Thursday, May 6, 2021

Crops & Clips: Flashback to May, 2018

 As I do each month, I enjoyed looking back over my archived photos, taken three years previously, to remember how things were then and maybe get some idea of what to expect this year. As usual, I searched for images which reflected favorite memes: critters of all kinds (especially birds), skies and clouds, reflections, flowers and fences, as well as scenes which speak for themselves. 

This was our final stay in our Illinois condo. It had served as our second home for eleven years, but keeping two residences was getting to be a chore. We vacated it late in May and closed the sale remotely during the next month. 

Early May is the height of songbird migration in NE Illinois, providing lots of color in the May photo archives. The first entry was a Baltimore Oriole:



Yellow Warbler:


Red-headed Woodpecker:

Rose-breasted Grosbeak:

Eastern Bluebird:



Common Yellowthroat:



Tree Swallow:

Less colorful but nonetheless intriguing, a Great Horned Owl:


A few years earlier, within walking distance of our condo, we had discovered the first nesting Lark Sparrows in the county. To be honest, MaryLou spotted them and noted that they were unusual. 

When I looked at them through the binoculars I  recognized their strikingly bold face patterns. Lark Sparrows were back again this spring:


They can be difficult to see out on the dry prairie:

In the same field were Savannah Sparrows...

...and the smaller Grasshopper Sparrows:

A pair of House Sparrows snuggled on a fencepost:

Bobolink:

Also in the prairie, a Killdeer guarded two chicks:


Along the woodland path, Trout Lilies bloomed:

Wake Robin flowers were opening:

Blue Violets are the Illinois State Flowers:

Our daughter's family had gained two new pups within two weeks, a black Standard Poodle (Casador) and another Tibetan Mastiff (Moncada) to join Agramonte:

Agramonte greets the newest member of the pack:

The last of our furniture was towed away:

Sunset over neighborhood Jones Meadow Park:

On final approach to the Fort Lauderdale airport, we could find our house and familiar landmarks (click to enlarge):

We ended the month in Florida. A back yard highlight was a Tricolored Heron:

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Linking to:


Fences Around the World

Nature Thursday

Skywatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Saturday's Critters

BirdD'Pot

Camera Critters

All Seasons

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Natasha Musing

Our World Tuesday

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Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display
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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Eaglets down

The local Bald Eagles' new nest containing two 5 week old eaglets was damaged by a severe thunderstorm on Sunday, April 11. The next morning a portion of the right (west) side of the nest had fallen. A week later, while I was away in Illinois, on April 19, the nest split into two pieces which fell a few feet down from its original spot in the "V" formed by two large branches of the tall Australian Pine. (Note important UPDATE at the end of this post).

The smaller eaglet of the two fell to the ground and was rescued. It suffered minor injuries but is doing well at the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station rehabilitation facility in Miami. The older eaglet (presumably a female based upon its size) is active and healthy, occupying the lower remnant of the nest, behind and just to the left of the main trunk. It was hatched around  March 5 or 6th, so she is 57 days or nearly 8 weeks old. Normal fledging age is about 10-13 weeks of age. At this nest site, fledging of the first eaglet occurred as early as 68 and as late as 86 days after hatching. (average 76.5 days with a median of 73 days). 

This part of the nest appears to be supported by smaller branches and some of the long sticks from the original nest. We watched as it was being fed a large fish carried in by the female parent. I only was able to capture a few poor photos of the eaglet, as it was mostly hidden by the debris from the nest. 

I arrived at the nest yesterday ( Wednesday) at about 8:15 AM and found the adult female (Jewel) roosting in the usual spot in the tall pine just east of the nest tree.


Almost immediately, the male (Pride) flew in and fed the eaglet, which called out incessantly. The eaglet is out of sight in this view, hidden by the left half of the remnant nest: 

Jewel then flew off and things were quiet until about 9:50 AM, when she arrived from the north carrying a large fish.



She fed the eaglet which was rather precariously perched below her on the very edge of the sloping lowest portion of the left nest fragment. The eaglet's tail and wing feathers extend to the left beyond most of the nest structure, and her head can be seen as she crouched down, next to the tree trunk:



The eaglet stood up as the female parent tended to her:

In Illinois I lost two days worth of bird photos when I uploaded my photos and got a message that the files could not be opened, then that my SD card was corrupt. Did get out one final day and will review those photos later, but I missed some very nice views of kinglets and terns.

