Hide and Seek Birding

Long-billed Curlew_PadreIs-TX_LAH_0304Cryptic coloration—the ability of an animal to blend in with its surroundings—has always fascinated me. Cryptic coloration is the reason there are so many brown, striped sparrows. It’s why female ducks and other species lack the bright plumage of their mates. It’s why birds show regional differences. And it’s why I almost missed seeing the Long-billed Curlew shown here.

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And Then There Were Five

chickens_blkforest-co_lah_9289Last week we had nine hens. Six were young, prolific layers less than a year old. Three were old biddies past their prime. I’d been meaning to cull the three unproductive hens for a long time, but just couldn’t bring myself to actually follow through. Then I went to the feed store yet again, and realized that we were supporting three hens that were eating one third of my feed bill. That sealed their fate. So earlier this week I humanely dispatched three hens in their sleep and fed the local wildlife. I guess the local wildlife enjoyed the feast, because…

We got home late last night, and I headed out after dark to collect my half-dozen eggs. But instead of six, I found only five eggs—and five chickens. Alarmed, I searched the coop, but I couldn’t really see much in the moonlight. The five hens were perched on their roost, asleep, so I secured the coop and headed for bed.

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Grass Spiders

grass-spider_dbg-co_lah_8972I was rinsing my hands under the faucet downstairs when a huge, aggressive monster suddenly scurried across the bowl of the sink. I screamed. Slamming the faucet lever down, I backed away from the counter, shaking, dripping on the tile floor.

Then I snuck forward for another view. Yup, a huge brownish spider, at least two feet inches across (including the legs) was staring up at me with multiple menacing eyes. Shudder.

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Why I (am trying to) Like Garden Spiders

spider-on-daylily_cottonwoodxg_lah_2524I admit to being an arachnophobe. Even though intellectually I know how helpful spiders are in the garden, I still get the shakes and run screaming when I see them. Still, we can change, right? I’m doing better. In fact, I’ve struck up an arachnid pact (well, it’s one-sided, but still…)—any spider in the garden is welcome to stay and make itself at home. Any spider that dares infiltrate my home? Let’s just hope my husband is around to rescue it.

spider-on-thermopsis-montana_golden-banner_blkforest-co_lah_8459In return for my beneficence, I expect some payback. That garden spider is tasked with taking care of any harmful pest infestations. Happily, I can have my garden and the spiders can have their lunches. All spiders are predators, and never feed on plants. That’s a pretty sweet combination.

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Being a Good Landlord

wren-box_blkforest_20100401_lah_1227I splurged on two nest boxes this week. I hadn’t meant to—they’re not in the budget—but I reasoned that attracting birds with bird houses was ultimately cheaper than buying ever more bird seed (although I’m sure I’ll do that too).

I recently made my early spring rounds to check out the accommodations I’m offering my feathered visitors. As landlord, I take responsibility for making sure the boxes are safe and clean. I remove any nesting materials from last year, to reduce the chance of parasites infesting the new family. I inspect the boxes for worn out joints, loose screws, and rotting wood. And I make sure they have some sort of predator guard around the entrance hole.

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