Tag: naturephotography

Raptor & Duck Pages are live: the red-tailed hawk & bufflehead

So, another two bird pages are now live under the bird tab.

One is a year-round resident of Oklahoma, though you need to look towards the sky (or take a drive to potentially see it), and the other graces the state with its presence during the winter months.

They are the red-tailed hawk and the bufflehead.

I’d finally managed to get pictures (and properly identify) of the red-tailed hawk this spring and summer.

Red-tailed Hawks perched over Boomer Lake, with another flying in the background

While I’ve always heard their calls, I always had a hard time spotting them. This year, I managed to spot a couple of them soaring over Boomer Lake, and over the house (one nice thing about living close to a wooded area).

Their ‘red’ tails are harder to spot when they’re soaring above your head, as the tails only look ‘red’ from above (or when they’re perched), looking up at them—the tails are more of an off-white color with bars across the feathers.

The bufflehead, is the smallest diving duck in North America and graces Oklahoma with its presence during the winter months.

The mature males are easy to spot—they have a large white patch on the back of their heads, along with a white flank, and black wings (that when folded—give the appearance of a black back).

Group of male Buffleheads swimming on Boomer Lake

The females (and immature males) have a smaller white oval on their cheek, and are more drab in color (they lack the white flanks).

Group of Buffleheads swimming on Boomer Lake

Since they’re diving ducks—once you spot them going under, keep an eye out as they will pop up somewhere nearby within thirty seconds or so.

One goal (hopefully for this fall) is to try to get up to Boomer Lake early enough in the day to spot different duck species that are going to be migrating through on their way to the warmer waters to the south.

As much as I’d love to get a picture of a bufflehead duckling, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make a trip north to Alaska or Canada and wander around looking for a duck sticking its head out of a old flicker hole.

What is your favorite migratory bird to spot?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographyScience

More bird pages are live: Canada Goose and Tufted Duck

There are two more bird pages live under the birding tab (and specifically within the Anseriformes/Anatidae [ducks, geese, and swans] sub-tab of the ‘water birds’).

The two pages are the Canada Goose and the Tufted Duck.

The Canada goose is a bird that probably needs little introduction, as it is a common waterfowl species throughout North America, and was introduced to the ‘Old World’ in the late 1600s.

Canada Geese and goslings swimming in Boomer Lake

The Canada goose is one of two waterfowl species that is present year-round at Boomer Lake (the other is the mallard—page coming soon), and can be spotted either out on the lake, along one of the many ‘fingers’ or wandering through the fields grazing on the grass. Also, depending on where you live in town, you may even see them crossing the street, snoozing in someone’s front yard, or grazing in said yard.

I actually was able to get a couple of walks in this spring, to where I was able to get some pictures of the latest group of goslings as well.

The tufted duck on the other hand, is a native to Eurasia—but has slowly made its way to North America (unlike the Canada goose—I don’t think anyone ‘introduced’ the tufted duck to over here). They can occasionally be spotted within the northeastern part of the continent (both within the US and Canada), but is considered somewhat common in western Alaska.

I managed to get a single picture of one when I was over in London several years ago, walking through Kensington Park on my way back to my hotel.

Tufted Duck swimming in Kensington Park, London UK

The only photography goal I can think of for the Canada goose is to see if I can get pictures of the different subspecies (currently that number sits at seven), while my photography goal for the tufted duck is to try to get a picture of one in North America, and then try to get a picture of one with a gosling swimming somewhere in Europe.

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographytravel

European Edition: Two more Rail Member Pages are Live

So there are two more bird pages live under the birding section, and they aren’t geese, swans, or ducks: they’re two members of the rail family that I saw on my trip to the UK a couple of years ago.

Ever since I started this project (creating bird pages for the various birds I’ve gotten pictures of over the years), I’m constantly going through my old pictures and asking–which bird is this, and am I sure that is the correct bird?

For most birds, I’m usually correct with my identification, but there have been others that I’ve been wrong on. As it turns out I wasn’t correct with my first identification of these two birds; I’m made a ‘rookie’ mistake and assumed they were just ‘regional’ variations of birds I’d seen back in the US.

Well, it turns out that that was the wrong assumption to make–they’re actually separate species from the ones I’d spotted within the US.

The first one is the common moorhen. The reason why I’d thought that it was similar to the one I’d seen down in South Padre Island, is that they had been considered the same (or possibly subspecies) up until 2011–so only a decade ago, and I have an ‘outdated’ bird book.

The ‘Old World’ has the common moorhen, while the ‘New World’ has the common gallinule.

Common moorhen spotted within Kensington Park in London, UK

The second one I had ‘mistakenly’ identified was the Eurasian coot–I thought it was the American coot. Yes, I know that the name ‘American’ should have given it away that it probably wouldn’t be found in the UK–but if the pied grebe can occasionally migrate over the Atlantic Ocean, whose to say that the coot couldn’t?

Eurasian coots swimming in Kensington Park

I now know that there are several coot species, and I’ve managed to get pictures of two of them–in order to make it a perfect trifecta, I now need to head back to the Hawaiian islands and get a picture of the Hawaiian coot.

There are still one or two more birds from the UK trip that will be getting pages, but currently this brings the rail family up to date for members that I’ve spotted either within the US or abroad.

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographySciencetravel

Two swan pages, and their order and family pages are now live

So several more pages are now live under the birding tab of the ‘blog’.

An new organizational page (the ‘water birds’) is up and running. This ‘tab’ will contain all the bird orders/families that are associated with the water (members spend at least fifty percent of their time near, on, or in the water). As mentioned on the page, while there are raptors that eat fish (namely the osprey and bald eagle), they aren’t included within the tab as they don’t spend that much time on or in the water (they grab their food and fly off to eat it).

The order (Anseriformes) and family (Anatidae) pages for the ducks, geese, and swans are also up and live under the birding section (specifically under the ‘water birds’).

Young Mute Swan

This is another group that will take several days/weeks to finish, as I think there are thirteen to fourteen members of the family for me to do research over (most seen within the United States and three or four were also seen over in the UK).

So far I have two swan pages up on the site: the Mute Swan (seen in both Boston and the UK) and the black swan (seen solely in the UK).

The black swan is native to Australia and was introduced to the northern hemisphere starting in the 1800s, and the mute swan is native to northern hemisphere–but within the ‘old world’ and was introduced throughout the rest of the world starting again in the 1600-1800s.

Black swan seen within Kensington Park

The next set of pages will probably cover the geese that I’ve seen (again mainly in the US, but several were also spotted within the UK) and I’m hoping to have those pages up and ‘live’ by the end of the weekend.

A photography goal is to get pictures of the two native swans in North America: the trumpeter and tundra swans.

Curious to know if you’ve seen a swan–which species was it and where were you?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsSciencetravel

Short Post: Pied-billed grebe with its summer beak

Pied-billed Grebe swimming at Boomer Lake

Last week I managed to get in a walk at Boomer Lake and as I was crossing the bridge on my way home I noticed that the grebe was swimming about.

I also noticed that it is showcasing it’s mating mark–the bill.

During the summer/breeding season, the bills of pied-grebes turn white with a black stripe on them.

Pied-billed grebe

The rest of the year, the beak is a more drab brown color, and there is no black stripe.

Pied-bill grebe swimming in Boomer Lake (winter time)

Since we’re in their year-round range, I had been hoping to spot one this summer. While I saw several during the winter, I have no idea if they were a mix of males and females, or all of one or the other. I will be keeping my eyes out again on walks, to see if maybe I can spot one possibly carrying their young with them for a swim.

Have you spotted a grebe in its summer’s finest?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographyScience

Identifying the doves: Eurasian Collared-Dove & Inca Dove

There are two more bird pages live under the bird tab. This time it was adding in two additional dove pages for the two doves that I had spotted and gotten pictures of years ago in South Padre Island, Texas.

Eurasian Collared dove sitting on a roof

The first one, for some reason I misidentified as a mourning dove–white it has the black crescent on the back of the neck, it is missing the black dots on the wings. Therefore, it turns out that I actually managed to get a couple of pictures of a Eurasian collared dove on a roof.

These doves aren’t native to the ‘New World’, and were originally brought to the Caribbean to be sold as pets in pet stores, but in the 1970s were released from a pet store in the Bahamas. It took them about ten years or so to make their way to Florida, and have been spreading throughout the states and Mexico ever since. For some reason though, they haven’t made much headway into the Northeastern part of the country or into Canada.

The second dove I spotted, I truthfully forgot about until I was going back through the pictures, because of how well it blended in with the grasses.

Inca Dove on the ground

It turns out that I also managed to get a couple pictures of an Inca dove as well.

This dove is mainly found in the southwestern parts of the country, even though there have been sighting of it up in Colorado. They have the coloring to blend in with the arid, desert landscapes of the American Southwest.

Photography goals will be trying to get additional pictures of the doves using my other camera (that has a slightly better zoom), and possibly getting a picture of more than one roosting on a wire or tree branch.

With the addition of these two pages, the pigeon/dove group is ‘complete’ as of today. There are still more pigeons and doves that can be spotted within the US, not to mention around the world.

What is your favorite dove/pigeon species?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographytravel

Hiking and Kayaking within the Buffalo National River area

Another #throwbackthursdaytravel page is live under the travel tab. This week was highlighting our first trip to Arkansas, when we spent a few days in the Buffalo National River area.

Looking at the Buffalo River and the cliffs

My dad decided he wanted to do something a little different for our mini-vacation that year–and that was to paddle down a portion of the Buffalo River.

Showcasing what approximately ten miles of river looks like.

We managed to spend a couple of days exploring the area (hiking along various trails that followed the river), before we worked up the courage to actually put our kayaks in the water and head down the river.

As shown on the above map, we put our kayaks in the river at the Ponca site, and paddled/floated down the river for about 10 minutes until we got ‘out’ at Kyle’s Landing (luckily we had someone drive our van down there so we could get back to the cabin).

It was an interesting trip, and I learned quite a bit–such as inflatable kayaks probably weren’t the smartest choice of kayaks to use, class II rapids aren’t ‘baby rapids’, and I shouldn’t freak out when I flip the kayak.

One of the main rapids seen on the river

I would love to go back and visit the area again (and perhaps spend a little more time in the area), possibly spend more time hiking than floating down the river, but I am able to say that I did something that month that I’d never done before: kayaking over class I and II rapids in an inflatable kayak.

Wildflowers seen in the woods around the Buffalo River

Curious to know if you’ve been to the Buffalo River? If you’ve visited the area, did you just hike or did you kayak/canoe/float down the river and how far?

No Comments fitnessHealthnatureoutdoorsPhotographytravel

Highlighting Nature Photography Day: Diversity of Wildlife at Boomer Lake

The North American Nature Photography Association designated June 15 to be Nature Photography Day.

Red-eared sliders swimming in Boomer Lake

Water snake gliding through the waters at Boomer Lake

Their first ‘Nature Photography Day’ was back in June 2006, and their goal is to promote the enjoyment of nature photography, and through the use of the camera advance the ’cause of conservation and protect plants, wildlife, and landscapes both locally and globally’.

Hybird Baltimore and Bollock’s Oriole spotted in Boomer Lake Park

They (the North American Nature Photography Association) also run a photography contest every year marking the holiday as well. This year the challenge started on June 4 and ends tonight (June 15). You are able to enter multiple nature photographs throughout the week and a half that the contest runs–I’m sad that I only saw the contest this morning, but one can either download the app (iNaturalist) to your phone or sign up on the site (iNaturalist) to submit pictures for the contest. Though even after the contest ends–you can still share pictures through the site.

Cedar Waxing in a cedar tree

I will be setting up an account via the site (and deciding when to also put in an application to join the North American Nature Photography Association) some time this afternoon, so that I can share a few pictures that I’ve taken over the past week and half (Luckily my last walk up at Boomer Lake was on the 4th).

Double-crested Cormorant spotted at Boomer Lake Park, Stillwater OK

I’d decided years ago that nature photography was going to be one of the photography ‘sub-areas’ that I’d focus on for several reasons: 1) I enjoy being outdoors and exploring, 2) I like to ‘look’ for various animals (such as birds or insects), and 3) it is almost always a ‘free’ thing to do when exploring new areas.

So here are some of the nature photographs that I’ve taken over the past few months that I would rank among my favorites so far for the second quarter of 2021:

Nymph on an wildflower

As I was walking back across the bridge, I noticed this little grasshopper nymph sitting in the wildflower. Since I’m not an entomologist, I’m not sure what nymph stage this insect was at or if it is even a grasshopper.

Possible Orchid Oriole spotted at Boomer Lake Park

I spotted this bird on one of my walks, and I think based on the red flank that it was possibly a male orchid oriole.

Green Heron preening itself at Boomer Lake

Just about a hundred yards or so after spotting the possible Orchid Oriole, I spotted a green heron preening itself in one of the covers. Also captured in the picture was a grackle and a couple of turtles sunning themselves.

Two scissor-tailed flycatchers sitting in a cottonwood tree

And finally–the state bird (the scissor-tailed flycatcher) is in the area again for a few months. This beautiful flycatcher is a resident from about late April through late August/early September (though sometimes still spotted in late September or early October).

So these were just a small number of pictures that I’ve taken over the past two months since I’ve been trying to get back into at least doing a monthly walk at Boomer Lake. Now that summer is here–I will probably only be doing a single walk a month at Boomer (unless really nice temps hit), so I will also use the backyard and creek area as inspiration for practicing nature photography as well.

Reference for Nature Photography Day: www.nanpa.org/events/nature-photography-day

How are you spending nature photography day?

No Comments bird watchingflowersinsectsnatureoutdoorsPhotographyRandom Celebration DaysScienceTurtles

Cormorant, relatives, and news: more bird pages are live

So this is a spin on doing a #FishyFriday post–instead of posting about a #fish, I’m posting about a couple of #fishers instead–namely the magnificent frigatebird and the double-crested cormorant.

Possible magnificent frigatebird resting in the lagoon

These two pages, along with their family pages (Family Fregatidae for the frigatebird, and Family Phalacrocoracidae for the cormorant), and the order page (Suliformes) are all live under the birding tab.

Young double-crested cormorants resting on logs in Boomer Lake

Getting these five pages up, have brought the birding section to a total of 68 pages, and I still have roughly another 83 pages to add for all the other birds I’ve seen. Therefore I’m going to possibly be adding in three or four new organizational pages to the birding section over the next week or so:

Raptors–and then have all the different birds of prey orders linked to this page

Songbirds–this will be the ‘organizational’ page for the order, with all its numerous families and species (this section actually accounts for over half the pages I still need to add)

‘Water Birds’–orders that are associated with the water

‘All other birds’–the game birds, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and those that don’t fit into the other three categories

This way as I continue to bird watch and work on improving my birding photography, the tab/section will be better organized, and the drop down menu will be easier to navigate.

As the summer temperatures have settled in over Oklahoma, I realize that I probably won’t be seeing any cormorants until early to mid-fall (the last of the youngsters should have moved out of the area), and to try to get a better picture of a frigatebird means travel–and I’m not feeling comfortable yet to travel.

Have you been able to see the magnificent frigatebird in flight? If so–off of which coast?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorstravel

Hiking the Trails at Devil’s Den State Park: Throwback Travels

Since it looks like summer is here to stay, I’m slowly catching up on things. It is amazing how much more you can get done when it is too hot and humid to be outside (I think we have a heat advisory through tomorrow night).

So, I decided that I would try to see how many #ThursdayThrowbackTravel posts I could generate this summer and fall–both as blog posts and as pages under the travel tab.

The first entry for the ‘series’ is looking back at a trip we took to Arkansas a little over four years ago, when we visited Devil’s Den State Park. The park is located probably halfway between Fayetteville and Fort Smith within the Ozark National Forest.

The park offers three main outdoor activities: hiking (or walking), mountain bike riding, and horseback riding (as long as you supply the bike or horse). We went for the hiking/walking aspect. They also offer either camping or cabins for rent.

Cabin rental within Devil’s Den State Park

During our three to four day stay; at least half the day was spent out on different trails (that were either easy or moderate in terms fo difficulty–so not that much climbing or stairs involved).

There are approximately 13 trails within the park, with one or two being set aside strictly for mountain biking. The others you can hike, and on most of them–you also need to watch out for people on mountain bikes or horses.

Deer spotting

Taking these kind of trips take me right to one of my ‘happy places’–being out in nature. I enjoy trying to catch glimpses of different wildlife, seeing how many different birds I can spot, and taking numerous wildflower photos.

While the world is slowly opening back up–I’ve been slowly thinking of trying to plan a trip for sometime between 2022-2024 (nice time frame, right), though I know it may not be an outdoor trip (I prefer taking nature based trips with other people, safety in numbers), but possibly a trip to a new city/state or even country–if I’m feeling up to air travel (will have to see how things play out pandemic wise).

What is your favorite state park to visit? Then where is your favorite hiking trail?

No Comments bird watchingbutterfliesflowersinsectsnatureoutdoorsPhotographyState ParkstravelTurtles