Thursday, February 7, 2008

Be Mine.

High: 22° F
Low: 14° F
Conditions: Six inches of new snow cover with more on the way!


Even though Valentine's Day is still a week away, love is in the air. Outside, ravens, bald eagles, barred and great-horned owls are courting. We can hear the latter two species flirting during Ari’s night-time bathroom break: a piercing shriek, a pause, and then a shrill response. Even knowing the cause, this eerie sound sends chills down our spines and hurries both of us back inside.


When it comes to bird dating, Ari much prefers the hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus). This time of year, the males puff up the crest of feathers on top of their head, then straighten up their bachelor pads. Once self and home are in order, they begin their rat-a-tat-a-tatting on hollow tree trunks and limbs.

The caninaturalist has been looking everywhere for hairy woodpeckers. They’re the highlight of her walk, and when she finds one, she will sit for what seems like an eternity, cocking her head and watching the woodpecker do its pecky thing. While inside, she perches by the window, watching them snack on suet.

I can’t say for certain, but I think it's the hairy woodpecker’s casualness that most appeals to Ari. Woodpeckers are famous for their laissez-faire approach to life: they wake early and spend a good part of the morning sunning themselves on a branch. Even their mating practices have a certain leisureliness to them. This time of year, a male will drum throughout the day, sending out the specs on his tree cavity—how many bedrooms, its location, whether or not it’s gone co-op. He can be a reluctant suitor: scouting out a female, only to decide he’s not all that interested. For her part, she’ll make her way from tree house to tree house, sizing up the various males and deciding if she’s interested. And if she doesn't like the dating pool, sometimes she'll do her own drumming--just in case she might catch the ear of a visiting male passing through.

Ari and I are both enchanted by this whimsical courtship. In fact, the only species who isn’t love-struck is our pernicious friend the red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). All the pounding, the flirting, the feeding makes him even more grouchy than ever. He stands at the base of the bird feeder, scowling, or races up the woodpecker’s tree, cheeping his frustration at the top of his little squirrel lungs. This only delights the caninaturalist more, since she now has two boisterous friends to keep track of, instead of just one. She positively swoons with enthusiasm. It’s an unconventional kind of love, but I think this dog is a romantic all the same.

Speaking of loving birds. . .

The Audubon Society's annual BACKYARD BIRDCOUNT begins next Friday (February 15-18). It’s a great opportunity to help the Cornell Ornithological center and Audubon get much needed data on bird populations in your area. We’ll be keeping track of birds at our feeder throughout the weekend, and we challenge you to do the same. All you need to do is tally the birds at your feeder or in your yard over a 15 minute period. Email (kmiles@unity.edu) us your results and any observations (canine, goaty, or otherwise), and we’ll post them on the blog. We’ll even send a prize to the blogger who logs the most birds! Click here for more info.

27 comments:

Katherine and Pippa, said...

I don't think the challenge will apply in Spain or Gib. Although mistress used to try and do that sort of thing in UK.

She has not written about birds on my blog or on hers. For one thing she is rubbish at photographing them. For another she is too busy taking pix of flowers, and buildings, and occasionally ME. :)

I think mistress needs lessons in bird photos. But don't encourage her to do more silly flowers and buildings - she is taking too many of them.

Pippa

Marigold said...

I suppose we are behind. Our red-breasted sapsucker, Michael Jordan, has not begun tapping on the fiber-glass basketball backboard down at the barn as yet. Perhaps he is busy with a Nike contract or something.
I find myself interested in love however. :)

Me & my puppies said...

Kathryn,
What a wonderful post! I have always enjoyed birding and have gained an even great appreciation for our feathered friends after taking an ornithology class last spring semester. My professor was/is very involved with the studies of the endangered Red Knots, Calidris canutus. He makes an annual trip to Tierra del Fuego and then to the Arctic following their, almost 10,000 mile, flight path. I haven’t been to visit either of these distant places; however, I was able to travel to the Delaware Bay to observe them during migration. I have it written on my calendar for this year as well. What a thrill it is to be able to catch a glimpse of this beautiful creature while there is still time.

You can check out his progess here, just click on the upper right hand corner link, http://www.wetlandsinstitute.org/

Khyra The Siberian Husky said...

My mom LOVES birdies - but she told woo that already!

She'll be looking forward to the peregrines nesting again

http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/falcon/?dsftns=29877

Soon time for him to start woo'ing her again!

Happy TAILS!

