Category: bird watching

Photography Challenge Day 13: Ruby-throated hummingbird

So the winner of today’s photography challenge is the ruby-throated hummingbird.

I’ve always been intrigued by hummingbirds—they’re small, quick, and they beat their wings constantly.

Lately, I’ve also been trying to remember that when I was younger I felt a little like a hummingbird.

In that I could dive into a subject, immerse myself, learns as much as I could and then move on.

Ruby-throated hummingbird at the rose-of-Sharon

I did this for class projects: there was the paper over the Culture of India (and I covered everything from architecture to music to philosophy), to diving into the history of Peru (though I don’t think I ever wrote a paper over this—so that may be something to go back to) and medieval England.

I’ve always been fascinated with birds—I have quite a few bird encyclopedias in my storage unit, plus numerous articles that I had clipped out of the papers as I was growing up to make a scrap book on them.

So what does fascination with birds, culture and history of other countries, and everything else have to do with hummingbirds?

Ruby-throated hummingbird at another rose-of-Sharon

When I had taken the Clifton Strength Assessment test back in both 2017 and 2019, my top strength was learner.

This trait fits people who have a love of learning (though they have to be drawn to the topic), love digging into new things, love researching topics and ideas and gathering information.

These individual have been likened to hummingbirds in that they will deeply investigate on subject before moving on to another—similarly how hummingbirds will investigate flowers for their nectar before going to the next flower.

Until I took the test and saw the top strength as learner—I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed learning, reading, investigating, and putting the information together in some format.

Getting my undergraduate degrees took awhile—because I was ‘bouncing’ between ‘flowers’ (aka different subjects)—but I did manage to get my two degrees and minor (though now looking back, I should have taken that last six hours of sociology to get that minor as well).

Graduate school, allowed me to dive deeply into a subject that was still fairly new and I was learning different techniques and systems. The first postdoc was where the love of learning started to dwindle—while the topic was slightly different from grad school—what I was being taught really wasn’t, and therefore I got bored (only realizing now, exactly why I was getting bored so early—if I had realized it then, things might have gone differently had I asked for either another project or figured out a way to strike up a collaboration with another lab).

The second postdoc allowed me to dive into another system and I learned quite a bit—though I didn’t like being told to read up on other things in my spare time. I learned in both staff positions—more so in the first (only because I was working with undergrads in several different labs on several different projects) than the second. It has taken about ten months of self-reflection to realize that one of the problems that I had with the last position—I was bored; while I had been told I could ‘collaborate’ with other labs on projects, the only labs I could think of would have required me doing experiments and those aren’t something that you can schedule to only take 1 to 2 hours a day.

As I now move forward—I have to remember that I’m like a hummingbird, where there needs to be ample ‘flowers’ around for me to sample; I may hang around one or two longer than others, but at least I won’t get bored.

This is something that I will keep in the forefront as I start looking towards either my industry transition or freelancing/working for myself–I need variety to keep busy–so for me (at least mentally) it is better to be both a jack-of-all-trades and a ‘specialist’.

Have you taken the Clifton Strength Assessment Test? What was your top strength?

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Photography Challenge Day 10–Great Blue Heron in a Tree

So the winner of today’s photography challenge is the great blue heron. Usually these birds are wading in the lake, or perched on logs waiting for their prey—occasionally though, you can get a picture of one perched in a tree.

Now I almost missed seeing this one—if I hadn’t been looking for the songbird that flew into the upper branches of the tree on the other side, I would never have noticed the heron perched on the branch.

Great Blue Heron in a tree

I managed to also see another couple of herons on the short walk, and as I was heading back home—this guy/gal was still sitting in the tree, obviously waiting for a fish or something to swim around so it could have a morning snack.

The heron was still there as I headed home.

These guys are year round residents in the area, and they actually nest in trees, though I have yet to find the area where I would be seeing the nests—I think I know the area, but I’m not up to going that far back into slightly swampy areas just to try to get a picture or two.

They are considered to be symbols of wisdom, good luck, and patience in numerous different cultures. I like to think that when I see them on the walk—they’re reminding me to be patient working towards my transition into either industry or freelancing. I have strengths to lean into, and in terms of my weaknesses—I can work to improve them, or I can find someone who has those as strengths and ask for a helping hand.

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Update–realizing I’m procrastinating & catching up on the photography challenge: cormorants flying overhead

So I’m running a few days late with the photography challenge. Why? I think I bit off a little more than I could chew this week—I’m trying to complete two little challenges; one is a LinkedIn challenge (creating content, commenting on people’s posts, and connecting). Needless to say I’m a little behind on the challenge—I’m petrified of posting on the site (see my previous post), and trying to overcome that as well. The second challenge is a free 5-day challenge on Facebook (dealing with health/nutrition).

So the procrastination bug has bitten me hard the past couple of days—I sit staring at the computer, and then I end up going to sit outside for the afternoon, and try to get a numerous things done before bed.

