Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tales of two dooryards

Before departing from Illinois after our Alaska trip earlier this year, I took this photo from the front door of our condominium. Development of our community is nearly finished; the fallow land that had been our dooryard "birding patch" for the past 8 years has been fully "reclaimed." The view on July 10, 2014-- note the distant house with the red roof.

Randall Highlands improvements 20140710

On September 3, 2011, this pair of Sandhill Cranes with two colts roamed freely in our dooryard grassland.

Sandhill Cranes 20110903

A year ago, the remnant prairie that occupied three sides of our condo had been entirely replaced by new townhomes in various stages of construction. The only land not excavated was mostly filled and graded. On April 21, 2013 the foundation of the unit across from us had just been poured. Note the mound of dirt at the far left end of this view, with the red-roofed house behind it.

Front yard no longer a birding patch 20130422

Two months later, a pair of Sandhill Cranes were protesting from the big pile of topsoil, the only place left with any cover, as bulldozers ate away at the last of their territory. The dirt pile partially obscures the red-roofed house (July 1, 2013):

Sandhill Cranes 20130701

Back in Florida, we endured a month during which it rained every day.The heat, humidity and mosquitoes restricted our time outdoors. A few times we braved the conditions and ventured into our local woodlands before sunrise. No dawn chorus greeted us, as the land birds had finished breeding and were conserving energy as they molted.  

A Great Egret flew over our lake at sunrise.

Great Egret Flying 2-20091129

At neighboring Chapel Trail Nature Preserve, an Anhinga posed on a post.

Anhinga 20140718

When birding is slow, it is easier to turn to other subjects, such as this exotic Common Basilisk, also known as the "Jesus Christ Lizard" because it can run across the surface of the water.

Common Basilisk-  Basiliscus vittatus detail 20120611

The bird-watching was actually better from inside our home, as was watching the storm clouds gather at sunrise. High in the atmosphere, the African dust added a touch of gold to the palette.

Sunrise 20140808

Our pineapples had waited for us. Though small, they were very sweet.

Pineapples 20140713

An adult Wood Stork showed up across the lake on July 13 and flew directly to the edge of our back lawn. It was only present for one day.

Wood Stork in flight 2-20140713

Wood Stork 4-20140713

A Muscovy Duck drake gave us a sinister stare.

Muscovy Drake portrait 20140106

A Snowy Egret's "golden slippers" reflected in the still water.

Snowy Egret 4-20140715

A Green Heron tolerated my close approach as it waited patiently for a fish.

Green Heron 2-20140718

Several Tricolored Herons foraged along the lake margin.

Tricolored Heron 20140721

Little Blue Herons are more skittish. They usually fly as soon as I start to open the sliding glass door, but I did catch this one across the lake.

Little Blue Heron 20140722

This Little Blue Heron later did stay in place for a single shot. I was so close that I could not fit the entire bird in the frame.

Little Blue Heron 20140731

I liked how the morning light played on the plumage of this Snowy Egret.

Snowy Egret 4-20140722

The Annones (also called AnĂ³n, Sweetsop, Custard- or Sugar-apple; Haitians call it Cachiman cannelle) were ripening. Unbelievably sweet, they taste like a cross between a banana and something else. Some say a blend  of banana, pineapple, papaya and peach. I'll say it just tastes like an Anonne. Mark Twain called it "the most delicious fruit known to man."

Anon or Cherimoya, ready to eat 20140724

The Mangos ripened while we were in Alaska and Illinois, but our neighbor (whom we allowed to harvest them) gave us a couple of dozen from her own trees. Our Avocados all ripened at once, so we had to give away half of them.  No activity and plenty of tropical fruit-- no wonder I gained 10 pounds!

Avocados and Annones 20140814


  1. Sad that more land is being used for construction. It is happening everywhere. Nice shot of the Muscovy!

  2. just gorgeous birds. sorry for the 'reclaiming' of the area in illinois.

  3. Love all the photographs of Egrets and Heron. So sorry they are building on more land that nature has been on. Have a great weekend.

  4. Wonderful photos and a sad development with the land.

  5. The sandhill cranes saga brought tears to my eyes Ken. SO much natural habitat is destroyed by humans.

    Your bird photos are amazing as ever! They are all wonderful!
    Neat crops you grow in Florida, gosh I'd love to grow pineapples! I just bought one at the grocery store for 7 bucks, but our apples are in season and much cheaper!

  6. Wow, what a gorgeous set of photos - I look forward to following your blog!

    Sad about the cranes though. It breaks my heart to see similar things happening here in Australia. One of my recent posts is about a suburban reserve that has had a train track built through the centre of it, despite it being a hotspot for a variety of native marsupials. Maybe it will be possible to re-vegetate the housing estate land at some point?

  7. That is really sad about the Sandhill Cranes but they seem to have adapted. What choice do they have. Awesome array of birds here. I enjoyed your photos.

  8. It sounds like a healthy way to gain weight though, if that's possible -- at least there are some nutrients in that wonderful fruit. I would love to try those exotic ones.

    Amazed at the number of birds you saw during a "slow time". I'd be pretty happy about those spots.

    I'm sorry about the Illinois over-development. Bummer. Sometimes I hate "progress.a'

  9. Beautiful birds. So sad about the cranes and the development of all the land.

  10. Fantastic images this week Ken. I enjoyed reading what you had to 'say' about each image. I think my favorite this week [tho they are all super and I too love the light on the egret]...but the one with the two cranes on the pile made me giggle. They look like they're on the roof...somewhat.

    Thanks for sharing your link today at I'd Rather B Birdin'!!

  11. It's a tragedy. We are paving over the whole planet.

  12. Absolutely beautiful series of photos!

  13. How sad the sand hill cranes have lost their field! We have encroached too much!!!! Love your photos! beautiful shots of all the water birds. Really lovely. And how nice to learn about a new fruit! By the way, I have seen that avacados can be cut in half and frozen. Don't know if it works.

  14. I feel so bad for the Sandhill Cranes' loss.
    What a wonderful variety of birds seen in Florida. Gorgeous photos.

  15. Nice post. Its the unseen loss of these small patches that never catch the news, but do so much damage in the long run.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  16. Great Post! I learned something here. :) Thanks!

  17. Super post and some really amazing birds. My favourite is the Night Heron.

  18. Wonderful variety of birds, Ken! It Is sad that the Cranes are losing some habitat to more housing..Love the crane family..

  19. Beautiful images, Kenneth! The morning light shot is my favorite, but all are lovely. It's sad to see the landscape changing so much - you are blessed to have other places to go where you can still enjoy the wildlife from your back/front door.

  20. Wonderful images of beautiful birds. It makes me sad when construction is taking away the animals' territory.

  21. Fantastic photos! The one with the sunlight on the Egret was stunning!

  22. Habitat loss is never good - even if you know that there have been plans in place for more building. I hope there are still some wild places left close by for you to enjoy and for us to enjoy your photos.
    Your climate must be very similar to where I live because all those fruits grow around here - including the custard apple.

  23. Magnificent shots of nature's treasure and beautiful place!

    artmusedog and carol ( A Creative Harbor)

  24. What a pity the sandhill cranes have been evicted and you are being surrounded by housing.Your fruit is the same as in our sub-tropics except that our custard apples there are the size of basketballs from a good grower.
    Great shots of this large selection of birds.

  25. Me again - there are some famous Tarzan movies that have Kookaburras laughing in the background - wrong continent me thinks!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  26. wow- fabulous photos.
    Too bad about the eviction of the cranes...
    love all your bluebird shots!


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