Thursday, June 25, 2020

Crops & Clips: Early Birds

It's odd how one's definition of "elderly" can change over the years. My private family medicine practice included delivering babies. I always referred my high-risk patients to an Obstetrician. These included any pregnant women who were at high risk, among them "elderly primigravida"-- those whose first pregnancy occured after they were 35 years old. When I was in my 40's I probably would have classified someone in their 70s as "elderly."

However, when I reached 70 years of age I would not have liked being called "elderly," Those are folks who are frail and "really old." They probably were hard of hearing, all went to bed early, got up several times to pee, and were up and about well before the sun was shining. I'm now a mid-octogenarian but that's not me, not quite. Happy to say, I must have made a pact with the Devil when given a choice between losing my hearing or my water. I can still bird by ear!

My advice to older people, both as a physician and in retirement, as a US Forest Service volunteer interpreter on high-altitude trails, was that they should guard against heat stress and especially dehydration. MaryLou and I follow these instructions by venturing out on our morning walks while the sun is well below the horizon. Although she often gets home before sunrise, I carry water and walk back on the shady side of the path. 

Encounters with nocturnal and crepuscular species are the rewards of early birding. More often they are heard but go unseen. This past week a pair of Eastern Screech-Owls stayed out late enough for me to take advantage of dawn's early light. The pair illustrated the two color forms of this species, gray and rufous. 

Gray morphs are more common, present in more than 90% of Eastern Screech-Owls. I enjoyed capturing their varied postures:

Eastern Screech-Owl 05-20200622

Eastern Screech-Owl 06-20200622

Eastern Screech-Owl 03-20200622

It was more difficult for me to see the rufous owl in the dim light. Indeed, in the dark, our eyes are less sensitive to red (high-wavelength) colors than to the the lower (blue) end of the spectrum. Perhaps this is the female of the pair, as rufous morphs occur more frequently in warm and moist climates and are more numerous in females:  

Eastern Screech-Owl, rufous morph 01-20200624

Eastern Screech-Owl, rufous morph 02-20200624

Eastern Screech-Owl, rufous morph 03-20200624

Screech-owls are quite vocal and sometimes continue to call after sunrise. They may attack a human who approaches too close to their nest. I had one hit me in the forehead and another nearly carried off my hat as I was trying to locate their nest hole in a dead palm. As a kid I remember when screech-owls which nested in a neighborhood church steeple attacked womens' hats as they walked into church.  

The Common Nighthawk, a species of Nightjar, seems to become more active during the half hour before sunrise. At least two pairs are defending nesting territories along our route. They circle overhead and dive down and pull up sharply to create a startling "boom."  

This male nighthawk (distinguished by large white markings on its wings, throat and tail) swooped down so close to me that I could not fit him in the frame:

Common Nighthawk 03-20200520

The female Common NIghthawk has smaller white patches, restricted to her wings:

Common Nighthawk female 02-20200529

This female Common Nighthawk was almost invisible as she sat on her eggs, eyes closed:

Common Nighthawk female incubating 02-20190529

Two other Nightjar species are more nocturnal. I have identified them by voice but so far have had only fleeting sightings and no photos. The Eastern Whip-poor-will is a winter visitor, replaced in spring by the Chuck-wills-widow which breeds locally.  This eBird bar chart depicts the weekly frequency of my local sightings of the three Nightjar species over the past ten years:  

Nightjhars in Miramar WCA

In mid-June, we walked out under the waning crescent of the Strawberry Moon:

Strawberry Moon waning crescent 20200616 

I enjoy standing at the shore of the lake and just listening to the sounds of nature. With the COVID-19 lockdown in place it was much more quiet and  peaceful-- few airplanes and greatly reduced traffic sounds. Sunrise occurs over the populated area, so its beauty competes with power poles: 

Sunrise 01-20200621

Opposite the sunrise, the view over the placid lake and distant Everglades is subdued but colorful:

View to west at sunrise 01-20200618

View to west at sunrise 02-20200618

The red epaulets of a Red-winged Blackbird glow in the gloaming:

 Red-winged Blackbird 02-20200622

This is a Little Blue Heron "shot in the dark" before sunrise:

Little Blue Heron before sunrise 03-20200617

A Fish Crow is a silhouette even by day:

Fish Crow 01-20200624

The morning rays catch the outstretched neck of a partially-hidden Green Heron:

Green Heron 03-20200624

In our back yard, a dimly-lit Double-crested Cormorant hitches a ride on a decoy:

Double-crested Cormorant on decoy 20200618

Lights, camera, action! A Great Egret reflects in front of a neighbor's fence:

Great Egret 01-20200618

Great Egret 02-20200618

A tiny Dainty Sulphur brightens up a grubby spot on the ground:

Dainty Sulphur 20200506

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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 posts to see some excellent photos on display

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Crops & Clips: Birding Doldrums

On rainy days our back yard lake has attracted a few birds which brighten my COVID-induced social seclusion. Shooting through the window produces poor photos, but the behavior of some of our visitors can be interesting.

