Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mississippi Gulf Coast: Biloxi Lighthouse Pier

In my previous post, I wrote about my day trip on November 21st to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and posted photos from my bird sightings at Ken Combs Pier.  Continuing on, I left Ken Combs Pier and traveled east on Highway 90 toward Biloxi.  I turned in and circled around what was once the Broadwater Beach Marina in Biloxi.  The marina is long gone, but the area remains popular for fishing.   The Broadwater Marina Lighthouse was once a part of the President Casino Broadwater Resort, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  The lighthouse sustained damage during the hurricane but has been repaired.   

Broadwater Marina Lighthouse
Biloxi Lighthouse
Traveling further on Highway 90, I stopped for a moment to capture the above shots of the Biloxi Lighthouse.  Constructed in 1848, this is the second-oldest cast iron lighthouse in the U.S.  The interior of the lighthouse was restored in 1990 but suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Katrina.  Interior repairs were completed in early 2010.  

Across the highway, I spotted some birds on the east shore of the Biloxi Lighthouse Pier.  Of course, I had to investigate...

There were no surprises on the shore of this pier-

More Black Skimmers...I took note that most of the time these birds stand with their face to the east, unless they're napping with their heads tucked in.  

Look closely at their bills and you'll know why they're called Black "Skimmers".  Do you see it?  The lower mandible in longer than the upper.  Additionally, the bill is knife-thin.  The bird drags the lower bill through the water as it flies along, hoping to catch small fish.  When the mandible touches a fish, the upper bill (maxilla) snaps down instantly to catch it.

Of course there were Laughing Gulls near the water's edge...

The Beau Rivage Marina Lighthouse can be seen east of the Biloxi Lighthouse Pier.  Maybe on my next trip to the gulf coast I'll take a closer look.

I hope you are enjoying my photos from the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Most of you that are familiar with the area know that nearly everything along this coast was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. The beautiful old homes, historic buildings and huge trees that once graced the coastal highway are gone.  That was 9 years ago.  Recovery has been a gradual, painful process, but the cities of Gulfport and Biloxi have made tremendous progress since.  

Thank you for visiting. Have a wonderful weekend Peeps!  

Friday, November 28, 2014

Mississippi Gulf Coast: Ken Combs Pier

A beautiful, sunny day at the beach has temporarily cured me of the "birding blues". Last Friday, I drove along coastal Highway 90 in Harrison County and stopped at a few of the piers and marinas, where I received a good dose of bird therapy...

First stop- Ken Combs Pier 
Unfortunately, the pier remains closed due to severe storm damage, but sources report that it should soon be repaired.  However, it's a great spot to view coastal birds- they hang out along the shoreline, low sand dunes and rock jetties around the pier.

File photo from March 2014
Clapper Rail
Taking an early morning bath
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeons in a passionate moment
Love, sweet love :)
A curious (or jealous) onlooker?
Several Laughing Gulls splashed around near shore
A few Ruddy Turnstones made an appearance
Numerous Black Skimmers basked in the sun along the shoreline
They took flight as I approached...
While some descended upon a sand hill offshore,
Many of the skimmers made a wide loop and returned

As I started to leave, my attention turned to a vast flock of migrating birds descending upon treetops and a hotel roof across the highway.  Hundreds of them made several circles around the building then momentarily roosted in a tall tree.  I tried to zoom in close enough to see if I could identify them, but they were too far away.  

I took way too many photos of my day trip to publish in one post, so there's more to come.  Thank you for stopping by!  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  
It turns what we have into enough, and more.

To those of you who will celebrate Thanksgiving today...
may your day be filled with the blessings of family, 
good friends and home.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Eastern Phoebe

A sweet little Eastern Phoebe has been a regular visitor to our yard recently.  He (or she) is never seen at the bird feeders, but rather hanging out on power lines, tree limbs, atop the bird house or around the old metal shed.  

I love to watch this little flycatcher in action...when he spots a flying insect, he abruptly leaves his perch to chase his prey.  He often makes a swift loop and momentarily returns to the same perch. Never in one spot for very long, he makes his rounds in the back yard, sometimes staying two to three hours.  (Flying insects make up the majority of the Eastern Phoebe’s diet. Common prey include wasps, beetles, dragonflies, butterflies and moths, flies, midges, and cicadas; they also eat spiders, ticks, and millipedes, as well as occasional small fruits or seeds)

This beautiful phoebe is another "first" for me- I had never seen one until he came along.  His appearance is a welcome sight...perhaps others will follow.

Linked with Stewart at Wild Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Homemade Bird Suet & Treats

Good Morning Everyone :)  In my last post, I promised that I would share pics of the homemade pine cone bird feeders and goodies that I made.  So, to keep my promise, here they are...

Halved oranges make great little bowls which can be filled with all sorts of treats.  I placed cranberries in these, but the possibilities are many- bird seed, sunflower seeds, nuts, grapes and other kinds of berries.  

Small fruits such as pears or apples can easily become a hanging treat for your backyard birds.  I purchased small pears and inserted flat-tipped screws in the center of them.  I placed a small bow on top for decoration then tied thin string around the head of the screw.  

For the heart-shaped cereal treats, I strung some store brand froot loops onto flexible wire then topped it off with checkered ribbon.  Note that sugary treats for birds should be limited because they have little nutritional value.  I made only a couple of these for decoration purposes. 

There's a thousand ways to prepare homemade bird suet and I wasn't sure which recipe to use, but I settled on one to try out.  They're all easy, but I can remember this:  Melt 1/3 cup of lard on low heat. Add about 2 tablespoons peanut butter while lard is still warm and stir together.  Then mix in 2/3 cup to 1 cup of dry ingredients (bird seed, oats, peanuts, raisins, etc) to desired consistency.  Suet mixture can be scooped into muffin pans, small plastic bowls, etc. or shaped into cakes for your suet feeder. Refrigerate until ready to use.   

The pine cone bird feeders were so easy to make.  I simply covered the pine cones with peanut butter then rolled them in a bowl of dry ingredients (bird seed, oats, peanuts, crumbled bread).  Using a fork, I pushed the ingredients into the pine cone, filling in the spaces.  Lastly, I decorated the pine cone with ribbon and added a string to hang it with.  It can't get any simpler than that, folks!  :)

Wishing you all a great day!  Thanks for stopping by...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Birding Withdrawal Syndrome

Have you been suffering from anxiety, frustration, visual delusions, an obsession to stare out of your windows and doors, spending more than usual on various food substances to attract birds and/or a nagging compulsion to place bird feeders in every nook and cranny of your yard?  If so, you may have the symptoms of BWS, or BIRDING WITHDRAWAL SYNDROME.  The cause of this dreaded illness is the sudden decrease or absence of bird watching in one's life.  Trust me, I know firsthand the challenges faced in attempting to overcome BWS.  If left untreated, symptoms may escalate into constant feelings of depravity, waking up in a nearby forest or field (sleepwalking) and sudden urges to elope to wetlands, marshes and/or birding "hot spots".  The only known effective treatment for BWS is directly related to the object from which one is withdrawing- BIRDING.  

The patient with BWS should:
- be frequently exposed to various types of birds, both resident and migratory
- have the opportunity to take an unlimited number of bird photos
- visit nature/wildlife preserves on a regular basis
- take leisurely walks in local parks and woodlands

*Grin*  :)~    Yes, I was just being silly!  But seriously, folks...I am experiencing every one of the above symptoms!  Ugh!!!  What to do????  

My husband says to give it more time, the birds will come around eventually.  But, but, but...honey, it's been nearly two months and not ONE BIRD has been seen on the feeders (pout).  I hear them in the nearby trees and brush- Cardinals, Chickadees, Blue Jays, Woodpeckers.  I know their calls.  But I only catch a quick glimpse of the Cardinals and Blue Jays as they flitter from one tree to the next. The Blue Jays are pretty regular about visiting early mornings- they stop and scoop up a few pieces of corn or peanuts from the ground.  An Eastern Phoebe is a regular visitor to the power lines on one side of our property.  He stays a while and watches for flying insects.  I've watched several migrating flocks fly over our property, heading south.  But, why won't they come to my feeders?  

