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Photography Challenge Day 142: The coral (or trumpet) honeysuckle

Today’s winner of the color/flower photography challenge is the orange-red honeysuckle flower. The name honeysuckle refers to members of the genus Lonicera, which include arching shrubs or twining vines (though most species are vines).

This particular type of honeysuckle I see on my walks around Boomer Lake, and also up at the bus stop in the mornings. They are definitely more of the twining vines than arching shrubs. I’m pretty sure that this is the coral or trumpet honeysuckle, with how the flowers look like mini-trumpets.

Trumpet honeysuckle growing at Boomer Lake.

These plants are native to the northern hemisphere (so this includes any country/land mass that is north of the equator). To date there have been ~180 different species identified throughout the northern hemisphere, with over half the species being found in China.

I love the flowers as they are nice and fragrant, and bring back childhood memories of picking flowers and sucking the nectar out of them. The flowers also attract hummingbirds and butterflies that also like to drink the nectar as well. Though I do see some bees around the backyard honeysuckle in early spring when they’re just started to flower.

The trumpet honeysuckle is a native species to the eastern parts of the United States. There are several different cultivars of the plant that have been grown and selected for their variation in flower colors. Depending on where they’re growing in the US, they can be considered either evergreen (in the warmer climates) or deciduous (in the colder climates), this also can result in their flowers being pollinated from mid-spring through the fall by hummingbirds and various insects.

One thing I didn’t realize (or more accurately haven’t thought of) is that they also produce fruit. The honeysuckle fruit can be either a spherical or elongated berry that can be either red, blue, or black in color. While the most of the fruits are non-edible for humans, they are edible for wildlife—which allows for the spread of the plants (which is one of the numerous ways that plants ensure their survival).

I’m going to have to try and be on the lookout for the berries this fall—not to eat, but to photograph.

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Photography Challenge Day 63: The Canada Goose “family”

Well at least one pair of geese at the lake have had an successful first brood of the season.

The Canada geese and their offspring swimming on the lake.

So one can now officially declare it spring going into summer–I spotted the first goslings of the year. It’s a little early (since we still have a little over a week left in April), but there are five to six little Canada geese swimming between their parents. I even saw the front parent turn to run off another goose that was following them (and the goslings were like “oh, we need to turn okay…”).

The goslings following one parent, while the other is trying to get them to turn around again.

Now through August/September the population of the geese at Boomer Lake will continue to increase, though by fall quite a few will be caught and transferred to other areas of the state. The hopes will be that the population will be thinned enough for the lake to support the ones that weren’t transferred and any migratory birds that come through as well.

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Photography Challenge Day 62: the migratory Osprey

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the migrating osprey (Pandion haliaetus). While on my walk around Boomer Lake I noticed a large raptor circling the lake, and once I realized it wasn’t a vulture I managed to get a couple of pictures. Thanks to the ability to zoom in on the pictures, I realized that it was in fact the osprey that I manage to get a picture of.

The Osprey hunting over the lake.

These raptors are only migrating though Oklahoma on their way to their summer haunts in the northern parts of the United States and Canada. The coloring of the birds are such that if you’re looking down at them (or they’re sitting in the trees or roosting somewhere), they look brown; but as they fly over head (and you’re looking at them from below), they’re white with their wings looking striped. They also have a white head, but have a broad brown stripe around the eyes.

Obviously the one that I watched for awhile was searching for something to eat as it as circling the lake several times (whether or not it actually caught a fish—I’m not sure, I didn’t watch it that long).

The osprey’s wings and tail make an “M” in the sky….

What are some interesting facts about ospreys?

Over the course of their life, ospreys may migrate over 160,000 miles (as they breed in the northern parts of the US and into Canada and Alaska; but they winter down in Central and South America).

They rely on manmade structures to serve as the base for their nests, though if they can find a sturdy dead tree they may build their nests on the top of that as well.

They only spend about 12 minutes hunting before attempting to make a catch (and they usually manage to catch a fish at least one in four dives).

They have a reversible outer toe that allows them to grasp their catch with two toes in front & two toes behind. After catching their fish and returning to their nest or perch to eat, they fly with the fish facing forward for the least amount of wind resistance.

They’ve made a comeback after the banning of the DTT pesticide.




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Photography Challenge Day 59: The turtles dove for cover.

At times no matter how quiet one is, there is always something that can startle the wildlife and some of them will scatter.

