Tag: naturephotography

Sparrows and finches: Photography Challenge Day 32

Sparrow in the bushes.

So one of the things I’ve been trying to do is get more pictures of different song birds–and not just at the feeders around the house. I’ve been trying to see if I can manage to get some decent pictures of them in the “wild”.

Currently my main area of practice is up at Boomer Lake in the early to mid mornings. Since spring is just starting, there actually aren’t that many out in the afternoons–or if they are out they have a sense of when someone is trying to photograph them and they stay nice and quiet so that I walk right past them.

There are a large number of different sparrows that reside in the area. I have never been great at telling them apart–especially when I’m trying to keep the camera steady enough to get a single picture. This one had been bouncing around the branches and sat still just long enough for me to get this picture.

Yellow finch (or is it a warbler?) at the lake.

Then a week or so later I saw this yellowish warbler (or small finch) bouncing around and managed to get it’s picture. Though it could also be a vireo, or another type of song bird–but I do know that it wasn’t a sparrow.

I’m hoping as the weather warms up to be able to be out more with the camera and working on my nature photography skills. Birds, rabbits, squirrels, deer, and whatever else I hopefully spot before it spots me.

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Gull Fishing: Photography Challenge Day 31

So with today’s photography challenge, there is actually going to be little said (as the old saying goes–a photograph is worth a thousand words). I think that most of the pictures can speak for themselves. These photos are again from my walk over the weekend. I managed to be in the correct spot at the right time to film this particular gull.

Still hungry…….
Going in for lunch…..
I’ll show it who’s boss…
Need to circle another time…that isn’t the fish I want….
There it is……
One more time around….
I think I caught it..
Where did it go?

And it’s back pretending that nothing happened.

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Flowers are blooming: Photography Challenge Day 30

The quints bush is flowering

Well spring is right around the corner and flowers are coming up and opening. Flowers are also opening on bushes, trees, and elsewhere as well. This is one of my favorite times of the year—when things start to green out again. Winter is just a dreary season of sticks, and cold weather. The snow can be pretty for awhile, but then it gets old fast.

So I’ve noticed that there have been several different flowers popping up over the weekend, and that some of the bushes have flowered out as well.

The peach bush has flowered

It’s nice this year that the ornamental peach bush has flowered. Hopefully the weather will stay nice and there might be some cute little peaches to pick off the bush towards the end of the summer.

There were even some wildflowers blooming up at the lake this weekend:

Cute little purple-blue wildflower

Other flowers in the yard include the anemones and daffodils

Anemones
Jonquils

Hopefully this will be a nice summer and spring with things blooming when they’re suppose to, and maybe–just maybe I can figure out where to put in the flower garden this year.

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Science Sunday and Photography Challenge Day 28: Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

Today’s science Sunday post is the Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). These birds have been migrating through the neighborhood on their way back up to the northern part of the United States and Canada.

They are social birds that are usually always seen in flocks. Personally when I was taking the picture, I thought it might have been a nuthatch since it was a single bird in the shade. Imagine my surprise when I downloaded the pictures, and realized that it was a cedar waxwing instead.

Their coloring is usually a pale brown head and chest, which fades to a gray color on the wings (there is also a red tips on the wings—but can be hard to notice when they’re perched in large groups). The tail has a bright yellow tip to top off the dark gray color, and the belly is a pale yellow. They also have a black eye patch, and a tuft that may or may not be laying flat against their head.

Their diets consist of mainly berries and insects (they’ve been going after the one large holly “tree” in our front yard over the past two weeks or so). During the summer they feed more on insects, and the young are fed insects more than berries in the beginning. Unlike other smaller birds, cedar waxwings don’t actually start nesting until late summer, and they nest in “colonies” (so that their territory to defend is relatively small). They usually have about two broods (usually 3-5 nestlings) a year, and the young usually leave the nest within two to two and half weeks after hatching.

Hopefully this week I can maybe manage to get a “group” photo of some of the cedar waxwings before they totally leave the state and continue their trek to the north.

References:

  1. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Cedar_Waxwing/id
  2. https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/cedar-waxwing
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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.

References:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Mockingbird/id

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/northern-mockingbird

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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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