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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Jul 26, 2012

Warning signs

We've had a lot of rain lately. So much so that, I'm wishing we could share. The result is that the river is running deeper and the creeks have overflowed their banks,and so too have city ponds. I only noticed because I happened to pass by a pond on my way to work. This particular pond's circumference has expanded by about six feet.

Boundaries old and new

                    Here the bullrushes mark the original boundaries.

Trees in water
There are other things that I noticed too.  The wildlife around the pond seemed subdued.  The pond too quiet.  Missing was the shrill song of the Red-winged Blackbird.  Most were gone, because now their nests and offspring were buried underwater.  The warning signs, with the boat and fisherman on it, were also half underwater.  For the first time I actually stopped to read one of the signs.

And for the first time I wished there was no wildlife at or near this pond.  I wished the wildlife could read.


Jul 20, 2012

Puzzle solved

I have been coming across some puzzling sights in the past couple of months whenever I was out on bird watch.  There are two that stick out sharply in memory, and were puzzling because there were no clues, until a third sighting, just a few days ago, reminded me and helped  to put two and two together.

First sighting-Two dead insects on the same bush

First, I found these insects in the little forest down the street.  As you can see there is no spiderweb, or spider visible nearby to account for these dead insects.  If a bird were responsible, surely it would have come to collect it's prize almost immediately and I would never have seen them.  
Second sighting-Confused Bee

Next I came across this confused bee at a pond on the south side of the city.  It kept trying to get pollen from a plant that had gone to seed.  I watched it for a few minutes, during which time the bee didn't leave the plant at all. 

Not your typical bee-like behavior.  This bee should have been flying from flower to flower.  Instead it was knocking the seed from a flower stem in a frantic and obsessive manner, as if it had lost it's mind.

Third sighting-Sick Squirrel

Looks as if having difficulty staying upright
Close-up view-no injuries
Then a couple of days ago, my son pointed out that a squirrel was sitting on the fence of my back-yard neighbor.  I have been trying to catch the squirrel on camera for the past couple of years.  He typically races along the fence line out back several times a day and makes quite a racket.

 Here he was unmoving and uncharacteristically quiet.  At first I was delighted to get some nice shots of the squirrel, until I realized that there is no way I should have been able to get so close to  him.   Then I thought maybe he was injured, but I saw no injury, and no blood whatsoever.  He did however have a dusting of white stuff on his head that you can see quite clearly in two of these photos.

The poor little guy still didn't so much as twitch, even when I was less than two feet from him.  He seemed to be totally unaware of his surroundings and a little off balance besides.  When I made to open the gate, and looked down at the gate latch, which was stuck, he finally moved. 

However, he did not go very far.  He was up in the tree you can see directly behind him in the photos.  And he didn't chatter at me angrily or in alarm, once at a safe distance, as squirrels tend to do.  

It finally sank in that his behavior and general condition was like that of some poisoned mice that I have seen, and since he was now out of reach and rescue, I went back inside.  I caught one more glimpse of him through my kitchen window, but I haven't seen the poor creature since.   I am both sad and angry.

You see, I have a new neighbor who has been quite liberally sprinkling, white powdery chemicals and setting poison around both front and back yards, in order to kill ants and mice.   This neighbor had been quick to assure me that the poison was environmentally friendly and safe to use around children and pets.  Yet I have seen none of the ground feeding birds in the tree I share with this neighbor and do not doubt that the squirrel is an unintentional victim of his poisons.  Most likely the bees and fly above are unintentional victims of poisonous chemicals as well.  Because the city maintains both the little forest and the pond, and the city sprays chemicals to kill weeds and mosquitoes, right around the time that I caught sight of these insects, every year, like clockwork.   So here is what I learned from this experience:  There is no such thing as an environmentally friendly and safe poison.  Poison is poison, it either kills or makes a body sick!!!

Jul 15, 2012

One second with nature-July

A beautiful little skipper butterfly feeding at some Alphalpha blossoms.


Jul 14, 2012

Experimentation, time and patience

I can hardly believe that it is already July.  My life has been so busy, that I have had few opportunities to get outdoors and explore.  However, I carry my camera everywhere, unless extreme temperatures prevent doing so.  This allows me some time everyday to practice my photography and do a little experimenting at the same time.  Sometimes I am even pleased with the results.

First wave-ducks from a new perspective
Juvenile mallard

Although I have not been seeing many birds, I did get some shots of other delightfully winged creatures.  Some of these are new to me, which is always exciting.  The Dragonflies have emerged for example, and some of them are real beauties.  When I was a child I was absolutely terrified of dragonflies, now I love them, funny how time changes one's perspective.  The ones I present here are quite large, about three and a half to four inches long.  I believe these are classified as cruisers.  If anyone knows their identification please let me know.

A beautiful blue and black dragonfly at my front door

I caught the Dragonfly above near my work at lunch time.  I have never seen one this color.  He's quite the handsome fellow.  Before he settled on the wall above me, he landed on my hip, I was both astonished and delighted.

Pearl Crescent

 Butterflies have also emerged in more significant numbers.  I don't know about anyone else, but I find butterflies more difficult to photography than birds.  Their flight is more erratic and I find they are more hyperactive than flycatchers.

Red Admiral

White Admiral

With birds you can usually tell by their body language when they are about to take off,  and even in which direction.  Butterflies give no visible clues that I can tell.  They are also hyper alert to movement of any kind around them.  The result is that they are difficult to approach.  Patience is the key to photographing butterflies.  They do settle for a few minutes, if undisturbed and a preferred food source is available.  The White Admiral above for example was feeding on the sap of new pine tree buds, and he was there for quite some time.


Jul 5, 2012

Northern Flicker feeding young

The past few of weeks have been rather drenching, with rain pouring down every day, almost all day long. Not that I'm complaining, we really needed the rain.  However, I had plans to take videos of a pair of Downy Woodpeckers feeding their young.  I discovered at the end of last week, that the nest I had found to observe has since been abandoned.  Hopefully the baby woodpeckers fledged successfully and are now surviving nicely on their own.
Downy Woodpecker feeding young
Parent removing the waste
Parent rushing off to gather more food

I did manage to get in a couple of enjoyable hours of bird watching this past weekend.  However, this time of year most birds are difficult to spot, they are very  busy gathering food for their young, much quicker in their flight, and somewhat secretive besides, no doubt to protect the location of their nests.  When I do catch sight of them, they usually have a beak full of insects to carry back to the nest.  And I did catch sight of several birds in just this way. 

The highlight of this outing however, was the Northern Flicker parents feeding their fledglings in the tree tops.  I had stepped into a dense part of the little forest to try and spot a singing bird, when I caught sight of a dark shadowy bird figure with a red head, which was clumsily moving around in some bushes.  This turned out to be a fledgeling Northern Flicker.

The parent and the fledgeling
The Fledgeling
Notice the not quite finished look and the shorter tail of this fledgeling
Northern Flicker parent
The moment that I realized that I was viewing some fledgling flickers was made sweeter by the fact that I really didn't expect to see them.  I have never seen Northern Flickers nesting in the little forest.  In fact, I usually see Northern Flickers only in spring and fall.  So when I caught sight of  the parent feeding the fledgeling I was absolutely delighted and totally fascinated.

Opening wide in anticipation
Parent feeding fledgeling
Is that all?
There wasn't a lot of light under the trees for my first series of photos.  However I lucked out when I caught sight of them a second time in a part of the forest with much better light.  So I'm really glad that these birds were not stationary. 

As far as I could tell there were two fledgelings, and the parents were busy taking it in turn to feed them both.  The fledgelings seemed never to stay still for very long, and made their own attempts at finding food, but were still fairly clumsy.   Between the first and second sighting, I watched them for perhaps half and hour before they all disappeared into the denser part of the forest.  It was both an awesome and delightful experience.