June 30, 2010
Above: Day 17 for six Mountain Bluebird chicks (Sialia mexicana).
Jen and I ran Bluebird Trail for the first time in a long time. The house wren chicks do not look good at all. They all seem to be dead or dying. House 562 has one happy healthy Mountain Chickadee chick. The Tree Swallows have some very tiny chicks that seem to be alive and kicking. The Western Bluebirds are doing great. 6 healthy happy chicks.
Fox in the Henhouse
Jennifer and I saw two amazingly cute spotted mule deer fawns with white spots today. They came through the back while we were building the treehouse. I dropped my tools and ran inside to get my camera and I swear those things disappeared like ghosts.
"Where did they go," I squawked.
"I dunno. They went behind the barn and then I didn't see them any more," she replied.
I walked all around the property. I jumped no less than 10 bucks in velvet, but not one doe. I couldn't find her or her fawns. Majorly disappointed.
So, in any event, we decided to run Bluebird trail and I heard these magpies just going nuts out back so we drove the ATV down there to see what the ruckus was. I was hoping that it was the fawns, but instead found a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) eating something...probably a magpie.
The last fox up here died of an acute onset of lead poisoning. I think that this fox and Timmy can coexist, but I'm going to bushhog out back tomorrow so he can't sneak up on Timmy in the weeds.
June 29, 2010
Brown-headed Cowbirds vs. Brewer's Blackbirds
I have no idea what these birds are. I saw them today in Morrison and snapped a few shots. Possibly Brown-headed Cowbirds . Possibly Brewer's Blackbirds Hopefully whatbird.com will clear things up.
Update: They're Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater).
Update 2: Or, they're possibly Brewer's Blackbirds (Quiscalus breweri).
Above: Male Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii) near Morrison, Colorado. I've been seeing this bird around Morrison recently, but couldn't quite get a fix on what I was seeing. Today, Jennifer pointed this one out to me and I was so happy I took her to get ice cream.
It's really hard to believe the color of this bird. It's orange and yellow, with some black and white thrown in for good measure. This is the true color of the bird (in both photos). Jennifer pointed it out to me and I was like "Oh wow. You're getting ice cream for this one."
I'd been hearing this bird out back for the last few weeks. I could hear his very distinctive song, but could never spot the little bugger. Finally, I told Jennifer that I'd take her to get ice cream if she could find him. Before long, she'd pinned down the tree was in and presently, she pointed him out to me. He's a very small fellow, and deathly shy. He has a favorite tree out back that he hides in, bouncing around like a ping pong ball in a dryer. I snapped a few grainy shots of the fellow and then began scouring my books and the internet to identify the mysterious summer visitor.
Eventually, with the aid of whatbird.com, I was able to pin down the taxonomy. He's a Cordilleran Flycatcher (Empidonax occidentalis). Funny how I'd never really noticed him before. He's a very pretty bird. Hopefully I'll get some decent shots of the recluse one of these days. You can listen to his song here.
Jennifer and I saw these flowers down in Morrison at a little quasi-legitimate garage sale this weekend. She found a little television she wanted with a remote control and got them down to $8.00. They said the flowers were called "Sweet Peas."
June 27, 2010
Spent the weekend with Jen getting the floor joists hung for her treehouse. Then today, down to Home Depot for the flooring and some 2x4's for the ladder. We cobbled together a pretty serviceable ladder to access the treehouse. And managed to get all of the floor joists hung and laid down a 3/4" plywood floor before the dark stopped us. We got a tiny bit of rain today...just enough to make us move all of our tools onto the patio so we could work on the ladder out of the weather. Doesn't look like much right now, as it's mainly a ladder and a floor, but it was a huge leap forward so far as the treehouse is concerned.
I've posted the directions I used to build the treehouse ladder in the extended entry.
June 26, 2010
Mary, Mary Quite Contrary
Every day after work, Bud and I go out and weed our gardens. It's a labor of love, really. It's not like you could ever get enough out of your effort to say it made sense. It's just something cool to do. Plant a little Obama garden and stay close to the land.
Bud usually gives me grief at the weeds in my garden. When I was out of town, it gor pretty ugly, and it took me a while to get it under control. Bud lampoons me in the evenings, yelling across the field "You should enter your vine weeds in the county fair."
But I finally got it all under control and this afternoon, we got a good little rain and, feeling ambitious after hanging floor joists for Jennifer's treehouse all day, I went out and hoed up another row and planted cabbages and lettuce.
Row 7 /Corn
Row 6 Cabbage / Radishes / Corn
Row 5 / Corn
Row 4 Okra / Squash / Squash / Corn
Row 3 Okra
Row 2 Green Beans / Cabbage
Row 1 Peas
At this point, the Peas, Green Beans, Squash, and Corn is coming up. I've really not seen any okra to speak of. May need to replant it.
