So I’ve been trying to do a nature walk in the mornings (at least on the weekends) as a way of waking up. While it is a little harder to do in the winter because of the colder temperatures, there are the unexpected sightings that makes the morning walk worth it.
Today’s unexpected sighting was this hawk (I’m assuming that it is either a juvenile sharp-shinned hawk or a juvenile Copper’s hawk). As I walking back across the one foot bridge I’d startled it from it’s original roost.
After sitting nearby for a few minutes (so that I could get one good picture) it flew off to another nearby tree. I was able to get a couple of good pictures of it’s profile. The main reason why I’m assuming it is a juvenile and not an adult is the brown coloring (though it could be a adult that isn’t in it’s mating colors; or it’s a female).
Here was the last picture I got, before it flew off again. These sightings are what makes the morning walks so enjoyable–you never know what you will see from day to day. That is why nature walks (even to the same place) are so fun–nature changes day to day. What you saw yesterday, you might not see today, and what you saw today–you may not see tomorrow or next week when you go back.
So even though the temperatures are getting cooler (and they can be frigid first thing in the morning)–get out and go for a walk, look at things with a fresh eye, and find the enjoyment in the little things.
So I have been trying to do a walk up at Boomer Lake in the morning on the weekends (basically having my “zen” time when I don’t really have to deal with other people). One of the birds that I try to get pictures of is the great blue heron.
There are between four and six great blue herons living up at Boomer Lake (and I will be sharing more pictures over the next few weeks/months), and I try to see how many of them I can spot during my morning walk.
This one I spotted twice (at least I think it’s the same one), and in two different poses (and areas). Earlier it was hunting (or just waking up), and now I think it was hunkering down to get out of the wind for awhile. But if you look closely–you can’t see it’s legs–it has the low squat down to an art form. Which is why I’ve declared it the winner of the low squat.
Today’s winner of the photography challenge is the pair of Mississippi kites that I saw on my morning walk at Boomer Lake. Truthfully, I almost missed seeing them—I’d turned at just the right time to see a bird swoop into a tree, and when I went to get a closer look, I realized that it was a pair of Mississippi kites.
I’ve seen the kites all summer—but usually when they’re just swooping around in the sky foraging for flying insects and they’re usually a good block or so away and I can never get a good picture. Today I managed to get several good pictures of them.
The Mississippi kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) is a bird of prey that spends its summers in both the southeastern and southwestern parts of the United States (it winters down in central South America). Unlike larger birds of prey, the Mississippi kite feeds primarily on insects though will also forage on small reptiles, amphibians, smaller birds, small mammals and bats.
These graceful birds can be seen throughout the day flying and soaring though the sky as they hunt for their meals. Since these are social birds, usually they can be seen in groups as small as just a pair, upwards to a dozen or more (depending on how main breeding pairs and yearlings are in the area).
As much as I’d like to get a picture of the youngsters—I’m going to need a better lens that zooms as the pairs are fiercely territorial and will dive bomb anything that gets to close to the nest. Obviously this morning, either the tree where they were perched didn’t contain the nest, or the youngsters are old enough that the parents don’t dive bomb any more, or I was still far enough away that they didn’t see me as a threat.
And here are a couple of more unusual facts about these graceful birds:
They may build their nests near (or incorporate) a wasp nest to help protect their eggs and chicks from climbing predators (because who wants to mess with a colony of wasps?).
They allow certain smaller birds to nest near them (namely mockingbirds, blue jays, and house sparrows).
Facts and trivia were found at: www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mississippi_Kite/overview
Well today’s photographs are coming from this morning’s walk up to Boomer Lake. I decided that I wanted to try to get to the lake just as the sun was coming up in hopes that I’d catch the herons and egrets at some of their usual spots.
I did managed to catch the great picture of the pink and red sunrise over the lake and the neighborhood on the other side (trust me the houses are there). Though it didn’t take that long for the colors to fade into a cloudy blue morning before allowing the sun to shine through. As I walked further into the park and out onto the one large deck I noticed that there was an heron in an unusual spot.