Wags&Wuv,
Khyra

Sharon said...

This was a nice post, very interesting with pretty pictures! I'll have to look for some hairy woodpeckers!

Steve, Kat, & Wilbur said...

Wow, Ari, you have lots of bird crushes, I guess. I wonder what they like for Valentines Day?

Kat

Megan said...

Backyard Birdcount! There's 30 or 40 brown birds and they sound like they're singing "Mother-in-law"!

More soon--I promise!

Cody, THE Fussy Pot Pants said...

My Mumsy is more of a fish person but she loves to see the brightly coloured kingfishers do their fishing!

Do you have kingfishers over there? We have woodpeckers over here but I have never seen one before!

sue1101 said...

I love the idea of a dog who is a birdwatcher!

Sophie Brador said...

Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog. Your life sounds fabulous, and what a sweetie dog.

I'll definitely come back to visit.

xo
SB

The Daily Echo said...

Mom got very excited a couple months ago. She saw her first Eagle (that wasn't in a zoo or on TV) while driving down the road not too far away from our house. She thought she was seeing things until she saw it a 2nd time. We're going to help Mom count birds next week. Thanks for telling us about that!
ECHO

JB's Big World said...

Wow, Ari looks very intent looking out the window. I love looking at birdies too.
--JB

Kapp pack said...

Watching out the window is one of my favorite things to do also!

Kisses, Sky boy

Jan said...

Hey, we just found Trooper Ari's picture in her helmet. She looks cute. We like our helmets too. They make us all distinguished.

jans funny farm

Fay said...

Ari! So many critters, so little time!

Here in the rural south in the summer you can sit outside in the evening and listen to the whippoorwills call to each other. It's a very relaxing sound. In the daytime woodpeckers rat-a-tat-tat all day long. I don't know what species of woodpeckers, but I will try to find out!

Fay & the pack

Rusty said...

Hi! I left a Someone Special award for you over at my blog. You have to share it with your mom too!

Gus and Louie said...

That sounds like so much fun, watching the birds. We saw our first robins and cardinals this afternoon. We usually get a few crows, blue jays and wrens but no exciting birds. One day last summer we did get a roadrunner in the backyard. Today Mom got another picture of a heron at the lake. I will be sure to get her to post it soon...

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus and Louie

Mack said...

Wow - what a cool bloggy you have!
Thanks for stopping by mine!

We have a family of woodpeckers that lives in our backyard. They are very interesting to hear and watch.

Anna Mills said...

What a lovely blog! It's just my sense of humor in relation to pets. Our cat has similar romantic feels for fancy mice, but I hadn't considered the Valentine's dimension. Your prose is a pleasure to read. I referred my sister the veterinarian to the blog. Thanks for visiting my blog too.

umekotyan said...

Hello Just stop say Kathryn and Ari.
Thank you for visiting to my blog.
Slowly, blog of me is writing.
I like nature.
Especially, I like birds.
It is a gratitude in wonderful and nature. :)

from loved ume tyan

Rusty said...

Hi Ari! I never heard of Moxy the awful drink! I don't think mom wants to try it and she likes Dr. Pepper. Thank you for saying you think I havve bravado, ont a yucky syrup!

You are a nice and fun pup!

I see mom forgot to use the nickname place for me and put my last comment in under her own name. She's so forgetful!

Mary said...

We had our bird count a couple of weeks ago here in the UK. I could spend hours watching the birds but Missy and Raffles are not so patient.

Thor said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! Yours is great, too...mama says she can almost see the hairy woodpecker! Me, I don't want to just SEE him, I want to CHASE him!

Woos,
Thor

Me & my puppies said...

Kathryn,
Our public TV station aired a program on the horsecrabs and Red Knots this evening. Here's the link, perhaps it is airing in your area as well.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/

powder-puff said...

Hey Ari!!

I am so excited about Valentines Day!!

We dont really see that many intersting birds down here in Texas.

hope you have a great day!

peace out
puff

chester.hi-flyer said...

hey ari,

thanks for dropping by my blog!! :)

love the pictures on your blog and you're really quite a pretty pretty gal too!

take care and enjoy! will visit your blog again later!

p.s. do you already have a date on valentine's day?!

chester
http://tumeni-notes.livejournal.com

The Army of Four said...

Cool! I love to stare at things. I'll have to give birds a try!
We have cool birds here ...but the hawks kind of scare me when they're hunting in the field out back!
Play bows,
Zim