Thursday, July 30, 2020

Bald Eagle nesting season recap

The Pembroke Pines Bald Eagles lost their first brood when windstorms disrupted their nest in early January, 2020. Pride and Jewel began the breeding season by restoring their usual nest together, starting the last week of September, 2019. Jewel is to the right in these photos:

Bald Eagle Pride and Jewel 4-20190929

Bald Eagle Pride and Jewel 91-20190929

The nest on November 2:

Bald Eagle nest 20191102

Both members of the pair spent much time on the nest. (November 24). Jewel is on the left:

Bald Eagle female Jewel and male Pride 090054AM  20191124

They copulated, this time on November 26:

Bald Eagle copulating 05-20191126

Their first clutch was laid in late November and was expected to hatch in early January, 2020. 

The pair exchanged incubation duties. Here, the male is waiting to replace Jewel who is about to fly off (December 7):

Bald Eagles exchanging incubation duties 01-20191207

Jewel departs and turns over incubation duties:

Bald Eagles exchanging incubation duties 03-20191207

There was visual and photographic evidence of at least one eaglet being fed in the nest just before a storm on January 4. The storm was fierce and caused wind damage and at least one tornado. The next day some observers believed that the adult was feeding one or more eaglets, but there were no confirmed sightings. Another bad storm occurred on January 10. 

In between the storms the adults were busy repairing the nest, which lost a considerable amount of its bulk, especially on the right (west) side. We presumed that the eaglet(s) and any unhatched eggs were lost between January 4th & 10th. Pride & Jewel repairing nest (January 11, 2020):

Bald Eagles 04 Both adults moving sticks 20200111

They repaired the nest and were seen copulating in late January. A second clutch of eggs was deposited in mid-February, and there was evidence that the first egg had hatched on or about March 14. Two eaglets hatched, the 24th and 25th eaglets known to have been produced in this nest since South Florida Audubon began monitoring the nest in 2007. The same male (Pride) has been present since then, and Joy was his first mate. She disappeared in October, 2014 and soon was replaced by Jewel, a young (4 year old) female.  

Here are both eaglets on April 8, 2020, when they were about 3 1/2 weeks old. The younger male, standing high on  the right, still has a tuft of natal down on his head:

Bald Eagle eaglets 04-20200408

This is the first-hatched eaglet (P Piney 24), presumably a female, on April 11. Bald Eagle eggs are deposited every 2-3 days and hatch asynchronously. Two out of every three first-hatched are females:

Bald Eagle eaglet 03-20200411t

Female eaglets grow rapidly and are very competitive with nest-mates. If the second-hatched is also female, they will fight for dominance and often the younger bird either starves or may be killed by her sibling. A younger male will usually not challenge an older female, so this is the best combination for survival of both if food is abundant.  

Both eaglets were loafing out on the branches on June 26, when they were about 15 weeks (105 days) old. The male, in the foreground has darker feathers than the female:

Bald Eaglets female joins male  06-20200626

The darker plumage of the male is an individual variation, not linked to its gender, so far as I can determine: 

Bald Eaglet P Piney 25 male portrait 05-20200621

Note the more massive head of the female. The large bill, more prominent "brow." and the greater extension of the gape (corner of beak) below her eye is characteristic of female Bald Eagles: 

Bald Eaglet P Piney 24  female portrait 09-20200621

As is usually the case, the female was first to fledge, taking her first flight on May 21 at the age of 68 days. She disappeared until May 30. The male fledged on June 3 and returned to the nest the next day. They will come to the nest to be fed by the parents. The adults deposit prey into the nest to attract the eaglets, a practice which most efficiently allows them to feed and protect them in one location. For several weeks  they will accompany the adults on foraging trips as they gain hunting skills. 

Here is a Link to spreadsheet which tracks events at the nest over the past 11 breeding seasons:

Meanwhile, out on the local wetlands, a male Bobcat walked along the edge of the gravel path. He was quite distant and I got poor photos, so I stitched them together into a composite image which shows him progressing along. He looked back at me and then continued on his way:.

Bobcat Composite 02-20200720

Bobcat 06-20200720

Great Egret at the shore of our lake:

Great Egret 03-20200618

Storm trying to beat us to our home:

Clouds after sunrise 02-20200720

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Linking to:

Skywatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Saturday's Critters


Camera Critters

All Seasons

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Natasha Musing

Our World Tuesday


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

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Osprey nest

This week our walks in the local wetlands have been limited by a lingering tropical weather system, along with our need to continue sheltering in place, so I will mostly review some Osprey observations. For the past 4 years I have been watching an Osprey nest which is located high on a light array along a soccer field behind a supermarket about a mile away from our home.

I first noticed it on May 27, 2016. It contained one half-grown chick. One of the parents (likely the female which usually tends to the young) accompanied it in the nest:

Osprey nest 20160527

The other adult stood watch on another light standard nearby:

Osprey on athletic field light standard 20160527

I then returned to our second home in Illinois and never learned whether the young Osprey successfully fledged. I next photographed the nest on February 25, 2018. It was much more substantial. An adult posed on it:

Osprey nest 02-20180225

On April 10, 2018 an adult was barely visible roosting high on the nearest pole. The nest is on the one behind it in the center of the four pitches (click on image to enlarge). The Ospreys did not seem to be disturbed by the soccer players and spectators. The next two years they chose to nest on the more distant pole in the far right corner of the field:

Osprey Nest 01-20180408

Two nearly full-grown Ospreys occupied it on June 9, 2018:

Osprey juveniles 01-20180609

Osprey juveniles 03-20180609

During the 2018-2019 breeding season, the Ospreys started working on the nest during the winter. One adult rested in it on January 26, 2019:

Osprey nest over soccer field 20190125

They appeared to be incubating eggs by March 16, 2019.  Ospreys normally lay three eggs. Since their incubation period varies from 34-40 days, they may have had another week or two to go when I took this photo of an adult deep in the nest on April 14, 2019:

Osprey 20190414

I often checked the nest when I drove by, but could only see the head of an adult which I assumed was either incubating or brooding small chicks. Then, on May 18 the scene was a bit disturbing. One adult, preumably the female, was standing up in the nest and loudly calling repeatedly as if excited or disturbed. By now the chicks should have been visible, but I watched carefully and never saw any:

Osprey on nest 20190518

Was this adult bird begging to be fed, or was this a cry of distress? The other adult was eating a fish atop on adjacent light pole and seemed to ignore the incessant screaming. From that day on the nest appeared to have been abandoned:

Osprey with fish 06-20190518

Osprey with fish 03-20190518

After that I stopped by and twice found no Ospreys at all, and the nest was always unoccupied. Then, on May 28 I found the two adults huddled together on one of the light poles. I never found out what had happened to their offspring.

Osprey both adults 20190528

The nest platform is actually a large array of lights which can be lowered to the ground in order to service them. When hurricanes threaten or it undergoes maintenance, the entire array is lowered. Of course this destroys the nest and they must rebuild it every year. 

This season the nest was completed and  incubation was underway by March 2020:

Ospreys at nest 02-20200321

A single chick was ready to take flight in late May. Note that it has a speckled back and wings:

Osprey female and chick 04-20200516

The juvenile is now flying freely. Its white feather tips create a beautiful pattern:

Osprey immature 01 20200612

In our back yard, the Muscovy Duck which hatched out 15 ducklings last week is now down to only 7. Mortality is very high. Often none of the brood survives:

Muscovy Duck with ducklings 20200720

Yesterday the seven ducklings followed her along the lake shore during a storm. I obtained this photo of them through the rain-soaked window:

Muscovy Duck2 ducklings 20200722

A little later, after the skies had cleared, I walked out on the patio and was surprised to see yet another Muscovy hen emerge from under the same Cocoplum bush with 8 newly-hatched offspring:

Muscovy Duck3 ducklings 20200722

These are her eight hatchlings. Note that one is dark overall and may likely more closely resemble the wild stock:

Muscovy3 ducklings8 20200722

The tops of storms moving in over the Atlantic Ocean broke the sunlight into shadows which converged over the Everglades to the west, producing an array of anti-solar (anti-crepuscular) sunbeams. The "mirrored sunrise" reflected on the lake's placid surface:

 Anti-solar rays 01-202007020

Threatening skies to the east moved in just after sunrise: 

Clouds after sunrise 01-20200720

We hurried home, ahead of the menacing storm:

Storm brewing 01-202007

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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)

Natasha Musing

Our World Tuesday


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

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Corvid and Comet on COVID mornings

While sheltering in place, the sameness of the days bears some similarity to our early morning forays into the neighborhood wetland preserve. We are entering the post-breeding season, sandwiched between spring and fall migrations. Of course we see many familiar faces out there, more than when sequestered at home, but it is often difficult to find enough different species to satisfy my Birders' Minimum Daily Requirement of twenty. Similarly, our backyard birds are lacking in diversity. In fact, I tend to pass up chances for photos of the most common species.

