Northern Flicker Gymnastics

The Squirrel Buster bird feeder is an ingenious contraption. When anything heavier than a small bird (say, a squirrel for example) lands on the perch to get at the food, their own weight causes little doors to close on all the seed ports. Northern Flickers are also, technically, too heavy to use this feeder but, even though they have a couple of other food options to chose from, they clearly take this a personal affront.

Luckily they have their secret weapon, the mindbogglingly long tongue they keep neatly wrapped around their brain and ready for instant deployment. All woodpeckers have very long tongues, usually with barbed ends for catching prey, but the Northern Flicker has the longest of all of them, and their tongue tip is flattened and comes with extra sticky saliva for collecting the ants that they find so delicious.

So, back to the Squirrel Buster conundrum.

This male Flicker (you can tell by the red “sideburns”) has figured out that by hanging from the perch he can j-u-s-t get his tongue into the the gap at the bottom of the closing door. I was a bit worried he’d get his tongue stuck and we’d have a difficult conversation with the Wildlife Rescue team, but it seems he’s done this before.

Not only did he get the food out quite handily, he managed to also pick up the bits that fell out of the feeder and landed on his belly. This is where the really impressive gymnastics come in.

I’m pretty sure I saw these two, taking a break from digging up ants, exchanging bird feeder foiling tips on my dog walk the other day.

And, just in case you think it’s only the males who have figured this out, here’s a female I saw doing it in back February, so perhaps she passed on the technique to her mate.

Speaking of ingenuity I’ve been scanning the internet for COVID-19 mask making patterns, as it seems that medical advice here in North America is now pivoting in favour of mask-wearing for all to help “flatten the curve”.

So, just in case you’re also thinking about making your own mask, I’ve looked at a few and made a couple of versions for when someone from our family needs to go out for groceries. The one I like best is this one from the University of Minnesota. It seems to have a good fit, and it has a pouch to put replaceable home-made filters in (suggestions for filter material you can find about the house are included in the instructions.)

If you don’t have a sewing machine, these instructions for a no-sew mask using only a bandana and a couple of hair ties looks promising.

Stay safe and healthy everyone, and remember to take a break from the news and the graphs from time to time with some daily #birdtherapy.

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Nesting News

Nesting News Chickadee and Blossom

Here’s a re-post from this time last year, and the chickadees are equally busy this year.

Also, a reminder, if you haven’t read it already, don’t miss the gripping sequel to yesterday’s post: Flicker Saga Part Two

The Chickadee Edition

On your marks, get set, go.

As soon as the plum blossoms flower on our street it’s the signal for serious nesting building to start. From the biggest to the tiniest birds, the clock is ticking.

With great good luck, we have a pair of chickadees, including my special buddy, Braveheart (with the teardrop marking) building a nest in the ornamental plum tree by our house.

Cherry Blossom Chickadee

When I feel too busy, I just go out and watch these two working ceaselessly for a few minutes. Their level of dedication to the job at hand is pretty inspiring.

Busy Chickadee in Plum Tree

Phase One: expanding the existing small tree cavity. The original hole was clearly not spacious enough for their interior design ambitions, so remodelling was undertaken with zeal.

With those tiny beaks, you can imagine how many trips it took do the job. For about a week, the pair of them took turns flying in and out, hundreds of times a day, with their micro-loads of wood chips.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Even when they stopped for a break, you could see the sawdust stuck to their hardworking little faces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASawdust beak

I imagine it was a pretty dry and uncomfortable job, chewing and spitting out wood for days on end. The photo below catches one of our intrepid builders coughing up a bit of sawdust. I felt as if I should offer them each a very tiny beer, but I guess they made do with the water in the bird bath.

Chickadee Cough

It’s hard to say if they finally decided the space was big enough, or they just couldn’t stand any more digging …

Chickadee Looking Into Nest

… but one day efforts suddenly switched from digging to interior design.

Moss Collecting Chickadee

Chickadee with Plum Blossom Flower

Nothing like some fresh cut flowers to bring a new living space alive!

I’m not sure what’s going on in there now. I try not to spend too much time hanging around in case I attract unwanted predatory attention, but I’ll keep you posted on developments.

Nesting News Chickadee and Blossom

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Flicker Family Saga – Part One

This gripping tale is a repost from nesting season 2017 … enjoy!

