Thursday, March 26, 2020

Seeking social isolation but not alone

We are voluntarily restricted to the confines of our home for most of the day. However, well before sunrise almost every morning, we do walk out with our flashlights into the Wounded Wetlands. MaryLou finishes the 2.5 mile round trip at a fast walking pace. I start out with her but soon lag behind, listening to the sounds of the night. We meet again at about the halfway point, two torches passing in the night. She: "Hear anything?" Me: "No Whips or Chucks but there's an owl to your right on the way back."

It is too dark for photos in the deeply shaded rookery, but it is worth trying as I encounter a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron subduing a frog, but then having trouble swallowing it:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron immature with frog 03-20200323

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron immature with frog 02-20200323

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron immature with frog 01-20200323

Now feeling the darkness, I muse about the Virus and how it is affecting our lives. Instead of trips to supermarket we order online. Items such as eggs and other dairy, produce and meat products, many of which were "in stock" when we requested them are "out of stock" by the time they got around to fulfilling the order. 

The airline reservations will almost certainly need to be be canceled for a trip to Illinois in May, along with our children and grandchildren. We planned to celebrate our granddaughter's Quinceañera* and our 60th Wedding Anniversary. We are bombarded by an incessant flow of reports on the progress (or lack thereof) of combating the pandemic.

A Mottled Duck is barely visible in the darkness. I turned on the flash and was later surprised at how well this image turned out after being brightened and sharpened. Since I was some distance away, the flash caused a "glass eye" reflection which I had to darken:

Mottled Duck 01-20200308

High in the sky, my steady hand (correction, the image stabilizer of my camera) allows me to count the moons of Jupiter and even see the pink cast of Mars:

Jupiter and Mars 20200320

A few days previously my focus was poor but the two planets were closer together and colors of Mars shone through:

Jupiter and Mars 20200319

Out in the dark, my nearest overhead neighbor is the Red Plant, but I am not lonely. I catch the eye-shine of an anxious Raccoon, a semi-submerged alligator, or a deer frozen in the glare of my flashlight. What are they thinking? 

Are they just programmed by instinct and "stimulus-response," or am I surrounded by consciousness... that of the moths attracted to the beam of my flashlight... the mosquitoes sensing my carbon dioxide emissions..  the viruses, unseen and locked as we are in a drive to survive, to live, to reproduce? 

A virus is just a chemical  that it needs to make. Its progeny cannot kill the host too rapidly or it will never have the chance to spread and multiply. Does the ant feel pain when I crush it underfoot? Does the Panther grieve when it visits the place where its cub was run over, only to meet the  same fate? 

Overnight, the "Wreckreational Vehicle" drivers had gathered to wreak more havoc on the South Wet Prairie. One such participant must have had engine failure and left his four-wheeler behind. In the glow of my flashlight it looks surreal, two-dimensional:

Muddy ATV in spotlight 01-20200323 

By dawn's light, the landscape shows scars left by their fun-filled night of wheelies, donuts and jumps:

ATV Damage 02-20200323

Thigh-deep in muck, two immature White Ibises add life to a desolate scene:

White Ibis immatures 02-20200323

White Ibis immatures 03-20200323

White Ibis immature 04-20200323

So many younger folks seem to feel reassured that COVID-19 will not be much of a problem for them. It may cause them discomfort but not death. The statistics from Italy zone in on the risk to older victims. For those over 70, the average age of death is 85 years. I do not like being "average."  No, I am "above average," like all the children in Lake Wobegon.**  

Being stuck at home does force me to appreciate what I have. Certainly MaryLou's company and the helpfulness of neighbors who offer to pick up groceries or simply inquire about our welfare are reassuring. Having a lake in the back yard and a shaded patio is a real plus. 

