Today we have some nice raptor photos from Alan Clark in Liverpool. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the fearsome bird pictures by clicking on them. TRIGGER WARNING: Predation!
Here are some more photos for your Wildlife Photos section. The birds were all photographed at a recent photo shoot organised by a local Nature photography group, with birds provided by a falconer.
Peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus. This species is widespread on all the unfrozen continents. It became endangered in some places because of the use of DDT, but has now recovered well. It has been used in falconry for over 3000 years, and is the fastest bird in the world, having been reportedly measured at 389kph/242mph in a dive.
Northern Goshawk, Accipiter gentilis. Widespread in the Northern hemisphere. The name means Goose hawk, as it is able to catch large species of birds.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus. The same genus as the Goshawk, but a much smaller species. Found in much of the Old World North of the Equator. It is often seen in gardens. At one time in England it was thought that Cuckoos changed into Sparrowhawks in Winter.
Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Bubo bubo. Mostly nocturnal. This bird weighs 5 pounds and has a wingspan of 6ft.
I issue once again a call for readers’ photos, and would appreciate submissions of good photos.
Today’s contribution comes from regular Jim Blilie, showing a youthful trip to western Canada in (mostly) black and white. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them:
These are all in black and white, mostly Kodak Tri-X Pan. These are from a trip to Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, and Mount Robson Provincial Park in Alberta and British Columbia in September 1981. We were all poor college students, so we camped in tents and drove by car, straight through from St. Paul, Minnesota, over about 28 hours each way. Brutal road-tripping. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta are BIG! But the prize at the end was worth it. We had phenomenal fall weather and great wildlife viewing.
First three are a close encounter with a bull elk (Cervus canadensis). We got CLOSE to the wildlife. I think I’d stand further back these days! 50mm lens, 135mm lens
Next are two of Stone Sheep (Ovis dalli). 50mm lens, 20mm lens:
Next is a moose. This photo is taken with a 50mm lens on 35mm film. I was TOO CLOSE to this bull moose (Alces alces).
Next are two shots of a herd (flock?) of Mountain Goats (Oreamnos americanus), which are neither sheep nor goats. Again, all with a 50mm lens.
Mount Robson at sunrise from Berg Lake. Rolleiflex. Yes, I hauled the Rolleiflex and a tripod up to Berg Lake!
Summit Lake with figure. On the (easy) hike in to Jacques Lake, Jasper NP. 50mm lens
Finally, one color shot (Kodachrome 64). The group of us poor college students on the top of Fairview Mountain, near Lake Louise. My 20-year-old self at far right. My (now) wife is in the foreground. It was on this trip that we realized that something was happening between us!
Equipment: Pentax K-1000, Pentax ME Super, Rolleiflex 6cm camera with Schneider 75mm f/3.5 Xenar lens, Pentax M 50mm f/2.0 lens, Pentax M 20mm lens f/4.0, Pentax M 135mm f/3.5 lens, Epson Perfection V500 scanner and its native SW, Lightroom 5 SW
Today’s bird photos come from Paul Edelman, a Professor of Mathematics and Law at Vanderbilt University. Paul’s captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. We also have two singletons by other readers at the bottom.
Some more bird pictures from our neighborhood pond.
We have a pair of Belted Kingfishers (Ceryle alcyon) that nest in the area. They make a loud ratcheting sound when they fly. This pair was chasing each other all over the pond. I was fortunate to get them in flight, something I’ve tried to do many times before.
I had seen a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) during the late winter and early spring, but this is the first time in a while. This particular one is “yellow-shafted morph” with the characteristic red patch on the back of its head and the yellow tail feathers.
I also caught this Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) perched in the trees over the pond. Not sure what he was looking for.
I have another picture—the odd hybrid duck with a couple of mallards [Anas platyrhynchos]. [JAC: Neither of us are sure what this duck is, but I think it’s the result of a cross between wild mallards and Pekin ducks, which are the white ones: also mallards but bred for color, docility, and meat. The mallard in the rear is likely a hybrid as well, but could be a wild mallard “greening up” into his breeding plumage.]
Our young friend of the Tamiasciurus hudsonicus kind:
And a travel/cat/architecture photo from Nikos Kitsakis:
I immediately had to think of you when I took the picture attached. I took it this morning standing next to the greek flag at the Acropolis in Athens at shortly after 8 in the morning (What to call it? Acropocat? Catcropolis?).
Athens has the owl 🦉 as a symbol since ancient times as you know, but all I see all the time are cats 🐈. I think they ate all the owls… 🙂
Today we have a lovely series of falcon pictures taken by reader Steve Adams, whose notes are indented. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.
Here is a young Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) that we came across during a visit to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in New York State. The refuge lies between the cities of Rochester and Syracuse and is one our favorite places to visit. At first, the falcon was perched on what seemed a perfectly serviceable horizontal branch. Suddenly, it turned and eyed up the vertical branch next to it and leapt. The ensuing few seconds were both comical and nerve-racking as the poor bird strived fruitlessly to gain a hold. Eventually, it abandoned its attempt and flew off.
