Staying Home -continued

It seems that I have been moping around – lots of time and almost no blog pages.

Please respect the pictures and do not use them without permission. Please let others know that there are a few nature images available at to help pass the time. Thanks.

So here we go!! This is a collection of images from the last couple days. We are confined and restricted like everyone is (or should be) but can still get out in the car or in the yard. The pictures are explained in the associated captions. These are just some of what a naturalist notices from the car window. Enjoy – more to follow.

The bright American Goldfinch is a common bird of brush, fields, open spaces of all sorts and a common bird at feeders. They are reputed to be attracted by thistle seed (nijer/niger) but they are also very happy with hulled sunflower seeds.
They are common in the early spring and seem to be paired up, but they are rather late nesters in our area – often waiting until June and July. They can be identified easily at some distance by their bounding flight and high pitched calls.
This Red-bellied woodpecker is a bit shy. It is a breeding bird widely spread in eastern Massachusetts but the first nest in the Commonwealth was in the mid-1970’s. Richard Forster discovered that nest near the Rhode Island state line in Attleboro. The species has quickly spread throughout the state and well into New Hampshire as well. It must have been named by a museum taxonomist as the red-belly is never really there and even a pale red is quite uncommon. Combined with the fact it is a woodpecker and the belly is usually against a tree trunk the name is pretty poor on many levels. It is a noisy type however and you can usually hear them more often than you would see them.
Turkey Vultures are large birds with vast wingspans. They are built to drift around using the movements of the air itself rather than flapping their wings. They are now year-round in Massachusetts and can be seen in decent numbers most every day. A good number is still less than ten but seeing two, three, or four daily isn’t surprising. The nearest bird of the five in the above image is working on the dried carcass of a Virginia opossum. It isn’t very often that we see vultures on the ground – but their numbers have increased in the recent decades so they must be finding enough food too survive and raise young.
The Red-tailed Hawk is a very widespread bird of prey. They occur across the country in various forms; some are whiter than others and a couple populations are pretty dark. But they all seem to have the same size and shape and tail color. Many of the Red-tails in Massachusetts are quite white underneath. This makes them easy to spot as they perch in roadside trees.
It is surprising to many people that these creatures live amongst us – that speaks to our insulation more than it does to the birds craftiness. This Red-tail is on a wall maybe ten or twelve feet from the house. We have also had Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, and Broad-winged Hawks in the same proximity in the last two weeks. The Sharpie and Coops are bird eaters and may be strafing the nearby bird feeders – the Red-tail and Broad-wing are generally small mammal eaters and are probably eyeing the Eastern Chipmunks and Gray Squirrels that frequent the yard.
This last image of the day is an American Robin – a leucistic American Robin that is.
It has many white feathers; it isn’t an albino as that is a very specific term, but it has white feathers and that (in many forms and patterns) is leucitic. This partial loss of pigment is found occasionally in many animals.
Siegfried and Roy had all those white tigers and there are squirrels, lions, giraffes, kangaroos, and even crocodiles that are white or nearly white due to a genetic circumstance that inhibited the production of normal color patterns; that is, the lack of melanin.
This genetic defect has to be inherited from both parents and in many cases the animal will have other color-related genes which keep the animal from being white even though it coloration is not normal.

The image that opens the page is of a Snapping Turtle. This is a big old turtle (probably over 30 years old) out looking for a mating companion. The males will move around to locate females and the females will eventually lay eggs in a hole that she digs to a depth of about ten inches. The eggs are smaller than ping-pong balls and will all hatch at about the same time ten to twelve weeks later.

In years when there are lots of skunks the nest holes are routinely dug up and the eggs eaten. In years where skunk numbers are low (often due to distemper) the eggs hatch, and survive, in good numbers. Thus many turtle populations (all turtles bury their clutches) level off for a few years as the skunk population remains high only to surge when the skunks are reduced in number.

One thought on “Staying Home -continued

  1. I love your focus on the local birds! I have trouble spotting them in trees. They are all beautiful especially the red tail hawk. The kids learn so much from your blog-we all love your detailed information:)


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