Thursday, September 12, 2019

A gathering of Killdeers

When wild creatures exhibit unexpected behaviors it triggers our curiosity and challenges us to understand the reason. It's tempting to interpret things anthropomorphically, in terms of what we humans do. (Ironically, we often find it more difficult to justify some of the actions of our own species.)

While in New Mexico I remember a large raucous flock of American Crows clustered in a tree along the Rio Grande River. I noticed that all their beaks were pointing towards one spot, occupied by a Bald Eagle.

Here in our local south Florida wetlands preserve, a few Blue Jays suddenly assembled in a treetop and within minutes their urgent calls attracted a large flock.  I assumed they were mobbing a raptor, most commonly a Red-shouldered Hawk or maybe a Merlin.

However I could find no trace of such a predator. Then they stopped calling and quickly dispersed. Was this actually some kind of readiness drill, a way to muster up all the jays within earshot to assure they will be prepared for a real emergency? Or was it simply a neighborhood social gathering, a "meet and greet" occasion?

Blue Jays 01-20180410

It is understandable when a Blue Jay confronts an American Kestrel...

Blue Jay and Kestrel 2-20101210

Blue Jay and Kestrel 3-20101210

...but why did this one attack a Great Egret?

Blue Jay attacks egret 02-20160915

Blue Jay attacks egret 03-20160915

This week on September 7, as we were walking out in dark twilight before sunrise, I heard Killdeers calling up ahead. It appeared that a pair had been visited by an unwelcome interloper. The two ganged up on it (him?) and appeared to drive it (him?) away:

Killdeer intruder and pair 0607AM 03-20190907

The next morning I was surprised to see that three Killdeers were confronting a fourth one whose puffed-up feathers made it appear bigger than them. It engaged in a brief physical encounter with one of the three and one flew off-- was it the interloper?:

Killdeer gathering 05-20190908

Killdeer gathering 01-20190908

The remaining three took flight, calling loudly. Was this a victory lap?

 Killdeer in flight 04-20190908

Killdeer in flight 01-20190908

Of course I have no earthly idea as to how to interpret what I saw. The sexes are similar, it is not this species' normal breeding period, I do not know if a bonded pair or a family was involved in the encounter, but it certainly was unusual and interesting! (Also, the grammar is confusing-- a couple of Killdeers or a flock of Killdeer?)

The rising sun gilded the distant clouds over the southern horizon, providing a backdrop for a line of storm clouds passing closer by:

Storm clouds to south 20190825

The view to the north before sunrise:

View to north before sunrise 20190826

Manicured lawns and uniform white metal fences distinguish the "civilized" side of the canal from the Wounded Wetlands to the right:

196th Avenue Canal 02-20190825

Ovenbirds usually arrive in good numbers by the second week in September, but I only saw one and it was very shy and retiring. This was the best I could do. Luckily I was able to focus on its eye:

Ovenbird 01-20190909

Among the warblers, the American Redstart can be most exasperating to see and photograph. This one  darted rapidly and erratically through the dense foliage of a Live Oak, flashing the bright patches on his wings and tail. This imperfect photo of an adult male offers a glimpse of his dynamic beauty:

American Redstart 01-20190909

A female American Redstart (or first year male which is nearly identical) provided me with a better view. She is yellow where the male is red or orange, and is quite beautiful:

American Redstart 03-20190911

As you may have surmised from the foregoing discussion, birding was slow this past week. I missed reaching my "Minimum Daily Requirement" of 20 species almost every morning. However, migration should pick up in the coming days. In  the meantime, some non-avain critters attracted my attention.

The Halloween Pennant, true to its name, chooses the tip of the highest perch:

Halloween Pennant - Celithemis eponina 02-20190907

This habit was the undoing of this pennant, as an immature Green Heron offered it a resting place on the tip of its bill. The heron seemed to anticipate the outcome as the dragonfly approached:

Green Heron catches dragonfly 01-20190906

Green Heron catches dragonfly 02-20190906

Green Heron catches dragonfly 04-20190906

Despite Florida's fame for harboring a large number of exotic plant and animal species, Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia) dragonflies have the honor of being our only introduced dragonfly. The male is brilliant red:

Scarlet Skimmer - Crocothemis servilia 02-20190907

The female Scarlet Skimmer is cloaked in gold:

Scarlet Skimmer  - Crocothemis servilia possible 20190104

Dragonlets are small skimmers. This is the Band-winged Dragonlet, male...

Band-winged Dragonlet - Erythrodiplax umbrata 02-20190805

...and an androgynous female (most females do not have the banded wings characteristic of the males):

Band-winged Dragonlet- Erythrodiplax umbrata 01-20190908

Heading out now-- migration radar looks good at 6:00 AM September 12. Our home is at the red + sign, in the green (incoming) zone :

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


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, September 5, 2019

Crops & Clips: Flashback to September, 2016

Once again I am looking back through the retrospectroscope at photos I took three years ago, They remind me of favorite memes-- creatures of all kinds (especially birds), flowers, fences, skies and reflections, as well as scenes which I found enjoyable and speak for themselves.

We started the month with an interesting exotic find, a Yellow-collared Lovebird (Agapornis personatus). Popular in the pet trade, it is native to northeast Tanzania and also called Masked Lovebird, Black-masked Lovebird or Eye Ring Lovebird. I first spotted this bird from a distance after hearing its unusual call from quite far away atop the spire of a Royal Palm. At first all I could see was that it had bright yellow plumage. I chased it down the path and it posed nicely high up.

Undoubtedly an escaped pet, it looked to be in good shape. Maybe the high southerly winds from the storm bands of Hurricane Hermine* damaged an aviary.

Yellow-collared Lovebird 02-20160903

Yellow-collared Lovebird 03-20160903

A  colorful male Northern Flicker perched in a Pond Cypress on September 3:

Northern Flicker HDR 02-20160903

A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher frolicked amid the cypress sprigs:

Cypress sprigs 20160905

Prairie Warblers migrate laterally. They have returned inland from their coastal mangrove breeding territories:

Prairie Warbler 20160912

American Redstarts are early migrants:

American Redstart 20160901

Ovenbirds had arrived. Some may winter nearby:

Ovenbird HDR 05-20160904

A Great Egret cast a nice reflection:

Great Egret HDR 02-20160907

An immature Cooper's Hawk flew low overhead:

Cooper's Hawk HDR 20160909

The sun was just rising as a Bald Eagle passed over  the wetlands:

Bald Eagle female at 0712 AM 20160918

Merlins spent the winter here. These small falcons are very shy. I obtained this photo from quite a distance:

Merlin HDR 20160918

Alligator Flag was in bloom. A wetlands relative of the banana plant, Its fruits and seeds on zigzag stems will attract Purple Gallinules:

Alligator Flag flowers 02-20160916 

On the morning of September 17 the full Harvest Moon settled down over the lake:

Harvest Moon setting HDR  20160917

View to  the southeast before sunrise on September 20:

View to SE HDR 20160920

On September 22, the day of autumnal equinox, the sun rose directly down "Sundial Alley," next to our birding patch. As this driveway is oriented directly to the east, it helps me to keep track of the seasons as sunrise shifts its way back and forth along the horizon.

Equinox sunrise HDR  2-20160922

An immature Green Heron on the first day of autumn:

Green Heron HDR 20160922

Near the end of the month we flew out to our (then) second home in NE Illinois. I had just acquired my Canon 80D camera and this probably is why I processed a record number of photos that month-- over 1,200! It was the height of migration, which also contributed to the high frequency of clicks.

At Nelson Lake/Dick Young preserve in Batavia, one of our  favorite birding locations, a Red-tailed Hawk soared overhead:

Red-tailed Hawk HDR 01-20160925

The north entry path at Nelson Lake:

Nelson Lake north entry HDR 20160926

I tried out some macro shots with my new camera. Milkweed Bugs were colorful subjects:

Milkweed Bugs 20160925

A Honeybee collected pollen on a Heath Aster:

Honeybee on Heath Aster 20160925

Yellow Jacket wasp on Heath Aster:

Yellow Jacket on Heath Aster 20160925

Aromatic Aster: 

Aromatic Aster- Symphyotrichum oblongifolium 20160925

New England Aster:

New England Aster 20160926

Red Admiral butterfly:

Red Admiral 03-20160929

The south prairie at Nelson Lake:

Nelson Lake south prairie HDR 20160929

A pair of Sandhill Cranes, with their colt in between them, took flight over the prairie:

Sandhill Cranes in flight HDR 02-20160926

Fast forward to the present (September 2, 2019): Hurricane Dorian has been stalled over The Bahamas for several hours. The threat to south Florida appears to have abated. Our home location is the little red dot SW of Fort Lauderdale: 

Hurricane 20190902 1142AM

*Here is an iPhone photo of sunrise from the back patio of  our home on August 27, 2016. This is the tropical disturbance  (Hurricane Hermine) alluded to at the beginning of this post. Hurricanes seem to strike around my birthday every year! 

Sunrise iPhone 01-20160827

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


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