Saturday, February 23, 2013

A quiet morning on the wetlands

When we moved from New Mexico to South Florida in 2004, we resolved to spend all our winters there. Even after we purchased a condo in NE Illinois near our daughter's family we rarely ventured north after late October. This winter we scheduled an unusually late visit to celebrate our son-in-law's birthday, but it was marred by his serious accident in early November, when he broke both legs in a fall from a tree stand. 

In early January, while he was still bedridden, our daughter fell and broke two bones in her lower leg. So far we have spent most of the months of October through February in Illinois, helping them and our two young granddaughters. His parents flew in to assist, and this allowed us to return to Florida for a few weeks to host house guests at Christmas and again in late January. There appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, as this week our daughter was able to bear weight (but not drive for 5 more weeks), and her husband drove to his Chicago office after an absence of over 3 months. 

Here in Illinois we have been occupied with domestic tasks-- transporting the girls and the patients to and from school and medical appointments respectively, preparing meals (etc.), and have spent little time afield. I prepared this post in late December, but all of the above, plus the hatching of our local eaglet, my encounter with the snipes, and especially the Whooping Crane excitement caused me to postpone publication.  

Their two Tibetan Mastiffs have been good company. Weighing over 100 pounds each, they love the snow and cold.

Agramonte and Sagua 20130222

To top it off, there have been problems with Internet connectivity that had to remain a low priority. Luckily, this post remained in Blogger as an unpublished draft. By now the mockingbirds and cardinals are singing there, so although a bit late, it permits me to keep my commitment to post every week. It describes a mid-winter walk into the recovering Everglades mitigation area adjacent to our home:

We enjoyed another pink dawn before walking out on our local South Florida wetlands patch. This photo was taken about 15 minutes before sunrise on December 12, 2012.

Sunset HDR 20121212

Along the way there was a noticeable lack of bird sounds. Gray Catbirds, mostly out of sight, mewed softly.

Gray Catbird 20121213

This Blue Jay emitted a remarkable imitation of a Red-shouldered Hawk, then an Osprey call.

Blue Jay 20121213

From an overhead wire, a people-watching Eastern Phoebe peered down quizzically at a bird-watcher.

Eastern Phoebe 20121213

As if to brighten things up, a Common Yellowthroat chattered from the brush, then posed nicely out in the open.

Common Yellowthroat COREL 20121211

It was an unusually quiet morning for birding, quite a departure from the previous two weeks, when pelicans and spoonbills were present on the wetlands lake. At first it was moderately foggy, causing soft photos. I processed this one of an adult Little Blue Heron in black and white in an attempt to overcome the scattering of light by the atmospheric conditions.

Little Blue Heron monochrome 20121213

Predictably, American Kestrels have returned to spend the winter here. I witnessed an interesting interaction between two of them. I believe both were males, and they were probably competing for foraging territory. Taken at a distance, my photos are poor.

American Kestrels interacting 20121213

American Kestrels interacting 2-20121213

Following the encounter, one of the kestrels flew off, and the "winner" occupied the coveted top of an Australian Pine.

American Kestrel 20121211

A preoccupied Red-bellied Woodpecker shared a branch just beneath the kestrel.

Red-bellied Woodpecker on Australian Pine 20121213

The kestrel then settled on a wire in the abandoned utility easement, joining a Loggerhead Shrike that protested mildly. Coincidentally, the next day the wire, which has hosted scores of my photo subjects since 2004, was taken down by the utility company! (See my story about this wire here)

Kestrel and shrike 2-20121213

A Great Egret was fishing in a flooded area next to the lake.

Great Egret 20121213

An immature Little Blue Heron flew by,

Little Blue Heron immature 20121213

...as did this Ring-billed Gull, carrying something in its mouth.

Ring-billed Gull carrying object 20121213

Pied-billed Grebes were quite vocal, clucking like little chickens.

Pied-billed Grebe 20121213

On our way out, this Northern Mockingbird was reluctant to vacate a post at the entrance to our subdivision.

Northern Mockingbird 20121213

I think I can see my reflection in its eye.

My reflection in mockingbird's eye 20121213

Our back yard actually had quite a bit of action later that afternoon. The White Ibises were out in large numbers. Nearly all are now in full adult plumage.

White Ibises 3-20121211

My telephoto lens has such a limited field of view that I had to back up to fit this Great Blue Heron into the photo as it foraged along the margin of our lake.

Great Blue Heron 3-20121211

A couple of ibises "spoiled" this image of the heron.

Great Blue Heron with ibises 20121211

The heron continued to walk towards me, and I had to back up into my next door neighbor's yard for full-frame views.

Great Blue Heron 2-20121211

In the meantime, I tried not to disturb an Anhinga that was drying its wings on my next door neighbor's lawn.

Anhinga 2-20121211

The Anhinga did not take kindly to my approach, and assumed a posture that looked threatening. 

Anhinga 20121211

17 comments:

  1. Great post, Ken! I hope your son and DIL are recovering and back to normal soon. Great collection of birds and the sunrise shot is awesome. Oh, and I love the mastiff, they are gorgeous dogs! Have a great weekend!

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  2. so glad this post remained in your drafts! loved all of your images!

    so glad to hear things are getting better for your illinois family! love their big old pups, too!

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  3. What a wonderful series! I can almost hear that jay - they can rival the Mockingbird any day. Sure glad you saved your draft, it made my day better.

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  4. Great series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  5. What gorgeous shots! I really like the Yellowthroat, Kestrels, and the herons! Just beautiful!

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  6. What an incredible post...the sky photo is just breathtaking...and the commentary on the tremendously beautiful bird images is outstanding.

    Hope things with your daughter and SIL remain a progressive healing time for all. Oh and the Mastif dogs are very beautiful too.

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  7. a smorgasbord of wonderful photography; wonderful birds each one a delight

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  8. Great post, lovely photos of the heron!
    Well done!

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  9. Lots of great birds shots but I love the mastiffs with the snow. That was my favorite dog when we watched the dog show recently. Glad things are turning out. You didn't miss anything here in Florida. Boring warm winter.

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  10. As usual great photos and a great variety of birds. I think the inter-acting kestrels are really special.

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  11. Looks a lot like home to me...except the pictures are better. I'm glad to hear that the patients are recovering !

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  12. Oh a lovely surise and fabulous bird shots!

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  13. Great series so many different birds.

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  14. Great set of pictures - its always a good day when you have to walk away from the birds to get the better picture!!

    Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW.

    Stewart M - Melbourne

    PS; I love the insects flying around the tree-top kestrel

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  15. Another fine series of pictures Ken - you always seem to get a wonderful variety of birds on your birding days. The phoebe is a cracking pose and the Yellowthroat is just spot on, especially since i remeber them as very skulking? I'm wondering if the Ring-billed has swallowed fishing line and whatever was on it? Looks like that Mockingbird has seen you before the way it's not scared of your approach.

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  16. gorgeous birdshots you share. Love all of them. :)

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  17. Your photos are awesome. I found the link to your blog on the Pembroke Pines Eagle Nest website and follow it now. Have you ever heard of the Florida Keys Hawkwatch? Exceptional volunteers gather every year from Sept to Nov to count migrating raptors in Marathon, FL. It's really cool and you see lots of great birds. I'm not advertising anything - neither does the hawkwatch - I am just suggesting this because you are such a master birdwatcher. Julie.
    http://floridakeyshawkwatch.wordpress.com/

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