Thursday, December 8, 2022

Red-tails and Bluebirds #1040

Watching the World Cup matches has put a crimp on my birding the past week. Rain and cold, windy weather has confined us on a few days. Most of our observations have been through the windows and during brief sorties in the back yard.

A few days ago I looked out the window and saw an adult Red-tailed Hawk roosting half way up a large tree in the neighboring woodland. I ran for my hat and coat, binoculars and camera. Outside, I found that the hawk had  disappeared. Then a flock of crows appeared out of nowhere and seemed to be mobbing a predator. It was the Red-tail, which flew out of the wooded area and right over my head.

There was time for only a couple of photos against the cloudy sky: 

Coincidentally, a  Red-shouldered Hawk swooped up and away, allowing only one poor view of this smaller Buteo species:

A single American Robin called from a treetop. Although they were very uncommon during the winter when I was a kid in interior New Jersey, many now overwinter in the northeastern states:

Similarly, Eastern Bluebirds have become much more abundant since the 1960s, thanks to the increased provision of nest boxes in suburban and rural areas. Small flocks of 6-8 individuals are often present all winter. 

To my surprise, they are eating safflower seeds in the platform feeder, as photographed through the window on a dark and cloudy afternoon. Their preferred winter diet consists of fruits and berries, in the absence of insects: 

The success of my photos through the window depends upon ambient lighting conditions and proximity of the subject:

The bluebirds often visit the two nest boxes in the yard, but I have not seen them use them for overnight shelter. 

Here, a House Finch, a species which rarely nests in cavities, seemed interested in one of the bluebird houses. A female bluebird was guarding the door as the finch flew up:

The House Finch lingered on, but I never saw it enter the bird house:

Two White-tailed Deer, probably a yearling fawn and its mother, provided a nice photo-op from the back fence:

The deer often bed down during the day. This one chose a leaf-littered spot in a patch of sunlight next to the house:

A  second rested nearby:

View of downtown Hartford, 11 miles away, on a clear morning:

Sunset reflected on the swimming pool cover, December 5:

Two White-tailed Does eating eating our Holly as third lingers behind (view full screen to see its eye shine)-- View from our Casita front door RING Camera at 12:28 AM on Tuesday DEC 6:

Either the soft alarm chime or the bright floodlight on the Ring camera awakened me. I crept to the window just as one of the deer was sampling the Cotoneaster (which, like the holly, are supposed to be deer-resistant). They saw me and bolted to join the third doe at the top of the bluff.

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

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

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Crops & Clips: Flashback to December, 2019

As I do each month, I enjoy looking back over my archived photos, taken three years previously, to remember how things were then as contrasted with events this year at our new home in Connecticut. As usual, I searched for images which reflected favorite memes: critters of all kinds (especially birds and butterflies), skies and clouds, reflections, flowers and scenes which speak for themselves. 

We spent the entire month at home in south Florida and I processed over 400 images, mostly from our early morning walks in the Wounded Wetlands adjacent to our home. Pardon my nostalgia, but now that winter approaches in Connecticut, I find many things I miss. 

The highlight of the month occurred on the first day, when I obtained nice photos of a Marsh Wren. Although they were fairly common near our old Illinois home, I had encountered them here only 2 or 3 times over the years and never gotten a decent shot.:

That same day, a Blue-headed Vireo allowed a few exposures:

A back-lighted Pileated Woodpecker pulled up into a stall just before landing on a power pole:

The abandoned rookery provided a resting place for a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron:

My flash deployed unexpectedly and produced an otherworldly portrait of an immature Yellow-crowned Heron:

I startled a trailside Bobcat. It appears small and frail in comparison with the bulky and long-haired Bobcats we have here in Connecticut:

A Blue Jay was harvesting the ripening fruits of a Royal Palm:

A male American Kestrel  had arrived to spend the winter:

This active Yellow-throated Warbler paused for a sideways pose:

A tiny Barred Yellow butterfly sipped nectar from a globular blossom of the invasive Largeflower Mexican Clover (Richardia grandiflora). By the way, this weed has very small flowers, is not a clover and was introduced from Brazil, not Mexico:

An even smaller Dainty Sulphur feasted nearby:

An Osprey, its meal interrupted by our presence, coursed overhead:

A Magnolia Warbler peered out from the foliage:

Befittingly, this Magnolia Warbler was in its namesake tree:

A topsy-turvy Black-and-White Warbler descended the trunk of a Cabbage Palm:

A pair of Egyptian Geese shepherded their brood:

I miss the warmth of winter morning sunlight. Its back to the sun, an Anhinga soaked up the radiant heat:

I miss those pre-dawn walks, listening for owls, nighthawks and whippoorwills (or in the summer, Chuck-Wills-Widows) .  On December 11, MaryLou, with flashlight in hand, trudged ahead of me into the wetlands in very early twilight. The stars were still visible in this iPhone photo:

Now, with an open view only to the north and west, I miss seeing the sun rise. At dawn, sunlight radiated behind coastal storm clouds:

Later, the morning sky reflected on our back yard lake:

A contrail accented the western sky over the wet prairie opposite the sunrise on December 26:

I miss nearby Chapel Trail Nature Preserve, where I interpreted wetland walks. Here, on December 23, a Northern Parula warbler is surrounded by the persistent leaves of a Red (Swamp) Maple:

A sad endnote: That day I also obtained one of my favorite images of the Longhorn cow with a magnificent coat. It was accompanied by a Cattle Egret, more interested in the insects stirred up underfoot. This pasture, adjacent to the Preserve, has since been replaced by a parking lot:

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

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

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Watching the feeders

We moved to Connecticut from south Florida this past January, but I have not yet adapted to the cold and windy winter weather. Although winter is more than three weeks away, November overnight temperatures have been down into the low 20's °F  (-6 °C) with gray skies and gusting winds.

Morning walks are out of the question. As our home is high on a granite bluff, we feel the full force of the prevailing northwest winter winds. Often the conditions improve to permit an afternoon stroll through the lower elevations in our neighborhood where the wind is usually more moderate.     

Therefore, most of my photography has been through the glass windows in our "front door" which commands a good view of the bird feeders. Even though I keep the inside and outside glass as clean as possible, the double panes greatly reduce the clarity of my photos, especially if shooting at an angle rather than directly through the panes.

Only a few bird species are visiting, a far cry from winter in Florida, where we could easily log 20 species on a causal walk in  the local Wounded Wetlands. 

Now our most common feeder birds are non-migratory Tufted Titmice:

Black-capped Chickadees are mostly permanent residents, though the species may migrate locally in response to food availability. They are nearly as common as the titmice. Here a chickadee shares the suet feeder with a male House Sparrow:

White-breasted Nuthatches increased in numbers during late summer into autumn. This species is present year-round, though there may be occasional irruptive migration from far northern populations. More likely, we are seeing many local juvenile birds:

Note the nuthatch's upturned bill, an adaptation to its "upside-down" foraging behavior:

All three of these species have the habit of collecting a single sunflower seed and taking it to a perch where it is held in its feet and pried open, or in the case of nuthatches, secured on the bark of a large branch and hacked apart. This nuthatch is just dropping a sunflower seed:

Woodpeckers spend much time at the suet cake, though they often take seeds from the tube feeder. These are male and female Downy Woodpeckers:

Note the placement of this male's red head patch, on the back of its head (occiput):

This similar but considerably larger Hairy Woodpecker has a different pattern to its red head spot. While it is located on the top of the head or even in front of the eyes in juvenile birds, it is more to the back of its head in  adults. Most of my other photos of male Hairy Woodpeckers showed the single red spot to be occipital, as in this male I photographed in New Mexico in 2008:

Yet my Connecticut bird exhibited two red spots on his head. I thought this may have been an individual variation, but according to Birds of the World, "East of Rocky Mountains, red ends on the side of the head, creating a red patch on each side, separated by black of variable width on the nape."  

Their difference in size is evident when the Hairy Woodpecker visits the suet feeder. The Hairy also lacks the black bars on its outer tail feathers, characteristics of  the Downy Woodpecker. It also has a prominent white eye ring, a variable trait not common in Downy: 

Dark-eyed Juncos generally do not take seed from the tube feeder. Rather, they forage for scattered seeds under and on the granite shelf nearby:

House Finches are relatively abundant all year 'round. This male exhibits colorful plumage:

This male American Goldfinch is in winter plumage:

Normally common, Northern Cardinals have been relatively scarce in recent weeks, but lately a pair has appeared. This is the male:

Now that the leaves have fallen, we have a view of the lake from our front yard:

I captured a record of the advance of autumn. These photos were taken from my perch along the fence at the top of this rock wall. The roof of our home is barely visible:

August 19, 2022-- The clear-cut area is almost entirely carpeted by Sow Thistle which produces seed and down (pappus), to the delight of scores of goldfinches which nest in the surrounding trees:

October 7, 2022-- The stalks of Sow Thistle have now dried up, but their spreading roots will persist and extend the patch in the spring. (That's my shadow from top of cliff):

October 23, 2022-- Autumn color is developing:

October 26, 2022-- Peak autumn color:

October 28, 2022-- Brown foliage is overtaking the scene:

October 31, 2022-- The understory is increasingly visible:

November 6, 2022-- All the leaves are gone!:

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

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