Saturday, January 31, 2009

Snow Buntings are visiting now

About this time each year Snow Buntings arrive in our backyard for a short visit. They are interesting to watch as they land and fly around our backyard field. When flying they do look like a snow storm has struck especially when their numbers are great. In past years we have had upwards to a hundred in one flock but more recently we have been lucky to see thirty. The group this year started with just ten and has now grown to twenty-four. Now I can’t be sure whether it is the same flock and more being added as the days go by or if they are totally different groups as they start their journey back to their summer range to breed. According to All About Birds: Snow Bunting their summer and breeding area is from Alaska, across Northern Canada, to Greenland and Iceland as well as across northern Eurasia. The snow bunting spends its winters from Northern Canada southward to northern Nevada, Missouri and central Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The male Snow Buntings return to high Arctic tundra in early April with the females following six to eight weeks later. Nests are deep in cracks or other cavities in rocks lined with moss and grasses, rootlets, fur and feathers. The female must stay on the nest during most of the incubation time of the two to seven egg clutch. The male snow bunting will feed the female during this time.
During breeding season the male and female will have a much different look. The male will have white body feathers and jet black wings. The female will have more white plumage with a grayish head and indistinct dusky streaking than during the non-breeding season. The link above at About Birds shows non-breeding and breeding plumage of both sexes.
These song birds are difficult to photograph as they are constantly moving. I have posted a couple of the better photos I have been able to capture. I enjoy seeing these beautiful birds each year and will keep trying for a truly good photograph.
According to
the National Audubon Society, the Snow Bunting is #11 in their list of common birds in decline. How sad! Global warming has allowed more predators (mammals and birds) to survive and prey on the Snow Bunting nests.

FACT: Snow Buntings feed on weed and grass seeds, insects.

Take a moment to see what birds are visiting you today and enjoy! :) Coppertop

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Antler #3 found in our Maine Backyard

Oh my gosh - another buck has shed an antler and left it in our field! This one is from a buck I named "Crater" because I noticed he had a hole in one of his antlers.
I love starting out a morning like this. As my usual morning ritual, I grabbed the binoculars and scanned the field but did not see any shed antlers. Then about 3 hours later I was just walking past the window and noticed two sharp brown smooth objects sticking up out of the snow. I grabbed my coat, camera in hand, motioned for Ruger to follow and out we went to investigate. Ruger got to the spot before me and sure enough there laid one of Crater's Antlers. I backed Ruger off so that I might take a photo of it as it had been left. Then I asked Ruger to carry it to the house and away he proudly went with our new treasure.

Oddly enough the hole in Crater's antler is much like one in an antler that was left in our field last season (Dec 2007) by a different and older buck. I've taken a photo of the two antlers to show (below this paragraph). In looking up antler development I found that "injury or damage to the pedicle or velvet may result in the injured antler becoming deformed. An injury to the body can also influence antler growth because energy is used to grow or repair muscle or tissue before it is used to grow antler. Sometimes, a severe injury to the body may result in stunted growth or deformity of the antler opposite side of the body that sustained the injury due to a phenomenon known as bilateral or geo-physical asymmetry." (Source of last statement here). I did not see any mention of a ‘hole’ in antler particular but I would call it abnormal or deformed. If anyone has knowledge or opinion as to how or why ‘holes’ in antlers happen, please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post. Just click on the underlined word comment.

Antler Fact: Antlers are incorrectly called “horns” yet they are very different. Antlers grow from the tip and are shed every year while horns grow from the base and grow for the entire life of the animal.

Enjoy your day! :) Coppertop

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Foot of Snow - wonderful Hubby!

What a great husband! I mentioned I needed to snow shoe down to the woods and check my game cameras this morning; next thing I knew Tom was going out the door and said he would plow me a trail!

You see we got a good foot of new snow Sunday! It was just beautiful Monday morning when the sun came up.
Above is how it looks from our double doors at the back deck. Tom and his John Deere look like just a speck down there at this angle! It is about 200 yards to the edge of the woods. By plowing a trail it certainly made my walk down into the woods much easier. I love to snow shoe but it can be quite wearing on a person some days.
It was worth the trip to check cameras - I got this neat picture of a partridge after some cut up apples. Yes I put the apples there to entice some wildlife to pose for me!
I also got quite a few pictures of this buck I have been calling "No Name No Antlers". We first saw him January 4th and he already shed his antlers so he is a big mystery as to how many points or what his antlers looked like earlier! I have been catching this guy quite a bit at this spot guess he loves my cut up apples - although he had to work for them this time around as they were buried under the snow.
Enjoy your day! :) Coppertop

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shed Antler - White-tailed Deer

Each year white-tail bucks grow a new set of antlers. The basic shape of their antlers stays the same from year to year as they grow larger. About age five to seven years the buck is considered mature and his antlers could decline in size or he might grow abnormal points or shapes.

