Thursday, August 20, 2020

A time for molting

The "Dog Days of Summer" begin as the sky's brightest star Sirius, affixed to the dog collar of Canis Major, dutifully follows the hunter Orion up into the eastern sky before dawn. Days later Sirius will drop behind the Sun to linger in the western sky after sunset. The Old Farmer's Almanac as well as the ancient Greeks connected the appearance of Sirius with war, disaster, heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.

Heat stress and the prospect of an active hurricane season make this my least favorite time of year in south Florida. Absent a storm threat, the mornings are usually clear and despite the humidity, the coolest time of day to get out in the wild. Entering the wetlands under a dark sky, we bird by ear, but now there is less to be heard as compared to only a few weeks earlier. 

Many land birds are molting, resting and feeding during a very energy-intensive phase of their life cycle, following nesting and presaging the stress of migration. The predawn chorus of cardinals and mockingbirds nearly shuts down during the first week of August. 

Northern Cardinal in predawn darkness (with fill-flash assist, July, 2020)...

Northern Cardinal in the dark 02-20200716

... and, a month later, this one is replacing several tail feathers:

Northern Cardinal in moult 20200806 

Northern Mockingbird in fine feather (February, 2020), and...

Northern Mockingbird 20200224

...a motley molting mockingbird:

Northern Mockingbird molting 20200803

A Boat-tailed Grackle was handsomely clad back in February...

Boat-tailed Grackle 01-20200131

...Oh, but look at him now:

Boat-tailed Grackle molting 20200813

About 40 minutes before sunrise on August 6, Constellation Orion was just to the right of the Planet Venus as we walked into the wetlands. Sirius is closer to the Sun, lurking behind the palm tree (Click on photo to see the 3 stars in Orion's belt):

Venus and Orion 0605AM  20200806

Red-winged Blackbirds have suddenly departed from their inland breeding areas to congregate in large roosts, often nearer the coast. The coos of doves are heard less frequently, and Killdeers are no longer busy distracting us when we intrude on their now-abandoned nesting areas.    

Red-winged Blackbird:

Red-winged Blackbird 04-20200622

Mourning Dove:

Mourning Dove 2-20200714


Killdeer 02-20200712

European Starlings are gathering in flocks. This is a brown-backed and speckle-breasted juvenile starling:

European Starling 20200803

Our day is divided between morning walks and COVID-19 lock-down, when we remain alert to the presence of backyard wildlife. I captured this Great Egret through the back window as it foraged lakeside, one of the first test shots with my brand-new Canon EOS 90D:

Great Egret 02-20200803

Great Egret 03-20200803

The back yard Muscovy Duck still had 9 of her 15 ducklings on July 26. She was down to 2 on August 18:

Muscovy hen and 9 ducklings 02-20200726

Muscovy ducklings 01-20200726

Before sunrise on August 3, I heard the cry of several Coyotes to the north. Knowing that they would need to cross the gravel track to return to the wild lands, I stood in front of a shrubby tree to obscure my profile and waited. After about 5 minutes of silence I was ready to give up when I detected motion some 300 meters/ 330 yards away. I could barely discern the shapes of an adult Coyote with two half-grown pups. Look closely and enlarge to see all three:

Coyotes three COREL  01-20200803

Both pups were watching their mother:

Coyotes pups 03-20200803

One pup paraded out in the open:

Coyotes pup 06-20200803

Walking in darkness makes me ever so mindful of the travels of heavenly bodies across the sky. The August Sturgeon Moon was two days old on  August 5:

Sturgeion Moon 2 days old 01-20200805

Sturgeion Moon 2 days old 02-20200805

Sturgeion Moon over lake  03-20200805

As is so common during the Dog Days, the Sun heats the land and hot air rises, drawing in moist ocean breezes and setting up the dynamics for afternoon thunderstorms:

Storms over Everglades 01-20200805 

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

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


  1. The red wing blackbird is my favorite Kenneth! Thank you so much for always sharing the best of your views from your side of the world, to all of us! Wishing you a great weekend coming near!

  2. Wow, the molting grackle really looks a mess!

  3. love all the photos - I used to get a lot of red wing blackbirds in my yard when I lived in Broward County

  4. The birds in our little half acre in north Texas look pretty scraggly, too. But your shot of the Sturgeon moon was great, and has inspired me to get my "real" camera read and its tripod out to get the full Corn moon next month. Thanks!

