Saturday, December 19, 2009

See Who My Neighbors Are

If you have ever come to our neighbourhood, you will notice tree lined streets, manicured lawns, beautifully landscaped front yards, red-bricked houses. However I am not talking about my neighbors inside the houses in this post, instead I am talking about my neighbors outside the houses - my wildlife neighbours!

My closest neighbor is this swallow and its family, who live in this tree at my front yard. Each morning and evening, they chirp and chase each other around the trees. On a sunny day, one of them might just rest atop of the tree watching people and cars come and go for a while. Another neighbor at the front yard is a rabbit family, they live in the bushes by the tree. They are a annoying neighbor, because they chew on my lawn, and brown my grasses. Cute squirrels, are another neighbor who visit my yard occasionally, but I don't know exactly where they live.

A host of other type of birds are my neighbors as well, they live in the bird nests in the big or small trees up and down the streets around my house. Tiny sparrows are most populous, they are everywhere, and their non-stop chirp is the base of bird songs I hear. Then there are crows. Orange-breasted finches, are my neighbors, much bigger than sparrows, they usually perch on tree tops or roof tops, chirp loudly, not sure they are calling each other or claiming territory.

Cardinals live nearby. They are mostly solitude and not typically being seen, so every time we see a cardinal or two, we are excited. We see a cardinal in the tree in front of Nicholas' bedroom window from time to time. In the morning of December 5, Nicholas and I went on for a bird exploration. We saw a few swallows and sparrows swooping around, then we followed a pair of cardinals, who were chasing each other in the trees along the street in front our house, for a couple of hundred yards, until they turned around flying in opposite direction.

Blue jays live a bit farther away, near the woods at Russel Creek. Unlike cardinal, they typically fly in flocks, and they are loud when they make noises. A stray blue jay might come to the residential area from time to time.The trees by the parking lot at the Russel Creek Playground are one of the blue jays' favorite places. The photo on the right show the full features of a blue jay (double click on the picture to see details). After a few explorations, I can tell the difference in chirping between blue jay, cardinal, sparrow and crow.

One neighbor, we almost always hear it first before see it - the wood peckers. On the December 5 exploration, we heard a wood pecker pecking on a tree near the Russel Creek playground. After walking slowly around the tree, I finally saw the bird, but did not get a chance to take a good picture of it. Fortunately, I saw this type of black stripped wood pecker on an earlier trip at the edge of the woods by Russell Creek. It has black stripped back, white breast and a red head. At that time the wood pecker was looking for food and I was lucky to see it from different angles. As a matter of fact I did not know it was a wood pecker until Justin told me so after seeing the pcitures.

The water fowl community, of course, live by the Russell Creek pond. The regulars in or by the water are the snow white grand egret, the elegant grey heron, the ducks and a turkey like bird. The grand egret usually likes to stand by the water edge, looking for fishes. On two occasions this fall, it was sitting at the top of a tree. I was moved by the fact that, over 30 minutes I was around, a lot of people enjoyed the sight of the egret on top of the tree, but no one, not even young boys, bothered the peaceful bird.

The woods by the Russell Creek is the primary bird community, there are a lot more cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, swallows, crows living there. In the early morning or evening, they come out flying, playing, chasing each other, chirping, and of course eating insects/bugs - when I stop by the edge of the woods, looking and listening quietly for a few minutes, I can feel the magic of the world of birds - freedom, worry free, and incredibly beautiful sound. There, I can occassionally discover new bird neighbors I have not seen before. One morning this fall, I thought I saw a duckling - it turned out to be another kind of finches - yellow breast finch! Last Sunday afternoon, while walking around Russel Creek pond, a flock of sea gulls was there, gliding, landing on the water, taking off ... for about 30 minutes and then disappeared. In the next lap, I saw a pair of really, really black birds at the west end of the pond, which turned out to be ravens. The story of discovery can go on and on.

A few morning explorations around the community and Russel Creek lead to my discovery of a few bird neighbors I did not notice before. I can tell that there are more than 20 different birds and water fowls. I have to rely on Nicholas or Justin to identify who they are. I believe there are more types of birds than I observed - one day an old lady walking her dog saw me taking pictures of birds, she told me that she fed a hawk in her backyard a few days earlier. Around Spring Ridge, I see more kinds of birds than I saw at Big Bend National Park - I guess it is because that their habitats are limited. It is the development of the very community we live in encroached on their habitats. However, the very vibrant, lively and abundant bird community is a proof that the human community has been a good neighbor to the birds.

Yellow breast finch - don't you think it is duckling?

A Grey Heron

Ducks and Turkey Vulture

A duck couple

Pelicans at white rock lake

A rabbit in the fallen leaves

Geese at white rock lake enjoying the winter SUN

A squirrel on a fence

A different type of ducks

A flock of sea gulls

Raven - How black can it be?

Grand Egret at Sunset
Note: You can see the full pictures by double click on each photo

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