Magical, winged, woodland creatures

In preparation for hand-feeding the hummingbirds, the ranger at Lake Hope, Ohio said, “Bees will be attracted to the sugar water. Let them be. They don’t want to sting you, they want to drink the sugar water. If you flap your arms and carry on, you will never get a hummingbird to come.”

Hummingbird feeding

This woman was the picture of patience, and it paid off. I wish I could have reached her before she left. I would have sent her the photo.

Hummingbird

Whoah. Incoming. She sure kept her cool. I’m not sure I could have.

Hummingbird

When the first hummingbird I ever saw, years ago, as it was zipping through my garden, buzzed by me, I ducked, thinking it was a very large insect.

Hummingbird

What do you think? Insect or bird? Maybe insect.

Hummingbid

No, definitely bird.

Hummingbird

Or maybe magical, winged, woodland creature dancing with the fairies.

Hummingbirds, photoshopI suspect she thinks so. I thought she deserved a hummingbird or two or three, even if she wasn’t patient enough to ever get one without a little help from Adobe Elements.

Kit wish comes true

I didn’t have to take my 10-pound hunting dog, Arthur, into the woods to search out the fox den after all. The kits cames to me.

Red fox kits

They were a little bigger than I imagined, but then I don’t know how old they are.
Playful red fox kitTheir playful behavior left little doubt that they were kits.

Red fox kit

And the fact that they hung out on our driveway for at least fifteen minutes,

Two Red fox kitsscratching,

Red fox kitsitting in the sun,

Two red fox kits

apparently completely carefree and relatively unconcerned about me and my camera staring out through the kitchen door.

 Red fox kits

They knew I was watching them.
Red fox kitBut they weren’t too concerned about that. One sat down and scratched some more,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa little scratch here,

Red fox kita little bite there.

Red fox kit“I see you watching me.”

Red fox kit in garden

One enjoyed the garden,

Red fox kit

and tried out some of the decorative grasses.

Red fox kit

“Uh oh. I think I’m going to have to sit down and scratch some more.”
Red fox kit “Dog gone it, something is driving me crazy.”
Red fox kit
The red fox activity has been high around here lately. They have become Arthur’s latest arch enemies. It used to be the neighborhood feral cat.

 Little White Peek-a-poo

My little hunting dog, Arthur, alerts me to their presence from his view out the study or kitchen windows. He is armed and ready. He doesn’t know it, but he is never going to step foot one foot outside while fox are visible in our yard. He also doesn’t realize he’s never going to catch a squirrel, but that doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm.

Red fox in garden

“Can you see me now?”

Red fox.“Can you see me now?”

Red fox vixen

About 45 minutes after they left, the vixen came trotting by. She doesn’t look too good. It kind of reminded me of how I looked some days when I was raising babies.

Red fox vixen

No wonder she’s tired if she has to chase these kits down every day.

Do you know where your children are?

The Red Fox are busy around here

The first time I saw a red fox in the wild, or anywhere for that matter, was shortly after we moved here in January of 2010. I was looking out the kitchen window at the snow-covered, wooded hillside beyond the creek that runs across the bottom of our backyard hill. The red fox was jogging through the bare trees of the woods, parallel to our yard. It crossed the creek, and then jogged back across our yard. It was beautiful and stunning against the white winter landscape. I was afraid to leave the window to get my camera for fear of losing sight of it.

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January 21, 2012.  Notice the bushy tail, and how slim the fox is.

Over the next couple of years, we had the occasional surprise visit by a red fox. One morning as I sat at our kitchen table, I saw one in our garden right below the deck outside our kitchen door. It was moving towards the front of the house. I grabbed my camera from the kitchen shelf and raced through the house to the study where I caught a shot of the fox before it disappeared from sight. They’re usually on the move and don’t stay around very long.

September 2, 2014. This red fox was lurking behind a bush in my garden. A doe and fawn were nearby.
September 2, 2014. This fox has a much longer tail than the fox in the first picture.

This red fox was lurking behind a bush in my garden. A doe and fawn were nearby. I had heard from neighbors that we had a fox family with kits in the area last summer. I never saw the family. In the fall I was lucky enough to see two young foxes right outside my study window one morning. They looked more like young adults to me, than kits.

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January 24, 2015. The long-tailed fox.

