Category: nature

Photography Challenge Day 194: The red-shouldered hawk flying away (a short post).

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the hawk that flew off in mid-shot, but I still managed to get two decent pictures of it in flight.

Red-shouldered hawk in flight

I’m pretty sure that this is the red-shouldered hawk and not the red-tailed hawk, due to the red on the breast as it was flying past me.

Red-shouldered hawk flying into the trees

I’m wondering if I interrupted this one while it was hunting—as I had noticed it sitting on top of a light post, but when I got close to get it’s picture—it flew off towards some trees. I followed, but I didn’t notice the exact limb that it had landed on, so I continued on my walk to see what other birds I could spot.

They are hunters, and their prey ranges from small mammals to reptiles and amphibians. Though they have been seen to also eat other birds (including young owlets, sparrows, and doves).

They’re year round residents of the area, so I will be keeping an eye out for them on my walks to see if I can spot them in trees, on light posts, or just flying through the area.

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Photography Challenge Day 193: The young praying mantis

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the young praying mantis that was crawling on the patio table umbrella last night.

This young thing was making it’s way across the umbrella

So I’m not exactly sure what the exact species of mantis this is—praying mantis is a common name that seems to go for over 2,400 different species across the globe. In terms of distribution, they are found in temperate and tropical habitats, where most are ambush predators—though some will actively pursue their prey.

It seems to be camera shy……

The praying mantis also goes through several different growth stages between hatching and adult mantis, and the number of molts differs between species. So this one could be somewhere between two and five (for example) in it’s molts before reaching adult stage. Though it still has some growing to do in order for the body to fit the legs (and antennae).

A little better picture of the young mantis.

What are some interesting facts about the praying mantis?

Majority are found in the tropical areas of the world—there are only 18 native species found within the entire North American continent.

The most common praying mantis seen (within the US) are actually introduced species—not native.

They can turn their heads a full 180 degrees, without being possessed by a demon.

Their closest family members are actually cockroaches and termites.

They lay their eggs in the fall, which then hatch in the spring.

The females are known to occasionally eat the males after mating.

They have specialized front legs for capturing their prey.

Since they don’t fossilize very well—the earliest known fossils are only ~146-166 million years old

They aren’t totally “beneficial” in the garden—they will eat any and all bugs (good and bad) that they find.

The weirdest fact for last: They have two eyes, but only one ear—which is located on the underside of their belly. It’s thought that those that fly have the ear to help them avoid being eaten by bats.

Reference for the fun facts: https://www.thoughtco.com/praying-mantid-facts-1968525

So while I may keep an eye out for the egg pouches this winter (photography time)—I’ll also make note of where I saw it, and then check the surrounding area(s) in the spring and summer for the nymphs and adults.

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Photography Challenge Day 192: The young scissor-tailed flycatcher

While the adult scissor-tailed flycatchers may have started their migrations back south—the younger generation is still present, at least for awhile.

Young scissor-tail flycatcher

I noticed this one sitting at the top of a tree, and probably wouldn’t have paid much attention, until it stretched and I saw it’s tail. It was then I realized that I’d probably been overlooking the younger generation of scissor-tailed flycatchers the past few weeks.

I think it thought it saw something to eat….

While the scissor-tailed flycatcher is common in Oklahoma (we’re in it’s breeding area, and it is the state bird), during migration they actually wander and therefore can almost be spotted anywhere throughout North America. They winter in the warmer regions of Central America and southern Mexico.

Since they feed predominately on insects, I don’t think that there is a good way of trying to lure them into the yard during the year—they seem to really like the open spaces around the lake, and we lack that around the house. So I will just have to keep an eye out for them again in the spring. I will be looking for the younger ones again on the weekends and I will see how long before they do decide to head south for the winter.

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Photography Challenge Day 191: The birds…….

