Thursday, February 13, 2020

Birding under a Snow Moon

On February 8 the Moon was not quite full as it disappeared into the clouds when we walked into the Wounded Wetlands. At the rookery site I found two Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. One was an adult approaching breeding condition as evidenced by its bright orange legs, clear yellowish white cap and occipital and scapular (head and shoulder) plumes:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 01-20200208

The other night-heron was an immature bird, approaching one year of age:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron immature 02-20200208

My camera was set for night-flying birds with flash, and I forgot to turn off the flash when I snapped the first photo, that of the  juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. It looks like an alien creature!

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron immature 05-20200208

On February 9, we reached the lake before the full Snow Moon settled into the horizon. On the way in I had stopped to record the song of an Eastern Whip-Poor-Will. In addition to its namesake phrase, the bird uttered an assortment of "whip" and "wheel" calls. (My recording of its song may be heard at this linkbut listen carefully as the bird was not very close by.)

A cold front had passed through with morning temperatures dipping into the high 40s and low 50s (~10C), grounding the insects and requiring the whip-poor-will to rest and conserve energy. Some of its Nightjar (Caprimulgidaeaka Goatsuckers)  relatives, notably the Common Poorwill, actually "hibernate," entering into a prolonged state of torpor in which their heart rate slows dramatically and body temperature drops. Hummingbirds also may become torpid and may survive periods of cold weather. 

The Snow Moon in a black sky, an hour before sunrise:

Full Snow Moon 01-20200209

That's MaryLou with her flashlight, walking in about 55 minutes before sunrise. My new iPhone 11 Pro Max really  brightened up the night with help of moonlight and a tall street lamp about 100 yards behind me!

 Snow Moon at sunrise minus 55 minutes 20200209 

Opposite the Moon, at 26 minutes before sunrise, the eastern sky  was starting to lighten up :

Sunrise minus 26 minutes 20200209

At 23 minutes before sunrise, I had almost reached the lake:

Snow Moon at sunrise minus 23  minutes 20200209

A flock of blackbirds flew across the face of the Moon:

Full Snow Moon and birds 02-20200209

We watched as the Moon settled into the lake, four minutes after sunrise:

Snow Moon at sunrise plus 04  minutes 20200209

Full Snow Moon 03-20200209

Six minutes after sunrise:

Snow Moon at sunrise plus 06  minutes 20200209

A male American Kestrel flew into a lakeside tree...

American Kestrel 01-20200209 

...then, surprisingly, foraged for insects on the gravel track:

American Kestrel 03-20200209

American Kestrel 04-20200209

A Loggerhead Shrike then drove the kestrel away. I did not capture the actual encounter. Here is the kestrel as the shrike attacked:

American Kestrel 06-20200209

American Kestrel 07-20200209

The shrike then occupied the high perch:

Loggerhead Shrike 20200209

Monarch butterflies have been very scarce. There is a local non-migratory population, but because of Hurricane Irma which devastated their host plants, their numbers have been down for the past two years. This is a bad photo, but it was the first one I have seen this year:

Monarch in Phragmites head 20200209

Other  butterflies on the morning of the Full Snow Moon included a tiny Fiery Skipper, here taking nectar from a Shepherd's Nettle (Bidens alba) flower:

Fiery Skipper on Bidens alba 01-20200209

I always hope for a clear day after a full Moon, as it sets later and provides a nice backdrop for early morning photos. My  telephoto camera does not have much depth of field, so I cannot get the Moon in sharp focus, as shown in this image of a Northern Mockingbird...

 Northern Mockingbird Snow Moon 20200210

...until it decided to fly up and rest on the Moon! (Only fooling--- this is a finial atop a concrete fence post):

Northern Mockingbird 2-20200210

The Moon stood still long enough to provide a backdrop for a female Northern Flicker:

Northern Flicker female 02-20200210

The mustachioed male flicker perched by patiently, but never posed in front of the Moon:

Northern Flicker male 04-20200210

The female flicker joined him and began to fan her tail. I have noted that the female often initiates the courtship display:

Northern Flicker female 05-20200210

I had to back away to fit both in a single frame. Although the quality of the photo is poor, I liked the action and thought it looked "painterly:':

Northern Flicker pair 06-20200210

An Egyptian Goose flew over, his mate following:

Egyptian Goose 01-20200209

As I was returning home, a yearling male White-tailed Deer emerged from the brush and walked towards me. The wind was in my favor and at first he seemed to think I was another deer:

White-tailed button buck 02-20200209

The "button buck" finally recognized me and bounded off:

White-tailed button buck 04-20200209

White-tailed button buck 07-20200209

Two rival male Julia heliconian butterflies stopped sparring for a moment and rested near each other on a Lantana:

Two male Julia heliconians 20200209

A note about our local Bald Eagles. It appears that they may have lost their eggs or newly hatched eaglets in an early January wind storm which damaged their nest. They could have started a second brood. Follow them in my Bald Eagle FORUM. 

Here is the female, Jewel, roosting near the nest while the male is sitting deep in the nest, possibly sitting on eggs (February 10):

Bald Eagle female 03-20200208
= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to :

My Corner of the World

Fences Around the World    

Skywatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Saturday's Critters


Camera Critters

All Seasons

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Our World Tuesday


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



  1. Fabulous set of photos many birds which are totally new to me. You are lucky to have seen the moon, we seem to have had permanent cloud cover for days if not weeks!! Cheers Diane

  2. I never cease to be amazed at the beauty that you find on your wanderings! The image of the two flickers is quite stunning. I enjoyed seeing all your critters :)

    Thanks for being a part of 'My Corner of the World' this week!

    My Corner of the World

  3. You always have wonderful birds! Well done.

  4. Fabulous moon images Kenneth and of course i also love seeing all your wonderful bird and butterfly images. Have a wonderful weekend

  5. Piękne krajobrazy! Jak ja je lubię! Gratuluje bardzo dobrych zdjęć z ptakami i w ogóle spotkań z nimi!

  6. Beautiful moon shots, and I like the alien creature. Sometimes our most interesting shots are captured by mistake! Have a nice weekend.

  7. Beautiful birds, I love the Flickers too, they come to our backyard feeders.

  8. Hello, Cute shots of the deer. I love the butterflies, night heron and eagle. The Shrike, Kestrel and the Flicker are all great sightings. Gorgeous sky and moon captures. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, hope you have a great weekend.

  9. Great post! Well, except for those beady red eyes. ;-)

  10. Hello. Wonderful photos. Beautiful birds. Those photos of Northern Flicker are so fantastic.

  11. I think today, my favorites are those of the flicker! Wow...perfect coloration and great compositions. Also, those birds flying 'over the moon'...great.

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

  12. Gorgeous set of pictures as always!

  13. Really like the pictures with the moon and the birds - not all bird pictures need to fill the frame with feathers!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  14. Such wonderful and impressive photos !
    I enjoyed looking at them
    My sky ...

  15. Amazing images Ken, it's been a while since I visited but am happy to be catching up.

  16. Hello Ken, I also wrote your email in case you changed your address, because you gave me a nice and kind comment, but you forgot the link a thumbnail for All Seasons:). Please add at your convenience before Friday noon - thank you so much!
    The Shrike is a beautiful bird. What a fantastic moon, and yes, especially the eyes look scary alien! Have a lovely week, Jesh

  17. your pictures are so wunderful! especially I love the photos of the flicker! never seen here!

  18. The butterflies, moths and deer can be so elusive, and I haven't developed the skill yet, to get them straight with the camera. So, I am happy you share these with All Seasons:) Enjoy the rest of the week!

  19. I'm so glad you are a part of 'My Corner of the World' this week!

    My Corner of the World


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