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

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Crops & Clips: Dewlaps and dewdrops

My weekly potpourri gathered from the archives features... red dewlaps, rainbow dewdrops and more.

CRITTERS: A couple of lizards displaying their dewlaps

Brown Anole, an invader from the Caribbean
Miramar, Florida May 18, 2008


The native Green Anole is disappearing, forced out by the exotic Brown Anole
Pembroke Pines, Florida July 18, 2014

Green Anole 20140718


Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,


FENCES: A Little Brown Job on wrought iron

Savannah Sparrow
Batavia, Illinois, May 9, 2012

Savannah Sparrow 20120509

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 


SKYWATCH: Stormy Sunrise

Miramar, Florida
October 13, 2013

Storm HDR 20131003

Linking to Skywatch Friday 


REFLECTIONS: British Columbia Cruise

The Spirit of Columbia at the dock at Malibu Club, Jervis Inlet at the rapids, BC.
September 24, 2007

MalibuClubDock (2)

This is the door to our cabin, the "Astoria," on the top deck of Spirit of Columbia. My reflection is in the shower/head door inside. 

Jervis Inlet, BC
September 24, 2007 

OurCabinReflection (2)

View of the "Parliament" building lit up at night in Victoria (BC) harbor.
September 26, 2007

Victoria BC Night Scene

Morning sun reflecting off dew on spider silk
February 4, 2011, Miramar, Florida

Dew beads on silk 20110204

The low sun creates a silken rainbow.
Miramar. Florida, December 24, 2013

Silk and dew rainbow 20131224

A single drop of dew captures its entire world upside down.
Miramar, Florida, December 24, 2013

Dew drop 20131224


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Commensalism: Wood Stork and herons cooperate

In late afternoon I looked out the back window and saw a Wood Stork on the lawn of the small park diagonally across our lake. Its wings were fully extended, probably drying off after a brief downpour. By the time I got my camera, the stork had partially closed its wings. 

Wood Stork 20140912

Next to the stork, an immature Tricolored Heron also rested and preened. 

Wood Stork and Tricolored Heron 20140912

Suddenly a Great Egret flew in and settled at the edge of the water near the heron. Both started running to the right and the stork rushed over to join them. 

Stork and herons 20140912

I could see the water was disturbed by a school of small fish. The trio began feeding together, and they moved further down the shoreline. 

Stork and herons 2-20140912

Then the egret seemed to see another school of fish back the other way. Both herons took flight, with the stork running along behind them. 

Stork and herons relocate 2-20140912

Stork and herons relocate 3-20140912

Again they fished together... 

Stork and herons relocate 4-20140912

...until once again they relocated to the edge of the lake immediately in back of our home. They were so close that I could not fit them all in a single frame with my 420 mm f/5.6 telephoto lens system, but I got some good shots when they passed along in front of me as I stood on the patio. 

The Tricolored Heron led the charge excitedly, the feathers on its head erect.

Tricolored Heron immature 3-20130912

Tricolored Heron immature 6-20130912

The stork and egret were close behind.

Great Egret and Wood Stork 3-20140912

Great Egret and Wood Stork 20140912

The egret watched, ready to pounce on any fish that appeared as the stork shaded the surface and stirred the water.

Great Egret and Wood Stork 2-20140912

As before, the egret sighted another school back where they had previously been fishing, and the trio flew over there. 

Stork and herons again relocate 3-20140912

I believe this is an example of commensalism, with all three species deriving mutual benefit of the others-- the sharp vision of the herons helped find the prey and the stork stirred the water with its foot as it probed, driving the fish out of hiding and thus aiding the herons. 

If video does not appear in the space below, TRY THIS LINK

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Crops & Clips: In the pink

My weekly potpourri gathered from the archives features... lots of crossover photos with pink birds, reflected pink skies and fence.

CRITTER: Rosy bird

Roseate Spoonbill
November 26, 2012, Miramar, Florida

Roseate Spoonbill 2-20121126


Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS


FENCES: Reflected in Florida back yard

Immature Tricolored Heron
Miramar, Florida, August 18, 2014 

Tricolored Heron immature 20140818

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 


SKYWATCH: Sahara Dust

Great Egret
October 16, 2012, Miramar, Florida

Great Egret before sunrise Corel 20121016

Linking to Skywatch Friday 


REFLECTIONS: Pink Sunrise at Monaco Cove Lake

December 2, 2013
Miramar, Florida

Patio view to east at sunset 20131202


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Summer birds in sun and shadows

Now that we plan to get a jump on winter by traveling to our second home in Illinois, it's nice to look back on some random images from our south Florida neighborhood and local wetlands.

During the rainy season the sunrise over our back yard lake can be spectacular as moisture moves in from the ocean, 18 miles to the east. This iPhone shot was taken on September 9, 2014.

Sunrise iPhone 20140908

Walking out early around sunrise presents problems of insufficient light for photography, as I have fallen out of the habit of bringing my flash unit. Many of my early morning photos look more like silhouettes, like this one of a Green Heron. Its profile is unique and does not require any other details to establish its identity.

Green Heron 20130907

This Bald Eagle is presumably one of the pair that has a nest about 2 miles NW of where it flew overhead about 15 minutes after sunrise. This photo, also taken on September 9, turned out soft and dark, requiring sharpening as well as brightening a full 2 stops. 

Bald Eagle 20140909

A Loggerhead Shrike also came out too dark against the gray sky, but the photo was enhanced by the absence of shadows due to the filtered sunlight  behind me. It cleared up quite nicely, but don't look too closely.  

Loggerhead Shrike 2-20140909

The day before, a pair of Northern Flicker males displayed in full sun as they competed for the attention of a female who looked on. Shadows and overly bright highlights now detract from the image quality.

Northern Flicker male 2-20140908

Northern Flicker males 20140908

Northern Flicker male 3-20140908

That same day, my photos of a Brown Thrasher in heavy shade turned out remarkably well. Since a childhood  encounter with one at a nest I have felt intimidated by their fierce-looking yellow eyes. Thank to image stabilization, the hand-held photo taken with my 420 mm lens came out well with minimal processing, despite being shot at shutter speed of 1/125 second, ISO 3200, and f/5.6. 

Brown Thrasher 4-20140908

Brown Thrasher 5-20140908

A large gathering of Black Vultures at the local soccer field had the look and stench of death. I processed this photo without color.

Black Vultures gathering 20140907

Close up, one vulture's facial textures are enhanced by sun and shadow.

Black Vulture portrait  20140907

A Wood Stork in our back yard on September 8th bears some resemblance. Indeed taxonomists now classify storks and vultures as close relatives.

Wood Stork portrait 20140908

Early morning back-lighting helps define the plumage textures of white birds, such as the stork and a White Ibis nearby.

Wood Stork 2-20140908

White Ibis 20140908

A Tricolored Heron was also foraging close by. If I had a wide-angle lens I could have captured all three in one frame.

Tricolored Heron 2-20140908

The waders gathered where a Double-crested Cormorant was fishing just offshore. Perhaps its activity was driving small fish to the periphery of the lake.

Double-crested Cormoranr 20140908

If video does not appear in the space below, TRY THIS LINK