Sweet, Sweet Song of Spring…

Nothing says spring like the song of the Western Meadowlark…C96A3306 C96A3303 C96A3278

Cool Facts

  • The nest of the Western Meadowlark usually is partially covered by a grass roof. It may be completely open, however, or it may have a complete roof and an entrance tunnel several feet long.

  • Although the Western Meadowlark looks nearly identical to the Eastern Meadowlark, the two species hybridize only very rarely. Mixed pairs usually occur only at the edge of the range where few mates are available. Captive breeding experiments found that hybrid meadowlarks were fertile, but produced few eggs that hatched.

  • A male Western Meadowlark usually has two mates at the same time. The females do all the incubation and brooding, and most of the feeding of the young.

  • The explorer Meriwether Lewis was the first to point out the subtle differences between the birds that would eventually be known as the Eastern and Western Meadowlarks, noting in June 1805 that the tail and bill shapes as well as the song of the Western Meadowlark differed from what was then known as the “oldfield lark” in the Eastern United States.

  • John James Audubon gave the Western Meadowlark its scientific name, Sturnella(starling-like) neglecta, claiming that most explorers and settlers who ventured west of the Mississippi after Lewis and Clark had overlooked this common bird.

  • In 1914, California grain growers initiated one of the earliest studies of the Western Meadowlark’s diet to determine whether the bird could be designated a pest species. Although they do eat grain, Western Meadowlarks also help limit numbers of crop-damaging insects.

  • Like other members of the blackbird, or icterid, family, meadowlarks use a feeding behavior called “gaping,” which relies on the unusually strong muscles that open their bill. They insert their bill into the soil, bark or other substrate, then force it open to create a hole. This gives meadowlarks access to insects and other food items that most birds can’t reach.

  • The Western Meadowlark is the state bird of six states: Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming. Only the Northern Cardinal is a more popular civic symbol, edging out the meadowlark by one state.

For more information visit here…

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Rurality Blog Hop #74

Red-winged Blackbird…

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Cool Facts

  • Different populations and subspecies of Red-winged Blackbirds vary markedly in size and proportions. An experiment was conducted that moved nestlings between populations and found that the chicks grew up to resemble their foster parents. This study indicated that much of the difference seen between populations is the result of different environments rather than different genetic makeups.

  • The Red-winged Blackbird is a highly polygynous species, meaning males have many female mates – up to 15 in some cases. In some populations 90 percent of territorial males have more than one female nesting on their territories. But all is not as it seems: one-quarter to one-half of nestlings turn out to have been sired by someone other than the territorial male.

  • Male Red-winged Blackbirds fiercely defend their territories during the breeding season, spending more than a quarter of daylight hours in territory defense. He chases other males out of the territory and attacks nest predators, sometimes going after much larger animals, including horses and people.

  • Red-winged Blackbirds roost in flocks in all months of the year. In summer small numbers roost in the wetlands where the birds breed. Winter flocks can be congregations of several million birds, including other blackbird species and starlings. Each morning the roosts spread out, traveling as far as 50 miles to feed, then re-forming at night.

  • One California subspecies of the Red-winged Blackbird lacks the yellow borders to the red shoulders (epaulets) and has been dubbed the “bicolored blackbird.” Some scientists think this plumage difference may help Red-winged Blackbirds recognize each other where their range overlaps with the similar Tricolored Blackbird.

  • The oldest recorded Red-winged Blackbird was 15 years 9 months old.

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Lambing!

To say it’s been a busy past week and half around the farm is a bit of an understatement!

Our first delivery was a horrible, terrible, no-good thing.  Aubrey was absolutely huge, we figured she would have two large lambs or even triplets.  I noticed she was starting to go into labor and was chasing other ewes and chickens out of one of the hoop houses we had built.  She would lay down, push, get up, lay down, push, get up… but she wasn’t progressing.  I could tell she was tiring and was having a hard time getting up so we jugged her and checked her.  She was only dilated just a little bit, so we let her keep working.  We checked her again in about a half hour and found she was pretty much fully dilated but her membranes where still intact.  So my husband decided to the dead and break her waters and oh my… There was soooo much fluid, we could visibly watch her shrink and were afraid we would get washed away in the flood.  I have never seen so much fluid out of a sheep.

We checked the ewe to see how the lambs were presented but could only feel the tip of a hoof way in deep, so we let her work a bit more.   When we checked her again, things had not changed and had to really work at getting the lamb out.  At times we thought we had parts to two different lambs… After working hard for two hours we were finally able to get the little guy out.  Unfortunately he didn’t make it, and after checking her again we found that was the only one.  :(

After some research we found out the ewe developed Hydrops, which means there was most likely something wrong with the lamb that made the ewe produce so much amniotic fluid. And since the ewe’s uterus was so stretched out from the amniotic fluid her contractions were ineffective. Almost always the lamb dies and the majority of the time the ewe dies as well.  It has been reported in cows to actually split the pelvic bone from so much pressure.  Others report that mamas die from malnourishment, once again caused from so much pressure of the amniotic fluid squishing the stomachs and the ewe not able to eat enough.  So we felt fortunate enough that ewe lived, generally this won’t happen again and she will hopefully go on to have normal sheepy pregnancy next time.

Oiy, after that ordeal, I was a bit hesitant for the next ewes to lamb but so far just about every delivery has been about perfect!  We have had a couple of deliveries with only one hoof and a head and have had to fish out the other leg.  Lambs have been vigorous and up within minutes of delivery looking for food.  We’ve had a couple of first-timers that weren’t too sure about this whole mama thing, but with a little time and a little help have turned out to be great mothers.

This picture was of one of our first deliveries that a few of the kids had gathered to watch…IMG_4076IMG_4034 IMG_4036 IMG_4042

A very handsome black grey spotted ram lamb…IMG_4048 IMG_4053 IMG_4060

A little watcher…

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A handsome moorit (brown) mouflon ram lamb…IMG_4077 IMG_4086 IMG_4090 IMG_4098

A sweet little  white patterned ewe…IMG_4102

A beautiful black mouflon ewe lamb…IMG_4107

Ella and her two ewe lambs… IMG_4115 IMG_4124

Lots more lamb pictures to come!

Springing Out…

Sure has been feeling like Spring around here, yesterday we had almost 80 degree weather!  It’s ‘only’ 62 here today, and we can really feel the difference.  IMG_5076

Some of the trees are budding out…IMG_5073 IMG_5074

Even the bushes are growing plump buds…IMG_5106 IMG_5106 IMG_5099 IMG_5111 IMG_5115

The Service Berry bushes and starting to leaf out, this one even has an old berry still attached that the birds missed.IMG_5123 IMG_5134 IMG_5201 IMG_5156

Crocus are popping up too!IMG_3675IMG_3671

Oregon Grape is starting to get flower buds on it too!IMG_5176

Macro Monday

Today’s Flowers

Shine the Divine