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: Birds
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 went out into the woods next to my building late this morning. There wasn’t a lot that I found interesting but I took a few pictures. Before I went back inside, though, I thought I’d walk over to the pond on the other side of the building and see if the ducklings were still there. They were not but this great blue heron (Ardea herodias) was and I was able to get a few decent pictures before he flew off. I also watched a couple tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) fluttering around and getting water from the mud at the pond’s edge. All in all, a nice, relaxing outing to break up an otherwise uneventful day at the office.
We have a fair amount of Verbena bonariensis growing around the yard. It’s somewhat of a weed but for the most part, we let it go, just keeping it barely within bounds. There are a few reasons for us letting it go. First, of course, is that it’s pretty on its own. I mean, the purple adds a bit of contrast to all the green in the early summer and it’s generally still in bloom when the black-eyed Susans really start to go crazy. But I think the main reason is that the American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) really seem to like it. Usually I’ve been unable to get close enough to get even a poor photo of them before they fly away but this afternoon I got a reasonable picture showing three finches. They are such lovely birds and we enjoy watching them bounce around on the tall stems of the Verbina.
I went out to the woods next to my building this afternoon, towards the end of the day. After wandering around there a while without finding much of interest, I went down towards the tiny pond on the other side of the building and came across this white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and great blue heron (Ardea herodias) sharing the watering hole together. The picture isn’t great but I’m happy I was able to get a picture of both of them before the both decided I had ruined the party and they left.
A bunch of us went to Brookgreen Gardens today. Seth, Iris, and Tsai-Hong stayed until about 1:00 before moving on to the lowcountry zoon and then headed back to the beach. Cathy, Dorothy, Jonathan, Dot, and I had lunch and then did a bit more walking in the gardens before hitting the zoo. I took a lot of pictures of sculpture and a few of dragonflies and grasshoppers (the huge eastern lubber grasshopper, Romalea microptera). I really enjoy both the sculpture and the setting. It was hot today but not really hot by South Carolina in August standards. In the shade it was actually pretty pleasant. This first picture is of my favorite tree at Brookgreen gardens. It is in the corner of the Palmetto Garden and really is part of the Live Oak Allée that’s just across the wall. I think it’s magnificent.
Of course we also went to the lowcountry zoo where we saw black-crowned night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) as well as a few egrets and an ibis. The otters were very active and we enjoyed watching them swim around for a while. It was actually feeding time at the alligator pond but the alligator we saw must be well fed because he was pretty blasé about the whole thing.
After leaving Brookgreen, we drove to Murrill’s Inlet for an early dinner at Nance’s. Dorothy, Jonathan, and I shared a half bushel of steamed oysters while mom had soft-shell crab and Cathy had a crab cake.
I was outside for a little while today and took a few pictures. Most of them were of trees reflected in the windows on the outside of my office building. They are not as colorful as in some years but with the blue sky behind them and the slight distortions of the not-quite-flat glass, they made for interesting pictures. Then I noticed a vulture land in this tree. I took two pictures of the tree in reflection and then turned around to get a couple directly. There are three birds in the tree and just after I snapped one picture, a fourth turkey vulture flew through the frame and I grabbed one more shot. Actually, I’m not sure they are all turkey vultures. At least one may be a black vulture (Coragyps atratus).
After a meeting across campus today, I stopped to take some pictures of the ice around the drainage control pond next to my building. With the rain on Thursday and Friday, the water had been high. As it drained, the temperature dropped and it froze, but the water level continued to drop, leaving lots of ice around the banks of the pond. As I walked down through the middy area leading to the pond, this great blue heron (Ardea herodias), took off and flew a little further away from me. After that, he waded around and I was able to get a few more pictures, both from this side (where he is back lit) and from the other, with the sun shining on him from over my shoulders. Without more than a 100mm lens, this is the best I could do.
Cathy has a roll-top desk that we got from some friends who where ready to get rid of it. Along the top of the roll-top, which is never closed, there is a little ledge where the top doesn’t go all the way into the carcass. She has a few little things sitting on that ledge including a line of dice of various sizes and side-counts. In the middle is this line of little bird statues. I don’t rightly know where she got them (I suppose I could have asked) but there they are. They are quite colorful—as you can see—and they stand about an inch tall. This green on is one of my favorites, along with the dark blue peacock colored bird in the center of the photo.