Seen through the back sliding glass door, a Double-crested Cormorant rests on the goose decoy which serves as the float for the intake of our lawn irrigation system:

Double-crested Cormorant 03-20200318

Here are the modest "crests" which earn the bird its name (and check out those jewel-like eyes):

Double-crested Cormorant 02-20200318

This female Anhinga, seen through the glass, is drying her wings:

Anhinga 01-20200306

A window-viewed Tricolored Heron is backed by the lake's wind-disturbed surface:

Tricolored Heron thru window 20191103

With stealth, I can creep outside and even get some photos  which are not distorted by window glass (or darkness, as was the case in all the foregoing "Pixillated Masterpieces"). 

A case in point is this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker duo, cooperating to riddle the bark of our West Indies Mahogany tree. They did their best to stay on the opposite side of the trunk, so I rarely got full-body shots. This is the immature bird, which lacks the red cap:

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker immature 01-20200322

The adult female sapsucker has red on her head but not the red throat of a male:

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker female 05-20200322 

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker female 02-20200322

Because of our habit of walking out so early, we often miss a colorful sunrise over our backyard lake. Out on the wetlands, we can watch as the shadow of the earth sinks into the western horizon over the Everglades. 

The North Wet Prairie before sunrise on March 18::

View to west before sunrise 03-20200418

Ten minutes after sunrise on March 24, the sunbeams have not yet touched the opposite shore, but they brighten the sky overhead to create a shadow-free foreground: 

Sunrise2 plus 10 minutes 20200324

Sunrise plus 10 minutes 02-20200324

= = = =  = = =

*Quinceañera, (Spanish: “15 years [feminine form]”) also called quinceaños or quince años or simply quince, the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, marking her passage from girlhood to womanhood; the term is also used for the celebrant herself. The quinceañera is both a religious and a social event that emphasizes the importance of family and society in the life of a young woman. It is celebrated in Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean, as well as in Latino communities in the United States and elsewhere. REF: Encyclopedia Britannica

**Lake Wobegon is a fictional town created by Garrison Keillor as the setting of the "News from Lake Wobegon" segment of the radio program A Prairie Home Companion...  Keillor's weekly monologue about Lake Wobegon included recurring elements... The closing words of the monologue were "Well, that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." RE: Wikipedia

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to:

Fences Around the World

Skywatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Saturday's Critters


Camera Critters

All Seasons

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Our World Tuesday

Wild Bird Wednesday

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

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Late winter clicks & crops

Here in south Florida we have enjoyed clear, dry and sometimes cool weather the past couple of weeks. Dry conditions have lowered the water levels in the wetlands, concentrating aquatic prey and attracting long-legged waders, such as this Tricolored Heron:

Tricolored Heron 02-20200301

Tricolored Heron in flight 04-20200301

Tricolored Heron in flight 05-20200301

Great Egret in early morning flight on March 1st:

Great Egret in flight 03-20200301

Great Blue Heron fly-by the same morning:

Great Blue Heron in flight 20200301

Another Great Egret punctuated this view of the north shore:

Great Egret lakescape COREL 20200308

Mottled Duck coming in for a landing:

Mottled Duck landing 02-20200301

Mottled Duck landing 05-20200301

Mottled Duck landing 06-20200301

Bald Eagle flyover:

Bald Eagle 01-20200229

Bald Eagle 02-20200229

The Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia), native to east and southeast Asia and said to be the only established introduced dragonfly species, is now fairly common in south Florida: 

Scarlet Skimmer - Crocothemis servilia 20200303 

Julia butterflies became very scarce during the two years following Hurricane Irma in 2017, but this winter their numbers have rebounded. 

Male Julia heliconian:

Julia heliconian male  - Dryas julia 20200303

The female Julia is brownish in color and has stripes which go entirely across its forewings:

Julia heliconian female  - Dryas julia 20200303

Zebra heliconian, Florida's State Butterfly:

Zebra heliconian 20200304

On the home front, a female Anhinga dried her wings on the goose decoy which serves as a float for the intake of our lawn irrigation system:

Anhinga 01-20200306 

On March 7th, we had early routine dental appointments which caused us to be home for a particularly colorful back-yard sunrise:

Monaco Cove sunrise 01-20200307

Monaco Cove sunrise 02-20200307

The next day was cloudy. Overnight, the All Terrain Vehicle drivers had fun inscribing "donuts" on the gravel path. This one was almost a perfect circle:

Perfect ATV donut COREL 20200308

Out an hour before sunrise, we heard the songs of the Eastern Whip-poor-wills, sometimes two or three at a time. This winter I first heard them in November and they finally departed on March 9. Click here for a link to a recording I made on March 4.

