Tag: photographychallenge

Who’s that looking out the hole–it’s a northern flicker

So on one of my morning walks at Boomer Lake, I decided to check out the creek side of the lake (this is the area that is heavily wooded, and to get around you’re either walking through the woods or you’re out in a boat or kayak).

Walking to the ‘boat loading’ site, I decided to check on the one dead cottonwood tree, that I had spotted the pileated woodpecker on in the past.

Instead of seeing the pileated woodpecker or even a songbird or two–I managed to get several pictures of a northern flicker sticking its head out of one of the holes.

Northern flicker sticking its head out of a hole in a dead tree
Who’s there………

So now the question is–did the northern flicker take over the old roost of the pileated woodpecker, or was it just ‘checking’ out the neighborhood?

Northern flicker looking out of a hole in a dead cottonwood

I realize that I may (or may not) spot a woodpecker on the tree during all of my walks, but it will be a spot that I try to check as often as possible throughout the summer to see if there it becomes a northern flicker nest, or if the pileated woodpecker is back looking for carpenter ants or termites.

Northern Flicker

Did you know that northern flickers tend to hunt for their prey on the ground–they go after ants for the most part, though they will also go after some flying insects as well (such as flies, butterflies, and moths).

Getting these pictures of the northern flicker poking its head out of a (possible) nesting site meets a partial overall woodpecker photography goal (getting pictures of them near their nesting sites), though the main two northern flicker photography goals are still getting one of them hunting ants, and then catching a butterfly or moth in the air.

Have you seen any woodpeckers this year? What’s your favorite woodpecker?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographyScience

One of the many morning birding surprises: the green heron

So on my walk at Boomer Lake today I managed to spot the ‘secretive’ green heron.

Spotted the Green Heron

The green heron is a migratory bird that spends its summers in Oklahoma, and we’re lucky enough that there is usually a mating pair in town. Due to the start of the pandemic last year, I didn’t get in many walks at Boomer Lake during the summertime so I missed trying to get a picture of them last year.

A little closer view of the heron, and spotted a grackle and a few red-eared sliders as well.

I wasn’t expecting to see the green heron this morning–mainly because I was out ‘late’ (i.e. well after dawn), and usually these birds are roosting/hunting in the brush around the lake edges.

I was passing the area of the lake, that a birding expert refers to as ‘heron cove’ and noticed the green heron perched on a branch over the water cleaning its feathers.

Looking back towards the green heron

I tried to move down the hill quietly so that I could possibly get a closer picture, and while I did get a little closer–I’m not sure if the pictures give it justice or not.

Within the picture series, I also noticed that I managed to get a picture of several red-eared sliders and a grackle. I’m thnking that I may try to explore a little more of the wooded areas around the lake to see if I can possibly spot the black-crowned night heron again, and possibly even the belted kingfisher. As all three of these birds are usually more ‘morning’ birds (best seen usually close to dawn), though I have managed to spot them later in the morning.

Bird watching and photography are two of the things I enjoy doing during nice weather. What hobbies do you enjoy doing durin ghte nice weather?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographyScience

A Sunny Day Surprise: The Redheaded Woodpecker

So I’ve realized that the photography challenge is going to be sporadic this year–I’m aiming for new photographs at least 90% of the time, and the other 10% will be older pictures, but on specific days (such as #waybackwednesdays, #throwbackthursday, or #flashbackfriday). It will be a sporadic challenge, as I am also trying to vary the photograph subjects as much as possible. Since May is also National Photography Month, I was aiming for daily photograph postings–but will be going with at least weekly entries.

The winner for the challenge today was a redheaded woodpecker that I spotted up at Boomer Lake at the end of April. While I know that they’re in the area–I don’t go specifically looking for them, as I tend to avoid walking through heavily wooded areas (I’ve developed an allergic reaction to ticks, so I try to avoid the areas where I know that I could come across them).

Redheaded woodpecker on a light post

The redheaded woodpecker flew over my head and landed on the light post. Since it was a beautifully sunny morning (unlike the last time I got a photography of one), I managed to get a picture of it in all it’s redheaded glory. This woodpecker is named ‘redheaded’ because it has a totally red head–unlike the red-bellied woodpecker, which only has a pale red spot on it’s belly, but a red stripe down the back of its head.

Redheaded woodpecker

I actually had my longer telephoto lens with me that day (but no tripod), but by the time I got the lens on the camera, the woodpecker had flown off. I’ll be keeping my eye on the various light posts, which seem to be landing spots for various birds (possibly to eat their snack or meal), and then the tops of dead trees (since that is where I spotted the first one a couple of years ago).

I’m also keeping my eye out for the hairy woodpeckers as well–they’re similar in shape, size, and coloring to the downy woodpecker. Therefore I may already have a picture or two–just in the wrong bird folder. I think that if one chore this summer–make sure that all pictures are correctly labeled for the various woodpecker species.

