Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Canada Goose

Canada Geese Flying  Watercolor  Sally Wickham ©2011

The day a lone Canada Goose landed in my yard was a happy one.  It must mean good luck.  My  home had been chosen by this marvelous magical goose and it would not have surprised me to find a golden egg. 

The days of autumn passed and  my goose guest gave no indication of leaving.  There were other things passed during those weeks of residency that did not make me so happy-- goose droppings.  I would not have believed it was possible for one bird to leave so many calling cards in my yard, on the porch, and especially on the big stone step leading onto the porch.

The digestive system of a goose is streamlined and transforms grass, grain or whatever into “fertilizer” in an hour or less.  Their  cylindrical feces, produced about 160 times a day, displays a greenish hue with a white nitrogenous coating.    They darken as they age.  The truth about  Canada Geese is that they are capable of producing two to three pounds of excrement per day .  A Canada Goose can eat about one half the amount that a sheep eats and produce the same amount of poop.  Pretty impressive!

The good thing is that goose manure  may improve the quality of  your lawn.  It contains small amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.    Before you decide to use this method of lawn care however,  you may want to invest in a few “BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU STEP” signs. 

The day the goose left was a strange one.  A Great Blue Heron flew low over the yard and cast his shadow on the goose.  The goose took leave immediately  and has not been seen since.  I am still looking for the golden egg. 

Read more about the amazing digestive system of the Canadian Goose.  Copy and paste the following link:      



Monday, November 07, 2011

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

American Kestrel  Watercolor ©  Sally Wickham 2011

As a fledgling bird watcher,  I mostly enjoy the activities of the birds in my  rural neighborhood.  Each summer, at least one brood of American Kestrels joins their parents on the wires over the hayfield to take their course in Grasshopper Hunting 101.  Kestels, the smallest member of the falcon family, characteristically bob their tails while perched on a wire, dead tree, or telephone pole.  Their posture is erect and with binoculars, their colorful markings become visible.  The contrast of rufous, slaty blue, creamy white and black makes  the American Kestrel a spectacular looking bird.  Once spotted, they are quite easily recognized.

But on this particular day in late July, I had yet to see my first kestrel.  What I did see when I went upstairs in our garage was a young barn swallow fluttering at the screen inside the open window.  I gently cupped my hand around the small bird in order to set if free.  But then I realized that a bird in hand is an opportunity to have a close look.

Outside the window I notice a swallow or two swooping and twittering but my attention is focused on the young bird in my hands.  I see that he is a paler version of the chestnut rufous throat and forehead of his parents;  steel blue upper parts;  lower parts creamy.  The outer tail feathers seem shorter. 

As if from nowhere, I see a blur of similar barn swallow colors flying up to the window.  “I think your mother is here,” I assure the bird in my hand but gasped when I saw the intruder.  A Barn Swallow with war paint!  A BIG BARN SWALLOW with war paint!!  That is what flashed through my mind and that is when I felt a talon pierce my finger through the screen.  I suddenly realized that this was not a barn swallow protecting her young:  it was a bird of prey who spotted a young bird in trouble.  It was my  introduction to the American Kestrel.  

My husband came along, took the bird from my hand and released it while I babbled my story.  To emphasize my peril,  I squeezed a teeny-tiny drop of blood from my finger--proof of my close encounter.