Monday, January 15, 2018

Red in the Hornbeam

It doesn't matter how cold or gray it gets outside, Northern Cardinals burn bright...

A Northern Cardinal in the American Hornbeam in our backyard. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Fast food isn't good for you anyway, Mr. Red-shouldered Hawk!

Our resident Red-shouldered Hawk decided he was tired of sitting in the tree waiting for an unsuspecting meal to fly by, so he went directly to the source for a little fast-food takeout. Apparently word got out that the local "McTitmouse" was under surveillance, so our backyard birds went somewhere else for dinner...

A Red-shouldered Hawk perches on our platform feeder. The Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, Chickadees, Titmice, Carolina Wrens, woodpeckers, and Northern Cardinals that usually dine there were not amused. They fled for safer ground.

...the shutter clicked in time to catch his nictitating membrane covering his eye.  
If you want to see a nictitating membrane in action, click here to go to a video that shows it covering the eye in slow motion. It's cool to watch because the membrane closes horizontally from the medial corner to the lateral corner, not vertically like our eye lid.

Uh ohhh....he hears my camera click, and now he's not amused.


Our Red-shouldered Hawk sat on the feeder for a while, to no avail. He eventually flew off to find his dinner elsewhere.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The mulberries are ripening...

...so here come the Cedar Waxwings!

Cedar Waxwings perch in the big mulberry tree in our backyard.
Every year late in May and early in June, flocks of Cedar Waxwings swoop into our backyard to raid the mulberry trees, gobbling up the juiciest berries as they ripen on the branches. This Saturday as we sat down to dinner on the deck, a large flock arrived in a flurry of excitement and anticipation. Singing their beautiful high-pitched tseeee tsee tseeeee song while on the wing, we heard them coming before we saw them, and then what a free-for-all! The sleek, elegant birds abandoned their usual aplomb and immediately tucked into the berries, devouring anything plump and juicy in sight, but it didn't stop there, they created a commotion by singing to each other, cuddling up along branches, hopping from here to there, then hopping back. It wasn't a complete feeding frenzy, but more like a social gathering where they were all saying things like, "Over here, these are the ripest berries," "No...no...don't listen to him, over here, sample these."  It went on and on until all the sweet, dark berries were gone, and only the underripe, hard berries remained. Then off to the next tree they flew!

Short and sweet 
The mulberry season is short and sweet, so the waxwings don't stick around in our backyard, but later in the summer and in the early fall, pokeweed berries lure the Cedar Waxwings back. Click here for an earlier post on pokeweed berries and Cedar Waxwings in our backyard.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Barred Owl along the Little Miami River

It's been so long since I've been able to get out in the woods and look for sweet, sweet, little birdies, so when the sun came out and the temp climbed up, I grabbed my camera and headed for the river. I saw Black-throated Blues, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Wood Thrushes, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Scarlett Tanagers, Red-eyed Vireos, Chestnut-sided Warblers, woodpeckers, and all the other usual suspects...and then I saw this fellow perched high in the branches staring at me......sweet!

A Barred Owl perched in a tree along the Little Miami River.
What a surprise to look up and see this fine face looking back at me!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

How to make a ceramic pottery "lily pad" bird bath...and a frog to sit on it!

If you're starting to feel a little antsy for spring while a certain Mr. Winter continues to drag his feet (the groundhog saw his shadow...six more week of winter...ugh), why not hurry spring along by making a cute "lily pad" birdbath for the birds...

Learn how to make this cute lily pad birdbath for the birds this spring.
Visions of birds splashing around in a little birdbath you make can help tide you over
until your garden starts waking up and the birds start singing this spring!! 

How to make the bird bath
1. Roll out a slab of clay.
Make the slab at least 1/4" thick. Since this piece will be outside, you want it to be strong.


2. Cut out the shape of the "lily."
The beauty of this project is any shape works. You can make an actual lily shape or just a wavy circle. It doesn't matter!


