Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cooper's Hawk

Another encounter with the local Cooper's Hawks. On a bright sunny day, I heard the Cooper's Hawks calling. Two hawks were active in the trees around me.

Cooper's Hawk ( Accipter cooperii )

On an oak branch, I saw one perched, took a quick shot. The image was way over-exposed.

Hawk on perch

I adjusted the aperture, returned to where the hawk was and got this shot as it launched from it's perched.

The deep breath

Following the bird, it was obvious that it was in an attack dive.

The plunge

About six feet above the ground it hovered briefly then dropped behind my fence. I lost sight of it.

The death blow

The hawk flew up into a high oak and perched next to his mate. He had caught a Garter Snake and offered it to her. She did not appear interested. The female hawk is on the left, next to her tale is the snake.

Female and Male Cooper's Hawk 

The female Cooper Hawks are larger than the males. Here she sits on her perch while the male flies to a near by tree to eat the snake.

Larger female Cooper's Hawk

Upon his return, she vocalizes the mating call and the start of a new clutch of Cooper Hawks begins.

Cooper's Hawks bonded pair

New to bird watching and need a little help identifying the birds you encountered in your journeys? Well, here is a good book to carry with you where ever you may find yourself, Peterson Books Eastern Birds.

American Robin

The American Robin ( Turdus migratorius ) is a sign of the coming spring to many in the northern United States. Late February and early March sees large flocks of Robins searching for berries, worms and insects during the late winter thaw. One of the earliest birds to nest and lay eggs, with many having more than one clutch of eggs in a season.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

First Full Moon Of Spring

The first full moon after the first day of spring. You must admit its a big day for life on Earth. 12 hours of daylight / 12 hours of dark. The Sun rises due east and sets due west. In the southern hemisphere it is the first of fall, in the northern hemisphere it is the first of spring.  "Smell the Zephyrs(west wind)" in ancient Egypt, the time to get out and get some air.

First Full Moon of Spring

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Turkey Vulture

On the road, going to a home supply store for plumbing stuff, replacing water pipes in my shack. I passed a little squirrel laid out on the pavement and thought, poor little guy survived winter to end up being road-kill. I took care of my needs at the store, as I approached the scene of the hit-and-run, I could see a rather large animal in the road where the squirrel lay. What have I run into this time? Up and into a near by tree, this large bird flew. As I passed I could ID the bird as a Turkey Vulture. Each year they show up at this time of year. I've seen them soaring on the thermal up-drafts but to see one on the ground is a rare sight.

A large bird with a wing-span of six feet, the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) range from southern Canada to the southern tip of South American. They feed almost exclusively on carrion, dead animals, which they find with their extremely sensitive sense of smell. The turkey is one of only a few birds that can smell. The Genus name Cathartes is the Latinized form from Greek meaning "Purifier". After all, the Vulture's place in nature is to consume the dead before putrefaction sets in, many deadly bacteria are killed by the Turkey Vultures digestive system.

Look at that face, don't you love it, well I do. My favorite bird of all. The Turkey Vulture is the only bird that does no harm to any other animal. They don't harm bugs, worms or fish, the Turkey Vulture should be the symbol of world peace and environment purification. Can I get an Amen!  

Friday, March 22, 2013

Duckie Danger C++ Computer Game

I put together a little game, while it's been to cold to go outside.  A fun little game built in C++, and called "Duckie Danger", it's also a simple game, just smack ducks until five get away, game over, you quack!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Migration

Spring has sprung, like or not. Watched a few hundred Sand Hill Cranes fly over Ranger's Marsh yesterday. Heading north by northwest. Lots of migratory Canada geese and ducks using the marsh, also.

Sand Hill Cranes
The Sand Hill Cranes are migrating north to their breeding grounds in Canada and the northern US.

Sand Hill Cranes over Gary, Indiana, flying north by northwest.
After watching the spring migration, I went home. While walking from the car to the house, I saw a brown comet streak through the air just outside of my fence and I hear the leaves rustling in the lot north of me.  It was a Cooper's Hawk on a dinner dive. I had heard one calling a couple days, this is the first one I've seen.

Cooper's Hawk, first this year
I put down my coffee cup and unlock and load my camera. The hawk flies up and into a tree with its lunch in its talons. Whatever it's caught has a wide tail, what could it be? No squeals, so not a rodent. I've seen them catch lots of snakes but the temperature is just above freezing, too cold for snakes.  

Cooper's Hawk and unknown prey
After another short flight deeper into the canopy of the oaks. The hawk kills its prey. I'm still waiting to see what the hawk has taken.

Would not believe it if I did not see it myself 
 The Cooper Hawk had caught a Garter Snake. In the middle of the pic above, below the large tree limb that the hawk is perched on, you can see the blueish-gray belly of the snake hanging down and curling to the left.  I am wrong again, it's not too cold for the Garter Snakes to be out and about.  Spring Has Sprung!  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Douglas Center Revisited

Paid another visit to the Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education. This time I hiked the Miller Woods Trail and the woods to the east of the main parking lot on Lake Street. Maybe a mile and a half in total.
          ( Click on any image to see an Enlarged Slide Show )

Covered Foot Bridge over Lake Street, from parking to the Douglas Center.
After parking in the main lot on Lake St. you walk over to the Douglas Center via the Covered Foot Bridge.

The Douglas Center for Environmental Education entrance.
The National Park Service sign greets you and the entry doors are straight ahead of you.

Interesting facts about Northwest Indiana.
A display in the foyer of the Douglas Center lists some amazing facts about Northwest Indiana that I did not know.

Douglas Center view from Lake Street West parking.
This is where the Miller Woods Trail starts, above on the dune is the Douglas Center. I'm standing in a three car parking lot on the west side of Lake Street

Distant view of Douglas Center from the Marsh Overlook Boardwalk.
About a third of the way along the Miller Woods Trail is the Marsh Overlook Boardwalk that crosses the marsh north to south. This is the view looking east, over the marsh. The Douglas Center can be seen in the distance.

Canine tracks and blood trail in snow.
The trail was covered with snow that was a few days old. The snow was more ice than snow, loud and crunchy. Tracks of some type of canine could be seen and blood drops about every ten feet. Probably a dog walkers pooch nipped his ear on a brier thorn.

Opening in snow that lead to a small mammal  snow tunnel.
 Field mice and voles tunnel under the snow and every here and there they poke through to the surface of the snow to check out their surroundings.

Western edge of  Miller Woods Marsh.
At the far west end of the trail is the edge of the marsh. Cattails are the dominate vegetation in the marsh.

Marsh Cattails
The seed head of the cattails, thousands of seeds attached to fur-like fibers that are dispersed by the wind if disturbed.

View of Miller Woods Marsh from a high dune.
A high dune rises above the marsh. Notice how the growth of the cattails encircle the water in the middle of the marsh. If the water level continues to drop over the years, eventually the cattails will die off and the marsh will become a wet meadow.

Deer tracks in snow, big Buck.
Wasn't ready to quit, so I walked the woods on the east side of Lake Street. There I ran across these deer tracks. This deer was big, my guess would be a large buck.

Mammal tracks in snow.
More tracks in the snow. I'll have to brush up on my tracking because I have no Idea as to what these my be from. A mystery, more than likely squirrel or rabbit.

Scene in woods east of Lake Street. 
I walked an old railroad track bed from Lake St. to Grand St. A nice little dune woods and swales to the south. heading back to the Douglas Center parking lot now.