Back home in Florida I did get out one morning and found two Spotted Sandpipers, one of which posed nicely:


When they took flight I shot rather blindly and all bu two of my series were nothing but blurs. Two frames made up fo the loss:


A Killdeer was also very cooperative:



The day-old Full Pink Moon was setting late, but it reflected in the calm before sunrise:

The view to tne north before sunrise:

BULLETIN (Wednesday, April 28): The remaining eaglet has not been seen all day and the adults are not around. No calls are heard to suggest a fallen eaglet. Wildlife rescue is now searching for a possibly downed eaglet. 

UPDATE (late Wednesday): The area in the vicinity of the nest was searched and the eaglet was not found. It is not capable of flight. Searchers found two burrows in higher areas near the eagle nest tree with large openings suggestive of Coyote or fox dens. Raccoons also scavenge the area under an eagle nest for prey remains. Rodents also may be attracted as are predatory Bobcats. There were high winds yesterday evening which may have whipped the nest tree. As I had mentioned above, the remaining eaglet appeared to occupy in a very vulnerable spot in the nest remnant. 

I do not wish to create false expectations, but there is a glimmer of hope worth considering---

At this point it is presumed that the eaglet has not survived. She did have considerable development of flight feathers, as evidences in the photo which shows them trailing out over the left edge of the nest, but I could not document their length in any of the hundreds of photos I took of the nest the day before she disappeared. Could we have miscalculated her age? She occasionally flapped wings but did not venture out on branches ("branching"), which usually occurs about 6-7 days before first flight.

Based upon the female starting to sit continuously deep in the nest, we presumed that the first egg was laid around February 1 and projected a hatch date of March 7 or 8. Jessee suspected she was incubating as early as January 20, but the female continued gathering and arranging sticks through the end of January. 

A problem with this nest has been the difficulty in closely observing the female during incubation. She appeared to change her position, raising up as if tenting an new chick at the end of January or beginning of February. How accurate were our ground observations? In the past we have noted less activity around the nest after only a single eaglet fledged. A single feeding location is most efficient if there are multiple eaglets.

Nest watchers will continue to observe the behavior of the adults and listen for any calls from an eaglet, though there is not much optimism about her survival.  

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Linking to:


Skywatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Saturday's Critters

BirdD'Pot

Camera Critters

All Seasons

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Natasha Musing

Our World Tuesday

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Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display
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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Prowling for owls

Our local Audubon Society Chapter supports a very successful Project Perch to monitor and protect Burrowing Owls and increase their breeding opportunities by creating artificial nests. I recently participated in a "Burrowing Owl Prowl" sponsored by a residential community in Cooper City, Florida. 

Major power transmission lines run through the heart of this community. The easement under the wires is maintained as an extensive grassy open space. The owls occupy burrows, usually located in hillocks which are slightly elevated above flood water level. 

The owls are most easily seen at the entrances to their burrows in morning or evening twilight. Yet the participants in the walk had the opportunity to observe several from a safe distance, which is marked out at 10 meters (~33 feet). All my photos were taken from at least that distance:



The enthusiastic attendees were provided with a short presentation about Burrowing Owls, which occupied the area naturally and also use man-made burrows. Residents and community leaders exuded pride about their role in building the owl  population, displaced by human development and activity. 

The range of Burrowing Owls extends into parts of North, Central and South America. Although not designated as an Endangered Species in the US, nine States have listed it as Endangered, Threatened, or Species of Special Concern. It is also protected in parts of Canada and in Mexico.  

Some had been relocated from construction sites, athletic fields and airports. They were shown this example of an artificial owl burrow.

It consists of a PVC pipe and a cylindrical bucket-like container with a screw top which is buried three feet down and serves as a "room." It has enlarged openings for the pipe and another hole opposite the pipe to allow the owls to dig extensively around the structure. 

Very efficient excavators, they commonly extend their burrows up to ten feet away from the container and also create "back doors."

The South Florida Audubon team places a "T" perch near each owl burrow. This provides them with a vantage point from which to easily see insects and small vertebrates, their main food items. The elevated roost also allows them to detect and evade the hawks (particularly Cooper's Hawks) which prey on the owls: 

The immediate areas around burrows are cordoned off with instructions to landscapers that, to avoid damage to the nests, motorized lawn mowers cannot be used within the protected area. Instead, the grass is maintained with string trimmers:

The Burrowing Owls are quite small-- about 9.5" (19-25 cm) long and weigh an average of only about 5.3 to 6.0 oz (150-170 g). In comparison, the length of  European Starlings averages  about 8.7" (22 cm). 

These are two taxidermy owls who have sad tales about their demise:



Like the owls, we are very active in crepuscular light on our morning walks. Here is an iPhone photo taken in our local wetlands, 40 minutes before sunrise. Street lights illuminate the northern sky:


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Linking to:

Nature Thursday

Skywatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Saturday's Critters

BirdD'Pot

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
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