Sunday, April 10, 2011


Winter Wren

This week I was checking my bird migration journal and found that in 2010, the first Winter Wren flew in to my forest on April 3rd. Last year, April was a marvelous month here on my Cedar Ridge. Not only was it a record early arrival of the Winter Wren, but the Ruffed Grouse started their "drumming" on April 10th... which was also quite early.

Winter Wren

Ruffed Grouse

This year the snow is still deep in the forest. Today when I was out investigating a massive flock of screaming crows... I was sinking in snow almost knee deep. It seems many migrating birds that arrived early last year, are on hold. The juncos arrived April 1st and yesterday the first Purple Finch flew into my front yard... five days later than last year.

Purple Finch

There are many sounds of spring that uplift the birders spirit. I always enjoy the Black-capped Chickadee's "pee-wee" song, a chorus that grows as the days pass into spring. Many think of spring as they first hear the American Robin's roosting melody, as it drones into early evening. However, my favorite spring bird song is that of the Winter Wren. The little wren's song is arguably the longest and most beautiful, as it that echos through the forest. When I hear it the first time, it erases many of winter's cold memories.

Through the years, I have attempted to follow this little bird from nesting to fledging. In 2008 I found a wren nest under a tangled deadfall. I watched the adults zip into the underbrush with bills full of insects, never able to see the chicks. I was fortunate to capture the fledgings and have included some past shots I took with a super zoom camera. Wood warblers and the various sparrow species, I think are difficult to capture. These birds are my principle photo targets during the spring, summer and fall months... but for me, the Winter Wren remains the most difficult bird to capture in the forest. The "tangled deadfalls" and in my forest they are a photographers nightmare. Great for photographing a "working woodpecker", but for following a bouncing, feathered "ping pong ball"... not so much.

One thing I have learned, the mother will sing constantly and fly in a large circle to distract you from the fledglings. When this happens you know the fledglings are close at hand and it is best to stay in one spot and wait... she will eventually fly in with insects and you can find the family. The fledged wrens usually gather or bunch up on a deadfall log... trying to photograph them without an explosion of tiny feathers is difficult.

The little wren is not back yet, but I hope to hear her beautiful song soon... and begin the new season's merry chase.

"He who shall hurt the little wren/Shall never be beloved by men." ... William Blake

Monday, April 4, 2011


Red Fox

Over the years, we have had a number of interesting fox interactions on our property. I say interesting, because we have had two "phases" of the Red Fox, plus the Gray Fox, entertain us almost every night for the past eight years. In the archives, the Gray Fox has been discussed, especially the story of raising kits from under the floor of our dog kennel. They still arrive each night at dusk, in varied numbers, depending on who is giving birth and raising kits.

Cross Fox

The Cross Fox who shows up is a real treat. I have never seen a Cross Fox close up until this year. We named him "Goofy" because he is such a free spirit; he shows up the least of the fox, but he thinks he is part owner of Cedar Ridge. When he arrives, which is mostly at night, he sits on our patio and looks in the window. He is the most tame of all the fox and perhaps the most unique. As all the fox, I treat him to chicken scraps I get at the local grocery store. I can always tell if he had a successful, recent hunt if he eats little and leaves carrying his "booty", to bury it someplace close by.

Cross Fox

This winter the little guy developed "mange", a disease that is caused by mites and creates a ugly condition to the skin and causes hair loss. He gradually was losing fur on his tail and I purchased mange medicine and started treating him. I would put the medicine in chicken or hamburger and treated him when he showed up.

Cross Fox

I am happy to report that the fur is growing back and the little guy is doing well. He is a gorgeous fox.

Cross Fox

"Red" is the second most tame of our three fox guests. He also arrives at different times, but mostly he is nocturnal. He won't sit on our patio, but he will pose around ten feet from the front door... usually with his tail curled around his feet; in a classic fox pose.

Red Fox

The other day I was feeding corn to my three bucks that come by each afternoon. They were standing in my driveway parking area and I went to the garage to get their corn treat. When I came out the side door, my largest buck came running by me in "great haste"... almost knocking me down. I looked out in the parking area and the other two bucks were gone. Sitting on a hill was my little Red Fox, he must have heard me talking to the deer and came out of the woods.

Usually the deer flare their tails and "stomp" when a fox shows up. But the Red Fox is bigger than the Gray Fox, so the bucks were alarmed by "Reds" presence.

Two of my bucks are tame and they eat out of my hand, so I called them back and put corn on the driveway in three neat piles... they really don't like to share and the largest gets the most if you don't spread it out.

The Red Fox patiently waited on his snow bank until I finished with the deer. I called him to the front of the house and went in to get his chicken scraps. Like a pet dog, he trotted to the front lawn and waited for me to throw out his lunch.

The most endearing fox and the most punctual are the Gray Fox. They have hardly missed a night for the last eight years, giving us endless delight in their antics and the kits they bring to the front lawn each fall. The patriarch is now five years old, his mate died for some unknown reason and was discussed in a past post. He is one tough hombre and I recognize him by his size and battle scar in his right ear.

I will not see the females for sometime, for they are now having kits... but the males will be stopping by at times when the hunting is poor, to pick up "fast food" at our door step. We will be looking forward to seeing the new kids on the block at the end of summer...

Mother & Jr. Gray Fox

"A Fox is a Wolf who sends Flowers"... Ruth Weston