Tag: backyardbirdwatching

Playing catch-up on the photography challenge. Days 80 to 83.

Well today’s post is actually going to be several posts combined into one to play catch-up on the photography challenge. Since the weather has been rainy, cloudy, and then slightly sunny—our internet/wifi has been the same—down, down, up, down, down, oh you can have access for about three minutes and then down again over the past few days.


This unfortunately is why I didn’t get pictures posted after Tuesday (yes, I could have tried to find the time at work to post—but I didn’t feel comfortable doing that) night. Therefore today’s post is going to be a mix of different things. So let’s get started on the photography challenge catch-up.

The winner for day 80 (Wednesday) is the hummingbird at the back feeder. We usually try to get our hummingbird feeder out in mid-April to feed the hummingbirds as they migrate through—though the ruby-throated hummingbird does summer in Oklahoma. It looks like either it’s a female ruby-throated hummingbird at the feeder, or a young male that hasn’t molted into the bright red throat.

Ruby-throated hummingbird has made an appearance in the backyard.

What are some cool facts about the ruby-throated hummingbird?

This is basically the only hummingbird that is seen in the eastern United States; as it is the only breeding hummingbird east of the Great Plains.

It can beat its wings approximately 53 times a second (that means its beating its wings almost 3200 times a minute).

Due to having extremely short legs, it shuffles along its perch (it doesn’t walk or hop). But it can still scratch its head & neck if needed.

It’s either a female or a very young male–I don’t see the red throat.

It belongs to the order Apodiformes (along with swifts), and the name means “without feet”—mainly because in flight it doesn’t look to have feet.

While they mainly feed at flowers (or feeders that have sugar water), they will occasionally eat small insects as well.

Depending on the number of broods, the female may start building a new nest while still feeding the nestlings in the first nest (as the nest will stretch as the young grow).

They can migrate a long distance (for example from Canada down to Costa Rica), and often fly over the Gulf of Mexico during migration (either way).

It seems to be thirsty today.

As much as I’d love to get a picture of one trying to shuffle along a branch–they usually perch extremely high (sometimes I can get a picture of it sitting on the power lines), but I doubt I’d be able to catch it close to its nest where it’d most likely be shuffling along a branch.

References:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/overview

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/ruby-throated-hummingbird

The winners for day 81 (Thursday) are the squirrels hanging from the birdfeeders in the backyard.

Someone doesn’t want to hunt for seeds…

So we had to buy a new birdfeeder after the squirrels had chewed a hole in the lid of the one I’d bought a few years earlier from the national wildlife foundation. This is a birdfeeder we have hanging in front of the window in the living room, where the cats can lay on the back of the loveseat and watch the birds, and anyone sitting in the recliner across the room can also watch the birds.

Since we live next to a small creek, and not that far from some wooded areas, we have quite a few squirrels in the neighborhood. These little critters also like to help themselves to the birdseed and bird suets in the backyard, so we try to get the birdfeeders that claim to be “squirrel proof”.

They’re doing an upside down “hug” to stay on the feeder.

Well as you can tell from the picture—the squirrels have figured out how to get around the “squirrel proof” byline and get to the birdseed. This particular feeder is suppose to be weight sensitive—to where if something heavy is on it, the bars slide down and the animal can’t get to the bird seed.

A young raccoon had broken the lid earlier this spring—I’d found the feeder on the ground and the lid pulled off, and since then the squirrels have figured out that if they “hug” the feeder they can distribute their weight and still get to the bird seed.

So yesterday would have been day 82 of the photography challenge. This is the day that I usually try to also share some of the fish pictures I’ve taken over the years–making it a FishyFriday post as well. So in addition to that–it’s also a FlashbackFriday post to one of my trips to the New England Aquarium.

