Thursday, October 27, 2022

Small World

By now it may be obvious to readers that, lately, my observations and photos have been limited to a very restricted geographic area. Namely, the grounds surrounding our home ("La Casita") and within walking distance, usually a mile-long loop along the eastern shore of the lake. 

I assure you I am not a criminal under house arrest. Rather, my reduced mobility is related to conditions that impair my strength and  endurance. There are many scenic and well-marked wilderness trails nearby, but even with the help of a stout hiking stick, I have difficulty climbing over boulders and crossing streams on stepping stones. Our local morning walk follows paved surfaces and provides an opportunity for much-needed exercise. 

Feeder watching gets more interesting as winter visitors and wanderers arrive at our new Connecticut home.  

Although I have heard and seen this species from the property in spring and summer, I never obtained a good photo. As a kid in New Jersey I remember this large member of the Sparrow family as a Red-eyed, then a Rufous-sided and now, as an Eastern Towhee. It breeds in much of the eastern US. Most migrate south, but a few will remain here all winter:

Their eyes are dark red in northern parts of their range and paler toward the south.  In south Florida, the local subspecies exhibits yellow or straw-colored eyes. Here is a Florida specimen I photographed in 2014:   

The western form is classified as a separate species, the Spotted Towhee, photographed in New Mexico in 2017. It has bright red eyes:

White-throated Sparrows have moved in from their breeding range to the north.:

Scores of Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Juncos are passing through. Many will stay all winter:

A common feeder visitor is the Downy Woodpecker:

The plumage of this larger Hairy Woodpecker is similar, but its bill is proportionally longer and its outer tail feathers lack the black bars of the Downy Woodpecker:

We have a bird bath near the window, too close to capture the entire bird in my long lens. However, this provides some unusual and intimate portraits of visiting Tufted Titmice and Black-capped Chickadees:

It is easy to overlook the beauty of the common Blue Jay:

Autumn foliage has reached and finally passed its most colorful phase--

Leaves turn from yellow to orange and red to brown:

Suddenly the leaf-littered forest floor is visible through the understory:

Our granddaughter, son-in-law and his brother and I installed this handrail in just two days, as no contractor was willing to take on such a small project. I love our window view of the granite outcrop and beyond, a wildlife corridor

The handrail adds a measure of safety when negotiating the 12 steps which connect the path to our ground floor Casita ('little house") with the main floor level of the "big house" (La Casona), to which we also have indoor access:

This past week a Black Bear (or possibly a second) descended the stairway three times in one night, only to find that the feeders were gone:

Black Bears develop a ravenous appetite and store up energy in preparation for  hibernation. They have destroyed neighbors' bird feeders. The bears are most active at night and as daylight shortens, in the extended twilight. We have been taking the feeders inside much earlier. 

Only one year ago I underwent surgery (right hemicolectomy and liver resection) for Stage 4 colon cancer. MaryLou and I had been planning an eventual move from Florida to join our daughter's household in Connecticut. The surgeons believed they had removed all traces of the tumor, but after our expedited move to Connecticut (and then after a delay when the entire household came down with Omnicron Covid), CT and MRI scans revealed two additional liver metastases. I have been on chemotherapy for over six months and there has been some reduction in the size of the lesions. I am doing quite well except for some fatigue and continuing issues with arthritis and mobility. 

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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, October 20, 2022

Birds on the fence

A metal rail fence surrounds the back yard and protects the edge of a steep 35-foot cliff behind and below it. That area was recently clear-cut and includes a large brush pile, very attractive to birds. The fence is a sort of jumping-off place where they often stop and survey the surroundings before continuing on to forage in the back yard. I can stand at one of the corners of the fence and passively await the arrival of the next traveler.

Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Juncos will stay for the winter:

Small flocks of Eastern Bluebirds forage together. Some will persist all year, and I particularly enjoy having them stop by:

For Eastern Phoebes, the fence provides a vantage point for finding and capturing insects, whether airborne  or on the ground:

Purple Finches have visited several times. They can be elusive when perching among the tree leaves, so I was pleased when, some distance away, two females sat on the fence:

Then, for the first time, I saw a one of the females visit the feeder:

A male Purple Finch also appeared:

While the Purple Finch, on the left, is similar to the male House Finch to the right, its color is noticeably deeper-- "raspberry red" as opposed to "brick red" of the latter species. Admittedly, my poor window photos do not demonstrate the subtle difference in color, but do show the proportionally larger head, more massive beak and face pattern (light line over eye and broad dark line through and behind eyes) of the Purple Finch:

An American Crow seems entitled to a place near the bird feeders:

Chipping Sparrows are the most common fence-sitters:

Sometimes, from inside the house, we sight a large or unusual bird on the fence, compelling me to photograph through a back window. This has happened a few of times during the past month. Note the differences between these two raptor species of similar body size, both in immature plumage.

Its slim body, long tail and short wings are adaptations which allow the  Cooper's Hawk to chase small birds through the tree branches:

The more rotund Red-shouldered Hawk has very long and broad wings for soaring or swooping down from a perch to catch its preferred prey (insects, small rodents, reptiles and amphibians) out in the open. During winter its diet includes more birds:

Beyond the fence, the colors of autumn are reaching a peak:

This is the clear-cut area below the fence. The brush pile is in the foreground:  

In morning shade, a deer grazed in the clearing:

On our morning walk, Diamond Lake was bursting with color:

Here is a video clip of a drive along Birch Mountain Road in our neighborhood. Fasten your seat belt and hang on tight for a ride through New England fall colors:

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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, October 13, 2022

Crops & Clips: Flashback to October, 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 compared to 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 500 images from our early morning walks in the Wounded Wetlands adjacent to our home. Migration was in full swing. 

On October 1, a colorful male American Redstart caught my eye:

The more subtle plumage of the female Redstart is no less pleasing:

I had nice views of a boldly patterned male Black-throated Blue Warbler:

The inconspicuous female Black-throated Blue almost looks like a separate species. An important clue to her identity is the white spot on her wing: 

A Worm-eating Warbler hunted for insects:

A male Northern Parula warbler posed in soft shade:

Even a poor view of a male Painted Bunting was a treat:

This Ovenbird was intently watching something on the ground:

In the back yard lake, a pair of Egyptian Geese showed off their new family:

American Kestrels had returned to winter in our neighborhood:

A slightly larger falcon, the Merlin, had also arrived:

Covid-19 had not yet made an appearance and I was leading monthly interpretive walks at nearby Chapel Trail Nature preserve in Pembroke Pines. The boardwalk affords access to an extensive wet prairie and surrounding brush:

Longhorn cattle grazing in the  peaceful pasture next to the preserve attracted Cattle Egrets. Sadly, this field is being paved over and converted into a parking lot for recreational vehicles and trailers:

A Gulf Fritillary sipped nectar from the Lantana flowers:

This view shows the colorful undersides of a Giant Swallowtail:

A Florida Tree Snail climbed on a bulrush stem:

A Brown Basilisk, a species native to Mexico and Central America and introduced via the pet trade in the 1970s, watched from the safety of a tree next to the boardwalk:

The Pembroke Pines Bald Eagles were refurbishing their nest:

Hunter's Moon was settling over the lake on October 13:

A canal separates our subdivision from the Wounded Wetlands:

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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