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July 2007

Great egret

Green_lores_2   The Celery Farm is a wader bonanza these days.

   On Thursday morning, I photographed this guy near the first bench as you walk counter-clockwise around the natural area from the Franklin Turnpike parking lot.

   All told, there were at least two great egrets and six great blue herons.

   Note the lime green lores on the egret. As I recall, that's some sort of breeding coloration.



Saving endangered critters and their habitats


    I did a story for The Record today on what to do if you think you've seen an endangered or threatened species.

   The link is below -- and so are links to the state's Endangered and Non-Game Species Web site, including the form you need to fill out.

    A classic example of when to report is the cliff swallows that are nesting in Paramus. They are a "species of special concern," and their habitat should get special protections from the state.

    The story:

      The Web site:

       The form to report a critter:

Conserving suet

Suet1a     Most of the birds in our backyard are suet junkies. I can put out a squishy cake of this animal fat in the morning, and the starlings and jays and other big-mouths will go through the whole thing by day's end.

   Although feeding the birds and watching them at the feeders is a relaxing pastime, I can't afford to be the Mother Teresa of the bird world.

   So -- true confession -- I only put out suet when I am around to enjoy the show (and when I am around to rap on the window to scare away the starlings for a minute or two).

   A friend suggested a new way of dispensing suet.

  Suet1 Instead of simply taking the suet out of its plastic container and sticking the suet cake in the hanging wire basket, one leaves the suet cake in the plastic and hangs the wire basket upside down, as pictured above.

  Suet2 The thinking is that it's tough for the grackles to eat the suet, while the nimbler smaller birds like chickadees and nuthatches can still get their chow.

  I've tried it for few days now, and I still have lots of suet left in the cake. So far, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, red-bellied woodpeckers, downies, chickadees, titmice anSuet3d nuthatches have mastered the suet cake.

    A blue jay landed, tried to peck through the plastic, and gave up.

    I see that feeder companies actually sell upside-down suet dispensers, and they look nicer than my contraption, but for now mine works just fine.

    And the smaller birds don't get bullied by the grackles and other big boys.



Squirrel info



   I have been searching the Web for squirrel info and came across a site called -- you guessed it --

   Apparently they are unionized. 

   This site seemed helpful as well:

  Apparently, the squirrel babies in my nesting box -- or den -- will be blind for the first month, and it will likely take several weeks more for them to venture outside.

   In short, there will be plenty of time to record them on video.

    There are typically three to five a litter, and squirrels typically have one or two litters a year, depending on food supply.

    The squirrel family should be out of the box by the end of September, and the earliest a screech owl has moved in is mid- to late October, so I'll have a few weeks to clean out the studio apartment and prepare for the next tenant.

    In the photo at the top of this post, Mrs. Squirrel thinks outside the box.



Squirrel update July 24



   Not much to report in Squirrelville.

    As you can see from the squirrel-cam photo above, the babies and Mom are mostly hidden under all the leaves that Mrs. Squirrel brought into her box during the pregnancy.

     When she is around, you can occasionally hear one of the babies feeding.

     When she is taking a break, the babies appear to be burrowed into the wood-chip floor.

    As a result, I don't even know how many babies are in there. I am guessing at least two, but the screech owls taught me not to guess very much.

   When the squirrelettes get bigger, I'll video-record them and post the info.

   I'll also look into the natural history of squirrels, which are not the most popular of critters, even around my backyard.