Northern Flicker profile close up, photograph by June Hunter, 2017

I didn’t realize it was going to turn into a saga, but now I’ve accumulated about a hundred photos of our local Northern Flicker family, chronicling their ups and downs over the last few weeks.

I kept meaning to post some as things unfolded, but it turned into such a roller coaster, I didn’t want to start telling the story until I had an idea of how tragic (one a scale of one to three) the ending would be.

Now the number of images is just out of control. I feel as if I have the makings of a small novel! And, besides, who knows what the conclusion will be in any family’s story?

So here is part one of the Flicker Family album.

It began earlier this summer when I noticed a lot of flicker calling going on all around the house and garden. This handsome fellow was to be seen, with his mate, working away with their beaks at a hole in the plum tree right in front of our house.

Northern Flickers are a type of woodpecker, and quite common in Vancouver. In fact, they were the runners-up in the recent vote to elect an official bird to represent the city. You can tell the males from the females by the dashing red “moustache” at the base of their beaks.

After a few more weeks, strange noises began to come from the tree.

The flicker pair were on ferocious guard at all times. Here’s the dad, holding the fort against a marauding squirrel. The squirrel eventually gave up and snuck away down the far side of the tree trunk.

Below, you can see the female flicker on the lower part of the tree. If you look closely, you can see also the male’s head peeking out from the nest hole further up.

Northern Flicker profile pair at nest, photograph by June Hunter, 2017

Here’s Mom visiting the feeder in the garden. She was usually in the nest and you can see that her feathers were getting a bit dishevelled in the confined space.

Dad on guard, nest bottom right.

 *** PART TWO OF THE FLICKER FAMILY SAGA COMING TOMORROW ***

*** STAY TUNED! ***

PART TWO now published. Read on HERE.

 

Meanwhile – in an unrelated Flicker incident, we had the …

FLICKER IN THE STUDIO FIASCO

In late June a neighbour brought me a flicker that she saw hit by a car as she was waiting for a bus on a main street near here. The bird was stunned and in danger of getting hit again, so she and her son braved the pointy beak and picked him up to bring to me.  The plan was I’d keep an eye on him and see if he needed to go to the wonderful people at Wildlife Rescue for treatment.

I put him in a covered box and I moved it into the studio to keep warm. But then I noticed that the scrap of towel I’d put in the box to pad it had become a bit unraveled, and a thread was wrapped around the flicker. I tried to carefully untangle it and … of course … the bird got out of the box and suddenly regained his powers of flight.

Part bird, part Swiffer, he scooped up some cobwebs from the skylight.

Understandably scared, he took cover behind just about every counter and work table in the place, then flying up the skylight (and doing a bit of dusting for me as he went.)

Luckily he finally made its way to a window that I could open for him.

Apart from never wanting to be in a studio again, he seemed fine as he soared off in the direction he’d been rescued from.

 

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Dreaming Days

Today’s post is rather short. I’m not sure where the days go — I feel as though I’m dreaming through great chunks of them.

I think I need to let my thoughts wander (even more than usual) for a bit while my brain makes a feeble effort to catch up with reality.

So, here I present some dreaming birds.

I’m sure they’re not really dreaming, but I know I dream about them.

When I close my eyes I see intricate bird details. The feathers around their eyes, the reflections in their eyes, myself sometimes reflected there. I wonder what they’re thinking.

Honestly, I really haven’t been in the cooking sherry. Yet.

I need to think of how I want to carry on with my art and work. I have had various thoughts around this, beginning with when I broke my foot in December. Universe sending signals etc . . .

I have my online shop closed at the moment to make more time for the blog (which somehow seems most important to me at the moment) and to give myself a little dreaming space.

I know that a lot of people have asked for prints, especially of the crow carrying the blossom branch, so I hope to spend a bit of time in the next week working on new images. I hope I’ll be ready to open the shop again in a week or so.

In the mean time, I may resort to re-posting some older blog posts to carve out the time to do that. It’s really amazing how little I seem to be able to accomplish in a day at the moment (although we did manage to sort out a lifetime’s collection of old tea bags the other day.)

Fear not, I’ll still post Edgar’s advice here every few days, and daily on his Facebook page.

Wishing you safety, health and a perhaps some bird dreams to pass the strange days.

 

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Edgar’s Guide to Staying Home

As I mentioned, Edgar is really an expert at this, having been an indoor cat for ten years now, so here are a few more little tips from his store of “avoiding cabin fever” wisdom.

