This spring has been flying by. With great cool and wet weather, the spring ephemeral wildflower season has been one of the best I’ve experienced and in the past two weeks the bird diversity has been on the rise. Just today, I had a Wood Thrush, a Cooper’s Hawk and a Barn Swallow from my suburban yard alone! This morning I found a Sedge Wren in the grasses at Beckemeier Conservation Area among about half a dozen warblers.
I hope you are getting out to enjoy some of this action and I want to share a few photos of one of my many favorites, this Worm-eating Warbler that is already setting up territory at Bush Wildlife Conservation Area.
Images of a large flock of blackbirds taken at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area back in January, 2021. Mostly composed of Red-winged Blackbirds, this flock contained thousands to tens of thousands of birds.
We actually had a couple weeks of a deep freeze, old-fashioned winter during the 2020/2021 season. It was enough to get a lot of ice on our rivers and lakes but it didn’t seem to be quite long enough to bring the eagles into Lock and Dam #24 in big numbers. A couple friends and I tried during the last couple days of the deep freeze and although we had fewer than 12 birds, there were opportunities that made it worth our time. Here are a couple photos of a juvenile eagle (a 1.5 to 2.5 year old bird) that I captured as it came to the water to catch a fish that was stunned following its passage through the dam.
Check back soon as I will be posting more photos of eagles and other birds that were making their living in the open waters beneath Lock and Damn #24.
Although I cannot count it as a new species on my lists, I do believe this bird is worthy of a little attention. The “Brewer’s Duck” has been noticed for centuries, even being painted by J. J. Audubon himself. But, he called it the “Bemaculated Duck”, an apparent misspelling of the descriptor, bimaculated, meaning “marked with two spots.” The Brewer’s Duck is an intergeneric hybrid between a Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and a Gadwall (Mareca strepera).
This bird was originally spotted at Bush Conservation Area on February 23rd by Michelle Davis and reported via eBird and MOBIRDS. These photos were taken on February 24th.
In the above photo, the blue speculum patch can be seen, coming from the Mallard. The fine lines of the Gadwall can be seen on the breast and sides. The head is a mixture of both species. Some green can be seen towards the back of the head, although this could only be seen at just the right angle to the sun. The bill is also a mix of the yellow Mallard’s and the all black Gadwall. In my opinion, the feet are more reminiscent of the color of the Gadwall’s feet.
So far I have been unable to find out much about the Brewer’s Duck from books or internet sources and I have lots of questions. This bird seemed to mostly associate with Gadwalls. Is this common, or does it depend on which species was the mother? Does the parentage have to be directional? Are they fertile? How common are they?
The rut of 2020 turned out pretty well for me. I was able to get to my favorite place for this type of photography five or six times. I tried for a few more days, but weather and flooding caused me to change plans. I didn’t get any high action shots, but I am happy with the portraits I got of some of the larger bucks in this herd.
A few more white-taileds from August. Have a look at the next three images. I’m hoping someone with some knowledge in the genetics of these guys might have some idea what is going on with the buck on the right. With his rack and size, he obviously has the genes, but he looks so different from what I think we would agree is a more typical buck next to him. In addition to the shapes of their heads and faces, their coats are vastly different as well. Thanks for sending any thoughts you might have about what these difference might be caused by.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. In fact, with the Northern Harrier, a bird with keen eyesight and talent for being as far from people as they possibly can, I’d say being lucky is the best thing to be.
During a recent trip to Columbia Bottom C.A., I spotted this formel (an old-school name for a female hawk or raptor) flying back and forth over this small patch of sorghum that was planted near an equipment shed and a small patch of woods that were both near an easy place to park. I doubted I would have the time to get close enough without being seen, but thought I’d give it a try.
I realized I was in a promising position in which I could move perpendicular to the course the bird was moving. I just needed to make sure I was either hunkered into the scrub-lined woods on the one side, or plastered against the equipment shed on the other. I did this without either being seen by the bird or at least by not being considered a threat.
When I was close enough that I felt I could put my 400 mm f/4 lens to good use, I was ready to shoot the next time she came by. I was able to get some shots on a couple or three passes before she started to move to other locations. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera settings optimized for such an occasion. I left a lot of potential aperture (DOF) and shutter speed on the table (these were mostly shot at ISO 100). But, I am happy with what I was able to get while being sure I did not make the bird too uncomfortable in the process.