Monday, June 29, 2009
On May 30th I visited Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville and had lunch with friend, Stephen Lyn Bales, a naturalist, fellow nature blogger and interpreter at Ijams. During our picnic lunch, this Yellow-throated vireo was singing pretty continuously and Stephen Lyn identified him by song. Catching a glimpse of the bird, I snapped a few images and the one below gave me the visual confirmation that I needed to find him in my Peterson's field guide. The vireos are new to me, but it seems this is my vireo year. Within the last month, I have seen and heard the Yellow-throated and the Blue-headed vireos and heard the song of the Red-eyed vireo.
I found some neat information in my Atlas of Breeding Birds of Tennessee about Yellow-throated vireos and cowbird predation. It doesn't always go the cowbird's way. "The Yellow-throated Vireo is frequently parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds and may occasionally build a new nest floor over a cowbird egg. [!] ....I have three times observed adult vireos feeding fledgling cowbirds....On 28 June 1986 a pair of vireos was seen fighting off a female cowbird attempting to approach the vireo's nest."--Charles P. Nicholson.
I also enjoyed the nest description from the atlas: "The nest is built of bark strips, plant fibers, and grasses held together with spider webs and lined with fine grasses or hair. The outside is decorated with lichens, moss, and masses of spider webbing, and Bent (1950) described it as the handsomest nest of any vireo." The account also reports that both the male and female sing frequently while incubating. (I love this book!) And that brings me to the thistle. Between the table where we ate and the vireo singing, there was a garden of bull thistles with sunlight and butterflies dancing on the blossoms. I could barely eat lunch for chasing the butterflies with my camera. And as I looked through the lens, I got an intimate view of the fritillary's proboscis as it probed the blossom and that fun little insect expression!
This only makes me want to know more, like where exactly is the nectar in that bull thistle blossom and how does that prob get to it? The more I watch, the more fascinating nature becomes and the more it sparks curiosity. This could keep me going for days!
And below, some Columbine blossoms that I passed along the way. Already past their prime, they were hanging like delicate beauty bells among the stiffened pods that are broadcasting seed for the next generation.
Linked to Bird Photography Weekly #44, at Birdfreak.com to promote the conservation of our world's birds.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Leonard is a professor and journalist in Marietta, GA. You must visit his video and though the outcome of his story is uncertain at this time, mobbing is a turnabout reality for hawks, one in which nature provides for the predated as well as, the predator.
Mary Howell Cromer lives in LeGrange, KY. She launched her blog, Red-shouldered Hawks of Tingsgrove this week to display her journal and photos of the Red-shouldered hawks that she has spent hours observing the past several years. She has experienced both happy and sad endings, as well, and given aid to the parents a time or two. Don't miss her fun images of the juveniles.
And Jay at Down to Earth, created a wonderful diary post about her experiences with Red-shouldered hawks living in and around her property in eastern North Carolina. Visit her beautiful images, including a juvenile visiting the bird bath.
And last, but certainly not least, you must visit Larry Jordan's Red-shouldered hawks at Birder's Report for a northern California look at this beautiful species. To see my entire series of posts on this family of Red-shouldered hawks, click this link. The above images were taken at various times during my observations. The sketch is of the female with prey brought to her by the male. The second image is the male taking the remains of the female's meal to another perch to eat. The dragonfly is a ballerina ! a very small male Blue dasher. The perched hawk image is the male; the hawk in flight, one of the adults.
Monday, June 22, 2009
In the image below from Look Rock tower, you can see a few of the mountain ridges through the mist.
Warblers--another reason to love the mountains.
Linked to Bird Photography Weekly #43 at Birdfreak.com, bringing awareness to the conservation of our world's birds.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Such has been the nature of my recent enjoyment of the Tufted titmouse family that frequents my patio. The squeals and antics of the juveniles, both begging to their parents and learning to forage for themselves, have given me many smiles. Adult, Tufted titmouse. Mostly distinguishable by behavior but also subtle differences in coloration.
There are two hemlocks near the patio, with thickly needled limbs that drape nearly to the ground. These limbs provide a wonderful refuge for foraging and shelter for the inquisitive bird that wants to approach the feeder.
And titmice are curious, vocal and welcoming. Especially if they've associated your presence with the suet and seeds they enjoyed in the winter. And maybe there's a bit more enthusiasm with demanding, hungry mouths to feed.
