Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Blue Jays at Work

blue jay on spruce

Hey you!  Yes you!  Don’t pretend you don’t see me.  What’s up with you blue jays this fine spring morning?

blue jay back and tail

Something is definitely distracting the two of you, otherwise you’d surely be complaining about my presence nearby.

blue jay with twig in beak

Aha!  The focus of your attention is becoming clear.  You’re working on a housing project together!

blue jay nest

Lovely.  It’s so nice to have a family of blue jays nesting in the yard.  I hope the neighborhood cats don’t find out!

For more on birds building nests in spring, see:  How Couples Build Nests and Nests Classifieds

For more on Blue Jays, see:  The Bluest Blue and Blue Jay Feathers

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014



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The Male Pheasant

mystery bird in woods

A male ring-necked pheasant runs through the woods as he hears me open the back door, too quick for me to catch more than a glimpse of his gorgeous plumage.  In winter, male pheasants hang out with other males, but in spring, they begin to separate and seek their own territories.  Could this one be considering making his ‘crowing ground’ in my yard?

pheasant feathers and portrait

I wonder if the male relies on his beautiful plumage or his charming personality to attract peahens to his harem. A single male is known to keep as many as a dozen females under his thumb.  A couple of years ago, I saw a male boss several females around the yard, limiting their movements and giving no indication whatsoever of being ‘hen pecked.’

pheasant on snow

A male ring-necked pheasant eating crumbs in the yard earlier this month

In Cow Bay, pheasants are frequently seen crossing roads and hanging out in yards. They seem to thrive here, despite the fact that they’re a non-native oriental species. They enjoy insects, berries and seeds. Their olive green eggs are laid in a nest on the ground and hatch in late spring.

Pheasant tracks on snow

Pheasant tracks on snow


Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

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ravaged partridge berry bush

Who’s been nibbling all the leaves off the partridge berry bush?  Have the snowshoe hares been at it again?  I’m sure its evergreen leaves are tempting, especially in early spring, after yet another snowfall has covered the ground.

browsed euonymus

And who ate all those leaves off the euonymus branches right next to the house?  Despite a long, harsh winter, this plant was still lush green and thriving until… this morning.

ravaged euonymus branch

As if the tracks weren’t enough of a tell-tale sign…

deer tracks on snow

Further evidence was waiting to be discovered along the trail in the backyard…

deer droppings on snow

Oh deer!  (Maybe they’ll be back!!)

White-tailed deer photographed in Eastern Passage by Linda Hulme

White-tailed deer photographed in Eastern Passage by Linda Hulme

Update April 15th, 2014

Early this morning around 1:30 am, I was able to see half a dozen white-tailed deer moving slowly around the open area in the front yard.  They looked so calm.  Two were much smaller than the rest.  Three approached the house and began ‘pruning’ what’s left of the evergreen leaves on the  euonymus.  They were just a foot away from my vantage point on the other side of the living-room window. 

Guessing they’d soon be moving to the backyard, I slowly opened the back door.  The last one to leave flashed his white tail as he entered the path into the deeper woods.  Suddenly he stopped and turned back.  As I stood there at the half-open back door, I watched him walk around the deck for a few minutes and then just quietly go into the deeper woods by an alternate path.  It seemed like a dream.  I’ve waited all these years to finally see one deer in my yard, and then I see half a dozen all at once!

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

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Nova Scotia garter snake

Often described as ‘cool’ and ‘cute,’ snakes were a precious discovery in the yard when my sons were young.  My grandsons were just as smitten recently when their dad was able to capture one I had spotted swimming across a large vernal pool in the woods.

garter snake

This Maritime Garter Snake Thamnophis sirtalis pallidula was in its Unstriped phase.  These garter snakes also have Black and Striped phases.

garter snake scales

It seemed fairly non-aggressive according to my son, who’s been bitten by garter snakes in the past.  It was pretty compliant and even stuck out its forked tongue for the camera.

garter snake mouth and tongue

As I expected, there were tears shed when it was released back into the wild.  Why can’t we keep it?  I want to keep it as a pet! Though they can be fairly friendly, garter snakes do give off a bad scent in captivity or when they feel threatened.   When will we ever find another?  I’ve come across  a few already in the woods this year, so there’s a good chance we’ll see another soon.

garter snake in grass

In the meantime, we’ll let this one enjoy its freedom in the summer sun. Happy trails snake. (Just don’t freak me out by getting under my feet in the woods!)

For more on garter snakes, see Garden Garter and Snake Berries

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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snowshoe hare eating spruce needles

‘Eat your greens’ we’re told from a young age.  Young snowshoe hares need not be reminded.  Nothing green seems to get overlooked by their taste buds.

hare nibbling on spruce branches

Once new growth emerges on the lower branches of fir and spruce trees in the yard, the tender needles replace dandelions on the hares’ seasonal menu.  Hungry bunnies reach the higher branches by standing on their hind legs, carefully balancing themselves in order to grab a bite.  Who knew snowshoe hares could eat standing up?!

Snowshoe hares are amazing runners whose reproduction rates are legend.  Could the greens in their diet be a key to their boundless energy?

Even keen salad eaters wince at the idea of eating evergreen needles but we don’t need to eat an entire bough to benefit from such nutritious fare.

balsam fir new growth

A simple tea made by steeping a sprig of new growth needles in hot water will provide a good dose of vitamin C.  Balsam fir needles are used for colds, coughs and asthma according to my Peterson Field Guide of Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs.  As wild as it sounds, it’s probably tamer on the body than most drug store decongestants.

fresh green growth

The Green shopping aisle

Spruce and fir needles can also be dried and crumbled for use as a wild accent in a variety of kitchen fare.  Think of adding a bit to rice, venison or even Christmas cookies.   At least the shopping aisle won’t be crowded and the Grocer’s selection will be a feast for the eyes as well.  Recent rains have encouraged so much evergreen growth that Nature’s bounty will be great enough for both humans and hares to have plenty to share and enjoy.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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bird eye view

Boreal chickadees are as shy as their black-capped cousins are friendly. They tend to stay in the inner branches of the spruce trees and seldom linger long enough to allow themselves to be photographed. However, last evening a young one crashed into the front window, providing an opportunity for a close encounter of the sweetest kind.

boreal chickadee face

Though it appeared to be gasping for breath when I first picked it off the ground, it eventually recovered enough for me to place it in a safe spot where its parents (but not local cats or birds of prey) could easily find it.

boreal chickadee

The cement top of the septic cover, which is surrounded by rhododendron bushes, proved a perfect place to set it down.  When I checked it later, the little creature was already moving its head around and looking more alert.  Since it had no outward sign of injury, I left it to God’s care.  I figured He’d be up all night anyhow 🙂

boreal chickadee chick

By early morning it was gone.  The window is still a concern, but I’ve since discovered that keeping the patterned curtains closed will help deter other birds from crashing into the glass.

front window in summer

This morning I saw two adult Boreal chickadees flitting and chirping among the spruce trees.  Could they have been the parents returning to say everything was fine with their little one?

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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