Tuesday, May 2, 2017



On Friday (4/28) I returned to my old home in Big Valley.  I stayed in Bob's House. This visit was a somber occasion to celebrate the life of one of my relatives who had recently passed away, after reaching 100 years of age. 

After the Saturday funeral I visited with Amish friends. They have a beautiful home with a Purple Martin house  and a least one Bluebird nest box. While we were sitting on their porch, four adult martins buzzed the house and seemed to be checking it out by landing and looking in the holes. Jonas said "Today was the first time we have seen so many of them". He and his wife Sara have retired from farming and enjoy their place and the many birds that visit. Sara has been known to use a 22 rifle to shoot starlings that bother the martins. The nest box had a Bluebird nest with one egg in it.

One of the reasons I go to Big Valley is to see how the local populations of Tree Swallows and Bluebirds are doing.  I have been putting up boxes for a long time and I try to check them when I am able. This time (4/28---5/1) I found at least 10 pair of Bluebirds, 4 pair of Tree Swallows and one box being used by a House Wren. Bluebirds start nesting in early April, while Tree Swallows start about May first. At least 2 sites had newly hatched baby Bluebirds and 2 sites had Tree Swallow eggs. The subsequent cold, wet weather since my visit may have been bad news for the newly hatched chicks.  They rarely survive such conditions.


At about 2:30 am Sunday (4/30) morning my brother Bob was awakened by a loud sound coming from outside the house.  He described the sound as a "very loud guttural scream" followed by "soft cooing".  The call continued for some time, so he found a light and proceeded to go outside in his night clothes to see what was making these very unusual  sounds. He was able  to determine that the sound was coming from up in a tree, so he shined the light to the spot and there was a porcupine sitting on a branch. Suddenly, he heard a rustling in the leaves nearby and discovered another porcupine. Once it saw Bob, it quickly turned away and left. A great image---a grown man in his underwear in the middle of the night staring down an amorous porcupine. Much to my dismay, they did not return Sunday night for a repeat performance.

On a previous visit (4/13) I discovered a large nest in a tree near Bob's house. I could not really see much with binoculars, but with my spotting scope I was able to identify a female Red-Tailed Hawk sitting on eggs.  She would sit still for long periods of time and then suddenly stand up, shake herself and then settle down on the eggs once more. 

Sunday (4/30) morning I set up my scope  to view the nest and she was still there sitting on the eggs.  New leaves  partially obstructed my view, but I could clearly see her head, wings, and red tail. During this time she did not move. Later in the day, I returned to look at the nest and just a few minutes later she flew from the nest. Wow, now what? About 10 minutes later she returned, sat on the edge of the nest, looked down and seemed to be pondering what she saw.  She leaned into the nest and dipped her head as if in a feeding action several times.  A short time later she left.  

Monday (5/1) I checked back and she was again sitting on the nest in her incubation position. Question? It was obvious that at least one chick had hatched, but her continued sitting on the nest would suggest that there must be eggs still in the nest. Eggs are usually laid at two day intervals, so they often do not hatch at exactly the same time.  As I was watching the nest I wondered where the male was and then I heard KREEEEEEEEE. I looked in the directions of the call and sure enough there he was in a tree about 300 yards from the nest. As I watched he flew out of sight.


As I was eating breakfast Monday morning, Bob remarked "There is a Fox Squirrel chewing on the wood of my shed".
I had not seen one of these orange-gray squirrels in years, so I rushed to the window to get a good view.  This fellow, for what ever reason, came right up to the house, climbed up a small maple tree and from about 15 feet away looked at me through the kitchen window. This larger relative of the Gray Squirrel is an absolutely beautiful animal and to see it so close was a real thrill.

Needless to say, my recent visit to Big Valley was really interesting.


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