Sunflower Seeds Sprouting in my Ball Bird Feeder!

Ball Bird Feeder in my Backyard

The birds enjoy this ball feeder!

I bought this ball bird feeder awhile ago, and have no regrets at all about it. It supplies the Black-capped Chickadees with seeds for many days at a time. The American Goldfinches also enjoy the feeder.

It does, however, suffer from the same engineering problem that many bird feeders suffer from. There are some seeds that become impossible for the birds to reach. So as this ball feeder empties, it gets to a certain point, maybe when it’s 1/4 full or less, where it becomes increasingly difficult for the birds to get the seeds out of it. I think it might be because all of the smaller seeds, which more easily fit through the holes, have been eaten, and what remains are the larger seeds, which the birds have to crack open, because they can not fit the whole seed through the holes in the wire mesh.

Anyway, if I don’t tend to it, the birdfeeder ball will sit for many days with a small amount of seeds remaining in it.  Usually a week later, when I finally go to refill it, I have to dump out those remaining seeds that the birds weren’t able to get.

Invariably, some of the sunflower seeds have sprouted!!!

So, this ball bird feeder might be the perfect tool for making sprouted seeds!  If you’ve read up much on seed germination, you know that it’s part magic… (Well, living in rainy Washington probably does help — seeds do need a moist environment to sprout.)

This is not really a bad thing.  Ever buy sprouted rice or alfalfa sprouts or other sprouted foods at the grocery store?  Sprouted foods have more nutritional value and are kind of a health fad.  So, I pour those sprouted seeds into my platform feeder, and it seems that they do get eaten.

Sprouted Seeds From my Ball Bird Feeder

I pour these gigantic sprouted seeds that were in the bottom of the ball feeder into a hanging platform bird feeder. The birds have a nutritious feast!

So, because I love science and birds and sprouting stuff, I just thought you’d maybe find this interesting.  Maybe you could buy a ball feeder and a platform feeder and give it a try too?  BTW, if you’re in the market for a bird feeder, I highly recommend any that are made out of metal.  They can be cleaned easily and seem to last the longest.

Dahlia Garden at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma in October

Dahlia Trial Garden Point Defiance Tacoma WALooking for something to do over Columbus Day weekend?  My husband has noted that we usually have a storm on Columbus Day, but perhaps on the day after the storm, you’ll enjoy visiting the Dahlia Garden at Point Defiance Park, in the North End of Tacoma, WA.

Yes, this year, the Dahlias are still blooming and it’s October!  They are beautiful Autumn flowers!  It’s amazing how varied and elaborate their blossoms are.

Visit after a rain storm, and you’ll have beautiful droplets all over the flowers, adding another dynamic to your photos.

I love photographing flowers.  The very act of composing a photograph makes me pay attention and “be in the moment.”  The later joy of sharing them is just the icing on the cake.

Dahlia Garden was beautiful in Autumn

The Dahlia Trial Garden produces amazing flowers! The garden is maintained by The American Dahlia Society and flowers are voted on by judges. Winning flowers are added to the classification book. According to the Metro Parks Tacoma Garden Clubs website, the best time to view the dahlias is in August… I think there were more earlier in the season and some were cut down, but wow! Still so beautiful.

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Beautiful Orange Dahlia seen on the Trial Garden in Tacoma WA

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Sign about the Dahlia Garden at Pt Defiance Park, Washington State, USA

While You’re There…

You can walk (or drive) down the hill to the waterfront.  There’s a great walkway and you might even see a Seal!  You’ll almost certainly see the ferry, maybe a barge or some smaller boats, seagulls, and people walking their dogs!

Most recently, I saw this blue heron on top of a utility building along the waterfront.  It was high tide and he was just hanging out!

Blue Heron Seen at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma WA
First time I’ve seen a blue heron at Point Defiance Park!

Washington State Ferry Crossing the Puget Sound

Scrub Jay Loves Peanuts

California Scrub-Jay visits us in Tacoma, WA area – LOVES peanuts!!

