Worm-eating Warbler – April 2021

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.

Thank you for visiting!
-OZB

Clarksville MO, Lock & Dam #24 – Bald Eagle – 2021

A juvenile bald eagle coming in for its prey.

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.

A catch!

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.

-OZB

Brewer’s Duck

The Brewer’s Duck is a hybrid between a Mallard and a Gadwall

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.

The Brewer’s Duck is a true blending of its two-species heritage and they apparently are quite variable in appearance.

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.

A nice comparison of Mallard, Brewer’s and Gadwall drakes.

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?

Thanks for the visit!
-OZB

White-tailed Deer Rut of 2020

A ten-pointer posing for a portrait.

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.

This smaller eight-pointer has an extra antler growing.

White-tailed bucks will often drool in the heat of the rut.

This “wide eight” knew somebody was watching but never did find me.

A buck looking for just the right scent on the breeze.

This guy thinks he found the one. He chased her into the bush and beyond my sight.

Waiting on the edge of the dance floor.

This location was not the greatest for fall colors, but I lucked into a couple of interesting environmental portraits.

I lucked into this guy walking under the nicest colored tree in the area.

The class clown.

My favorite portrait of the year.

Here’s looking to bigger and brighter in 2021.

-OZB

White-tailed Deer of 2020 – Part Two

A fortunate position led to a rather regal portrait for this suburban prince.

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.

A couple of different bucks. These are the largest and most impressive of the lot that I found in the neighborhood this year.

Another look at these juxtaposed bucks.

Another look at the contrasting colors and facial shapes of these two buddies.

A white-tailed fawn.

A younger buck in velvet.

See you next time!

-OZB

Northern Harrier

A Northern Harrier formel glides by, always on the lookout for a small mammal.

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.

A female Northern Harrier photographed at Columbia Bottom C.A. in St. Louis County.

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.

Northern Harrier in a typical “V” gliding pattern used to silently move inches above the fields while hunting.

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.

The Northern Harrier is a rare sexually dimorphic raptor. Males are smaller and colored blue-grey and white while females, like the one pictured here, are full of warm-toned browns.

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.

The last looks a lot of poor mammals might have – a Northern Harrier overhead.

-OZB