Category: nature

The last trio of woodpecker pages are now live

So the last three woodpecker pages are now up and live under the woodpecker family page (Picidae). The last three pages added were for the Northern Flicker, the red-headed woodpecker, and the pileated woodpecker.

Pileated woodpecker in the woods at Boomer Lake

So there are twenty-two woodpecker species that can be spotted in North America (Canada, US, Mexico) and to date I’ve spotted five of them, or not quite a quarter of them (twenty-two percent).

These birds can be spotted within forests, at the edge of forests, in city parks, in cacti, and at your backyard suet feeder (depending on the species).

Northern Flicker on the ground at Boomer Lake

I’ve realized that all five that I’ve spotted have either been around the wooded areas of city parks or at the backyard suet feeder.

A goal for 2021 is to see if I can spot a different species of woodpecker (possibly teh yellow-bellied sapsucker), or get better at distinguishing between the downy and hairy woodpeckers, or perhaps getting a better photograph of the red-headed woodpecker.

Red-headed woodpecker at the top of a dead tree

Getting a picture of the yellow-bellied sapsucker and the hairy woodpeckers would round out the woodpeckers that are common around Oklahoma. Getting a picture of any of the other woodpeckers common to North America will require at least one trip somewhere that has the type of forests (or cacti) that the woodpeckers prefer.

So the next set of bird pages to be publish on the blog will revolve around the hawks, eagles, kites, and osprey.

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotography

National Bird Day, the first of three bird holidays

So today is National Bird Day. This is just one of the few days that are devoted to our feathered friends. The other important bird dates include Bird Day on May 4th, and then World Migratory Bird Day on May 8th (this one changes yearly as it is the second Saturday in May).

Great Horned Owl roosting at Boomer Lake

National Bird Day was started in 2002 by the Avian Welfare Coalition for a specific purpose: “to raise awareness of the hardships and plights of these important animals and how we can initiate the change needed to create a healthier, more sustainable relationship with them”.

One of the reasons why they started the day is that roughly twelve percent of all bird species in the world (which is roughly 1200 out of roughly 10,000) are in peril of extinction–through habitat loss, illegal wildlife trade, pollution, introduction of invasive species, and the humans expanding cities and towns.

Killdeer and young along the bank of Boomer Lake

One thing that you can do on National Bird Day is to go out and bird watch (and actually it is something that you can do any time of the year–weather permitting). It is also a great way of helping to count the number of bird species, as there are different ‘bird counting’ events throughout the year. National Bird Day falls within the Christmas Bird Count that the Audubon Society hosts which runs through December and January.

Other things you can do include setting up bird feeders, planting native bushes and flowers to attract native birds. Donations to various wildlife organizations (such as Audubon Society, American Bird Conservancy, or Sierra Club), going to zoos (this supports the conservation efforts directed towards endangered species such as the California Condor and other birds).

Yellow finch sitting in the trees at Boomer Lake

So I usually do donations to various wildlife organizations when I can, I love to visit different zoos and see what animals are being cared for in different areas (usually the main difference can be in the bird species, reptile, and amphibian–sometimes fish), and I love birdwatching.

Green Heron flying through the mist at Boomer Lake

So, lets try to start being better caretakers of Mother Earth. While our population is growing–we should start revitalizing older, abandoned building instead of marching out into nature to build cities. Because if we destroy their world–we’re destroying ours as well.

What bird species are you hoping to get a picture of this year?

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotographyRandom Celebration DaysScience

Final Heron and Egret pages are now live.

So over the weekend I managed to get the last four pages (to date) up for the herons and egrets.

This also means that I’ve managed to get pages posted for all birds from the order Pelecaniformes that I’ve gotten pictures of outdoors.

Great Egret peering into the water shortly after dawn at Boomer Lake.

The final four bird pages that were posted this weekend covered the Great (or Common) Egret, the Little Blue Heron, the Tricolored Heron, and the Reddish Egret.

