Thursday, October 26, 2023

Bright spot in back yard #1085

We had a few clear days among the rainy, windy and even cold weather the past two weeks. My walks in the back yard  were often uncomfortably chilly. Birds, if seen were wind-blown and quickly disappeared into cover. One morning the skies briefly cleared, the wind died down and I was suddenly rewarded, sighting 22 bird species during a 90 minute watch.

A few Yellow-rumped Warblers may remain here all winter and are usually encountered singly, but they showed up in a flock of four or more. One posed out in the open:

A real surprise was the appearance of a Blackpoll Warbler. This species breeds in boreal forests in far northern Canada and most migrate through in September. This was the only October sighting in our Town and latest in the County. I caught these images by pure luck as I noted unidentified bird activity among the leaves. Sometimes I am conflicted as to whether to reach for my binoculars or the camera, so I selected the camera and recorded its appearance for a second or two before it disappeared. 

The foliage was in shadow, so my photos were a bit overexposed as I did not have time to decrease the exposure compensation, but I loved the soft color tones of leaves and feathers:

The fall appearance of the Blackpoll male is remarkably different from that in breeding plumage. I took this photo in Illinois on April 14, 2011 (Note the bright pinkish feet, which distinguish this bird in all seasons):

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was calling excitedly from the top of a maple tree. I did not know what had attracted his attention:

Watching the feeders through the window, I captured images of a Blue Jay...

...and a White-throated Sparrow which had recently arrived from the north:

Seen from the back porthole window 80 feet (24 M) away, an Eastern Bluebird braved the drizzle, with the fall foliage as a backdrop:

The leaf- and acorn-strewn side lawn is deliberately left untended. Four Wild Turkeys have become regular visitors. Visibility of this area from our windows is limited, but here are a couple of rainy-day captures:

A Red Fox looked up at me from the top of the brush pile in the clear-cut before running off:

A misty morning on October 19:

Autumn foliage has reached its peak. Orange predominates. Here the cloud deck has lifted to provide a view of Hartford, 11 miles to our northwest:

A breeze distorted the reflections on the lake:

On a personal note, this week marks two years since I underwent a right hemicolectomy and liver resection for stage 4 colon cancer. It recurred in my liver and right lung and progressed despite a year of chemotherapy. I reacted badly to the platinum drug which was added to my regimen, and also was hospitalized for sepsis in April. After my May infusion I decided, after deep discussion with MaryLou and in consultation with other family members and my excellent Oncologist, to discontinue chemotherapy in favor of improved quality of life and recognition that this condition is incurable. The 2-year survival rate after surgery for cancer of the cecum is only about 15%.  So far, I have been doing quite well, although there are limitations on my mobility and stamina. As long as I continue to look forward to my window views, back yard forays and interaction with my wonderful extended family, so many friends and online contacts, I will try to keep to my schedule of weekly blog posts. I thank you all for your prayers and expressions of love and concern. 

This week's header: Mid-October misty morning--

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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 19, 2023

Picture imperfect

It has been a week of appointments and tests, punctuated by rain, wind and a cold snap, all of which greatly limited the number and duration of my back yard photographic excursions.  Sultry skies and elusive subjects contributed to poorly exposed and fuzzy images.

Eastern Bluebirds gather together during the cold months in family or multi-family flocks. My poorly-focused encounter with several perching side-by side was a delightful sight which, I felt, did not deserve to be consigned to the digital dustpan:

Another bluebird flew in:

Some explored the bluebird house which had been taken over by Tree Swallows this spring:

One perched atop a tall Chestnut Oak, too far away for a decent shot:

At the platform feeder which offers Safflower seeds, the first Purple Finch of the season, a female,  joined a colorful male House Finch:

The sighting was only momentary and I had to shoot diagonally through the double-paned window. Note the distinctive face pattern of the Purple Finch. It also appears a bit larger and the top ridge of her bill (culmen) is straight, not slightly curved as in House Finch:

For comparison, this is a plain-faced female House Finch:

We have had very few squirrels or Blue Jays at the feeders this fall. Deer and Black Bear sightings have been less frequent in neighborhood back yards. This is very likely due to the abundant crop of acorns and other nuts. There were practically none the previous autumn. Turkeys and deer also benefit. Here is a typical roadside accumulation of hickory nuts, a huge waste of calories in a season of plenty. They pop like little firecrackers when autos run over them:

Acorns covered the ground under a single White Oak:

A White-tailed doe briefly visited the side yard, providing a through-the-window snap:

Six of the 13 segments on this Wooly Bear caterpillar (larva of Tiger Moth) are entirely black, 4 are entirely rusty brown, and 3 seem to contain both colors.

Legend has it that a majority of black segments portends a more severe winter. The more likely explanation for the ratio may be that the number of brown bands is directly related to the age of the caterpillar--  it is widest if the caterpillar emerged early in the spring. If the previous winter was more prolonged and caused later emergence, the black areas would prevail and thus correlate with the severity of the PREVIOUS winter! (REF: Woolly Bear Caterpillars and Weather Prediction)

Three pairs of Mallards paddled in the reflected color of lakeside autumn leaves:

Their wake trailed behind them:

There was a colorful sunset after a rainy afternoon. Fog settled in the valleys:

This week's header: Afternoon storm approaching

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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 12, 2023

A photogenic mantis

As the remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia drenched us in late September, a second storm named Phillipe slowly meandered northward off the Atlantic Coast. It threatened to strike Bermuda, but instead took a left turn in early October. As it broke up over land, the storm brought heavy rain and gusty wind to New England and northeastern Canada. 

Although there was local flooding, The major inconvenience was that it kept us inside for several days. Our area has now experienced rain on 15 of the past 20 weekends. The past two weeks provided only a few "blue sky" days with favorable  conditions for photography.

Highlights against the sky included a brief visit from a Cooper's Hawk which seemed to have an eye on the feeder birds. They all scattered when the hawk landed on our roof. This one was quite large, about crow-sized, so it was likely a mature female, about 20% larger than a male. She had a particularly prominent "bustle" of white feathers under her tail:

She circled over the back yard and disappeared:

Two days later, an Osprey, our only fish-eating raptor, appeared high in the sky.  It was sailing on an updraft and then glided down, only to spiral upward again. Very  likely migrating, it never flapped its wings and gradually disappeared over the western horizon:

Most of the Eastern Phoebes have migrated away, but a few linger on.  Although they normally subsist on flying insects, they can survive on berries and their seeds during a mild winter:

Song Sparrows are permanent residents...


...but relatively few Chipping Sparrows are seen here during the winter:

White-throated Sparrows have arrived from northern breeding grounds:

Dark-eyed Juncos will soon be the most common sparrow species at our feeders. Only a few have appeared so far:

Ruby-crowned Kinglets can be fairly abundant during migration, and a few persist all winter. This is a male, whose red crown is barely visible:

When sunshine returned, it was evident that autumn color was beginning to develop:

The back fence overlooks the clear-cut area, which slopes down sharply, about 500 feet (152 m)  into the valley, descending about 80 feet (24.4 m) in elevation:   

Sassafras leaves have turned red:

Sunbeams tried to burst through a stormy sky:

At sunset, the sun peered out from under the cloud deck:

On a clear and calm day, the lake reflected autumn brilliance:

A Praying Mantis walking along the fence provided an unexpected opportunity for my iPhone:


This video illustrates the tactile sensitivity of the mantis:

This week's header: Hartford in Autumn

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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