What is your favorite woodpecker?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographyScience

Photography Challenge Winner: the small & elusive pied-billed grebe

The winner of the photography challenge for today is the pied-billed grebe. This is a small grebe that is a year-round resident in central Oklahoma and I’m usually lucky to spot one every couple of months up at Boomer Lake.

Pied-billed grebe spotted at Boomer Lake

It is also serving double duty in announcing that there are another series of bird pages live under the bird tab.

The weekend addition to the birding portion of the site includes the order Podicipediformes, the family Podicipedidae, and the pied-billed grebe. This is one of the seven grebe species that can be spotted within the United States and Canada; and is the only one that is found year-round in Oklahoma.

Over the past couple of years I’ve started to get better at getting a picture of the pied-billed grebe. Since they’re such a small bird, if they aren’t close to the shore it is difficult to get a picture (at least without a good telephoto lens and tripod).

One thing I’ve noticed about the grebes–they’re great at literally sinking out sight and then reappearing quite a awaays away, unlike the loons that dive (though the grebe will do that as well on occasion).

Pied-bill grebe on the calm waters of Boomer Lake

A goal is to possibly get a picture of a family of grebes sometime this summer, though that may mean possibly lurking around the cattails and tall weeds.

There are three other species that may be spotted within Oklahoma during the migratory season: the horned grebe (and this one may even winter in state), the eared grebe, and the western grebe. The last three grebe species that are found within the US and Canada are more regional specific: the red-necked grebe is a ‘northern’ resident (Canada, Alaska, and some northern states), the least grebe is a Texan resident, and Clark’s grebe is found in the western half of the US.

I’m going to try to get up to Boomer Lake more often in the early mornings–especially in fall and spring to try to get a peak of other possible grebes that are migrating through town. Though I should also possibly expand my birding area to another small area lake and see what species I can spot there as well.

Have you spotted a grebe in the wild? If so–where and when? Do you have a favorite grebe?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographyScience

Photography Challenge Winner: Southern Prairie Skinks

So the winner for today’s entry in the photography challenge is a pair of prairie skinks that I noticed crawling around on one of our wood racks the other day.

Prairie skinks

These skinks are actually quite secretive and are usually only seen out and about during their breeding season. We usually have skinks along the creek side of the yard (numerous insects and small arachnids for them to eat), and occasionally in the garden area closer to the house during the spring to fall months. The one that I usually see running around is probably the more common five-lined skink (which I will be on the lookout for this year).

There are actually eighteen different lizards that can be spotted within Oklahoma, and I’ve probably only have seen two to four of them (and I’ve lived in this state most of my life). A goal now is going to be trying to get a picture of each of the different lizards (especially the Texas horn lizard–or the horny toad, as we called them when I was a kid).

Do you have lizards running around in your yard? What species?

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I spy with my little eye–crow poison in bloom.

So I noticed this wildflower blooming around the base of one of our crepe myrtle bushes.

False garlic, aka crows poison blooming in the yard

What was unique and interesting about the flowers–I didn’t plant them there. Some animal (whether it was mammal or avian) ate the seeds of the flowers somewhere else and used this area as their ‘bathroom’ at some point over the past few months.

So false garlic (also known as crow poison) is an early spring wildflower that is one of the first to appear in bloom, and depending on the summer weather may even flower again in the fall.

This is a wildflower that is native to a good chunk of United States (from Virginia to Oklahoma and upwards from Ohio to Nebraska; the only state in the ‘area’ that it isn’t found in is West Virginia), Mexico, and South America (Peru, Uruguay, and areas within Argentina and Chile). It has also been listed as a rare or threatened plant in two states (Indiana as crow poison, and within Ohio as false garlic).

While I didn’t plant the flowers around the bushes, it was a nice little pop of color this spring, when so many of the plants didn’t really flower that well (our peach bush was budding out in February when the killing freeze came through, that also took out our crepe myrtles–though at least one has growth near the base of the plant; the jury is still out on the other four).

Before these had flowered, my dad noticed others in the yard-but mowed them down thinking they were just weeds–little did we know that they would give beautiful white flowers. If more pop up this fall, I may try to ‘transplant’ them to anohter area, where we can appreciate the flowers and color better.

Reference: https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=NOBI2

No Comments flowersnatureoutdoorsPhotography

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).

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotography

Photography Challenge Winner: female mallard in a tree

2021 seems to be the year of double takes in terms of photography.

There are just those pictures that make you take a double glance (or maybe pinch yourself) to make sure that you’re not dreaming of the shot.

Since the weather has been up and down in temperatures, the SARS-CoV2 virus is slowly getting under control, and things are slowly trying to return to normal, I haven’t been out and about with my camera as much as I have in previous years.

So far for 2021, my ‘double glance’ pictures have included the large crayfish in the creek; the yellow-bellied sapsucker on the small suet feeder; the black-crowned night heron perched over Boomer Lake, and then this female mallard.

Female mallard ‘in’ the tree

Getting a picture of a mallard (female or male) really isn’t that difficult at Boomer Lake–I think they’re probably the second most abundant waterfowl there after the Canada geese.

Female mallard ‘on’ the tree.

These pictures are unique in the fact that the female mallard was sitting on the trunk of the tree, quacking while her mate was on the ground either scanning the area for trouble, or every so often looking up at her (probably wondering ‘what the hell’…). I’m use to seeing great blue herons, egrets, and even cormorants sitting in trees, but this had been the first time I’d seen a duck that high off the ground.

She’s just surveying the area……

While I didn’t get that close to the tree (since I didn’t want to scare them off), I did manage to get several pictures of the female mallard on the tree, and she seemed quite happy to be at the ‘top of the world’ for a while. Luckily, I doubt that she was scooping it out as a nesting site, since all mallards prefer to make their nests on the ground, hidden, and fairly close to the water (easier for the ducklings to start following their mother into the water after hatching).

Female mallard, standing around and quaking.

One interesting little fact about mallards–if you hear one quacking, that is actually the female mallard; the sounds of the male mallards are more of a quiet rasping sound.

Hopefully I will be able to get back to my walks at Boomer Lake this summer and manage to get some pictures of the female with her young (as only the female mallard takes care of the young).

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotography

The runaway crayfish–winner of the daily photography challenge

So the winner for the photography challenge today is the crayfish, and it is pulling double duty–a blog post and a photography page.

Crayfish moving around in the creek

I’d been meaning to write and publish the photography page for about a month now–ever since I managed to get the pictures back in March.

This was one of those double take sightings–you know when you see something that you know is ‘real’ but at the same time you mentally ask yourself: ‘did I really see that?’

I mean I thought that someone had thrown a lobster into the creek due to its size–and turned to google to make sure that crayfish in Oklahoma actually get to this size. I’m totally use to the small ones that are usually used as bait for fishing, and swim away from you if you get to close to them–this one probably would have stood its ground if I tried to pick it up.

I was lucky that the water was fairly clear and slow moving–usually when there is a decent amount of water in the creek it is murky and you can’t see anything.

Crayfish trucking along in the creek

But the water was ‘clear’ enough that I managed to track this guy for probably ten to fifteen minutes before I lost sight of it under a branch and some other debris.

I also know that I’m not going to be wandering through the creek bare-foot either (not that I’ve done that for years), cause I don’t want one of these biting my toes.

Do you prefer small or large crayfish?

No Comments natureoutdoorsPhotographyScience

Throwback Thursday Photography Edition: Two more ‘day-trip’ pages are up

So today’s post is pulling double duty again–entry into the photography challenge (#throwbackthursday) and announcing that there are two additional travel pages up.

‘Gloss Mountain’, western Oklahoma

So I’ve been slowly working on expanding the number of pages that I have under the current ‘tabs’ on the website. While I’ve been getting better at posting the bird pages, I’ve been lagging on updating the travel section.

My main reason for being slow–I haven’t done any ‘new’ traveling in a couple of years (since May 2018), and that means that everything currently can be consider ‘throw-back’, ‘flash-back’, or ‘way-back’ in terms of hashtags.

I will be adding in more pages, but most will have the disclaimer that it has been ‘X’ years since I’ve been to ‘Y’ so things might have changed over the years.

Over the past month, I have slowly added in two new travel pages from a couple of ‘day trips’ we had taken over the years. I would have to say that there are probably plenty of things to do in every state, depending on what you like to do. I like to be outdoors, but with others (safety in numbers), but if I’m exploring a new city–I’m happier on my own.

The ‘day trips’ were basically drives out to the western part of the state, and stopping at a couple of state parks.

One trip was a drive to Gloss Mountain State Park, where my dad and I did a little hiking. This is a small state park right off the highway, that has hiking paths and tables for picnics–no camping though. We went in the fall when the weather was a little cooler, and that meant there were less chances of crossing paths with any snakes.

If you drive north about an hour, you will end up at the Great Salt Plains State Park. We actually tried to combine these two day trips into a single trip, but found out that we had just missed the digging season for the salt crystals by a week.

Looking out onto the salt plains

We actually went back out west to dig for crystals the following fall (but before the digging area was closed), and had a unique time digging for selenite crystals.

Selenite crystals

The only thing I would have done differently on that trip–was to have more water, a pail/box (or something to carry the crystals), and possibly a small stool to sit on. While I don’t mind digging in the sand/salt–I don’t enjoy having it work its way into my shorts.

While it has been about four years since we’ve been to either Gloss Mountain State Park or Great Salt Plains State Park, I’m hoping to make the trips back west again–but possibly at times when the wildflowers are blooming (for Gloss Mountain), and early fall for a hike at Great Salt Plains State Park. Just need to figure out who to rope into the trip(s).

Have you even digging for crystals or rocks? Where is your favorite place to hike?

No Comments Day TripsnatureoutdoorsPhotographyState Parkstravel