Little Blue Heron walking through the brush at the birding and nature center, South Padre Island TX

Out of these four–I’ve only seen the Great Egret in two locations (South Padre Island & Boomer Lake in Stillwater OK). The other three have been spotted solely down in Texas during a summer vacation years ago.

Reddish Egret in the bay at the birding and nature center in South Padre Island TX

So there are still several members of the Ardeidae family that I haven’t spotted and would like to get a picture of and they include: the American bittern, the Least bittern, the snowy egret, the cattle egret, and the yellow-crowned night heron.

Tricolored Heron in the bay at the birding and nature center in South Padre Island TX

In terms of the Pelecaniformes order, there are in total ~110 species around the world and I’ve seen 12 of them–which means I’ve seen/spotted roughly ten percent of the order in the wild. Goal will be to get that percentage up to twenty-five to thirty percent (which means spotting another sixteen to twenty-one species in the wild).

Moving forward, my goal is to publish two to three bird pages a week, in addition to at least one blog post announcing which pages are up as well.

The next set of birding pages to be added will cover the woodpeckers (and there will be two new pages in addition to the pages on the order & family), then on to the hawks, eagles, and kite group (with quite a few additional pages added), and finishing up with the hummingbirds (currently will pages for the order and family).

Once I’ve gotten caught up those pages, I will start working though a master list I’ve created of all birds (seen within the US and currently the UK) I’ve gotten pictures of in the wild.

No Comments bird watchingnatureNature PreservesPhotographytravel

The two ‘stocky’ heron (green & black-crowned) pages are live

So, two more bird pages are now live in the birding section of the blog (birds, birds, and birds).

I’m slowly making my way through the other family members of the heron, egret, and bittern family (Ardeidae) that I have taken pictures of in the wild.

The two pages that I’ve posted today are of the ‘stockier’ herons: the green heron and the black-crowned night heron.

I managed to get several pictures of the green heron last summer at Boomer Lake, and I was happy with how I managed to progress from just getting a partial picture of a green heron to actually getting a picture of one in flight during a very foggy morning.

Green heron in flight on a very foggy morning at Boomer Lake.

I haven’t seen a night heron since my trip to Hawaii back in 2009; but in all honesty, I had no idea that they migrated through Oklahoma. I think it would be super cool to spot one within the lower forty-eight states–though that may mean being in a slightly more tropical part (such as California, Florida, or along the Texas coast) where they are around all year.

Young black-crowned night heron peaking through the coconut fronds

The other ‘stocky’ members that I would like to get a picture of are the yellow-crowned night heron (which is mainly found in the eastern part of the US, though it does summer in OK), and the bitterns (both American and Least), but these two birds are even more secretive than the green heron.

Have you gotten a picture of a bittern? If you have–how long did it take to get a good picture?

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotographytravel

Pelican pages are live on the bird section

As I mentioned yesterday that I’m slowly adding pages under the birds, birds, and birds section.

One of the reasons was I wanted a little more order to how the pages looked in the drop-down and not just have a list of basically 90 different birds. Since I had already posted several different bird pages, I decided to finish up those groups before adding more.

Brown Pelican flying over the bay

I originally started with pages for the bald eagle, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, ruby-throated hummingbird, and the great blue heron. This gave me four different bird orders to research, several different bird families to research, and possibly numerous other bird pages to add (if I had pictures of said birds).

I decided to start with the order Pelecaniformes that includes the great blue heron (family Ardeidae). This order has in total five different families, but currently I am only describing/talking about three of them (ones that have family members that can be spotted within the United States–in the wild and not the zoo).

So with that being my starting point–the two pelican pages have been live for probably about two weeks now.

Brown Pelicans flying over the beach

Pelicans belong to the family Pelecanidae. The pages that I currently have are for the white pelican and the brown pelican (the two species that are found in the United States).

As mentioned on the pages–one photography goal is to get a better picture of a brown pelican, and possibly a picture of a brown pelican diving into the water after its meal.

White pelican resting at Boomer Lake

Long-term photography goals include getting the picture of at least two other pelican species in the wild (but that will require at least one trip outside the US–which is on hold until the pandemic is under control & I have managed to get the vaccine shot for SARS-CoV2)

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotographytravel

Ibis pages are now up on the bird section

So I’m slowly adding pages under the birds, birds, and more birds section of the website.

I decided that I would try to finish up the order/family/additional individual species for the birds that I already had posted.

So with that being my starting point–the two ibis pages are now live.

White ibis at the birding and nature center. South Padre Island, Texas

Ibises (along with the spoonbills) belong to the family Threskiornithidae within the order Pelecaniformes.

So with publishing the pages on the white ibis and the white-faced ibis, I have showcased pictures of the two species I have managed to see in the wild.

White-faced Ibis foraging in New Mexico

One photography goal will be to spot both a glossy ibis and the roseate spoonbill in the wild (which will probably require at least one more trip to somewhere along the Gulf coast).

If I can manage to get pictures of those two, I will have managed to spot all four family members that can be seen within the United States.

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotographytravel

Photography challenge day 14: the hairy caterpillar; which moth will it turn out to be? Tune in to 2021 to find out…..

So this weekend, when I put up the umbrella on the patio table I noticed that there was a rather large caterpillar slowly crawling around on it.

Hairy caterpillar on the patio umbrella

I managed to get one or pictures of it, and noticed that it was extremely fuzzy and had a distinct alternating series of bristles. Since these types of caterpillars usually have nettle hairs (that usually are hidden)—and can causes rashes if they come into contact with skin.

Still truckin’ along

I’ve noticed over the years that my skin has gotten a little more sensitive to certain things and that it doesn’t take much for me to break out in a rash (luckily the rash disappears within a couple of hours)—therefore I just let this particular caterpillar make its own way off the umbrella.

Hairy caterpillar making its way through the shadows

Since there are quite a few different species of moths and possibly a few butterflies that have hairy caterpillars—I can’t say for certain what the ‘adult’ version of this caterpillar is. Though it probably is a member of the Lymantriinae subfamily of moths (belonging to the family Erebidae). These are large moths, and while the adults don’t feed (they only breed and then die), the caterpillars are known to be pests and are considered pests as they have a broad range of host plants (including trees and shrubs to vines, herbs, and grasses).

It will be interesting to see in the spring what type of large moths I see around the yard and if I can then match a picture of the moth to those online and hopefully also match it to caterpillar. But since it is late in the year—I’m going to hazard a guess that this is the caterpillar of the pale tiger (or banded tussock) moth.

No Comments insectsmothsnaturePhotographyScience

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?

No Comments bird watchingcareerflowersnaturePersonal DevelopmentPhotographyprofessional developmentReflections

Daring jumping spider: winner of the photography challenge-Day 12

The winner of today’s photography challenge is a little jumping spider that I noticed around the pond this summer.

I had decided last year, that I was going to try and branch out in photography subjects—therefore not just photographing birds, but looking for the smaller things as well.

In this case, it was a little jumping spider that was moving around the leaves of the decorative grass.

Jumping spider on the decorative grass

Now I’m not really a insect/arachnid/snake type of person (and I just realized I put the phrases of the things that I ‘avoid’ down—since I don’t mind butterflies, turtles, or lizards (can’t think of an arachnid that I ‘like’).

But I do find the smaller spiders to be somewhat cute—especially when I’m far enough away from them that I know we won’t be getting in close contact with each other.

It’s got an orange spot on its back

So this spider is the bold (or daring) jumping spider, and is found throughout the United States, southern Canada, northern Mexico, and introduced to Hawaii. I assume its name came from the fact that jumping spiders hunt their prey—running them down & if needed ‘jumping’ on them. This is a juvenile spider since the spots are tinted orange/red—as the adults usually have white spots.

So it’s nice to know that there are ‘nice’ spiders in the backyard trying to keep the insect pests in check—though, yes I know that if it bit me I could get a rash/welt. But, I’m never going to get that close to any spider to have it be able to bite me.

While I don’t like spiders–I wonder how many other types I can (or have already) gotten a picture of? Are you a spider person? If you are–which spider is your favorite?

No Comments naturePhotographyScience

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.

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotography