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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Sep 28, 2012

Fall colors and a Red Flicker

Fall colors seem particularly fine this year and I can't seem to resist capturing them under brilliant light.

This lovely bush is a-fire
Dogwood leaves turning ruby red
Wild cranberry taking on multi-coloured hues

What I didn't expect to see again, is this Red shafted Northern Flicker.  He blends right in with the fall colors, don't you think?  If he were perched in the cranberry bush I probably wouldn't see him.

Here he is giving me a view of his brilliant red tail.

Then he posed for just a second, before taking flight and graciously showing me his beautiful wings.

Red shafted flicker in flight
Going up

He didn't stay long.  The whole encounter lasted maybe three minutes.  I loved every second.

Going down and out of sight

He seemed to wave good bye as he left. If you wish a closer look, just click on the photos to get a larger version.



Sep 21, 2012

Great Blue Heron-a weekend special

Just a quick share this time.

The arrival
Crossing the pond
These photos are from day one.

Doing the cute
Hungry Heron
Tossing back a small snack

Feasting on Brine Shrimp

Photos from day two

Graceful dancer
Strutting his stuff

One last view



Sep 19, 2012

Fall migration and a feast for the eye

Clouds meet pond

Fall migration is turning out to be awesome for me this year in more ways than one.  I sincerely hope it is the same for you. Usually fall signals a time that is somewhat dreary and sad for me. There seemed always to be less of everything. Less green, less light, less birds etc., but since I took note of how much there is, that is beautiful and bright last fall and winter, I seemed to have adopted a different sense for the season. Not only that, but I am also taking note of more, simply because I am actively looking. This year I see the beautiful contrast, the bright colors, the difference in light and the changes that the season is bringing are a feast for the eye.  For some reason this is especially true at dawn. 

I'm out and about early on any given day and although dawn is arriving later, I still enjoy exploring some of my favorite spots, and I do so love watching the sun come up.  This week I have been getting some wonderful surprises because I do so.    The following is just one example.
Immature Black crowned Night Heron
As I was taking photos of this bird, all the while asking myself what it was, the sun was rising in the sky behind me.

Circling the pond
I startled him into flight as I began taking photos of some Yellow rumped warblers in a nearby tree.  He had landed behind me, with me totally unaware, and now circled the pond several times, providing me with some awesome photos.

In flight with Gull
On the far side
The dawn light was soft and beautiful as you can see.

On the opposite side of the pond
Unfortunately, when he landed, it was on the far side of the pond.  My photos turned out clear enough though to help me identify him.  It turns out that he is an immature Black-crowned Night heron.

Immature Black-crowned night heron greeted by two species of Grebe
Hunting for food
Two species of juvenile Grebe went to check him out when he landed, they have been at the pond for more than a week now, although they disappeared for a little while on the weekend.  They seemed to watch him with great interest.

Two Grebes in flight
When I startled the little heron into flight, he in turn startled the little Grebes into flight.  It was delightful to watch them fly.  Although these photos didn't turn out so well, their open wings clearly revealed by their color and pattern that they are definitely two different species of Grebe.  I've never seen any species of Grebe in flight before.  Have you?


Sep 13, 2012

One second with nature September

Fall colors are manifesting themselves all around us.  I couldn't resist posting this photo, which I took last week just as the sun was going down.  I love the rich colors mixed with the golden light, and the blue-gray of the bare wood. Just click to enlarge for a better view.


Sep 11, 2012

Best bird of the weekend?

Field of oats
Have you ever had one of those days, when everything you've been hoping and striving for just clicks?  But here I am getting ahead of myself again, so let me back up a bit.  I spotted a Pied-billed Grebe in the pond near my work at the beginning of the week.  I haven't seen one of these delightful birds for well over three years.

When he gave every indication of staying for a while I went every morning before work to try and capture his image.  But he was either always in very poor light or way on the other side of the pond, well out of reach of my lens.  Saturday morning I headed to the pond somewhat later in the day, when the light was much better, but the little guy was gone when I arrived.

I was very disappointed to say the least.   I needed some consolation and so I hopped on the bus heading to my favorite ponds on the south side. These are man made, but are surrounded by farmers fields with mini marshes, or as others call them, prairie potholes, where many birds can be sighted.  I have not seen Herons and Hawks for quite some time.  They would make up nicely for what I missed out on, and the south-side ponds are a good place to go to catch sight of either bird species.

Flicker chasing Kestrel
Kestrel in flight
The very first birds I saw was a Northern Flicker chasing a Kestrel.  They shot up off the ground unexpectedly behind a camper in the parking lot before I even reached the field to get to the pond.   While I recognized the Flicker instantly, I thought the other bird was a Merlin, although he was much too small, despite being shaped like a  falcon.   These birds were moving very fast, perched momentarily in some trees, and were gone again before I could get any closer with my camera.  So it wasn't until I got home, that I realized I had photos of my very first American Kestrel, a bird I have been hoping to see for quite some time now. 

