Sunday, July 24, 2011

Northern Bobwhite

I went out for a while this morning but overcast skies (but no rain) did not make for good photos and not much was out. Not sure if it was several days exposure to heat, hunger or what but it was not long before I needed to go in.

Home to cool, hydrate, and refuel and before long I was going stir crazy ready to go back out. Sun was now shining bright and a good day wasting away. I thought hard about going back out as the temp was 99 deg by that time but I knew where I wanted to go and would be able to be in the shade with a good breeze. Several frozen bottles of water in a cooler and off again.

A couple of stops and blown out photos from not realizing my camera setting got moved so journey on. I arrived at my location and set up to watch the bluebirds. Off in the distance I could hear the bobwhite and since no one was around, decided to answer back it's calls. Within about 10 minutes I could not believe my eyes as it flew close. We continued our calls to each other, sometimes faint, sometimes loud. I saw it fly to a close by brush pile. Soon, movement in the grass caught my eye and to my delight, it was coming straight towards me.

In the county where I live, their numbers have decreased so rapidly of the last 10 years. Going from a largely rural type community to now uncontrolled growth, loss of habitat is a primary cause. An increase in fox, coyote numbers and feral cats have also exacted their toll.

I watched through the camera lens as it would call and I would reply back with the same intensity. It kept coming! My heart was racing and I expected it to freak and fly at any moment. I dared not move yet there was a tall clump of grass in front of where I needed to shoot. Ever so slowly I moved. The bird and I continued out calls to each other for at least 30 minutes. I found I could move slowly and the bird never flinched.

176 shots later, the camera battery getting low and water gone, I backed away. The bobwhite continued to call and then I felt sort of bad about the trickery but it was truely a wonderful experience. I have not seen one close up for many years and was thankful for the opportunity.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Mockingbird

Territorial, ill natured, bossy, aggressive, taunting and animated. They will swoop at animals and people alike. I have watched a crow chase a hawk and then a mockingbird will chase them both. There is really nothing outstanding about their appearance, monotone gray and white with the occasional brown patch.

What is stand out about the mockingbird is their song. Not a single song but made up of a melody of other bird songs. A mockingbird can have 250+ songs in their repertoire. Their melodies seem to adjust with the time of year and what other birds are dominant in the area. Back in the spring after the arrival of the Great Crested Flycatcher to the yard who was being very vocal, the yard "mocker" picked up sounds very similar.

Their song may consist of up to 15 songs sung in a continuous string. So despite their dull appearance and less than desirable behavior at times, their song adds a pleasant melody to the yard.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's Not The Heat, It's the Humidity

So the saying goes and in many respects very true. The heat wave that has been coming across the US has arrived and all I can say is misery. 70+% humidity makes it like a sauna just to stand outside and that is in the shade. A hot wind and extremely dry conditions are adding to the misery. Where is a good tropical storm (rain only) when you need one?

I went out and changed out what little water was left in the bird baths and filled up. The birds were a'twitter waiting and quickly showed their appreciation. Looking at the forecast, Satuday will be a short morning out. Summer is definitely here and not ready to yield to the approaching fall.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pokeweed and Bluebirds

Phytolacca Americanna - Pokeweed, pokebush, polk salad / salat / sallet, pokeberry, call it what you want. This time of year, it is the bane of car owners. Farmers attempt to erradicate it because of the toxic effect it has on livestock if ingested. Birds...they love the berries. They are not affected by the plant toxins because the hard shelled seed inside the berry is passed undigested thus aiding in the spread of the plant.

The history and lore associated with the plant makes for good reading if you like to store away some trivial facts. The cultural significance of Pokeweed in the south is evidenced by a 1969 hit song "Polk Salad Annie" written and performed by Tony Joe White and recorded in Muscle Shoals, AL. And now, I will have the song in my head for the rest of the night.

I stood and watched at least 18 young bluebirds flying in and out of this one patch. Unfortunately, since blocked off by a fence I could not get to the most advantagous lighting position so the shots are just so-so. While it was a steady stream of them flying in and out, there would be the occasion a large group would flock in and dive into the patch. When individual birds would approach, they would do a hover motion as if looking for the best and ripest berries.

