As an illustrative photo this isn’t much but seeing an oriole (Icterus galbula) is rare enough that any photo that catches the color is pretty cool, in my book. I got two others of it on a branch but it’s mostly hidden by the branch. I could hear it singing after it flew to a different tree so I have hopes of seeing it again.
Tagged With: Bird
The horizontal wire just above the bird bothers me a bit but otherwise I really like this picture. It is a female American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) taking off from a dried sunflower growing between rows of grape vines (which is what the wire is for) at Rocklands Farm.
I follow a bunch of folks on Instagram who specialize in pictures of birds. These folks take amazing pictures and I’m a little embarrassed to post this picture which compared to theirs is pretty pathetic. To get good pictures of birds, the first requirement is a good telephoto lens, a tripod, and a significant commitment of time. Today I was in the woods next to my office with none of those things. I had a 100mm lens, hand held, and only a short time to grab a few pictures. I wasn’t thinking of bird pictures when I went out. But I wasn’t in the woods long when I noticed more than one Baltimore oriole flitting around among the trees. This is the best shot I was able to get and even this is only adequate to identify this as an oriole. Maybe one day I’ll get some of the fabulous photos of birds that I enjoy from others. But this is not that day.
I stopped at Upper Rock Creek Park (a.k.a. Lake Needwood) today on the way home from work. I like to do that now and then, especially in the spring when new things are coming up or in the fall when the leaves are so lovely. But neither of those are true right now, so I’m not entirely sure why I did. But I did. As I walked down through the woods I saw a great blue heron fly across the lake and land in a dead tree on a point just a little way ahead. I knew there was a path out onto that point so I made my way there, walking as quietly as I could. The path goes steeply down the hill at the end, right under the tree the bird was in and I was only able to get three pictures as it flew off, almost directly into the sun. So, it’s not necessarily what I was hoping for but it’s probably better then I should have expected.
We had a light snowfall overnight. The forecast is for clear or mostly clear skies for a while so we aren’t likely to get more but the forecast is also for relatively cool temperatures for the next week or so, probably below 20°F for the duration and getting well down into the single digits. I’ll probably need to wear a sweater one or two days this week. These footprints are on the back step, just outside our kitchen door. We have a birdbath with a heater in it that keeps the water from freezing, so birds are never in short supply this time of year, particularly when it gets to cold.
It rained overnight but was mostly clear today and quite warm for mid-February. After a meeting that ran from 11:30 to just before noon, I walked a bit in the woods and upland area next to my office. First, I walked down into the woods above the drainage pond where a fair sized flock of cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) were bouncing around in the underbrush. If I had a tripod and a longer lens I think I could get some pretty good photos in that area. As it is, this is good enough for identification purposes but it isn’t going to win any awards. Still, it was nice to be out with the birds in 60°F weather in the middle of winter.
With a specific name like Turdus migratorius, you might thing the American robin is only here part of the year. After all, migratorius implies it migrates. Well, it does. Nevertheless, for the overwhelming part of the 48 contiguous states, the robin is a year-round fixture. Their summer breeding grounds extend from the southern states (and include the mountains of central Mexico) to cover all but the most arctic portions of Canada. In the winter they move south, with their northern limit right around the U.S.-Canadian border. So, if you live in Canada, their arrival is a sure sign of spring. The birds we see in the summer may not be the birds we see in the winter but frankly, they all look pretty much alike. We often see them eating berries on the holly in our front yard. This time of year, as it begins to warm up, they are active pulling up worms, as this one was doing before being so rudely interrupted by me.
We had a bit of rain this morning but it cleared up later and we went swimming. Late in the day I went for a little drive to find somewhere to take pictures. On the mainland near the east end of the island is a boat ramp. There used to be a ferry across to the island there and it’s a pretty place. I took some pictures of marsh grass growing on the banks of the channel and also got a nice photo of a tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). From there I drove to the Shallotte River inlet and took some pictures of this brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) perched on a pole out in the water.
Cathy, Dorothy, and I went for a drive this afternoon, going to a pond near Sunset Beach where we’ve seen alligators (Alligator mississippiensis). There was one close to the shore and I got a few pictures of it along with some water turtles. Then we drove back onto the island and to the east end, where I got some nice pictures of this great egret (Ardea alba) wading in the tidal marsh and finding fish in the shallows. We also walked on the beach at that end of the island and enjoyed the wind and the deeply colored, wine dark sea.
We went swimming early this afternoon and then I dug in the sand and made a drip castle. After showering, Cathy and I walked on the beach. I was surprised that the castle was still there. The tide hadn’t come in yet but no one had stepped on it. On our walk we saw a few common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) just above the surf pulling up clams after each wave. It’s not really surprising that they’ve learned to enjoy clams. It’s just that we don’t think of grackles as shore birds, skipping around at the top of the surf along with willets and sand pipers.
I decided to take a bit of a detour on the way home, stopping at Upper Rock Creek Park along the east bank of Lake Needwood. I find it very frustrating that the powers that be they have put up barricades on Needwood Road that make it impossible to park there and enjoy that end of the lake. I don’t really understand that decision. It’s obviously something that was thought out and specifically decided, as some of the guard rails are not protecting anything except places that one might otherwise park their car. Anyway, I drove through the park and ended up parking at the south end of the lake. As I was walking I startled a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and was just able to get one somewhat blurry photo before it flew out of range.
Solomon is our pet red-lored amazon parrot (Amazona autumnalis) and he just turned 33 years old last month. We don’t know specifically when he was hatched but he was about nine months old when we got him in October, 1986, so we figure January of that year is close enough. Since it’s now February, we know that’s past. He’s a pretty thing but fairly timid and is not really what you’d call a talker. He says a few things that you can almost understand but that’s about it. He also doesn’t chew on toys or anything else we put in his cage, so we don’t bother any more. He obviously eats but he’s not interested in chewing other things. He needs his beak and nails trimmed but otherwise, he’s in pretty good shape. You can see in this photo that he has new feathers coming in, which is always a good sign.
After church Cathy and I went to Stadler Nursury in Laytonsville. On the way we happened to pass the Montgomery County Agricultural Farm Park. There were three large birds walking across the grass a little way in from the entrance and it was three female turkeys. I pulled in but they had moved into the deep grass before I was able to get my camera out and get a picture of them. They would have been small in the picture, anyway. When we went to turn around a little further in this male tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) was sitting on the sign just outside Cathy’s window. I got the camera ready and was able to get two pictures before he flew off. What a pretty little bird.
This isn’t as sharp a picture as I’d like but it’s what I was able to get today. Actually, I got pictures of three different birds today. This one, of a brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) in the birdbath, a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), and a House Wren (Troglodytes aedon). The wren picture is sharper but I thought I had a better chance of re-photographing the wren, so I went with this one. The lack of sharpness is partially due to the low light and the fact that I had to crop the image to get this close, but a small part is due to the movement of the bird. As you can see by the water droplets in the air all around the bird, it is shaking water off of itself, taking a bath.
The American robins (Turdus migratorius) nesting outside our front door are back to raise a second clutch. There were three in the first batch and another three now, although this photo only shows one. I don’t stay out to take pictures for very long, as that tends to keep the parents away. On the other hand, they built a next in a high traffic area and we’re not going to stop using our front door for them. They grow quite quickly and we watched the last set fledge and these three will be out before you know it. I’m thinking about doing putting something on this ledge to keep them from building another nest here next year, though. There are plenty of other nesting sites for them to use.
Cathy and I took a walk on the beach this morning, heading east. We stopped for a while to enjoy the tail end of the church service on the beach and then continued as far as the pier. On our way back, as we neared out cottage, we saw a bird circling over the water and occasionally diving for fish. As we got closer we were able to identify it as an osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and I was able to get a few pretty nice pictures, considering I only had a 100mm lens. I had thought about the possibility of renting a longer lens for this trip but decided against it. Birds are fine to photograph but really, this trip is not about wildlife photography, so I decided to put it off for another trip.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a photo of our prime pet, Solomon. Since I’ve just posted photos of Cathy and of myself, I thought I’d round out the collection. If Dorothy were home I’d post a photo of her, but she’s not (but will be soon, if all goes to plan). Solomon will be 34 years old in January. Although he was hatched in California, he spent most of his first two years in Juneau, Alaska. From there he flew (with some help) to Chicago, where he lived with Cathy’s brother. After our trip of 1988, he returned to us on the east coast and has been here ever since. He lived in the kitchen in our first house and then in the family room here until he moved to the breakfast room a couple years ago. It’s great unless you want to have a phone conversation in the kitchen, when he really gets animated and makes it pretty difficult.
We don’t actually know his precise birth (or hatch) date, but when we got him in October, 1986, we were told he was nine months old. So, we assume his birth date is January, 1986. That makes him 34 this month. Parrots live a good, long while and he wouldn’t be considered an old bird yet. Perhaps middle aged. He seems to be healthy enough. His beak and nails need trimming and he really doesn’t get as much exercise as would probably be good for him. Nevertheless, we’ve managed to keep him around for more than 33 years, so we must be doing something right. Solomon, despite the wisdom implied by his name, is not much of a sage. He says a few things and those a bit poorly. He can make a pretty good racket, when he wants to, however.
I had a doctor’s appointment this morning and didn’t get to work until about 11:30. As I turned into the parking lot, I glanced to my right and sitting on a fallen tree limb was this hawk. I pulled into the space facing the bird but my camera was in the trunk and I knew if I opened my door, the bird would fly off. There is a small opening in the middle of the back seat that lets me get into the trunk, however, and I very quietly lowered my seat, reached through and got my camera. I took the first photo through the windscreen, which turned out reasonably well. I then lowered my window and leaned out and was able to get a few photos before he (or she) flew off into the woods. I believe it’s a Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) rather than a sharp-shinned (Accipiter striatus), based on its size. Interestingly, both species are reverse size dimorphic, that is, the females are larger than the males.
