Category: bird watching

Photography Challenge day 187 goes to the birds

The winners of today’s photography challenge are the birds. I managed to get candid pictures of several different birds over the weekend.

For starters—there is the nuthatch that was feeding on the suet feeder. While I managed to get several good pictures—the one I like the most is the one of it with a sunflower seed in it’s beak. It then quickly flew off to the trees to crack the seed and eat it.

Nuthatch with it’s prize–a sunflower seed.

The next one is a hummingbird that was sitting in the crepe myrtles by the feeder. I was calling it the “goth” hummingbird. The main reason, is it was so cloudy I couldn’t tell for certain if it was a male ruby-throated hummingbird or maybe a male black-chinned hummingbird migrating through. Though this is the first time I’ve seen one where the entire head looked black.

Male hummingbird in the crepe myrtle.

This one was around all weekend–I’m thinking that now anytime I see a male hummingbird that I can’t identify, I’m going to be calling them the “goth” hummingbirds.

Egret surveying it’s surroundings.

Several egrets have landed in the area before heading further south. I think that they wait until they have a good number in the flock before they continue on their journey. I saw three of them this weekend in different parts of the lake. I know from my late-winter/early-spring walks there can be upwards of a good fifteen or twenty of them flocking together. So it will be interesting to see how many more show up before they all head south for the winter.

Young Mississippi kite taking a break from hunting.

So there were numerous Mississippi kites up at the lake this weekend. Usually I would only see maybe one or two off in the distance hunting–but this weekend I would swear I saw a good two dozen kites throughout the area. There was this young one sitting in the tree, taking a break from hunting dragonflies and other insects.

Mississippi kite sitting on a dead tree, surveying the area

Then I saw this one across the street, sitting and watching another portion of the lake for dragonflies and other flying insects. Since it is getting close to the time that they will start heading south–the youngsters are out hunting, instead of sitting near the nest waiting on mom and dad to bring back dead insects for them to eat.

Hopefully this coming weekend, I will be able to get a couple more pictures of them before they head south for the winter. It will also be interesting to see how many of them come back to the area in the spring.

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Mini-photography hiatus end in sight (short post)

So I managed to get in both a walk today, a mini walk yesterday and some bird-watching in the backyard this weekend. I have new pictures to choose from for the coming week–though the topics are going to be “repeat”–the images are new.

I’ve realized that I feel somewhat calmer and more at ease when I’m practicing photography–maybe it’s because I know that I can delete any out of focus, blurry picture that I want. Technically there isn’t anyone judging my skills or talent. Though I am thinking of maybe looking in to selling prints on-line (as another way of possibly generating some extra income).

I was happy to see that at least the Mississippi kites are still in the area (and I have numerous pictures of those from today), and that the egrets are slowly settling in for a few weeks before heading further south for the winter. It seems strange to be talking about animal migration season starting, when we’re only a week away from September (and a month away from fall starting).

In addition to just walking around Boomer Lake, I’m going to have to a take a walk through the playgrounds and the frisbee golf areas to see what songbirds may be hiding in those trees. In other words, there could be more than just one walk a day on the weekends this fall (weather permitting of course).

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Photography Challenge Day 183: Great Blue Heron grooming itself (short post)–half a day late.

Well the winner of yesterday’s photography challenge is the great blue heron (I thought I had posted it before shutting the computer down–my bad). These guys are regulars up at Boomer Lake, and I consider it a good day if I manage to see at least two of them on my walk (even if it is a short one).

This one seemed to be acting as king of the mountain yesterday morning (and wasn’t happy with the hawk flying past).

The great blue heron surveying his domain……….

Usually when one thinks of great blue herons–it is where they’re wading through the water hunting their prey, not sitting on top of dead trees overlooking the little cove.

Zoomed out a little, so the dead tree is a little more visible….

I’m not exactly sure what this one was either looking at or watching for, especially since it wasn’t looking down towards the water.

Starting to groom itself……

Then on my return walk, I noticed that it was still on it’s perch–but it was starting to groom it’s feathers….

It can bend it’s neck in unique directions…..

This is one of the few pictures I’ve managed to get of blue herons grooming themselves where they’re looking upside at me.

Hopefully the temperatures and/or the humidity will slowly start dropping in the coming weeks and I can get back to doing a walk at Boomer Lake on the weekends in the morning. I’m interested to see what birds I might be able to see passing through on their migration to warmer climates in the south.

One other goal for the coming year(s) will be that during any travel, I have to try to get at least one picture of an animal (and preferably not counting visiting zoos or aquariums) on a walk or hike.

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Photography Challenge Double Day (181-182) Winner: the red-shouldered hawk

The winner of the double photography challenge (yesterday and today) is the red-shouldered hawk. Today was one of those days when I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to go on my morning walk or not—while it wasn’t that warm yet, there was already a heat index—but I decided to do a short walk if nothing else. I’m glad I did, or I would have missed seeing this magnificent creature this morning.

Red-shouldered hawk swooping in to land.

I was following my normal path when I noticed a hawk fly up into a pine tree on the other side of the street, I followed hoping to get at least one semi-decent picture of the hawk before possibly scaring it off.

I think someone wanted to be left alone to snack….

I managed to get a couple of pictures (none worthy of sharing) before it flew to another tree—I followed and managed to get several others before it flew off to another part of the park to hunt.

Some interesting facts about red-shouldered hawks:

They return to the same nesting territory year after year.

It’s eating something……

They’ve been known to turn the tables on great horned owls and steal their young from the nests (nestlings of any large bird are known prey of great horned owls) to eat.

I think it’s still hungry……

They can team up with crows to chase owls out of the territory.

Also I think it was tired of getting it’s picture taken……….

These birds are found year round in this part of Oklahoma, and I didn’t realize that there are four other subspecies of red-shouldered hawks—three others found in the eastern parts of the country and then the fifth one is out in California (and they really aren’t seen in any of the states in between California and eastern Oklahoma/Texas and then eastwards).

I know that area also has red-tailed hawks, and broad-shoulder hawks as well. I’m going to try to keep my eye (and camera) on the look out for them as well as we head into the fall and winter months.

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Double Photography: Days 178 and 179: Mourning doves and sparrows.

Well today is a double photography day—yesterday was just one of those days were I couldn’t decide on a picture to share. This was due in part to a bad night sleep, which led to only partially bruising my thumb (by catching it in the door). Luckily the bruise isn’t that bad (so I don’t think I’ll be losing the fingernail), though the tip of my thumb is still tender.

So the first photograph is of a couple mourning doves sitting on the wires in the backyard. These are a common bird species throughout North America, and are also one of the most frequently hunted bird species in North America as well.

Mourning doves on the wire

Some cool facts about mourning doves:

They can eat roughly a fifth of their body weight per day (which someone has calculated to be roughly an average of 71 calories).

They busily feed when they land—swallowing as many seeds as possible and storing them in their crop (the enlargement of the esophagus). Once they have a full crop, they’ll find a safe perch to where they can sit and digest their meal. So depending on how often they can fill their crop is how often they feed.

They can drink the brackish spring water found in the desert without becoming dehydrated.

The oldest known mourning dove was at least a little over 30 years old when it was shot in Florida in 1998—it had been banded in Georgia in 1968.

Reference: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mourning_Dove/overview

Feeding central–also known as the small suet

The second picture is of several sparrows feeding on the small suet feeder. There are also three other sparrows waiting their turn to feed from the suet feeder as well. Even though it is only August, it seems that we’re entering fall/winter migration already. Birds (even those that aren’t migrating) are feeding off of the suet feeders (when usually they hit the seed feeders). Though some of them might be taking food back to the nest, as some might be trying to raise their second or possible third brood this year as well.

Someone decided to go for the seed instead of waiting their turn.

We usually go through a small suet cake every two to three days. During the height of migration (both spring and fall) we can go through them also daily. This is in addition to a large suet feeder that we have, and the three seed feeders as well. There is also two nectar feeders for the hummingbirds.

I’m going to have to try to move our thistle feeder from where it’s been the past couple of years—it’s in the trees but none of the birds seem to care about it. So that is one thing I’m going to try to read up on—the proper place for a thistle feeder in the yard. If they state around trees, well I’ll figure out a different placement than the current one.

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Photography Challenge Day 177: Another mockingbird on campus (shortish post)

So the winner of today’s photography challenge is the mockingbird that I saw on campus this afternoon. So while the temperatures were still hotter than normal for this time of year (basically low triple digits, with a heat index probably ten to fifteen degrees hotter), I still went for a walk at lunch (mainly to get some chocolate).

As I was heading to the student union I noticed a mocking bird land at the top of a cedar bush, so I stopped and took it’s picture.

Mockingbird talking about the weather.

It didn’t seem happy with the temperatures (and who is happy with them)—hopefully it flew by the fountain in front of the library to cool off a little.

Since I’ve already done a post on mockingbirds, including interesting facts—I’ll just link to it—mockingbird. One thing I do find impressive about them—their ability to listen to something and then almost perfectly mimic it (hence their name—mockingbird).

I’m going to see if I can manage to get pictures of other birds on campus–such as sparrows, grackles, and starlings. If I manage to walk down by Theta Pond, I might see some ducks. Lunch walks may now become a thing I do–just to help get the steps in and hopefully as a way of managing stress and anxiety a bit better.

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Photography Challenge Day 176: The visitors to the nectar feeder

So it has been the dog days of summer lately and I haven’t made it up to Boomer Lake in about two weeks. Not that I don’t want to–but I’m not fond of overheating before ten in the morning (and water doesn’t stay that cold, that long). At least I managed to get some pictures of various birds in the backyard this afternoon (yes, I was crazy for sitting outside today–though I did have an outdoor fan going).

The winners of today’s photography challenge are the hummingbirds and the swallowtail butterfly.

Swallowtail butterfly drinking from the nectar feeder

So I had noticed that there was something at the nectar feeder that was upsetting the one hummingbird that was coming in to feed. This was one of the first times I’ve seen a hummingbird try to attack something. Once I got closer I realized that it was a swallowtail butterfly. I was able to get pretty close to it, but stayed back enough that it didn’t feel threatened. I was able to watch it a good five minutes or so drink, before it flew off.

Hummingbird sitting waiting for fresh sugar water.

So I’m not sure if it was the same hummingbird that tried to run off the butterfly, but one sat above us in the tree semi-patiently waiting for new nectar/sugar water to be brought out for consumption.

Hummingbird coming in to eat

The feeder has been popular this summer, especially since the flowers on some of the bushes seem to fall off as soon as they bloom lately.

And it’s eating……….

I’m pretty sure that this hummingbird is either a young one or a female–because I didn’t see any red on it’s throat–which rules out it being a mature male ruby throated hummingbird. Since we are almost halfway through August, it means that we’re also entering the start of the fall migration season already. Hopefully that means seeing hummingbirds at the feeder daily until they’ve all headed south.

Hopefully I will make it up to Boomer Lake this coming weekend for an early morning walk and see if there are any migratory birds starting to stay in town already.

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Photography Challenge Days 166-168: Playing Catch-up again.

So I’m doing a multiple photography post to play catch-up for the month. Thursday night got away from me, and last night I was finally watching Avengers: Endgame.

The winners for Thursday’s photography challenge are some turtles. Since we’re in the dog days of summer, I’m lucky if I can manage one morning walking around Boomer Lake before the temperature and/or the humidity skyrockets for the day. On this particular morning, it was nice and sunny, and the temperature and humidity were still bearable; therefore some turtles were already starting to claim their sunning spots.

Little turtles sunning itself on the log.

When I took this picture, I was focused on the small turtle that was already at the top of the branch. It wasn’t until I got the pictures on the computer, that I realized that another turtle was starting to climb out of the water onto the branch.

Then another turtle is crawling up to join it.

Now I wished I stuck around to get a series of pictures of the second turtle claiming its portion of the sunning log. I’m willing to be that it was a fairly large turtle based on how it looked so far coming out of the water.

