Tag: birdwatching

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 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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Photography Challenge Day 162: The Mississippi Kite

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the Mississippi kite. I’ve been lucky the past couple of days of seeing them sitting on the utility wires watching for insects to pass by, before they swoop in for the kill.

Mississippi Kite launching from the wire

These are migratory raptors, that breed in either the southeastern part of the country (Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, and parts of southeastern Arkansas), plus the parts of Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. We usually see them as they sail through the sky (usually just over the tops of trees), but every so often I can catch a glimpse of them sitting in trees or on wires.

It’s snack is grasped in one foot.

Last year I managed to get some really closeup pictures of them in the park. So far this year, my seeing them has been at a distance but I’ve still managed to get some good pictures.

It is eating it’s snack

This one I managed to catch it as it was launching into flight to grab it’s morning snack out of the air.

Then it returned to it’s perch to eat—and I’m pretty sure it probably caught a dragonfly (or a damselfly).

I’m still hungry…..

Then it neatly turned around to continue watching for more dragonflies or other insects to fly past, because I think it was still hungry.

Come fall these majestic birds will fly all the way to South America for the winter. One of the most unique things about these birds–they incorporate wasp nests into either their nests or the choice of where their nests go. The presence of a wasp nest will usually help deter any climbing predators away from the nest. They also can peacefully nest near other birds such as mockingbirds and blue jays (both of which are territorial–so it’s three for the price of one in terms of nest protection).

While I couldn’t get close to this kite, I’m pretty sure it’s still an adult (or at least a yearling)–while it would be cool to get a picture of a fledgling, I’m not going to risk getting dive bombed by either the parents or angry mockingbirds and blue jays. Adults and yearlings are the way to go for a good photograph.

I’m thinking that the theme for this coming week is sitting on a wire or gliding through the air.

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Photography Challenge Day 148: Baby Mallards (short post)

Well, this week there isn’t going to be a theme for the photography challenge. It could be due to my mood–but I can’t think of a challenge that I’m willing to do for the week. So this week will be random photographs–though they’ll probably all share a common location–Boomer Lake.

Baby ducklings

So on my walk this weekend, I came across a mother duck and her duckling wandering around near the sidewalk. They look so cute and cuddly (though I’m pretty sure they’d peck at me if I tried to cuddle with them). There were actually five of them grazing under the watchful eye of their mother.

While pairs are monogamous throughout the breeding season–it is the female that takes care of the young.

I’d notice that even the ducks around Theta Pond on campus have ducklings–though they seem to be a bit smaller than these guys. But thanks to the rain we got this spring–it’s been a good season for the ducks and geese in terms of raising their young.

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Photography Challenge Catch-up: Days 130 through 133

Well today’s photography challenge post is hopefully going to play catch up and starting tomorrow I will be back to doing daily posts. The last few days I just couldn’t decide on a photograph to share, and if I could decide on a photograph—I ended up with writers block and couldn’t figure out what to say with the photograph.

Thursday’s photographs are a #throwback photograph series to my whirlwind trip to London two years ago. I tried to cram a week’s worth of sightseeing into a few days. I managed to see quite a bit, but would love to go back and take a little more time and visit a few more places. So the photograph is one of the many that I took while walking through the Tower of London, and then visiting the Tower Bridge.

Tower of London, London UK

One of the things that I decided not to do while visiting the Tower of London was going up (and down) the stairs in the White Tower. I had decided that with all the walking I’d been doing through the day—I didn’t need to climb 204 stairs. Though I think it would be neat to look out from the top of the White Tower.

Tower Bridge, London UK

Looking back through the photographs has me itching to plan another trip somewhere, though currently I’m not sure where. I have several ideas of places I would like to go, I will just have to try and narrow the list to one for travel and then maybe one or two for networking.

Friday’s photograph is a #fungalfriday photo. This picture is actually quite old—I took it a little over two years ago, but that has been how long since we’ve seen this type of mushroom around the area.

Oyster mushrooms growing on a dead tree.

 This is an oyster mushroom—it’s one of the edible ones that grows on dead and dying trees. We use to have these popping up at least once to twice a year, but then the neighbor’s son moved into their place and sprayed herbicides along the creek bed and that spelled the end to our yearly collection of oyster mushrooms. I loved simmering them and then freezing them—we had quite a bit stored, but then used them in different meals.

I’d like to become better at identifying mushrooms in the wild, that way I know which ones are the edible ones and which ones are the ones that can kill you. Besides liking to eat mushrooms—I think they’re cool objects to photograph as well.

Mallards grooming themselves.

Saturday’s photograph winner is of two (of the many ducks) sitting on a log and grooming themselves. This is a log where if I manage to get up to the lake at dawn, I would usually see a great blue heron or an egret standing and waiting for their breakfast to swim pas them. Though lately since I’ve been getting up there after dawn, I’ve seen either the ducks or at times turtles sunning themselves on the log. I am going to have to try to start getting up earlier to manage to get up to the lake for some sunrise pictures.

Today’s winner of the photography challenge are the two pictures I managed to get of the sun as it was going in and out of the clouds this morning. It almost seemed like I was taking pictures of the moon moving in and out of the clouds—but we’re heading into a new moon phase—so it was the sun that looked so odd this morning.

Some dark moving clouds moving across the sun.

On the walk this morning, I noticed that there were numerous dark clouds rolling through the area—luckily no rain fell. But as the clouds rolled through, they managed to act as a natural blinder for the sun and gave the optical illusion of it pretending to be the moon.

The sun behind dark moving clouds.

With these pictures I’ve managed to catch up on the photography challenge. I’m going to try to take a new picture every day (either with the camera or my phone), that way something new will be posted (instead of picking a random photo out of my weekend work). Whether or not I manage to take a picture every day will depend mainly on the weather (temperature), and my mood—but hopefully the idea of a small walk will help spur the imagination and give me new photography ideas.

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Photography Challenge Day 119: The common egret in flight

So I managed to get a walk around Boomer Lake in between the thunderstorms today. Considering both the time I went, and the weather I really wasn’t expecting to see anything other than geese, mallards, and the occasional turtle.

The common (or great) egret taking flight

So I was really happy when I noticed there was an egret on the far shore. Though before I could get a picture of it in the tree it took off towards an more quiet portion of the lake.

The egret heading towards the back of the lake

The egret could have just been in the area to just eat and then head back to the area where the nest and rest of the birds are-only a small portion of Oklahoma is in their breeding grounds (the rest of state including Boomer Lake is in the migratory area).

Though seeing this one, means that there should be quite a few come fall before they migrate south for the winter.

Some cool facts about the common (great) egret include:

They’re the symbol for the National Audubon Society.

They were hunted extensively in the 1800s for their long plumes (which were used to adorn women’s hats).

If it is a bad year for foraging/hunting–not all the young will survive. The stronger/larger chicks may kill off their weaker/smaller siblings (and it may also happen even during a good year for foraging/hunting).

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

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