Tag: naturephotography

Mockingbird on campus: Photography Challenge Day 26

Mockingbird in the cedar tree near the library.

Note: The references listed at the bottom of the post will take you to two different birding websites (allaboutbirds and audubon). While some of the facts may be general knowledge–I decided to play it safe and add in the reference links.

So today’s photograph comes from my walk to the student union during my lunch break. I kept hearing a unusual bird call, and when I was going past the cedar tree I looked back, and saw the mockingbird sitting on one of the branches singing. I find these birds fascinating in their ability to mimic (or mock) other birds, insects, amphibians, and other sounds (we once had some mockingbirds around our house that could mock our dog’s cough).

So what are some cool facts about mockingbirds?

            Mockingbirds are medium size songbirds (so they’re the same size as a robin). Their bills are long and thin with a slightly downward curve. When they’re flying their tail seems to be long, but that is an optical illusion since their wings are more broad and rounded.

           Their diet consists of berries (mainly in fall and winter), and insects. They like to eat grasshoppers, caterpillars, ants, wasps, spiders, earthworms, snails, rollipollies, and if they are really adventurous—crayfish.

            They’re very territorial and will attack others that venture to close to their nests during mating/nesting season.

            They have two to three broods a year (and that ranges from 2-6 eggs, with the average being 3-4). Both parents will feed and protect the young.

            Use to be considered a target for pet trade from the 1700s to the early 1900s.

            The only states that the mockingbird probably isn’t spotted in includes: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North & South Dakota, Minnesota, & Wisconsin (though it might be seen in the very southern parts of the state). It is found in the far southeastern tip of Wyoming and parts of southern Maine.




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Turtle Tuesday: Photography Challenge Day 23 (short post)

Turtles sunning themselves at the lake.

Today’s photograph is of a group of freshwater turtles that I spotted sunning themselves two weeks ago up at Boomer Lake. I know that there are a good number of freshwater turtles at the lake, it is just a matter of timing (making sure that I’m out when both the sun is out and the air temperature is fairly nice) and knowing where to look for them.

They like to collect on the limbs and fallen trees that allow them to crawl out of the water to warm themselves in the sun–but also allows them a fast getaway if they feel threatened. Though I think at times they notice people taking their pictures and they slid back into the water until the photographers have moved on. I’m hoping to see these guys a little more often, especially if I do my walks at Boomer a little later in the morning.

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Photography Challenge Day 6: Who’s hiding in the brush?

Peek-a-boo, I see you….

So today was the first weekend in quite a few weeks that I was able to get up to Boomer Lake for my weekend morning walk. The past three weekends, it was either way to cold and chilly (temps in either the twenties or teens, with wind chills even lower), or it was raining/sleeting and I don’t enjoy walking in those types of weather conditions. Though I know I probably could have gotten some good pictures, but oh well. Maybe by next year I’ll work up the fortitude to be out and about in less than ideal weather conditions for doing nature photography.

So this morning, was a dreary, cloudy morning and not that many birds were actually out and about. There were the usual Canadian geese and mallards, but not that many other birds. That was why I was very happy to spot this guy/gal on my way back home. I’d just looked over towards the lake and noticed it’s beak.

The great blue heron won today’s award for best at hide & seek (though I know it wasn’t aware that the game was being played). I’ve noticed that these birds are great at blending in with the brush at the edge of the lake, and if you aren’t careful you can scare them out of their hunting grounds (if there is tall grass next to the walking path–been there and done that several times this winter).

These tall majestic birds are actually the most common heron to be seen in the United States. I’ve actually seen them catch and eat fish a few times on the walk, though I was amazed to also learn that they will catch and eat mice and other insects as well as fish.

I wonder if I will be able to get a picture of a young great blue heron this coming spring/summer? New goal……..

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Hawk sighting at Boomer Lake

So I’ve been trying to do a nature walk in the mornings (at least on the weekends) as a way of waking up. While it is a little harder to do in the winter because of the colder temperatures, there are the unexpected sightings that makes the morning walk worth it.

Today’s unexpected sighting was this hawk (I’m assuming that it is either a juvenile sharp-shinned hawk or a juvenile Copper’s hawk).  As I walking back across the one foot bridge I’d startled it from it’s original roost.

After sitting nearby for a few minutes (so that I could get one good picture) it flew off to another nearby tree. I was able to get a couple of good pictures of it’s profile. The main reason why I’m assuming it is a juvenile and not an adult is the brown coloring (though it could be a adult that isn’t in it’s mating colors; or it’s a female).

Here was the last picture I got, before it flew off again. These sightings are what makes the morning walks so enjoyable–you never know what you will see from day to day. That is why nature walks (even to the same place) are so fun–nature changes day to day. What you saw yesterday, you might not see today, and what you saw today–you may not see tomorrow or next week when you go back.

So even though the temperatures are getting cooler (and they can be frigid first thing in the morning)–get out and go for a walk, look at things with a fresh eye, and find the enjoyment in the little things.

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Photography Challenge Day 8: Red-spotted Butterfly (short post)

The winner for today’s photography challenge was the Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly that fluttered through the backyard. What’s funny about the name—the butterfly is actually black with blue or blue-green scaling with orange or red marks towards the tips of the wings.

Look who landed in the yard


Red Spotted butterfly landing

This range of the red-spotted purple butterfly is normally the eastern United States (basically from the Gulf Coast up to southern Canada). Within this range it can be seen in woodlands and along streams and creeks. We’re lucky in that we live next to a creek that still has some live cottonwoods along it there are also poplars and oaks in the neighborhood as well. The lifecycle of red-spotted purples is like any other butterfly or moth: egg, caterpillar (which is the longest), pupa, and then adult. I wonder if there are any other pupas ready to hatch and flutter around the area.

Red spotted Purple Butterfly–have you spotted the red yet (on any picture?)

I’m hoping to see more butterflies as the summer slowly blends into autumn and some of these beautiful creatures start to migrate towards their winter homes down south.

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Photography Challenge Day 4: Mississippi Kites

Today’s winner of the photography challenge is the pair of Mississippi kites that I saw on my morning walk at Boomer Lake. Truthfully, I almost missed seeing them—I’d turned at just the right time to see a bird swoop into a tree, and when I went to get a closer look, I realized that it was a pair of Mississippi kites.

                           Mississippi Kites

I’ve seen the kites all summer—but usually when they’re just swooping around in the sky foraging for flying insects and they’re usually a good block or so away and I can never get a good picture. Today I managed to get several good pictures of them.

       Swooping Mississippi Kite

The Mississippi kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) is a bird of prey that spends its summers in both the southeastern and southwestern parts of the United States (it winters down in central South America). Unlike larger birds of prey, the Mississippi kite feeds primarily on insects though will also forage on small reptiles, amphibians, smaller birds, small mammals and bats.

These graceful birds can be seen throughout the day flying and soaring though the sky as they hunt for their meals. Since these are social birds, usually they can be seen in groups as small as just a pair, upwards to a dozen or more (depending on how main breeding pairs and yearlings are in the area).

                  One Mississippi Kite

As much as I’d like to get a picture of the youngsters—I’m going to need a better lens that zooms as the pairs are fiercely territorial and will dive bomb anything that gets to close to the nest. Obviously this morning, either the tree where they were perched didn’t contain the nest, or the youngsters are old enough that the parents don’t dive bomb any more, or I was still far enough away that they didn’t see me as a threat.

             Two Mississippi Kites

And here are a couple of more unusual facts about these graceful birds:

They may build their nests near (or incorporate) a wasp nest to help protect their eggs and chicks from climbing predators (because who wants to mess with a colony of wasps?).

They allow certain smaller birds to nest near them (namely mockingbirds, blue jays, and house sparrows).

Facts and trivia were found at: www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mississippi_Kite/overview

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Photography Challenge: Day 1 (Short Post)

So I’m going to be trying to restart my photography challenge–hopefully it will manage to last 365 days. It’s going to be a mixture of nature shots, photos of the animals, unique sayings/inspiration, and probably pictures of my shakeology. With using my phone (and my camera), it’s a way for me to step back from work and remember that there are other things in life. So I will probably be posting at least one short post a day–each with a different picture.

                      Ladybug, ladybug

I saw this one when I was walking between Physical Sciences and the Noble Research Center the other morning. It was just chilling on the post that had the door opener on it. I actually walked back to get a picture of it before heading into the building. I remember catching these as a kid, and for an science project in either middle school or junior high. I remember having to collect insects for constructing an insect collection board–realized real quick that these cute little bugs would eat the others in the jar (and that some of the others would eat them as well).

Truthfully I don’t mind most insects (the only ones that I really don’t like are flies and mosquitoes).



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