I'm reasonably sure my corn won't be "knee high by the fourth of July", but it's coming up. I'll have corn this year.
June 24, 2010
Alice called me and warned me that the boys were going to be stirring the bees so I ran outside and got a few shots while Bud and Matt made some adjustments to the hive. After their changes, the worker bees will store honey in the top section but the queen can't access it, so there won't be any bee larvae in that section...only pure honey.
The bees are amazing. Jennifer and I stood about 15 feet from them while they performed this complicated operation on the hive and no one got stung.
Matt handed us some honeycombe with bee larvae covered in honey and we dug the larvae out and ate the honey. Unbelievable. Jen and I stood there laughing, spitting out bees, and chewing on beeswax.
"I always wondered what "beeswax" was," Jen observed.
"It doesn't get any better than this," I offered.
Probably I should call it "Matt's Gold" instead of Ulee's Gold. It was all Matt's idea. Genius. Pure genius.
Now Jennifer wants to start a hive.
Jennifer and Katarina at the Denver Aquarium.
June 23, 2010
Above: House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) at Bud's house.
June 22, 2010
I'm going to make a quick run up Webster Pass to see if it's open. If I don't post back here by midnight, send help. :)
Update: I made it back alive. Pass is not open yet. Still heavy snow up just below the lip of the pass. Probably won't open for a week or two.
Above and Below: North American Hobos (Dumbius Maximus).
Above: American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos).
Above and below: Female Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater). This bird doesn't bother to build a nest, choosing instead to lay her eggs in another bird's nest. The surrogate mom normally raises them as her own, often at the expense of her own young.
Disable Adobe Updater
I'm so thoroughly sick of every little application nagging me to install updates. Most of these are handled pretty well by Codestuff Starter. Adobe, of course, is a horse of a different color. It wants to constantly install updates to the Adobe PDF viewer, which I'm reasonably sure I don't need or want. So, I tried to disable it using some tips from these sites:
Basically, I did the following on all of my computers:
- searched the C:\ drive for and deleted the file "AdobeUpdaterPrefs.dat".
- I renamed the C:\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Updater5 folder to C:\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Updater5_backup. (One of my PC's had C:\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Updater6 instead of Updater5. So I renamed folder to C:\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Updater6_backup.)
- I created the registry fix (DisableAUM_Updates.reg) and imported it into my registry.
Hopefully this will stop the nagging.
June 19, 2010
2 More Tadpoles Released
These two tadpoles turned into frogs so we released them today. We'd previously released "Quinter". These were named "Mingo" and Wakeeny(sic?) Hard to describe how small they are, but those are Jennifer's fingers in the photo. Not mine.
June 18, 2010
Birds at Dry Creek Trail
Above: Black-crowned Night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax).
Above: Snowy Egret (Egretta thula).
Above: Male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) attacking a light-morph Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni).
The Butterfly Pavilion
Bluebird Trail - 6/18/10
Last night, Timmy caught a mouse and I took the mouse and put it into an empty 40 gallon aquarium with a lid so he was safe for the night. Then, Timmy woke us up again making a terrible racket. It was about 4:00 in the morning. Pitch black outside. Timmy chasing something like mad through the house. I reluctantly got up, expecting to find him after another mouse. Instead, he was chasing our female mountain bluebird through the house. I caught her and released her outside. She seemed fine, but was confused by the light on the front patio and kept returning to it like a moth to a flame. So I turned of the light and then released her again and she flew away.
I wasn't sure what to do, so we scolded Timmy good and went back to sleep. In the morning, we found that the top was off of the bluebird house and the babies were all gone. Later, we saw the neighbor's cat slinking away from the nest with a very guilty look on her face, like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar.
Our best guess is that the neighbor's cat killed and ate the babies. The mom somehow got inside our house and was flying around. Possibly she was distraught and Timmy caught her. Possibly Timmy was the sole culprit. It's hard to know.
We'll move the box onto a post and put tin around it so that cat's can't get into it so easily. We've seen mom today, and she looks fine. No sign of dad. It's a sad day for the bluebirds.
June 15, 2010
Bluebird Trail - 6/15/10
Above: Day 3 for 5 baby Mountain Bluebirds.
Above: Day 3 for 6 baby Western Bluebirds.
Above: Mature Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo Jamaicanainsis) scanning the Flying J Ranch for a meal. When the birds are backlit like this, you can see they were aptly named.
