Sunday, June 11, 2017

Toad Spring

This spring, numerous toads have been seen by the pool, on the driveway, in the gardens and meadows. They have all been the Eastern American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus), as pictured here, with bulging eyes, a dry, ruddy complexion and covered in brown and golden bumps and warts. 

This toad is larger and lighter in color and likely a female. She found a crevice in our walkway, where she dug a hole and hides among tiny plants and seedlings, waiting for some food to fly by.

Another toad hides out during the day on the back patio near the pool. This one is much darker in complexion, smaller and probably a male. 

Unlike frogs, toads can spend more time on land, although, during mating season, they can be found by water sources. This is when they get into trouble and can find their way into a pool and drown. 

I'm reading a new book by Nancy Lawson, called The Humane Gardener, 

where she suggests using a Frog Log: A Critter Saving Escape Ramp, which provides an angled, easily used escape route. It can be bought online, it's easy to set up and can be used not only by frogs and toads, but also by baby birds, spiders, beetles, bees, snakes, etc. 

I bought 2 Frog logs and placed them next to the skimmers, upstream from the water flow. I haven't found any animals in the skimmers since. 

Here is a clear explanation about the differences between frogs and toads:

This site identifies the different frogs and toads of PA:

Nancy Lawson has a lovely and informative website:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Deer Paparazzi

We have many deer on our property every day, sometimes as many as 25. 

Using my new trail camera, of course, most of the photos are of deer, but this series is my favorite, shot by the creek in the lower meadow during sunset.

This female is so curious and stops to check it out. 

 I love how she circles back around to investigate further. 

 Maybe if she sniffs it, she can figure out what it is.

and that night, look who goes whizzing by:

Monday, May 29, 2017

Winter Fox

For Valentine's Day, a long time wish was realized: 
a Browning Trail Camera 
with night video and photo capability. 

I was surprised to see all the fox action at all hours this past winter. 

I positioned the camera on a cherry tree, located at the lower meadow on March 5th.
It's around midnight and only 5 degrees. 

I repositioned the camera on the opposite side of the same tree, to see if I could capture the fox coming towards the camera and I did. The camera must make a noise or project a light to startle the animals each time.

Here is the fox around 7 p.m and 20 degrees out. He comes shooting by again at 10 p.m. and now 11 degrees out.

I was curious if there were fox hunting in the upper meadow, too. I caught a glimpse of this one during the day, headed up the middle path on a cold, sunny day on March 11.

A couple of weeks later, a fox trotted by near the upper meadow during a snow storm at 3 a.m. and 22 degrees out. 

With all this fox action, I was curious if it was a female and with a den near by. 

I never did find one. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Birdhouses Closed for Business

Before the birds begin making their selection for new birdhouses for the season, we chose this grey, cold, wet day to get the houses cleaned out.

Some interesting finds and observations included:

> One nest had a prominent blue jay feather featured, although it hadn't been used by one:

> Three plumb mice promptly jumped out as we removed the thick nesting material, jumping wildly into the air, practically onto us, but landed in the snow below and scurried away:

Another house, at the top of the property and usually used by bluebirds, had a small, very messy, loosely built nest made of small twigs and moss. It looked like it must have been very uncomfortable for baby birds:

We have never seen this type of nesting materials in this birdhouse before. Perhaps, it was a Carolina Wren's, Northern Mockingbird's, or Great Crested Flycatcher's nest? 

Northern mockingbird nests are composed of a lot of twigs, and seem to resemble the nest we found the best.


As we made our way back to the meadows, we flushed out a very wet Coppers Hawk, who routinely can be seen here, by the vernal pond:

The newest birdhouse hasn't been used recently and was completely free of bird nesting material:

The birdhouses will all be left wide open this year to hopefully break the cycle of house sparrows using them.

Every bird is on their own for the nesting season this year!