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

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

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


  1. Missy had trouble posting her comments, so here they are-- Thanks, Missy! "Your Owl pictures are magnificent..I would love to catch one in my lens but I never see them..I hear them occasionally at night when I am out walking Mollie.. The Herons are lovely as well..I remember when we used to live in a house that bordered wetlands..Lots of Herons..We also had voles..The Herons would come up and catch a vole. swallow it (big lump in their throats) and take it back to the water where they would cough it up and drown it..Sadly, I was not into photography back then..
    I enjoy seeing your photography..Beautiful

  2. Those owl photos are great!! I love the sky photos and I am much impressed by your birding skills and your spirit is an inspiration.

  3. Gorgeous skies, and I love the owl photos. I had no idea they would attack a human! I heard a rumor than an owl carried off a chihuahua in our neighborhood recently. It was too heavy and dropped the chihuahua a few houses away. I think it was uninjured (amazingly!).

  4. you always do this to me - I start reading and see a "perfect photo" like that owl at the beginning and then there is another and another - your sky photos are always so gorgeous

  5. Particularly gorgeous photos today.

  6. Fabulous bird photos as always! Your sunset photos are marvelous, wow, just gorgeous.

  7. I enjoyed your owl photos very much and found the colours of both owls and foliage exquisite. And aren't their eyes mesmerizing!

  8. Wow, glorious! I just linked up for my first Skywatch Friday - what a reward this is! I'm actually sort of a birder too - I've always sort of enjoyed seeing birds but started getting interested in identifying them when I started paddling NYC's Jamaica Bay, which is one of the units of the National Parks Service's Gateway Recreation Area and a major stop along the North Atlantic Flyway.

    Love all your birds here - marvelous photos! And the skies are amazing.

  9. Oh my friend Kenneth! That first photo shocked me, its super beautiful! It looks strong and sharp and alert when you took the photo! That moon photo is also a favorite for me. That story from Spare Pics's comment is so scary! To be taken to the sky by an owl would be straight from a Harry Potter film.

    Happy Weekend my friend Kenneth! Would love to see you again on Timeless Thursdays :) The link is open until Sunday 12pm (New York time).

  10. I especially liked the Nighthawk picture. They come each late spring and stay with us through the summer. I can easily hear them and see them flying high in the evening sky, but I've never seen one on the ground. Of course, living in a float cabin on the lake we don't see much ground, let alone ground dwelling birds. I agree about our perceptions of elderly/old. Now that I've passed 70 I don't see it that way. But I do know I need to take extra precautions, especially now. We have switched from afternoon to morning walks as well. I see the occasional bunny, squirrel, sparrow and a junco yesterday. I hear the robins, but don't seem to frequent the sidewalks we uses around what has been a deserted shopping mall. If we go early, it's still that way until the 11:00 opening hour. - Margy

  11. Your photos are simply gorgeous - the owls, other birds & tha lanscapes at the end of your post. I loved your text about 'elderly'. I belong to that group and really don't want people to call me an elderly woman :)) Happy birding for many, many years to come!

  12. Hello Ken,

    I just love your Screech owl photos, what a great sighting. For me, any owl sighting is awesome! I love all the birds but the owls really stand out to me. The sky and landscapes are beautiful too. Thank you for linking up your post. Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy weekend! PS, thank you for the visit and comment too.

  13. you share so many beautiful birds in one post, how thrilling!! the owl is gorgeous with those pretty green eyes!! i have a deep love for the red winged black birds, i have one pair that visit my feeders, they come up from the river i live on!!

    the images of the sky and all of it's beauty are spectacular!!!

  14. Enjoyed reading your post. Funny, a friend and I were just talking about how none of us want to consider ourselves as older. (Pretty sure I've found a bit of the fountain of youth working with preschool kids ;) though it sometimes wears off if I sit or stand too long). Your owl photos are amazing! I also really love the egret reflection photos. Hope you have a great weekend!

  15. Kenneth, it is always a delight to visit your blog; your bird images are so sharp and these owl shots are no exception. Those sunrise captures are breath-taking! Thank you once again for sharing your skills and sense of humour! Keep safe & well.

  16. Hello. Fantastic photos. Yes, early morning is the best time to go out.
    Take care.

  17. I love the green heron shot! And your owl images & night hawks are superior. Here, when the chuck will widows return, they are quite active in daytime hours too. In fact, that's when I see them most often, flying. Of course, it may be that I flush them out.

    Your post today is a treasure. I enjoyed every minute here and want to thank you for participating at IRBB this week.

  18. Amazing shots. Loved each one in the series.

  19. The colors of your sunrises are astounding that your photos almost look like watercolor paintings. I'm glad to know that some female birds are more colorful than their male counterparts.
    I think of the elderly as being in their 90s, so I've still got far to go. I'm in my mid-60s. :-)

  20. Nice reflections and I love the owl pictures!

  21. The owls are positively gorgeous - these are marvelous photos.
    Thanks for linking up at

  22. The owls are so hard to see unless they move or fly! You got amazing photos! And you're right about the heat. I've had to cut back and the last hike I took I kept under an hour. But the weather will change and I'll be ready! Enjoy your week!

  23. Smiled at your thoughts about age.In Holland most births (80%) are not done by an MD. Fortunately my life is that of a much younger person. I never want to become that what you described:) That grey owl looks fierce and even a little scary! Many thanks for sharing the owls here for All Seasons and have a great summer week, Jesh

  24. All the photos are fantastic but I am bowled over by the gray screech-owl. It is beautiful. It seems to be made from bark!

    I have always (that is, since I left school) liked to get up early. Some summers I've been up consistently at three so I can hear the very first birds of the day. Six has been the most common time though through my life . . . until recently when the pandemic threw aside all my usual patterns and I'm likely to get up at five when there's no-one around, go back to bed at six with a book or the radio and get up again at seven. There are too many people out and about in the evening so now I go to bed ridiculously early. I think the pandemic is having a strangely hibernating effect.

  25. Early morning walks are the best. I figured Florida birding would be similar to Arizona birding right now. Take care and stay healthy. Chris

  26. Wow! Stunning bird pictures. There are a number of bald eagles in the pines at my daughter and son-in-law’s camp here in Massachusetts. It’s always a treat to see and hear them.

  27. You have outdone yourself with the owl photos!! What stunning images :) The shots of the sunrise are fabulous in their own right.

    'My Corner of the World' is happy to see you this week! Thanks for linking.

  28. I'm so thrilled to have stumbled upon your blog, from Betty's my corner of the world.

    Awe-struck by all the pictures especially the owls and the sky views. Owl is my spirit animal. :)

    Love Night Jars.
    All your pictures are such a befitting tribute to nature. It's lovely to know about your birding and medical journey.

    I'm really thrilled to have found your blog, Kenneth. I'm a nature lover and wildlife enthusiast.
    So these pictures really made me rejoice.

    Hoping in from:

    We also host a #WW blog hop. :)

  29. Followed and subscribed.

    Have a great week!


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