Hopefully this weekend I will have the chance to go back although the weather is suppose to be miserably hot. The day I took these was already hot and the heat waves were definitely impacting photo quality.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Vulture Weather Vane

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Painted Bunting Hunting

My birding friend and I set out early this morning with determination to see the Painted Buntings today. They come in to the Wilmington /Fort Fisher /Carolina Beach area each summer. We headed out about 0430 this morning and arrived in time to see the sunrise.

We set out through the marsh first. Rivers of bright green marsh grass were blowing in the wind between batches of brown reeds. As we walked swatting and cursing the mosquitoes, I thought about what it must have been like for the men who were stationed there during the Civil War and again during WWII. A bunker remains on the trail that I suppose was used for ammo storage during WWII. In 1941, Cpl. Theodore "Ted" Liwin, 445th AAA Bn said "Hell hole! The biggest joke we had going were "combat mosquitoes" that were at the airport. They pumped 50 gallons of gas in them before they found out it was a mosquito!" Well for sure nothing has changed in that regard. This time of year, almost intolerable. Had a good breeze not been blowing today.....

Not much luck there so we turned around and headed for another location. We stopped and listened to the PB call so we would be sure to recognize it. We had not been walking long after that when to the delight of our ears, the Painted Bunting. We walked ever so slowly checking all the trees and brush. We rounded a curve on the path and there it was! After several shots it flew and we followed. Mosquitoes were just wrapping us up at this point but the quest was on.

We finally lost track and by this time both needed water so headed back to the car. As we walked back by a little pond area we looked over and there was a juvenile Ibis sitting in the tree. A few quick shots before it flew.

Breakfast being long gone by now, we headed toward the ferry for a trip over to Southport. I don't know why but I have always loved to go on ferries. It was a wonderful trip over with gulls and pelicans as constant companions. Arriving at Southport we found a local fish house and stopped to eat. With a nice breeze we decided to opt for a table out on the dock. We watched the boats coming in and out and pelicans diving for fish.

It was an absolutely wonderful day but now time for that two hour drive back home. Much discussion on how nice instant teleportation would be versus the long drive home. Beam me up Scotty!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Green Heron

Elusive, shy, and solitary except during mating season. Almost comical in appearance during short flights with head feathers standing high. When I spotted this one I tried to ease up trying for a perfect shot of it standing in a shallow creek. No luck. I stepped up something that snapped and off it flew into the shadows of a tree. So here is the shot, I guess better than nothing at all. The quest continues.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Blue Grosbeak - Female

I haven't had much time this week for anything except work and with afternoon thunderstorms almost everyday, outside activities were limited once I did get home. We really needed the rain however so I guess you have to take the bad with the good.

A very quick birding outing this morning before heading to work for a while. Skies would go from looking like the bottom was getting ready to fall out to sunshine and back. Not prime photo op's.

My birding friend and I became absorbed in watching a female Blue Grosbeak busy gathering nesting material. She seemed to have more blue than most of the females I have seen. As I know the Grosbeak's in the area have already nested once, we were curious about their nesting habits so I did a little searching this afternoon and was surprised at what I learned.

The Piedmont area of the Carolinas and Georgia have some of the greatest densities of nesting populations in North America. Their nest unfortunately often fall victim to being parasitised by Brown Headed Cowbirds. Guess that is why a pair hanging out in the area were paying close attention to the coming and going of the female Grosbeak today.

They average 3 to 5 eggs per clutch. Incubation period is 11-12 days and the young fledge in 9-10 days. Two nestings per season seem to be common. I will be curious to watch this area and see the outcome.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Exuberance of Youth

A young fawn begins the day with a ready made breakfast courtesy of mom deer. With a full belly, a bright warm sunny day, a little bit of a cooling breeze and a field of grass, it was time to let loose. Mom doe and another doe stood by munching while the fawn ran and kicked up it's heels. The fawn made several attempts to enage both of the doe's in playtime but that was a no-go. Very fun to watch.