Pollywogs and Tadpoles
Jennifer and I captured some tadpoles (or pollywogs as we used to call them) in Mississippi and brought them back to Colorado in a cup. We stopped in Louisiana to get some more water for them, and ended up with another cup full of tadpoles. So, we brought them home and divied them up according to size. I got the big ones and she got the little ones. Less chance of cannibalism, we figured.
So I threw mine in an aquarium with a heater and in a day or so, these things started to emerge from the water. Jennifer asked me to take a photo and I was like "are you serious?" These things are tiny. To try to put some perspective in the photo, I put a nickel in the photo. So, that's what you see on the right - a nickel lying on its side. The tadpole/frog is perched on a piece of aquarium gravel with his vestigial tail still showing.
Bluebird Trail - 6/14/10
Above: Day 2 for 5 baby Mountain Bluebirds. Here the mother is on the nest.
Above: Day 2 for 6 baby Western Bluebirds. Here the mother is on the nest with a green caterpillar in her beak.
Above: Day 2 for 6 baby Western Bluebirds. Here, mom has left the nest to catch insects for her ravenous chicks.
Above: The first sighting of mom, a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor).
Above: Male Western Kingbird in downtown Denver.
Above: Jennifer and I recently spotted this Meadowlark near Quinter, Kansas. I was going to identify it as a Western Meadowlark, but this area of Kansas apparently has Eastern and Western Meadowlarks and they're apparently nearly indistinguishable in the field. So I'll just identify it as a male Meadowlark and leave it at that for now.
June 13, 2010
Bluebird Trail - 6/13/10
Above: Box 3 - Mountain Bluebirds - Mom laid 5 blue eggs and began incubation on 5/30/2010. I'd say the eggs hatched on June 13th.
Above: Box 4 - House wrens - 6 pink speckled eggs. Not clear if incubation has started yet. I've never seen mom on the nest.
Above: Box 7 - Tree swallows - 4 white eggs. Tree swallows finally made a nest out of feathers after I left town. No sign of incubation, but at least 4 white eggs in the nest.
Above: Box 8 - Western Bluebirds - Mom laid 6 blue eggs and began incubation on 6/1/2010. 5 eggs hatched on June 13th. 1 egg still not hatched when I checked today. Mom not on nest.
Box 1 - House wrens - 0 eggs. This is a decoy nest.
Box 2 - House wrens - 0 eggs. This is a decoy nest
Box 3 - Mountain Bluebirds - 5 blue eggs. Mom on nest. I'd say she officially began incubation of 5 eggs on 5/30/2010. Assuming an incubation period of 13-15 days, her eggs should hatch on June 12-14. I checked today and she was sitting on at least two live chicks. I'd say the eggs hatched on June 12-13th. We'll call it June 13th.
Box 4 - House wrens - 6 pink speckled eggs. This nest has straw in the nest of twigs, indicating that the nest was completed, but no eggs were ever laid until after I left town. Now, there are are least six eggs in the nest.
Box 5 - Mountain Chickadees - 7 white eggs. Mom was incubating the eggs when I left, but I didn't see her today. The eggs were uncovered and she wasn't on them. Assuming an incubation period of 12-14 days, her eggs should hatch on June 13-15.
Box 6 - House wrens - 3 pink eggs. This nest has been abandoned, and I noticed a hole in one of the eggs today. Perhaps Timmy got the mom.
Box 562 - Mountain Chickadees - 7 white eggs. Mom still on the nest. Unknown if any have hatched. She officially began incubation of 7 eggs on 5/30/2010. Assuming an incubation period of 12-14 days, her eggs should hatch on June 11-13.
Box 7 - Tree swallows - 4 white eggs. Tree swallows finally made a nest out of feathers after I left town. No sign of incubation, but at least 4 white eggs in the nest.
Box 8 - Western Bluebirds - 5 baby Western Bluebirds and one unhatched blue egg. Mom not on nest when I checked.
Mountain Bluebird eggs laid: 5
Western Bluebird eggs laid: 6
House Wren eggs laid: 9
Mountain Chickadee eggs laid: 14
Tree Swallow eggs laid: 4
Total eggs laid: 38
Mountain Bluebird chicks hatched: at least 2 - possibly as many as 5
Western Bluebird chicks hatched: 5
House Wren chicks hatched: 0
Mountain Chickadee chicks hatched: 0
Tree Swallow chicks hatched:
Total chicks hatched: at least 7 - possibly as many as 10.
I was incorrect on my assumption that all eggs had been laid by June 1. The wrens continued to lay eggs in June, as did the Tree Swallows.
