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Archive for the ‘birds’ Category

This is a preview of new beginnings in one of many wildlife gardens and yards. Stay tuned for coming out parties and first flights (hopefully).

Beginning transformation on wall

Beginning transformation on wall

 

Short time later....

Short time later....

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Chrysalis with Monarch wings showing through

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Titmouse nest with newly hatched chicks

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owls-020-1There is really no story behind this shot. The neighborhood kids alerted me that two owls were in the palm tree, so I ran out with my camera and got this shot of one of the barred owls. She really is a beauty and her cooing who-who’s are soothing music wafting through the orange blossom scent on a Florida day in March. We have wonderful neighbors on this block, and not all of them live in houses.

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It was like shooting (or spearing) fish in a barrel for these big guys down at the pond today.  When water levels are high, birds dive for food in the glassy water. When it gets low, as it is now, the long legged water birds like egrets and herons just wade out and pick fish off until they are stuffed. There is another stage when it is reduced to puddles and mud and dead or dying fish lie all around. You would think that part would not be desirable. Ah, but you would not be a vulture. That’s when the clean-up crew comes in and takes away the stench, leaving the pond bottom clean and ready for summer rains that will keep it full most of the season. That’s when the soft shell turtles, bass, gar and other fish swim back over from adjacent lakes and ponds. No cycle is wasted as long as we let nature take its course.

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Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anhinga

Anhinga

 

 

 Click on pictures to enlarge.

 

   

The pattern is clear now. Every time I grab the camera to capture a shot, something else moves into the scene, invariably an even better visual catch. Yesterday was a close match as to what was best. I have watched for the Hooded Merganser duck to return for the second year. As I got out of the car yesterday, I spotted a hen and drake down at the pond. So I run for the camera and snap away at the shy fowls. As you can see, they do not make it easy to get a good shot. So I waited and waited, hoping they might venture closer. Suddenly a snake surfaced too close them and startled me. It took only another second to realize that it was not a snake, but a Snakebird—an anhinga! This is prize I have been waiting for. Only once before has an anhinga visited the pond and my camera shots were not good. I camped out this time. The results you see here. I still wait for that wonderful close-up of the bird drying his fully outstretched wings. (Anhingas do not have the oil glands necessary to shed water like other water birds, so they must “hang them out to dry in the sun.”)  Their territory is the Atlantic and Gulf costs from North Carolina to Texas and in the Mississippi Valley north to Arkansas and Tennessee and south to South America. You may have guessed this species is my favorite. 
 
 
 
 

 

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Feathers fluffed in the cool of the morning
Feathers fluffed in the cool of the morning

I called this red-shouldered hawk a “fellow” but the face was far too pretty not to be female. She seemed to enjoy the cooler morning on a tree in our side yard.

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A local news story stuck in my craw the other day. That phrase from my Texas upbringing came to mind, and perhaps appropriately. The TV news reported a real stink in a neighborhood pond in the Orlando, FL area. Dead fish had floated to the surface and almost covered the pond. The resident interviewed was very upset. She could not open her doors or windows because of the smell. (Like we do that in Florida in August, anyway.) She pointed out that adding to the terrible situation were flocks of ugly, horrid, black birds all around the water’s edge.

 

I am, of course, yelling at the TV screen. “You *&#@. They are vultures, the clean up crew!”

 

Next day there was a follow-up report. Amazingly all the fish were gone. So were the vultures after filling their bellies. The lady was much calmer and surprised that BOTH her problems were taken care of. I will accept an apology on behalf of the vultures!

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I hope Jerry and I are good grandparents. It surely didn’t start out that way. stjohns3-2-8-032-1.jpgThe first time her parents trusted us alone with our year-old granddaughter we took her to Birds of Prey. It sounded like a good idea at the time. Audubon Birds of Prey in Maitland, FL rescues injured birds and releases them back into the wild when possible.

Haley smiled at the white-faced, barn owl as we entered. That may have been her last smile. We pushed the stroller to the bald eagle cage. There poor, injured, no-longer-majestic eagles loped around an enclosure, some dragging a wing. Haley’s face began to screw into a tortured mask. We quickly turned the stroller toward the cage behind her. On every crooked limb sat an injured vulture. Their bald, blood-red heads popped from fluffy white feathers above their scruffy black bodies. Wings drooped on some, claws or feet were missing on others. The scene we had always looked on with pity we now saw with a toddler’s eyes. Before Haley lay a Tim Burton horror scene of deformed, hissing, grunting vultures. She screamed to the top of her lungs. We calmed her down and cut our trip short, feeling like failures as grandparents. We thought we would be better at it.

Haley is ten years old now and thankfully doesn’t remember our first little foray. Perhaps it had no lasting impact on her little psyche. When we are out in nature now my camera cannot rest in my lap. She shouts incessantly “Ahmaw, take a picture! An anhinga! A gator! An eagle! An osprey!” Is it just possible that we didn’t scar her permanently?

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owl2-8-0092.jpgducks2-8-0561.jpgThe joys of living in Florida! The beautiful hooded merganser duck wintered in our pond this year. They are found as far north as Alaska, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. We had eleven at one time, but they seem to be heading back home now. When I went to check on them late yesterday afternoon none were in sight, but I caught on camera one of our beautiful resident birds, a barred owl. He flew by me not just silently, but with an absence of sound, a white noise in flight. He was not at all skittish about posing for the camera as I came within feet of him and even used the flash, as it was getting dark.

Our little acre would never be called manicured, but it is home to so many critters. In fact, we are a designated Backyard Wildlife Habitat. If you’d like a little Zippity Doo Da in your life, you might think about certifying your property. It is a simple thing to do and brings great rewards.

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