This year the fox activity has picked up even more. According to National Geographic, “Red foxes are solitary hunters who feed on rodents, rabbits, birds, and other small game—but their diet can be as flexible as their home habitat. Foxes will eat fruit and vegetables, fish, frogs, and even worms. If living among humans, foxes will opportunistically dine on garbage and pet food.”

Should I put out some of Arthur’s food for it? Probably not.

January 27, 2015
January 27, 2015. The bushy-tailed and long-tailed fox.

One day in January I got lucky when I happened to look up from typing on the computer where I sit in my study. Outside the window, in the wooded hillside across the drive, I saw these two foxes. I watched for a while, thinking I didn’t have time to retrieve my camera from the kitchen. But they were just kind of hanging out over there so I took the chance, ran and got my camera, and shot a few pictures.

One of the foxes has a bushy tail, and the other a long one.

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January 27, 2015

If you look at the bushy-tailed one, you might notice that it looks a little thick around the middle. My theory is that this is the female who may already be expecting babies at this point.

Red fox
January 27, 2015

According to All About the Red Fox, “Red Foxes are often mates for life. Mating occurs between mid-January and March, depending on the climate they live in, and the babies (called kits or cubs) are born about 58 days later.”

Red fox
June 3, 2015

Does this look like a tired papa to you? He’s starting to look a little gaunt.

A fox can have from two to ten kits in a litter. According to National Geographic, “Both parents care for their young through the summer before they are able to strike out on their own in the fall.”

The mother stays with the kits constantly for the first two weeks and the father hunts, bringing food back to the vixen. After a few weeks, the parents give the kits regurgitated meat to eat. Then later they bring them small, live prey. (All About the Red Fox.)

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July 5, 2015

One evening, Mark and I were sitting on our screened-in porch, that looks down on our back yard from a second-story level, when Mark taps my leg and points down to the yard. A red fox was trotting past with a dead squirrel in its mouth. Arthur started barking. The fox dropped the squirrel and ran into the woods. “That fox will be back for the squirrel,” I said. I had my cell phone in my hand, and sure enough, the fox came back out, grabbed the squirrel and high-tailed it across the yard.

A short while later, we saw it run past again with what looked like a small rodent in its mouth.

Then we saw the stubby-tailed fox jog by a little later. Arthur barked at it. It ran faster. Then it stopped, looked up to see where the noise was coming from, and stared at Arthur. After a short while, it turned and went on its way. This one seems a bit more bold than the other.

They sure are busy. They must be trying to feed hungry babies.

That hard-working fox just ran past the front of our house as I sit here typing this.  I believe it was the male.

A couple of days after the squirrel incident, I saw a fox in our garden. Looking for a nice juicy chipmunk, no doubt. I am convinced there is a den nearby with kits in it. When I take Arthur out on our screened-in porch some mornings he stares at a point in the woods where it seems he senses something. Dogs have a good sense of smell.

I think Arthur is a hunting dog.

Maybe I should take Arthur for a little hike in the woods to find the kits. I’ll be sure to take my camera if I do.

25th Annual Fort Ancient Celebration: A Gathering of Four Directions

Fort Ancient Pow Wow, was informative and soul-stirring.

Last Saturday, June 13, Mark and I attended the 25th Annual Fort Ancient Celebration: A Gathering of Four Directions, sometimes referred to as the Fort Ancient Pow Wow, with our photo group—Scoot and Shoot.

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It was a two-day event filled with activities and demonstrations like talks about Herbs, a Dream Catcher Workshop, and Women’s Drum Demonstration:Struck by Lightning.

Vendors sold handmade crafts.

I bought a little pouch, like those hanging in the background, to carry my cell around when I am without pockets.

Two food trucks sold some traditional food, and not-so-traditional, food.

Frybread was a big item on the menu. I tried some with cinnamon and sugar and it reminded me a little of a thick, soft, cinnamon funnel cake. It was tasty, and no doubt fattening, which brings me to my next point.

I was given a short history lesson about frybread by the owner of the food truck I visited. When the US government forced the Indians to relocate to New Mexico, where their traditional crops of vegetables and beans wouldn’t grow, they gave them canned goods and the ingredients to make frybread: white flour, processed sugar and lard. By today’s standards, we all know how poorly this serves as nutrition.

