8 Winter Chicken Keeping Tips

Birding on Florida’s Gulf Coast

My recent visit to Florida’s Gulf Coast introduced me to loads of new birds! I took tons of pictures and tediously tried to identify each bird I saw! It was so much fun and now I would like to share my findings with you!

Northern Mockingbird: I saw lots of these at my grandparents house!

Continue reading “Birding on Florida’s Gulf Coast”

8 Winter Chicken Keeping Tips

Spring Pictures

This week we had a new arrival!

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Meet little Congo. He is a four month old (approx.) Boer goat.
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I can’t forget to introduce Toby! Toby is a Nigerian Dwarf goat, and a companion to Congo.  (Did I mention he loves food?!)

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Leaves are the potato chip equivalent in the goat world. You can’t have just one (branch).

 

The flowers have really started to blossom.

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My favorite: Buttercups

 

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Have a great week!

–  Anna

St. Louis Wildlife

When you first think of St. Louis, wildlife is not typically the first thing that comes to mind. I was surprised, though, to visit a state park just outside of the big city and to find quite a variety of flora and fauna. I was not expecting to go to a state park just outside a big city and go bird watching. I guess it just goes to show that wildlife can adapt to living around human intrusion. Horseshoe Lake State Park was located about 15 minutes from the KOA campground that we stayed at just outside of St. Louis.

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I loved getting close up shots of the water fowl on Horseshoe Lake. Above is a Mallard drake.

IMG_0036  Surprise!! I was quite astounded to see a flock of White pelicans fly over head!

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A new bird to add to my list, the Red Breasted Merganser.

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American coot seemed to have taken over most of the park. They were everywhere!

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Here’s a flock of American coot with the St. Louis arch and sky rises in the background.

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This Blue-Winged Teal seemed completely unaware of the sunbathers in the background (painted turtles).

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I also saw one of my favorite ducks, the Northern Shoveler.

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Another rather striking duck that I saw was the Lesser Scaup.

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While on a hike in the state park we found a small patch of moral mushrooms.

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Across from our campsite at the KOA were these beautiful tree blossoms. It was nice to see a little green while staying in Illinois compared to the brown back here in Michigan. Green will be coming soon!

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By the way, be sure to check out our new ‘about’ page which can be found by clicking on the ‘about’ tab near the top of our blog.

by Alexa

 

 

8 Winter Chicken Keeping Tips

Birding in Florida

Last week I had fun visiting Honeymoon Beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on the Atlantic side of Florida. I got to see lots and lots of different birds, both ones that I have seen before and lots of new ones. Below are the pictures of some of the birds I was able to capture with my camera. Sorry if some of them are blurry or out of focus, my camera could not zoom in as far as I needed to get a good picture, so some of the photos are taken through my binoculars.

IMG_8500Northern Mockingbird

IMG_8604American Kestrel

IMG_8602Osprey and nest. We saw lots of these guys and their nests during a hike at Honeymoon Beach.

IMG_8612Ring-billed gull

IMG_8625Laughing gull. In the winter, the laughing gull’s head is gray/white but in the summer, it’s black. These guys would do anything for food!

IMG_8677My favorite! The American Oystercatcher.

IMG_8685Distinguished by their drab gray color, the Willet is a very common Florida shore bird.

IMG_8706Sanderlings

IMG_8728This group of shore birds includes (from right to left) the laughing gull, the herring gull, and the royal tern.

IMG_8737A new shore bird for me was the Ruddy Turnstone.

IMG_8744Brown pelican

IMG_8755Great Egret. Saw lots of these guys along the side of the road!

IMG_8758Great Blue Heron

IMG_8820Boat-Tailed Grackle

IMG_8844Love the scenery in this photo along with the Roseate Spoonbills.

IMG_8872Painted Bunting

IMG_8875Gray Catbird

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IMG_8942American Coot. Probably saw more of this bird than any of the other birds combined!

IMG_8894From right to left: Glossy Ibis, Tri-colored Heron, and the Roseate Spoonbill.

IMG_8902Right to left: Tri-Colored Heron and the Snowy Egret.

IMG_8909The tall bird is a Wood Stork and the small white birds are one of my favorites, the White Ibis.

IMG_8931Reddish Egret. I loved spotting all the different types of herons and egrets.

IMG_8937Greater Scaup

IMG_8938You can tell the Northern Shoveler apart from most ducks by it’s long, flat bill.

IMG_8952Green Heron

IMG_8954Anhinga with a Pie-Billed Grebe in the background.

IMG_8958Pie-Billed Grebe

IMG_8966Double-Crested Cormorant. The crests on a Double-Crested Cormorant are only clearly visible during the mating season. One way to tell an anhinga and a cormorant apart is by their beaks. A cormorant’s beak is hooked at the end, and an anhinga’s beak is straight and spear-like.

IMG_8967Blue-Winged Teal

IMG_8971Common Moorhen. The Common Moorhen is similar in appearance to the American Coot except it has a more colorful body and a distinguishing red/orange beak and face.

IMG_8977White Pelicans

IMG_8994The Florida Scrub Jay joined us for a picnic lunch.

IMG_9011My favorite (just kidding!!!), the Black Vulture. He is pretty cool though!

Below are a few birds I was unable to identify. Do you have any guesses?

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Hope you had as much fun looking at my pictures as I had taking them!

by Alexa

 

 

 

8 Winter Chicken Keeping Tips

Squirrels

As many of you may not know, yesterday was Squirrel Appreciation Day, or as my sister says, a day not to shoot the squirrels off the bird feeders with a BB gun. Recently our feeders and yard has been over run with squirrels. On one day, at one time, I counted 2 fox squirrels, 3 gray squirrels, 2 black squirrels, and 1 red squirrel.

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The Eastern fox squirrel, also known as Bryant’s fox squirrel, is the largest of the tree squirrels native to Michigan. They have excellent vision, hearing, and sense of smell. Have you ever wondered why some squirrels have very scruffy tails? Its because the mother sometimes pulls out her tail hair to line her nest with! The fox squirrel has many color variations but the most common is a gray/brown back and tail with a brown/orange belly. Some may have black markings. I have identified one of our fox squirrels as one having a black tail tip. He is the master at extracting seed from our bird feeder.

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The Eastern Gray Squirrel is a tree squirrel that belongs in the genus Sciurus. Sciurus is derived from two Greek words, skia, meaning shadow, and oura, meaning tail. The name hints that the squirrel sits in the shadow of its tail. The gray squirrel is mostly gray though black individuals are quite common in some areas and white ones have been seen. The white ears in the one pictured above is from the rump to head molt that happens in the fall. Brown or white tufts appear on the ears after this molt. In the spring they do a head to tail molt.  Like other squirrels, gray squirrels cache their food. Sometimes, if they feel like they are being watched, they pretend to bury their food, when really they still have it in their mouth.

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The American red squirrel  is one of the three species of tree squirrel classified as a pine squirrel. They are gray/brown with a red line on their back, tail, and sometimes head. Their belly is white ad they have a white eye ring. American red squirrels eat a variety mushrooms, including some that are deadly to us.

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The black squirrel is actually a melanistic subgroup of the Eastern gray squirrel or fox squirrel. They exist where ever the gray and fox squirrels live. Black squirrels can be jet black or brown/black depending on the gene that they inherited from their parents. Black squirrels are more abundant in the northern regions of the gray squirrel’s range because of their increased cold tolerance. The black squirrel looses less heat then the gray squirrels. Although black squirrels are predominate in many areas of North America, their over all rarity (1 in 10,000), causes some towns and cities to take pride in their black squirrel population, including Detroit and Lansing, Michigan.