Going for cover…….

I was just starting to take the picture of the turtles, when I guess I somehow (and accidentally) startled a couple of mallards, which then in turn startled quite a few of the turtles.

At least I managed to also catch the water splashing as several of the larger turtles went back into the water to “escape” the threat (me on the shore, and no where near able to get to them).

But I noticed that when they get back into the water, several others usually “pop” up from deeper in the water and start swimming along with them.

I see several little turtle heads…..

I’m sure that they all came back out and started sunning themselves again once I left the little open area that gazes into the little cove.

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Fishy Friday: The lionfish, photography challenge day 54

Today’s #fishyfriday post is the lionfish, brought to you by one of my many visits to the New England Aquarium.

Lionfish swimming in the tank at the New England Aquarium

Lionfish are native fish to the Indo-Pacific oceans, but are now an invasive marine species along parts of the US coast—specifically along the southeast coast, the Gulf of Mexico and then down to the Caribbean. It’s speculated that humans no longer wanting their lionfish in their saltwater aquariums dumped them into the closest saltwater they could find. Since there are no native of the lionfish found in the Atlantic and Gulf waters, they have managed to establish themselves.

Marine scientists are studying the lionfish in the Atlantic and Gulf areas to help determine the exact impact they will have on the native plants and animals, since it is almost impossible to get rid of introduced marine species after a prolong period of time (i.e. after they manage to establish themselves).

What are some other interesting facts about the lionfish?

They have a large appetite, where their stomachs can expand to up to 30x their normal size after eating.

They reproduce year round—meaning a mature female could release approximately 2 million eggs a year.

They have spines that once they puncture someone (or something) with them, the pressure of the puncture allows for toxin to be released from the venom gland on along their backbone.

If one removes the spines of the lionfish—they are then safe to consume (as they are venomous and not poisonous).

There is no anti-toxin for a lionfish sting—you would need to remove the spine & soak the wound in hot water (~114F), and the pain hopefully will go away within a few days.

Research has been done to show that the toxin of the lionfish seems to target nerve cells that relay pain signals. The scientists now want to look at the toxin at a molecular level so they can determine how the native predators of lionfish are able to eat them and not suffer any side effects, in addition to trying to figure out an antidote for the toxin.

One thing I do know–I’m also going to pay more attention to the signs about what fish are in what exhibit–I have a lot of cool pictures, but I have no idea what species of fish they are–but I’m going to work on identifying them. Will have to see what I manage for next week’s edition of Fishy Friday.



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Common Grackle: Photography Challenge Day 53

Grackle in the bushes

Today’s photograph is of the common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula), that I spotted sitting in a bush close to the waters of Boomer Lake.

The grackle is a large blackbird that does appear black from afar, but once you get closer to them—the males have glossy purple heads, and their bodies have an iridescent look to them. They also have bright golden eyes as well.

These birds typically nest in small colonies, and even when they’re foraging/feeding they’re usually in small groups. They are omnivorous—feeding on insects, spiders, minnows, berries, grains, and acorns (just to name a few things). Plus they will eat at feeders—though they typically prefer feeding on the ground compared to sitting on the feeder (though I’ve seen quite a few of them hanging from our small suet feeder in the backyard).

They typically raise four or five young (the female incubates the eggs), and then both parents handing the feeding (which is primarily insects). The young grackles leave the nest usually a little over two weeks after hatching.

Grackles are found basically east of the Rocky Mountains, and within that range there are the areas that they can be found year round, and then the areas that they are only seen during the summer/fall (or breeding seasons). For those that might migrate during the year (breeding in the northern parts of the US & into Canada), they probably winter down in Texas and then potentially intermingle with local groups of grackles in other states (so we might have migratory grackles coming through, but wouldn’t notice since we also have grackles that live here year round).


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Photography Challenge Day 51: The almost perfect shot

So I’ve decided that since I’m trying to get better at doing photography–I should also be sharing some of the pictures that are decent and good in addition to the ones that I think are great. The only ones that probably won’t be shown are the ones that are totally blurry and I can’t even tell what I was trying to take a picture of.

Mallards starting to take off

Today’s picture is of a couple of mallards that I saw at the lake, and they thought that I was getting to close so they decided to head towards the water. The first male was just launching himself up while the other was gaining speed when I snapped the picture. By the time I refocused on them–they were in the water, gloating that they got away from the photographer (me).