Cormorants flying overhead

That now brings me to the winner of the photography challenge—which were some migratory birds flying overhead. On Sunday, I decided to take a mask and my camera and head up to Boomer Lake for a while.

While I decided to make it a semi-short walk

(round trip just over an hour walking), I knew that I should hopefully see one or two birds that may or may not be Canada geese or mallards.

As I was walking, I noticed that there was a large group of birds flying overhead. I stopped, looked up, and managed to get a good number of pictures of the birds. I had to wait until I got home and download the pictures to determine if the birds were ducks or cormorants (some that just migrate through, and others that winter in the area).

It turns out that the birds flying overhead were cormorants. Now are they the neotropical or double-crested? I would have to say that I’m not sure—the neotropical migrate through and the double-crested winter in the area. Since they’re so far overhead—I couldn’t tell the facial features (which are some of the best ways to differentiate between the two species).

Seeing these birds served as a reminder that I need to keep moving forward towards my goals—they move as needed between the seasons, locations, and so forth. Staying stationary isn’t beneficial in the long run.

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Running behind on the photography challenge: Day 7-the downy woodpecker

Well, I’m a day late with the photography challenge. So the winner for yesterday’s installment of the photography challenge is the Downy woodpecker. I think this one comes in at number three in terms of which bird has the most pictures taken of it this summer (number one is the ruby-throated hummingbird, and number two is the red-bellied woodpecker).

This is the smallest woodpecker in North America, and can be found throughout the continent, where it’s range stretches from Alaska down through Canada and into the lower 48 states. There are only portions of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas where they may be considered uncommon birds.

Male downy woodpecker at the small suet feeder

The diet of downy woodpeckers consists of mostly insects that it forages for along the branches and trunk of trees (including beetle larvae, ants, and caterpillars), along with berries, acorns, grains, and being seen at suet feeders in people’s backyards.

Since they’re small in size (basically the size of a nuthatch), it isn’t uncommon to

see them also feeding in a mix group of birds. Unlike the red-bellied woodpecker that really doesn’t like other birds being on the suet feeder at the same time—the downy woodpecker doesn’t really care.

Female downy woodpecker at the small suet feeder

In terms of their coloring and markings, they are rocking the black-and-white checkered feather/back look. The males also have a small red patch on the back of their heads. When looking at them at either feeders or in the wild, they can be confused with the hairy woodpecker (who is larger then the downy)—but they aren’t that closely related (the two woodpeckers split off from a common ancestor about six million years ago). These two species look similar, but that is just a matter of convergent evolution (which is the independent evolution of similar features in species of different periods or epochs in time).

Photography goal: Get a picture of a hairy woodpecker, and if possible a picture of both at a feeder (that way I can work on trying to distinguish between them).

Do you have a favorite woodpecker species??

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Photography Challenge Day 3: At the feeders–a hummer & a squirrel

So I decided to go with a duel picture today—at one point this summer I managed to get a picture of both the ruby-throated hummingbird and a squirrel eating at the same time.

You’re staying over there right……..

I think that the hummingbird wanted to make sure that the squirrel wasn’t going to try to slurp out any of the sugar water, before it started drinking.

Okay, it doesn’t seem to care for the sugar water…..

The feeder that the squirrel is feeding on is suppose to be “squirrel-proof”, and between them and the raccoons—they have managed to get the feeder on the ground at least half a dozen times. We actually have a loop of picture-frame wire as a connector between the hook and the bird feeder. Either the squirrels (or the raccoon) had figured out how to twirl the feeder to get the lid off—so the feeder is also slightly dented in a couple of locations.

The squirrels have found that they can either lie across the top of the feeder to try to pull out seeds, or better yet sit on the tray and slowly pull out the seeds. While the feeder is not longer totally squirrel proof—it is a little too heavy for them to carry off (in the past I’ve had to hunt for other feeders), but the mesh is small enough that it deters them from gorging on the seeds.

The hummingbird feeder is filled with basically boiled sugar water (1 part sugar/4 parts water—1/2c sugar to 2c water), and changed at least once a week—more often during the hottest days of the summer (when it bubbles out).

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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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Happy Fall (or Spring) Equinox–depending on where you are

So today is the first day of autumn (in the northern hemisphere). Depending on which day of the week it would fall (nice unintended pun there), I would go for a walk around Boomer Lake—or the closest Saturday or Sunday. Technically I could have tried today—but between the pandemic (I don’t trust the reporting of the numbers for where I live) and the overcast weather (which makes most pictures a little too dark) I decided not to do a walk. I’ve decided that even a short walk will have to be done fairly early in the morning (to avoid others), so I have a couple of choices in terms of mornings for a walk at some point before the end of the month.

Green Heron seen last summer at Boomer Lake.

I missed seeing all the little goslings and ducklings this year but I am hoping to be out a couple of times to catch some of the migrating birds (both the ones that stop for a short layover and those that winter in town) between this fall and the coming spring.

I’ve created a series of pages dedicated to my bird-watching hobby (Birds, Birds, and Birds is the ‘home’ page), and more pages will be added to the series, and pages will be updated as well (with potential additional pages added within to house some more of the photographs).

So far I’ve managed to make a page for the migratory ruby-throated hummingbird, the year round red-bellied woodpecker, and the year round great blue heron.

Migration of various animals (such as birds and butterflies) will start to pick up in intensity over the next few weeks—though if they summer further north, they may have already started their migrations a few weeks ago. Some animals base their migration on the amount of sunlight—so as the sun starts to set earlier and rise later, they start to head south.

Monarch (or Viceroy) Butterfly seen resting at Boomer Lake early last fall.

Over Labor Day, we actually saw part of the dragonfly migration (they were also being followed by kestrels and Mississippi kites)—though we haven’t seen any since (but that is understandable—it all depends on the direction of the winds for both that particular day and the few days leading up to the current day).

What is your favorite migratory animal??

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Update on site: Check out the birds!

So the website will be getting updated periodically (hopefully weekly, but definitely biweekly). I realized that I have several pages within the blog that I don’t add to consistently, and I’m hoping to change that fact.

First up—I decided to add a new page called Birds, birds, and birds. The topic of the pages associated with it is specific—birds. Since I enjoy doing bird photography, I decided that I would dedicate a page to the topic. I’m hoping that each week I can add a new page to the series.

Currently the only additional page that is listed is the ruby-throated hummingbird.

I will also be updating the Travel page as well—and it may be alternating weeks with the bird page.

I will still be posting photography photos on the blog (and the photography page), but decided to also give certain subjects home pages as well.

In terms of the other pages—Fitness will have three additional pages added to it before the end of the year, and I will probably have several blog posts as well throughout the rest of the year.

Adding to the All Things Science page will be a little more sporadic (I’m hoping to add a page once a month, as it will be a fairly in-depth coverage of a subject), but also adding in some blog posts as well.

I’m also thinking of redesigning/renaming the Odds & Ends Bucket List—to the 150+ Challenge in 2002 days, and have both pages and maybe even blog posts associated with it as well.

In addition, I’m thinking of adding in a spirituality page that will cover my rediscovery journey to being a wiccan/pagan.

Finally, I’m hoping to get into a consistent mode where I’m adding to the site weekly (probably different topics), but at the same time helping to improve science education/communications; educate, and just help others who may also feel like they don’t really fit the mold of the current society.

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Photography Challenge Day 204 & 205: The Green Heron is still around

So the winner of the next double photography challenge is the green heron. This one (or these two) haven’t started their migration south yet, though they should be heading off within the next couple of weeks. Green herons migrate south anywhere from the end of August through October.

Well–we’re a little over halfway through September, so there is basically now six weeks until Halloween. I’m hoping to possibly get a few more pictures of them this fall before they head south, since I never seem to be able to get good pictures of them in the springtime.

Green Heron flying in the fog.

I managed to see them both mornings that I walked at Boomer Lake, though I saw them on opposite sides of the lake. On Saturday, I startled this one, and it flew past me to head into the little cove. Due to the fog, I lost sight of it once I turned around to follow it.

These guys blend right in with the dreary landscape, and if it had sat still and ignored me–I would have completely missed seeing it.

Green Heron flying across the lake

Sunday morning, I saw one of them flying from the little island towards the tall grasses that I had just passed. I knew that there wasn’t going to be any closer pictures this morning. Though I have to wonder where the other one is at–I’ve seen them as a pair this year. Even with the one I startled yesterday–I soon startled it’s mate/friend a few minutes later. I just wasn’t able to get a picture of it.

Though this is one thing that has made me happy this fall–being able to get a couple of good pictures of the green herons.

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Photography Challenge Days 202 & 203: The difference between sunny and foggy.

So the walks this weekend were polar opposites of each other—Saturday was totally foggy, and Sunday was sunny without a cloud in sight. Therefore the pictures for the weekend are going to somewhat showcase the difference between a sunny day and a totally foggy day.

Great Blue Heron sitting in the tree on Saturday

So the above picture was taken on Saturday, and I was actually surprised that I managed to see the heron through the fog sitting in the tree. Luckily I’ve been watching them enough that I knew where to look.

Great Blue Heron sitting in the tree on Sunday

Then basically the same location on Sunday, and either the same blue heron or another one was sitting in the tree deciding on when to go hunt for breakfast.

Then I managed to get a picture of an egret back in the creek area of the lake. This is one area that I want to explore a little more–but I need to get some hiking boots first, plus some decent pants as well (summer isn’t the time to be in the woods with shorts on).

Great Egret in the fog, on Saturday morning

So there is this one egret that I always see under this tree on the creek side, come fog or sunny weather.

Great Egret in sunny weather, on Sunday morning.

So even slightly unpleasant weather can lead to interesting pictures, especially when you can do an comparison shot within a few days afterwards. I probably could have tried to go back out Saturday afternoon and see what photographs I could have gotten–but these are roughly the same time but one on Saturday and the other on Sunday.

Something new to aim for–getting certain photographs in certain areas at roughly the same time each day (or each week) and then compare them to each other………..

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