Tag: raptorphotography

Photography Winner: Turkey Vultures are back in the sky

So spring is here (more or less), and how can I tell?

Turkey Vulture in flight

The turkey vultures are back and soaring through the skies over Boomer Lake and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Turkey vulture soaring over Boomer Lake

Turkey vultures are unique birds in Oklahoma–they are a year-round resident in the eastern half of the state, but are a migratory/summer bird for the central and western parts of the state.

I managed to get these pictures of one soaring over Boomer Lake earlier this month, but have also noticed them in the afternoon soaring over the neighborhood when I’m out in the backyard (and of course my camera is inside). Since they’re scavengers, they end up spending a lot of time looking/smelling for their next meal. I’m hoping that once the weather gets nice (and stays nice) I will be able to do weekly walks up at Boomer Lake, and maybe spot one sitting atop a dead tree again. Plus maybe be able to spot a young turkey vulture soaring in the sky as well (since they don’t really make nests, and they prefer to roost away from humans I doubt that I’d be able to get a picture of a young vulture near the home turf).

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The Great Horned Owl: Currently the only Owl member with pictures is live

So the trio of owl pages (Order Strigiformes, Family Strigidae, and currently the only member that I have pictures of–the great horned owl) are live under the bird tab.

As I mentioned on the great horned owl page–while they may not be the best pictures of a great horned owl, I’m extremely proud of them for a couple of reasons:

Great-horned owl roosting at Boomer Lake

  1. I wasn’t expecting to see an owl (even roosting) in the middle of the day. I always thought that they retreated to their nests and stayed ‘hidden’ until nightfall.
  2. I felt like seeing the owl helped reinforce the notion that I needed a ‘reboot break’. Because if I was at work–I wouldn’t have seen one, and it would still be on my ‘birding’ bucket-list.

They also reinforced my notion of going birding or walking with no particular goal in mind. I know that some people go out birding with a certain goal (of either hoping to spot a certain bird or a specific number of birds)–I just go out with the hopes of getting at least one good picture of a bird (and it doesn’t matter which bird).

We live close to a wooded area of town, so I do occasionally hear the calls of great horned owls, plus the occasional screech of a screech owl–now the goal will be to get a picture of a screech owl, possibly roosting during the day on a tree branch, or in its nest.

The next series of pages possibly will be the New World Vultures (turkey and black), and those will finish up the raptors (both diurnal and nocturnal), and then I will continue working my way down the list of birds I have.

Have you seen a great horned owl (or another owl) in the wild? If so–where?

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Crested Caracara, currently the solo member of the falcon family

So I managed to get another series of bird pages up under the bird tab this week.

The pages are for the Falconiformes order, the single family that makes up the order (Falconidae), and currently the only member of the family that I have pictures of: the crested caracara.

Crested Caracara

This particular member of the falcon family is only found in certain parts of a few states, otherwise it is spotted more regularly within Mexico and Central America.

This was a ‘new’ bird for me that I spotted years ago on our family vacation down to South Padre Island, Texas.

What struck me most about this bird was its cap of black feathers (though difficult to tell the color in the picture) and the contrast to the bright orange beak. I think we saw two or three different adults sitting on the top of yuccas just looking over the terrain.

I would like to get back down the South Padre Island again and drive through the wildlife refuge (where the pictures were originally taken) and see if 1) I can spot another crested caracara, 2) if areas managed to refill with water (when we originally went, Texas was going through a drought so some areas were dry instead of flooded), and 3) possible to see another ‘new’ to me bird.

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Bird Section Up to Date–last of the diurnal raptors added

So I managed to get caught up on the bird section of the website this week.

The last of the diurnal raptor pages was added–for the osprey, including information on the family (Pandionidae).

Osprey flying over Boomer Lake

There are 24 diurnal raptors within the Acciptriformes order that can be spotted within North America. I’ve gotten pictures of six of them (so basically a quarter of them). While there are two other groups of raptors that are also consider diurnal–they’re in separate orders, and therefore will be having their own pages added throughout the year.

I also added in the pages for the order (Apodiformes) and family (Trochilidae) for the ruby-throated hummingbird as well this week. In terms of this group–there are twenty-two species (between two families), and I’ve only spotted one of them (the ruby-throated hummingbird).

Ruby-throated hummingbird at the nectar feeder.