When I have time to sit for a while and enjoy the morning air, my first smile comes with the arrival of the titmouse family. They seem to pop up from every limb, the juveniles calling out with their eager, "zhree, zhree, zhree, zhreeaaal", that last note being more of a squeal than a note.
After being fed by a parent, this juvenile dropped down into the ivy to forage for himself among the leaves, looking up ever so often to check with a parent.
"Hey, Mom, look at me!"
This mom certainly felt proud...
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
This is not a faint-of-heart predator! I think he is a member of the Clubtail family and possibly a species called, Dragonhunter. But beyond that 'possible' ID, I can't venture. Even though I have always found dragonsflies magical and have three books on the subject, I still know very little about them. However, everytime I see a new one, I want to dive more deeply into reading about them.
Of the Clubtails, my Stokes, Beginner's Guide to Dragonflies says: "The clubtails are one of the most diverse and challenging groups of dragonflies in the world....for many closely related species, even a good look at all of these features will not suffice; only an in-hand examination of anatomical features will permit certain identification. Even experts must let many pass simply as "clubtail species."
Having read that, I know my limitations. But I can readily say he was gorgeous! When he was whirling around in the turbulence, I found myself primed to duck if he came my way. This made me laugh. I've never had that reaction to a dragonfly before. This guy was more like a helicopter!
Note added June 18: This dragonfly was in the 3 inch range, almost double the size of more common dragonflies. I was delighted to receive a postive ID confirmation from Martin Hagne of Weslaco, TX, who agrees this is a Clubtail Dragonhunter. Read his interesting note in the comments section.
And before I leave the subject, if you haven't already discovered Amila's blog, Gallicissa, pay it a visit. Not only is Amila an expert guide for birders, but he loves dragonflies and has created a wonderful pond in his Sri Lankan backyard where he studies dragonflies and other critters and posts beautiful macro images.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I thought about entitling this post, "leaves, leaves, leaves!" But each time I think about complaining about what I can't see because of the leaves, I remind myself that this incredibly thick canopy protected the nest and its young from sun, wind, rain and interference perfectly. And this old-growth, thick forest is the habitat of these amazing Red-shouldered hawks.
The real fun of this visit was the amazing moment of seeing the juvenile, a stationary mass that on passing glance as I lowered my binoculars, looked like a clump of fallen leaves. That I spotted him at all was the unexpected peak of Friday's visit. Seeing him clearly confirmed what I could only speculate before, that he/she has fledged and is flying from branch to branch within the nesting territory but not yet hunting. On a prior visit, I witnessed the male's strike and heard the calling of what I believed to be two juveniles as the male brought the prey to the nest. The parent then flew to the back of the nest house. This was another moment of lucky timing. My reading confirms this is typical care of hawk young at this age of maturity. The juveniles are now 48-51 days old. The parents leave the juveniles alone for much of the day, visiting only long enough to drop off prey. Even though the image above is not clear, you can still see a small amount of white and brown streaked breast feathers.
Sketchbook note: "I could not have been more surprised. I was looking at the nest through my binoculars and noticed what I thought was a clump of leaves. A second look and I discovered this beautiful juvenile perched on a low branch near the nest. Today marks 48 days counting from April 26 when I first saw a nestling. The parents hunt now, drop prey off and leave again. Although I heard calling in the distance, the adults did not return during my 3- hour visit."
Linked to Bird Photography Weekly #42 at Birdfreak.com to promote the conservation of our world's birds and the habitat they live in.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I looked up from the blue jay in the previous post and found these two beautiful juvenile downies hanging from the feeder together. As you look at the images that follow, you will see the one on the left plunged her beak into the suet cake so eagerly that it came back coated in dough. She made a few attempts to peck at the dough afterward but then began to look a bit bewildered. "Okay, I'm headed for a good ole tree trunk to get this mess off my nose!" Meantime her buddy had the feeder to herself for a few minutes before she too flew to the tree. In this image you can see her juvenile belly speckles more clearly.
Sweet, sweet Downies!
A special word of caution about feeding suet in the summer. Suet made from lard and/or peanut butter is rich in protein. Unlike winter, there are many other protein rich foods available in the spring and summer. Because suet is a tasty treat, birds may over indulge and develop gout, a very painful swollen condition in their feet. Feed summer suet sparingly. Consider it a special and limited treat for both you and your backyard birds.
For the Love of It...