Bird list & natural events, November 2014

November was cool & dry, with temperatures around 6 degrees below average and precipitation low as well. We did spend a fair amount of time outdoors, including a successful deer hunting season, meaning lots of interesting photos and experiences.

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Charismatic mega meso-fauna of the month: We found this Opossum hanging out on a tree in the middle of the day (left). This Yellow-Bellied Racer was active on the last warm day (Nov. 10) before the temperatures plummeted.

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Firewood fauna: Splitting and hauling firewood are tasks that rocket to the top of the to-do list this time of year. Interesting critters often lurk inside the wood. The ant is, we think, a Carpenter Ant; this is a species that we don’t want to invite into our home, but chickens think they’re tasty. Right is an unidentified centipede.

dec_natural_3Plant of the month: Putty Root (Aplectrum hyemale) is a type of orchid that is fairly common in the rich soil of our wooded stream bottoms. Unlike most plants that send out leaves in spring and are done with them in the fall, Putty Root sends up its leaves in the fall, and they remain until about the time the plants flower in the spring (May or June, usually when we’re too busy to take a walk in the woods and look for orchid flowers). We found some stalks with seedpods in an especially vigorous group of plants. Opening up a seedpod provides a view of the prolific quantity of tiny seeds.

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Seedpods of the month: Left, Honey Locust pod; these trees seems to have produced an especially large seed crop this year. While hunting, Eric observed a squirrel balancing high in a locust tree ripping open pods like a banana to eat the seeds, discarding each pod in a steady shower of squirrel trash. Right: Mullein Foxglove (Dasistoma macrophyllum), the flowers of which were featured in the July natural events post.

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Fungi of the month: Left, a toothed fungus that we’re pretty sure is one of the Hericium species. Unfortunately, we didn’t find this until it was dried out; when fresh & young, Hericium fungi are reportedly delicious. Right: Puffball releasing its spores; Joanna had Eric step on these quickly to get this photo. Many of the puffballs are also edible when young and fresh, though we’ve never gotten around to collecting them to eat. At various times, we’ve found both the poisonous Pigskin Puffball (black in the center) and the edible Gem-studded Puffball here.

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We’ve had a flock of about a dozen turkeys hanging around during November. We rarely see them in person, though on the morning of November 1, Joanna shooed them out of a produce field where they were chowing down on just-planted rye/vetch cover crop seed. Trail cameras showed them making use of both pastures (left photo) and woodland. We most commonly observe the ruffled-up leaves on the forest floor with bare patches about the size of a dinner plate–a sure sign that a flock has been foraging.

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Featured pest of the month: We don’t have quantitative data, but we’ve felt that deer pressure has been extra intense this year. Trail cameras documented multiple distinct bucks, which can be identified individually (if photos are good enough) by their different antler patterns. Does are also prolific, generally traveling in groups. The photo on the right shows two deer scrapes in the woods, and two more were present within 100 yards, a very high scrape density in our experience. Scrapes are identifiable by good-sized bare patches on the ground, often accompanied by an overhanging limb, and often with visible hoof prints. Does and bucks visit these during mating season; in fact, the trail cam photos shown here are at this scrape complex. Our intuition as ecologically minded farmers & land managers is that there are way too many deer with way too little predator pressure. Eric reduced the doe population by 2, his legal firearms limit for this location as set by MDC, so we advertised for bow-hunters, whose season lasts until mid-January.

Bird List

We were surprised at the species total this month, the highest for November in our four years of data. It didn’t seem outrageously birdy, and we missed some relatively common species such as Red-Tailed Hawk and Great Horned Owl. But these were balanced by others like the Great Blue Heron spotted by Eric while hunting, fishing along our stream deep in the woods. Greater White-Fronted Geese and Trumpeter Swans were a lovely surprise in the skies overhead. We continue to be stumped by a relative absence of sparrows, given how much brushy habitat we have that should be ideal for them.

2014 2013 2012 2011
Snow Goose x x x x
Canada Goose x x x x
Barred Owl x x x x
Red-bellied Woodpecker x x x x
Downy Woodpecker x x x x
Northern Flicker x x x x
Pileated Woodpecker x x x x
Blue Jay x x x x
American Crow x x x x
Black-capped Chickadee x x x x
Tufted Titmouse x x x x
White-breasted Nuthatch x x x x
Carolina Wren x x x x
Golden-crowned Kinglet x x x x
Eastern Bluebird x x x x
American Robin x x x x
Cedar Waxwing x x x x
Yellow-rumped Warbler x x x x
Dark-eyed Junco x x x x
Northern Cardinal x x x x
American Goldfinch x x x x
Wild Turkey x x x
Bald Eagle x x x
Red-shouldered Hawk x x x
Red-tailed Hawk x x x
White-throated Sparrow x x x
Turkey Vulture x x
Great Horned Owl x x
Belted Kingfisher x x
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker x x
Hairy Woodpecker x x
Hermit Thrush x x
Red-winged Blackbird x x
Greater White-fronted Goose x
Trumpeter Swan x
Wood Duck x
Great Blue Heron x
Cooper’s Hawk x
American Woodcock x
Brown Creeper x
Winter Wren x
Gray Catbird x
European Starling x
Song Sparrow x
Species total: 36 31 29 28

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