I had a dentist appointment this morning and that meant that I got to work a little later than normal. It was cool out but sunny and bright. As I Parked the car at work I saw a red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) fly past and land on a tree across the parking lot. I got my camera out and walked towards it. I got one picture from a fairly large distance but for the most part it kept to the far side of the tree it was on and eventually it flew away. I spotted this white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) and managed to get quite a bit closer. It’s a cheerful little bird, and quite pretty with its yellow patch (and of course its white throat).
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.
It was a beautiful day and Cathy and decided to take a short walk in nearby Rock Creek Park. With her ankle problems we didn’t want to overdo it, so this seemed like a good way to get out, at least a little. Before we had even gotten as far as the bike trail that runs along the creek we spotted this piliated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), who landed on a tree not too far from us. We also saw a few white-tail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) (White-tailed Deer), including one that was seriously not bothered by our presence. We saw a small flock of cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum). There was also a nice assortment of wildflowers including star chickweed (Stellaria pubera), a pretty, little, white, star-shaped flower.
I took a little walk at lunch time today, around my building and then into the woods. There is a tree that fell across the stream a year and a half ago and I’m still able to get across on that. One of these days it’s going to collapse under me, but so far, it’s been alright. There are a few drainage ponds on the upper part of the property and they have water in them now, even though our April was dryer than normal. I saw a bird across the pond and as if flew off I was able to get two pictures of it. Judging by its size and shape and with only a very brief glance at it, I had thought it was a killdeer (Charadrius vociferus). Once I saw the picture, though, I knew that was wrong. After a little searching, I decided it was a solitary sandpiper (Tringa solitaria), migrating to its summer breeding grounds in the far north (entirely north of the USA/Canada border). As usual when it comes to identifying birds, I checked with George to see if he thought I was right. He did.
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.
As we left our AirBnB this morning, heading for home, we passed this little cemetery and saw a flock of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) among the grave markers. We stopped and took some time to walk around the cemetery a little and enjoy the quiet, as well as the birds. As I walked across the top of the cemetery, they moved slowly towards and then through an opening in the fence behind them. We used to see turkeys a lot more often than we do now. In Pennsylvania we would see them somewhat regularly and also ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus, the common pheasant of Asia, introduced into North America in the late 18th century). We almost never see them any more, so this was a treat for us.
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.
I took a few pictures as I walked across campus to a meeting early this afternoon and then a few more on the way back. On the way over I saw a flock of native sparrows bopping around in the underbrush and took a few pictures but really they were too far away to get anything worth posting. I also took some pictures of the ripples on the stream that flows through the property. On the way back I looked for the sparrows but they seem to have moved on. There were, however, a few American robins (Turdus migratorius) pulling worms out of the grass. Although they are migratory, we have them year round here, with those that migrate from New England and Canada only making it this far south for the winter.
I stopped at the park on the east side of Lake Needwood this afternoon. It was a beautiful, warm day, although not as warm as it’s been. I heard and then saw a few turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) a short walk from where I stopped and I headed in their direction. They had moved up into the trees by the time I got close but I also happened to see two red tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) as I walked nearer. I got a few pictures of them but they were taken through the branches and didn’t turn out all that well. I got a nice picture of this turkey vulture with its wings outspread, but that picture, too, had branches in the way. This one, of the vulture as he took off from his perch on the tree stump is my favorite. The next frame, taken a fraction of a second later, is actually better of the bird, but he’s just starting to go behind another tree trunk, which sort of ruins the effect.
About a month ago a pair of American robins (Turdus migratorius) built a next under our front porch. I tried to discourage them, but they kept at it. I realized it was pointless to resist and they are almost done with it now, in any case. They flew off whenever we went in or out of the house, of course, but now the chicks are about two weeks old and ready to fledge. In fact, I took this picture in the morning with all three chicks in the nest. When I came home later today there was one standing on the edge of the nest and the other two had flown. Later in the evening the third was gone, as well, and the next has been abandoned, having served its purpose.
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.
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.
I’ve been thinking of doing this for a while. The idea isn’t completely original. I saw a cartoon something like this a while ago (at least a couple years, I’m pretty sure) but I’ve never gotten around to getting a good picture of birds on wires that I could use for it. I think the caption in the cartoon was something like “I know but it’s just felt weird ever since we went wireless.” That’s the caption I was going to use but I thought I’d change it just a little. Obviously this photo has been digitally manipulated slightly.