The picture of an antler above shows what the different parts are called. The names are reference points when the antler is being scored. Many hunters scout out the larger mature bucks so that they might mount their trophy and hopefully the antler score will put them in the book of records. Others hunt for antler sheds for the same reason or they might be an artist that will use the antler as part of a unique creation, such as a lamp, shelf, door knobs or numerous other ingenious ideas. Personally I love to match the antler with photo of that deer and display above my kitchen cupboards. Photo below shows a small section of that area!

If you are interested in more information on how antlers are scored you can find it at the following links:
Boone and Crockett Club
Score Sheets North American Shed Antler Club

You can also check out the Shed Antler Records of the North American Shed Hunters Club

I found my second antler yesterday; it was shed from a buck that we have been able to watch since the winter of 2003. Ruger, our German Shorthair loves to carry them to the house for me!

From our observations, the white-tail will shed their antlers about the same time each year but it does not necessarily shed them in the same area. The weather and their prime food source are factors.

Below are a couple pictures of the buck that shed my latest find, we first saw him as a yearling in the winter of 2003. He has now turned 6 ½ years and is a handsome buck. Some would consider him a management buck and not to have impressive antlers, but to me he is a very wise buck as he has eluded the numerous hunters in our area for the past five years!

2003 as a yearling (1.5 year old)

2008 - Same buck

By the above pictures you can see how the antler shape remains the same as each year passes, they do however get larger in diameter and beams and tines grow longer! The antlers can add points each year and maybe even odd little points sometimes called stickers but the basic shape stays the same.

As each winter approaches I look for the bucks that we saw the previous year and wonder will I see I them again or what has become their fate? Each year brings a new 'treasure' to our Maine Backyard to entertain and bring smiles!

Enjoy your day! :) Coppertop

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Update on found shed antler

Update ! The above photo I found on my scouting camera - its a young buck with the antler I found in our backyard field still attached to his head! See the previous post. I was so excited to be able to at least see a photo of the antler on its owner. As near as I can tell this young guy and the pretty 8 point in photo below were traveling together perhaps looking for a place to call home. They did stay around a couple hours but have evidently moved on as I have not seen since. How fantastic that this little guy left me with a 'treasure' (visible memory) of his visit! A handsome looking young 8 point, would love to see him a few years down the road but thinking he and his little buddy have moved on in search of their new home. But with white-tail deer you never know, perhaps they will wander back again!
Enjoy your day :) Coppertop

Monday, January 12, 2009

First antler find 2009

First shed antler find this season! Shed antler as it lay in the snow when first found. Like every morning this time of year, I woke scanning our field with binoculars for any antlers that might of been shed during the night. This particular morning I saw something arched and smooth laying in the fresh falling snow. At first I thought no it couldn't be but just had to go and look even if it was snowing, windy and cold! I bundled up and motioned for Ruger, our shorthair to join me. Needless to say with wagging tail Ruger was out the door before I could get it fully opened! He just loves the snow. I walked down to the spot and sure enough there lay a freshly shed antler. The surprise was this antler I had not seen on its owner! Now the night before I did notice a different young buck mingling with our regular bucks that did not have antlers and his antler holes looked quite fresh but never dreamed he had shed one of them in our field.

Ruger checking out the antlerRuger proudly carrying the antler back to the house.
Our first find of this deer season - a cute small four point antler with a 6" G2! An added treasure to our collection!
Enjoy the day! :) Coppertop

Thursday, January 08, 2009

White tails bucks - shedding antlers

Hi there -

The time has come again for the white-tail bucks to be shedding their antlers. Are you a person who gets out there in the woods every day following deer trails and looking for these shed antlers? It takes a lot of patience and time unless you live on a deer farm or in an area heavily populated with deer! I admit, I am not a die hard antler looking person, but I do enjoy walking the trails in our area in hopes of finding an antler, if not just the walk and seeing what has wandered through and left their track is pleasure enough. I have been fortunate in past years to find one or two in our own field. I don't care if it is just a 4" spike antler; to me it is a treasure, especially when I can match the antler up to a buck that we had been watching.

Our backyard was and still is a winter hangout for some of the white tail deer in our area. I have been able to photograph and/or video tape them as they browse our field for clover or just hang around throughout the night hours. I have even given name to the bucks that come back from year to year. The one you see pictured above is "Hoss." Some bucks we see year after year, boy they are wise animals. This year in particular was different from past years, we did not see any deer before hunting season or during but two days after the season ended for our area, two handsome bucks showed up in our field looking for any fallen apples still under the trees! I had begun to believe all the deer had disappeared whether it be by a coyote, vehicle accident or hunter. My amazement and admiration for these beautiful creatures was certainly renewed this season!Enjoy - Coppertop :)