3. Stuff plastic under the edges and push the center down to form the bowl.
The clay has to harden, and the best way to help it keep its shape is to stuff plastic around the edges. Newspaper doesn't really work, because it absorbs water and loses its shape. The plastic (dry cleaner bags work really well) maintains it shape.

...and that's it! This has to be the easiest ceramic pottery birdbath project ever!


How to make a frog for the lily pad
1. Form a small ball of clay into a wedge shape.
This wedge will be the body of the frog. The pointed end will be its nose.


2. Roll out a clay "noodle," and attach it to the hind end of the body.
This "noodle" will become the frog's leg.


3. Press the noodle to the frog's side. About halfway up, bend the noodle back.
Making a frog's leg is that simple. In the photo below you can see how easy it is to create the look of a frog's leg.


4. Add the webbing on the back feet.
Simply press a few lines into his feet using a wooden carving tool...no details are needed!


5. Roll out two smaller noodles for the front legs and attach them.
In the photo below, you can see the front legs are even easier to create. Attach them just in front of the back legs, and curve them in. Add the webbing lines as well.


6. Roll out tiny balls and press them onto the head to form the eyes; then use an Exacto knife to cut a simple mouth.
Voila...you have a frog to laze on your lily pad bird bath!

Ribbit!

Ribbit!

6. "Score" the clay to attach the frog to the lily pad.
To attach one piece of clay to another, you must "score" the surfaces first, which means you rough up the surfaces a little, dab water onto the score marks, and stick the two pieces together. I usually use a pencil, a clay needle or a craft knife.



7. You're finished with the construction of the birdbath...
...but you have a few more steps to go: let the piece dry (can take up to a week), fire it, glaze it, and fire again. Find a pottery teacher to help you if you don't have your own kiln or access to clay or glazes. There are lots of studios around town.

You can dig out a small depression in the ground to hold the bird bath (as in the example at the beginning of the post), or place it in a stand like in the photo below. Have fun!!!

I usually scoop out a depression in the ground to hold my lily pad bird baths, but they look great in a stand too.
Another option: attach a chain at three equidistant spots and hang it from a branch.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Backyard Bird...female Pileated Woodpecker!

It's rare to get new species in our yard now. We've lived here since 1999, so our backyard bird list is pretty well set. I hope this one becomes a regular. We've seen her several times over the past two weeks...

A female Pileated Woodpecker outside our kitchen window. I was shooting through the glass and the screen (while half in the sink), so these photos are a little fuzzy, but I'll take 'em!

...such a pretty little Pileated Woodpecker...not! She's huge, and it's so exciting to see her right outside the window!


...please come back, please come back, please come back! 


Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Little Miami Conservancy is turning 50 in 2017!

The Little Miami Conservancy (LMC) is celebrating its 50th year of river conservation, restoration, cleanup and protection of the Little Miami National and State Wild and Scenic River.

Become a Member
If you would like to become a member of the Little Miami Conservancy and make a donation to help protect our Wild and Scenic River, click here for the website, and click the Donate button.

Contact LMC
To contact the Little Miami Conservancy to learn about volunteer opportunities:

     Little Miami Conservancy
     209 Railroad Avenue
     Loveland, OH 45140

     call: 513-965-9344 (leave a message)
     email: partee@littlemiami.com
     ...or click here for a little history of the Little Miami Conservancy

Little Miami River posts over the years...
I just looked on the blog and found I have 118 posts on the Little Miami River and 50 from the Little Miami River Bike Trail. You can find so much beauty along its banks, and we owe that to the formation of the Little Miami Conservancy 50 years ago. Without their stewardship this last half century, much of the beauty would have been lost. Their endless efforts to have the river certified in the National and State Wild and Scenic River programs protected it from development and continue to help ensure it will remain pristine and beautiful.

To see a little more of the Little Miami River's beauty and a few of the birds and plants you'll find along its banks, click here for Red and the Peanut blog posts over the years.