Spring really feels like it’s here. The first half of March is too early to be too sure we’re completely done with winter and we’ve had big snow storms later than this, but it’s really feeling like spring this week and I think a lot of folks are hoping it’s for real. The pears are starting to bloom and I’ve seen cherries and magnolias in bloom. I went out early this afternoon and wandered around a bit looking for things to photograph and came across this feather, probably a Canada goose feather, down by a drainage pond near my building.
I was out front sitting in a lawn chair taking photos of the spiderword (Tradescantia virginiana) when one of our house wrens flew up and landed briefly in the small apple tree growing near by. Then it flew to the nesting box (for lack of a better term—it’s a ceramic bottle, basically) and posed for me before disappearing inside. The other was around, as well, singing up a storm. These are very vocal little birds with a lot of volume relative to their size and we love having them. They are a lot easier to hear than to see, as small as they are.
Cathy and I took a walk in the neighborhood this evening. It was quite warm and humid but it’s still good to get out from time to time. I took some pictures of a purple clematis on a mailbox that turned out pretty well but I thought I’d share this photo of an eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis). It’s not as sharp as I’d like, but all things considered, it’s not too bad. These can be seen year round in our area and it’s always a treat. Maybe we’ll put up a bluebird box in the yard next year. It would be wonderful to have them in the yard.
There are some birds, notably the American robin (Turdus migratorius), that doesn’t really compare favorably with its European counterpart (Erithacus rubecula. While the European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) is a lovely bird, I think our American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) is quite beautiful. This is a female (on the left) and male (on the right). They really love the Verbena bonariensis and it’s fun to watch them as they land and the stems bend under their tremendous weight. I enjoyed this couple for quite a while this morning.
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.
Cathy and I went for a walk on the western side of Lake Needwood this afternoon, parking at Needwood Mansion. It’s a trail we haven’t walked on before, although Cathy ran at least one cross country meet here when she was in high school. We saw quite a few eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) and some of them were even close enough that I was able to get a reasonable picture or two. I really would like a longer lens for this sort of thing. Relying on the 100mm lens I have leaves me a little disappointed, but this one is pretty good, if I say so myself.
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 had snow overnight and today and this evening there were lots of bird tracks on our back patio. It was getting dark when I took this, so it’s not as nice as it might have been, but there you are. Also, it feels strange posting this almost three months late, with temperatures in the upper 80s this week. But, it was cold when I took the picture and that’s life. I have ore than 30 pictures to post before I’m caught up.
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.
This isn’t a great photo but since I’m not taking a photo a day, I have fewer to post than I did for the last ten years. The photo was taken through the glass of our kitchen door and with a mere 100mm lens, so it’s less sharp than it might be. Still, it was a nice view of the bird and we always enjoy wildlife in our yard. Well, almost always. We’re less excited about deer, which can be fairly destructive. And rabbits. Once it gets a bit warmer we’ll have lots of rabbits. But we love birds of pretty much all kinds and are especially happy to see foxes (and even more so if they eat the rabbits).
For our first day of bumming around, we headed east to Newburyport, Massachusetts, just across the border from New Hampshire on the south bank of the Merrimack River. We bought lunch at Joppa Fine Foods, where Dorothy worked for the first six months of Covid but sadly didn’t get to meet her boss, who wasn’t there today. Then we drove out onto Plum Island. At our first stop on the island we saw quite a few common sandpipers (Actitis hypoleucos) in the shallows on the inland side of the island. There were also swans, but quite a bit further away. The last time we were on Plum Island it was in the upper 90s and really humid. Today was warm for the first week of October but still considerably nicer than the previous time.
Cathy and I took a walk to Lake Frank this afternoon. We walked along the shore of the lake towards the northeast end. We saw a belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon), which was nice. Then we rounded the point and had a good look at the bald eagle’s nest, which you can see in the trees here. As we were looking, one of the adult bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) flew off the nest and I was able to get a reasonable photo. We see these birds reasonably often and it’s good to be reminded of how big, majestic, and beautiful they are. We’re really privileged to have this pair nesting here year after year.
I went into the office today. We had planned to start coming back to the office originally last fall and then at the new year, but each time it got pushed back. Starting March 1, however, it actually happened. I came in on March 1 and again today. In the early afternoon I went outside for a short break, walking through the empty lot next to my office. I saw this red-tailed hawk (em>Buteo jamaicensis) and was quick enough to get a pretty nice photograph. I’ve been thinking for some time about getting a longer lens for this sort of thing, but so far, the longest I have is 100mm.
I had a dentist appointment this morning, finally getting around to that after a long hiatus kicked off by all the changes made by the Wuhan Virus Crisis. After the appointment I went to the Lancaster County Dutch Market to buy some meat. I really like the selection they have and their prices are reasonable. In particular, they have very good bacon, both plain and with black pepper. They also have cured pork chops that are terrific. I happened to drive around the back of the shopping center and there were some black vultures (Coragyps atratus) in the parking lot. This one let me get quite close without flying away. They are not the prettiest birds you’ll see, but hey, they are what they are. And they help deal with dead animals. That’s not actually a bad thing.
After church Cathy and I went to the Agricultural History Farm Park and walked around a bit. We expected the shade garden to be past it’s prime and although it’s not at its peak, it was still quite nice. We were sitting on a bench and this little fellow (or lass) came and went a few times, bring things to his (or her) young in the nesting box. The Master Gardeners’ exhibition garden was also quite nice, coming into its own as the summer heats up. The dahlias are coming up, as well, and promise a wonderful display a bit later on.
We have wrens in our yard and generally have a pair raising two or more broods each spring in a ceramic nesting ‘box’ (it’s ceramic and spherical, so I hesitate to call it a box, but whatever). Some people get tired of these noisy little birds but we love them. We also have bluebirds in the neighborhood, although we see them in other people’s yards more than in our own.
As mentioned in the previous post, we see eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) in our neighborhood. When I was writing up that post I had forgotten that I had a bluebird photo taken a little later the same day, also at the Agricultural History Farm Park. This isn’t full frame, because all I had was a 100mm lens, but it’s one of the better bluebird photos I’ve taken. They are often back lit, which makes exposure tricky, but this one was let more easily.
A month or two ago I happened to pull out a small Tupperware type container that had cash in it from when I was selling cards and matted photographs. It’s been quite a few years since I did that and at this point, I’m not going to do it any more. There was quite a bit there and I decided I’d use it to buy a telephoto lens, which is something I’ve wanted for quite some time now. I bought a Sigma 150-600mm zoom lens and today was my first outing with it. It’s quite heavy and I had it mounted on a monopod. That isn’t quite as good as a tripod but without that it would have been very difficult to get anything worthwhile. We walked to Blockhouse Point and then drove around to Pennyfield Lock on the C&O Canal. As we were walking back from a nice walk along the canal, I got four photos of this indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea). While it may not an award winning shot, it’s certainly better than anything I’ve been able to get with my other lenses. In the past I’d have to crop quite aggressively to get anything close to this and then it wouldn’t be nearly so sharp. This picture is the full frame. Hopefully there will be more and better bird pictures coming soon.
We took another trip to the C&O Canal today after stopping at Mary’s indigo dyeing event today. We parked at the end of Tschiffley Mill Road, on the west bank of Seneca Creek where it empties into the Potomac River. From there we walked a little ways behind the turning basin but decided we’d do better on the tow path. We saw three different types of heron. We saw both immature and adult black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax), at least two green herons (Butorides virescens), and at least two great blue herons (Ardea herodias), including this one on a log along with a painted turtle (Chrysemys picta). Once again, this was taken with my new telephoto lens, zoomed out to 600mm (which with an APS-C sensor, makes this the equivalent of a 960mm lens with 35mm film).
As mentioned in my previous post, we saw three types of heron on our walk on the C&O Canal. We were along the turning basin just northwest of the Seneca Creek aqueduct. We saw both immature and adult black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax), at least two great blue herons (Ardea herodias), and at least two green herons (Butorides virescens), including this one. This is the first time we’ve seen green herons here, so that was quite exciting and I was particularly glad to have my new telephoto. As you can imagine, I’m going to be enjoying this on bird hikes, although it really is quite heavy. I’m also not sure I’m going to be able to get anything worthwhile with it of birds actually flying. It’s simply too much lens for that, at least until I’ve had a lot of practice.
