Monthly Archives: March 2015

Mystery Solved: Dirt Piles with Rocks in My Yard!!

Mole Hills Under my Bird Feeder

Mole Hills Under my Bird Feeder

I had a mystery…. I found dirt piles in my yard and no holes under them.  For about three months, I was convinced that my neighbor was putting dirt piles in my yard.  Kind of crazy, right?  But he has Alzheimer’s and people do strange stuff when they have dementia.  So my theory wasn’t totally off the wall crazy… But I never could catch him doing it!  The piles of dirt would just appear in the middle of the day.  And then I noticed them in my neighbors’ yards too… Still he could be going in their yards too, right?  But when I saw the same kinds of piles in a nearby park, I realized that my theory no longer held water.

After some research, it appears that these are mole hills.  They have rocks in them because the soil where I live is very rocky.   In my yard, a couple of the piles are right under the bird feeder. I suspect that the mole might be eating some of the seeds.

So, here are some mole hills with rocks… For those of you who have been googling for mystery dirt and pebble piles.  Of course I could be wrong, and if I am, please correct me.  If you can confirm that these are actually caused by moles, I’d like to hear from you too.  In the meantime, I will be trying to catch the moles at work!

Mole Hills

Mole Hills

Kodak Film Facts Vintage Brochure 1978

I found this brochure from Eastman Kodak Company hidden inside a book I bought.  As a photographer, it is one of the more interesting things I’ve found in books. It describes the following kinds of film:

Kodachrome 25
Kodachrome 64
Ektachrome 64
Kodacolor II
Kodacolor 400
Panatomic-X
Plus-X pan
Tri-X pan
Verichrome pan
Ektachrome 160
Ektachrome 200
Ektachrome 400

Kodak Film Facts 1970s Vintage Catalog (side 1)

Kodak Film Facts 1970s Vintage Catalog (side 1)

Kodak Film Facts 1970s Vintage Catalog (side 2)

Kodak Film Facts 1970s Vintage Catalog (side 2)

Twin Barns at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

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Here is the trail that leads from the parking lot and goes out to the Twin Barns.  There is a wooden boardwalk (part of the Twin Barns Loop Trail) that parallels this.  The geese here are so friendly!   I got really close to one and got a photo of its feet:

Canada Geese Feet

Canada Geese Feet

I saw a couple of Great Blue Herons.  There was a child who was so excited to tell me that there was one along the path.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

There were also a bunch of American Coots in the waterland next to the path:

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American Coots

There were lots of Tree Swallows flying around the barns.   Usually they are hard to photograph because they fly so fast, but they were landing on the barn.  I got this photo:

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Tree Swallows

 

Aren’t they beautiful?  I love their violet and green colors.  I wonder if they are going to make nests on the barn.  I will be going back to see!

 

 

Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail

This is amazing!   There is a mile long boardwalk at Nisqually Refuge that goes over the Estuary.  Last week was my first time walking on it. I should have checked this place out years ago.  I went during high tide, so there was water under most of the board walk.  I guess when the tide goes out, it’s all mud flats underneath.  I am curious about the different birds that come by with the changing tide… So expect many more photos in coming months!

Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail

Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail

 

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Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail

 

Greater White-fronted Goose at Nisqually Refuge

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I took these photos at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Thurston County, Washington.   It’s the first time I’ve seen the Greater White Fronted Goose, but I have a feeling that it won’t be the last time!  Depending on the range map, they either stay here all Winter, or are just moving through on their migratory journey far north.  They spend their summers in Alaska, the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and the Nunavut.

I actually didn’t realize that they were geese when I saw them.  I just thought they were some large duck.  But my husband knew they were geese right away.  The only geese I am familiar with are the Canada and Cackling Geese.

There were at least 4 of these White Fronted Geese right next to the Nisqually Estuary Trail.  They were doing all sorts of lovely poses for me.  Aren’t they funny looking?  At least I can remember their name by their funny white face.  I love it when names actually describe a bird’s appearance.

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Is this a Red-Shouldered Hawk? The Answer: No.

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edit:  This is a Northern Harrier, either a female, or a juvenile, as explained by the kind people below!    I was mistaken in thinking it was a Red-Shouldered Hawk.

I took lots of bird photos today at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.   I captured this hawk flying above the estuary.  I think it looks like a Red-Shouldered hawk, but I’m not sure. Red-Shouldered Hawks are rare in Washington State.  It looks like their range is mostly in Oregon and southward.  I am new to identifying raptors, so would love any expert opinions!