I had an appointment with my ophthalmologist this afternoon so left work a little early to go to that. When I was done, I would have gone straight home but I had two errands to run first. I went to the Kentlands shopping center, first to the Giant and then to Lowe’s. As I was coming out of Giant I glanced up into the small sycamore tree by the parking lot and saw this hawk. I nonchalantly walked by and got my camera out of my trunk. I got one photo of the hawk as it flew off but it landed again only a few trees over. I don’t think this is as good a photo as yesterday’s hawk picture, but it’s not bad. I think this one is a sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus), the smaller cousin to yesterday’s Cooper’s.
One of the most common birds in our area, winter or summer, is the American robin (Turdus migratorius). They are always around, in the lawn, in trees, singing and making a racket throughout the day. They aren’t anywhere near as cute as the European robin (Erithacus rubecula), which is classified as an Old World flycatcher (family Muscicapidae) rather than a thrush (family Turdidae), which is where the American robin stands. Although they are migratory (as their specific epithet suggests), their winter and summer ranges overlap and they can be seen year round through nearly all of the contiguous 48 states.
After work, except on days when it’s raining, I’ve been trying to sit in the yard to read. It’s started to get warm lately but I’ve still gone out, sitting in the shade after 5:00 PM, when it’s not quite so bad. I take my camera with me and look around for something to photograph. While I was reading, this gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) came and sat on the stake holding up our new hawthorn tree. It looked around for a little while and then flew off. There are quite a few of them around and since they are insect eaters, I’m quite happy to have them.
We went to the Tridelphia Reservoir this afternoon to two different parking areas and walked out and back along trails from both. The first wasn’t as nice as we had hoped, although we saw two types of clubmoss, Diphasiastrum digitatum (fan clubmoss) and Dendrolycopodium obscurum (ground pine). The walk from the second parking area was really nice. It was an easy walk except for a few places where there was mud on the trail but it wasn’t hard to get around. We were about to turn around when Cathy spotted this great blue heron (Ardea herodias), who let us get quite close. We just stood and watched it for quite a while.
We went for a walk on the C&O Canal this afternoon, heading northwest from Pennyfield Lock. We saw a few great blue herons Great (Ardea herodias), including this one who posed for us very nicely. It was a lovely day and really good to be outdoors. The canal is nice, especially a little ways out from Great Falls Tavern, because it’s open and there aren’t a lot of people. More people than on some trails but not so many it’s a pain, trying to keep our distance from everyone.
We walked on the C&O Canal again this afternoon, returning to Pennyfield Lock but walking southeast instead of northwest. We saw three herons including one in a tree over the canal and this one, wading in the water. It seems like a good time of year for them and it’s particularly nice to see them as close as this. The trees are all bare, of course, which makes things in the trees easier to see. It was cool out today but not cols, so a really nice day for a walk.
We met some friends at Violet’s Lock on the C&O Canal and went for a walk with them, heading southeast on the towpath. It was a cool day, mostly overcast, but it was really good to be outdoors. We didn’t seem herons as we have recently but did get a pretty good view of this black vulture (Coragyps atratus) flying overhead. This outing was mostly to visit with our friends, and I only took a few photos but I’m pretty happy with this one. Vultures are not most peoples’ favorite bird but they have a beauty of their own.
We had some out of town guest this weekend but they were here mostly to do the D.C. tourist thing. Late this morning the headed downtown to hit the museums and Cathy and I decided to go to the C&O Canal, walking northwest from Pennyfield Lock. It was a beautiful day, warmer than I prefer but only by a little. In the shade and particularly when there was a breeze it was lovely. We saw lots of painted turtles (Chrysemys picta), a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) and quite a few wildflowers. For today’s post I’m putting up two photos. The first is an ailanthus webworm moth (Atteva aurea) on a sunflower (Helianthus) of some sort. The larvae live in communal webs on their host trees. Interestingly, while they are thought to be native to South Florida, the ailanthus for which they are named (Ailanthus altissima, Tree of Heaven), is native to Northern China. It is believed that their original larval host was the paradise tree (Simarouba glauca) and Simarouba amara. It started moving north around the 1850s when introduced Ailanthus altissima contacted the moth’s native range.
The second photo is, as you have probably surmised, a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Cathy had walked a little further along and I waited in the shade at a pretty spot to take a few photos of the wildflowers there. While I was waiting for her to return I looked up and saw the eagle. I was able to point him out to a few others walking or biking on the canal but it was gone before Cathy returned. This isn’t the sharpest photo but it’s pretty clear what it is. The dark spot in the lower right is another bird. There were quite a few, flying fairly high in the sky.
We went to the farm park for a short visit today. I got a few photos of bluebirds, both male and female (Sialia sialis), a red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), and a sparrow or other small bird that I can’t identify. I decided to go with this shot of a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), though. Taking photos of birds on the wing is challenging at the best of times. With my long—150–600mm—lens, it’s even more challenging. The lens is quite heavy and getting it aimed at the bird, much less focused is pretty hit or miss. Mostly miss. This one turned out pretty well and I got a few more just about the same, so I’m please with that.