Great Blue Heron
Since I didn't spot either bird again, I continued on to the smaller of the two ponds.  I crossed the open field and headed into the forested side of the pond, where I was immediately greeted by another bird in flight.  This one huge and flying at eye level.  By the time I realized I was looking at my hoped for Heron, he had flown past me.  I watched it as it headed over to the larger of the two ponds and naturally followed, hoping it would land there.  When I reached the larger pond however, I was greeted by some Canada Geese and ducks, but no Heron.

Great Blue Heron in flight
So I decided to go back to the smaller pond.  This time I approached it from the parking lot side, skirting the field of oats that is right next to the smaller pond.  Here I saw a hunting  Red-tailed Hawk off in the distance.  As I watched it circle the sky, I toyed with the idea of crossing the oat field to see if I could spot any other wading birds but decided against it.

Grebe on the pond
When I turned to face the smaller pond, there was one lone, very small grebe floating on the water.   I approached the pond slowly thinking it was an Eared Grebe, because it appeared to be red-brown to me as  it dove under the water.  Now I moved a little faster, having guessed where he might come back up, in order  to get closer and into position when he did resurface.   I wanted a good photo, no matter the species.

Cautious Pied-billed Grebe
I ended up on my belly in the grass propped up on my elbows, screened by some pond-side vegetation while I waited.  As fortune would have it, this was a very nervous, but beautiful little Pied-billed.  He saw me and he was careful, and I didn't move an inch except to operate the shutter.  He called out nervously a couple of times and I held my breath, this was a deciding moment.  I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I was, when he didn't leave the immediate area.  In fact he was actually coming closer.

Sweet little Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe coming closer
Here he was, right in front of me, in perfect position for descent photos, just as I'd hoped.  He continued to be cautious for some time, but finally relaxed enough that he dove beneath the water to reappear a little further along the edge of the pond.  I took the opportunity to move myself to keep him in sight, allow me to observe and capture more photos.

Set to dive

I stayed and watched him until he dived a final time, after which he reemerged on the other side of the pond.  I had myself several hundred photos of this sweet little Grebe and a smile on my face for the rest of the day. 
Little Grebe further along the edge of the pond

It was a positively awesome experience. There is more to this wonderful adventure, however I will have to save the rest for another post.  I still can't decide which of the birds I saw was my favorite of the weekend.  Nevertheless the little Pied-billed Grebe will always be special to me.


Sep 6, 2012

Woodpecker entertainment

Today was windy and cloudy, as it was yesterday and I think that I will forever associate a windy day with birds. I have been seeing so many birds on, or following a windy, turbulent day that I won't be able to help it. Today, the process was reversed, birds that I saw yesterday were simply gone today.  The birds that I did see this morning were all resident species.

They were mostly Magpies, who seemed to be having a convention in the little forest today.  I haven't seen so many assembled in one place in quite a few years.  They were both very vocal, and loud, as they tend to be when gathered in numbers.  Since I was listening hard for unfamiliar bird song, it was both annoying and frustrating.  In fact, they were so loud, I almost missed the call of a yellow shafted Northern Flicker that I have been trying to capture in flight for several weeks now.

Adult Northern Flicker
The two juvenile flickers
But I was compensated by not just one, but three Northern Flickers in the tree tops.  One adult and two juveniles.  Now I love Northern Flickers and not only are because they beautiful.  They have personality.  They are not easily intimidated for one, and seem very confident, as well as intelligent.  These ones were not behaving as they should though.

The adult chose the top of a broken tree to perch, while the youngsters stayed on the lower branches of a tree nearby.  All three were actively looking around as if they were searching for, or watching something, but stayed put for the most part.

Adult perched at the top
Something of interest in the sky

I thought they were searching for a food source at first, and then began to wonder what was going on, but not for long.  Here was my chance to catch one in flight after all.  The adult continued to look around, but then relaxed for a bit.  It wasn't long though, before something again caused him to look around, call out and finally change positions by flying up to a higher perch.

Calling out

The two juveniles joined him there a few minutes later.

I was so intent on catching one of these flickers in flight, that I didn't think to look around myself to see what they found to be so interesting.  So I wasn't at all prepared when the Merlin flew by overhead, chased by a mob of magpies and a Raven.  In fact I didn't get a clue until one of the Flickers actually ducked.


I missed the action not once, but  several more times, mainly because I wasn't in an open space big enough to capture it.  At this point I really had to wonder how long the action had actually been going on for.  The Northern Flickers obviously knew and once it was over, they disappeared, having had their entertainment, while I was once again feeling frustrated. 

Now I may have mentioned in a previous post that a Juvenile Raven had staked out the little forest as his or her territory.  He or she was apparently very busy defending his territory today from intruders.  As I was walking home, I caught these photos, which made up nicely for the ones I missed earlier.

Raven attacking Cooper's Hawk
Cooper's and Raven sizing each other up
The Raven and the Cooper's Hawk flew over me in aerial combat, coming from the direction of the little forest, just when I had almost reached home.  Neither bird was hurt that I could tell, and they ended up flying off in different directions, with the Raven heading back to the little forest.