Then, on March 15 another Night-jar, the Chuck-wills-widow which breeds here, took up the predawn chorus. So far I have been unable to get a photo of these two nocturnal birds. Since 2009 I have recorded 178 species in this patch and taken pictures of nearly all of them on site.  Another local bird in my "heard but not photographed" category is the Great Horned Owl, although I have seen them at other  locations.

Great Horned Owl, (2018, Illinois):

Great Horned Owl 01-20180505

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to:

Fences Around the World

Skywatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Saturday's Critters


Camera Critters

All Seasons

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Our World Tuesday

Wild Bird Wednesday

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

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Including habitat in photos

Too often, I strive for "bird guide" photos, side-on, in perfect light and showing every plumage detail. These views don't usually happen in real life. So many of my shots show nothing but leaves and twigs or empty sky. 

An American Kestrel was so far away that its cropped image would not merit publication on glossy paper, but the original illustrates its habit of selecting a high perch atop a Royal Palm:

American Kestrel on Royal Palm shoot 20191206

Seeing a Yellow-rumped Warbler perched out in the open lets us better appreciate its small size as well as its namesake field mark:

Yellow-rumped Warbler 20200105

Blurred wings provide action as a Blue Jay snatches fruit from a Royal Palm:

Blue Jay 02-20191206

This male Northern Parula warbler is at home in mid-winter, among the emerging leaves of a Red Maple:

Northern Parula 05-20191223

Northern Mockingbird on Brazilian Pepper-- Birds and berries go together...

 Northern Mockingbird 01-20191130 do butterflies and blossoms-- Giant Swallowtail and Lantana flowers:

Giant Swallowtail 20181005

Is this a picture of the bird or the background? Great Egret:

Great Egret 01-20191108

A tight crop would keep us from learning something about the food preferences of a tiny Barred Yellow butterfly on Largeflower Mexican Clover  (Richardia grandiflora):

Barred Yellow butterfly 20191211

The aesthetics are horrible, but can a hawk and a dove tell a story? Red-shouldered Hawk watching a Eurasian Collared-Dove: 

Eurasian Collard-Dove and Red-Shouldered Hawk 20191016

A "field guide" view would eliminate the reflection of this Great Egret:

Great Egret in morning light 01-0190114 

Another messy egret photo, not fit for publication:

Great Egret 20190623

An egret hunts in unsightly periphyton* which blankets the surface of a cove. It is a rich source of food and hiding places for prey species:

Great Egret and periphyton 05-20181208

Its back is to the camera and the light does not catch the eye of this Black-throated Blue Warbler, at home in a Firebush (Hamelia patens):

Black-throated Blue Warbler male 091-20191009

The Eastern Phoebe is primarily a flycatcher. Not a great shot, but it is eating a large cutworm caterpillar!

Eastern Phoebe with caterpillar 01-20191206

Black-necked Stilts on still water:

Stilts on still water 20190401

What is most important here, the Bald Eagle or the golden sky at sunrise? What is one without the other?

Bald Eagle on golden sky 04-20190728

= = = = =  = = = = = = = = = =

*Periphyton is a complex mixture of algae, cyanobacteria, heterotrophic microbes, and detritus that is attached to submerged surfaces in most aquatic ecosystems... Periphyton serves as an important food source for invertebrates, tadpoles, and some fish. It can also absorb contaminants, removing them from the water column and limiting their movement through the environment. The periphyton is also an important indicator of water quality... REFERENCE

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to

Fences Around the World

Skywatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Saturday's Critters


Camera Critters

All Seasons

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Our World Tuesday


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