Thursday, January 17, 2019

Flying with an eagle

Our local pair of Bald Eagles share responsibility for incubating the eggs, the first of which was laid around December 9 or 10. The female usually sits on them overnight and takes turns with the male during the day.  On the morning of December 27 the male (Pride) took over incubation duties and his mate (Jewel) stretched her wings and circled overhead:

Bald Eagle female Jewel in flight 102-20181227

First one, and then a flock of Tree Swallows joined her. They did not attack or disturb her, but just floated around in circles with her:

Bald Eagle female Jewel in flight 104-20181227

Bald Eagle female Jewel in flight 108-20181227


Bald Eagle female Jewel in flight 107-20181227

Bald Eagle female Jewel in flight 105-20181227

Bald Eagle female Jewel in flight 106-20181227

Bald Eagle female Jewel in flight 103-20181227

One may ponder the reason for this behavior. The swallows are migrants from the north and they have no territory to defend. Did the swallows perceive a threat? If so, there was no sign of this, as they glided effortlessly with the large bird and rotated together, gaining altitude before departing. Perhaps heat from the pavement of the roadway created a local updraft, and all simply took advantage of it. For me, the uplifting beauty of nature was a sight to behold and enjoy. 

A Turkey Vulture also rode on the rising currents. Its wingspan is about 6 feet, about a foot less than that of the female eagle. Its tail is long but its neck is short. From a distance it may almost appears headless. Its silvery flight feathers contrast with the darker leading edge of the wing:

Turkey Vulture 20181227

Flocks of Black Vultures were also present. Smaller than Turkey Vultures, they look "front-heavy" with short tails and they extend their necks in flight.

Black Vulture 20190110

Black Vultures have whitish wingtips and relatively shorter wings (4.5 to 5.5 feet) and must flap often and strongly to gain altitude:

Black Vulture 20151231

Sometimes an immature Bald Eagle may join a flock of vultures. Turkey Vultures have an exceptionally keen sense of smell. Until the eagle becomes fully competent as a hunter, it will often feed on carrion. A meal of roadkill may be its last, as many are struck by motor vehicles. This is a juvenile (first year) bird, as evidenced by its dark bill and bulging secondary wing feathers. Its head and tail will turn almost completely white when it is about four years old:

Bald Eagle juvie 2nd year 2-20140105

A few times I have identified a Short-tailed Hawk flying with vultures. The association may allow the hawk to escape detection before it drops like a stone to catch an unwary bird:

Short-tailed Hawk dark morph 2-20131023

Short-tailed Hawk dark morph 20131023

Fish Crows often loaf in the vicinity of the eagle nest, which if left unguarded may provide a meal of leftover prey, or worse, an egg or nestling. They can be distinguished from hawks and vultures by the fact that they almost never soar, beating their wings constantly as if "rowing a boat:"

Fish Crow 02-20190107


Fish Crow 01-20190107

We have enjoyed deliciously cool and clear mornings out on our local wetlands. Still air sets up beautiful reflections. From our shadowed vantage point on the lakeside marsh, we watch as the sun, rising in a cloudless sky, touches the pine bank on the opposite shore:

Rising Sun touches Pine Bank20190110

Mottled Ducks bask in full morning light:

Mottled Ducks 20181230


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Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James

Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh

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Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Crops & Clips: Vireos

The White-eyed Vireo is a permanent resident in south Florida, although the winter population is supplemented by migrants from the  eastern half of the US. I have heard it singing all year long, though the frequency and volume of its song is reduced during the winter months.

Although often shy and retiring, it is one of my favorite photographic subjects. Like all birds, it is incapable of changing its facial expressions, but it can assume some very interesting postures which seem to be communicating its thoughts.

Is it looking for a bug up there or wondering what I am doing here?

White-eyed Vireo 02-20181109

Is it angry?

White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus) cropped 20120112

Shy?

White-eyed Vireo 02-20171122

Proud?

White-eyed Vireo 5-20111024

Or simply exuberant?

White-eyed Vireo 20160121

Vireos are small and rather inconspicuous birds, mostly native to the New World, with most species concentrated in Central America and northern South America.  They eat insects and also fruit, especially during winter. About a dozen vireo species inhabit the US. Most are brown or greenish, and some show yellow tints. A vireo's bill is more stout than that of warblers and its upper mandible is slightly hooked.

A common visitor during migration is the Red-eyed Vireo:

Red-eyed Vireo 04-20181012

It is a common breeding bird in Canada and much of northern and eastern US. While it does nest down into Florida we do not find it breeding in the southern tip of the peninsula. Thus we wait for migration to hear them as they pass through and rarely stay for the winter. Most continue on to spend the winter in northern South America. They sing persistently up north, but we can hear their distinctive repetitive but varied 2-3 note slurred song during spring migration.

The Red-eyed Vireo is larger, about an inch longer (6 inches) than the White-eyed species. It can be very hard to find as it stalks among the leaves in search of insects:

Red-eyed Vireo 2-20140827

The light must be right to catch the red in its eyes:

Red-eyed Vireo 20130919

Red-eyed Vireo 2-20100922

The plumage of the Black-whiskered Vireo is similar to that of the Red-eyed Vireo, but it sports its namesake "whiskers." It inhabits coastal mangroves in south Florida, but I was lucky to see it once in our local wetlands, 18 miles inland:

Black-whiskered Vireo 3-20110420

Black-whiskered Vireo 20110420

Another winter visitor which has been numerous this week is the Blue-headed Vireo. Its white "spectacles" contrast strikingly with its dark blue head:

Blue-headed Vireo 04-20181225

Blue-headed Vireo 02-20181225

An unusual migrant visited us for four winters between 2009 and 2017. Bell's Vireo is about a half inch smaller than the White-eyed Vireo which often accompanied it. This species breeds to the west, in central and southwestern US. Normally, it migrates through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to its wintering grounds on the Pacific coast of Mexico.  Over the years a few vagrants have wintered in Florida. There were only 24 Florida records between 1947-1976, less than once a year! 

Bell's Vireo is rather plain, and easily overlooked:

Bell's Vireo 2-20151222

Bell's Vireo 3-20151031

On of my most recent "first seen" birds in our local wetlands was this colorful Yellow-throated Vireo:

Yellow-throated Vireo 02-20181123

The Warbling Vireo has been present several times, but my best photos of it were those I took in Illinois, such as this one:

Warbling Vireo 3-20100818

The Philadelphia Vireo is another unusual visitor to south Florida, but i did photograph it here on two occasions. Its voice is very similar to that of the Red-eyed Vireo. It usually migrates from its Canadian breeding grounds to Central America by way of the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It is quite colorful:

Philadelphis Vireo 01-20151019

While I have seen other vireo species elsewhere, this covers all my Florida sightings. This week was not all about vireos. An Agapostemon Sweat Bee visited the flowers of Bidens alba:

Agapostemon Sweat Bee 20190104

Venus, the Moon and Jupiter were aligned as we walked out 45 minutes before sunrise on January 3. I even saw Mercury closer to the horizon, the first time in my life!

Venus Moon Jupiter aligned 20190102

Images of a very old Moon just before it disappeared into the sunrise on January 4th:

Very old moon 062711 AM 20190104

A Tricolored Heron danced with its reflection:

Tricolored Heron 01-20190101

Common Grackles congregated along a neighbor's fence:

Common Grackles 20181225


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Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James

Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh

 Linking to Fences Around the World by Gosia

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Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display

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