Most of my latest photo opportunities have been in our back yard, shooting through window glass. Opening the sliding glass door to our patio is usually enough to scare away any potential subject. The lawn slopes down along the shore of the lake, obscuring the lower parts of any creature viewed from inside the house. This young Anhinga was a case in point:

Anhinga female 01-20200712

Anhinga female 02-20200712

A Tricolored Heron posed briefly before descending to the lake's edge:

Tricolored Heron thru window 02-20200711

A Green Heron stretched his neck:

Green Heron backyard thru glass 01-20200705

Green Heron backyard thru glass 02-20200705

This Green Iguana let me sneak up close:

Green Iguana 03-20200612

Green Iguana 02-20200612

A Muscovy Duck hatched out 15 ducklings under the Cocoplum hedge in our back yard. She ushered them to their first swim in the lake:

Muscovy ducklings 05-20200712

Muscovy hen with 15 ducklings 01-20200712

Muscovy hen with 15 ducklings 03-20200712

Out in the wild-lands, the hatching of the Killdeers' four eggs on July 8 led me to expect that there were little ones out there begging to star in baby photos. So far, I have only seen the adults, this one on July 12:

Killdeer 02-20200712

I perused the archives to find my last photo of a Killdeer chick out in the open (April 16, 2009):

Killdeer Chick Backlit 20090416

This got me thinking about how I have ignored some of the most common birds. Our only local Corvid species are Blue Jays and Fish Crows. They are present every morning and often overlooked. The black feathers of crows absorb most of the light and photos of their plumage usually lack contrasting highlights. 

Action compensated for the lack of feather detail when a Northern Mockingbird pursued a Fish Crow:

Fish Crow and Northern Mockingbird 03-20190506

I had to search for the last time one of my shots showed plumage detail, as in these Fish Crows (January, 2020 and March, 2019):

Fish Crow 02-20200113
Fish Crow 20190314

Blue Jays are very active, but rarely pose out in the open. This was an exception (October, 2019):

Blue Jay 01-20191017

I liked the composition of this image of a Blue Jay in our back yard Mango tree (June, 2019):

Blue Jay in our mango tree 20190623

As if to break the monotony of summer bird sightings, on July 14 this Marsh Rabbit was unusually tolerant of my presence. I am a bit concerned, as this territory is occupied by a Barn Owl, Bobcats and Coyotes. Away from its preferred aquatic habitat, it was munching on forbs along the path.

Marsh Rabbit 02-20200714

Marsh Rabbit 03-20200714

Although closely related to the Eastern Cottontail, the Marsh Rabbit lacks the white on its tiny tail and has a darker coat. Its broader feet are an adaptation for swimming. Shorter ears and smaller hind legs are evident in this view. It usually runs rather than hops as does the Cottontail:

Marsh Rabbit 05-20200714

On July 12, the Comet Neowise was visible about an hour before sunrise. The comet quickly dimmed as the sun rose and light clouds covered it. In the eastern sky it is to the left of Planet Venus, which incidentally has the bright star Aldebaran next to it on the right. 
Comet Neowise Venus Aldebaran 02-20200712

On July 7, the waning Buck Moon was setting into the Everglades behind the lake, opposite the rising sun. Anti-solar rays converged on the horizon.

Buck Moon and anti-solar rays 20200707

One of my favorite "sit spots" (if I had a lawn chair) is this sheltered view of the south wet prairie, between a Swamp (Bald) Cypress on the left and a fruit-laden Pondapple:

Cypress and Pondapple at wet prairie 20200712 

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to:

Fences Around the World

Skywatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Saturday's Critters


Camera Critters

All Seasons

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Natasha Musing

Our World Tuesday


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