“Frybread is revered by some as a symbol of Native pride and unity,” but it is also “ blamed for contributing to high levels of diabetes and obesity on reservations,” (Fry Bread, Inc). The Fry Bread link is interesting and worth a quick visit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGenerally, I like to take candid photos, following the implicit rule that if you are in a public place, you are fair game to be photographed. If I want to sell a photo I’ve taken of someone, however, I have to have signed permission. As a sign of respect, at this event, we were requested to ask permission before taking a photograph. We were granted permission to take photos of the Grand Entry with exception of a few particular times that included the veterans’ flag and honor songs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis dancer is waiting for the festivities to begin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Grand Entry was largely a parade of participants who entered the arena accompanied by live music. I found it to be meditative and soul-stirring.

I spoke with the woman in front, in this photo, who told me she is 50% Native, but when she is not attending special events, she lives as the rest of us do. She is the mother of the young man with the long head dress in the above picture. The head dress was a gift from her. She is proud and happy that her son chooses to participate and honor his native heritage.

 This tiny dancer captured my heart. I also photographed another young girl, a little older than this one, who I overheard was participating for the first time. I snapped a shot of her as she was lining up for the Grand Entry. She was standing, very attentive and solemn, beside a woman who was teaching her what to do. I neglected to ask for permission before I captured that moment, so I am not sharing it here.

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Fort Ancient, the site of the gathering is located in Warren County, Ohio, on a plateau above the Little Miami River. It is a prehistoric site built during the Hopewell Culture from 100 BC to 500 AD and consists of earthen walls and mounds built and used by prehistoric people to mark the movements of the sun and moon. Fort Ancient was primarily used for ceremonial and social gatherings on certain days of the year, as identified by solar and lunar movements.

“Today the structure is considered to be the largest and best preserved prehistoric Indian enclosure in North America,” (Ohio.com, Celebration a Gathering of the Four Directions).

The people who built Fort Ancient mounds were of the Hopewell Culture, not a specific tribe. Beginning around 200 B.C. archaeaologists noted a new Native American culture developing and spreading throughout the Midwest. They named the culture Hopewell. Tribes that identified as being part of the Hopewell culture had an agricultural lifestyle and complex trading system and tended to reside near major waterways. In Ohio, the Hopewell culture in strong in the Ohio Valley, the Scioto Valley, and the Miami Valley, (Ohio History Central, Hopewell Culture).

According to Indian Country Today, The Native earthworks in Ohio: in Newark; Serpent Mound, in Peebles; Fort Ancient, in Lebanon; and Hopewell Culture National Historical Park/Mound City, in Chillicothe—are being considered for UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites,”  (Indian Country Today, Ohio’s Magnificent Earthworks – an Ancient Astronomical Wonder).

You can read more about how the earthworks were made and function here: Ohio Earthworks.

What’s blooming now

The early morning sun strikes through emerging iris blades and sets them aglow.

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The Lenten roses, true to their name, are blooming again.

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Tiny yellow flowers that look like miniature daffodils to me, are confidently called Buttercups by my grandson Luke, who’s three.
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Larger daffodils are beginning to flower.

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Pink hyacinths begin to bloom, their fragrance yet to make itself known.

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The garden is coming up green.

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And periwinkles carpet the woods across the way.

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Even after the coldest, harshest, longest winter, spring, at last, comes again.

Spring is coming — just ask the birds

It’s been a long, cold winter here. But the month of March always gives me hope for spring. And this year is no different. Even though white patches of snow still dot the ground, I know winter’s days are numbered.

Yesterday I saw squirrels running through the woods hopping from limb to limb in a kind of feverish ecstasy that enters all of our souls to one degree or another with the coming of spring.

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Our first robin is back. (A quick google search will tell you that some of the robins never leave. We, however, have not seen one solitary robin at our feeders the entire winter until the past few days. You can judge for yourself.)

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And a red-winged blackbird has been visiting our feeders. (Websites like the Cornell lab of Ornithology will tell you that these birds are here year-round. It also states, “In the North, their early arrival and tumbling song are happy indications of the return of spring.” Again, you can judge for yourself.)

Spring is coming. I can see it in the birds, and feel it in the air.

Soon.

The amazing planet earth

Downed red bud tree – March 2012

This planet we’re on and the plant life on it never fail to amaze me. Right now a storm just kicked up outside my study window where I sit at my desk. The rain is pouring, tree limbs are moving violently, thunder is booming, and my little dog Arthur is hiding behind the recliner shaking. I’ll have to go get his Thunder Shirt.

Storms amaze me. But that isn’t what this blog is about, just a timely coincidence.

