Monday, September 29, 2008
Or other times, leaning back taking in everything around them. And when I look at my images, it never ceases to amaze me that their wings beat faster than the shutter speed.
Visitors to the feeder are thinning out each day as the air is getting colder and the leaves turning to fall hues.
But I don't lack company as I observe. My five-lined skink neighbors frequently join me, sometimes more than one of them, in pursuit of another. Tiny ones no bigger around than a pencil and longer, slightly bigger ones.
Humm...where does this one think he's going?
That's my door...
Saturday, September 27, 2008
This post has been linked to Bird Photography Weekly #4 at the Birdfreak blog. It's a new idea to help promote the beauty of birds. Check it out and post your favorite bird photos there!
Friday, September 26, 2008
On May 21, 1876, George B. Sennett, the inveterate collector from Erie, Pennsylvania, was hunting at Elbow Lake, Grant County Minnesota. On the previous day his companion had killed two Whooping cranes nearby and Sennett was determined to secure a specimen. He located a pair at their nest, which was built on top of a muskrat house in a burnt slough, with only short grass clumps for cover. As he approached to a point close to the nest the birds left, and Sennett concealed himself as best he could, piling grass over himself as he lay prone behind a clump.
“Fully half an hour went by and I began to cramp and feel uneasy and was on the point of changing my position at the risk of losing my covering by the wind, when one noble fellow flew over the slough and lit on the opposite side from me about two shots off. Cautiously he began to survey the situation and shortly his mate came swooping down to his side. They kept their eyes well on my bunch of grass and remained at a safe distance, yet I could see they knew their eggs were safe. Some fifteen minutes of strutting back and forth when she boldly walked out into the water, some eight or ten inches deep, directly toward me, mounted the rat house and sat down on her two eggs, some twenty-five yards from me in plain sight. I could see her wink her eyes watching me and her mate constantly. Her eyes gleamed like fire. How anxious and how handsome, was ever a sight so grand….The male stood on the ridge watching her closely for a few minutes. When feeling all was safe he calmly commenced to plume himself in grand style and shortly walked off away from me the proudest of birds….I slowly arose, turned and gave her one barrel as she was rising from the nest and the next before she had gone six feet and dropped her in the water….” (Deane, 1923).
Your reaction, I'm sure, was much the same as mine. While the introduction explains that we're reading a hunting account, the conclusion is none-the-less stunning.
Beyond reflexive recoil there is the following harsh reality: with one fallen female, a breeding pair is destroyed and a season of off-spring lost. It will take six years to replace this nesting female if all goes well-- one year to reach the next breeding season, five more for a female chick to reach breeding maturity. Unforeseen circumstances could delay breeding success even further.
By the early 1940's the entire population of whooping cranes was nearly lost, not just from hunting and collecting, but largely due to the draining of wetlands and the encroachment of settlement.
The above account took place 132 years ago. When you consider the causes of this bird's decline and our progress toward correcting them, do you sometimes wonder what will be said of us in as many years?
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
While visiting Necedah for Cranefest, I had the enjoyable experience of touring the refuge with several other Operation Migration directors. Our knowledgeable guide and storyteller was Brook Pennypacker, Operation Migration crew member, photographed here while wearing the costume that helps keep our captive-reared whooping cranes wild and unaccustomed to the human figure.Among the other white birds we viewed was this family of trumpeter swans.
Not only was it a pleasant surprise to get a glimpse of this family, the photo itself was a surprise.It was taken from a moving vehicle with the camera stretched across another passenger to access the open window. I have to give the credit here to my talented camera, the amazing Canon Rebel Xti!
There are three signets in the photo but you have to look a bit more carefully to find the third. There were many wonderful things to see at the refuge that I missed and will look forward to seeing the next visit, among them the endangered gray wolves and karner blue butterflies.But black-eyed Susans and blue asters were easily accessible, scattered along forest edges and meadows, never failing to catch my attention.
Soothing to the eye and close at hand, their splash of color complimented a rich landscape rapidly changing into fall foliage.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
A blog carnival is a collection of blog posts on a related theme, selected by its host and featured at regular intervals, in this case, semi-weekly. I submitted my September 15th post on Ruby-throated hummingbirds and was delighted to discover today (as I'm behind in my reading!) that my article had been included in the current carnival edition.
Audubon Birdscapes hosts edition #84 with A Beginner's Guide to Bird Blogs and introduces the featured blogs as "a quick look at 20 of the best". Fun, especially since I'm relatively new on the blog scene.
My thanks also to The Zen Birdfeeder, included also in the current IATB edition, for her mention of my blog as one she's added to her favorites list. Check out IATB # 84.
Monday, September 22, 2008
A natural survival mechanism combined with man's innovation has made this eastern migratory population possible. Through a natural instinct called imprinting, a newly hatched chick bonds with and follows the first figure that it sees. It is this natural instinct that makes it possible for captive reared hatchlings to accept costumes and ultralights as though they were parents, so that migration training can occur.
I positioned myself at the bottom of the tower the morning of Necedah's Cranefest.It offers a different perspective and some challenges...hungry mosquitos and high foliage.
But both tower level and ground level give you excellent views.
Mature whooping cranes are white with black wing tips, a bare patch of red skin on the top of their head and a black facial mask.
Juvenile whooping cranes still have cinnamon feathers on their head, neck and body and no facial mask.
There will be 15 juvenile whooping cranes and four ultralight parents beginning their migration south on October 17 or as weather permits. This will add another generation of whooping cranes to the world's rarest crane species. You can follow their journey by viewing Operation Migration's field journal. And for kids, check out Journey North's reports on the whooping crane migration.
Click here for more posts on whooping cranes.
Submitted to Bird Photography Weekly #5.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Blue asters found all around the refuge. The flowers are about the size of a dime and come in delicate shades of blue.
Monday, September 15, 2008
I took my cup of coffee and my camera outside, knowing it was the last day I would get to observe hummingbirds before leaving for Wisconsin. I first spotted The King, our resident male ruby-throated hummingbird, high on his perch, fluffed up and pensive. A short time later, after warning off a visitor, he dropped down to the holly as he is prone to do when it’s windy. He sat there quietly plumped up for a long while in the dim morning light.
A Carolina wren, who also likes this perch, displaced him for a short time, but since this busy songster can never be still, he was soon gone and The King returned. When I next observed, an hour or so later, the stillness was palpable. I can’t explain how I knew, but I knew. He was gone. I looked for him at his perches, watched for any movement among the limbs, waited for the faintest sound of chirping from above. Nothing. Then the parade of visitors came, among them the young and inexperienced, the late fledglings.
If I needed any confirmation, I had it. They approached the feeder chirping, awkwardly stabbing for a drink, lingering for many tries, more than I had observed before. No King pounced on them or chased them away.
Were it not for the heartening comedy put on by this new generation, I might have slumped into dispair. They reminded me of an infant first discovering his hands, eager to use them, but not quite skilled enough to know how. Much the same, they approached the feeder from every angle, awkwardly missing, backing up, trying again. Endearing, especially knowing all they must master before they, too, begin their southward journey.
Fall migration. It is that wonderful, stirring time of year. The King has departed. I so wish him a safe and speedy journey. I wish this for them all.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Sometimes he could care less about my presence. Other times, he chirps and zips to the other side of the feeder, or even switches to a different feeder out of range. Today I got some lucky shots. Don't you just love those irridescent feathers?And the tuffs of white poking out from beneath his belly?
I set out to observe today and confirm he was still around. I'm curious about when he will begin migration. I'm also enjoying seeing him sleek, preened and fattening up for his journey.
For the Love of It...