Just a quick update about the family of house finches we've had on our front door wreath: the babies have fledged! This previous Tuesday, we chanced a peek into the nest and saw a little face peeking back at us:
Cute, eh? It looked like they still had quite a ways to go. (Incidentally, the house finch keeps the poop of the baby finches around the border of the nest -- hence the mess of white.)
Today, we heard a very raucous peeping coming from the nest, along with some rustling. Suddenly, a flock of birds appeared on the tree in front of our house:
Our bird babies are flying! The fiancée and I felt very lucky to have been present for what must have been one of the first flights. (The picture is a bit grainy because I had to shoot through a screen and window.) Soon, we'll be able to clean the poop off of the front door!
My new camera came through for me big time! We've been pretty convinced that our avian houseguests (wreathguests?) are house finches, but I hadn't been able to get a picture to confirm it until this afternoon. The papa bird was hanging out on the tree in front of our house when I went outside, and I snapped the following picture:
Now, compare with the image of the male house finch from Whatbird.com:
Birdwatch win! The daddy bird headed back to the nest right after I took the picture, so I know I've got the right bird this time. I'm quite exhilarated at finally having a positive ID; the fiancée and I are thinking of taking up birdwatching now.
Well, we've got a bird family! A couple of weeks ago, the fiancée noticed that birds had started building a nest in the wreath on the front door of the house. We started to take it down before they settled in, but quickly put it back up when I spotted the eggs that had already been laid inside!
Fortunately, we haven't scared off the parents, who are still buzzing in and out to take care of their nestlings, now hatched. This afternoon, we put a stepladder off to the side of the nest and took a quick peek inside. The fiancée saw the little hatchlings breathing:
It was a really bad angle, and we didn't want to get too close to the nest, but you can see what looks to be a little head and a beak!
What we don't know is what kind of bird family we've got. I managed to get a couple of long distance pictures of one of the culprits:
Any birders out there got an idea of what we've got? The birds are relatively small, and I swear I saw a flash of red on the male. Also, we live in the western Carolinas...
Ornithology update: The fiancée caught a glimpse of the momma bird leaving the nest and now thinks that the bird pictured above isn't the nest-owner. She now thinks that we've got house finches, which is consistent with the red color I spotted on the male...
There was one other event at the rapidly-receding-into-the-past ScienceOnline 09 that I wanted to blog about: my visit to the Duke Lemur Center! Friday was a day for local trips to areas of interest, and I opted to go with a small group (including Brian) to the Lemur Center.
The Center is funded by the National Science Foundation and has a mission to "to promote research and understanding of prosimians and their natural habitat as a means of advancing the frontiers of knowledge, to contribute to the educational development of future leaders in international scholarship and conservation and to enhance the human condition by stimulating intellectual growth and sustaining global biodiversity." It is a relatively low-key (but awesome) facility with a strong emphasis on research and conservation. Visitors are welcome but must schedule a guided tour -- the directions to the Center are not even publicly displayed on their website!
We were not at the Center at the optimal time. In the summer, the animals have free run of a open-air forest, but in the winter are kept mostly indoors. The day of our visit it was particularly cold, and the animals had to be coaxed to even come near the open windows to say 'hello' by our excellent guides (whose names, alas, escape me).
Nevertheless, I've been a huge fan of lemurs for years, so I found the visit a delight. Below the fold I share a few of my pics from the Center and some of my older lemur photos -- and videos!
I'm using the day as an opportunity to get some work done on my textbook. We managed to eat our Thanksgiving dinner without kitten interference, as they were too tired to notice. Later, however, the fiancée got up to make a turkey sandwich for her mother, and kitty chaos resulted:
First only three of the kitties demanded food, but soon Simon hopped up on the island to get in on the action:
Soon after, the kitties pounced, and the pictures of the horrifying aftermath are not for the faint of heart...
In lieu of more substantive blogging, I present this video of our cat Zoe:
She's developed her own lazy version of playing, in which she slides along the ground on her side after a toy instead of actually getting up to chase it. The other day the fiancée got Zoe going, so I snapped some video of the action. Look for her sideslide to come into play increasingly, starting at about the minute mark.
If anyone's noticed a slowdown in my blog output recently, the reasons are twofold: 1. The beginning of the academic semester, and 2. I'm finally trying to make progress on my textbook. I will probably continue to post at a slower pace for a few weeks, but definitely won't stop completely.
As a consolation, here's a cute video I took the other day of two of our cats, Simon and Sabrina, getting acquainted with a new motorized water dish:
I haven't done any catblogging for a while, which is a shame 'cause I've got lots of cute cat photos. Moving into a new house provides lots of opportunities for unexpected cat cuteness. Also, we received a very nice gift in the mail yesterday from my fiancée's sister Janet, who is an extremely talented knitware designer and author and blogs about it here. Janet has knitted little catnip-filled mice for our kitties before, but the fiancée requested something a little larger that the cats can really wrestle with when the mood strikes them. The result? A catnip rat! It was an immediate hit with the kitties, who each took turns wrestling with it. Zoe's turn is pictured below: