If two years makes a tradition, we headed south after (a snow-delayed*) town meeting for our “traditional” trip south. Our destination this year was the Florida panhandle.
We spent a week camped at the Wright Lake campground in the Apalachicola National Forest. Each day we headed out to explore from this base. We ranged from the Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in the east to the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in the west. In addition, we hit a number of Florida Birding Trail sites within the National Forest, the Saint George Island State Park and the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (their Unit 4 tract on St. George Island was particularly productive photographically).
Since we had such a good time last year at the Okefenokee NWR/ Foster State Park in SE Georgia, we stopped there for a day on the way back home. This time we were able to kayak some of the swamp on our own. It was quite an experience sitting low to the water with dozens of alligators all around.
Birds (many IDs needed but in the interest of a timely post, they will be added later)
* Two feet of snow will do that… even in NH! We arrived back home on the evening of 3 April to find a knee high pile of snow at the end of the drive way (the result of another foot of snow dumped a few days previously). It took about 45 minutes of work with snow blower before we could get the car and camper into the driveway.
Around noon today Joan’s cousin Liz called to say that there was a barred owl sitting, clearly visible from the dining room window, in a tree at the back of her house.
I did what any self-respecting wildlife photographer would do. I headed out the door headed to Liz’s house as soon as I gathered up my gear! Joan came along too.
These two photos were taken from Liz’s bathroom window with my 300 mm lens. The first was made through the storm window and the second after I raised the storm window. The owl was completely unperturbed by my raising either the regular window or the storm window even though it was maybe twenty five feet away.
Yesterday, I finally made it up to the Pack Monadnock Hawk Watch… on day 22. And what a day it was, perfect weather and lots of hawks.
I arrived just before noon, the the show started shortly there after and continued until around three. I left about 4:30.
The total was about 2,800 birds, about 2,700 of which were broad-wings. Katrina’s official report can be found here.
The 10,000 birds for the season mark was reached and the traditional group photo around the tally board was made (with Katrina’s camera, but I am sure that it will appear at some point.)
While the bird watching was great, the conditions for photography were not ideal. The raptors were kettling pretty far away; only a few appeared close to the summit. The resident turkey vultures made fairly close approaches at times and I was able to make a few mediocre photos.
Today was a glorious day weather-wise. The temperature was in the high 70s F, the humidity was low and the skies mostly clear.
While we ate lunch on the deck, we were entertained by the birds at the feeder and by a couple of male autumn meadowhawks perching on the dead flowers nearby. After watching the odes for some time, I finally gave in and got the camera.
Later in the afternoon, Joan headed out for a kayak ride. She called from the beach parking lot to say that there were “brown headed ducks” down by the bridge but that she did not have her binoculars with her so that she did not get a good look at them. I stashed Big Bertha in the passenger seat, threw the tripod in the bed of the truck and headed down the road the mile to the bridge.
Those “brown-headed”ducks turned out to be a family of mallards. I watched and photographed them for about an hour.
Yesterday afternoon, I headed “down back” to our beaver-made wetland afternoon just to see what was up. Despite the perfect weather (temperature in the mid-70s F, mostly sunny, a a very light wind), “things” were very quiet. There was no bird activity and very little ode activity. The most numerous animals were grasshoppers in the wet meadow and frogs in the beaver pond.
I observed less that a dozen darners hunting over the meadow and about dozen autumn meadowhawks (all male) in the shrubby margin between wetland and upland. I saw no damselflies at all.
I spent some time photographing the asters (which are not quite peak) and other plants. At one point I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that the shrubbery along the edge of the meadow moving in an anomalous fashion. I looked up just in time to see a bear pass though a gap in the shrubs that was no wider than he/she was long.
As I headed back towards home I noticed, from a distance, a strange looking stick protruding above the grass in the meadow and changed my path to investigate. As I neared it, I realized that the stick was topped with a twelve-spotted skimmer! I approached cautiously and made my “insurance shot” from a discrete distance. I then took a small sideways step hoping for a better angle and this fellow took off. I watched him land about fifteen feet up in a nearby tree; clearly out of range for a good photograph. Sometimes the “insurance shot” is all you get!
Yesterday afternoon I headed over to the boat launch on the Contoocook in Greenfield just to see what was up “ode-wise”. The river was high and I did not see any odes along the river. However, there were autumn meadowhawks along the edge of the parking lot and in the nearby open field. In addition to the meadowhawks, there were a number of small butterflies flitting about. I also saw a single female spreadwing of some sort.
As I was observing the meadowhawks I began to be a bit confused. There seemed to be three kinds around… bright red males, yellow females (which also have a clearly visible ovipositor at the distal end of their abdomen) and a third duller and not as extensively red form. Upon looking at my photos I noticed that these last individuals also had the triangular ovipositor and thus were clearly female. Hitting the reference books, I discovered that “older” females turn a dull red, especially on top of their abdomen. It is good to learn new things!