I want to talk about new growth. New life.

You might remember last spring when I came home to find our red bud tree in the back yard lying down on the ground in full bloom, like a carelessly tossed aside bouquet.

Mark went out and cut it off at the ground. I brought in a few boughs for a centerpiece, a floral arrangement to  mourn the loss of this herald of spring.

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And if you’ve followed my blog at all, you probably know I like to take Arthur for walks at the Voice of America park where I often take photos of the birds that frequent the lake and surrounding meadowland. What you don’t know is that they have had a problem with beavers there in recent years. Even if you’ve never seen the results of a beaver’s work on a small tree, you will know right away if you ever do.

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 In March of this year, this is what was left of a Cleveland Pear tree planted in memory of a individual named Walsh.

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And this is what was left of a Swamp White Oak in memory of Dan Fleming.

I thought the trees were goners.

But here’s the amazing part.

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In the beginning of June, the Walsh pear tree started showing signs of life.

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By the end of June, the Swamp White Oak had a lot of dense new growth.

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And finally, our red bud tree is growing again. It looks like a little bush beside the chairs.

I think this is amazing.

What are we to make of it?

Well, some might say, that’s no big deal. The trees have an extensive root system that stayed alive even in the absence of limbs and leaves.

Yes! My point exactly.

It is all underground. I can’t see any of it. There is life pulsing beneath the earth, within the soil. Isn’t that amazing?

This is an incredible beautiful bountiful planet.

Don’t miss it it on your short stay here.

Here’s the thing about deer

If you’ve kept up with my blog at all over the couple of years I’ve been cluttering up the internet with minutia, you already know that I love deer. I have a whole page devoted to my deer posts, I spend a lot of time running for my camera and trying to capture the image of these beautiful creatures in a digital file.

However, if you’ve been keeping up, you also know I love my gardens, and rejoice in the surprises they offer me, like the recent volunteer sunflowers, for example.

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June 22 – volunteer sunflowers in my garden

We’ve never been able to grow sunflowers here before because of the critters. I’ve been running outside with my camera and shooting the progress of the sole sunflower bloom so far.

Can you guess where this post is headed?

June 25 - morning
June 25 – morning

This morning I was greeted by sunflower stalks with leafless stems poking out.

June 25 - morning
June 25 – morning – deer track in garden

And it didn’t take a lot of detective work to figure out who did it.

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June 25 – afternoon

I think I should just make this point perfectly clear to the four-legged creatures dining in our garden — you’re not the only ones who like the sunflowers. Leave something for the rest of us.

So far so good. The buds and blooms are still intact.

However, I am not going to be a happy camper if I wake up one morning to find them missing.

June flowers — what’s blooming now

My gardens are colorful and lush this time of year before the summer’s heat starts to wreck its havoc on the leaves and flowers.

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The most striking things right now in my St. Francis Garden are the volunteers you see stretching up to the sky in the middle of this shot.

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These sunflowers sprouted from seeds distributed by the birds and squirrels who frequented our bird feeder this winter. I suspect we’ve had these volunteers before and unwittingly yanked them as weeds in early spring. This year I allowed the little sprouts to stay out of curiosity.

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The buds are forming. I’m very excited about these, especially considering the sunflower seeds I planted have never prevailed due to small creatures eating the seedlings.

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These little annuals are visible in the bottom left corner of the above garden photo if you look hard enough. (Clicking on the photo helps). I don’t know their name and forgot to keep the tag.

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I have high hopes for this Mandevilla on the trellis. They’re supposed to attract hummingbirds I’m told.

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If you look down past the feet of the sunflowers, you might be able to spot these bright little daisies. I used to have three nice bunches of them along the stone steps through the garden, but the bird feeder placement had a detrimental effect on them.

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These are the same daisies Mark and I planted at Annie’s grave, where Mom and Dad are now also buried. Since the cemetery is  about an hour and a half north of here they bloom a little later. I will wait about a week or two and then make the trip to see them blooming on the gravesite.

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At the bottom of the garden near the woods, these white astilbe are blooming. I think I need to plant more of these for next year. The other shade plants here—sweet woodruff, lilies of the valley, columbine, bleeding hearts—have all had their moment in the spotlight and are now done for this year.

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We have a nice little patch of yellow Stella d’Oras blooming at the end of the garden before you get to the back yard.

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I love the flowers on this variety, although the lighter cream or vanilla colored stella doras in our Angel Garden are my favorite. They have a lot of buds, but aren’t blooming quite yet.

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You probably noticed the spot of color provided by these purple petunias. I added this hanging cone-shaped basket last year.

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I’m trying to use more containers, but am not as vigilant as I might need to be to be successful at it. I rely heavily on Mother Nature in my perennial gardens.

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I think these are verbena, but don’t hold me to it. You’d think I’d know not only the common names, but also the biological ones for my plants— but, no.

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In the background you can see my biggest splash of color this month – the oak leaf hydrangeas.

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They bloom all along the upper edge of the Angel Garden. We have our home’s original owners to thank for them.

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Our daisies in the Angel Garden are doing quite well. This is the shorter variety like those we have in the St. Francis Garden. We also planted a taller version that haven’t started blooming yet. Initially we had those behind the shorter ones, but we transplanted them this season to the far end of the garden where they won’t be competing with the Stella d’Oras when they all bloom.

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We put in a little patch of vanilla marigolds in an open area near the far edge of this garden. Some of them are doing fine, others not so much. You might notice an occasional orange or yellow one interspersed. Someone wasn’t watching the tags on the flowers very closely when we bought them.

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Here is our little section of chameleon-ivy-infested liriope. Last year, or the one before, we dug these up and cleared this section of the ivy, but apparently not well enough. We will have to do it again. Most of the rest of the garden we worked on two times. I don’t think we’re going to see the end of the chameleon in our lifetime.

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We have a few princess spirea bushes that are blooming now.

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I love to run my fingers across the soft flowers. I think we must have had these somewhere when I was young, because it brings back an early memory.

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I’ve taken my container-gardening to the deck. We always had the railing boxes, but I’ve added several other pots. I’m starting to appreciate all those articles I used to read about the joys of container gardens. But they do require constancy in their care. You can’t neglect them for weeks at a time and hope they’ll get by with an occasional rain shower.

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This one is particularly demanding. I think it is some kind of rudebeka, so I assumed it would be low-maintenance. No so. It wants to be watered every day. And if you forget, it reminds you by completely wilting. At least it has the courtesy to revive in short order once given some water. I have a bad feeling about this one in light of the weekend trips on our calendar.

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Container gardens can still present a surprise or two. Could these be more volunteer sunflowers?

What to do?

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I planted a lot of red on the deck this year to encourage the hummingbirds to stop by. They don’t seem to be that crazy about the geraniums though.

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Here’s another Mandevilla. I have to give it occasional haircuts at the top or it starts looking like it has a mohawk.

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You can see why the hummingbirds like these.


Here’s a little gallery of the rest of the pots on our deck.

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And finally, the little container I found under our deck and planted with red petunias sits on the table we got from Mom and Dad’s yard, and the glider Dad loved to sit in—just one more reminder for me of those I loved and lost.

I hope your world is filled with color. Send me links to posts about your flowers.

One for my bird list – the blue-gray gnatcatcher

I’ve been noticing a couple of tiny birds in the two locust trees outside my study window. I think they may have an nest in our birdhouse that’s hanging there.

Photo from The Birds are Back post October 11, 2012.

Heeding the advise of my bird-watching blogging friend, Patti, at A New Day Dawns, I tried to identify distinguishing characteristics. The small relatively nondescript birds always confound me. But today I was successful at identifying the blue-gray gnatcatcher, even if I didn’t get a good, clear, up close and personal shot. The little birds would not sit still for a moment.

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The first thing I noticed other than its small size, was the white-striped tail. At first I wondered if it could be a baby mockingbird because of its size and its tail. Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies describes the blue-gray gnatcathcer as suggesting “a miniature Mockingbird.” Although I didn’t recognize it until I read it in Peterson’s, this little bird also has a distinctive white ring around its eye that you can see in this photo.

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Peterson goes on to say that the its tail is “often cocked like a wren’s tail and flipped about.” Although Peterson doesn’t mention it, I thought that the beak was particularly long and slender.

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Here is an action shot of the blue-gray gnatcatcher giving me the what-for. It had a worm in its mouth and I think it was trying to intimidate me away from its nest by making what could only have been considered a threatening noise and flapping its wings.

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That wasn’t particularly effective coming from such a tiny mite. But I moved on anyway not wanting to intrude on a mother’s work of feeding her young.

This bird’s size makes it irresistible. It definitely has found a place near the top of my favorite birds list.