Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher Nest at Shaw Nature Reserve

I made a couple posts earlier this year regarding a BGGN test that we discovered at St. Francois State Park.  Later, in early June, Steve and I found an active and very successful nest located in a Chinquapin Oak in the savanna-glade area of SNR.  These busy parents were looking to successfully raise five new Gnatcatchers!  One or two of the chicks were leaving the nest for brief occasions and it looked as if the chicks were within days of fully fledging.   Gnatcatchers move so fast that without finding a nest, it would be most difficult to ever catch them in a photo.  It was a real treat watching these guys and I hope you enjoy a few moments of this day.

The first we noticed of this scene was a plumper than normal Gnatcatcher sitting on a branch.  Since plump and sedentary are never adjectives I would use to describe this species, it was cause to make further observations.  Moving around the tree a bit afforded a bettter view and allowed us to find the nest in the crotch below.

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Here you can see the primary difference between the chicks and their parents.  The chicks lack the impressive, long tail of the adults, so perfectly used in tight flight and balance.

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Both parents work feverishly.  Below you can see both parents at the nest at one time, dad above and mom below.  In this photo, somehow, all five chicks are in the nest bowl at the simultaneously.

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Master insect hunters, this image shows mom offering a large green lep to the nest.  You can’t get any closer to actually eating your greens… 😉  Once again, all five chicks are in the nest.

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Finally, off flies one of the parents.  If it’s bright enough to see, it’s bright enough to hunt.

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Hard Working and Looking Pretty

Here is one of the parents taking off again to go hunting.  As this exposure was taken the bird was in just such a position for its long tail to be in direct light that made it through the persimmon branches.  This light, effectively “blew it out”, creating an interesting effect.  Of course the youngsters just want more tucker.  😉

IMG_7885“Hard-Working and Looking Pretty”

Happy Holidays

Happy winter solstice holidays to all my friends and family!

 

A Winter Eden

by Robert Frost

A winter garden in an alder swamp,

Where conies now come out to sun and romp,

As near a paradise as it can be

And not melt snow or start a dormant tree.

It lifts existence on a plane of snow

One level higher than the earth below,

One level nearer heaven overhead,

And last year’s berries shinning scarlet red.

It lifts a gaunt luxuriant beast

Where he can stretch and hold his highest feast

On some wild apple-trees tender young bark,

What well may prove the year’s high girdle mark.

So near to paradise all pairing ends:

Here loveless birds now flock with winter friends,

Content with bud-inspecting.  They presume

To say which buds are leaf and which are bloom.

A feather-hammer gives a double knock.

This Eden day is gone at two o’clock.

An hour of winter day might seem too short

To make it worth life’s while to wake and sport.

 

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“A Winter Eden”

Potholes In My Lawn

Specifically referred to as potholes, this feature was found in the long stretch of shut-ins of the St. Francis River between Silvermines Recreation Area and Millstream Gardens.  Steve and I took this, one of our favorite hikes, this autumn, just before peak color came into this section of the Ozarks.  Here is a wonderful description of this feature’s formation from Tom Beveridge’s Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri:

Potholes are formed at the nearly right-angled intersection of channelways where the direction of flow is abruptly changed.  The abrupt changes in direction of flow and the intersecting channelways create local whirlpools where the swirling waters grind out circular holes using sand and gravel carried in suspension as a natural abrasive.  Man did not invent sandblasting – he only mechanized it!  Deepening of the holes is also expedited by the steep gradient of the stream;  some holes are in part plunge pools formed by the impact of water descending vertically and gouging out the bed at the base of individual waterfalls.”

See my Flickr account for similar images made on this day.

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“All Seeing Eye”

Big Spring Trip – Autumn, 2013

For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life — the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.

-Claude Monet

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“Ageless Banks”

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“Amber Mists”

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“Changing Time”

The Marsh Chicken

These three images were taken this past September during a hike that Steve and I took around the Heron Pond area of RMBS.  By far the most commonly come across rail in this part of the world, the Sora, fills the perfect role of chicken in the fresh-water marshes.  I never get tired of watching these guys wade out into shallow open waters to feed, ready to sprint back into the cover of the marsh plants at the least sign of danger.  At just the peak of migration, I have been fortunate to see nearly 100 of these birds at Heron Pond at a given time.

IMG_0564“Suspiciously Sora”

IMG_0554“Sora with Snail”

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“The Marsh Chicken”