Ruby-throated Hummingbird Nest – Part One

I was busy for several weeks this summer observing and photographing a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and her nest. I collected a lot of behavioral data and took way too many photos and video. Here is part one of what will likely be a three to four part video that summarizes the experience.

 

It’s Officially Spring!

Blackburnian Warbler, Carondelet Park, May 2017

Along with finding the typical rarities that everyone looks for during spring migration, I will not count spring as arriving until I lay eyes on a male Blackburnian Warbler.  This past Saturday, not only did Miguel and I find my prize at Carondelet Park, but I got my best photos to date of this tree-top dwelling, piece of greased lighting.

Blackburnian Warbler, Carondelet Park, May 2017

With a throat this bright and luminous, a song that is so high-pitch that dogs aren’t safe for blocks and a never resting habit, more than one birder has assumed these guys must be powered by a battery.  Seriously, there’s a reason these guys eat all day long.  They have to!

Blackburnian Warbler, Carondelet Park, May 2017

Well, hopefully I might have another before the season has completed springing.  If not, I’ll always have something to look forward to next year.

-OZB

How I Spent Superb Owl Sunday

For the first time since junior high I did not watch a single down or minute of the NFL this season and I couldn’t be happier for it.  Rape my town three times, NFL – shame on you.  I’ve been pleased to get those precious free minutes back for my Sundays, several of which I found I could spend not dreading the upcoming workweek.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

When the forecast showed a near perfect meteorological condition for shooting the Short-eared Owls of BK Leach, I figured this could be promising.  While most other naked apes with functioning vision would be in front of the picture box and ingesting mass quantities of wings and beer, I would enjoy the warm and lightly breezy evening in my own kind of chair with friends of a different sort.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

Of course there is never a sure thing.  Often, when I have expected the best due to light and temperature, the owls don’t show where I set myself.  On this particular day, all conditions came together and I had a super time.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

I want to give huge thanks for my lovely and talented wife, Sarah, for the special help she gave me this season in getting my best to date SEOW in flight shots.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

A perfect day ended in the perfect way – with a great sunset on the Lincoln Hills.

Sunset on the Lincoln Hills
Sunset on the Lincoln Hills

Until next time…
-OZB

Birds of the Texas Gulf Coat – Laughing Gull

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Laughing Gull – Galveston Ferry Crossing, TX

When traveling to a new location it is always interesting to see what gull species is the local equivalent to our Ring-billed Gull.  In the case of the Texas gulf coast, that is definitely the Laughing Gull.  We found that a really great place to see hundreds at great distance is the ferry ride between the Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston.  Be sure to check the water as well as the skies if you take this 20 minute boat ride.  Steve and I were able to spot a bottlenose dolphin or two during the crossing.

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Laughing Gull – Anahuac NWR, TX

After hearing their vocalizations for quite a long period, we can say this species is quite aptly named!

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Laughing Gull, Anahuac NWR, TX

In summer plumage, this is obviously one of the easier gulls to identify.  Largest of the hooded gulls, with red bill, legs and feet, slate-colored back and black primaries.

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Laughing Gulls, East End Lagoon Preserve, TX

In the Land of the Blind the One-eyed Man is King

Hooded Mergansers - Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary - St. Charles Co, MO
Hooded Mergansers First Year Males – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary – St. Charles Co, MO

The one-eyed man referred to in the title of this post is, of course, the photographer with a telephoto lens sticking out of a well-placed blind.  Yes, we are all aware of and use to good effect the mobile blind – our warm vehicles.  However, shooting from a car in a place like RMBS leaves a bit to be desired.

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Common Goldeneye – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary – St. Charles Co, MO

From a car, the angle at which the birds are photographed will always be at the same downwards angle that in my opinion is less desirable than being close to eye level, which sitting low in a a portable ‘bag’ style blind can afford.

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Hooded Merganser Hen – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary – St. Charles Co, MO

Although I have owned such a blind for a few years, I have only recently given it some real use with friend and fellow like-minded nature photographer, Miguel Acosta.  All of the images from this post were made in our first attempts at this and even with limited light and opportunities, I can already see the potential in using this technique for improving photography of waterfowl.

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Hooded Merganser Big Boys – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary – St. Charles Co, MO

Getting an eye-level perspective yields more benefits than just a resting duck.  Catching birds taking to flight from the water’s surface from this angle makes for a more powerful image than from above.

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Lift Off! – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary – St. Charles Co, MO

I’m really glad we tried this out.  It is something I’ve been wishing to do for quite some time and I guess it just makes sense that this is the way to do it.  Now I just need to think of places and opportunities to try more.

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Trumpeter Swans – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary – St. Charles Co, MO

Until next time.
-OZB

Birds of the Texas Gulf Coast – Willet

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Willet – Scolopacidae – Tringa semipalmata – Anahuac NWR, TX.

It is always interesting to find a bird species you are pretty familiar with in a new location or season.  Such was the case and pleasant surprise that Steve and I found when stumbling upon the Willet in coastal Texas in May, 2016.  This giant puppy dog of a sandpiper is typically a relatively low-key, almost dull bird when spotted in Missouri during its migration.  The individuals we observed in Texas, however, were quite conspicuous as they combined long vocalizations with slow flights that really showed off the contrasting black and white wings.  They were a pleasure to watch and photograph.

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Willet – Scolopacidae – Tringa semipalmata – Anahuac NWR, TX.

 

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Willet – Scolopacidae – Tringa semipalmata – Anahuac NWR, TX.

-OZB

Bird #275

Eastern Screech Owl - Strigidae - Megascops asio, Grafton IL
Eastern Screech Owl – Strigidae – Megascops asio – Grafton IL

The 275th bird species I have photographed in Missouri and contiguous states turned out to be a special one.  This Eastern Screech Owl is definitely the current most famous bird in the bi-state area.  Many thanks to Miguel Acosta for the information.  A long time coming.

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Eastern Screech Owl – Strigidae – Megascops asio – Grafton IL

-OZB

Yellow + Birds

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Least Flycatcher – Tyrannidae – Empidonax minimus – Wild Acres Park, St. Louis County, MO.

I happened to notice that I had a few in the queue that featured the color yellow.  In most of them the yellow is featured on the bird, but in the one above the yellow is of a flowering plant, perhaps yellow rocket (Barbarea vulgaris), in the foreground and background.

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Kentucky Warbler – Parulidae – Oporornis formosus, Greer Spring Recreation Area, Oregon County, MO.

 

Prothonotary Warbler - Parulidae - Protonotaria citrea
Prothonotary Warbler – Parulidae – Protonotaria citrea – Little Creve Coeur Lake Marsh, St. Louis County, MO.

 

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Magnolia Warbler – Parulidae – Dendroica magnolia – Wild Acres Park, St. Louis County, MO.

 

-OZB

Meet the Slugs – Monkey Slug Caterpillar Moth

Monkey Slug - Limacodidae - Phobetron pithecium (4677) - Horseshoe Bend Natural Area, Texas County, MO
Monkey Slug – Limacodidae – Phobetron pithecium (4677) – Horseshoe Bend Natural Area, Texas County, MO

The final and perhaps most stunning of the slug moth caterpillars that we were able to find this past summer was the Monkey Slug, or “Hag Moth” caterpillar.  This particular one was first noticed by Sarah on the upper side of a dogwood leaf during a visit to Horseshoe Bend Natural Area near Houston MO.  We went on to find two in this particular tree.

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Monkey Slug – Limacodidae – Phobetron pithecium (4677) – Horseshoe Bend Natural Area, Texas County, MO

A leading thought on why these guys look the way they do is to mimic the shed exoskeleton of a tarantula.

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Monkey Slug – Limacodidae – Phobetron pithecium (4677) – Cuivre River State Park, Lincoln County, MO

It’s Swan Season!

Trumpeter Swans - Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, St. Charles County, MO
Trumpeter Swans – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, St. Charles County, MO

 

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Trumpeter Swans – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, St. Charles County, MO

 

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Trumpeter Swans – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, St. Charles County, MO

 

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Trumpeter Swans – Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, St. Charles County, MO