DAY TEN

Hello from the outside …
Edgar reminds you to get some fresh air, even if you just stick your face out of the window and breath, for a slightly different perspective.

DAY ELEVEN

Don’t think, even for a second, about slacking on the physical distancing.
Edgar has his eyes (both of them) on you!
Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe, in the words of the wonderful Dr. Bonnie Henry.

You can do this!

[The actual story behind Edgar’s disgusted look — I was finally baking Phillip’s birthday cake and it overflowed in the oven, so batter was burning and making everything smokey, in spite of open doors and window. He did not appreciate the pollution of his indoor air quality.]

GETTING ALONG WITH YOUR POD-MATES

By now, things could be getting kind of tense with those you are sharing your socially distanced “pod” with, no matter how much you love them.

Small grievances or failures of etiquette can lead to dark places, without the use of some careful diplomacy.

Edgar, having led a harmonious indoor life for so many years, getting along with so many uncouth species, shows us how it’s done.

The morning begins with Edgar in his “rightful” spot in front of the fire.

Geordie wanders over and Edgar gets up to give him his morning head bump.

Geordie accepts the morning caress but then — oh dear — misinterprets the situation and moves into the fireside vacancy.

Now, this could have gone rather badly for Geordie (and you can see he’s thinking the same thing) but Edgar decides to take the high ground, satisfying his honour by subjecting  Geordie to a slightly passive aggressive “butt in the face disguised as a snuggle” manoeuvre,  before retiring gracefully to his second “rightful” place beside the fire.

So that’s how it’s done folks. Win, win and no noses scratched.

Edgar would love to hear about your domestic diplomacy victories in the comments.

Ups and Downs

We took Geordie for a short run in the woods this morning. Just being in the forest is wonderful, but watching Geordie let loose is really joyful.

He loves to run — doesn’t need anything to chase, or another dog; he just likes to run for the sake of running.

He’s the very epitome of joie de vivre.

But I have to tell you, as soon as we turned onto the wider path near the end of the trails his entire demeanour changed. He hung back, walking like a condemned dog. It wasn’t just that the run was almost over — he’s usually fine with that. The problem was that he realized that he was muddy . . . and muddy means B – A – T – H.

He really is a dog who’s too smart for his own good and he’s always half-waiting for the “bad thing” to happen. It’s partly his personality, partly his rescue dog past, but he’s an incurable pessimist at heart.

I must say that this is perhaps one of the reasons I love him so much.

I can so relate to that “living in the moment” to “worst case scenario” emotional seesaw. Especially now.

You should know that we spared him the bath this time. Just a brisk towel off (which he likes) when we got home!

 

A Message in the Sky

It isn’t a dove, and it isn’t carrying an olive branch.

Probably too early for that, as we bob about in our socially-distanced arks on a vast sea of uncertainty, fear and loneliness, with no land yet in sight.

But it did feel, when I saw this crow flying over, trailing its lovely garland, that I was seeing some sort of message.

Perhaps: “Life is going on for us, and it will for you as well one day.”

Or maybe: “Look out and up, and there is beauty.”

Possibly: “My neighbours are going to be SO jealous when they see what I just got for the nest.”

As you may know, I’ve been photographing crows for many years now. I especially like to watch them in the spring when they’re collecting material for the nest. I love the silhouettes they make against the sky with twigs of various shapes in their beaks.

I have also watched them struggle to get just the right branch out of a tree. It’s not an easy task, as they have to first break the twig off and then wrestle it out of the tangle of branches on the tree. They often lose their prize, or just give up and look for an easier one.

This is, by far, the most impressive and lovely thing I’ve ever seen a crow manage to acquire.

Crows are known to sometimes present miscellaneous material goods to people who befriend and feed them. The crows of my acquaintance never do that, but they do give me wonderful things.

The fact that this determined crow* managed to haul this ridiculously long and beautiful garland out of an ornamental plum tree; that they happened to be poised on a roof with it just as I walked by with the dog; that they chose to fly off with it right in front of me — you must admit that these are a series of rather special gifts.

So, in a spring season like none we can remember, these pictures are gifts from the crows to you, via me. With love.

 

 

 

 

*This crow is either Mabel, or one of her family.

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

More Tips From Edgar

DAY 7

When the sun  is shining, Edgar recommends sticking your head outside and absorbing all the Vitamin D you can.
Need I mention that he recommends doing this while observing the proper spatial distancing protocols???

