This blog has migrated

•September 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Sorry for not updating this site recently– I have transferred my ROSYFINCH RAMBLINGS blogs to Blogger.

For the latest ROSYFINCH RAMBLINGS posts, please visit

http://rosy-finch.blogspot.com/

 

Click here to see a searchable index of prior ROSYFINCH RAMBLINGS posts

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Birds and a trio of Bobcats

•November 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

This morning we almost scrubbed our walk in our local wetlands birding patch. Mary Lou woke up not feeling 100% and suggested I go out without her. She knows how much I like getting out, especially during migration. Yesterday, Angel & Mariel, who track  migration radar on BADBIRDZ Reloaded noted that birds were moving down into the Florida peninsula and favorable NE winds were expected to persist overnight. Either she started recovering rapidly, or, more likely felt bad for me, as Mary Lou said she thought that the cool morning air might be good for her. Once having decided to go out, she wasted no time getting dress and had to wait for me. Usually we are out around 7:00 AM, about a half hour before sunrise, but this morning it was 7:25 AM before we left the house.  I didn’t know it, but we were in for a big surprise this morning…

The day before, I got some pretty images of a female Prairie Warbler as it foraged for insects among the ripening berries of an exotic Brazilian Pepper::

Prairie Warbler with berries 20111102

The warbler looked so small and delicate:

Prairie Warbler 20111102

I could tell from its red eyes that this Eastern Towhee had migrated in, as our locals have yellow eyes:

Eastern Towhee 20111102

A White-eyed Vireo stared out between the branches of a small shrub:

White-eyed Vireo 20111101

But back to today’s jaunt… The sun was just rising when I got this shot of a Great Egret flying overhead:

Great Egret in flight 20111103

…Within minutes we reached the intersection of the gravel road and the two-track path that runs along the SW 196th Avenue Levee. As usual, we checked to see if any Bobcats might be visible. Except for the portion of the path nearest the road, the entire top of the levee had been mowed and all the trees and shrubs on either side had been pulled and moved down the slope opposite the canal, to the west. The Water District had performed this maintenance, and it opened up the sight distance in a straight line for about a mile south to the Miami-Dade County Line. This was great for photography, as intervening vegetation had hampered our earlier attempts to photograph the Bobcats, which we had found along the trail about a half dozen times since we first saw them in December, 2008. The downside was that the lack of cover made it almost impossible to hide along the way.

We walked the 50 feet or so through high grass, almost to the open path. At first we saw nothing, but suddenly we saw the shapes of at least two mammals that looked like Bobcats. At 400 or more yards, the binocular view was barely adequate to identify them as Bobcats. They were very active, running back and forth across the trail.

At first it appeared that they may have been fighting:

Bocats two at 400 yards 20111103

Then, we made out the shape of a third Bobcat, and became apparent that two were likely youngsters. here, one cub jumped up to catch an insect, probably a dragonfly:

Bocats three at 400 yards 20111103

The two cubs engaged in playful combat:

Bocats two cubs playing 20111103

Sometimes all three disappeared into the trail-side cover, only to re-emerge into plain sight on the trail. I took advantage of this by moving out of the secluded area unto the path, where I did my best to stay far over on the side of the open swath, to help conceal my profile.

In small stages I moved nearer to the cats, getting to within about 50 yards. I took over 400 photos in the space of an hour. For a moment, two of  them seemed to be engaged in a hostile stare-down:

Bobcats tw0 20111103

A Northern Harrier, the first I’ve seen this fall, flew up from the trail in front of me and passed right over the Bobcats:

Harrier over bobcats 20111103

To my surprise, the two Bobcats starting walking towards me, an adult on the right and a nearly full-grown cub on the left:

Bobcat cub and adult 7-20111103

At this point, I had to stand perfectly still in full view, in the center of the path, holding eight pounds of camera gear up to my face. Only about 50 yards away, they stared at me, maybe trying to figure out what I was:

Bobcat cub and adult 5-20111103

The second cub appeared behind them, and the adult sat down and waited for it to join them:

Bobcat family 3-20111103

By now, my camera felt like it weighed a ton. The second cub was noticeably smaller:

Bobcat cub and adult 2-20111103

The smaller cub walked over to the left side of the trail:

Bobcat smaller cub 5-20111103

It looked into the brush that bordered the canal:

Bobcat cub 4-20111103

Click here for a slide show of a few more of my Bobcat photos

Visit ROSYFINCH.COM FOR INDEX OF PREVIOUS POSTS

 

Our local Bald Eagles have landed

•October 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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With good reason, Alaska usually comes to mind at any mention of Bald Eagles. Yet, it surprises some people to learn that, in the lower 48 states, breeding Bald Eagles are most numerous in Florida and Minnesota. In 1990 there were 535 breeding pairs in Florida, and 437 in Minnesota. The number of Florida breeding pairs rebounded rapidly to 1,102 pairs in 2001, then plateaued at 1,133 in 2005. In the meantime, Minnesota’s population climbed slowly at first, to 681 pairs in 2001, then shot up to 1,312 pairs in 2005, surpassing the Florida population.

This US Fish and Wildlife Service graph illustrates the recovery of breeding Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states since DDT was banned in the early 1970s:

In an earlier post, I described why the numbers of Bald Eagles in the more northern of the lower 48 states increase during summer and early autumn, due not only to newly fledged eaglets, but to the influx of more southern eagles. The Florida birds perform an interesting “reverse” northward migration after the breeding season. It is hypothesized that this contrary behavior is caused by another sort of “migration,” namely the vertical movement of the eagles’ main food source.

As Florida’s lakes heat up, the fish seek cooler temperatures in deeper water. Radio tagging of Florida eagles has shown that many follow the cooler water into the northeastern coastal states. Chesapeake Bay is a popular summer and fall gathering place for the Florida population.Immature birds tend to wander more widely than adults, with some even ending up in Canada. Conversely, North America’s northernmost Bald Eagles move south with the approach of winter, seeking open water as the larger lakes freeze up.

Alaskan eagles are, on average, heavier than those in Florida and have longer wings. I photographed this one in Soldotna, Alaska, along the Kenai River:

Bald Eagle 3-20110621

We have a particular interest in Bald Eagles, as we have been involved in protecting a recently discovered nest in our south Florida neighborhood. During the first week of October, 2011, Mary Lou and I were pleased to see that both members of the pair had returned to the nest:

Two adult Bald Eagles at nest 3-20111005

They were already rearranging the nest materials:

Two adult Bald Eagles at nest 2-20111005

On October 12, 2011, I photographed one of the pair at sunrise, flying from the nest area in the general direction of the largest lake in our subdivision:

Bald Eagle at sunrise 20111012

On October 16, 2011, the female was sitting high on the nest…

Bald Eagle on nest 2-20111016

…while her mate (judging by its slimmer build and slightly smaller size) roosted in a nearby Australian Pine:

Bald Eagle roosting 2-20111016

We first became aware of the local pair of eagles on December 4, 2007, when I photographed them mating on the rooftop of a house just across the lake from our home:

2007_12_4_DoubleEagle 016CROP

As there had not been a record of an active Bald Eagle nest in Broward County since several years before DDT was abolished in the early 1970s, I reported the sighting on the Tropical Audubon Society’s Web page, and birders in neighboring Pembroke Pines had a general idea of where they might be breeding. In March, 2008, Kelly Smith, a local middle school teacher found the nest, located only about 150 feet from a busy boulevard. It contained one nearly full-grown eaglet.

This photo of “P. Piney One” was taken by Kelly Smith on March 15, 2008 and is reproduced here with her permission:

This pair of eagles has returned to the same nest each year, successfully raising and fledging two chicks in 2009, three in 2010, and two more this past spring. The nest is about 50 feet high in an exotic Australian Pine tree with smaller trees blocking most of the view, so we only get distant looks.

On December 11, 2008, both adults are shown sitting on the nest, only two days before the first of two eggs was laid::

Eagle Pair at Nest 20081211

Local middle school students conducted a nationwide poll that chose names for the two eaglets, “Hope” and “Justice:” They hatched on January 15,2009. Here they are, squabbling with each other at exactly one month of age. Hope, the older and larger, is on the left:

Eagle Nest Mates 20090215

The eagle nest attracted a great deal of attention, and crowds of up to 100 people came to see the antics of the eaglets, causing traffic hazards as they stopped on the roadway and parked illegally.

Eagle Watchers 2-20090409

The Mayor took an interest in the nest, which is located on City of Pembroke Pines property, and he announced his intention to declare the site a City Bald Eagle Sanctuary, and took measures to protect both the eagles and observers.The City has amended its planning documents to pave the way for an ordinance that will provide safeguards against disturbance of any eagle nest in the city. This past summer, major resurfacing of the roadway and construction of a sidewalk were suspended in the area of the nest during the eagles’ breeding season (May 15 – October 1).

I photographed these three eaglets on March 2, 2010. The Middle School students’ poll resulted in them being named Chance, Lucky and Courage. All three fledged successfully:

Three Eaglets 20100302

The eagles returned in October, 2010 to refurbish the nest, and eggs were laid around December 11. ( * See end note about how we estimate the time of egg laying and hatching). On January 23, 2011 at the age of about 9 days, this chick was first seen, peering over the nest rim:

Eaglet and eagle 3-20110123

Here, it waits as its parent tears off a bit of food. A younger sibling was not yet visible from the ground:

Eaglet 20110123

The Parent eagle feeds the chick :

Eaglet feeding 20110123

This was about as good a view we could get from 150 feet. Vegetation now makes viewing much more difficult. Plans for a nest camera did not materialize:

Eaglet feeding 2-20110123

Here is the older of the two eaglets, on February 3, 2011. Much of her natal down has already disappeared:

Older of 2 eaglets 20110203

At one month old, on February 15, 2011, the down had been reduced to a fuzzy cap:

Older eagle chick 20110215

Less than two weeks later, on February 27, 2011, the eaglets looked almost as large as adults. We called them “P. Piney Seven & Eight.”  Bald Eagles exhibit sexual dimorphism that starts when they are nestlings, with the females usually considerably larger than males. PP 7 is the larger and was presumed to be a female:

Eaglets 43 days old 20110227

At two and a half months of age on March 23, 2011 they were exercising their wings, preparing for their first flight, which usually occurs when they are between 10 and 12 weeks old. PP7, on the right, has more white underneath than her younger brother:

Eaglets 2-20110323

On March 30, 2011, we found PP8 alone in the nest; PP7 had flown off, but returned within three days to be fed:

Eaglet PP8 settled down 20110330

On March 30, PP8 was “helicoptering,” hovering in place up to a foot off the ground:

Eaglet PP8 helicoptering 20110330

Here, on April 3, 2011, my last shot of PP7 shows her roosting in a tree next to the nest. PP8 was flying back and forth on branches in the nest tree:

P Piney 7 2-20110403

*In estimating the timing of the laying of eggs and hatching of the eaglets, we must depend upon clues from changes in the behavior of the adults. The onset of incubation coincides with the laying of the first egg, which is when we suddenly see one of the pair down deep and immobile in the nest. Hatching is a time of excitement, as the parents shift position frequently, peer down into the nest, and they start bringing in prey and tearing off bits to feed the tiny chick. The adults also sit a bit higher in the nest after the first egg hatches, supporting themselves on their wings to form a “tent” to shelter the chick and yet provide warmth to any eggs that have not yet hatched.

Volunteer nest observers share their sightings and photos, and respond to queries in the Pembroke Pines Eagle Nest Watch FORUM here, which includes a link to spreadsheets that document observations over the past three breeding seasons .

Chapel Trail Nature Center

•October 17, 2011 • 1 Comment

In an earlier post I described the creation of Chapel Trail Nature Center and its near destruction when vandals set the boardwalk on fire shortly before its
planned grand opening. It had been open less than a year when Hurricane
Wilma toppled most of the boardwalk. Earlier this month, soon after we returned to Florida from our second home in Illinois, we visited the preserve, located nearby in Pembroke Pines. It was a rather dull morning for birding. There had been plenty of rain, and flood water had diluted out the fish so that the long-legged waders were no longer concentrated there. We started out late and it became progressively more hot and muggy.

The resident Sandhill Crane greeted us at the parking lot…

Sandhill Crane 2-20110925

…and posed next to a fire hydrant…

Crane at Fire Hydrant 2-20110925

..but otherwise it seemed that the paraglider overhead and the insects and flowers around us would be the best sightings of the day:

Power Paraglider 2-20110925

Spiny Orb Weaver:

Spiny Orb Weaver - Gasteracantha cancriformis 20110925

This photo was marred by a single bokeh that took on the appearance of
a full moon, but I decided that it looked in balance with the image of the Swamp Lily:

Swamp Lily with bokeh 20110925

There were two of these little green-eyed blue-bodied black-tipped dragonflies. about 1 to 1 1/4 inch long– too small to be Eastern Pondhawks, so I at first was not sure of their ID. There is a midge on this one’s back. Interestingly, one species of dragonfly, Sympetrum, has antibodies against its midge parasite (Arrenurus planus). When the midge bites into the dragonfly, its piercing mouth parts turn bubble-like and the parasite dies. Midges are used to control certain insect pests (Reference).

Blue Dasher– look closely to see the midge, or click on the photo to see
the note:

Blue Dasher with midge 20110925

A Green Darner rarely perches. This guy would not stop flying, but did
hover in place long enough for me to get the center point focus on him.
If I had planned this shot I would have increased shutter speed greatly:

Green Darner Dragonfly - Anax junius

The resident Red-shouldered Hawk watched us from it perch in a small tree:

Red-shouldered Hawk 20110323

A lone White Ibis flew overhead…

White Ibis in flight 20110925

…as did an Osprey:

Osprey 20110323

From the boardwalk, Mary Lou scanned the wetlands :

Chapel Trail boardwalk 20110925

A Great Egret was nicely back-lit by the early morning sun:

Great Egret 20110925

A Green Heron stood on the rail of floating boat dock at the far end of
the boardwalk:

Green Heron 20110925

Then, the head of a Limpkin appeared above the marsh vegetation (I did not notice the two Purple Swamphens, out of focus behind it and to the
right):

Limpkin with Purple Swamphens 20110925

The bird flew up and passed directly in front of us on the way to a
roost in the small island:

Limpking in flight 3-20110925

Purple Swamphens seem to get more numerous every week at Chapel Trail. As we walked along the boardwalk, there were 2 to 3 in view at all times. We saw no gallinules or moorhens, which is a bit disturbing–  their young are said to be food items for the invasive introduced swamphen:

Purple Swamphen 20110323

We also saw a half dozen Eastern Kingbirds:

Eastern Kingbird 2-20111005

Many of the Eastern Towhees that breed in far southern Florida have yellow rather than red eyes:

Eastern Towhee 2-20110411

A Common Yellowthroat foraged in the Red Maple leaves, already starting to change color:

Common Yellowthroat in Red Maple 2-20111005

The yellowthroat was joined by a Prairie Warbler:

Prairie Warbler joins yellowthroat 20111005

Yesterday morning we got out just before a big rainstorm curtailed our
walk. The leaves of the Red Maples had already gone from red to brown. We found that Palm Warblers had arrived in good numbers. They become so numerous during the winter that locals call them “Florida Sparrows.” During fall migration, the brightly colored eastern Yellow Palm Warblers cross paths with the dull western form, and winter more to the west, from northern Florida into east Texas.

This is a representative of the dull Western race, much more commonly
seen than the bright eastern form:

Palm Warbler western 20111016

Despite the dark skies, this Boat-tailed Grackle’s iridescent coat
reflected many hues of blue:

Boat-tailed Grackle 20111016

It was starting to drizzle as a Mottled Duck flew overhead:

Mottled Duck 20111016

On the way out, I stopped to photograph a Little Blue Heron that was
walking along the canoe dock:

Little Blue Heron 20111016

A Marsh Rabbit watched us warily as we exited the boardwalk.. This
semi-aquatic race of Cottontail has a darker coat and very short ears:

Marsh Rabbit 20111016

Slogging through the Everglades

•October 11, 2011 • 1 Comment

Now that I have become the proud owner of a pair of snake boots, I took up my neighbor Scott’s open invitation to accompany him on a deeper hike into the wetlands adjacent to our homes. This area, located just west of the cities of Miramar and Pembroke Pines, is part of the Broward County Water Preserve, consisting mostly of land that has been set aside by developers to compensate for intrusion upon the historic Everglades by construction of housing subdivisions.

Much of this is land that had long ago been drained and converted to agricultural use, mainly grazing of livestock. Now it is partially surrounded by low levees and managed by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) under supervision of the US Army Corps of Engineers. As part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the land was more recently cleared of invasive exotic plants, notably Melaleuca, Australian Pine and Brazilian Pepper. In the portion nearest our home, maintenance appears to have ceased since about 2005, and the exotic Melaleucas are once again spreading into the open wetlands, where they form dense stands.

Under CERP, this wetland will be surrounded by higher levees and turned into a huge reservoir to hold storm water overflow from the planned C-11 impoundment to be constructed ten miles to the north, in Weston. The water depths in this planned lake will vary, depending upon rainfall, from zero to four or perhaps six feet. The objective of this impoundment is to limit eastward seepage of Everglades drainage, thus recharging the aquifer and reinforcing the historic north to south flow of the “River of Grass.” Because of funding and logistical issues, construction of the C-11 impoundment would not begin until at least 2015.

Therefore, our local reservoir (designated as the C-9 impoundment) is on hold for at least ten years. From our standpoint, this is good news, as we now enjoy the presence of terrestrial species that will certainly be driven out when the area is flooded.  Here is an informative link about CERP, which includes the following map:

Water levels in our disturbed local wetlands weakly imitate the natural cycle of the original Everglades. An extinct quarry forms a large lake that occupies much of the Harbour Lakes portion of the preserve. Summer rains swell the lake and it spills over into the surrounding Sawgrass meadows. Sawgrass is actually a sedge, and it thrives when the soil is waterlogged for ten to twelve months out of the year.

Water now covers the adjacent Sawgrass meadow. The waterway in the foreground will be a dry to muddy trail by late spring or early summer, but is too deeply submerged for our morning jaunt:

Harbour Lakes impoundment 20111003

Some parts of the wetland are better drained or are at slightly higher elevations, so their shorter hydroperiod (the length of time that there is standing water) favors beds of periphyton*, algae and other plants such as Spike Rush.

*From:    Freshwater Marl Prairie

Large areas of freshwater marl prairie border the deeper sloughs of the Everglades. These relatively short-hydroperiod marshes are typified by a diverse assemblage of low-growing vegetation. 

A complex mixture of algae, bacteria, microbes, and detritus that is attached to submerged surfaces, periphyton serves as an important food source for invertebrates, tadpoles, and some fish. Periphyton is conspicuous and is the basis for the marl soils present. The marl allows slow seepage of the water but not rapid drainage. Though the sawgrass is not as tall and the water is not as deep, freshwater marl prairies look a lot like freshwater sloughs.

A Great Egret stands in this meadow, which is covered mostly by rushes:

Egret  in sedge meadow 20111001

In January, periphyton floats to the surface as the water level recedes:

Chapel Trail 2-20090118

The areas free of Sawgrass are richer in nutrients and more friendly for wildlife, such as this American Bittern hiding among the Spike Rushes:

American Bittern 20110323

Scott is a “working stiff,” so we met up at 7:30 AM on Saturday. To my surprise he had his little Yorkie Gordo on a leash. Gordo was to prove to be a enthusiastic and even useful companion for what turned out to be an ambitious five mile hike. We walked a loop north into Pembroke Pines on the unpaved Miramar Parkway/SW 196th Avenue extension, then cut south and west almost to US-27. At times we found ourselves in water up to mid-shins and sunk into ankle-deep mud. We departed at 7:30 AM and got back around 11:00 AM.

This was our route, beginning and ending at the lower right (SE) corner of the map:

W Miramar ESL 5 mile walk 1012011

We walked mostly on remnants of old farm roads, that are blocked from vehicular traffic, but often used by recreational ATVs. The cross-country part of our walk was the southern portion of the loop in the upper left part of the map. There, we made very slow progress through a flooded prairie of Sawgrass. We followed animal trails (presumably deer) that tended to make circuits around deeper sloughs and alkali sink holes, but the going got so tough that we considered turning around when we had bushwhacked more than half way to our goal, which was the unpaved portion of SW 208th Avenue that runs north and south (along the far left side of the map). All this time I kept my camera safely tucked away.

As we approached the road we heard dogs barking in the junk yard to the north, and when we finally emerged into the open we were greeted by a pack of eight to ten mixed breed hounds. Thankfully, they were more interested in Gordo, who diverted their attention as we made friendly talk with them and tried to act nonchalant.

Before the dogs actually reached us we encountered a young Cottonmouth in the two-track road (note its bright coloration and yellow tail; older moccasins turn dark with obscured markings) :

Cottonmouth 20111001

I wondered how many snakes we had NOT seen during that part of the hike, and was really happy with my snake boots– except that it turned out that both boots leaked! The walk back was a bit squishy.

A red-bellied Woodpecker clung to an old telephone pole:

Red-bellied Woodpecker 20111001

Along the way, a Red-shouldered Hawk monitored our approach before flying off:

Red-shouldered Hawk 20111001

Gordo found this pugnacious crayfish along the path. It attacked him, then me as I tried to catch it. They are known to change colors, and perhaps the red reflects its fighting mood (I took it home and it now resides in my aquarium– dull olive brown in color):

Pugnacious crawfish 20111001

Scott and Gordo on this trail, which follows the right of way for Pembroke Road:

Scott and Gordo Pembroke Rd W 20111001

Two Painted Buntings flew along the trail in front of us. I only was able to photograph the female, and she was a beauty:

Painted Bunting 2-20111001

One of a pair of Northern Waterthrushes created a very pretty reflection in a puddle:

Northern Waterthrush 20111001

Two Yellow-crowned Night-Herons were roosting at the site of last year’s rookery:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 20111001

Not to be overlooked were this roadside Loggerhead Shrike…

Loggerhead Shrike 20111001

…a White Peacock…

White Peacock butterfly 20111001

…and a Gulf Fritillary:

Gulf Fritillary 20111001

By the way, I sent the boots back to the manufacturer, as they were guaranteed 100% waterproof. They have already shipped out a replacement pair. Since they fit well and were quite comfortable (when dry) I will assume my problem represented a sample defect and will withhold any review of the product pending resolution of the issue.

Birding Fashionisto

•September 26, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The path that leads to to our favorite birding patch is only a few paces outside the entrance gate to our South Florida  subdivision. However, we must reach the gate by walking in front of about two blocks of residences. Clothed in our rugged garb, we accept quizzical stares from passing motorists as they bring their kids to school or head for the office, all dressed up. We are often recognized as birders, and have acquired some legitimacy by answering questions from neighbors, such as “Did you notice that a lot of baby white cranes [translation: Snowy Egrets] have just joined their parents [translation: Great Egrets] along our lake?”

Here in Florida we must pay special attention to protection from sun and insects. Sensible wide-brimmed hats, trousers tucked into socks and long sleeves on the hottest of mornings make us stand apart on the fashion scene. (No wonder Mary Lou regarded all birders as rather eccentric folk– until she became one herself! See: “A Valentine for my Favorite Birdwatcher“)

The latest additions to my wardrobe and gear have been an insect-repelling shirt, waterproof snake-resistant boots and an OP/TECH Dual camera/binocular harness. Here I am, all decked out and ready for action (photo courtesy of Mary Lou):

New Gear 20110916

The harness has solved a vexing problem. Until now I have been carrying my camera and binoculars, slung over my neck and opposite shoulders. This can be a troublesome arrangement, Not only do the straps conflict with each other, pinching and constricting my neck all around, but their business ends can become hopelessly entangled. It’s very disconcerting to lift the camera for a shot and find the binocular strap wrapped around the long lens. The harness (or halter) stores the two items of equipment independently on each side, and distributes their weight on a single soft neoprene yoke that goes over both shoulders and is secured by a chest strap. Strangulation is out of the question.

Well, the snake boots are something else. A few close encounters with Cottonmouth water moccasins notwithstanding, I am usually very careful about looking where I step, and am not afraid of any snakes– provided I see them first. My attitude changed a couple of months ago, when (wearing sneakers) I went out in the pre-dawn darkness to try to obtain a photo of one of the Bobcats that live in the wetlands. I forgot to take a flashlight, and depended upon the moon and a little keychain LED lamp to light my way. This was fine until I had to cross some deeper grass and felt that I might be taking my life into my hands. Indeed, another photographer who walked out that way a couple of mornings earlier (and obtained a knock-out Bobcat portrait) told me he saw four small moccassins along the same path. Why didn’t I see any? This experience, and prodding from my spouse, son-in-law and daughter (as well as a couple of birding friends) led me to finally buy the snake boots.

This past Friday, we got out about ten minutes before sunrise and took our usual warm-up “power walk” to the Harbour Lakes Impoundment, a lake about a mile away from our gate. Here, a day-old full moon hovers overhead and the first rays of sunlight have just reached the trees on the far side of the lake:

Dawn moon over Harbour Lakes Impoundment 20110914

An Osprey flew over, the early rays illuminating its flight feathers from below:

Osprey 20110916

Along the way, I stopped to photograph a Common Ground Dove…

Common Ground-Dove 2-20110916

…and a Loggerhead Shrike:

Loggerhead Shrike 20110914

Truth be told, I just don’t take one picture and move along. Usually, I shoot as soon as I spot my subject, then move in cautiously for better views. Rather than shoot in bursts, I like to catch the bird doing something, such as calling, preening, or looking up, down or over its back. Such poses seem more interesting than simple “field guide” side-on views. If a twig or leaf is in the way, or part of the bird is in shadow, I try to angle around it or wait until the bird moves into a more suitable location. Approaching nearer to the subject requires stealth and slow movements. Each bird seems to have a limit as to how closely it may be approached. (The shrike usually flies off if someone gets within about 30 feet, though there are exceptions). All this takes time and can be very BORING to a non-photographer birding companion. I know this from experience, having taken up photography only recently, and used to hate it when photographers held up other birders’ progress.

Therefore, Mary Lou usually leaves me with my camera and starts birding her way back home within an hour, alone– that’s her, fading away in the distance:

ML heading home 20110914

Look closely at the above photo. she is just passing the small, compact wooded area that I call my “fake hammock.” Although it is an isolated area of hardwoods and is dry underfoot all year long, it otherwise bears no resemblance to a “real” hammock, an elevated island in the Everglades, populated by native oaks, mahogany, maples and palms. While my fake hammock contains ligustrum, exotic Brazilian Pepper and lantana, it also has several large native Florida Trema trees (Trema micranthum) with an endless crop of nutritious berries that continue to ripen all winter. These trees are very attractive to wildlife. Visit “Birding in a make-believe hammock

Trema berries grow along the stems of the tree and are in various stages of ripening:

Florida Trema (Trema micranthum),  -- Shrub with berries growing along stem 20110306

I had not entered my “hammock” since spring, and found the path that led into it overgrown with high weeds, vines and shrubs. I would never have ventured there without my new snake boots, but I forced my way under the canopy of the trees. Once inside,  I found very little ground cover in the rather open shaded area.

An old folding chair had been left there a long time ago and it provided a nice place to sit and just wait for the migrating birds:

Catbird seat in Fake Hammock 20110914

I did not have to wait very long, as two vireos suddenly showed up to partake of the Trema berries. One had markings that suggested it might be a Black-whiskered Vireo, but other views confirmed it was a common Red-eyed Vireo with “bad hair”(click on photo to also see a Black-whiskered specimen that I photographed at about the same spot in March of this year:

Vireo- Red-eyed vs Black-whiskered 20110914

No doubt about it– they were indeed Red-eyed Vireos:

Red-eyed Vireo 3-20110914

These were the best open shots I’ve ever gotten of the usually secretive species:

Red-eyed Vireo 2-20110914

Just above my head, a male Prairie Warbler foraged in a sunny patch of leaves:

Prairie Warbler 5-20110914

A noisy group of three Red-bellied Woodpeckers flew in, allowing me to pull off a couple of lucky shots before they disappeared:

Red-bellied Woodpecker 2-20110916

There were very few mosquitoes and no deer flies, and it was almost cool inside my hiding place, as I watched a Black-and-White Warbler work its way towards my position (click on image for more views):

Black-and-White Warbler 5-20110914

OK, I OD’d on Black-and-Whites. I probably took over 100 shots, almost all through peep-holes between the branches, and most marred by the rapid movement of this little sprite. Then it came into the open and I finally got some full views:

Black-and-White Warbler 4-20110914

A Northern Parula peered down at me from the canopy:

Northern Parula 4-20110814

Another brightly colored male Parula joined him:

Northern Parula 2-20110814

The Blue Jays have completed their molt, and this one looked sleek and handsome:

Blue Jay 20110914

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were almost as distracting as the many butterflies that fluttered in my peripheral vision:

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2-20110914

A Brown Thrasher was a surprise visitor:

Brown Thrasher 20110914

This Great Crested Flycatcher preferred to perch against the sun and sky, providing me with only severely back-lighted soft images:

Great Crested Flycatcher 20110916

For me, the real treat was a pair of Ovenbirds that chased each other back and forth, rarely sitting still long enough for decent portraits; this one insisted on hiding behind a leaf as it eyed me:

Ovenbird 4-20110916

The other Ovenbird never perched nearby, requiring me to shoot through holes in the foliage into its shaded retreat:

Ovenbird 20110916

This tailed butterfly is a Dorantes Skipper:

Dorantes Skipper 20110914

Rosyfinch Blog Migrating to WordPress.com

•July 17, 2009 • 1 Comment

My usual blogging site is http://blog.rosyfinch.com

Join the Rosy-Finch FORUM to keep abreast of sightings at Sandia Crest, New Mexico.

If problems with my server persist, I plan to migrate to this WordPress site.

Thanks!

Ken

08/05/08
Browsing a Virtual Birding Library
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Sandia Crest, Illinois
Posted by: Ken @ 2:21 pm

Agramonte, Tibetan Mastiff, almost 8 months old:

A combination of hot weather and being “under the weather” have forced me into a couple of weeks of down time. No extensive hikes, no serious photography, although I captured images of several feeder birds off the deck in our daughter’s back yard. Now in Illinois and hopefully nearing the end of encounters with the health care system, I hope to make it back out to Nelson Lake any day now.

Mourning Dove:

House Finch, Male:

Yesterday, during a brief walk with Agramonte in Hawk’s Bluff Park in Batavia, I watched a Cooper’s Hawk bring dinner toward a couple of shrieking youngsters who had already branched and actually sounded as if they were in two different trees. A month ago, before returning to Florida, I had found the general location of the nest, in a tall oak about 50 yards from the bank of Mill Creek. At that time the young must have been very small, as their begging cries were barely audible.

Forced leisure has induced me to revisit some great birding literature on the Web. Here are a few samples:

One of my favorite places to browse also has some of the oldest content. LIFE HISTORIES OF FAMILIAR
NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS

This electronic book collection of Arthur Cleveland Bent’s species biographies is selected from the hundreds that are part of a twenty-one volume series published between 1919 and 1968 by the United States Government Printing Office. I have reprints of over a dozen volumes on my bookshelf at home and really enjoy Bent’s meticulous attention to detail. Sure, Bent anthromorphizes and is judgemental about “good and bad birds.” So much more has been learned about birds in the meantime by “high-tech” researchers, but reading the prose is pure pleasure. The site contains a species index and an excellent search feature.

For example, I entered “Cooper’s Hawk,” and was greeted by this opening paragraph:

“If the sharp-shinned hawk is a blood-thirsty villain, this larger edition of feathered ferocity is a worse villain, for its greater size and strength enable it to do more damage. Furthermore, it is much more widely common during the breeding season, being one of our commonest hawks in nearly all parts of the United States. It is essentially the chicken hawk, so cordially hated by poultry farmers, and is the principal cause of the widespread antipathy toward hawks in general.”
It immediately reminded me of how my grandfather hated “Chicken Hawks,” although he usually was referring to the Redtails that sailed so conspicuously over his flock as they foraged in our joint back yards. I remember seeing a very frustrated Cooper’s Hawk trying to get through the chicken wire that enclosed his pigeon pen, so intent on the pigeons that it ignored my presence only about 10 feet away. I was probably around 9 or 10, but I will never forget the wildness in its hackled stare.

Another noteworthy and respected collection of birding literature that offers a time travel from the twenty-first back into the nineteenth century is available at the Univerity of New Mexico’s SORA Web site: “Classic Ornithological Journals archived and available to all.”

The choice of journals on SORA is almost too good to be true, and you don’t need a subscription or password to access their full content:

Auk (1884-1999)
Condor (1899-2000)
International Wader Studies (1970-2002)
Journal of Field Ornithology (1930-1999)
Journal of Raptor Research (1967-2005)
North American Bird Bander (1976-2000)
Ornithological Monographs (1964-2005)
Pacific Coast Avifauna (1900-1974)
Studies in Avian Biology (1978-1999)
Wader Studies Group Bulletin (1970-2004)
Western Birds (1970-2004)
Wilson Bulletin (1889-1999)

Of course, an excellent addition to the electronic library is ABA’s Birding Magazine collection of back issues to 2001

Another popular magazine, Birder’s World, provides a search box in which you can enter a species or birding location and have access to much of the content of past issues. To help, there is also an index of past issues. For example, I found this article I wrote about the Sandia Crest Rosy-finch project back in  2004 by simply entering search term “Sandia.”

WildBird magazine has archived copies of tables of contents that go back to 2004, but the articles cannot be accessed, and there are no search functions. Likewise, Bird Watchers Digest has no archives, but there is a useful interactive field guide.

Male Mourning Dove (L) coos and displays to female: