Sunday, February 26, 2017

Battle Of the Big Birds

The weather was beautiful this afternoon, a relief after the past few days pushing up to 100F. By early afternoon Lorna was going stir-crazy, "Let's go somewhere, I don't care, anywhere!" So we did. 

After checking in legal-like at Estero Llano S.P., we decided to work our way through the thorny woods on the Green Jay Trail, hoping to get eyes on a Clay-colored Thrush or two. There were no birds to speak of, but we did find a Band-celled Sister (I cannot resist, "A close relative - Twisted Sister - also has a band".)



Emerging from the woods into the sunshine we wandered down a back lane to where our friend, park volunteer Rick Snider, has put up a few hummingbird feeders. By chance Rick was there with his camera set up near a feeder taking photos of visitors to the feeder. (The feeder is visible near the right edge of the following photo.)


We sat down on a bench in the shade across the road behind Rick, about 40 feet from the feeder - close enough to watch the action, maybe a little far for my lens, but close. A Black-chinned male hummer soon showed up and began feeding. 

The Black-chinned are similar to the Ruby-throated we have back in Minnesota, which also winter here, so it is fun to sort them out. So often if the sun doesn't hit the ruby throat it shows up as black which makes it tough. The Black-chinned beaks are a little longer, the wingtips broader. Rick is a wonderful teacher and also mentioned that their backs are duller, darker, not as iridescent as the Ruby-throated. He also mentioned in passing that the female's beaks are slightly shorter. Some of this is not in the Sibley Field Guide. Rick has spent a lot of hours, of days, months, years studying Hummingbirds. From photos he can identify individual birds. 




As we were watching the Black-chinned, a Buff-bellied Hummingbird approached. Hummed up? For photography purposes, Rick has taped all the holes except the one nearest the camera. The Black-chinned had possession and he was damned if he was going to give it up. He told the Buff-bellied in no uncertain terms to get lost. For a bird the size of a large bug they can chirp surprisingly loud.




The Buff-bellied was threatening, but it was all bluster. Our little boy gave no quarter and only gave up his feeding hole after his appetite had been sated.



Only then did the Buff-bellied get his turn at the sugar trough.



Beautiful weather. Its all fun and games - Gunnar

Reddish Egret

Now the winner of the Favorite Heron/Egret Poll - the Reddish Egret. Most of the Herons and Egrets hunt by stealth, moving very slowly or not at all. Not the Reddish: it runs, prances and dances, running with wings spread, then often freezes with spread wings and spears frightened fish seeking shelter. It can be a hellofa show.

GET READY.





GET SET.

GO!!!







(7% of Reddish Egrets are the White Morph)


 I really, really need to learn how to shoot video.  - Gunnar

Green Heron

There are about ten Herons and Egrets in North America. It is hard (and foolish) to pick favorite birds. If I were a foolish man, the Green Heron would be my number two, my second favorite. The plumage color and patterns are amazing, beautiful without being too much.








Next, the winner of my personal Favorite Heron/Egret Poll.  - Gunnar


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Death On the Water

Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias - four feet tall, six foot wingspan.




I have read that this is the most photographed bird in America. Why? Great Blues are photogenic and easy to photograph. They are big and do not move a muscle for ten or fifteen minutes. No blurred photos with these big old boys. Until they move.




That big bayonet of a bill is not a biter; it is a stabber. They hold their neck in an "S and when they see a fish they slowly, deliberately cock it, slowly drawing their head back, then in a blink, lunge forward, extending neck, stabbing at a fish faster than the eye can see.

This time of the year hormones flow and the breeding feathers grow. The Great Blues are more territorial and the big breeding age males become damned hostile toward each other.


Those who saw this battle said it was unusually violent - with clawing, stabbing, wing pounding and both birds trying to hold each other underwater. Apparently this territorial conflict may have resulted in drowning or a broken neck. By the time we saw the aftermath drifting in the water two days later it was just one more food source for turtles, crabs and baby alligators. 

Nature, red in tooth and claw ... and bill and feather. - Gunnar

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Pink, Pink and Pink

Roseate Spoonbills at South Padre Island a week ago.







Staying warm - Gunnar

The Birds and the Bees, and Beer

Frankly, the birding has been spotty this year. Likely due to the warm winter, some birds just didn't migrate this far south and seem to have left early. For some reason we haven't seen as many north straying tropicals. For a combination of political, weather and agricultural reasons the refuges and parks have a lot of water available. The people making the decisions are not necessarily bird focused. After some years of being starved for water, the park and refuge managers finally have enough water this year. They have water, and by God, they are going to spend it. They have filled all the ponds and small artificial lakes to the brim. I do understand it, but that environment is not necessary bird friendly - there are no shorelines, sandbars or mudflats and the water is too deep for most ducks and shorebirds to feed. 


It was tough day to dress for today. It started out at cool and was 54F and warming fast when we left for Santa Ana NWR. We bumped into a couple people we knew and some new ones - all kind of grasping at straws.



Midmorning we left, headed east to Estero Llano State Park where friends were guiding a bird outing. We joined them and when they had wrapped it up we all headed to the Blue Onion for a two hour beer and lunch - hell, it was 96F, too hot to go outside by then anyway. 


96F is too hot for any sane man to be outside by choice. So back home at the Wesmore I was out in the garden taking photographs of butterflies (not many out) and flowers. These two shots are for Prappas. 



That Carpenter Bee is airborne - frozen in space and time. 

Mad Dogs and - Gunnar

Monday, February 20, 2017

Birds and Flutterbys People Pictures II

Pickers, singers and listeners.



Rainy day weather, getting sunny. Sweet. - Gunnar

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Birds and Flutterbys

Miscellaneous "people pictures" from the past four years of birding and butterflying in the LRGV.






















Fair warning: I have many more. - Gunnar