So now that I’ve caught up with the orders and families of the birds I originally posted starting last fall, now I will be continuing to add more orders/families/species to the section throughout the year.

One hope is that with currently two vaccines for the SARS-CoV2 pandemic being available, I should hopefully be eligible to get the vaccine by late summer/early fall. This means that I might be able to plan a trip for sometime in 2022 or 2023–which hopefully means somewhere new, and possibly spotting more birds and continuing to increase my personal bird sighting (and photograph) list–which currently is sitting at about 90 different species.

I currently have 21 species pages posted (32 pages, when including the order and family)–which means I have basically 70-90 pages still to add to the section. I just haven’t decided which of the remaining thirteen orders I’m going to go with–but will start with another order within the next two weeks.

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Accipitridae family section complete: Mississippi Kite & Sharp-shinned Hawk pages are live

So currently the last two Accipitridae family pages have been uploaded today.

Mississippi Kites sitting atop some cedar trees at Boomer Lake

Both of the birds are seasonal visitors to Stillwater. The Mississippi kites are here from late spring through early/mid autumn. At least one pair nests around Boomer Lake, I’m sure that there are other pairs also at the lake, but possibly back in the wooded areas or closer to the golf course.

They easy to spot during the summer time, especially in the mornings, sometimes in the afternoon, and then again in the evenings.

Possible young female sharp-shinned hawk

The sharp-shinned hawks are our winter guests, staying from probably late fall/early winter until mid-spring, when they probably start migrating back up north to their breeding territories.

I will admit that there are times when I almost trip over the bird before I see it–and that was how this one was–which is why only one out of the four pictures turned out decently. I’m thinking that when I do manage to start walking at Boomer Lake in the mornings, I’m going to try to keep my eye out for the hawks–especially the ones that sit still in the trees waiting for a meal to either dart out across the field or fly past.

So, these two pages currently round out the members of the Accipitridae family that I’ve seen in the wild.

There are twenty-two species that can be seen within the US, Canada, and Mexico–and currently I have pictures of five of them (or 22%). I have seen a couple of the other hawks–I just don’t have pictures of them. When I do manage to get pictures of them, they will be added to the Accipitridae section.

Therefore to finish off the Accipitriformes order, I will be adding in the family and species pages for the osprey next. Then it will be order and family pages for the ruby-throated hummingbird. After those four pages, I will start working down a long list of birds that I’ve managed to get pictures of over the years.

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Two of the hawk pages are now live: Cooper’s Hawk & Red-shouldered Hawk

So I’m slowly getting back on track in terms of getting more bird pages posted under the main bird tab. As I had stated previously, the next group that I was going to be getting organized was the raptors.

Cooper’s Hawk thinking of taking off from the wood pile

This is a very large group (as mentioned on the page for their order–Accipitriformes; and one of the family pages–Accipitridae). These two pages were published earlier this week–I’m only now announcing them, because I’ve added a few more family members to the list.

I had published the page for the bald eagle back in October, and then decided that I was going to organize the pages, and it took awhile to get to the order and family for the bald eagle.

Two of the last four pages were added over the past few days. Those pages are for the Cooper’s Hawk and the Red-shouldered Hawk.

Red-shouldered hawk sitting in the elm tree in the backyard

The Cooper’s hawk has mainly been a visitor in the backyard (either ours or our neighbors), while the red-shouldered hawk I’ve spotted in our backyard, and on several walks at Boomer Lake.

A photography goal is going to be trying to get a picture of the Cooper’s hawk at Boomer Lake, and possibly closer one of the Cooper’s hawk when it’s sitting on the fence from the back (I’d like to really be able to see the gray-blue better).

The next page or two will be over the Mississippi Kite and the sharp-shinned hawk, before going on to the osprey family (which will round out the current diurnal raptors that I have pictures of).

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Starting a new photography challenge: Day 1: Bald Eagle

So I’ve decided that I’m going to start a fresh photography 365-day photography challenge. I will hopefully be sharing a ‘new’ photography daily for the next year. I’m going to clarify the ‘new’—as in hopefully sharing 365 different photographs. Some may be similar to past photography challenges (I mean we are in the middle of a pandemic and I haven’t been traveling), but I’m hoping not to repeat the photograph subject (at least for the first 100 days or so).

