Thursday, November 16, 2017

Unexpected spectacles

Just as no two sunrises are ever alike, I never know what to expect any given morning on the Wounded Wetlands adjacent to our south Florida home--

The full Moon setting on February 3, 2017:

Full Worm Moon setting 20170313

The Pine Bank, before Hurricane Irma, which struck  on September 10, 2017

Pine Bank at sunrise 20170208

Pine Bank at sunrise 20170313

After Hurricane Irma, on November 8, 2017, the Pine Bank has a lower profile, as many of the tall Australian Pines have been blown down:

Pine Bank at sunrise 20171108

On November 5, 2017, in the pre-dawn I thought this heron had captured a large snake, but it was an amphiuma. I watched as it dispatched it and then swallowed it whole.  

Two-toed amphiumas (Amphiuma means) can grow to lengths of 3 feet or more—one of the largest salamander species in the world. Two-toed amphiumas have tiny, nearly useless front and hind legs with two toes on each leg. Reference:  Giant Salamanders of Florida

Great Blue Heron with Amphiuma 01-20171105

Great Blue Heron with Amphiuma 03-20171105

Great Blue Heron with Amphiuma 04-20171105

Great Blue Heron with Amphiuma 07-20171105

One never knows when there may be an opportunity to learn something new. I noticed that Palm Warblers were catching insects attracted to the sparse blossoms which towered above a patch of Alligator Flag. 

This plant will flourish only when there is a constant supply of water. If its roots dry out for too long they will perish. In the Everglades, they signal the location of the water holes which are kept open through the dry season by alligators which created and maintained them over the years:

Alligator Flag in bloom HDR 20151120

Alligator Flag flowers HDR 20160916

Their tiny but attractive flowers resemble those of the Bird of Paradise, a related plant (along with other members of the arrowroot family, which includes bananas and cannas).

Alligator Flag flowers invite bees and other pollinators to trigger an explosive "rat-trap" pollination mechanism which momentarily snaps down on the insect. In a split second the flower collects pollen brought in and deposits new pollen to be distributed. Having completed its task, the flower releases the visitor and prevents entry to new insects. For a more complete and scientific description, visit this link: The Alligator Flag is a Snappy Wildflower.  

Although I am primarily looking for birds, I like to be surprised when mammals show up. I was trying to get a photo of a warbler when this Raccoon suddenly walked out on the path in front of me. I stood very still as he tried to get a better look at me. He walked almost up to my feet before I shood him: 

Raccoon 20120419

Raccoon 3-20120419

Three young White-tailed deer, one a single-pronged spike-buck, stared at me from the end of the road:

White-tailed Deer 01-20170127

Over the fence she goes!

White-tailed doe jumping 04-20150123

On November 10 I found a Grasshopper Sparrow, only my third sighting here over the 10 years I have walked in this patch. This is not a rare species, but it is very small and secretive. It favors short grass such as we have along the gravel road. It persisted for three days in a spot on the right side just ahead:

Storm Clouds 20171110

Grasshopper Sparrow:


Grasshopper Sparrow 01-20171109

Grasshopper Sparrow 04-20171109

I was busy taking a photo of the Grasshopper Sparrow and ignored the cries of two egrets just to my left. When I looked up, this big healthy-looking male Bobcat was sitting there staring at me, about 20 paces away. The noisy egrets circled and flew low over the cat.

He stood up as I took this photo, then walked calmly away. I wondered whether he had tried to catch one of the egrets along the lake shore and they distracted him so much that he failed to notice me. Click on photo for larger view and more images:

Bobcat 01-20171110

He licked his chops, perhaps thinking about how tasty that pesky egret might have been:

Bobcat 08-20171110

He paid me little heed, making me feel like an invisible spectator to one of nature's wonders!

Bobcat 06-20171110

Bobcat 07-20171110

Bobcat 09-20171110



= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to FENCES AROUND THE WORLD by Gosia

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James

Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

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, November 9, 2017

Crops & Clips: American Kestrel

I grew up calling them Sparrow Hawks or Killy Hawks, although they are falcons, more closely related genetically to parrots than to true hawks. The American Kestrel is the only representative of the kestrel family native to North America. Their prey consists mostly of insects and small animals such as lizards, snakes and mice, although they are capable of catching small birds.

American Kestrel 06-20171103

An American Kestrel munches on a dragonfly in our local south Florida wetlands:

American Kestrel eating dragonfly 04-20160322

Another seems to be waving"Hello!" One of its calls is a prolonged "killy-killy-killy...," hence its nickname:

American Kestrel HDR 02-20160307

They are often seen perching on utility wires:

American Kestrel male 3-20151220

The above photos show adult males with blue wings, while those of the larger female are brown:

American Kestrel female 20140301

The male's tail is more colorful. It is often spread and bobbed up and down after landing:

American Kestrel 3-20160109

This kestrel is stretching its wing:

Kestrel stretching 20101210

An American Kestrel in flight:

American Kestrel IL20101108

Male American Kestrel Flying

Although sometimes harassed by jays and mockingbirds, I have seen them roosting peacefully with other bird species, even a Mourning Dove (I missed that photo, which I would have captioned "Make Peace, Not War")...

A Blue Jay threatens:

Blue Jay and Kestrel 3-20101210

A Northern Mockingbird has some unkind words to say:

Mockingbird vs kestrel 20120222

This Loggerhead Shrike co-exists:

Kestrel and shrike 20120224

A pair of Northern Flickers find safety in numbers:

Flickers and kestrel 20120218

My jackpot shot-- A Belted Kingfisher and a pair of shrikes:

Kestrel kingfisher and shrikes 20111127

Kestrel hunting style includes "kiting, " by facing into a headwind and remaining motionless in the sky. This makes it easier for it to spot the movements of prey:

American Kestrel kiting HDR 05-20161011

This falcon on a fence is a Merlin, a bit larger than a kestrel:

Falcon On Fence 20081211

This Merlin exhibits a single vertical line under its eye, while the Kestrel has a bolder mark and a second parallel line posterior to its white cheek:

Merlin 4-20130209

This past weekend, rain threatened as Mary Lou and I got out early to visit the Chapel Trail Nature Preserve:

 Rain over Chapel Trail 20171104

We then led a bird walk in the wetlands adjacent to SW Regional Library in nearby Pembroke Pines. It rained on and off and only one participant showed up. He is enjoying a rainbow which appeared over the boardwalk:

Rainbow over LibraryWetlands 20171104


= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to FENCES AROUND THE WORLD by Gosia

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James

Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

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

________________________________________________