  5. Hello Ken,

    Beautiful captures of the Sky! The Egret and the first photo of the Cardinal are my favorite birds and photos. The molting birds look kind of sad. Neat capture of the Coyote family. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Enjoy your day, have a great weekend. PS, thanks for visiting my blog and for the comment.

  6. This is one of my favorite posts, Ken!

    I have an opposing view of the Dog Days. Growing up in Florida, I remember playing in drainage ditches filled with rain water from the previous day's thunderstorm, chasing crawdads and frogs. Now, I love the daily rain arriving on schedule, knowing that it's filling the aquifer and refreshing our ecosystem.

    The molting season reminds me it's time to get excited about fall migration!

    Your "before and after" images are terrific!

    Sirius will soon be chased from the sky and we'll see more and more pleasant days ahead.

    Thank you for a great post today!

  7. The cardinal in the dark is spectacular! Love your skies. That poor grackle must feel embarrassed to be photographed like that.

  8. Hello. Wonderful photos.
    Take care!

  9. Thanks so much for linking in for us birders this week! Molting season isn't pretty, is it?

  10. Wonderful photos, this so very nice the Bird! Great fantasic landcape and moon photos!!!

  11. All of your photos are beautiful, I loved seeing the Moon shots and the coyotes, but that night photo of the cardinal is gorgeous!!!

  12. Hi Kennth, so many great photos to comment on, but that first one of the cardinal was simply amazing, and the mockingbird on the sign although I felt badly for the grackle who was not as handsome. Many of these birds were the same ones seen in our years on the Virginia Eastern Shore and the egrets, killdeer, and red-winged blackbird brought back those memories of times spent taking photos of all. The clouds building up to thunderheads was very appropriate today as it is currently raining heavily in nashua, NH.

  13. Beautiful shots! I never see any cardinals around here.

  14. Thank you for sharing, I enjoyed your fantastisc captures, Kenneth - especially the first bird...

    ...stay healthy and.

  15. Your photos are absolutely amazing! Have a great week :)

  16. I saw my first killdeer not long ago, right near the railroad tracks my guidebook says they like to hang around! We don't have cardinals, but I was mentioning to my son this morning how beautiful starlings are. I love coyotes, and those pups are so cute.

  17. I love your great variety of bird shots, the moon shots are incredible. I love the coyotes.

  18. Thank you for this beautiful post. I love all the close up photos of the birds and I don't believe I have ever seen a coyote.

  19. I always feel sorry for molting birds, especially Papa Cardinal, who must suffer the loss of his brilliant colors!
    Thanks for sharing at

  20. Wonderful narrative and a fine set of images. It is always a pleasure to read a well-crafted piece, all too rare these days unfortunately. I am not one who deals with heat well, so I doubtless would find this time of the year in Florida unbearable. The threat of hurricanes would only add to my malaise! I am sure the coyotes will cope far better than soft humans who need air-conditioned refuges.

  21. Lubię tu zaglądać i oglądać przyrodę zza oceanu. Pozdrawiam!

  22. These are some amazing shots! How awesome to know the coyotes were coming :)

    I think I will just call myself in a perpetual molt with my sloppy day clothes and loose hair on my shoulders :) I will look better some day when I have to go out!

    It's great to see you at 'My Corner of the World' this week!! Thanks for being here.

  23. The boat-tailed grackle looks beautiful, and I imagine the feathers are iridescent like our common grackle. They are a noisy lot. Don't really look forward to the arrival of starlings in the fall. While I'm in awe of their swirls of flight when coming in to roost, they are the messiest birds I have every had the displeasure of cleaning up after when they finish using the birdbaths. If you are where it's truly dark at night, I feel joy for you. Growing up in a small town near no cities, the sky looked like it held more stars than darkness. Where I am now, it is more like a blank slate with a few major constellations to be seen. Enjoyed reading your post.

  24. Beautiful photos and narrative. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful day.

  25. Hello kenneth
    nice observation, the coyotes are great, not that close but the observation alone is also a nice moment, I also like the sky shots very much, first shots with the new camera have also turned out well
    greetings Frank

  26. Wonderful set of photos, you are so lucky to be close to a lake, I seldom ever see water birds. Stay safe, Diane

  27. Ken - it has been a while since I visited your blog, and I was not disappointed. My, my, my - I have never seen someone display molting in such a dramatic fashion! Love the coyote shots. Hope you are able to avoid the worst of the hurricane season!


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