunset lit gold on the branches behind. 
There were always chattering and bickering goldfinches around. 

Another type of visitors soon showed up as well. I think this was a sharp shinned hawk, but it is not easy to tell. The tail is long and slender with a sharp end.

 This on the other hand I think is the Cooper's hawk, that came almost every day for a few weeks. It was big so I assumed it was a female. I never saw her hunt so maybe she just came to sit and watch. It was easy to tell when she arrived because all the song birds went dead quiet, and the mourning doves all took off with a loud whistle of wings.
 Details of feathers

Quite fierce...

On another day this juvenile Cooper's came by like a storm wind. Not yet red eyes and with a different pattern on the chest, it was still very impressive and very capable of stirring up the feeder community.

One of the snowy days this redtailed hawk stopped by, periodically shaking the snow off much like a dog would do.
During a trip to Vermont on February break I stopped by a garden when I saw a flock of birds in a fruit tree. Bohemian waxwings! What a treat. 

Before the woods were covered in 4 feet of snow I managed to get out to a few of my treasured places. At Ponkapoag pond reservation in the Blue Hills I saw a hermit thrush that had not yet migrated this December day, I wonder if he stayed for the rest of the winter. His song is one of my most favorite spring sounds.

An American tree sparrow posed at Millenium park down by Saw mill brook.

That's also where I saw this raven, through the car window on the way out!

   My friend in Carlisle had a slightly different set of feeder visitors than my inner-city station. Bluebirds are just too blue to be real...
Bluebird and Hairy woodpecker 
Pine siskins and goldfinches go well together.

The siskin's bill seems longer and more pointed, to reach deep into pine cones.
 Goldfinches with a patchwork of tan and yellow feathers. It's snowing, but hormones are bringing out competitive behaviors along with the new molt.