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Hope you enjoyed this informative post and are now more considerate of a your annoying, seed hogging friends.

by Alexa

 

8 Winter Chicken Keeping Tips

Did You Know?

This week’s post is going to be about poison awareness. It was brought to my attention by a book that I am reading in school called Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. In her book she discusses the environment we know live in: one filled with chemicals. A couple of the facts, stories, and information that I thought was very interesting and insightful are going to be mentioned in this post.

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Michigan State University had been an important stop every year for migrating robins in the spring. Beginning in 1954, the University started spraying for the Dutch Elm disease. The elm trees were sprayed with 2-5lbs of DDT per 50 foot tree every spring and sometimes again in July at half the amount.  When the trees were sprayed, the poison would form a film over the leaves that could not be washed off by rain. It would kill the bark beetles, but also beneficial bugs such as pollinators and predatory spiders. In the fall, the leaves would drop and become a favorite food of earthworms, who broke down the leaves. The year after the first light spraying the robins returned in the spring in their usual abundance to nest and find food. Soon after the first arrivals, dead and dying birds were found abundantly. It looked as if the robins were being poisoned, not directly, but indirectly.  Earthworms are the major food source in the spring for migratory robins. When crayfish were fed earthworms from the campus, they promptly died. When studied, DDT was found in the digestive tracts and other internal organs of the earthworms. Just 11 worms could transfer enough DDT to kill a robin, and robins usually eat 10-12 worms in as many minutes. It appeared that the spraying had become a lethal trap for each wave of robins that arrived. Within a week of arrival nearly all the robins would be dead and dying. Now there only 2-3 dozen robins that visit the campus each spring, compared to the 370 individuals that used to arrive before the spraying.

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Another place in Michigan that took a considerable interest to spraying was Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In order to assess the extensive effect DDT had on birds, they asked for all birds that were thought to be victims to be turned in for examination. Within a few weeks, the Institute’s deep-freeze facilities were full and other specimens had to be refused. In 1959, 1,000 poisoned birds were brought in or reported from the community alone. There were many robins along with 63 other different species.

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Spraying is deadly, and there are ways around it. For example, the Klamath weed grew in abundance in the West at one point. Any farm animals who ate it got scabs in their mouths. Land values began to decrees if the weed was found  on the property. Over in England, were the plant was native, they had no problems with it because a certain beetle population fed on the plant keeping it from being a problem. The beetles were then introduced out West, and within a few years, as the beetle spread, the Klamath weed was reduced to 1% of its formal abundance.

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Along with the animals that spraying effects, it also effects us. Chemicals are sprayed on our food, they leak down to underground water, and they are used in our houses. Every year, 500 new chemicals are introduced for us to use. Here are the important ones to steer clear of: DDT, DDD, Dieldrin (5x as toxic as DDT), Chlordane, Heptachlor, Aldrin (the quantity the size of an aspirin tablet is enough to kill more than 400 quail), and Endrin (5x as poisons as Dieldrin). Check mosquito repellents, bug sprays, lawn care equipment, and insecticide bottles to be sure you are not using these chemicals which damage wildlife, plant life, and you.

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Keep this post in mind as we come into the gardening season, and have a wonderful weekend!

by Alexa

 

 

8 Winter Chicken Keeping Tips

Winter Wildlife

When I was on a hike through the woods I found these signs of wildlife. Do you know what they are or who they are made by?

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#2

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#6

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#1 This sawdust was made by a woodpecker who was looking for bugs in a dead tree.

#2 Deer droppings.

#3 Deer track.

#4 A squirrel dug this hole looking for a stash of nuts.

#5 This is from a squirrel who found his stash of nuts and has now eaten the flesh out and left the shells behind.

#6 We are pretty sure this is porcupine poop. It was scattered all over the place beneath a huge pine tree and porcupines spend their days resting in trees.

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I discovered this little creek on my hike. The snow was very slippery, especially under the pine trees.

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Enjoy the snow!

by Alexa