Monthly Archives: January 2015

Weekly Puzzler Answer # 45

screech-0124To some people who hear this sound in the dark of night and do not know what animal is making it, this might be cause for alarm, but to those of us who recognize its source, it brings a smile to our hearts. The sound, which is described as a whinny, is made by an Eastern Screech Owl. All owls do not hoot, as this owl proves.

I live in the middle of the woods and have a Screech Owl box on a tall tree in the front of the house. Inside the box there is a camera that has a long wire running all the way from the box to inside the house and the TV. When I change the input on the TV, I can watch “owl TV.” Of course in the years that I have had the box up, much has happened, and much has changed and each year is an experiment to see what will happen. (I have another camera in the bluebird box. You can read about that Here.)

In the years since I’ve lived here in WNC,  a Screech owl was living in the box and laid ONE egg. Then that egg disappeared, likely eaten by a squirrel. A female gray squirrel moved in at some point later and proceeded to give birth to 5 furry babies, all of which successfully left the box and likely now roam our forest.

Installing the steeper roof

Installing the steeper roof

This year we have made the roof steeper and put slippery metal on the sides of the box. In addition to metal sheeting at the bottom of the tree, this hopefully will make it impossible for the squirrels to reach, thus giving the owl a better chance at deciding to stay.

Lately, we have had an owl in the box occasionally. Each time I see its little inquisitive face poking out of the hole, I want to jump for joy! Hopefully the owl is female and will find a mate and lay eggs. If this happens I hope to learn how to stream this so I can feature it here on my blog. What fun that would be!

This week’s Creature Feature will be the Eastern Screech Owl. Do you know the habits of this owl, including when it lays eggs and how big it is? Do you know what allows it to fly silently or hear in even the blackest night? Check back next week to learn more about this small owl.

Until then, check out next week’s PUZZLER.

Weekly Puzzler #46

What North American mammal has the MOST TEETH and the SHORTEST GESTATION period? Click HERE for the answer.

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #44

pine-5305The answer to last week’s puzzler is a Pine Siskin. Until recently, I was confusing this bird with a gold finch in winter plumage. Pine Siskins gather in flocks and often hang out with other finches, including the gold finch. Both are the same size and have yellow on their wings, but pine siskins have streaking on their breast. Pine siskins have unpredictable movements, called irruptions, which may mean they are present one year, and then absent the next.

This year, at my house in western North Carolina, we have been seeing large flocks at our feeders daily, eating black oil sunflower seeds. Many sit on the ground to feed and seem to be frightened easily, bursting from the ground in a whirl of wings. After several had collisions with some windows in our sun room, we moved the feeder further from the house and this has solved the problem. Click here if you want to know what you can do for a stunned bird that has hit your window.apuzzler44-1157

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Pine Siskins get through cold nights by ramping up their metabolic rates—typically 40% higher than a “normal” songbird of their size. When temperatures plunge as low as –70°C (–94°F), they can accelerate that rate up to five times normal for several hours. They also put on half again as much winter fat as their Common Redpoll and American Goldfinch relatives.” Another cool fact I learned from the Ornithology website is that they ” can temporarily store seeds totaling as much as 10% of their body mass in a part of their esophagus called the crop. The energy in that amount of food could get them through 5–6 nighttime hours of subzero temperatures.”

Are you feeding the birds this winter? Have you had any exciting sightings or wild encounters? If so, I’d love to hear about them… you can always comment using the box below the posts…

Happy bird watching! Here is the next weekly puzzler. 


Weekly Puzzler #45

This week’s Puzzler is a SOUND (with a black space). Listen to the recording and then make a guess… What animal is responsible for this sound?CLICK HERE to learn the answer. Until then, enjoy the wonderful music of Mother Nature!

How to Get Free Therapy

today--6I ventured outside today to explore a new place that I rode by on my bike ride recently. It’s a small wetland with tan-colored grass islands and stately sycamores that lies beside a meandering river that I know will be alive with the sound of frogs and birds come spring. Today it was quiet, save for the soothing sound of running water melting over rocks rounded from the constant current.

As I walked along, I let myself wander aimlessly, content to have no agenda or destination, simply allowing my curiosity to lead the way. Have you ever done this? Have you ever gone out into the woods, happy to explore and see where you end up? So often we tend to get on a trail and automatically follow it. Sometimes exploring freely is a wonderful way today--5to spend some time–I highly recommend

After nearly getting swallowed by the mud, I crossed the rocky river several times, admiring the red-bellied fish whose lithe bodies I saw suspended in the quiet pools of water. Fallen leaves in silent piles swayed gently in the endless current. A perfect reflection caught my eye. Away from the water, I listened to a male turkey gobbling on the distant hillside while I watched a flock of female turkeys dig through the leaves looking for good things to eat. Up above, a pair of crows drifted past, while at my feet colorful fungus decorated fallen trees. Pine needles hung of tree branches, like tinsel on today--4the Christmas tree.

When at last my growling stomach alerted me that hours had passed, I made my way to my car, feeling refreshed and alive. Mother Nature is an amazing Therapist! Wow, sometimes I wonder how everyone doesn’t know about this free service. This therapy is always there and always free– we just have to MAKE TIME to be outside…  May you find some time SOON to spend outside enjoying the peace and beauty of nature. Happy day!

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