Thursday, March 23, 2017

Crops & Clips: Two Vireos

As usual, we got out early, about a half hour before sunrise, and hurried the half mile to the lake. Mary Lou had her customary head start as I stopped to take pictures. The full "Worm Moon" would set at almost the same time as sunrise, so it couldn't get much "fuller!"

Full Moon setting 20170312


Moon over wetlands before sunrise 20170312

The next morning (February 13) we had time to wait for the Moon sink into the lake:

Full Worm Moon setting 20170313

Luckily, the clouds held off a few more minutes and did not spoil the event!

Pine Bank at sunrise 20170313


A Northern Mockingbird sang from a guard rail along the unpaved road:


 Northern Mockingbird 20170311

Here in south Florida there is no "spring chorus" of bird song as we had when I was a kid in New Jersey. The mockingbirds, cardinals and Mourning Doves all are singing in the dark as we walk out to the wetlands. Soon, Carolina Wrens and White-winged Doves join in before the jays and grackles try to spoil the symphony.

Our most common resident vireo sings all winter long. It is also a favorite photographic subject, although often very hard to locate. The White-eyed Vireo's song may sound tantalizingly close, but it has the habit of hiding in the thickest shrubbery and moving slowly and methodically through branches and leaves, in search of insects. It has provided me the best photo opportunities when I was not even looking for it.

On February 15, 2017 I was trying to track down a wren which was scolding from the middle of a patch of Lantana. I was moving about to get a better view when suddenly I saw a small bird sitting very quietly, only about 10 feet in front of me. It was in deep shade and I had not adjusted my exposure settings, so my images needed extra processing (layering of three different exposures of the original RAW files) to bring out the colors:

Birds cannot smile, frown or wrinkle their brows, but it seemed to be asking: "What are you doing here?"

White-eyed Vireo 01-20170215

White-eyed Vireo 02-20170215

White-eyed Vireo 06-20170215

Oh, those eyes!

White-eyed Vireo close 08-20170215

This White-eyed Vireo was intently searching for spiders out in the open and was not aware of my presence until about 1 second after I pointed my camera at it (February 16, 2017):

White-eyed Vireo 20170216

White-eyed Vireo 2-20170216

In this very same patch of Lantana, the White-eyed Vireo sometimes has an unusual companion which has attracted attention of many other birders. I'm not sure whether it has been the same individual, but a rather rare Bell's Vireo first showed up in this location in October, 2009, and then in three out of the past four winters. It usually arrived in October or November and lingered into January. This winter it appeared on November 7, 2016 and I saw it last on February 26, 2017. Over the past ten years there have been only a few other scattered reports of this species in our entire County.

Bell's Vireo is a plain-looking bird. Often in the company of a White-eyed Vireo, it is noticeably smaller and much more active, flitting from branch to branch, continually flicking its tail and wings. It has blue legs, faint whitish eye rings and a "spectacle" mark across its forehead, one prominent white wing bar and a shorter one above it. I have over two hundred images of this species in my archives, beginning with this, my first ever sighting, on October 23, 2009:

Bell's Vireo  6-20091023

Bell's Vireo's breeding range is generally in the central and southwestern US. It migrates through Texas and Mexico to usual wintering grounds along the Pacific coasts of Mexico and Central America. A few wander eastward to spend the cold months along the gulf coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

October 31, 2015:

Bell's Vireo 3-20151031


 
December 22, 2015:

Bell's Vireo 2-20151222


November 2, 2016:

Bell's Vireo 6-20161107

February 23, 2017:

Bell's Vireo in Trema 02-20170223

On the same day, eating Trema berries:



Bell's Vireo eating Trema 20170223


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Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES 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

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Crops and Clips - Signs of spring

The March full Moon, AKA "Worm Moon," creeps out from behind a cloud as we set out into the cool air a half hour before sunrise:

Moon in Clouds 20170313

Spring is a time for departures as well as arrivals. New leaves and winged seeds appear on the Red Maples:

Red Maple leafing out 20170228

Winter residents are packing their bags and saying goodbye. We suddenly miss the rattling calls of the last  Belted Kingfisher...

Belted Kingfisher 2-20170214

...and the bobbing tails of Palm Warblers :

Palm Warbler - western spring 2-20170313

We will especially miss our wintering Painted Buntings. This male surprised me out in the wetlands by suddenly landing within camera range and sitting for a few seconds, just enough for me to obtain a portrait:

Painted Bunting 02-20170301

Yellow-rumped Warblers gather into flocks and soon disappear:

Yellow-rumped Warbler 2-20170217

Some Black-and-White Warblers overwinter but their ranks are swollen by new arrivals who join them for a mass exodus:

Black-and-White Warbler 2-20170309

Most migrants are seen for a few days as they simply pass through on their way north. Northern Parula warblers arrive early:

Northern Parula 20170216

Resident birds undergo changes. Great Egrets sport plumes and the bald flesh in front of their eyes turns green:

Great Egret 01-20170309

Male Red-winged Blackbirds stake out their territories in anticipation of the arrival of the females:

Red-winged Blackbird 20170312

Yellow-crowned Night-Herons begin displaying before prospective mates:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron male display 01-20170302

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron displaying 20170226

Our local Bald Eagles are nurturing two eaglets. They are a month or more behind schedule, as they lost their first two nestlings last year and raised a second brood. They were busy feeding and training the lone surviving eaglet well into September. This is probably why they delayed nesting by 4-6 weeks, but their two new chicks are growing rapidly:

Bald Eaglets 20170311

A mother Virginia Opossum guards her half-grown youngster next to our neighbor's fence:

Virginia Opossum 01-20170313

The little one seeks safety in a tree:

Young Virginia Opossum 03-20170313


Thank you all for your expressions of condolences on the passing of Mary Lou's brother, Richard. She has lost three of her five brothers in the space of three years, beginning with Larry, who was my high school and college classmate, and Jack, who died only a few months ago. Sorry if I have been slow in catching up on correspondence but we so appreciate your concern.

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Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES 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

________________________________________________



Thursday, March 9, 2017

Making time for birding

Like many birders, I try to make time to see birds at every opportunity when not engaged in higher priority activities. This was the case earlier this week when we received word that Mary Lou's brother Richard was admitted to the hospital and had taken a bad turn. We drove almost 300 miles to Leesburg to visit him, and stayed at a hotel in Lake Mary, a community in The Villages. We spent the better part of two days with him and family members, getting back to our hotel late in the day.

Knowing of our passion, Mary Lou's younger brother Ray had researched the Internet and, early on our first morning, led us to a couple of birding spots. The first was Paradise Park, only about a half mile from the hotel. We had little time to spare but spent an interesting half hour, during which time I logged 12 bird species.

The sun was rising out over the lake, creating very difficult photographic conditions. I rescued a few poorly exposed images, among them...

A flock of five Long-billed Dowitchers with a Lesser Yellowlegs in the foreground:

Long-billed Dowitchers with Lesser Yellowlegs 02-20170306

A poor shot of the dowitchers, which are large sandpipers with substantial straight bills:

Long-billed Dowitchers 20170306

Three Lesser Yellowlegs...

Lesser Yellowlegs 20170306

...which took flight:

Lesser Yellowlegs in flight 20170306

Two small flocks of American White Pelicans soared over the lake and then 14 joined together in the sky. Appearing ungainly on land, they are majestic in flight:

American White Pelicans 02-20170306

American White Pelicans 20170306

On the way back to the hospital, Ray pointed out Veterans' Memorial Park a small park right next door to our hotel. That evening, just before sunset, we walked out from the parking lot and visited it.

Beautiful old Bald Cypress trees bordered the far side of the small lake:

Old Cypress trees 2-20170307

A Tufted Titmouse was singing vigorously:

Tufted Titmouse 20170306

It flew down to the ground and poked around in the leaves:

Tufted Titmouse 04-20170306

Tufted Titmouse 03-20170306

Tufted Titmouse 02-20170306

It was getting dark but I was able to get some of my best shots ever of two pairs of Lesser Scaup in the lake. I loved the way the low light played on the ripples. This is one of the males:

Lesser Scaup male 03-20170306

Female Lesser Scaup:

Lesser Scaup female 20170306

We returned the next morning just after sunrise. The old cypress trees cast beautiful reflections:

Old Cypress trees 20170307

We were amazed to find two Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in the small pond, next to a busy highway:

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks 20170307

A Hooded Merganser photo-bombed the whistling-ducks:

Merganser photobombs Whistlers 20170317

The merganser paddled over nearer to us...

 Hooded Merganser 04-20170307

...where it joined another, possibly its mate:

Hooded Mergansers 02-20170307

They swam out under a bridge into a larger lake. The effect of early morning sun and the reflection of the hotel created a dazzling effect:

Hooded Mergansers 03-20170307

Before we departed, one last scan revealed a Limpkin!

Limpkin 02-20170207


An Anhinga dried its wings in a cypress tree next to the hotel. The wall is my substitute for the fence meme:

 Anhinga in Cypress 20170307

In the space of only a little more than a half hour, we recorded 24 bird species. See the eBird checklist at this link: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S35021519

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES 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

________________________________________________