The winners of today’s photography challenge are the birds. Since today was a holiday (no work, :-)) that meant I had the time to go for another zen walk around Boomer Lake this morning. I managed to get several pictures that I will be sharing this week (in addition to other pictures I managed to get over the weekend).

Ducks, egrets, and an heron…oh, my

But today’s picture is of a couple of egrets, some ducks, and a heron (it almost makes me want to think of a bad, corny joke—but I’m currently too tired to do so). Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting the two in the background (the second egret and great blue heron), as I was focused more on the egret and ducks in the foreground.

Closer look at the one egret, and more ducks joined the picture.

As migration season kicks off, the limbs of the different submerged trees become prime spots to both fish from, and just generally sit on—so they’re usually always have something sitting on them—be it egret, heron, or cormorant (and sometimes the terns and gulls).

Currently the cormorants haven’t started migrating though (they should be here within probably two months or so—just as the egrets move further south), so the limbs will be having either egrets or herons sitting on them.

I’m going to have to start keeping a tally record and see who sits on the various branches and logs the most during my walks–the great blue herons or the common egret.

For today–I’d have the say the egrets were on four branches/logs and the herons were on two branches/logs.

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Photography Challenge Day 190: The great egret is back (for awhile)

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the great egret that looked to be scratching it’s chin when I snapped the picture this morning.

Egret scratching it’s chin……

The temperatures are starting to get to where I will hopefully be able to get a morning walk in at least once on the weekend. Today I noticed that there were at least six egrets (or three that managed to zip back and forth and made me think that there were more— 🙂 on the lake. They will be around for probably another month or so, and then the large number will migrate further south for the winter—basically to the Gulf of Mexico and Central America.

I noticed last year, that they will temperamentally share space with the great blue herons. I will have to see if I can find the pictures of the stand offs I got between the two in the spring, as they are both hunters that hunt via wading in the shallow waters—so there is competition for food and space between the two.

Egret flying over head

One interesting fact: when they fly they’re flapping their wings at just two wing beats per second, and they can achieve a cruising speed of around 25 miles per hour.

Egret overhead, slowly flapping its wings.

Since migration season has started, it will be interesting to see what other birds migrate through, and how many decent pictures can I get of them……..

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Photography Challenge Day 189: The green heron playing hide and seek

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the green heron—who is playing hide and seek in the picture.

Green herons hiding in the trees

These guys are actually more the size of crows than herons or egrets. They’re short and stocky, and they look like they’re constantly walking hunched over. Since they were playing hide and seek in the branches, I’m not sure if they were adults or juveniles.

These two were probably trying to hunt this morning when I noticed them and tried to get their picture. They usually stand motionless close to the water’s edge (though they were actually perched a little above the edge of the water in the branches), waiting for prey (which are usually fish and amphibians).

Heron sitting in the trees

Oklahoma is within it’s breeding range, which means that come late fall it will be migrating back down to warmer areas (such as Mexico and Central America).

Still waiting for me to leave.

They are capable of diving and swimming back to shore with their catch, though for the most part they hunt by wading in the shallow waters.

Hopefully I will be able to see these guys again before they head south for the winter, or in the spring when they come back. Unlike the other herons that are out in the open, these guys like to stay back in the foliage (probably due to sitting above the water), and out wait their prey. I’m just happy that I managed to get a couple of pictures of them that weren’t totally blurry.

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Photography Challenge Day 188: Grasshopper hiding in the grass

The winner of today’s photography challenge is a grasshopper. I noticed this guy hanging out in the flowers of some grass (if I had to wager a bet—it is either switchgrass, or a close family member).

Grasshopper in the grass

So grasshoppers go through five different molts between hatching from the egg and the adult—but they look like an adult in each stage (just smaller and slightly weirder—as I shared some pictures of the younger nymphs earlier this summer).

This one was just chilling in the flowers, though I’m sure that if I got any closer it would have jumped towards other tall grasses in the area.