Bald Eagle soaring over Boomer Lake, Stillwater OK

In addition, I will probably be linking in a photography page to the current photograph—as a way of increasing views to those pages as well. Again, this is going to be an evolving project, an way for me to 1) increase my photography skills; 2) work on a project during the day that isn’t 100% related to job transition; 3) find beauty in the day; and 4) just have fun.

So the winner for day one is the Bald Eagle. The bald eagle, is the national symbol for the US, and is native to all of North America where it’s range stretches from Alaska down to the northern parts of Mexico. Depending on where you live, you may or may not see them in the wild—but if you’ve been to a zoo, you’ve probably seen one there.

Bald Eagle sitting in a pine tree, Lake Vermilion MN

I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve been able to see these majestic birds in the wild—both where I currently live (I’m probably about half a mile away from the city ‘lake’) soaring above Boomer Lake every so often; and then up at Lake Vermilion in northern MN. I remember being about 12 or so, when my father and I took a kayak out to look at the nest of one of the bald eagle pairs on Vermilion Lake—it was huge.

These majestic birds have managed to climb back from the edge of extinction and while they aren’t protected under the Endangered Species Act, they are currently under the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

I’m hoping that soon I can get back to my weekly walks around Boomer Lake and hopefully be able to spot one of these majestic birds soaring overhead looking for lunch to steal or catch.

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Photography Challenge Day 194: The red-shouldered hawk flying away (a short post).

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the hawk that flew off in mid-shot, but I still managed to get two decent pictures of it in flight.

Red-shouldered hawk in flight

I’m pretty sure that this is the red-shouldered hawk and not the red-tailed hawk, due to the red on the breast as it was flying past me.

Red-shouldered hawk flying into the trees

I’m wondering if I interrupted this one while it was hunting—as I had noticed it sitting on top of a light post, but when I got close to get it’s picture—it flew off towards some trees. I followed, but I didn’t notice the exact limb that it had landed on, so I continued on my walk to see what other birds I could spot.

They are hunters, and their prey ranges from small mammals to reptiles and amphibians. Though they have been seen to also eat other birds (including young owlets, sparrows, and doves).

They’re year round residents of the area, so I will be keeping an eye out for them on my walks to see if I can spot them in trees, on light posts, or just flying through the area.

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Photography Challenge day 187 goes to the birds

The winners of today’s photography challenge are the birds. I managed to get candid pictures of several different birds over the weekend.

For starters—there is the nuthatch that was feeding on the suet feeder. While I managed to get several good pictures—the one I like the most is the one of it with a sunflower seed in it’s beak. It then quickly flew off to the trees to crack the seed and eat it.

Nuthatch with it’s prize–a sunflower seed.

The next one is a hummingbird that was sitting in the crepe myrtles by the feeder. I was calling it the “goth” hummingbird. The main reason, is it was so cloudy I couldn’t tell for certain if it was a male ruby-throated hummingbird or maybe a male black-chinned hummingbird migrating through. Though this is the first time I’ve seen one where the entire head looked black.

Male hummingbird in the crepe myrtle.

This one was around all weekend–I’m thinking that now anytime I see a male hummingbird that I can’t identify, I’m going to be calling them the “goth” hummingbirds.

Egret surveying it’s surroundings.

Several egrets have landed in the area before heading further south. I think that they wait until they have a good number in the flock before they continue on their journey. I saw three of them this weekend in different parts of the lake. I know from my late-winter/early-spring walks there can be upwards of a good fifteen or twenty of them flocking together. So it will be interesting to see how many more show up before they all head south for the winter.

Young Mississippi kite taking a break from hunting.

So there were numerous Mississippi kites up at the lake this weekend. Usually I would only see maybe one or two off in the distance hunting–but this weekend I would swear I saw a good two dozen kites throughout the area. There was this young one sitting in the tree, taking a break from hunting dragonflies and other insects.

Mississippi kite sitting on a dead tree, surveying the area

Then I saw this one across the street, sitting and watching another portion of the lake for dragonflies and other flying insects. Since it is getting close to the time that they will start heading south–the youngsters are out hunting, instead of sitting near the nest waiting on mom and dad to bring back dead insects for them to eat.

Hopefully this coming weekend, I will be able to get a couple more pictures of them before they head south for the winter. It will also be interesting to see how many of them come back to the area in the spring.

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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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