There are various styles of feeders placed in our backyard, filled with an assortment of good quality bird food.  A suet feeder hangs alongside one of the regular feeders.  On a concrete bench sits a variety of goodies- homemade suet, peanuts, sunflower seeds and orange slices.  So, where are the birds?  Do you understand my frustration here?  Am I expecting too much too soon?  I'm open to suggestions, please comment if you have any.

It's been difficult to come from a place that was a "hot zone" for birds.  They were everywhere and I had constant traffic at the feeders.  From the very first day I placed my feeders out there, birds appeared.  They brought such joy to me with their presence and daily songs.  Now...well, there are often long periods of silence in the yard, other than the occasional stream of traffic.  It's pretty bad when you sit outdoors with your camera, waiting and watching, listening intently, trying to discern the location of the bird you hear...then something suddenly moves and you excitedly jerk the camera into position, aimed and ready to shoot, anxious to see that striking beauty in your lens...wait, where is it?  I saw it moving!  Then *sigh*, you realize it was a large yellow or brown leaf falling.  Drats!  

I realize that I have no choice but to wait.  Maybe it would help to move my feeders to the front yard, which isn't as heavily wooded as the back.  Perhaps while I'm waiting, I should focus on other tasks- trying out new recipes, decorating for the holidays, sorting out more stuff from our move.  Maybe I'll take up crocheting again to keep my hands busy.  However, these things wouldn't bring me the joy that birding does.  Speaking of keeping my hands busy- I created a "goodie" tree for the birds which includes small pears, empty orange halves filled with cranberries, stuffed pine cones, cereal rings and homemade suet balls.  It's really cute and I'll tell you more about it in the next post :)   See what I mean?  I'm obsessed with attempts to attract birds to my back yard!  

I wondered if it's just me- am I crazy?  Is this normal?  So, you know what?  I actually googled "birding withdrawal syndrome" while typing this post.  I laughed at the results- you wouldn't believe the number of people, everywhere, who have experienced bird watching withdrawal.  Too funny! So, birding really can become an addiction.  I shouldn't be surprised!  

What I need is some bird therapy!  A trip to known birding spots along the gulf coast would probably do me some good.  What do you think?  

American Crow

One of the most numerous birds on the continent, the American  Crow is easily recognized. Although they have a rather dull appearance, there is much more to this bird that meets the eye.  Crows are very social- flocks sometimes contain up to a million birds.  They're inquisitive and smart, good learners and problem-solvers. They're also aggressive enough to chase away larger birds like hawks, owls and herons.  

Young American Crows do not breed until they are at least two years old, and most do not breed until they are four or more. In most populations the young help their parents raise young for a few years. Families may include up to 15 individuals and contain young from five different years.  

The wide-ranged diet of the American Crow includes grains, seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, small animals such as mice, eggs and nestlings of other species, earthworms, small aquatic animals and a vast range of insects.  They will also raid garbage cans and infrequently eat carrion.  The birds are a dread to farmers because they can cause tremendous crop damage.  

Crows will steal dog food as well- I watched this one sneak into my neighbors yard and help himself to some kibbles 'n bits.  Apparently, he hasn't been introduced to the huge, intimidating resident dog (I have and immediately knew that we disliked each other).

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Few Squirrels

Rarely do I get an opportunity to photograph squirrels.  There are plenty of them in the southern U.S., but they seem to be in everyone else's yard.  Every now and then, one comes to visit- only to see what's new under our tree :)  

The ones below visited at our previous residence this past summer...

Occasionally, I see this one in early mornings at our current residence...

I have better luck when I visit our local park.  
I usually see a few of them there while taking a stroll...

I once cared for an infant squirrel after my daughter brought it home.  The tiny critter apparently fell from its nest, along with its sibling, which didn't survive.  He quickly became one of my favorite pets and was a part of our family for a while (3 or 4 years), until a neighborhood kid decided to use him for target practice.  Tragic ending, but I was grateful for the opportunity to help this wee one and watch him grow.  

TexWisGirl (Theresa) over at the Run-A-Round Ranch shares great photos of the gorgeous fox squirrels at her place- I'm green with envy!!!  *Smile* Keep the photos and stories of those cute varmints coming Theresa!  I enjoy them so much!

Wishing you all a great week ahead!