A little on the grass (as I’m going to say that I’m pretty sure that it is either switchgrass—or a close family member), it was probably thinking of chomping on. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a perennial warm season grass that is native to North America. This is one of the many plants that is being groomed as potential biofuel plants. One of the main reason why it is being looked at: it isn’t part of the food chain for either humans or cattle (or other farm animals).

It can also grow in areas that other plants can’t—such as high salt, and brackish waters. It has a very good root system—so it can also work in erosion control as well. It comes back year after year—and before we started building cities and towns in the middle of the prairie—it was one of the major native grasses.

I actually worked with this grass during graduate school (it was the focus of my dissertation)—and I am always amazed to see how tall it grows in the wild (in the lab—it’s height is limited by either the growth chamber or being trimmed back in the greenhouses)—it can get up to six feet tall pretty quickly in some areas.

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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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Photography Challenge Day 186: The Waved Sphinx Moth

So the winner of today’s photography challenge is the waved sphinx moth that was hanging out in the shed this weekend.

Waved sphinx moth

This is a member of the larger family of moths that are commonly known as sphinx moths, hawk moths, and hornworms—and there are almost 1500 species found throughout the world.

These moths have great camouflage—they are mostly brown, with both wavy lines and straight lines bisecting its wings. It’s unclear if the adults feed, unlike some of the others that have been mistaken for hummingbirds (from a distance).

The waved sphinx moth on the side of the house

I don’t think that the moth was happy being moved from it’s hiding spot—these moths are more nocturnal in nature, and it was rousted a good three hours or so before the sun went down. I do know that it did hang out on the side of the house for awhile before finding another area to doze in until the sun went down.

Depending on location, these moths may have either one or two broods a year. Since we’re in the southern part of their range, it is possible that there could be another brood before the end of October.

This may mean that if I pay attention and keep an eye out for them—I might be able to spot a caterpillar of the waved sphinx moth. Though it may be difficult, as I don’t think we have any ash, fringe, hawthorn, or oak trees in the neighborhood—though we might (I’m not the greatest at telling trees apart).

That could be something to keep me busy in the spring/fall—trying to identify the different trees in the area, that way I would have an idea of the insects that might be visiting them in the late spring/summer.

I’m pretty sure that the moth was only in the yard, because it had decided to try to snooze the day away in the shed before someone found it and decided to show it off. But it is a pretty looking insect, and I think I’ve seen them before on the trees earlier in the year (and definitely last year).

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Photography Challenge Day 185: Back on track, and a soft-shelled turtle

Well, it’s time to try to get back into a picture sharing mood. The weather is slowly starting to cool, so that means hopefully I will be able to do a walk on the weekends (hopefully both mornings). I may also try to do some architecture/building photography as well this fall/winter (something to switch things up a little).

I realized this weekend, I do enjoy photography—it is both calming, and exciting (as one doesn’t know what type of wildlife they’ll be seeing on a walk). As much as I would love to walk in the woods—the ones closest to the house are on private property, and it is still tick season—so currently it’s a no go (but there is always trips in the future to different parks).

So the winner of today’s photography challenge is the soft-shelled turtle. The shells of these turtles are mostly leathery and semi-pliable and this allows them to move quicker than other turtles. I had managed to get a couple of pictures of the soft-shelled turtle earlier this summer, but none of them got all the characteristics of the turtle in one shot—the pointed nose, the smooth shell, and the webbed feet.

Soft-shelled turtle sunning itself at Boomer Lake

I have no idea of this is a male or female soft-shelled turtle, because when I moved slightly closer to get another picture it slid off the log and into the water. Though since it does look like a large turtle—it could very well be a female, as that is one of the main ways of differentiating between the sexes—the female is larger than the male.

As we start heading into the fall and winter months, the turtles are going to be going dormant until late winter/early spring, but hopefully I will still be able to get a few more pictures of various turtles at the lake sunning themselves. I would still like to get a picture of some of the larger red-eared sliders that I know are living up around the lake.

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