Saturday, August 24, 2013

Glorious Late Summer in the Arb

I took a wonderful 4+ mile walk this morning around much of the Long Loop of the Lower Arb at Carleton College's Arboretum. I only had my phone for a camera, but here is a taste of the late summer views.

Meadow yellow with goldenrod

Big Bluestem prairie grass, also known as Turkey Foot (see why?)

I was glad to see monarch butterflies on the liatris
Bur oak acorns on the grassy path, crunchy underfoot

Wild grapes looked ripe

We've got at least a week of seriously hot weather ahead. The early morning is a good time to get outside and take in the colors of late summer. Stay hydrated and don't overdo it!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Avian Pox

Last week a friend and I noticed a lone house finch staying quietly on the ground outside my front door when we walked outside. We stopped to watch it, and after a couple of attempts it managed to fly to a perch on the nearby tube feeder. I expected to see the crusted-over eyes of House Finch eye disease, mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, since we have occasionally seen birds with this debilitating condition, as I wrote about in 2010. However, this bird's eyes were not crusted-over or weepy, but one was greatly overshadowed by a warty-looking bump and there was another bump on its beak. (Now that I look at the 2010 photos, I can see a bump on that bird's beak too, which I didn't notice at the time.)

I consulted my ornithologist friend Dan Tallman, who pointed me to information about avian pox, sometimes abbreviated AVP. This is a disease that affects a wide range of both commercial poultry and wild birds. Warty growths appear on non-feathered areas of affected birds; there is also a variant that affects the mucous membranes and causes breathing problems. It's caused by a virus that can be spread by mosquitoes, by direct transmission between birds, and by contaminated surfaces like feeders. (More info: AVP and conjunctivitis in birds at feeders | Pox from a commercial fowl science perspective)

We've taken down the tube and hopper feeders the finches tend to use, to minimize the risk of transmission between birds at the feeders, and will sanitize them before putting them back up. It's a good practice to clean and sanitize (using a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach) bird feeders every couple of weeks, and if signs of illness are present, more often. Let them dry thoroughly before refilling. (More info: Tips on feeder maintenance)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Youngsters at the Feeders

This week has been marked by a delightful series of visits of young blue jays, orioles, downy woodpeckers and house finches to our feeders. Sometimes their first-year plumage identifies them (the palest orange tinge of the juvenile female oriole, or the red patch on top of the downy woodpecker's head), but for most there is also a clean, fresh look about them and sometimes a charming cluelessness. And sometimes their sheer numbers are the tip-off. The blue jays that used to come one or two at a time now often arrive as a family of five, and the house finches mob the hopper feeder in a constant battle for the best spots.

Young blue jay eating suet

Juvenile female Baltimore oriole on hummingbird feeder

Downy woodpecker - juvenile has red on top of head

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ground Mist

One morning last week, a thick fog enveloped the whole landscape. Today the morning mists stayed low, hanging softly over ponds and wet fields. As cold air moves in over warmer bodies of water or moist ground, water condenses and forms low ribbons of mist. Normally we wouldn't see much of this until the cooler weather of fall sets in, but we've had a fresh burst of cool air following Tuesday night's storms. The photo below was taken this morning looking north at the pond and wetland that lie between Prairie Street and Michigan Drive in Northfield.

Ground mist

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Misty Morning Spiderweb

Click on photo to see it full size - wow!

I was out walking in the dense fog yesterday morning, with only my older-model iPhone for a camera. The spiderwebs were spectacularly outlined in tiny droplets everywhere I went, and I couldn't resist taking some photos. I didn't really notice the background on this shot as I leaned down with my phone to capture this low-to-the-ground web head-on, but it turned out better than I could have expected.