Sunday, March 7, 2010

BEEP, BEEP

Early mornings out in the garden are full of bird sounds. Occasionally the mating call of the road runner, Geococcyx californianus, is heard and yesterday he came close by as I was out with my camera. He is a frequent visitor in our neighborhood and one time when I was bending down planting something in the garden he came just a few feet away from me. I kept perfectly still as he came closer and closer. He was too busy looking for insects and spiders to see me. He is welcome to the grasshoppers, crickets and snails but I don't like it when he comes foraging for my lizards and anoles. Somewhere around he makes a nest in a shrubby bush but I have never yet seen one.
His call wasn't the only call I heard.

At first I thought it was turkeys, as they have been around the last few days, but the sound came from high up in the sky. It was the sandhill cranes, Grus canadensis, on their way back from the South Texas brush country to their breeding grounds in the Canadian tundra, Alaska and the northern marshes and grasslands. They fly in a ragged group high up in the sky but their trumpeting cry causes you to look up and is wonderful to hear. It is a signal that spring is on the way.

Inspired by owl boxes we saw in several gardens on the Master Gardeners' Tour last fall and by a recent posting by Pam, at Digging, I asked David if he would make a screech owl box. He found plans for building a box on uTube and today he mounted it high in the Spanish oak tree. It is unlikely that an owl will use the box this year because the human scent on the wood will take time to wear off. He plans to make a smaller box with a round hole with plans taken from the Audubon website. I know there are screech owls around here as I frequently hear them in the night and one time we had one fly in through the skylight on the greenhouse. We hope, next year, they will nest in one of our boxes.

19 comments:

  1. You are one bird smart gal. I don't know how many times I've heard people, after hearing sandhills, say something about the geese flying over. No vee, no honking, no geese.

    I sure hope you get some screech owls. They sit in the trees around my porch. Very tame. You can usually walk right up to them. I have an old post about the ones that live in the owl box of my sister and brother in laws. They really like water and have pictures of the whole family sitting in the water of a wading pool. Really fun to watch. Good luck.

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  2. I forgot to ask, did David catch any bonefish?

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  3. Hi Bob-Its really magic when you hear the sound isn't it. We saw nesting sandhill cranes up in the Harriman Ranch last year. I checked back through your posts to find the owl post. Fancy them visiting the bird bath.Shouldn't they be sleeping during the day? I have to admit I am concerned that a squirrel will nest in the box because the hole is rather large but we did see this style of box on the tour last year. avid will also build the other style with the round hole.
    The fisherman returned with more stories for his book. An exciting encounter with a bone fish. He was thrilled. He has been writing fishing stories for a while and I keep threatening to send them to a publisher. They are so wonderful.

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  4. The road runner that nested in my yard made her nest about 7' up in the forks of a live oak. Do look in places other than low scrubby stuff for a nest. They fed their chicks every thing that moved in my yard and surroundidng pasture then moved on. A new crop of anoles hatched late July and August so that problem was solved.

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  5. Roadrunners are one of my favorite western birds. I would love to have one to watch in my garden. I wish you luck with your owl box. Maybe you will be surprised by a new tenant sooner than you think if there is a pair in need of a place to nest.

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  6. A friend just heard the cranes up here which is a sure sign of spring!

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  7. Anon- I have searched everywhere but to no avail. Of course they could be nesting anywhere around here as there is quite an acreage of undeveloped land. I am always amazed at how well birds hide their nests.
    Lisa- I love them too. One time there was one up on the roof. He is quite a hopper and then a glider. Same thing with the wild turkeys. One day i saw 10 of them glide down from the trees to the ground. Who would have thought that turkeys fly?
    Ms Wis- We have a strong south wind today so expect more. I don't know if they save their traveling until sunny days or fly above the clouds.

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  8. You and Bob have such cool encounters with Texas wildlife, Jenny. The houses are a lot closer together in my neighborhood so while I've occasionally seen screech owls, never see sand cranes or a roadrunner. Best of luck in getting an owl instead of a squirrel in the nest box!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  9. No roadrunners here in Ohio, but I learned something new through your blog. I've heard what I thought were Canadian geese making a racket over head, but they weren't flying in a V. Perhaps what I saw were sandhill cranes heading further north.

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  10. Great shot of the Road Runner. I saw one when my family went out west years ago, and they are very cool birds.

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  11. Jenny, you are quite talented to catch that shot of the Road Runner. I've never been able to see them that closely since I was a child on horseback. They weren't afraid of the horses, and we could ride right by their nest and they didn't care. As an adult, though, usually I just see them zipping across a pasture. They are certainly a fave, and it's easy to see why a cartoon character was derived from them. Good photo!

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  12. Annie- We are lucky to have a large piece of land below us that goes down to a creek so there is plenty of wildlife. However, we used to hear bobwhite quail when we first moved in but have not heard them fro a couple of years.
    Teresa- I'm sure that's what they are. They always fly in this same sort of formation; t]like they are swirling around int he air.
    Sweet Bay- I remember the first time I saw a roadrunner and he was running across the road. I knew exactly what he was.
    Get grounded-They are rather friendly birds. What amazed me was that day in the garden. Because I was so still he never saw me and I was right there in front of him. MAybe 3 feet away.

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  13. What a cutie pie roadrunner. You won't see one in my neck of the woods, so I love meeting yours. Yea for David & the screech owl house. I bet you'll have a happy little family. I understand that it's helpful to mount a branch if one isn't already there (possibly is from your picture) so that the fledglings have a place to practice.

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  14. That was a cute shot that you were able to capture of the southern end of a northbound Roadrunner. They are such fun birds to watch.

    Good luck with the owl box. Keep us posted on it's success. We have screetch owls that nest in our live oaks. It is so nice to hear the babies when I am out gardening. I have not been able to get a good picture of them, but the mother has dive-bombed us, trying to discourage us from lingering in the front yard.

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  15. Don't you just love this time of year when the birds are making such a riot of song? I hope you get those screech owls. They're so cool. Love the roadrunner shot. I haven't seen one of them in a long time!

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  16. Love the roadrunner - as you may appreciate my only previous knowledge of this bird comes from cartoons! Never seen a photo of one - thanks!

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  17. I really didn´t know the roadrunner, and had never seen pictures, thanks!
    The nest is great, I wish you much success.
    My garden is frozen but is a pleasure to watch as spring progresses at different locations.

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  18. How fun to have an owl box! I have not heard of them (strange) - but they make sense. I hear lots of owls at night (in coastal SC) - and often, just before dark, in a large, dead tree behind my place, I'll see the silhouette of a great horned owl.

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  19. Congrats on the owl box. We've seen our owl a few times since the first sighting. Still hoping for chicks.

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