Thursday, September 24, 2020

Walking Bar Ditch Trail

Despite the threatening afternoon clouds and thunder almost every afternoon, we received relatively little rainfall during August. I was anxious to take advantage of the fact that the Bar Ditch Trail might still be dry. An hour before sunrise on September 5, I set out in the pitch dark, planning to walk back after about two hours, before the sun got too hot. Indeed, the path was not flooded and even dryer than my last walk a few weeks before.

High clouds persisted after sunrise. The shade was welcome, but made it difficult to identify and photograph some birds in dark foliage against the ground-glass sky. One rather large bird showed very little color. Its very large bill stood out. Luckily, I had attached a flash unit. Before it flew off I captured a burst of full-color images which revealed it to be a female Summer Tanager, only the third I have recorded in my patch over the past ten or more years: 

Summer Tanager 01-20200905

Summer Tanager 03-20200905

Summer Tanager 04-20200905

Earlier, I heard the call of a Green Heron but could barely see it:

Green Heron 20200905

About five minutes before sunrise, an adult Bald Eagle passed overhead against an amorphous pink sky. Its image is grainy at 1/1000 second exposure and ISO of 6400, but I like the effects:

Bald Eagle 02-20200909

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were numerous:

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 01-20200908

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 0220200907

A male Northern Cardinal carried a berry:

Northern Cardinal male 02-20200905

A female cardinal with a berry-stained bill peered out of the shadows:

Northern Cardinal female 20200908

My flash brightened up a female Prairie Warbler...

Prairie Warbler female 01-20200908

...and brought out the hooked bill but  not the eye color of a Red-eyed Vireo:

Red-eyed Vireo 20200908

A Brown Thrasher scolded me briefly:

Brown Thrasher 09-20200909

Brown Thrasher 08-20200909

A Loggerhead Shrike kept watch from a treetop:

Loggerhead Shrike 02-20200908

A Gray Squirrel was almost invisible as it crouched on a limb. I think I can see my reflection in its eye:

Gray Squirrel 01-20200907

Sunrise over the Bar Ditch Trail:

Bar Ditch Trail 03-20200905

This is my favorite stop along the far reaches of the trail. Here the ditch widens a bit and is surrounded by Cattails and Sawgrass:

Bar Ditch Trail and ditch  05-20200905

Back on September 3, the Corn Moon reflected in the lake in pre-dawn twilight:

Corn Moon 02-20200903

While photographing the Moon, about 10 minutes before sunrise, I caught motion out of the corner of my eye. It was a Coyote, carrying something in its mouth:

Coyote with prey or cub 02-20200903

I then adjusted my camera settings to "see in the dark" by manually cranking the ISO up to an unprecedented 25,600, which allowed the shutter to function at 1/1000. The results were poor, but I hoped to identify whatever the Coyote was carrying. Was it a prey item, or possibly one of its pups. It might be relocating its den?  

 Coyote with prey or cub 01-20200903

The (same?) Coyote soon walked out from the same area of brush. It appeared to be a female with swollen teats. She wandered off to the north, sniffing here and there as if hunting:

Coyote prob female 06-20200903

Moments later, a second Coyote emerged. This looked like it was probably a male, larger and with a robust tail:

Coyote prob male 02-20200903

To my surprise, when I turned around, a third Coyote was staring at me. As soon as I raised my camera it fled (a Mourning Dove stood by):

Coyote third one  05-20200903

On the way home, looking back from the Levee Trailhead, clouds were gathering to the south:

Levee Trail 02-20200908

Are those birds flying or angels dancing?

Angels dancing 02-20200908

Links to earlier posts about the Bar Ditch Trail (the last two tell how things were here ten years ago, quite a contrast now in the Wounded Wetlnads):

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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, September 17, 2020

An overdose of warblers at Chapel Trail

I must admit to sometimes overdoing it when I see a beautiful bird in good light. Only the capacity of my camera's memory card will hold me in check. This was the case during a recent visit to Chapel Trail Nature Preserve in nearby Pembroke Pines, Florida. The park has a boardwalk which traverses a reclaimed Everglades wet prairie. As was the case with most public attractions, it closed down back in March because of the pandemic. During the cooler months we usually lead a South Florida Audubon Society monthly nature walk at this location and I was hoping it might open in time for the November event.  