Comments Off on Autumn Meadowhawks Redux
This afternoon, with the temperature around 80 F and partly sunny skies, I headed “down back” to our beaver-made wetland looking for autumn meadowhawks. I was not disappointed.
As a I passed by our brush pile, located in a sunny clearing in the woods near the house, I noted the presence of five or six autumn meadowhawks (mostly yellow ones; females or immature males). They were perched up high in the middle of the large pile so I did not try to photograph them.
When I arrived at the bottom of the hill and the juncture between woods and wetland, I observed another five or six bright red male meadowhawks in flight and a single yellow individual caught in a spiders web. The males spent most of the time I watched them in flight but occasionally one would perch and I got a chance to make a photo.
Moving out into the wet meadow, there were small numbers of darners (presumably males) patrolling territories along the waters edge. I also observed two presumptive females flying low in the vegetation clearly looking for a place to oviposit. None stopped moving long enough to be photographed.
Out in the meadow, I found a single immature male (i.e. orange) meadowhawk that was most cooperative in terms of photography. This individual made repeated hunting forays from the same perch and thus was easy to photograph.
Heading back towards home, I encountered a lone spreadwing at the edge of the woods. It sat still just long enough for me to make three or four photos.
Upon returning to the yard, I saw a feeding swarm consisting of two or three dozen darners. Hot, tired and thirsty*, I watched them for only a few minutes before heading into the house to fetch a large glass of ice water. When I look again, less than ten minutes later, the swarm was gone.
* Spending a couple of hours in the sun while wearing waders will make one hot tired and thirsty!
Yesterday (i.e Thursday, 25 August), I spent a few hours watching the birds in our backyard. Along with the usual suspects* for this time of year, a few rarer (at least in our yard) birds made their appearances.
At least one red-breasted nuthatch has been making regular visits to the feeders, usually to the sunflower seeds, but occasionally to the suet. Because of the frequency of the visits and the fact that it seems to fly off in the same direction after each brief visit, I suspect that there might actually be a pair of adults attending to young birds in a nest.
I also watched a black and white warbler hunting for insects in the trees near the feeders; it never approached the feeders. This is the third time in recent days that I have seen this species in our yard and this is the first summer that we have observed them here.
Additionally, a sparrow (of some sort other than a chipping sparrow) made a short appearance near the sunflower seed feeder but it did not approach it.
The hummingbirds have provided some great entertainment over the past week or so, there are four or five individuals (a family consisting of an adult pair and two or three juveniles, I think), they frequent both the feeder and a nearby butterfly bush. Their incredible speed and agility in flight as they chase each other around the yard, makes them great fun to watch. I only try to photograph them when they stop to perch nearby.
* Two types of woodpeckers (downy and hairy; we’ve seen only one red-bellied in the past few weeks), titmice, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, goldfinches, mourning doves, chipping sparrows and hummingbirds.
Although I spent the majority of my time today with the camera pointed at the humming bird feeder, I did, occasionally, point it elsewhere.
Goldfinches and tufted titmice are the most common birds around the feeders these days. Woodpeckers (both downy and hairy) were also common; I did not see a red-bellied woodpecker today. A variety of other birds appeared in small numbers. In addition to the phoebe and the mourning dove I made photographs of, I also observed a couple of blue jays and a number of chickadees.
I think that the chickadees are a sign that autumn is coming. We have lots of chickadees at the feeder all winter and early spring. However, at some point in the spring, they disappear. I am guessing that they must not breed nearby the house. Over the past few weeks small numbers of chickadees are reappearing at the feeder. Maybe because their breeding season is over?
Comments Off on Other Birds
I spent a good chunk of the middle of the day today watching and photographing the birds around our feeders.
The sky was overcast, the temperature and the humidity were both in the high seventies. All around the conditions were better for photography than for stacking firewood!
The hummingbirds were quite active. A mature male spent most of his time perched near the feeder. There were two juvenile birds who appeared seeming out of nowhere regularly. When the juveniles appeared they would be harassed by the male as they tried to feed. Once the juveniles had had enough (food or harassment, I am not sure) they would take off for the woods. The male would feed and then head back to his guard station. This behavior was repeated often at irregular intervals for couple of hours I watched them.
I was able to make some nice photos of the male hovering near the feeder but the juveniles were impossible, the males harassment made their movement too erratic.
Likewise, I was able to make photos of the male perching near the feeder but the juveniles rarely perched near the feeder and if they tried the male drove them off. I did manage a single frame of a perched juvenile.
Comments Off on Hummers!