I do try to keep a good distance between me and the wildlife–but when you’re both in the same approximate area, someone is going to get nervous before the other can move away (and still hopefully get a good picture out of the deal).

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Photography Challenge Day 50: The cormorants are still in town.

So the topic of today’s photograph series are the cormorants. These guys are still in town and hanging around on Goose Island in the middle of Boomer Lake.

Cormorants sitting in their tree

So there were a good dozen or so, sitting in the one tree at the edge of Goose Island, though I saw others sitting in some of the other trees on the island as well.

Then there were the ones swimming out in the lake.

First there were two..
Then there were four….
Then there were six….
And then there were quite a few more….

Then they started swimming back towards Goose Island, taking turns on who was popping up out of the water when–or they were taking turns feeding under water as well.

I will miss these guys whenever they do move on to their summer range–they are such great animals to photograph.

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A rare sight: Migratory Common Loon. Photography Challenge Day 49

So on today’s walk I managed to actually see and get a picture of a migrating common loon (Gavia immer).  I thought I’d heard one yesterday–but hadn’t planned on walking all the way around the lake. Today I didn’t hear one–I was lucky to actually see one.

Common loon swimming on Boomer Lake.

This particular loon is already starting to show it’s summer colors of having a black and white spotted back. They are on their way back to the northern part of the US and Canada for the summer—which is where their breeding grounds are.

What are some interesting facts about loons?

They have solid bones, which make them better at diving than other birds. They can dive quickly and swim fast underwater. They are also able to slow their heart rate underwater to conserve oxygen.

And then it dives away……..

The loon forages by swimming underwater, where their diet consists of mainly fish, but they also eat crustaceans, insects, leeches, frogs, and mollusks. They will supplement their diets occasionally with pondweeds and algae. Loons reach sexual maturity at about three years of age. Both will build the nest, which is usually near the water. They have usually two young a year.

The young start moving around the surround areas within a day or two of hatching, and can swim and dive by the third day. The young can be seen riding on their parents back during the first few weeks. They are able to fly about two and half to three months after hatching.

The young once they migrate to the coasts will stay there for about two years—during the third year they will migrate back north. Though they may not mate for several more years (three years is the minimum age—that is when they start to migrate back)—it is usually still another year or so before they might take a mate.

These majestic birds will probably lose some of their habitat (namely in the north, where they have their breeding areas) to climate change, and their numbers could start decreasing.

The oldest recorded common loon was a female that was banded in Michigan in 1989, and spotted again in Michigan 2016—making her at least a little under thirty years old when spotted.




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Photography challenge day 48: red-winged blackbirds and goldfinches

The birds in the backyard bring today’s photograph series to you.  Particularly a male red-winged blackbird and a finch that photo-bombed the series of pictures.

Red-winged blackbird sitting on the grape arbor.

Male red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) are very easy to spot—they are a glossy black, with red and yellow patches on their shoulders. The male red-winged blackbirds are the ones that people usually spot, as they’re constantly singing and flashing their shoulders. The females are a little harder to spot (as they’re more brown with streaks, and they stay hidden more often than not), though they may be mistaken for being a sparrow.

Female red-winged blackbird feeding at the suet feeder

These birds (red-winged blackbirds) are abundant across basically all of the lower forty-eight states (though they may only be spotted in some of the northern states during breeding season). Their habitat is marshy areas (where the females will weave nests close to the water). They forge on insects and seeds, and can have a travel radius of fifty miles for feeding—but always coming back to the nest at night.

Red-winged blackbird and probable goldfinch

So the photo bomber is a finch—and I’m pretty sure it was a goldfinch. Though it’s hard to tell color wise whether or not it was in its mating colors (the brighter yellow, and therefore male) or a slightly more drab color (which would mean it was a female or an juvenile).

They are the only finch species that molts its body feathers twice a year. They also breed later in the year (towards mid summer)—when all the different plants (such as milkweed and thistle) have produced fibrous seeds.

Molting goldfinch

They are “strictly” vegetarians—if they eat an insect it is solely by accident.

They inadvertently starve cowbird chicks—as brown-headed cowbirds aren’t strictly vegetarians and the young can’t survive on an all seed diet like goldfinch chicks can.

Another unique fact about the goldfinch—it is the state bird of New Jersey, Iowa & Washington.




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