Take-out in the rain
This morning, I saw this hawk eating another bird in the rain near Marshdale Colorado. This is about 8,000 ft above sea-level in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It has been raining steadily for about a day or so, and the hawk is soaking wet. I'm not sure what type of hawk this is. The hawks I most frequently see up here this time of year are Red-tails and possibly Swainson's hawks. This bird appears to have prominent tail banding and a reddish-brown eye.
Juvenile Red-tails have prominent tail banding, but their eyes are yellow when they're young, and I don't see a prominent belly band. So, I'm thinking this is a mature hawk, but not a Red-tail. Possibly a Swainson's?
Update: This is a Cooper's hawk. :)
Update 2: Bob Cohen elaborates - "From the shape (relatively slim, small-headed and long-tailed), it's an accipiter rather than a buteo, so it's not either a Red-tail or a Swainson's. So, the possibilities are Goshawk, Cooper's, and Sharp-shinn. The ventral (underside) orange barring, most visible in this photo on the flanks, rules out a Goshawk. The relatively light-colored nape (back of neck) indicates that it's a Cooper's rather than a Sharp-shinn. Also, compared to Cooper's, Sharp-shinn is even smaller-headed and smaller-beaked, which doesn't agree with your photo."
Update 3: Poor Matty adds - "The length of the tail is a very good thing to look for. Most Buteos don't have a tail that extends very far past their primaries when the bird is perched, if it extends past them at all. Accipiter tails on the other hand are always quite a bit longer. Also, in adult birds, the bluish back is a good mark for an Accipiter. Most Buteos (though there are some exceptions) are brown above. Of course, immature Accipiters are also brown on the upperparts."
June 12, 2010
Drops of Jupiter
Here's a brief slideshow of some photos I shot this month (June 2010). Most of the photos are of Jennifer's graduation from the 6th grade and subsequent visit to see her cousins before Hannah departs on a year long tour of the planet.
The images were all captured on one of the following:
- Canon EOS 50D with a Canon L-series image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM) with ET-83C hood.
- Canon EOS 40D with an image-stabilized, ultra-sonic telescopic zoom lens (EF-S 17-85mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM).
The images are compiled into a 16 Meg (4:20 Adobe Flash slideshow(2010_ms.swf) that you should be able to open and view with any browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.). To view the slideshow, just click on the photo above. If you want to view the slideshow as a Windows executable, you can play this version (2010_ms.exe), and it allows you to play, pause, skip forward, backwards, etc.
The soundtrack is "Drops of Jupiter" by Train. On the trip back, Jennifer said that "Train" sang this song. I explained to her that it was an Elton John song. Of course, I found out later she was right and I had to call her and eat some crow. Lyrics in the extended entry.
Click here to view the other slideshows.
Above: Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus).
Above: Male Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius).
Above: Male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).
June 1, 2010
Bluebird Trail - 6/1/10
Box 1 - House wrens - 0 eggs (I'm reasonably certain at this point that this is a decoy nest.)
Box 2 - House wrens - 0 eggs (I'm reasonably certain at this point that this is a decoy nest.)
Box 3 - Mountain Bluebirds - 5 blue eggs. Mom on nest. I'd say she officially began incubation of 5 eggs on 5/30/2010. Assuming an incubation period of 13-15 days, her eggs should hatch on June 12-14. This morning, she wasn't on the eggs, but she was watching them. I think that "incubating eggs" allows for some time off of the nest in nice weather.
Box 4 - House wrens - 0 eggs. This nest has straw in the nest of twigs, indicating that the nest was completed, but no eggs were ever laid. I believe this nest has been abandoned.
Box 5 - Mountain Chickadees - 7 white eggs. (Same yesterday.) Mom has begun incubating the eggs as of today. She hissed at me like crazy. First I've seen of her. She officially began incubation of 7 eggs on 6/1/2010. Assuming an incubation period of 12-14 days, her eggs should hatch on June 13-15.
Box 6 - House wrens - 3 pink eggs. No change from yesterday. I'm not clear why the mom is not incubating yet. I believe this nest has been abandoned.
Box 562 - Mountain Chickadees - 7 white eggs. Mom on nest. She officially began incubation of 7 eggs on 5/30/2010. Assuming an incubation period of 12-14 days, her eggs should hatch on June 11-13.
Box 7 - Tree swallows - no nest yet.
Box 8 - Western Bluebirds - 6 blue eggs. Same as yesterday. Mom still not incubating.
Mountain Bluebird eggs: 5
Western Bluebird eggs: 6
House Wren eggs: 3
Mountain Chickadee eggs: 14
Total eggs: 28
I'd wager money that, at this point (June 1), all eggs have been laid. I'd say nest construction begins mid-May, and eggs are laid by the end of May. Birds should hatch by mid June, and fledge at the end of June, I think.