Saturday, January 31, 2015

Prairie Warbler Hunting

Call me lazy, but I like to finish my morning bird walk with a visit to my favorite "sit spot" just on the west side of the 196th Avenue levee, that runs along the canal across from our subdivision.  

These are views along the levee, looking  to the south:

196th Canal HDR COREL 20141213

Levee trail to south 20140903

The "sit spot"is too moist underfoot to actually sit, and during the wet season it is flooded to a foot or more, when I cannot descend all the way down the slope. Its advantage over other places is the open area in front, an unintended result of the "wreckreationalists" performing tight circles in the mud with their off-road vehicles. This provides greater sight distance than most places along the levee path, where lack of maintenance has allowed exotic elephant grass to form an opaque 8 foot wall.

This is the sit spot as the water was receding in late September:

ORV trail 20130929

Events in nature are subject to the laws of place, time and probability. We can control the where and when, and the better we understand the cycles of sun and season, the more likely our expectations will be realized. In my sit spot, depending upon the time of day and season, certain events are highly unlikely. Rather than trying to predict what I will see, I am open to anything. Such was the case this morning.

After a wait of several minutes to undo some of the disturbance I created by entering this quiet and shady place, it gradually came alive. Who knows how many eyes were fixed on me? Sixty feet away, in a space between the treetops, a Prairie Warbler appeared, looking very alert. 

Maybe he sees me:

Prairie Warbler 01-20150105

No. He is on a hunt. He sees the prey:

Prairie Warbler 02-20150105

He seizes the prey:

Prairie Warbler 03-20150105

He squeezes the prey:

Prairie Warbler 04-20150105

Prairie Warbler 05-20150105

He swallows the prey, a big juicy spider!

Prairie Warbler 06-20150105

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crops & Clips: Eagles. butterflies and unsettled skies

My weekly potpourri gathered from the archives features the themes of critters, fences, skies and reflections. 


Our local Bald Eagle male (Pride) lost his mate (Joy) in late October. He set out to find a new one, and may have settled on this four year old sweetheart. She retains some of the dark streaks on her bill, head and tail characteristic of early fifth year (fully adult) plumage. They appear to still be in the process of establishing a pair bond and it may be too late in the season for them to start a family. Here in south Florida, most Bald Eagles lay their eggs by early December. Pride spends much time in the nest, hoping she will join him, which she did, if only briefly.

Bald Eagles Pride and Female 20150111

Birding has been a bit slow, so my attention turns to subjects which are more easily seen and photographed, such as this Monarch on Ixora blossoms...

Monarch butterfly on Ixora 20150106

...a male Julia heliconian...

Julia heliconian male 2-20150105

... a Gulf Fritillary...

Gulf Fritillary 20141228

...a Zebra heliconian...

Zebra Heliconian 20141216

...a male Queen (not a contradiction in terms)...

Queen butterfly 2-20141124

...and a White Peacock:

White Peacock 20141227

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,



This Great Blue Heron posed at the lake shore in front of our neighbor's fence. By edict of the homeowners association, all the fences must look the same as this. I must stray far from home to find any variety.

Great Blue Heron 2-20150111

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 



An unsettled sky at sunrise over our local wetlands:

Sunrise Clouds HDR COREL 20150111

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy



Looking to the north at dawn we see the approaching storm clouds: 

Harbour Lakes to North HDR COREL 20150111



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


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Storks and herons cooperating

The radar looked clear and there was no rain in the forecast, but there were quite a few clouds as we set out on the local wetlands about 10 minutes before sunrise this morning. The sun was just coming up when we reached the lake. 

Harbour Lake W HDR COREL 20141229

A Great Blue Heron is barely visible in the above landscape, and my photo suffers from the poor light:

Great Blue Heron 20141229

The sky took on a threatening appearance and light rain began falling before I could get back to the house:

Harbour Lake S HDR COREL 20141229

The rain stopped just as I exited the road from the wetlands and entered the gate to our subdivision, so I checked out the lake from a small park located a few doors from our home. 

Two Wood Storks were following a Tricolored Heron along the opposite shore: 

Tricolored Heron and Wood Storks 20141229

Tricolored Heron and Wood Stork 4-20141229

The heron seemed to be spotting places where fish were disturbing the water, and it would wait for the storks to catch up. Perhaps both are benefiting by this association. The heron is finding prey and the storks are stirring the water to disperse them into its open jaws. The stork also shades the water with one wing, probably encouraging small fish to seek safety in the shadow:

Tricolored Heron and Wood Stork 3-20141229

Tricolored Heron and Wood Stork 20141229

A Great Egret was wading along my side of the lake, to the east. The sun was behind it, causing its image to be in deep shadow, like a silouhette. Back-lighting sometimes enhaces the profile of white birds, but the photos must be carefully brightened.

Great Egret 20141229

A third stork came into view from the right (east) end of the lake and caught up with the other two. Then it flew over close to me where the egret was fishing:

Wood Stork in flight 2-20141229

Wood Stork in flight 3-20141229

The stork and egret stayed close together and I saw the stork catch one fairly large fish. 

Wood Stork and Great Egret 20141229

Wood Stork and Great Egret 3-20141229

Wood Stork and Great Egret 2-20141229

One of the other storks then flew in, and the egret immediately flew away.  (If video does not load in the space below, CLICK THIS LINK

As I resumed my walk home the skies were clearing over our back yard lake: Monaco Cove HDR COREL 20141229 A "painterly" view of our back yard: Monaco Cove CROP3 HDR COREL 20141229

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Crops & Clips: Testing my new camera

My weekly potpourri gathered from the archives features... test photos all taken by my new pocket camera, a 16.1 mpx Canon PowerShot SX 700 HS with 30X optical zoom (450mm equivalent). I am seriously considering leaving my big heavy DSLR rig at home on my next travel experience. Most were hand-held, and a few used a monopod. As the moon photo demonstrates, the image stability feature is excellent. Wish me luck!

To compare the images of the pocket camera with those of my DSLR Canon 60D with 420 mm f/5.6 lens, I rigged up this monopod so that both photos could be taken at nearly the same time and at the same distance. Not surprisingly, the DSLR produced sharper images, but I am pleased with the results and think the SX 700 will be my only camera (besides the iPhone) during our train trip through the Canadian Rockies. The pocket camera does great landscapes.

Double camera rig 20141207

Canon SX 700 HS with tripod extender 20141207


Common Ground-Dove, at a range of 65 feet (about 20 meters, Monopod), December 28, 2014:

Ground Dove at 65 feet CROP Powershot 20141228

Little blue Heron (Monopod), December 18, 2014:

Little Blue Heron Canon Powershot DPP 20141218

Northern Mockingbird (Hand-held) , December 18, 2014:

Northern Mockingbird Canon 60D DPP 20141218

Northern Mockingbird (Hand-held, December 21, 2014:

Northern Mockingbird Powershot 20141221

Palm Warbler at 70 feet (21 meters, Monopod), December 21, 2014:

Palm Warbler 70 ft Powershot 30x optical zoom 20141221

Double-crested Cormorant (Hand-held), December 26, 2014:

Double-crested Cormorant 2-20141226

An example of the pocket camera's macro and image stabilization capabilities is this Monarch butterfly on an  Ixora blossom at a range of about 12 inches (30 cm, Hand-held), January 6, 2015:

Monarch butterfly PowerShot 20150106

Not a critter, but I think this hand-held image of a dewdrop, less than 1 inch, only 2 cm from the front of the lens (AUTO setting) deserves honorable mention, December 16, 2014:

Dewdrop macro Canon SX 700 HS 20141216

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,



Our subdivision's entrance gate (Hand-held, January 6, 2015):

Monaco Cove entrance gate 20150106

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 



Wolf Moon rising (Hand-held), January 4, 2015:

Wolf Moon rising 220150104

An example of a sunrise over the local wetlands, (Hand-held), January 3, 2015:

Harbour Lakes 5 min before sunrise HDR COREL 20150103

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy



Great Egret (Monopod) , December 28, 2014:

Great Egret Powershot 20141228



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


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Green Heron is ABA Bird of the Year!

To celebrate the American Birding Association' s selection of the Green Heron (Butorides virescens) as ABA Bird of the Year, I have updated my post of January 5, 2013, "Shape-shifting Green Heron." Sad to say, the repeated herbicide treatment of the nest trees in the local rookery may now make it unlikely that any herons will successfully nest this year. The post is documented with brief video clips which show interesting behaviors of this species in the first two weeks after hatching. Most remarkable is the protective instinct of the male parent when the nestlings are in danger of falling.

Green Heron Close 20081017

Green Heron 20140718

Green Heron juvenile 20130602

The first herbicide treatment occurred some time before the 2012 breeding season. This photo, taken on March 4, 2012 shows Yellow-crowned Night-Herons on nests exposed by the defoliation:

Heron rookery herbicide effects 20120304

During the following year the shrubs, mostly Ligustrum and exotic Brazilian Pepper, had recovered somewhat  The rookery, which I have been monitoring since the spring of 2011, contained at least 8 nests of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and 3 Green Heron nests, mostly over the water and still fairly well-concealed, when this photo was taken on March 15, 2013:

196th Av Canal HDR 20130315

This photo, on December 14, 2014, shows the devastating effects of a subsequent herbicide application, along with floating debris from nearby road construction:

Heron Rookery north end 196 Canal 20141214

Most of the branches which extended over the water were defoliated and killed, as shown in this photo taken on January 15, 2015. Homes that were formerly hidden by the nest trees are now in plain view.

Heron Rookery herbicide damage 20150115

During the spring of 2012, in the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron rookery along a canal at the north end of the wetlands birding patch next to our south Florida home, a pair of Green Herons selected a secluded spot for their nest. 

Unfortunately, this tree, which extends over the water, had been treated with herbicides by the agency that maintains the canals, and by the time the eggs hatched almost all the leaves had fallen off to expose the nest. 

These brief clips illustrate some interesting behaviors and are best viewed in HD, full screen size. Pardon the shakiness, as they are taken with my hand-held DSLR camera with a telescopic lens, from about 50 feet (15 meters) across the canal from the nest.

The Green Herons are excellent parents. Here a female feeds her tiny chicks, about 3-5 days old. At the time, we only counted three, as the youngest one was not yet visible (April 15, 2012).

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The four chicks have grown quite a bit over the next 3 days. They are now 7-9 days old. Perhaps not unexpectedly in view of the flimsy perches, the smallest chick disappeared the next day, following a heavy thunderstorm (April 19, 2012).

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 Now on April 22, the chicks are 10-12 days old. This remarkable sequence shows the protective behavior of the male, who had fed the chicks just moments before I started this video. The female then flew in with more food, but the ravenous appetite of the chicks placed them in danger. The male, sensing their predicament, flew in to solve the problem. See how he did it.

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The Green Heron can be described as a compact little neck-less ball of feathers...

Green Heron 2-20120113

...or a spindle-shaped pointed object:

Green Heron 2-20120124

But where did that neck come from?

Green Heron 4-20120124

Sometimes it looks like almost any other heron, though its legs are short and its neck is a bit thick:

Green Heron 5-20121211 

Then, extending its neck full length, it becomes almost snake-like...

Green Heron 8-20121211     

...and raises a handsome crest:   

Green Heron 7-20121211

Their color-- How did they ever get the name of "Green?" Sometimes they look as dark as crows:

Green Heron 20090522

The immature birds have streaked underparts and can be quite dark in color:

Green Heron in flight 20120717

Here is an adult. Why, I do see a bit of green in there!

Green Heron 20100712

Usually a loner, it is unusual to see several in a flock. These are immature birds. perhaps some are siblings:

Green Herons five 20120731

Those wings-- they are surprisingly long and seem to have so many more feathers than expected:

Green Heron taking flight  (view large) 20120410

During breeding season, the male does have respectable plumes:

Green Heron culvert nest male 20120413