Starting about 2 weeks ago (beginning of September 2016), we’ve had California Scrub-Jays visiting our backyard.  We’ve been feeding Stellar Jays peanuts for years, but this is the first time we’ve had any regular Scrub-Jays.  Last autumn, we had a timid one, for a few weeks, but he never took to getting peanuts.

This year, we have a pair, one is smaller, so it may be a parent and a child.  I’m not sure if there’s any size difference between the sexes.  Anyone know?California Scrub Jay Foraging Peanuts

They are gregarious and friendly, and were unafraid of me photographing them out in the open.  I was surprised that they were so outgoing, since they are so new to my backyard, while the stellar jays that we’ve had around for years, are hesitant when I change my behavior at all.

They are also very vocal, constantly chatting when foraging or pretty much all morning long!  A bit annoying, not at all pleasant — makes it hard to ignore them!  They will hang out right outside my window and even fly onto my porch!

California Scrub Jay with Peanuts in Tacoma WA Backyard

We’re actually in Lakewood, WA, and I don’t believe that these birds are really that uncommon in Washington State — I think I saw one near Point Defiance a few years ago — but it’s so lovely to have some new regular backyard birds to our feeders.

In addition to feasting on peanuts, they also enjoy sunflower seeds.  We have this hanging platform feeder, and they do eat off of it.

Scientific Side Note: What also makes this bird interesting, is the recent news that the Western Scrub-Jay is being split into two different species, the California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) and the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii).  See this article: Taxonomy Update for 2016

Have you seen these near you?  Any experiences to share?

My Grandma’s Mushrooms: Needlepoints and Paintings

My Grandma was an amateur Mycologist (mushroom scientist).  I’m not sure when she first got into studying them, but she was in her 70s when she was teaching me about them.  When I was a kid, we would go foraging for mushrooms in our backyard woods.  We lived in the mixed deciduous and coniferous forests of the Mid-Huson Valley in New York state and we found everything from puff balls to the rare Stinkhorn.

Young Linnea with Mushrooms at Grandma's

Young Linnea with Mushrooms at Grandma’s

In that photo, I’m holding a poisonous Amanita.  My Grandma had lots of books about mushrooms, and we would look at her handbooks to identify our finds.  Some of her books seemed very scientific and advanced to me.  They had a clear methodology for identification, and sometimes that involved doing spore prints to see what color the spores were.  Spore prints are easy to make with gilled mushrooms.  Just remove the mushroom cap, set it gills side down on paper, and put a glass around it or some other container, to prevent air movements from disturbing it.  Leave it there overnight.

My Grandma Elizabeth (Betty) Wilhelm at a Mushroom Convention

My Grandma Elizabeth (Betty) Wilhelm at a Mushroom Convention

Every year, my Grandma and Grandpa went to the North American Mycological Association Annual Foray.  One year, they had the Foray near me, and I got to go to see all of the mushrooms that they found!  From my understanding, it was a like a convention where all of these people who love mushrooms go out into the countryside to collect mushrooms.  They bring them back and identify them and place them on the tables along with signs that have their latin names.

As you can see, they found a lot of mushrooms that year!

My Grandma taught me a lot about science.  At 10 years old, I knew all about how mushrooms grew on decaying wood, how their root like structures were called mycelium and lots of other fun facts!

My Grandma was also quite an artist and crafter.  I recently inherited some of her artwork and I wanted to share her fungi needleworks and mushroom watercolor paintings.  That’s the real reason for writing this post.  On the internet, her creations have a much better chance of lasting forever!

So, here we go:

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This mushroom needlework has such pretty pink mushrooms.  I’m not sure what species they really are, but they remind me of the Red Russula Mushrooms that we often saw on our walks.  However, Russula mushrooms have gills, not like those in this needlework.