I’ve realized that one thing I should start doing when I go to aquariums/zoos/museums and am taking pictures—I should also try to get pictures of the plaques that state what animals are in the exhibit (or time period if I’m in a museum).  It is quite difficult to google “black and white stripped fish new England aquarium” and actually get a good hit on what that particular fish actually is.

Thankfully, I have managed to identify all three of the fish (though it took quite a bit of time to be able to do so).

A French grunt swimming in the large ocean tank at the New England Aquarium

The yellow-striped fish is actually a French grunt fish (Haemulon flavolineatum). This fish species is actually native to western Atlantic ocean and can be found basically from South Carolina down into the Gulf of Mexico & Caribbean and then downwards towards northern coast of Brazil.

They feed primarily on small crustaceans and mollusks that they hunt for during the night. They stay in close proximity to coral reefs (probably to be able to dart to safety to escape predators) while hunting.

Their name comes from the noise they make when they grind their teeth together.

References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haemulon_flavolineatum; https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/haemulon-flavolineatum/

A fish that is known by many names: pufferfish, balloonfish, and blowfish

The second fish is the balloonfish. This fish is also known as the pufferfish, blowfish, and bubblefish (just to name a few of the other names).

The habitat of the balloonfish, are the warm shallow coastal waters; more specifically coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds. They stay hidden for the most part during the day—though I’m sure they’ve given plenty of scuba divers and snorkelers a shock if they’re accidentally awoken in their hidey-holes.

They are nocturnal feeders, going after clams, snails, hermit crabs, sea urchins, and other mollusks that dwell on the sea floor.

If something comes upon them (and they think they could be eaten), balloonfish will puff up to almost three times their normal size; this puffing also allows for special scales to stick out, and they then look like a spiked football, which most predators will then leave alone. The bubblefish will then float away, and may wait awhile before releasing the air (or water) to shrink back down to its normal size.

References: https://www.scienceandthesea.org/program/201008/balloon-fish

Honeycomb cowfish swimming in the tank at the aquarium.

The final fish is the honeycomb cowfish. This fish gets its name from the hexagonal scales that cover most of its body.  This is one of the ways that the fish is able to blend in with the coral reefs it calls home, though they are also found in seagrass beds as well.

This fish is found in the western Atlantic (east coast of the United States), the Caribbean, and then down towards Brazil. While it isn’t found in the Gulf of Mexico, it can be found around Florida (mainly on the Atlantic side and the Keys).

They feed on shrimp, algae, and sponges during the day.  Another way that they protect themselves from predators (aside from the hexagonal scale like armor) is the ability to change their color to blend in with their surrounds as well. Once they sense a threat—they can change their colors, and then remain stationary for quite some time.

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeycomb_cowfish

Now we’re finally up to today’s photography challenge winner, and it’s one of the hundred or so I took last year on our small vacation down to New Mexico. One of the places that we went to was Carlsbad Cavern National Park.

One of the many formations one can see in the grand cavern at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

. While we only spent a short time in the caves, I managed to get over a hundred pictures of the caves. Because no matter which way you turned, there was a new angle to take a picture, different lighting, and so forth.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the caves, showing the “draperies” of the caves. As one of the signs stated: “Draperies form where water containing dissolved limestone runs down the ceiling leaving traces of calcite. Over hundreds of years, calcite crystals accumulate. When water stops flowing, draperies stop growing.”

The proper name for the draperies is actually “speleothems”. Since we only spent time in a small part of the national park (the main caves and then a small drive through one of the canyons), I’d like to go back at some point—but maybe actually signup for a tour of the inner caves—which is basically a five hour round trip in and out (which is one of the reasons why I didn’t do it last time). I know that I need to be in a little bit better physical (and possibly even mental) state than what I currently am in.

So I’ve managed to catch up on the photography challenge, and hopefully the wifi connection will behave and I won’t have to many other multiple post days. Though while in a slight enforced ban on electronics–I was able to get some other things done (there will be several posts coming over the next few weeks on this)–so that was one small bright spot. Until the next picture–remember to try to find the beauty in the everyday.