It’s important, while you’re housebound, to give your day some semblance of sanity preserving structure..
Edgar and Geordie are both masters at this game.
Pet dinner time is about 5:15, so at 4:45 precisely their desk-side vigil begins.
Just in case I forget.

DAY 8

Edgar recommends socially responsible snuggles.
If you happen to be self isolating solo, a nice toucan with a bit of catnip stuffing might do.
Love the one you’re with, etc … 

Edgar demonstrates how to spend some of your waking hours during social isolation. He calls this technique “being one with the universe.”
Reminder: you should be aiming for 18 hours a day of sleep as per his earlier recommendation.

 

DAY 9

Our son, stuck in a social distancing pod with his old parents, poor lad — enjoys a moment of Edgar emotional support.

Edgar demonstrates the kind of dedication to hand/paw washing he’d like to see from you all … without the face touching part, naturally.

That’s it for now. Much love from me and Edgar.

Take care and Edgar will be back in a few days.

If you’re on social media, he has his own FB page at https://www.facebook.com/Edgar.Scottish.Fold where these posts appear first.

Random Wednesday Beauty

Just a quick little post today as I have to turn my hand to cake-making shortly. Wish me luck, as I’m a bit of a hit and miss baker these days, due to lack of practice.

But it’s my husband’s 68th birthday tomorrow, so a cake must be made, since no shopping can be done. The Mississippi Mud Cake contains bourbon, so how bad could it be, really?

I always like walking in alleyways, just because they off an interesting view of the neighbourhood, and are full of randomly dilapidated beauty.

Now they have the added advantage of fewer people, so higher score on the social distance-o-meter.

Unusually crowded alleyway moment.

Topographical view of a verdant landscape.

Those colours are almost as good as a tropical vacation. Feel free to squint your eyes and pretend its palm trees and a Caribbean sea.

Blue and Gold, Van Gogh colours in an old wheelbarrow.

Meanwhile, on our front street, the Spring Thing is going ahead as scheduled, in spite of everything.

 

You might also enjoy these older posts:

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Young Ada The Crow

Ada is only 7 months old, but already one of my most trusted Crow Therapists.

She lifted my mood earlier this year, when I was feeling a bit down about being in a cast, and about world news. Of course, none of us knew back in January that 2020 was only just getting warmed up!

Ada was our 2019 late summer surprise, hatched at the very tail end of the 2019 baby crow season — happy news in a year that saw many nest failures.

I first spotted her on the daily dog walk in mid-August last year, gape still very pink and eyes still blue  — hallmarks of a fledgling not long out of the nest.

I was worried that she had so little time to catch up with the other 2019 fledglings to be able to fly to the roost with all the other crows by fall.

Another challenge — she had a touch of avian pox on one foot. You can see the pink spot on the photo below.

Luckily, by December her foot had healed completely, as you see in the next photos, and she was keeping up with her cohort just fine.

She experienced some firsts in late 2019/early 2020.

Her first torrential downpour, which left her less than impressed.

She saw her first snow in January, and seemed to prefer that to rain, overall.

Or perhaps she had just acquired that philosophical attitude towards weather, essential for both crow and human mental health in a Canadian winter.

I’m calling Ada “her” — in this case, with no evidence of her gender. With many of my other local crows, observing them at nesting time has allowed me to see who sits on the nest at incubating time, but with Ada, it’s just a random guess. She could just as easily be a young Adam, but I have a 50% chance of being right.

In any case, she’s a feisty and curious young bird.

Ada theCrow being curious.

She’s still hanging about with her parents, but they’re no longer pampering her when it comes to getting food. When she was young, they would answer her calls for food.

Now it’s every crow for him/herself. If I drop some peanuts for Ada, she’s often shoved aside by Mom and Dad, so she’s learning to be faster and trickier — vitally important crow lessons.

She’s also kindly demonstrated for us the all-important cough into your sleeve/wing technique.

Here is my most recent photo of her, taken on a dog walk earlier this week.

You can see that, for a 7 month old, she’s already acquired lots of crow personality and intelligence. As she edges  closer to me you can see in those eyes the subtle risk/benefit calculations being made in real time.

I imagine she’ll be sticking around to help her parents with this spring’s nesting efforts, but after that she’ll probably find a mate and move to a new neighbourhood. I’ll miss her when she goes, but hey — she might end up in your neighbourhood and be your new crow therapist!

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.