Thursday, January 28, 2016

Palm Warblers and Alligator Flags

Morning clouds reflect on the surface of the lake in the local wetlands:

Looking NW before sunrise HDR 20151030

The Palm Warbler is one of the most common bird species seen on residential lawns during Florida's winter. Our visitors belong to the drab western subspecies, which breed in central and western Canada and winter in Florida and the Caribbean.

The Palm Warbler's long legs are an adaptation to its habit of foraging on the ground:

Palm Warbler 20131114

Palm Warbler 2-20151009

This Palm Warbler has caught a very large grub:
 Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum) with worm 20120219

Another poses nicely for me:

Palm Warbler 2-20150212

In spring, its plumage brightens up...
Palm Warbler 20140331

...but never reaches the intensity of this Eastern (Yellow) Palm Warbler subspecies which breeds in eastern Canada and crosses over to winter in Mexico by way of Texas (May 15, 2014 in Illinois):

Palm Warbler eastern 2-20140504

This is another example of the eastern subspecies, also photographed in Illinois (May 1, 2012):

Palm Warbler 20120501

A group of small and active birds caught my attention as I was exploring the near shore of the lake in our local wetlands. Bright  yellow at the base of their wagging tails identified them as Palm Warblers. Five or six were gathered on what looked like a collection of slender weeds. They were exploring inconspicuous red flowers that draped down from the tips of the stalks. This led me into a deeper inquiry about this behavior.

Palm Warbler and Alligator Flag flowers 20151121

Enjoying the aesthetics of the scene, I took several photos. I learned that these flowers are very attractive to flying insects, drawing in the Palm Warblers.

Palm Warbler and Alligator Flag flowers 2-20151121

The flowers sprang up from a clump of broad-leafed plants that I recognized as Alligator Flag:

 Alligator Flag in bloom HDR 20151120

South Florida experiences a wet season (March-Oct) and a dry season (November-February). In response to seasonal variation in rainfall, vegetation in the Florida Everglades has evolved to take advantage of several micro-habitats. Almost all are related to the hydroperiod, or the average amount of time a plant stands in water over the year. Sawgrass, the predominant plant in the extensive marshes thrives in a hydroperiod of about 9 months. It can survive shallow flooding all year around, but will die if deeper water keeps oxygen from reaching its roots.

This was a stand of Sawgrass in our local wetlands back when the restoration area was actively managed by controlling water levels and removing exotic invasive plants.  In the background is the skeleton of an ancient cypress that once stood in the historic Everglades. Sadly, now that this area is to be turned into a reservoir, all restoration efforts have been abandoned and this spot is now totally overrun by shrubs and trees.


"Wet prairies" of grasses, rushes and sedges develop in slightly elevated areas where shallow water may cover the ground only about 3 to 7 months of the year. This is a fair example of a restored wet prairie, still actively managed, adjacent to the planned water impoundment:

 Wet prairie HDR 20151027

Alligator Flag must be waterlogged all year round, so it is found in the deeper channels (sloughs or "slews") that cut through the marshes and prairies. American Alligators dig out ponds of open water which sustain mammals, birds, turtles, fish and other organisms all through the year, assuring these large reptiles with a reliable food source. 

A bit to the north, an alligator has carved a circular pond in the wet prairie. Sedges are thriving at its margin:

 Pembroke Pines WCA 2-20130117

An American Alligator basks next to its pond during the dry season:

Alligator 20130202

Alligator Flag (Thalia geniculata) requires water all year, and is so named because its presence in the open Everglades suggests the presence of an alligator "hole." Its flowers are obviously attractive to flying insects which in turn attracted the small flock of foraging warblers.

I found a fascinating blog about Alligator Flag (Alligator Flag is a Snappy Wildflower)
which in some detail describes the "rat-trap pollination" that occurs when a bee enters the flower and triggers a mechanism which simultaneously collects pollen from the intruder and deposits its own pollen, as it forcibly ejects the insect, thus assuring cross-pollination and also closing the entrance to the flower. (Read the blog, as I have grossly oversimplified the process.)

My macro for the week is this White Peacock on the flower of a Balsam Pear:

White Peacock on Balsam Pear 20151112

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Agramonte has a new companion

This is another special edition of Rosyfinch Ramblings to update the situation after Sagua, our granddaughters' 7 year old pet Tibetan Mastiff died last week. (See: "Remembering Sagua") Their parents lost no time in finding a companion for her "brother" Agramonte, now 8 years old.

Our new "Grand-puppy" is named Siboney (pronounced see-BOH-neh). This is an Anglicized word which has its origin in "Ciboney" the name of a pre-Colonial indigenous population in Cuba. Following Spanish conquest they, and all Cuban native groups, had disappeared by the end of the 1500s. Our son-in-law is a Cuban native (born in Sagua La Grande), and their dogs have all had names of significance in Cuban history, shortened as follows: Maceo, a Doberman-Lab mix, Maximo, an American Mastiff, followed by Tibetan Mastiffs Agramonte, Sagua, and now Siboney.

While visiting the breeder, a litter of puppies surrounded the girls. They were black and tan just like Sagua:

Graci with Tibetan Mastiff Puppies 20160124

Cari with Tibetan Mastiff Puppies 20160124

Siboney is on the right, with two litter mates:

Siboney litter mates

Siboney's Dad, Atilla the Hun:

ATILLA the Hun  - Siboney's dad

Siboney's Mom, Kita Bear:

KITA Bear - Siboney's Mom

Welcoming Siboney to the family:

Cari with Siboney

Graci Cari with Siboney

Doing what Tibetan Mastiffs do best:

Siboney sleeping CROP


Siboney portrait2 CROP

Agramonte greeting Siboney. They played until Siboney just stopped to take a nap:
Agramonte and Siboney

Friday, January 22, 2016

Remembering Sagua 2009-2016

This is a special edition of Rosyfinch Ramblings, remembering Sagua, our granddaughters' seven year old Tibetan Mastiff. She had to be put down this week because of an irreversible liver condition. Her weight went down from 132 to only about 100 pounds. We will miss her sweet disposition, as will our daughter, son-in-law and their two girls.

Sagua 8 NOV 09

Sagua was very patient and put up with the indignity of playing "Wonder Woman" on Halloween:

Sagua Wonder Dog 20101008

Sagua got lots of love and returned it:

Sagua and Cari 20090513

Oh, the indignities she put up with!

Sagua with girls 20140930

She was a part of family birthday parties:

Nietas with Sagua 20100829

Her Tibetan Mastiff "brother" Agramonte joins the celebration, wishing me Happy Birthday, August 29, 2010:

Two Old Dogs 20100829

Agramonte will miss her the most:

Agramonte and Sagua 20130222

We will all miss you, Sagua:

Sagua 20130306

The girls welcomed Sagua as a new member of the family, here at the age of 4 months, May 2009:

Sagua 20090513
Sagua a month later with Agramonte, a year her senior:

Sagua and Agramonte 5-20090614

March 16, 2010, now just over a year old, with Agaramonte:

Agramonte y Sagua 20100316

Keeping watch at the gate, September, 2014:

Sagua y Agramonte 20140926

This brings back memories of another sad day in the granddaughters' lives, when Maceo, a Chocolate Lab/Doberman mix, had to undergo several surgeries and chemotherapy. He spent his final days with the girls, in December, 2007.

Shh! Maceo is sleeping:

Shh -Maceo dying DEC 2007

He is so weak and in distress. Nieta covers him up:

Covering him up - Maceo dying DEC 2007

Now he seems to be more comfortable, lying next to Graciela's favorite stuffed lamb, “Baa.” Only Maceo could separate her from Baa. Agamonte soon helped fill the void in their hearts, and a year later all would welcome Sagua into the family.

Maceo dying DEC 2007

Agramonte at 3 months age with the girls in March, 2008


Stone for Sagua

Also see: "Losing a Best Friend" -- December 9, 2007

and "Tibetan Mastiff Puppy" -- March, 2008

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Low-light photo delights

Wet and humid temperatures continued into the new year. During the second week in January, the overnight temperature finally got down to the low 60s and reached 59 degrees (F) on January 10, the coldest temperature recorded so far this winter. The AVERAGE low temperature on that date is 60 degrees! Almost every morning there was the threat of rain by mid-morning. We usually start walking out about 30 minutes before sunrise. Too dark for photography, I usually bird by ear the first 19-20 minutes. 

The cool snap caused dense fog one morning. These Black Vultures rested on the abandoned utility pole, barely identifiable:


A small flock of Boat-tailed Grackles suddenly emerged from the cloudy depths and roosted lakeside:

Boat-tailed Grackles in fog 20160109

The subdued light painted a pastel portrait:

 Boat-tailed Grackles in fog 2-20160109

A poorly illuminated Great Egret flew overhead:

Great Egret 4-20160107

An Anhinga posed and dried her wings as the fog bank provided an uncluttered backdrop:

Anhinga 20160109

My photo of another egret came out surprisingly bright and clear:

Great Egret 20160107

The fog presented a nice photo opportunity as the rising sun tried to burn through to the lake:

Sunrise HDR 20160109

A few minutes later the sun had just reached the east shore:

Sun piercing fog HDR 20160109

Spider webs were festooned with dewdrops. The lack of shadows actually enhanced this macro of an orb-weaving garden spider:

Spider in orb crop 20160109

The fog lifted, gradually unveiling the pine bank across the lake:

Wetlands shrouded HDR 20160109

Fog lifting over pine bank HDR 20160109

In better light, an American Kestrel roosted atop the frond spire of of a tall Royal Palm:

American Kestrel 20160109

A newly emerged White Peacock showed off its colors:

White Peacock fresh 20160109

Another Great Egret was reflected in the blue water:

Great Egret in flight 2-20160109

A Brown Thrasher revealed its presence briefly, its yellow eyes gleaming:

Brown Thrasher 20160107

In our back yard lake, a Great Blue Heron caught an Amphiuma. At first I thought it was a snake, but actually this eel-like creature is an amphibian, the largest species of "legless" salamanders in Florida:

Great Blue Heron with Amphhiuma 05-20160108

I wish I could have seen the heron swallow its prey, but it ambled away and turned the corner behind a neighbor's fence:

Great Blue Heron with Amphiuma 04-20160108 

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

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