No Comments bird watchingNational ParksnaturePhotographytravelZoos/Aquariums

The migrating white-crowned sparrow. Photography Challenge Day 76

Today’s photograph is brought to you by the migrating white-crowned sparrow. This sparrow actually spends the winter months in the southern part of the United States (and Mexico) before heading back to the northern parts of the US and Canada.

White-crowned Sparrow hiding in the peach bush

The diet of these sparrows is mainly seeds, though they will eat insects as well. During the summer months is when they will eat insects and spiders (as that is what they feed the young). Though they will also feed on berries and small fruits as well during the spring, summer, and fall months. Winter is mainly feeding on seeds of weeds and grasses, though they will grace bird feeders as well during this time.

Depending on the part of the country that they are breeding in the birds may have one to three broods per year (more the further south they are). The female will sit on the eggs for about two weeks, and then once the young hatch both parents will feed the young. The young will usually leave the nest within a week to a week and a half after hatching.

White-crowned sparrow under the suet feeder

Some other cool facts about the white-crowned sparrow include:

Young male sparrows learn the basis of the mating call during their first few months by listening to the songs being sung in their immediate area.

Migrating sparrows can cover a large distance in a short time period. Sparrows that breed in Alaska will then fly approximately 2600 miles south to winter in southern California.

White-crowned sparrow by the suet feeder.

They will share territories with fox sparrows but will chase out chipping sparrows and dark-eyed juncos.

The loud singing is usually the males, and the quieter and more variable singing is the females (which may only be during breeding season or looking for food in the winter).

These sparrows actually have song dialects, as they tend to return closely to the area that they were raised.

References:

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/white-crowned-sparrow

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-crowned_Sparrow/overview

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Photography Challenge Day 71: The red-bellied woodpecker

Today’s winner of the photography challenge is the red-bellied woodpecker. I’ve always found the name of this one to be rather funny, as it doesn’t have a visible red belly, but it has a visible red stripe/cap instead. But it got the name red-bellied, because of the fact there is another woodpecker with a totally red-head (hence, the name of that woodpecker is the red-headed woodpecker).

Red-bellied woodpecker on the elm tree.

This woodpecker is found primarily in the southeast, though it has been reestablishing itself further north into southern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and parts of New York and Rhode Island (to name a few states).

Red-bellied woodpecker deciding whether or not to fly off.

The red-bellied woodpecker is an omnivorous woodpecker—it does eat insects, but it will also eat berries, nuts, and seeds. This bird is a regular visitor to both of our suet feeders in the backyard during the year. They forage for insects on trees, they also will perch on branches to pick off berries and nuts from small limbs as well.

Red-bellied woodpecker on the suet feeder.

When it comes to nesting, the male may start to excavate several different holes, then allow the female to select the one which will be used for the nest that year. They will nest in a cavity (either within some type of dead wood (tree, telephone pole, utility pole, fence post, tree stump) that they themselves finish excavating, or a nest box, or even another nesting site that had been abandoned by other woodpeckers.

The female will lay somewhere between three to eight eggs (with the average being either four or five), both parents will incubate the eggs, with the male taking the night shift and part of the day (that way both parents can feed during the time), and it will take about two weeks for the eggs to hatch.

Red-bellied woodpecker deciding what it wants to do.

The young are feed by both parents, and leave the nest within three to four weeks of hatching. Depending on the type of year, the parents may continue to feed the young for another six weeks or so, even after they’ve left the nest.

I’m pretty sure that they’re nesting somewhere in the neighborhood, but I’ve yet to really see a young red-bellied woodpecker at the feeders. Though if they do come to the feeder, I’d probably confuse them with the downy or hairy woodpeckers. But that will be another goal–get a good picture of a immature red-bellied woodpecker.

References:
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/red-bellied-woodpecker
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-bellied_Woodpecker/id#

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotography