Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Breakfast

I scatter seeds on my porch in Brooklyn Heights for the birds when the weather gets cold. This morning I had lots of visitors. Click on the photos to enlarge.

House sparrows, Passer domesticus, are always the first to arrive. They like seeds and breadcrumbs.  They usually come in a group. 
The cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis, eats seeds, nuts, and fruit. A male/female pair come together, and he usually comes out from cover first. She is less trusting and flies away if she sees me watching. They can open peanut shells, and often nibble some grapes and then fly off with one big peanut each to peel and eat in a more private place. 
I can always tell when the blue jays arrive from their loud calls of Jay! Jay! Jay! The jays, Cyanocitta cristata, target whole peanuts in the shell, carrying them off, one by one, until they have collected them all. They find a good spot and bury them for later. 
White-throated sparrows, Zonotrichia albicollis, mainly breed in Canada and then migrate south to spend the winter in the eastern and southern states, west coast, and northern South America -- and in my garden. They show up on the porch when I put out seeds, seeming mainly to be interested in the smaller ones, like millet. 
Pigeons, Columba livia, almost never come to the garden, but they seem to know immediately whenever there are seeds on my porch. Ditto breadcrumbs, another of their favorites. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Urban Wildlife :-)

I had the flu this week and could not go urban wildlife hunting. Here's a collection of urban animals from my archives -- click the pictures to enlarge.
"Animal totems, like the tiger, come from the Other Side, to protect us while we are away from home." Silvia Browne
"I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?" John Lennon
"An understanding of the natural world and what's in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment."  David Attenborough
"Does the bowl in the garden mock nature when night after night green frogs gather to prove it a pool? Who says you can't make a pond out of a bowl?" Han Yu
"I wouldn't mind turning into a vermillion goldfish." Henri Matisse
"I desired dragons with a profound desire. Of course, I in my timid body did not wish to have them in the neighborhood. But the world that contained even the imagination of Fafnir was richer and more beautiful, at whatever the cost of peril." J.R.R. Tolkien
"This is what you should do; love the Earth and sun and the animals." Walt Whitman
"Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way." John Muir

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Pomegranate for the Cardinals

Sometimes I buy a pomegranate, put it on a shelf, and never get around to eating it. You have to be in the mood to get red juice on your hands...

Cardinals are happy to help with that. I cut a dried-up looking pomegranate into bits yesterday -- it was still juicy inside -- and put them on my porch.

A male (above) and female northern cardinal (below) have been visiting ever since. They eat seeds and fruit, so  pomegranate pips must seem like the perfect food -- a seed wrapped in a bit of juicy red fruit!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Winter Plumage

An adult laughing gull in winter plumage.
I took this photo of a laughing gull in non-breeding plumage at the end of September in southern New Jersey. Laughing gulls, Leucophaeus atricilla, loose their sleek black hoods as summer ends. Breeding season is over by then and they no longer have to look their best to impress potential mates.

If you didn't know better you would think they were different birds in summer when they look like the picture below.

Adult laughing gulls in summer. Click to enlarge. 
Even the winter plumed ones are gone from the northeast now, having flown to their wintering grounds farther south.

Their photos reminded me of summer, and of this line from Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley: "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?"