Thursday, August 16, 2018

A quiet time for molting

Having abandoned our summer home in NE Illinois, we are now experiencing the typical south Florida subtropical "rainy season" weather pattern: clear, hot and humid mornings and stormy afternoons.

Before sunrise, anticrepuscular rays appear to converge on the horizon opposite the sun, creating a "mirrored sunrise" to the west:

Anticrepuscular rays to west before sunrise 20180803

Two hours later, I walk home towards a thunderstorm building over the ocean to the east. Do you see a pointy-nosed man sleeping (snoring?) on a cloud pillow?

Storm building to south 03-20180801

For the past couple of weeks the dawn chorus has been muted. During much of the year we become accustomed to the songs of mockingbirds and cardinals which pierce the dark as we walk out a half hour before sunrise. 

Courting, defending territories and raising a brood are followed by the mid-summer post-breeding molt. Now energy must be conserved as new feathers are grown, nourished and groomed. Even these persistent songsters fall silent.

This young male Boat-tailed Grackle is a sight for sore eyes...

Boat-tailed Grackle molting 3-20150731

...but he can look forward to looking like this:

Boat-tailed Grackle 03-20180414

The flight feathers of this Red-winged Blackbird are worn and tattered...

Red-winged Blackbird molting 20140704

...but in a few weeks he will be singing again:

Red-winged Blackbird display HDR  20160422

A bedraggled Northern Mockingbird waits for feathers to be replaced...

Northern Mockingbird molting 20140718

Northern Mockingbird molting 2-20140718 he can show off his new coat:

Northern Mockingbird 03-20170403

A "Young and Crestless" male Northern Cardinal transitions into adult plumage...

Northern Cardinal 20120808

...and an adult cardinal's black skin is exposed until new feathers grow back...

Northern Cardinal molting 20170728

...and soon they will:

Northern Cardinal male 01-20180707

Back in Illinois, a male Bobolink is changing into a soft brown winter coat which resembles that of his mate...

Bobolink 20120709

...until next spring...

Bobolink 01-20180515:

...when he will draw admiring looks from this female Bobolink:

Bobolink 2-20150831

White-eyed Vireos have just about finished molting ...

White-eyed Vireo molting 2-20130721

...and in a few weeks will be in fine feather:

White-eyed Vireo 01-20180402

As is the case with many waterbirds, this male Anhinga temporarily loses all its flight feathers at once, as new feathers emerge, encased in steel-blue sheaths:

Anhinga in molt 20180808

Soon he will look even better than he did when I photographed him only two weeks previously:

Anhinga male 01-20180717

Anhingas add a few nice touches during breeding season-- head plumes and green "goggles:"

Anhinga male 20180705

Most birds molt their flight feathers symmetrically, so that flight performance is not impaired. This is a juvenile Bald Eagle, about 6 months old. Its wing feathers are nicely lined up. They are actually about 1 1/2 inches longer than those of the adult and there is a noticeable bulge in the secondary remiges (flight feathers) nearest its body:

Bald Eagle Juvenile 02-20180622

This immature Bald Eagle, just entering its second year, is symmetrically replacing its long juvenile remiges and tail feathers (retrices) with the shorter adult feathers:

Bald Eagle 20090615

Note the more narrow wings of an adult, with a nice even trailing edge:

Bald Eagle female in flight 06-20170319

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh


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



  1. Yep, that time. That's why my doves' feathers are all over the dining room.

  2. What a beautiful, and informative, post. Really liked it.

  3. Great shots and clear explanation... the bald eagle from below is awesome!

  4. I do see the pointy-nosed man with his head resting in the clouds. Beautiful photos and sky captures!

  5. Beautiful sky and birds photos! Birds are not easy to photograph!

  6. Stunning sunrise! WOW image!

  7. Your sky reflection photos are great. We never see skies like these on the northern plains. Love your bird molting photos. Never saw a Cardinal looking so bedraggled.

  8. Photographs of the sky are absolutely amazing.

  9. Hello, your sky shots are awesome. I see the pointy nose man. Great variety of birds, I love the Mocker, Anhinga and Eagles. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend. PS, thanks also for the comment on my blog.

  10. Love those cloud shots and yes, I did see an old man on a pillow.:) My granddaughter came down last week to try to get pics of birds she doesn't see in Illinois. She was a bit disappointed in all the molting going on this time of year. Still she got some nice shots. Enjoyed your post!

  11. All of your photos make me anxious to get outside more! It's been so HOT! lol We have 2 baby Cardinals in our feeders right now...with black beaks, being fed by Mama. They are so cute! Enjoy your weekend!

  12. The first two shots are beautiful. Red-wing blackbirds always remind me of going to visit my grandmother and great aunt. - Margy

  13. Absolutely amazing photos! The bobolink was my favorite!

  14. I enjoyed this post on different plumage seasons...sometimes, quite a difference, yes? And that first photo of the sun's rays...phenomenal!!

    ...thanks for sharing this with us this week at I'd Rather B Birdin'

  15. We wake most morning these days to the sound of Grey Butcher birds calling - I think that a pair is making a territory in a big fig tree next door to us. I hope so, as I may be able to get some pictures.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  16. Stunning sun rise. Their new clothes give new life to their voices.

  17. Those sky images should be hung on a wall somewhere


  18. What a great series of photos. It proves how difficult ID is at certain times of the year!! Cheers Diane

  19. Awww...the poor sorry looking birdies......

  20. The first time I was in August in Florida, the weather scared me, it was like every afternoon a hurricane was brewing - the charcoal sky with such heavy winds (in college years here, experienced tornados in TX and MI -I know they're different, but they give me the same alertness to seek for cover). Had to smile about your comment about the rosemary, spearment en parsley. Have no green thumb either:)
    Your captures of the birds always so much character - it flies right off the page! Many thanks for your showing All Seasons your royal cardinal:) Have a great rest of the week! Jesh/junieper

  21. The first image is stunning and as usual, your birds are marvelous!

  22. This is a wonderful post Ken -- beautifully clear photos and so full of good information (perfectly illustrated) about the various stages of each bird.... I will bookmark this page for future reference.


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