Bird list & other natural events, August 2011

Good riddance to August, honestly. We won’t miss it overall, from low sales to production problems to intense heat and more. We recieved less than 2″ of rain for the whole month, which is preferable to overly wet though still problematic. But even an obnoxious month has its bright spots, and some pretty neat things happened within the farm’s ecosystem over the past 31 days.

 Amphibians & reptiles. Though our stream has largely dried up, a few hardy aquatic animals cling to life in the remaining stagnant pools, somehow dodging raccoons, herons, kingfishers, and other predators drawn to these hot spots. We’ve seen fewer adult snakes compared to the past few years, and wonder whether that’s contributing to our increased rodent troubles, but Joanna was very excited to find a nest of black rat snake eggs tucked into a pile of old straw. This location was conserving moisture as well as anywhere on the farm, and the eggs are just starting to hatch, as you can see above.

 Insects & spiders. Spiders are always active this time of year, lacing the woods and paths with webs that inevitably wrap onto our faces. We can’t even begin to study and identify all the unique species we have, but these big yellow Garden Spiders are especially impressive. Horseflies have also been prevalent, especially in the cooler evening hours which are otherwise so nice for work. Here’s a good look at one of these ^%$#@. They also torment the pig and goats.

Bats. Most evenings, at dusk while I’m doing animals chores, I can see one or more bats circling the fields doing their part on insect control. Rarely do we ever get to see one up close, however. This one somehow fell from the goat barn door and into Joanna’s hair one morning. It seemed stunned, or at least petrified, so we carefully scooped it up with a clean cloth and took a few photos before placing it safely up on some hay bales to recover.

Birds. Mostly a quiet month similar to July, with a lot of increased activity in the last few days of the month as the early fall migrants begin to pass through. Most of the new birds for this month have shown up in the past week. Some we haven’t been able to identify, due to typically drab fall plumage and brief views (especially within the context of farm work), but we do our best. All sorts of birds like our sunflower planting, with even Downy Woodpeckers clinging to the heads as they work out seeds. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have been especially prevalent lately as well.

Interestingly, the Broad-winged Hawks which were so prevalent throughout their breeding season have been entirely silent and mostly unobserved this month with only two sightings (which I think are the juvenile), while the Red-shouldered Hawks which are usually quite active (but mostly vanished while the Broad-wings were here) have returned with style, soaring and vocalizing every day lately. Not sure if there’s a direct correlation, but it’s interesting. And we went all month without seeing or hearing a single Red-tailed Hawk, which is great for chickens but unlikely to last. September is the month when migrating hawks tend to start preying on our flock.

NEW IN AUGUST (10 species, some observed earlier this year but not in July)
Fish Crow (unusual for us, identified clearly by voice)
Eastern Kingbird (only one other record here in five years)
Red-winged Blackbird (flocks passing over and through, mixed with Grackles)
Grackle (same as above)
Black and White Warbler
Red-eyed Vireo
Black-throated Green Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler (we’re 90% certain of this)

PRESENT IN AUGUST (36 species)
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Mourning Dove
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
Barred Owl
Whip-poor-will
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Peewee
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
White-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tufted Titmouse
Black-cappeed Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
American Robin
Wood Thrush
Northern Parula
Louisiana Waterthrush
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
American Goldfinch

MISSING/UNOBSERVED SINCE JULY (5 species)
Red-Tailed Hawk
Kentucky Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Chipping Sparrow
Brown-headed Cowbird

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