The heron was roosting on the branch from a submerged tree. Years ago, Boomer Lake was emptied because the city wanted to redirect the traffic and build a new bridge. After the construction was completed, they were going to remove the trees and slowly fill the lake back in–well Mother Nature had a different idea—we had some major storms over the course of a few weeks and months and the lake filled itself and the trees just slowly died off to where all you see now are the occasional branches sticking out that birds and turtles perch on.
Shortly after the sun was fully up and I had walked to another finger overlooking the lake, I decided to see if there were any herons fishing around some of the trees that grow in water, and I managed to capture this photo:
I managed to spot probably the third great blue heron on the lake trying to fish in the privacy of this tree. This seems to be a favorite hangout for the herons in terms of morning fishing (it’s the second time I’ve managed to capture a picture of one fishing/hunting in this area).
One thing I love about Boomer Lake is wildlife that you can see when walking–on my morning walks so far this year I’ve seen a water snake (and yes I’m still looking every time I’m up there to see if I can spot another one), rabbits (today was one of the few times I haven’t seen at least one rabbit on my walk), the ducks and geese (these guys are almost as common for me to see as the herons), the great blue herons, the egret, the green heron (which I’ve only seen twice–I’m thinking I might need to walk a little further tomorrow and see if it’s at a different location), a box turtle, the killdeer, and then different song birds (I’ve seen the scissor-tail flycatcher, red-wing blackbirds, sparrows, grackles, swallows, and the occasional mockingbird).
What will be interesting is as the seasons change and we start to get migratory birds coming through–I really want to be able to get a good picture of a white pelican (they don’t stay that long), the cormorants, loons, and gulls/terns stay a little longer if not all winter. Plus as the leaves fall from the trees sometimes you can get a good picture of a hawk or two.
So the pictures finally came through (I had to lower the resolution of the files a little), and here they are.
So this is the second or third year that we’ve had a pair of mallards coming up to the side feeder to graze. We don’t live that far from a large lake, where they spend majority of their time, and when the creek has water in it for them to paddle up and down, they occasionally come through to graze on any sunflower seeds that have fallen out of the bird feeder (or that I may have intentionally spilled on the ground for them and the other birds that are ground feeders). I don’t know if this is the same pair of mallards that have visited year after year, but I’m pretty sure that it is (I can’t see them tell other birds where there is prime bird seed to munch on).
It’s nice to see certain wildlife coming back around yearly (even if it’s not the same animal). I haven’t see any turkeys in the neighborhood so far, and while I did see a opossum a few days ago–it toddled off too quickly and I couldn’t get a picture of it. I was really happy to see it though, it meant there is some natural tick control in the area (as tick that latches on to a opossum usually dies quickly), and this is going to be a very bad year for ticks (and mosquitoes). But luckily if there are mosquito larvae in the creek–it’s flowing so they will be washed down stream, and there are numerous other critters that like to snack on mosquito larvae.
Well the little Arctic wind push has dropped the temperatures yet again today. I don’t think the temperatures broke twenty, when our high was suppose to be twenty-one. This morning, the temperature as I was waiting for the bus was a freezing five degrees above zero, with a windchill of five or six below zero. Luckily it was only a five or six minute wait for the bus this morning……… And I’m just noticing the play of the numbers from this morning with five being predominant over six.
I noticed the freezing pond this evening as I was outside filling up all the bird feeders again, with the temperatures it is almost a daily occurrence of having to re-fill the back two feeders (I only refill the feeder on the side every other day or every two days–mainly because it takes a good eight pounds of bird seed, where the other two only take about half a pound to a pound each).
We enjoy watching the birds, so filling the feeders are necessary to be able to view all the different sparrows, finches, the cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, and the mourning doves. I’m going to try to get some pictures of the birds this winter, but usually when the door opens they fly away and wait in the trees until the feeders are filled and the humans are back indoors.