Red-breasted Nuthatch at my Backyard Bird Feeder

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Black-Capped Chickadee (on pole) and Red-breasted Nuthatch (on suet feeder).  

These cute little guys are supposed to live here year round (Tacoma area, Washington state) but I’ve only seen them in the winter time.   The Red-breasted Nuthatch has a smaller body and a longer beak compared to the Chickadee.  They are very friendly birds.  They will visit my feeder even when I’m standing right next to it!  They are also very resourceful, as I’ve seen them get seeds from both the feeder and from the ground!  They enjoy Sunflower seed and suet.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Here he is on the top of the bird feeder pole!

Red-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Siskins

Red-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Siskins on my Gardman Hanging Feeder Tray

Not at all afraid, he will quickly get a seed.  He doesn’t seem to mind these Pine Siskins!

Pine Siskin at my Window Bird Feeder

Pine Siskin at my Window Bird Feeder

Pine Siskin Enjoying Sunflower Seeds

This is the first year I’ve had Pine Siskins visit my feeders.  Here is a picture of one at my  Window Cafe Bird Feeder.  It is the best $20 I’ve spent on entertainment ever!   I get to see birds upclose every day!  I usually leave the blinds down, but open at the right angle so that I can see the birds.  I think the blinds help the birds not get scared so easily.  This photo was taken from the inside, looking through the blinds and out my window.

By the way, Pine Siskins are supposed to prefer smaller seeds or hulled seeds, but all I feed them are Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, and they keep coming back!  I used to provide a mix of seeds, but the red-winged blackbirds would throw the seeds out… Only providing one type of seed has kept the throwing down to a minimal, and so many birds enjoy sunflower seeds!  The birds that can’t break them open seem to follow the other birds around and pick at the pieces that are left behind.

Birdwatching at Mountain View Cemetery

I like watching birds at peaceful places.  A nearby cemetery is just the right place.  They have a lake and a swamp that attracts waterfowl, and right now blossoming cherry trees that the finches like too.

If you’ve never considered birding at a graveyard, you might be missing out on some easy to reach locations.  It’s also a good place to avoid the unscrupulous characters that might be hanging out in urban parks.  I know I’m hesitant to bird at some city parks because of frequent car brake-ins.

The Mountain View Memorial Park is listed as a birding hot spot on the ebird website.   You can explore birding hotspots to discover new locations.  I also like to use the lists of birds people saw at a nearby hotspot when I’m trying to identify a bird that I’m unfamiliar with.  I just google the birds that other people saw and see if anything’s a match.

Here are some photos I took at Mountain View Memorial Park in Lakewood, WA.

Blue Heron in Marsh

Great Blue Heron in Marsh

There is apparently a resident Great Blue Heron.  Maybe he’s looking for frogs.  I’ve seen Great Blue Herons in both New York and Florida before. Their range is the entire United States and beyond.

Common Merganser Catches a Fish

Common Merganser Catches a Fish

Wow!   This is my first spotting of the Common Merganser, which is a diving duck.  They have a red, pointy bill that’s serrated.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

These are Northern Shovelers.  The male’s head color is similar to a Mallard, which is a duck that I’m much more familiar with.  But, the Northern Shovelers have wider bills.  Also, the females lack the dark “saddle” shaped coloration that the Mallards have on their bills.

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Did you know that finches eat flowers?   I think this is a House Finch, but he could be a Purple Finch.  I have never been able to tell the difference.  It appeared that he was eating the petals of these cherry blossoms.    I tried to research whether they actually eat the petals, and could find no confirmation that they do.  But, it does say on Cornell’s website that purple finches bite off the base of flowers and eat the nectar.  Unlike Chickadees, who eat spiders and insects, House Finches are almost 100% vegetarian. They usually eat seeds, buds, and fruits.

 

A Gaggle of Geese at Chambers Bay Golf Course

As people rush to get the Chambers Bay Golf Course ready for the U.S. Open this June, the Canada Geese have been enjoying it.  I counted a flock of about 240 geese today.  I think they were a mix of Canada and Cackling Geese.  The two species used to be one, but now the small ones are classified as the “Cackling” species.

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When the geese land, a flock turns into a gaggle!  These geese did circle the grounds in a circular pattern and then they all landed together!

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It appears that the construction of the Chambers Bay Golf course and surrounding structures is not yet complete.  There was a crane there today.  Here is today’s work in progress:

chambers bay construction

 

No worries though, there are still 107 days before the opening day!