Cathy and I walked at Meadowside Nature Center this afternoon, down to Lake Frank and then up Rock Creek a ways before returning to the nature center. I took my new, long lens but only took a handful of shots with it. I got a nice closeup view of the eagles’ nest but we didn’t see any of the eagles. We did hear one call a few times from a distance, somewhere other than in the nest. I got this photo of a northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), and that’s basically the best I could do. It flew away right after I got this one, so that’s all folks.
I’m not sure a medical rehab facility is a place you want to see vultures but that’s where this one is. They are, apparently, drawn to the fresh water and we’ve seen there here a few times. It’s both disconcerting and humorous at the same time. Of course, there’s no real connection between the vultures and the patients, which allows it to be funny. And we like birds, so we actually enjoyed seeing them. The first time we saw them there were five or more. This time, when I happened to have my camera, there was only the one, unfortunately. And I didn’t have a long enough lens to really get a good photo of the bird.
We did a few different things today. Late in the morning, Cathy, Dot, Tsai-Hong, and I took Silas and Eloise to the new playground near the island’s town center. They enjoyed climbing, sliding, and the playing in the fountain. A little later, Cathy and I went to the old ferry landing near the eastern end of the island and I photographed some wading birds. The tide was all the way in and most of them were far enough away that I wasn’t able to get many great photos, but we did see a bunch of different herons and egrets as well as a pair of wood storks. This shot of a snowy egret (Egretta thula) is really the only close-up shot I got, except one of a laughing gull on a post.
Since the last time we were at the beach, the town of Shallotte has created a small park called Shallotte Riverwalk. Cathy and I decided to check it out in the hopes of seeing some water birds. I think going at low tide would be better but it was still worth a visit. We saw an egret and a great blue heron but both a fair way off, so no pictures of those. The only bird I was able to get a good photo of was this tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) in a tree.
There’s a golf course a little way towards South Carolina from where we stay at the beach that has a pond we call Alligator Pond. There is a pull-off and a boardwalk that overlooks the pond, although there’s so much growing up between the boardwalk and the pond it’s mostly a lost cause. But there is a small opening in the bushes and we often see alligators there. As we pulled in I looked up and saw a bald eagle flying away from the pond. It was gone long before I could get to my camera. There were, however, two ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) that circled for quite a while and I was able to get one pretty decent photo. We also did see an alligator and around the pond were both egrets and wood storks.
It was a busy day today, starting with a church picnic and service at Bohrer Park in Gaithersburg. We had to leave that early, though, to get to Poolesville for the memorial service for a long-time, family friend. It was a really nice service, in spite of the heat in the tiny church. We went to the family home and visited with folks for a while. When we left there, we stopped at McKee Beshers Wildlife Management Area and walked a little while. I only took a few photos but I think this one of an eastern wood-pewee (Contopus virens), a small flycatcher, is pretty nice.
After church today we went to the Agricultural History Farm Park for a little while. It was a beautiful fall day and a great day to be outdoors. We didn’t really feel like taking a long walk, though. We started, as we so often do, by walking around the shade garden next to (and part of) the fenced Master Gardeners demonstration garden. This spider, a marbled orbweaver (Araneus marmoreus) was there, sitting in the middle of her web (I don’t actually know this is a female). I know not everyone is enamoured of spiders but you have to admit, this little creature is quite beautiful in its own way.
For those of you who prefer flowers or birds to spiders, I’m posting two more photos. In the shade garden not far from the spider was the toad lily (Tricyrtis) seen in the second photograph. I’m a big fan of anything blooming in November, but I’ve never had much success getting this to grow in our garden. Seeing it here made me want to try once more, because it’s really very lovely.
We walked around the demonstration garden and I took a few more photographs there. Then Cathy walked over towards the barn and house and I moved the car there. I sat under a tree and took a few photos of birds and the third photo here—an eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis)—is the best (I think) of those. Even with my long lens zoomed all the way out I had to crop this photo a bit. I’m hoping to do better but thought I’d share this one now, anyway.
I went to the office a little early this morning. When I got there, there was a car partially pulled into a parking space, which I thought was a little odd. I parked and then went to get my camera bag from my trunk. The car pulled out and was about to leave when the driver stopped and told me there were a pair of wild turkeys just into the woods. I got my long lens and, as quietly as I could, headed into the woods. They were a little shy of my presence and I wasn’t able to get close to them, but I got two photos that at least show that they are, indeed, turkeys. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen wild turkeys in Montgomery County. I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen them in Rockville. This isn’t really a good photo, but it’s all I was able to get through the underbrush. I circled around to get them from the other side, but they were gone before I could get there.
We went to Great Falls today and walked downstream on the towpath. We went out to the overlook and enjoyed the roaring water, which was considerably higher than the last time we were at the river. I got a few photos of two immature bald eagles flying overhead. Then further along the towpath we got a really nice view of this great blue heron (Ardea herodias) in the canal. There was, apparently, another down at wide-water, but we decided we had walked far enough and headed back. This one was catching what appear to be crayfish or some other sort of fresh water crustacean. He (or she) didn’t seem to mind the attention from the shore and let a lot of folks get photos.
I went out to visit Dorothy today and help her a little with some brush clearing that she’s doing. I cut some small trees and helped her pull out some greenbrier (Smilax species). My back was bothering me a bit so I took a few breaks and on one of those I took three photos of this northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). They are quite gregarious birds and not nearly as shy as many other birds, which makes them a little easier to photograph. Nevertheless, I think I could do better than this with a little more patience and possibly a more comfortable position for my camera.
We walked in the park around Lake Frank today, hoping to get a glimpse of one of our resident bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). There wasn’t anything visible in the nest but as we continued we met a man walking the other way who said that if we continued along to a particular spot and turned to face away from the lake we might see one near the top of the tallest tree in the area. Sure enough, when we got there, the bird was perched where the man had said. Being very high in the tree I could only get a view looking sharply upwards. It was also difficult to find a view that wasn’t obscured by branches. Still, I think this one does the eagle justice.
I’m still learning when it pays to carry my long (and heavy) lens and when it’s better to take my ‘standard’ lens. The long lens weights 2.1 kg (4 pounds 10 ounces) while the other two lenses I generally use weigh between 531 and 610 grams (1 pound 2.7 ounces and 1 pound 5.5 ounces, respectively). Add to that the need for support with the long lens and it’s quite cumbersome as well as heavy. Anyway, yesterday I didn’t carry the long lens and I had some really good opportunities to get blue bird photos. Today Cathy, Dorothy, and I walked on a trail at the Agricultural History Farm Park and between the talking and faster walking, we didn’t really see any birds at all. I still took a few photos on our walk, but it wasn’t until we came back to the car that I had an opportunity to get a couple shots of this female eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) on a fence post. What I really need to do is go out alone so I can sit somewhere and not feel like there are people waiting for me. But I’m pretty happy with this picture. The girls walked around the old farm house and then watched the chickens. They were nice enough to let me wait for at least one bluebird picture.
Chickens are thought to have originally been domesticated from the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) native to multiple regions of southeast Asia. The Ayam Kampung chicken is a breed from Indonesia and Malaysia. It is a dual-purpose breed, raised for both meat and eggs. They are considered poor performers in terms of their egg laying ability, providing somewhere under 100 eggs per year. Of course, this one, a male (rooster) won’t lay any eggs at all. He’s a handsome bird, though, I think you’ll admit.
Cathy, Dorothy, and I walked around Lake Needwood today, starting from (and ending at) Needwood Mansion and walking clockwise. I carried my long lens (and monopod) and at first didn’t think I’d see much. There were a lot of folks out so any little birds that might normally be near the trail were few and far between. On the north side of the lake, however, we passed a man with a long lens similar to mine. I asked if he was photographing birds and he said he was, that he had just seen a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). It wasn’t visible from right there but a little further along I could hear it’s call. We actually saw two of them and I got one photo with both in it, but I was shooting through branches and it isn’t worth sharing. Most of the shots, in fact, were not all that good, either blurry or with intervening branches. Even this one has a branch with stems in front of the bird, but they are small the bird is reasonably sharp. Not as good as I’d like, but pretty clear what it is. We also saw mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), hooded mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus), and a ruby-crowned kinglet (Corthylio calendula).
Cathy and I decided to go to Meadowside for a walk this afternoon. We walked back along the entrance road because we heard a barred owl (Strix varia) hoot. We didn’t find it and it stopped calling. I got a few photos of a northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) and then we walked down to the creak and back downstream to where the eagle’s nest is. One of the adult bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was perched on a tree near the nest and I got quite a few photos of it, although they were at a fairly steep angle up, so not as good as I’d like. Still, it’s nice to have a bald eagle in our neighborhood.
We took a walk along the shore of Lake Needwood today, starting from near the beaver dam, we walked north and crossed Needwood Road. Near the end, where Rock Creek flows into the lake we saw this cute, little bird flitting around in the trees and shrubs. I was able to get four photos of it, none of which were great. It didn’t sit in one place very long and the long lens is fairly cumbersome, especially when zoomed all the way out. Still, they were good enough to identify it as a blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea), which is not a bird I’ve seen before (at least not knowingly). I guess if I were keeping a life list, this would now go on it.
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.
On our second morning in Juneau we walked to False Outer Point. There is a causeway to Shaman Island that is walkable during exceptionally low tied and we happened to come when it was above water. We calculated that we had about a half hour before the water would rise to the top of the causeway. As it turns out, we miscalculated by about ten minutes and we had to wad back in about four inches of water. But we didn’t mind. We didn’t really get to explore the island very well in the 25 minutes we were there, but we did see a pair of black oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani), which was a real treat. One was standing on one foot on top of a rock. The other one (this one) was moving around, presumable finding things to eat. The rocks around the island are covered with mussels, which is a large part of an oystercatcher’s diet, so it makes perfect sense that we’d see the here if we were going to see them at all. Am I glad yet that I brought my long lens? Yes, yes I am.
Cathy and I went to the glacier this afternoon. By ‘the glacier’ I mean the Mendenhall. We had been in the valley at a cemetery looking for the grave of one of Cathy’s mom’s siblings (we found it) and since we were close, we decided to head to the glacier and see what we could see. It was mostly cloudy, but not raining and still quite pretty. There are arctic terns (Sterna paradisaea) nesting on the shore of Mendenhall Lake and I was able to get a few decent photos of them. But my favorite is this one of a common merganser (Mergus merganser) with ducklings on its back and following it along. There were ten ducklings in all, although you can only see nine in this photo.
Cathy and I took a walk this morning with one of the dogs. We went up a trail along the west bank of Lemon Creek until the trail petered out. If the water wasn’t quite so high we’d have been able to continue but as it was, we had to turn around. We decided to go look for some eagles and we sort of hit the jackpot today.
I’ll be honest, as majestic as bald eagles ((Haliaeetus leucocephalus), they are basically scavengers. Sure, they will catch live fish and that’s beautiful to watch. But they will also eat dead and dying salmon that are running up the streams to spawn. When the salmon are running, eagles are easy to find around the mouths of those streams. However, we are a bit early for salmon, so the best place to find eagles right now is at and around the city dump.
There’s a gas station on Glacier Highway in Lemon Creek, next to the Western Auto and Marine store. At the back of the parking lot behind that gas station is a tall mound of dirt with weeds growing on it. Just beyond that is a line of trees, separating the parking lot from the landfill. The top of that mound of dirt is an excellent vantage for seeing eagles this time of year (or probably any time, be especially when the salmon are not so plentiful).
Taking pictures of birds on the wing is difficult with my huge, 150-600mm zoom lens. That’s especially true when it’s zoomed all the way out. Just finding a moving bird in the viewfinder is hard enough, but then getting it focused and the shutter fired before the bird has moved too far away or is seen only from behind is even more difficult. That being said, I’m quite pleased with a few of the shots I got of eagles flying. The first and last of the photos here are examples.
The second shot is of two trees across Glacier Highway with a total of ten birds in them. The third photo is of an eagle perched on the corner of a building. This bird let me get quite close, which surprised me a bit. I guess he knew he could get away before I could get to the top of the building. Anyway, while bald eagles are not at all rare in Juneau and the locals get fairly blasé about them, and even though we have a nesting pair within a mile of our house in Maryland, we’re still excited to see them.
We went to the C&O Canal today, walking upstream from Riley’s Lock and the Seneca Creek Aqueduct. Past the far end of the turning basin we saw a family of wood ducks (Aix sponsa) but none of the males were in their fancy, breeding plumage. They are still pretty ducks and since we usually only see mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), we enjoyed watching them paddle around in the duck weed. We also saw a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) and I got quite a few nice photos of that.
On the way back, I saw something that didn’t register immediately but I stopped and backed up to take a better look. It was this green heron (Butorides virescens) on its nest in a willow hanging out over the water of the turning basin. I was able to get a pretty good show, in spite of the branches of the tree.
If the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are too much of a trek for you but you want flowers and birds, you could do worse than heading out River Road to the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area. Timing your visit is a little difficult because the best time to go varies from year to year and also depends on what it is you want to see. If you just want sunflowers in bloom, then you need to go a little earlier than if you’re mostly interested in seeing birds. The two ‘seasons’ overlap but there will be more birds when the flowers have faded a bit and the seeds are more ripe. For me, I think I hit a pretty happy medium. In field number 1, the flowers were a little past and that’s where I got the pictures here of the indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea) and lots of pictures of American goldfinches (Spinus tristis).
Then, walking further from the parking area to field 4, I found the flowers were in more full bloom. They were all facing to the east and the road to them is to the west. From the road it looked like there were no flowers. But I walked all the way to the far end of the field (about a quarter mile) and back on the other side. It was worth it, as from that side, there were plenty of flowers to be seen. They were much shorter than I’ve seen them in previous years. I’m not sure if that’s a function of the sunflower varieties planted or has more to do with how much rain we get while they are growing.
Cathy and I drove to Sunset Beach today and walked from the west end of town out onto the beach and then further west to the Bird Island Reserve nature trail. It’s a pretty good walk but not a difficult one. We had heard that there was a good chance of seeing painted buntings (Passerina ciris). As it turned out, we only saw one and he was a rather scruffy looking fellow, possibly a juvenile, just getting his adult plumage. He was singing nicely for us, though, and I was able to get a short video, as well as a handful of photos. He’s in the shadows of the twigs to the right, which makes his color pattern seem a little odd, but that’s him, anyway. There were quite a few swallows flying around, as well as cardinals and mourning doves, but we only saw the one bunting. Nevertheless, worth it and we’ll probably plan to go again next year.
We walked on the beach at the east end of the island this morning. It was a clear day with very bright sun so I wore a hat and shirt and put sunscreen on exposed skin. We looked for shells but didn’t find many. Past years have been good for shell-hunting but there don’t seem to be as many this year. That means that the beach is almost pure sand, which in general isn’t a bad thing. But it’s one less thing for us to do. We saw a few sandpipers as we walked including this willet (Tringa semipalmata). They are very distinctive birds and quite common on the beaches of North Carolina.
After our walk in the Green Swamp we drove to the Twin Ponds overlook. We affectionately call it Alligator Pond because that’s what we generally go to see. The boardwalk style viewing platform is officially call the Carl Bazemore Bird Walk. There are also birds there, and today we saw this green heron (Butorides virescens) in the shallows. In years past the view has been obscured by rank growth between the viewing platform and the pond. Sometime since last year that has been cut down, making the viewing considerably better. We did see an alligator there today, but I think my best photo from the visit was this one of the heron.
Cathy and I drove to Meadowside Nature Center today and walked from there to Lake Frank. Crossing the meadow alongside North Branch Rock Creek, the weeds were quite tall and the path less obvious than usual. We also saw poison ivy a few times and since Cathy was wearing shorts, I carried her twice on my back. We had a hard time finding the trail that leads from there up over the ridge but eventually made our way to it. Down on the other side was saw this juvenile double-crested cormorant (Nannopterum auritum) on a log in the lake. I was able to get fairly close it order to get a good photo, although the lighting was a little rough.
After our Sunday visit with Cathy’s mom we went to the Sandy Spring Friends Meeting House and parked. We thought we’d take a walk south from there into the fields around the Sandy Spring. We ran into someone who asked if we wanted a tour of the meeting house, so we did that. My great great grandparents met there sometime before November 20, 1852 (since that’s when they got married).
After that we walked to the Maryland state champion white ash tree (Fraxinus americana) and then on to the spring. On the way back I got a few pictures of bluebirds (Sialia sialis) and a house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) and this shot of what I believe is a palm warbler (Setophaga palmarum).