Thursday, December 12, 2019

Crops & Clips: November potpourri

Finally, we have had a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird visit our backyard feeder. For several years all have been females-- not that I object, but I did wish to get one which shows this species' most prominent feature, a colorful throat patch. To see it, the light must be just right. 

The color of a hummingbird's gorget (an old  term which described the metal protective collar worn by a knight in armor) is due to iridescence. The otherwise dark feathers are coated with tiny lens-like platelets which reflect and refract the light when facing the light source:

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 05-20191117

"Look this way, please..."

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 03-20191117

This is a female out in the wild area:

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 20191127

Getting out early helps us avoid the heat of day, but poses photographic challenges. Low light requires high sensitivity (ISO) settings which produce very blurry images. Up until  about 15 minutes before sunrise, the best I can hope for is a shot which will  help me identify a bird in flight or sitting on the top of a tree against the morning sky. The combination of fog and darkness obscures the fine feather marking but sometimes produces pleasing effects. This Great Blue Heron was patiently fishing in the wet prairie in morning twilight:

Great Blue Heron in fog 20191120

A Great Egret flying over before sunrise picks up color but looks a bit "grainy:"

Great Egret before sunrise 01-20191125

I was surprised at how a camera can sometimes "see in the dark."  Twenty minutes before sunrise on November 16, the wind was blowing as a cold front approached, I captured this view with my little pocket camera, a PowerShot SX700 HS. Its image stabilization produced a fairly sharp image with an exposure of only 1/20 second at ISO 1000, hand-held:

Cold Front sunrise minus 20 min 4-20191116

Only 10 minutes later, when my DSLR was still set for flying birds (ISO cranked all the way up to 16,000 and at an exposure of 1/50 second) I saw the form of a Coyote loping downwind along the gravel road towards me. The resolution of the photo was horrible, but I think the experience was worth sharing:

Coyote 01-20191116

Perhaps the Coyote heard the clicking of my shutter or recognized my profile against the shrubs behind me, but he suddenly pulled up and fled:

Coyote 04-20191116  

This as another DSLR "shot in the dark," of a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in deep shade exactly at sunrise. It seems counter-intuitive, but I had to decrease exposure compensation (i.e., tell the lens not to try so hard to brighten the scene) to bring the exposure speed up to 1/50 second at ISO 1500, hand-held:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 01-20191130

The first rays soften the white plumage of another Great Egret:

Great Egret 01-20191130

So much for all the blurry stuff. A real treat was this male American Kestrel which greeted me later every morning for more than a week. My problem was that I had to approach him with the sun at his back. This required a rather circular approach to avoid getting too close as I passed the bird. I did take "insurance" photos even when the light was behind him in the event he decided to fly off, as often happened. 

In this shot I moved to place the trunk of a palm tree behind the bird, hoping it would provide some contrast with the light quartering from behind it:

American Kestrel 01-20191125

A few more steps provided side-lighting as the bird ruffled his feathers, preparing to flee:

American Kestrel 05-20191126

Here he is in full light, against the blue sky:

American Kestrel 01-20191126

The local Bald Eagles were getting ready to raise a new family. On November 26, when I arrived at their nest at about 8:30 AM the female (Jewel) was roosting on the nest support branch just in front of the nest. I checked usual roosts but found no other eagle present. The nest appeared to be empty.

Bald Eagle female 01-20191126

At 8:57 AM the male (Pride) flew in from behind the nest with an unidentified prey item. He left the prey in the nest and the female joined him and started eating. 

Bald Eagle female and male 03-0191126
Bald Eagle female and male 02-0191126

Pride then flew up to the same branch which had been occupied by Jewel. The female continued eating. They both then flew up to a perch above and just left (east) of the nest.

Bald Eagle female joins male 04-0191126
Bald Eagle male and female move higher in tree 06-0191126
Bald Eagle male and female move higher in tree 07-0191126

They began calling and then copulated at 9:19 AM.

Bald Eagle copulating 05-20191126
Bald Eagle copulating 04-20191126

Following this they roosted side by side. They remained in this position when I departed at around 10:00 AM. 

Bald Eagles after copulating 06-20191126

Their first egg was deposited on or about  November 30, and the first eaglet should hatch after 5 weeks, around January 4.

My new iPhone 11 Pro MAX takes very nice low-light photos. This was the wet prairie about 10 minutes before sunrise. A Great Egret and several White Ibises are foraging:

North wet prairie iPhone 01-20191208

A view of the Pine Bank and the east shore marsh in the foreground, before the sun has touched the treetops:

Pine Bank and east marsh 20191208

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


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

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

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Crops & Clips: Flashback to December, 2016

Time to look back three years and remember how it was back then and imagine how it might be this December. I will try to find photos which reflect favorite memes: critters of all kinds (especially birds), skyscapes, reflections, fences, flowers and scenes which speak for themselves. 

We spent the entire month at our Florida home, preferring this rather than braving the cold at our condo in NE Illinois. Fair weather let us get out into our local wetlands nearly every morning.

Palm Warblers were our daily avian companions. They are usually so abundant in residential neighborhoods that some people call them "Florida Sparrows." Their long legs are an adaptation for foraging on the ground and they constantly wag their tails up and down:

Palm Warbler 20161202

A Palm Warbler explores the crisscross bark on the trunk of a native Cabbage Palmetto (aka Sabal Palm), so named because its terminal bud may be removed, cooked and eaten as "heart of palm." This also kills the tree: 

Palm Warbler on Cabbage Palm trunk 2-20161202

A visit to nearby Chapel Trail Nature Preserve yielded views of Wood Storks, a species which was formerly a common back yard visitor but whose numbers were sharply declining in south Florida. A tactile feeder, the Wood Stork stirs the shallow water with its bubble-gum pink feet to frighten prey into its open jaws: 

Wood Stork 20161202 

Commonly, sight-feeding herons join storks and both may mutually benefit from the association. Great Egret with Wood Stork:

Stork and Egret 20161202

Tricolored Heron on the boardwalk railing:

Tricolored Heron 20161202

Pine Warblers are fairly common at Chapel Trail in December. This was no exception:

Pine Warbler 5-20161203

Out on the local wetlands, just before sunrise as temperatures dropped, fog developed over the water. The sun is just touching the Pine Bank behind the Wet Prairie: 

Sun reaching Pine Bank 20161213

On another still morning, smoke from trash burning on a nearby farm created a fine layer just above  the head of this Great Egret:

Great Egret under smoke layer at dawn 20161227

White-eyed Vireo:

White-eyed Vireo 01-20161226

Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker in flight:

Northern Flicker 01-20161222

Only a few times have I found a Short-tailed Hawk roosting close by. This is the light morph:

Short-tailed Hawk 07-20161220

A few days later, a dark morph Short-tailed Hawk flew overhead:

Short-tailed Hawk 03-20161231

Here is the first and only Ruby-crowned Kinglet I have ever seen in the local patch (December 28, 2016):

Ruby-crowned Kinglet 04-20161228

Ruby-crowned Kinglet 03-20161228

That same day a male Painted Bunting appeared:

Painted Bunting male 01-20161228

It was surprisingly inconspicuous amid the red and green of the Brazilian Pepper bush:

Painted Bunting 05-20161228

A few species remind me of how the subsequent two Decembers then changed for the worse. Hurricane Irma was to strike in October, 2017 and it had a very adverse effect upon the butterflies, so abundant in 2016. Probably  the hardest hit was the Julia longwing. They are still quite scarce now in 2019. 

This is a male Julia:

Julia male 20161229

The female Julia is paler and has different wing markings:

Julia longwing female 5-20161231

The undersides of both male and female Julia are similar. This is a female:

Julia longwing female 2-20161231

Gulf Fritillary butterflies were also markedly reduced and their numbers remain depressed:

Gulf Fritillary on Bidens alba 20161217

White Peacocks seemed more resilient. After almost disappearing in 2018, their population has bounced back:

White Peacock 20161217

Zebra heliconians have also recovered and are again quite common:

Zebra Heliconian 03-20161225

A trio of rather similar species--  a Soldier:

Soldier 20161225


Queen butterfly 20161204


Monarch butterfly 20161231

Orb Weaver. Note that the two thick main support strands are reinforced with zigzagging strands of heavy silk. (It has been said that its pattern sometimes resembles a printed message, but I cannot read this one):

Spider in orb 20161229

Besides birds, butterflies, blooms and berries, I did see a few mammals. Among them, a curious Gray Squirrel in the front yard,,,

Gray Squirrel 04-20161224 

...a White-tailed Doe...

White-tailed Deer doe 04-20161219

...and a Feral Cat, which still wanders in the patch::

Feral cat 20161230

Among the more than 800 photos I processed, I found only one image of a fence. Reflections of a Great Egret and a neighbor's fence:

Great Egret at fence 20161226
= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


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

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