Thursday, March 26, 2015

Birding on a murky morning

We awoke to dense fog yesterday morning. I wasn't sure whether I even wanted to walk in the wetlands. My camera and  binoculars had spent the night in air-conditioned comfort, so I knew I would face foggy lenses and fuzzy photos. 

The visibility was so poor up ahead towards the Everglades that I figured there would be nothing to see on the wetlands lake:

Miramar Parkway in fog 20150325

Two days earlier I obtained this photo as the fog lifted over the lake:

Fog looking west sepia 20150323

For a change, I walked south on the SW 196th Avenue levee that runs all the way to the Miami-Dade County line. I proceeded about a mile with the expectation that the 1/4 mile visibility would improve after sunrise, at 7:20 AM. Instead the fog clung to the waters of the canal. 

Levee trail southbound fog 20150325

With the camera covered against the light mist that started falling as the upper level fog began to condense, I birded by ear. 

Spider webs were laden with dew. Using my little pocket camera (Canon SX 700 HS) I captured some of the still life. This is the view looking back to the north from the levee trail:

Orb and fog HDR 20150325

Dew dropped from the twigs:

Dewdrops 20150325

An orb festooned with dewdrops reflected a rainbow:

Rainbow Orb 20150325

Ahead, I approached the inlet between the canal and the "big lake" in our development:

Orb and fog HDR 2-20150325

Trying to see through the fog, I hoped to find an eagle that sometimes roosts on Lighthouse Island:

Lighthouse Island 20150325

Back at the computer I gave a "painterly" treatment to a portion of the photo:

Lighthouse Island Painting detail COREL

Over the course of almost two hours I recorded 23 bird species, almost all heard only, and photographed a single bird, this female Boat-tail Grackle, as she hunted for dragonflies at the water's edge:

Boat-tailed Grackle hunting dragonflies 20150325

Boat-tailed Grackle 20150325

Halloween Pennants were numerous:

Halloween Pennant 20150325

As I walked along the trail one flew towards me and appeared to hover right in front of my eyes. It had been trapped by a single thread of spider silk. Within 4 minutes it was wrapped and carried off by the spider:

Halloween Pennant hanging by a thread 20150325

The spider arrives 20150325

The wrapping proceeds 2-20150325

Bringing home the trophy 20150325

Since I have so little to show in the way of photos, here are a few from the past week. March 20 was also foggy, but I got this nice shot of the north shore of the wetlands lake just as the fog was dispersing:

North shore fog HDR 20150320

As expected on the Vernal Equinox, the sun rose directly over the back gate of the Harbour Lakes subdivision. 

Equinox dawn HDR 20150320

That day I fortunately got a second look at the two Black-necked Stilts that had visited a few days earlier. They did not wait for me, so this was a lucky shot between the blades of high grass in front of me. Happily, the blades did not cover the birds and they even added a bit of out-of-focus relief as the stilts coursed over a patch of rocks and lily pads in the lake:

Black-necked Stilts HDR 20150320

A Muscovy Duck, an established feral species, flew overhead. They usually fly low, so this was a treat:

Muscovy Duck flyover 20150318

On March 17 I found only one pair of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons in the rookery. I fear it has been damaged so badly that they will not nest here this year, if ever again:

Yellow-crowned Night-Herons 20150317

The male made a half-hearted display towards the female:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron display 20150317

On the afternoon of March 16, a quick visit to the local Bald Eagle nest was very rewarding. I found the male on the nest, and he was soon joined by the larger new female, to the left in this photo:

Bald Eagle female joins male on nest 20150316

The female flew up to roost just to the left of the nest. Note that her tail feathers still have dark tips. She just turned four years old and is entering the full fifth year adult plumage stage:

Bald Eagle female returns to roost above nest 20150316

To balance the picture, the male flew up to the right...

Bald Eagle male lands on right branch 20150316

... and the two rested for a while:

Bald Eagle male roosts on right branch 20150316

Then, both returned to the nest and rearranged a few sticks:

Bald Eagle pair on nest 20150316

Unfortunately, a dump truck made a panic stop when the light turned red. Its jake brakes roared and the driver leaned on his air horn. This startled both eagles, and the male flew our to the left and the female exited to the rear of the nest:

Bald eagle male flies from nest 20150316

On my next visit to the nest I saw no eagles, but a Carolina Wren scolded me:

Carolina Wren 2-20150322

He posed on a fence (just to please Tex):

Carolina Wren on fence 20150322

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart


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


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Black-necked Stilts

We were out before sunrise on our local wetlands. The sun rose at 7:30 AM EDT, only 2 degrees south of due east.The back gate of the adjacent Harbour Lakes subdivision faces due east, and on the Vernal Equinox on March 20 we can expect the sun to rise directly over the gate.

Harbour Lakes back gate HDR 20150315

While scanning the lake I heard the call of a familiar bird. Before I could remember its identity, two Black-necked Stilts flew by and inexplicably turned my way and landed only about 80 feet (25 meters) away. It was about 5 minutes after sunrise with the near shore in deep shadow, so my initial photos were very poor.

Black-necked Stilt at dawn 20150315

I stood in place for about 45 minutes waiting for the sun, and luckily the stilts just loafed and preened. I ended up taking over 200 shots, but only about half were in good light. Although I have had stilts in the patch in previous years, this was the first time I got this close to them.

The earliest usable shots showed a warm glow as light finally swept the shoreline:

Black-necked Stilt 03-20150315

Black-necked Stilts 02-20150315

Black-necked Stilts 01-20150315

Black-necked Stilt 01-20150315

The still water provided nice reflections:

Black-necked Stilt 04-20150315

Black-necked Stilts 04-20150315

Black-necked Stilt 02-20150315

So long as I stood perfectly still they paid me little attention, going about their grooming:

Black-necked Stilts 08-20150315

Black-necked Stilts 06-20150315

After standing still for about 45 minutes my legs started cramping although the sunlight felt good on my back. I took this with my little Canon Powershot SX700 HS. The stilts are barely visible along the shore, to the left:

Watching the stilts 20150315

My reach for the pocket camera put them on alert...

Black-necked Stilts 05-20150315

...and they flew up:

Black-necked Stilt in flight 2-20150315

Black-necked Stilt in flight 20150315

Black-necked Stilt in flight 4-20150315

Black-necked Stilt in flight 5-20150315

Happily, they turned back and alighted on a small submerged bar a bit to the south, not much further away. The slight back-lighting provided pleasant images:

Black-necked Stilt 06-20150315

Black-necked Stilt 05-20150315

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart


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


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Birding: Winter's last full moon

The last full moon of winter on March 5, is also the "smallest" moon of the year because it is at its furthest distance from the earth. Native Americans named it the Worm Moon because it calls the earthworms to the surface as the ground begins to thaw. I captured this mini-Moon or micro-Moon as it rose over the lake in back of our home, almost due east.

Mini-Moon or Worm Moon rising 2-20150305

Before sunrise the next morning, in the wetlands next to our subdivision, the mini-Moon pierces the early fog:

Moon and mist HDR 20150306

I rush to catch the moon's reflection in the lake before it settles into the mist.

Mini-Moon Reflection HDR 20150306

Birding has been slow, as some of the winter visitors are already diminishing in number and migration seems reluctant to get underway.

The local male Bald Eagle's new mate may be too young to start raising a family this season. He continues to bring sticks to the nest . As reported previously, they copulated successfully in late January. Although she has joined him in arranging the nest, she does not appear to be broody. Here she watches from a perch just above and to the right as Pride brings in a large branch which he snapped off the top of a dead tree:

Bald Eagle male returns with stick 2-20150305

Under her watchful eye he arranges it to his satisfaction:

Bald Eagle male arranges stick 6-20150305

He seems to say: "How do you like it?"

Bald Eagle male prepares to leave 3-20150305

A White-winged Dove gathers twigs in our front yard and carries them to a flimsy nest in a neighbor's back yard:

White-winged Dove gathering twigs 20150305

This Brown Thrasher is singing his heart out, anticipating his northward departure. It feels as if spring is here already!

Brown Thrasher singing 2-20150304

Here is a snippet of his unique song (If video fails to display, click here):

Male Red-winged Blackbirds stake out territories in the wet prairies, singing and displaying red and yellow epaulets to each other, awaiting the arrival of the females and hoping to attract them into their harems:

Red-winged Blackbird singing 20150302

Red-winged Blackbird singing 2-20150302

This blackbird could not have picked a more idyllic setting for his performance. Is that an old stump, or an exquisite sculpture of a fantasy island?:

Red-winged Blackbird reflection 20150301

The clear whistled songs of Northern Cardinals fill the air:

Northern Cardinal 3-20150305

The quacks of Mottled Ducks betray their relationship to the Mallard clan:

Mottled Ducks in flight 20150306

This pair joins a Great Blue Heron resting on a boulder:

Great Blue Heron with Mottled Ducks 05-20150225

Another Great Blue enjoys a sound sleep..

Great Blue Heron sleeping 20150305 a Great Egret takes flight...

Great Egret 4-20150305

Great Egret takes flight 20150305

...and rudely awakens him:

Great Egret wakes up Great Blue Heron 20150305

Belted Kingfishers will soon be heading north:

Belted Kingfisher female in flight 20150305

While I am photographing the landscape with my pocket camera, this adult White-tailed Deer doe suddenly appears along the road. Using the the same camera, I get a quick but blurry shot before she runs away, followed by two younger deer.

 White-tailed doe Canon SX700HS 30x 20150303

They stop to watch me from across the wet prairie. A young buck, his antler buds only starting to emerge, stands in front of a young doe:

White-tailed Deer 4-20150303

Probably more playful than amorous, the buck attempts to mount the doe:

White-tailed Deer young buck 2-20150303

When birding is slow, the camera finds other interesting subjects, like this Green Anole. Facing competition from the exotic and invasive Brown Anole, these are quite scarce in our local wetlands. This one displays its dewlap but I do not see any others of its kind in the vicinity:

Green Anole displaying 20150302

Butterflies abound, including this Gulf Fritillary:

Gulf Fritillary 20150304

Its under-wing pattern contrasts sharply with the dry grass:

Gulf Fritillary 4-0150304

A Halloween Pennant perches high:

Halloween Pennant 20150304

Spring may be imminent, but here in South Florida we seem to have our brightest foliage just as the tomatoes ripen and winter wanes. This was the view along the north shore of the lake on March 3:

North shore2 HDR 20150303

On the morning of March 9 the mini-Moon was waning, but shadows made its features more visible:

MiniMoon waning 20150309

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart


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