Thursday, November 14, 2019

A gathering of grackles

Boat-tailed Grackles spend much of their non-breeding season in same-sex flocks which roost together in the wetlands as well as suburban parks and back yards. Males continuously compete for dominance which intensifies later in the winter as breeding season approaches. 

The top alpha male will reign over a harem of a dozen or more females. They engage in displays which are mostly bluffing and bullying but may become violent. Older males usually are the ones challenging each other, while those younger than two years of age often gather around the competitors. Older adult males have iridescent plumage while younger birds may be dull black or even a bit brownish.

This past week I watched flocks fly in from the Everglades preserve. Many gathered along the shore of the lake in our local wetlands patch. Two groups of 8-10 formed on rock islands in the lake as the alpha males asserted their dominance:

Two rival males pointed their bills skyward while less aggressive adults and younger birds looked on::

Boat-tailed Grackles 01-20191108 

Boat-tailed Grackles 06-20191108

The alpha male fluffed his feathers after his rival flew off:

Boat-tailed Grackles 07-20191108

Long legs are an adaptation to the grackle's feeding style, as it often wades in the shallow water along the shore, probing the vegetation as it searches for invertebrates or anything edible:

Boat-tailed Grackle 01-20191108

Boat-tailed Grackle 02-20191108

Non-alpha males seem to get along with each other:

Boat-tailed Grackles 05-20191108

Boat-tailed Grackles 04-20191108

Boat-tailed Grackles 02-20191108

During breeding season the subservient males will gather around the periphery of the breeding colony which is guarded by one (or sometimes two or three) dominant males. They will follow females who leave the perimeter and often successfully mate with them if not detected by the harem master.

More lakeside confrontations, between two adults...

Boat-tailed Grackles 01-20191018

...and sometimes just to assert dominance over an immature male:

Boat-tailed Grackles 01-20180111

The Moon is backdrop for a singing male:

Boat-tailed Grackle 02-20170413

Female Boat-tailed Grackles are brown and smaller, looking almost like a  different species:

Boat-tailed Grackle female 20190928

This female has closed her nictitating membrane, or "third  eyelid:"

Boat-tailed Grackle female 3-20190928

We have had some beautiful sunrises. Our only open view is to the west, over the wetlands lake, so we see the play of light on the opposite horizon. This is the pine bank about 10 minutes before sunrise:

Pine Bank before sunrise 04-20101106

To the north, a Great Egret is foraging:

Great Egret before sunrise 03-20191106

 A closeup of the egret in poor light:

Great Egret before sunrise 20191106

As we entered in darkness, a Tropical Orb Weaver was tending her web, illuminated by my flashlight:

Tropical Orb Weaver in flashlight 20191022



Tropical Orb Weaver in flashlight 20191024

Closeups with my pocket camera (
Canon PowerShot SX700 HS with 30x Optical Zoom hand-held, which I also use for my landscape and habitat photos):

Tropical Orb Weaver in flashlight 2-20191025

Tropical Orb Weaver 20191105


This spider is nocturnal and it takes down its web before sunrise. I was amazed to see how quickly it gathered large sections of the web, winding the silken threads into a tight ball which it promptly ate. The web disappeared in less than one minute. Only the main supporting cable remained. It led from the ground up to a tree branch where the spider stores the prey it catches during the night. This practice conserves food and provides energy for the next night's work. 

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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

________________________________________________

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Crops & Clips: Flashback to November, 2016

The month of November, 2016 started on a sad note. MaryLou's oldest brother who lived in Tucson, Arizona was recuperating from complications which followed a leg fracture. We planned to visit him and made flight reservations, also hoping to do some birding while out there. His condition suddenly deteriorated the day before our scheduled arrival. He had turned gravely ill with pneumonia and sepsis.

We flew out the first day of November and visited him that evening in a rehabilitation facility. He was very weak but alert and involved with events surrounding the World Series and the presidential election. We stayed at nearby Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and visited with him the next morning. We planned to spend more time with him, but he passed away that night. 

We had reservations to return to Florida on November 4 and had time to briefly visit Sweetwater Wetlands and the Arizona-Sonora  Desert Museum before flying home.

I had to pore over nearly 1,000 processed photos from November to highlight favorite memes, such as critters (plenty of birds!), skies, reflections, flowers, fences and scenes which speak for themselves. 


My first images were from Sweetwater Wetlands. Our visit was much too brief, given the circumstances.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds flew overhead:

Yellow-headed Blackbirds 20161103

Yellow-headed Blackbirds 2-20161103

The Red-naped Sapsucker is the western counterpart of our Yellow-bellied Sapsucker:

Red-naped Sapsucker 04-20161103

Red-naped Sapsucker 03-20161103

The Verdin inhabits thorny shrubs in the arid lands of southern Arizona:

Verdin 091-20161103

Long ears serve to dissipate body heat of the Desert Cottontail:

Desert Cottontail 02-20161103

The next morning, rain was threatening when we visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, but most of it evaporated before reaching the ground:

Arizona-Sonora Museum HDR 02-20161103

Arizona-Sonora Museum HDR 01-20161103

Tucson desert HDR 20161103

Cactus Wrens were common:

Cactus Wren 20161103

Cactus Wren 2-20161103

Butterflies included a Common Checkered-Skipper:

Common Checkered-Skipper male 2-20161103

Back home in Florida, our winter resident birds were settling in. Among them was a fairly rare Bell's Vireo:

Bell's Vireo 6-20161107

Marsh Wrens appear irregularly during the winter months:

Marsh Wren 03-20161119

Eastern Phoebes stay for the winter:

Eastern Phoebe 20161119

This phoebe is dwarfed by the heavy guard rail fence along the "road to nowhere:"

Eastern Phoebe 20161110

Clay-colored Sparrows made their first (and so far only) appearance in our local wetlands:

Clay-colored Sparrow 02-20161117

Clay-colored Sparrow 01-20161117

Wintering Palm Warblers were numerous:

Palm Warbler 20161117

Swamp Sparrows were reliably present but few in number:

Swamp Sparrow 08-20161121

Swamp Sparrow 05-20161121

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird:

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 20161123

Sharp-shinned Hawk:

Sharp-shinned Hawk DARK 02-20161114

Dark morph of a Short-tailed Hawk:

Short-tailed Hawk in flight HDR 01-20161121

The local pair of Bald Eagles, after losing their first brood earlier in the year, had successfully reared one eaglet which remained dependent well into September. Now they were refurbishing their nest in preparation for the new season:

Bald Eagles 0909 more interaction 20161128

A large male Bobcat was visiting, probably meeting up with one of the resident females:

Bobcat crop 01-20161123

Zebra heliconian at the flower of a Firebush (Hamelia patens):

Zebra heliconian on Firebush 20161113


A "mirrored sunrise" on November 27 is an illusion caused by convergence  of the parallel rays of the rising sun on the opposite (western)  horizon. Conditions are best when the sky is clear overhead but the tops of storm clouds over the Atlantic Ocean break up the light to form the rays:

 Mirrored Sunrise HDR 20161127

The sky was clearing up after a rain storm on November 28:


Sky clearing HDR 20161125

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

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

 Linking to Fences Around the World by Gosia

________________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Crops & Clips: Birding back yard and beyond

Sometimes I obtain better views of birds in my own backyard than of those I go out of my way to see.

A female Anhinga has been spending time just loafing lakeside. Rather than shoot through the windows, I stalked furtively around the bushes in hopes that she would stay put while I focused my camera on her. She registered her annoyance at my intrusion by inflating her throat (gular) pouch and waving her head about wildly:

Anhinga female 03-20191014

 Anhinga female 02-20191014

I didn't want her to go, but once she saw me there was no changing her mind, and across the lake she flew:

Anhinga female 05-20191014

A pair of Egyptian Geese feel right at home in our yard. The female is in the foreground:

Egyptian Geese 01-20190908

Egyptian Geese 02-20190908

The Little Blue Heron is especially shy and skittish. Sometimes it flies away as soon as it sees me looking out the window. Our lawn slopes down to the lake shore and the only way I can get a view of its legs is to stalk to a point along the shore some distance away. More often than not, the heron gets alarmed and flees:

Little Blue Heron 02-20190910

Little Blue Heron 03-20190910

Luckily I snapped a shot as it took flight and then settled down not too far away:

Little Blue Heron 02-20190908

Little Blue Heron 05-20190908

Looking north at more storm clouds, just after one passed by and produced a double rainbow:

BackYard rain shower 2019

BackYard rain shower 2-2019

In our local wetlands, Gray Catbirds have arrived and will stay here for the winter:

Gray Catbird 02-20191012

Brown Thrashers can give you a fierce look-- I was afraid of them as a child after I disturbed one of their nests and was nearly attacked:

Brown Thrasher 01-20191017

Along with the catbird and thrasher, a Northern Mockingbird rounds out my full quota of the Mimic Thrushes (family Mimidae), a Northern Mockingbird on a fence post. This one has a bill deformity-- it has crossed mandibles (click on photo to enlarge):

Northern Mockingbird cross-billed 01-20190925

Painted Buntings are always a treat to see in the wild. Even though my photos are not very good, I prefer them to feeder shots. This male was in a Pond Cypress:

Painted Bunting male 2-20191011

Another peeked out from deep in  the foliage of a Brazilian Pepper:

Painted Bunting male 01-20191015

The green females  are also so beautiful, and this one is out in the open:

Painted Bunting female 05-20191015

Painted Bunting female 04-20191015

Common as they may be, I often find Blue Jays reluctant to pose. This one was perched in warm early morning light:

Blue Jay 01-20191017

Along the path, a White-tailed doe and her yearling fawn were surprised to see me.

White-tail yearling and doe 20191017

The fawn pranced past me on the other side  of the track...

White-tailed yearling fawn 01-20191015

...but the adult hesitated before moving by in a full gallop:

White-tailed doe 04-20191015


= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

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

 Linking to Fences Around the World by Gosia

________________________________________________

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

________________________________________________