Monday, October 31, 2016

Now, Back to the Birds

I have been sporadically birding over the past few weeks including in Florida. Connie and I came across these familiar birds. Here is a family of Sandhill Cranes along the main road in The Villages.

Sandhill Cranes
And this young Phoebe sat on the fence near the Dog Park with a bright blue roof behind it so naturally, I had to photograph it.

Eastern Phoebe
Back at home, Peanut and I came across this White-crowned Sparrow on our usual morning walk. It doesn't look like much but White-crowned Sparrows are uncommon so finding one is a bonus on any bird walk.
White-crowned Sparrow
And this Yellow-rumped Warbler showing off his yellow rump in Cape May this past weekend. Barbara and I met up with Marty and spent time at Higbee beach where we saw many birds. Mostly Robins, Goldfinches, Kinglets and Yellow-rumps which means that migration is winding down.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Of course, these aren't spectacular birds or lifers but still nice to see.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Paulie's Quest

I know this is supposed to be a bird blog but sometimes, other creatures make their way in front of my camera lens and into my story line. This week, many of those creatures had wings but no feathers. I found these beauties in The Villages while visiting my mother on her birthday (Happy Birthday Mom). The first is Fiery Skipper. Fiery indeed. Bright orange!

Fiery Skipper
This guy caught my eye with his long tail. Remarkably, the species is Long-tailed Skipper. Go figure.
Long-tailed Skipper
 I didn't even notice that he had a bright green/teal body under those long wings.
Long-tailed Skipper
And then there was this eye catcher. It is a Gulf Fritillary. Zoom in to see the checkered eyeball.

Gulf Fritillary
 Hard to believe that this is the same butterfly seen from the top. Beautiful orange.
Gulf Fritillary
I was feeling pretty good about seeing all of these beautiful butterflies and headed back to my Mom's house where I found her neighbor Paulie there talking about the same thing - butterflies. He invited us to his house to check them out. We found this magnificent Monarch in his garden. There were others too.

Monarch Butterfly
And then we found out why. Seems Paulie has become a nursemaid in his retirement. The porch has incubators where caterpillars turn into butterflies. Here he is with the newest members of his Monarchy.

Close up of the cocoons with the new butterflies. The butterflies come out with shriveled up wings and hang on the cocoon for a few hours before the wings are ready for duty. Paulie lets them out once they are "dry".

New Monarchs
Here is Connie letting one out.
Paulie finds the caterpillars in gardens around the neighborhood and brings them inside where he feeds them milkweed until they form a cocoon, then releases the Monarchs to continue their life cycle. Pretty cool.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Last Day in Vegas

My last day in Vegas was all mine to go to the hottest local birding spot called Henderson Bird Viewing Area (pretty explicit huh). This is a waste water treatment plant which has big open water impoundments which attract lots of birds. I never imagined that I would see so many waterbirds in a desert but there they were. Ruddy Ducks

Ruddy Duck
 And Northern Shovelers
Northern Shoveler
And lots of grebes of all types including Eared Grebe

Eared Grebe
And Horned Grebes. There were 3 albinos in the group. This one is partially albino

Leucistic Horned Grebe
 And this one is almost all white when it is supposed to be black and white.

Leucistic Horned Grebe
And then there were the waders. American Avocets were kind of expected. I've seen them in water oasis in the desert before.
American Avocet
But I've never seen them swimming around in a flock and going butt to the air dunking for food.

Swimming Avocets
There was also one lone Black-necked Stilt in the park.

Black-necked Stilt
And one White-faced Ibis.

White-faced Ibis
Shorebirds found refuge here too including this Killdeer who wouldn't shut up the whole time I was there.

And this Greater Yellowlegs. Check out the cracked earth in the background.

Greater Yellowlegs
I was pleasantly surprised to find this Pectoral Sandpiper.

Pectoral Sandpiper
The bird that was most expected was Western Sandpiper. I saw a few but this one really caught my eye. He has something around his bill which he struggled to get off. He finally did.

Western Sandpiper
And then, there was the Life Bird. I stumbled on finding the Crissal Thrasher. They are so shy and stay hidden in the desert scrub. I heard something on the edge of the park and turned to see the Thrasher's iconic curved bill and red butt before it disappeared into the desert again.

More Costa's Hummingbirds were at this park so I took the opportunity to photograph this male. He mostly sat on a branch in the shade of the trees so you couldn't really see his bright purple gorget feathers.

Costa's Hummingbird
But occasionally, the light would catch him just right to reveal the iridescent feathers.

Iridescent Purple
This guy was molting. You can see where he is missing feathers under his chin and around his eye.

Molting Costa's
I love this shot. He stretched out just before giving his iconic call again.

Costa's Hummingbird
Alas, I has to leave to catch my flight home. An exhausting trip overall but ended on an up note.