A Great Egret suddenly appeared, dashing from left to right along the lake margin as if late for dinner:

Great Egret running 01-20200606

Great Egret running 02-20200606

Great Egret running 04-20200606

At the same time, my peripheral vision caught motion to my right. A Tricolored Heron was likewise speeding into an imminent head-on collision with the egret:

Tricolored Heron 01-20200606

Tricolored Heron 02-20200606

Tricolored Heron 03-20200606

Neither changed course and it was only a near-miss. The Tricolored Heron just kept running along until out of sight to my left. The egret simply flew off to the right. What compelled them to move so purposefully in opposite directions? Beats me!

Now that spring migration is over and our local birds are quietly tending to nests and youngsters, the number and variety of birds is way down. I am a big believer in Bird Chaser's Recommended Daily Allowance of Birds (RDA-B).

The day just doesn't start off right unless I see at least my RDA of 20 species on a morning walk. Sometimes I get stuck at 19 and decide to hang around a little longer "just in case" one more shows up. During migration I sometimes hit the target before half way through my route, making me feel so "well nourished" that I do not even think about numbers.

Wintering Gray Catbirds were so numerous that they became a distraction. Then they suddenly disappeared:

Gray Catbird 20200322

Least Terns appeared just as the catbirds were departing:

Least Tern 02-20200423

In any season I can predict with certainty that I will see 10 species without even trying. The species mix will vary by season. Now that summer is arriving, the list will usually include a cardinal, mockingbird, two or three woodpecker species, blackbirds, grackles and an assortment of crows, ibises, herons and egrets. 

Some of the usually common birds may decide not to show up. I have had heron-free mornings and the reliable flickers or shrikes may suddenly become scarce. Three species of doves are locally common, but sometimes I may hear or see only one. 

Or, the normally predictable afternoon rainstorm may pop up early and cut my walk short, leaving me nutritionally deficient (and a bit frightened): 

Storms moving in 02-20200523

One morning I obtained a nice "two-fer," bagging a Red-shouldered Hawk and a V-shaped flock of ibises in one peaceful setting:

Hawk and ibises 20200522

A closer look at the hawk:

Red-shouldered Hawk 03-20200522

Common Nighthawks are laying their eggs on the bare gravel along the trail. The female often flies out and rests in front of me to attract me away from her nest.

Female Common Nighthawk:

Common Nighthawk female 20190815

For comparison, the male has larger white patches on his throat, wings and tail:

Common Nighthawk 01-20200527

The male nighthawk swoops low over my head, pulling up sharply to create a startling "boom:"

Common Nighthawk 01-20200520 

Killdeer are also patrolling their nesting territories:

Killdeer 02-20200529

A Green Heron passes overhead...

Green Heron 20200530

...along with Glossy Ibises...

Glossy Ibises 01-20200531

...and a White Ibis:

White and Glossy Ibises 2-20200529

Heavy rains have caused the lake to extend into the lakeside marsh...

Flooded Lakeside marsh 20200531

...and spill over into the wet prairie. Seeking dry footing, the deer are moving in from the Everglades preserve. I encountered a White-tailed buck with a pregnant doe and her yearling fawn. They stopped and stared at me...

White-tail buck doe yearling 01-20200529 
...before wading through a deeper slough:

White-tail buck doe  03-20200529

The buck lagged behind them:

White-tail buck 06-20200529

Once on dry land, the buck looked back at me:

White-tail buck 092-20200529

They grazed along the dry path:

White-tail buck doe yearling 09-20200529

The doe had long eyelashes:

White-tail buck doe porrtrait 093-20200529

Before sunrise, a line of thunderstorms over the ocean created a regular series of parallel shadows which coursed overhead and appeared to converge on the western horizon, creating a mirrored "second sunrise:" 

Antisolar rays opposite sunrise 3-20200602

Gulf Fritillary:

Gulf Fritillary 20200605

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Linking to:

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 posts to see some excellent photos on display


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Crops & Clips: A macro-micro morning

Many of my sightings on early morning walks have been of far-off subjects. My photos reflect the effects of distance and poor lighting, as well as the fact that furry and feathered creatures are not accustomed to the human presence out in the wetland preserve. Yet, I was able to capture some nice closeups of butterflies and dragonflies.

Morning rain showers and thunderstorms have reduced our already limited time outdoors due to our need to avoid the stress of daytime heat along with pandemic-induced isolation. Plans and family hotel reservations for our flight back to Illinois for our granddaughter Carina's QuinceaƱera celebration (and a small family reunion for our 60th Wedding Anniversary which happens to be today, June 11) had to be postponed until mid-July, then moved again into September. Even that date is surrounded by uncertainty. Needless to say, Carina is not happy about Corona!

Before sunrise, a  Spotted Sandpiper startled me by flying up from the shore and landing on a faraway rock formation:

Spotted Sandpiper 20200422

A male Belted Kingfisher would just not let me get any nearer:

Belted Kingfisher male 20200422

Another lakeside loafer was a Green Heron, but it would have nothing to do with me and flew off in the distance:

Green Heron 20200422

Bright sun and shadows took away much of what was left of this Little Blue Heron on a big blue sky:

Little Blue Heron 20200422

The previous morning, the male Bald Eagle from the nearby nest set off to go fishing at sunup. He flew right over my head from behind and it took me too long to get him into good focus:

Bald Eagle male 02-20200421

A Northern Cardinal sang from a distant perch:

Northern Cardinal 02-20200421

Can you even see the Great Crested Flycatcher?

Great Crested Flycatcher 01-20200421

I chased him down...

Great Crested Flycatcher 02-20200421

...and nailed him... but he looks so sullen:

Great Crested Flycatcher 04-20200421

A big male Bobcat decided to cross the road long after I had passed  by. He obviously spotted me and watched...

Bobcat 02-20200414 he walked away, a mere  speck on my lens:

Bobcat 03-20200414

One last look:

Bobcat 04-20200414

Back in April I was not even searching for it, but a male Black-throated Blue Warbler was so busy fluffing and preening that he seemed not to see me. With the subject deep in a thicket, my auto-focus was confused by the intervening branches:

Black-throated Blue Warbler 01-20200421

To cut my losses, I settled for a simple portrait and left  the rest of the pixels on the cutting room floor:

Black-throated Blue Warbler portrait  02-20200421

I squeaked with my lips to make this Eastern Screech-Owl poke his head out of its woodpecker-hole bedroom. It was quite far away and the Sun was just rising:

Eastern Screech-Owl 01-20200421

Shooting through our back yard window, I saw that this Tricolored Heron's feet were about to disappear as it descended to the lake shore... Time for one last whole-body shot... 

Tricolored Heron running  09-20200419

...and back to portrait mode before it dropped out of sight. Its bright blue bill indicates it is in breeding condition:

Tricolored Heron portrait  092-20200419

Two Mottled Ducks left a long wake while they crossed the canal as the morning fog dissipated. The Wounded Wetlands are on the right, and the look-alike fences of my neighbors are lined up along the opposite bank:

Two Mottled Ducks on the canal 20200416

Some bugs were nice to me, such as these dragonflies. 

A Needham's Skimmer shows amber in its wings:

Needham's Skimmer - Libellula needhami 20200422

The Blue Dasher is small and inconspicuous...

Blue Dasher - Pachydiplax longipennis 20200422

...while the Halloween Pennant displays its orange and brown wing markings, earning its name by perching like a flag on a tall stem:

Halloween Pennant- Celithemis eponina 01-20200422

Halloween Pennant - Celithemis eponina 20200424

I cannot pass up a photo session with a White Peacock. It is probably newly emerged, as its wings will quickly be damaged in the competition for mates:

White Peacock 01-20200422

Snow on a summer-like day in south Florida?

Royal Palm pollen on leaf sheath 20200416

No, these are the tiny spent petals of the male flowers of the Royal Palm. The green female flowers are clustered on either side of the fragrant male plumes, So many bees can be attracted that sometimes it sounds as if an electric motor is humming overhead: 

Royal Palm in bloom 01-20200416

The smooth green object on the ground is the capsular shaft, the petiole or "boot" which falls off each flower as it matures. The older lower leaves also are shed, leaving a ring of scars on the trunk of the ever-growing tree. Like the internal growth rings of woody trees, the spacing of the rings and the diameter of the trunk reflect the good and bad seasons:

Royal Palm in bloom 02-20200416

Our city has never had measurable snowfall, but here is an example of "Florida Snow" around the base of a Royal Palm:

Royal Palm pollen 20170121

On June 8th the planets Jupiter and Saturn lined up with the full Strawberry Moon. As my most distant subject of the month, this image was produced by my iPhone 11 Pro Max:

Saturn Jupiter and Moon CROP  0557AM  20200608

MaryLou had hand surgery yesterday, so she is celebrating our Anniversary with  a big bulky bandage on her right hand. As her "Right-hand Man" I cooked her favorite breakfast this morning but will not be able to focus her binoculars. Can't believe that June 11 1960 was so long ago!

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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 posts to see some excellent photos on display