The winners for Friday’s photography challenge are some ducks and the migrating egret. I’ve noticed that one of the egrets has already landed and residing at Boomer Lake this month—which is probably a good two to three months earlier than what I saw of them last year. These guys stick around Boomer Lake (and the other area lakes) twice a year—early spring and late fall—basically migratory season. Which is funny since parts of Oklahoma actually fall within their breeding range—so who knows, maybe they flew in to fish and then were flying back to the southeastern part of the state.

Egret and ducks in the early morning.

There were also several other mallards swimming around when I got a picture of the egret standing on a log, patiently waiting for a fish or some other small creature to swim by to grab.

The egret has the immediate area to itself.

It will be interesting to watch the interactions again this fall between the egrets and the herons–neither really likes to share their hunting grounds.

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the viceroy butterfly. This butterfly is native to North America, and can be found almost throughout the region.

Viceroy Butterfly in the grass

While the butterfly looks like a monarch butterfly—it has a strip across the bottom portion of its wings (which the monarch lacks). Another interesting little fact is that it had been though to mimic the colors and patterns of monarch to avoid being eaten by birds—but know it’s know that they’re also unpleasant for birds to eat.

So instead of being a case of Batesian mimicry (where a harmless species evolves to imitate the warning signals of a harmful species to deter a common predator), it is actually a case of Müllerian mimicry (where two species come to mimic each other’s warning signals).

Viceroy butterfly chilling in the grass

Another interesting fact: the caterpillars and pupa resemble bird droppings—so that gives them a little added protection during development. Next spring I may try to keep my eyes peeled for the caterpillars (shouldn’t be that hard—if I’m looking for them).

Decided it was done showing off it’s wings.

One thing I’ve learned so far over the course of my photography challenge so far—is to look for the interesting and the unique in the not so obvious places.

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Photography Challenge Day 165: Waterfowl Wednesday (short post)

The winner of today’s photography challenge are the ducks and geese. I’ve been lucky over the past couple of weeks to get candid photographs that if I was a few minutes earlier or later I might not have gotten.

Ducks on the logs

I’ve managed to time my walks in the morning to where the ducks are actually resting on the floating dead trees that normally are populated by turtles later in the day.

Walking past, there are usually another half a dozen swimming around patrolling, while these guys nap and groom. I’m sure that at a certain time, these guys will push off into the water and the others will quickly move in–going, thanks our turn.

Geese, geese, and more geese

Then I saw a large flock of Canada geese out on the lake, and in the background you can see some more geese that are grazing on the grass. I think due to what ever predator is around, there were fewer goslings this year than previously–though the total number of geese is still pretty high.

Ducks snoozing on a log

Then on the other side of the lake, I noticed that there is another dead tree, but this one is more popular with the ducks than it is with the turtles. I’m pretty sure that is because of how close it is to the shore. These guys were still wanting to snooze, even though the sun was up and the temperatures were rising. It is always nice to see that there is almost a universal “I’m not a morning person” mantra going on.

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Photography Challenge Day 163: The surprising turkey vulture

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the turkey vulture.

When I was on my morning walk this weekend, I noticed that a large raptor sitting at the top of a dead tree limb. After I got closer, I realized it was actually a turkey vulture and not a hawk or an eagle.

Turkey Vulture sitting in a tree…..

This is the first time that I’ve seen a turkey vulture sitting in a tree, for a prolong period of time—I’ve seen them soaring in the sky, I’ve seen them perched on fence posts (near a kill), but I’ve rarely seen them just sitting.

This one was just chilling out—though I think it was waiting on other vultures to show up so that there would be several of them soaring through the air. Now that I think about it—while you might see one vulture soaring through the sky, there is usually another one or two off in the distance also soaring, they’re usually in groups of two or three, seldom are they alone.

Turkey Vulture spreading it’s wings…

It’s also nice to know that it is the turkey vulture that I’ve been seeing and not the black vulture. When they’re overhead (and by usually thirty to forty feet above you minimum), it’s hard to tell the color of the head (and that is the only way to tell the two vultures apart).

Looking to see if anything looks good to eat…….

This one also seems to be wondering why I’m staring up at it, like I’ve never seen a turkey vulture up close before. Now when I go on my morning walks, I’m going to have to look towards this particular tree to see if there are any vultures just sitting around and chilling in the morning sun.

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