Thursday, July 18, 2019

Halloween Pennants and their enemies

We have had a bumper crop of Halloween Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis eponina) here in south Florida. This colorful species is found in most of the eastern 2/3 of the lower 48 States. It flutters almost like a butterfly and is an important food source for many predators up the food chain.

Halloween Pennant - Celithemis eponina 02-20190325

As do other members of the Celethemis (Pennant) group, they typically perch on the top of a stalk or twig, looking  like a flag or pennant:

Halloween Pennant 20160823

Halloween Pennant HDR 20160524

MaryLou looked out of the back window of our home and saw this immature Green Heron next to the lake, stalking furtively through our lawn. At first I was not sure what it was doing and then realized it was catching and eating Halloween Pennants:

Green Heron immature stalking 01-20190710

Green Heron immature stalking 02-20190710

Green Heron immature stalking 03-20190710

Green Heron immature stalking 04-20190710

This dragonfly lays its eggs in the water amid floating vegetation in our lakes and canals. Here is a pair of Halloween Pennants copulating:

Halloween Pennants 20121006

Grackles are especially fond of these creatures, as are many other birds. A female Boat-tailed Grackle chases after the dragonfly:

Boat-tailed Grackle female and dragonflies 20190420

She rushes over to feed the prize to her hungry fledgling:

Boat-tailed Grackle female and dragonflies 3-20190420

Boat-tailed Grackle female and dragonflies 4-20190420

Boat-tailed Grackle female and dragonflies 5-20190420

This Cattle Egret was capturing and eating Halloween Pennants:

Cattle Egret hunting Halloween Pennants 20130322

Cattle Egret hunting Halloween Pennants 4-20130322

To the north, the Halloween Pennant is active during the warmer months, but it is present all year round in south Florida. 

Our small falcons feast on them. Merlins and American Kestrels visit us during the winter and specialize in plucking them out of the air with their talons. 

Here, an American Kestrel, eats one:

Kestrel eating dragonfly 20101210

Spiders catch many Halloween Pennants:

Dragonfly and spider 04-20140323

The wrapping proceeds 2-20150325

Loggerhead Shrikes also partake in the feast:

Loggerhead Shrike with Halloween Pennant 20181204

Halloween Pennants seem to have expressive faces as they turn their heads and look about. Depending upon how the light catches their compound eyes, they can look green or red or a combination of both: 

Dragonfly Face 20090416

Dragonfly RedEye 20090416

Halloween Pennant face 20150607

Looking at our world with a wider lens, this is the canal which separates our populated subdivision from the Wounded Wetlands:

Looking south at canal 01-20190630

A quiet corner of the canal is a favored place for the dragonflies to deposit their eggs...

Quiet corner of canal 20190630

...and where this adult Green Heron pursues them:

Green Heron 03-20190331

Green Heron 01-20190331

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Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

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Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

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Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display
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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Distant raptor! Reach for the...

My Kowa spotting scope has been gathering dust the past few years since I started photographing birds with a DSLR camera and long lens. Before I ever considered buying a big camera, I tried digiscoping, shooting photos with my pocket camera through the lens of my scope. At the time, I lived in New Mexico and obtained most of my images through the front windows of our home.

This Ash-throated Flycatcher raised a family in one of my nest boxes:

Ash-throated Flycatcher

A Blue Grosbeak perched atop a juniper tree in the front yard:

Blue Grobsbeak

Am Evening Grosbeak devoured sunflower seeds from our feeder:

Evening Grosbeak male FEB03

My simple digiscopic photo equipment consisted of the spotting scope, a point-and-shoot 2 MP (yes, that 's right only 2 megapixels!) Canon PowerShot A40 camera, and a Durkee's spice bottle with the bottom cut to the size of the camera lens housing.

Digiscope Overview

Digiscope setup Insert Camera

Our house, at 7000 feet elevation in the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque, had a great view of the wooded front yard:

Cedar Crest Home in the Snow

This contraption worked well when deployed in a stationary location with birds that flew in nearby and settled down. However it was a clumsy arrangement in the field, so I usually settled for binocular and scope views without photos. The scope itself is quite heavy, but this was not a problem when I could drive up into the mountains and set it up along the road. 

After we moved to Florida I learned the hard way that lugging such a heavy piece of equipment several miles in midsummer heat was very difficult. Then I started using a telescopic lens and DSLR camera. The scope is still useful on the boardwalk during our nature walks, or for viewing the nearby Bald Eagle nest.

The long lens has been a very convenient replacement for my spotting scope. This is the approximate binocular view of a large raptor roosting about a half mile away across the lake in the Wounded Wetlands (420 mm lens on Canon 80D DSLR corresponds roughly to the view through 8-9x binocular):

Osprey Bino View 20190709

I was not certain whether this was an Osprey or a Bald Eagle, or maybe a vulture. Blown up on the camera's LCD screen or back home on the computer it was clearly an Osprey. The cropped image is poor, but good enough to identify it as an Osprey:

Osprey CROP Scope view 20190709

Binocular view of a small falcon about 1/4 mile away. Is it a kestrel or a Merlin?:

Merlin distant bino view 20180214

Long lens confirms the ID, a Merlin:

Merlin distant 02-20180214

Enough of this long distance stuff. I have gotten some nice close shots these past couple of weeks. Is this Loggerhead Shrike trying to tell me something?

Loggerhead Shrike 03-20190702

OK, he has my attention!

Loggerhead Shrike portrait 02-20190702

Gray Squirrel freezes as I walk up:

Gray Squirrel 20190630

I think I can see my reflection in its eye!

Gray Squirrel portrait 20190630

Butterflies are scarce, but Halloween Pennant dragonflies are numerous:

Halloween Pennant - Celethemis eponina 20190702

A birder from The Czech Republic contacted me and wanted to walk in the Wounded Woodlands. I tried to explain to him that they are not very productive, especially at this time of year. I suggested other places he should visit to make better use of his limited time in the US. 

He came anyway and seemed to enjoy identifying the local birds. He too is a "patch" birder and has found over 40 species in a small area there over the years. We discussed the value of learning about the habits of common species and the thrill of seeing the occasional unexpected visitor. I shot this photo of a rainbow just as he was identifying a bird very familiar to him, a European Starling:

Petr Soukal 20190629

This White-tailed Doe has a small antler next to her right ear:

White-tailed Doe with small antler 20190626

The doe reflected nicely as she walked across the flooded prairie:

White-tailed Deer 01-20190626


= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

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

 ________________________________________________

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