Thursday, August 13, 2015

The sky is pink but the birding is slow

Moving into August in south Florida, the dog days of summer have taken hold. If only to get exercise, Mary Lou and I set out into the local wetlands most mornings before sunrise.

In the past few days, dust from Africa has blown in over the Atlantic Ocean and is producing beautiful pink sunrises. Only two days ago I witnessed an extraordinary phenomenon.  Over the lake in our neighborhood birding patch I saw the most vivid "mirrored" or "false" sunrise. This was at 6:50 AM, about 9 minutes after sunrise. There were thunderheads over the Atlantic to the east and the cloud tops were breaking up the rays of the sun into parallel lines, which converged on the opposite (WSW) horizon

False sunrise in west HDR 20150811

The rays of the sun are reflected off the dust, and the still surface of the lake produced stunning reflections. I could not fit the image into a single frame, so this is the view looking more to the left (SW):

Mirrored Sunrise to SW HDR 20150811

Here, looking the opposite way (ENE) is the thunderstorm that is blocking the rising sun but creating the magnificent rays:

 Sunrise in east HDR 20150811

Here is the sky a bit later the next morning:

 Pink clouds HDR 20150812

Last week, this was the view to the west across the lake, as the sunlight was just reaching the near shore. The clouds had already started reflecting some of the pink color:

Dawn clouds to west HDR 20150730

The lake level had fallen low, exposing mud flats. You may remember the "Enchanted Island" where a Red-winged Blackbird posed so nicely this spring:

Red-winged Blackbird reflection 2-20150301

Now it sits high and dry, but has not lost its charm:

Enchanted Island stump landlocked 20150724

The mud flats looked so inviting, and we anticipated the arrival of shorebirds heading south. On July 29th a single Spotted Sandpiper appeared:

Spotted Sandpiper 6-20150729

Spotted Sandpiper 8-20150729

Two days earlier the first Belted Kingfisher of the "fall" season arrived, but it did not pose for any pictures. The week before, two active and inquisitive Blue-gray Gnatcatchers surprised me as they foraged in a tree next to the gravel road.  Although some are believed to nest down this far south, these were the first to be reported in our county since last spring. 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3-20150720

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 4-20150720

A few resident herons showed up on the lake in the wetlands. Among them a Green Heron, just arriving:

Green Heron 20150729

It crept furtively around the rocks:

Green Heron 5-20150729

The Little Blue Heron is another deliberative hunter. In typical fashion, it moved slowly along, often with its bill almost touching the water:

Little Blue Heron hunting HDR 20150729

A Snowy Egret cast a delightful reflection. In foraging, it stirred the water with its foot, creating big bubbles:

Snowy Egret 20150729

The egret almost seemed to be proud of its reflection:

Snowy Egret 3-20150729

A male Northern Flicker (note his black mustache!) called from atop the spire of a Royal Palm:

Northern Flicker male 20150729

A pair of Common Ground-Doves walked along in front of me on the gravel road:

Common Ground-Doves 20150731

Many birds were in various stages of post-breeding molt, such as this female Northern Cardinal:

Northern Cardinal female molting 2-201500730

This cardinal may be a young male, but its bright red bill and tan body feathers suggest it may be an adult female, molting even more visibly:

Northern Cardinal female molting 20150731

This young Boat-tailed Grackle looks shabby indeed, as it begins to acquire its adult coat:

Boat-tailed Grackle molting 2-20150731

A Snowy Egret flew by just after sunrise, offering me the opportunity for two quick clicks:

Great Egret2 HDR 20150731

Great Egret HDR 20150731

Especially when the birding is slow, I take note of the butterflies. Among them, this perfect specimen of a Gulf Fritillary:

Gulf Fritillary male 2-20150727

This is a Phaeon Crescent, distinguished from the common Pearl Crescent by the cream-colored median band on its forewing:

Phaeonl Crescent 2-20150729

I got a nice close look at a Needham's Skimmer:

Needham's Skimmer 2-20150727

In our back yard, the avocados and the delicious fruit of the annone (Custard Apples) are ready:

Avocados and annones 20150727

I had to dig through my older photos to find a fence for Tex's meme. This one was in front of the Fairmont Chalet, our hotel at Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada:

Fairmoont Chateau Lake Louise 2-20150618

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

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

Linking to I Heart Macro by Laura


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



  1. Hello Ken, beautiful sunrise captures. And your bird variety is awesome, it is too hard to choose a favorite. Wonderful post and photos! Enjoy your day!

  2. a grand looking hotel! loved the water birds and reflections. poor scraggly looking molters. :) beautiful and incredible sky! love the sweet gnatcatcher.

  3. My those sky shots were amazing and so beautiful. - Always neat to see the wide variety of birds. I enjoy the Egrets and Herons a great deal. - Nice shot of the Hotel/Fence at Lake Louise, it's been years since I was there but it's quite a lovely place.

  4. Really enjoy your blog Ken. Love staying in touch with my old haunts through your amazing writing, teaching and photography!!

  5. I enjoy your shots so much...they are just so sharp and clear.

  6. The birds are great - but those skies are remarkable.

    Nice post.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  7. A truly wonderful series of photos, thanks for brightening my day!

  8. Oh yes, your captures are incredible. What marvelous photos our world is so beautiful everywhere we look.

  9. Hi Kenneth As usual, your weekly post is fabulous with so many wonderfully shot photographs. It is hard to pick a favourite so this wekk I am not even going to try. Well may just to say the sky shots are awesome

  10. Amazing photos - the skies are stunning and the birds are wonderful!

  11. Unusual fruit... not the avocado. :-) Would love to try!
    Lovely skies and birds!

  12. These skies are stunning! I always like the egret - such an elegant bird!

  13. Did my comment get through? These skies are stunning! If I would chose a bird it would be the egret -so elegant!

  14. Your birds (and butterflies) are wonderful! But those skies--wow! The first three shots particularly, are incredible!

  15. An incredible grouping of photos, but those first couple sky shots steal the show for me!! Beautiful photos.

  16. Hi ken, I wanted to stop back and thank you for linking up your great post today. I wish I could grow avacados in my back yard. Have a happy weekend!

  17. A nice variety of photos. First I've heard of custard apples.

  18. Ironically we BOTH chose to post grackles in the molting stage. How is that you wonder?!

    Love the Green Heron in flight, and I have yet to see a ground dove...they're here, but haven't found one yet. Someday.

    Love ALL your photos...the sky and pink rays are fabulous too Eileen.

    It's great you stopped by to share the link this week at I'd Rather B Birdin'. Thanks.

  19. I meant Ken...I was reading Eileen's comment as I was typing. Geez.

  20. The Spotted Sandpiper is my favourite.

  21. Your sky photos are surreal, I wouldn't have thought dust could make it across the Atlantic, or have such amazing effects. The reflections of the clouds in the water are awesome too. The Snow Egret against the sky is strangely so sharply outlined against the grey, and I like it admiring its reflection in the water.

  22. Love your critters, KCS. And your sky shots are simply unbelievable!

  23. Fantastic pictures of the skies.
    Such a lovely to have your own fruit Avocado planted at your back-yard

  24. Those first 2 sky images are phenomenal! You also have a wonderful series of bird and wildlife shots!!

  25. The skies are amazing! Tho sometimes it's better not to think about what causes those fantastic colors. Stay cool! Good to be an early riser this time of year there! And I have to go look up what custard apples are... All in all, it doesn't look too bad in Florida in August ... Wish we could be in two places at once sometimes!

  26. The skies are so stunning! Gorgeous! But all these birds ... absolutely amazing!

  27. Love those skies, and the upside down gnatcatcher.

  28. Amazing photos, especially first one and second one


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