In late August, anxious to escape the confinement of COVID quarantine, after checking the Bald Eagle nest near Chapel Trail, I drove by the entrance to the preserve and was surprised to find that the gates were open. There were no signs restricting entry, the parking lot was empty and the boardwalk was not barricaded, so I parked and walked in. Rain threatened and I was not able to spend much time there. 

Near the boardwalk's entrance, a pair of Gray-headed Swamphens were tending to four half-grown youngsters. While three of them were actively foraging, one appeared to be dependent upon its parent and constantly begged to be fed. This species has a specialized technique for obtaining its favorite food, the fresh roots and shoots of the abundant Spike Rush. Using their huge prehensile feet, they pull up the roots to display the new growth, then carefully strip open the stalks to expose the white nutrient-rich pulp. 

The adult swamphen patiently harvested the tender morsels, which were immediately seized by the hungry chick:

 Gray-headed Swamphens 05-20200828      

Gray-headed Swamphens 06-20200828

The other adult was accompanied by two of the other chicks:

 Gray-headed Swamphens 02-20200828

Six months ago, before the preserve closed down, an adult swamphen high-stepped:

 Gray-headed Swamphen 01-20200322

A call to my contacts reassured me that the preserve had just officially opened and that signs were to be placed advising that the boardwalk is too narrow to permit social distancing and masks must be brought and worn when there is unavoidable contact with other visitors.

Views of the boardwalk during my next visit:

Chapel Trail boardwalk 05-20200904

Chapel Trail boardwalk 03-20200904

That day I encountered several migratory species. Among them were a Red-eyed Vireo...

Red-eyed Vireo 02-20200904

...and a flock of Eastern Kingbirds:

Eastern Kingbird 01-20200904

Eastern Kingbird IN FLIGHT  03-20200904

This kingbird perched atop a Swamp (Red) Maple which typically puts out new leaves in mid-summer:

Eastern Kingbird in Red Maple 05-20200904

Warblers were a main attraction. Prairie Warblers had returned from their nesting locations among the coastal mangroves:

Prairie Warbler 02-20200904

Prairie Warbler 07-20200904

Some Black-and-White Warblers breed locally. Their ranks were probably swelled by new arrivals heading south:

Black-and-White Warbler 03-20200904  

Yellow-throated Warblers also nest along coastal and northern Florida and are welcome invaders inland for most of the year. They can be elusive as they search for insects in the foliage, so it is rewarding when I can catch one out in the open on a bare branch. During a visit which lasted only a few seconds, I was able to capture bursts of over 50 photos. A sampling of my "overdose": 

Yellow-throated Warbler 01-20200904

Yellow-throated Warbler 04-20200904

Yellow-throated Warbler 05-20200904

Yellow-throated Warbler 08-20200904

Their bills are longer than those of most other warbler species:

Yellow-throated Warble portrait 091-20200904

Next to the parking lot, I saw a creature which could be a body-double for one in Jurassic Park. It is a Brown Basilisk, an exotic species introduced in the pet trade, but now well-established in south Florida:

Brown Basilisk 02-20200828

As is common in sub-tropical climates, the skies over our back yard were clear at dawn and the wind was calm with no hint that afternoon thunderstorms may visit:

Thanks to COVID quarantine, we had prime seating to watch a backyard Great Egret catch a snack. The sequence of events:

Great Egret 01-20200814

Great Egret 03-20200814

Great Egret flipping fish 01-20200814

Great Egret flipping fish 20200814

This September has two full Moons. Saharan dust attenuated the rays of the early one:

Corn Moon 04-20200902 

When there is only one it is called the Harvest Moon, but if it appears twice, the first is known as the Corn Moon, here reflecting on the lake in the wetlands:

Corn Moon 06-20200902

In mid-August, the Moon and Planet Venus had a close encounter above our home. The constellation Orion is visible in the sky to the right in my iPhone photo. Click to enlarge:

Moon Venus Orion 20200815

The occupants of that section of sky are identified here:

Moon Venus SKY 0600 AM 20200815

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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