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Clitocybe Illudens or maybe Omphalotus Illudens (Jack O’Lantern Mushrooms) Painting by Betty Wilhelm 1972

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Untitled but these Look Like Amanitas by Betty Wilhelm

That’s a nice example of Amanitas in all of their above-ground life stages!  Amanitas are usually poisonous (some even deadly), but fortunately are fairly easy to identify.  You have to watch out though, because sometimes their rings deteriorate, so you can’t rely on them always having a ring.  They do have a cup (at their base), they always grow individually (alone, unattached to others), and often have spots but not always.

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An Amanita Mushroom by Betty Wilhelm

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Morel Mushroom Needlepoint

We found a Morel mushroom only once.  Ever.  Apparently, they like to grow under Apple trees and other things we didn’t have.

Tree Mushrooms Drawing

Tree Mushrooms Drawing

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pholiota squarrosa mushroom painting by Betty Wilhelm 1972

Pholiota Squarrosa Mushroom Painting by Betty Wilhelm 1972

Ink Cap Muhroom Needlepoint Art

Ink Cap Mushroom Needlepoint Art

Thanks for looking at my Grandma’s mushroom art!

February Visit to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

I love to take photographs at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge (recently renamed the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge).  It’s a popular attraction for birders and nature lovers.  On any nice weather day, you’ll find lots of visitors with binoculars, fancy cameras, and scopes.  Visitors come from miles around for a chance at seeing a rare bird or just to enjoy a nice walk in the woods and along the estuary!

Here’s what I saw this time!

Immature Bald Eagles – Up close!

Immature Bald Eagle near Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail

Immature Bald Eagle near Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail

Bald eagles are a very common sight at Nisqually.  You often see them soaring high, or sometimes sitting in tree tops near the visitor center, or just about anywhere.  However, it’s not every day that you see them near the boardwalk!  I really lucked out at getting these close-up photos.  I watched this one for awhile, hoping he would do some hunting (I’d love to get a photo of him with a fish or something), but he was just relaxing.  There were actually two of them near the Estuary Boardwalk, and here’s a photo I got of the other one as he was flying away:

Immature Bald Eagle Flying

Immature Bald Eagle Flying

Canada Geese Pairing off… Fighting.. Honking

Canada Goose in a Tree!

Canada Goose in a Tree!

Canada Geese are busy this time of the year, trying to win over a mate and defend their territory.  Canada Geese are numerous at Nisqually NWR year round.  During this time of the year (and probably through the next couple of months, as Spring starts), you see them flying high up in the trees!  I’m used to seeing them on the ground, so when I first saw them in a tree, I was quite surprised!  But if you visit Nisqually often, you will get used to this behavior!  One visitor said that one of the geese landed on the Great Horned Owl nest and got quite a surprise from the mother owl!

Canada Geese Honking

Canada Geese Honking

The Owl is Still on the Nest

Great Horned Owl in Nest

Great Horned Owl in Nest

We are all waiting anxiously for owlets to appear!  Sorry that I don’t have a better photo… Other way more patient photographers probably got better photos.

Hooded Mergansers

Hooded Mergansers in the Nisqually Visitor Center Pond

Hooded Mergansers in the Nisqually Visitor Center Pond

These are beautiful, small ducks!  A common sight at the Nisqually visitor center pond!

American Coot – It’s NOT a duck!

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These funny looking birds are also a common sight!  They have a funny white beak, a red eye, and are otherwise mostly black or gray.  Most of the time you see them in the water, eating grass like vegetation, but this one got out of the water (mostly) and started grooming:

American Coot Grooming

American Coot Grooming

Pied-billed Grebe – Cute Little Duck Like Bird!

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

 

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

These shorebirds were near the beginning of the Estuary Boardwalk.

Greater Yellowlegs Pair

Greater Yellowlegs Pair

Common Goldeneye (Female)

Common Goldeneye (Female)

Common Goldeneye (Female)

This little lady was foraging in the calm waters along the eastern segment of the Twin Barns Loop trail.  She was quite the diver and often swam for 3 feet or so underwater… She swam away fast when two Canada Geese started to approach!

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Well, that’s it for this time!

1970 New York Winter in the Woods

Here are a set of old black & white photographs taken of my childhood house located in the Hudson Valley, New York.  Actually, the house was only partially completed when these photos were taken.  It looks like it was a cold winter, with a frozen pond and snow.  I love the stark look and someone had a good eye for photography!

A Typical Morning

Stellar Jay Diving for Peanuts While Crows Watch

Stellar Jay dives for peanuts.  The crows know that he is faster so they just watch to see where he hides them.  Two species of very clever birds.

I talk to our Stellar Jays every morning.  They look at me.  Sometimes they talk too, but sometimes they are totally silent.

When our Stellar Jay is really excited, he flies back and forth between our shed roof and house roof.  He is so sure he’s going to get peanuts.

They like the whole in-shell unsalted peanuts.  I’ve done a lot of comparison shopping and by far the best deal is Costco.  Just over $5 for five pounds.  That’s almost a dollar a pound.  Peanuts on Amazon are usually double or triple that cost.

When I bought 2 bags recently, the Costco doorman said “Feeding our furry friends?”  Apparently I am not the only one that’s found that their peanuts for humans are cheaper than the peanuts for pets that you can buy elsewhere.

A Mallard Duck with Feathers Stuck to Its Beak

I had some business to do in north Tacoma today (had to go to the Xfinity Store a.k.a. Comcast because our DVR was glitchy. They gave us the new X1 box and a year promotion on it for $10/month.)

Whenever I go up there, I usually go by Point Defiance. I was disappointed today that the cloud cover was kind of thick, which made shooting with my long lens difficult. With low light and wildlife there’s a lot of compromises to consider. If you raise the ISO, your photos come out more grainy. If you open the aperature, the field of focus becomes too narrow. If you lower the shutter speed, camera shake plus wildlife movement becomes an issue. All in all, you have to compromise with one of those settings.

I’m still trying to figure out what setting I can compromise on. In any case, I was pleasantly surprised that I got some photos worthy enough of showing here.

It turns out that 3200 ISO on the Canon Eos Rebel T3i can be an acceptable setting, especially if you’re taking photos for the web or for personal memories. There will be grain, but if you don’t plan on using the photos at their full resolution, or plan on printing them, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Of course, ideally you should wait for a sunny day, but nature can’t be planned for. Oh, if you’re taking photos of ducks that are there every day, then do re-visit on a sunny day and use a lower ISO. But if you want to capture the moment, don’t hesitate.

Female Mallard Duck Close-up

Aperture: f/11
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
ISO-3200
500mm
Canon Eos Rebel T3i
Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 Auto Focus APO DG OS HSM Telephoto Zoom Lens
Adjusted in Photoshop Elements Camera Raw
(adjusted clarity, saturation, & contrast)

 

September Visit to Nisqually National Wildlife Reserve

Last week I visited Nisqually National Wildlife Reserve.  It was my first visit after about a 3 month hiatus.  It was sunny and in the high 50s.  It wasn’t too windy and I was warm enough in my usual jeans and hoodie attire.  (I think I need to get some leggings to wear under my jeans for the colder months.  And a hoodie with ear flaps.)

The high tide was around 11 feet at mid-day.  I saw 4 blue herons close enough for photographs.  There were also a few other herons in the distance.

Great Blue Heron Hunting at Nisqually

Great Blue Heron Hunting at Nisqually

The first two blue herons were along the Nisqually Estuary Trail (before you get to the boardwalk).  One of them was hunting in the shallow waters on the Puget Sound side of the trail.  He found a little crab.

Great Blue Heron Catches a Crab at Nisqually

Great Blue Heron Catches a Crab at Nisqually

The other one was in the tall grass on the side of the trail closest to Interstate 5 highway.  It looked like the grass had been mowed, which I was surprised about.

Blue Heron at Nisqually NWR

Blue Heron at Nisqually NWR

While I was taking these blue heron photos, I also captured this photo of a large flock of birds.  I think they are juvenile Red-Winged blackbirds but I could be wrong.  (Please comment below if I’m wrong… thanks!  My first guess was Starlings because of the spots but the beak color is dark and they’re smaller).

Juvenile Red-Wing Blackbirds (?)

Flock of Juvenile Red-Wing Blackbirds (?)

I also saw a unique Blue Heron with white wing tips off the boardwalk.  (I think it was by the McAllister Creek Viewing Platform.)   Other birders told me that he was part albino and has been there for a couple of years.  He didn’t mind us watching and spent a lot of time grooming.

Great Blue Heron - Part Albino - Nisqually

Great Blue Heron – Part Albino – Nisqually

Sometimes he would stand on one foot and scratch his ear.

Funny Photo of Blue Heron Scratching

Funny Photo of Blue Heron Scratching

There were Harbor Seals sunbathing in the distance (really far away, you would need binoculars to verify that they were Seals.)  There was also this seagull trying to eat a flounder.

Seagull with a Flounder that's Too Big to Swallow

Seagull with a Flounder that’s Too Big to Swallow

It took him a long time to swallow that fish!  He kept dropping it and picking it up again.  I captured over two minutes of this funny dilemma on video:

At high tide, there were still some exposed mud flats that were like a little resort for small shorebirds.  I had a hard time identifying these guys, but I think they are Western Sandpipers.  If I’m wrong, please let me know in the comments below.

Seagull and Western Sandpipers on mud flats along Nisqually Boardwarlk

Seagull and Western Sandpipers on mud flats along Nisqually Boardwalk

I also checked out the Nisqually River overlook and saw a Spotted Towhee foraging in the brush by the water:

Spotted Towhee at Nisqually NWR

Spotted Towhee at Nisqually NWR

The water levels were very low in the marshy area along the Twin Barns Trail.  We’ve had a drought this summer so I guess that’s no surprise.  The trees were still almost fully clothes with leaves.  There were maple seed pods on the trails.  I saw one snake on the wooden path part of the trail.  This is a common occurrence, as I think I’ve seen a snake about 25% of the time I’ve been there.  (I think it was a Garter Snake.)

I think I saw a Peregrine Falcon on one of the dead trees.   I got a photo but it’s blurry.  I’m really bad at estimating distances (anyone know the distance from the Nisqually Estuary Trail to the dead trees?) but the bird of prey was far enough away that it was hard to focus on, even with my Sigma 500mm lens.  It looks like I should have switched to manual focus.  Next time I will have to try.  That and use a tripod.  (I have a tripod by carrying it is a difficult task for me.  Yes, my lens is heavy but not as awkward as a tripod.  For me, personally.  Maybe something will change my opinion on that someday.)

Maybe a Peregrine Falcon?

I guess this photo goes to show you that I take bad photos too.

 

Need A House? Call Ms. Mouse by George Mendoza

An Elaborate Bird House for the Birds and Squirrels!

Do you remember this book from your childhood? I just came across it recently and wanted to share with you the elaborate bird house illustration that’s in this collectible children’s book.

Bird House Illustration in Need a House? Call Ms. Mouse

In this book, Ms. Mouse is an architect who designs houses for animals. Some of the designs are like mid-century modern. The bird house is supposed to feel like a spaceship. The book is by George Mendoza and the colorful and super creative illustrations are by Doris Susan Smith.

What I love about this illustration is that the birds are drawn to resemble real birds. There are Barn Swallows and House Sparrows. The yellow bird reminds me of a Grosbeak but I think it may be something else. This book was apparently first published in the UK under the title “House by Mouse” in 1981, so these may be European birds. The text was changed for the U.S. version which came out in 1983. But the beautiful illustrations remained the same.

Illustration from Need a House? Call Ms Mouse!

Illustration of a House for a Worm that’s inside of a pear!

 

Frog House Illustration

 

Need a House? Call Ms Mouse Endpaper Illustrations

Need a House? Call Ms Mouse Endpaper Illustrations

 

Need a House? Call Ms. Mouse Cover Photo

This is a picture of the U.S. version, published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1983.