This was the first time I’ve been able to capture a falcon perched, so I was very happy. The show was an added bonus!
Please send in your good photos, as the tank is depleting faster than I’d like. Thanks.
Today we have a potpourri of photos from various readers and contributors. Their captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.
The first photo is by Jamie Blilie:
Winter plumage American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) in the middle of a snowstorm. Taken Dec 23, 2020, in a tree in our back yard, Minnesota. We have many winter resident birds. We have many feeders in our yard to help them through the winter (we feed much less in summer).
Reader Bryan found slugs making The Beast with Two Backs in Middlesex County, Massachusetts:
I saw this the other day (cool fall day in N. hemisphere).Reading a bit tells me it is gastropod copulation involving Spanish slugs, Arion vulgaris. It was satisfying to know I stumbled (figuratively!) on a fascinating biology topic.
From Thomas Czarny, sent September 8:
Yesterday an epic line storm coming across Lake Michigan slammed into the Traverse City, MI area causing widespread wind, rain and hail damage. Below is a sequence of photos of the advancing front as it swept inland from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Shoreline. Only the first one is my photo, the rest are from friends and other local sources. At last report the Cherry Hut in Beulah is still intact.🍒
We went to the Ubud Monkey Forest in Bali a couple of years ago. If I remember correctly, this was a tourist conservation, owned by the local community. There were several Hindu temples within the forest which were closed-off to the public; only the monkeys could enter. I believe these were Balinese long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis).
Reader Reese sent in some photos he got from a friend who tends ducks in a pond by his house. I’m going to show these photos to Honey.
From my friend John Williamson who feeds ducks and other wildlife on a resaca in Brownsville, Texas. I hope some of your pals are planning on wintering there. His house backs up to Town Resaca (which appears to be a body of water that goes nowhere) in Brownsville, not far from the Gladys Porter Zoo. I attach a few more photos so your ducks have a better idea of the winter spa awaiting them:
Note that he has built a duck-feeding platform (and also a Buddha platform).
Nutria (rodents also known as coypu; Myocaster coypus) also appreciate the duck corn. There also seem to be duck pellets:
I’m breaking precedent by putting up two successive posts by one person becaue Tara Tanaka’s new video, filmed four years ago but posted only yesterday, was so charming and amazing, and it shows LOTS OF DUCKS! Thousands of them, all on the wing together, and of three species! The mallards, of course, are my favorite (Tara said she put in extra shots of mallards for me). With such a density of flying ducks, I wonder how they manage to avoid collisions in the air. Also, it looks as if they fly segregated by sex, but that may simply be because the drakes are more conspicuous.
Here are Tara’s notes. Be sure to enlarge the video by clicking on the four outward-facing arrows, and put the sound up, as there’s lovely music. Don’t miss this one!
2021-09 Bosque Blast-offs: Pintails, Mallards, Widgen and Shovelers
This was one of the most spectacular wildlife scenes that I’ve ever witnessed. I shot the footage for this video in 2017 at Bosque del Apache NWR, and have been thinking about creating it for four (!) years. It was time.
The experience of watching that many ducks lift off was indescribable, but the music that I chose does the best job of conveying the emotion I felt that can be shared through video.
Tara Tanaka is back with a lovely bird video, which she posted on Vimeo on September 26. It’s of a peripatetic Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor), part of whose nonbreeding range is in Florida. Be sure to enlarge the video (click the start arrow and then the four arrows to the left of “Vimeo”) and turn on the sound.
Here are Tara’s notes:
Two days ago I saw what I thought was our first Prairie Warbler, but I didn’t have binoculars and never got a clear view of the bird’s face. This afternoon I spotted him again, and managed to get some very close video in good light. I haven’t been shooting much video lately, and videoing a fast-moving warbler with manual focus really tests rusty focusing skills. I’ve slowed the video down to half-speed to give viewers a better look at this little beauty. Never having seen one before, I was surprised at how bright his colors were in the fall.
Where are those photos you accumulated during my vacation? Send ’em in!
Here are some bird and plant photos from Jim McCormac of Ohio, whose blog is here and whose “massive photo website” is here. His captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.
A Fringe-tree (Chionanthus virginicus) heavily laden with ripe fruit. This shrubby (small treelet, at best) member of the Olive Family (Oleaceae) is a close relative of ashes. It flowers in spring, and produces pleasing bouquets of stringy white-petaled flowers. Come fall, the blue drupes (as the fruit are called) also create an aesthetically pleasing appearance. With the added – and more important – benefit of feeding long-haul migratory songbirds.
While the somewhat similar Chinese Fringe-tree (C. retusus) is sometimes used in landscaping, the one featured here is the native. In the interior, it occurs as far north as southern Ohio. The trees in my images were planted at Inniswood Gardens, a metropark in Westerville, Ohio, only 15 minutes from where I live. This site is probably about 80 miles north of Fringe-tree’s native range, but who are we to split hairs? The tastiness of its drupes are certainly well known to songbirds engaged in long migrations between Neotropical wintering regions and northern breeding grounds. These birds have undoubtedly long known and utilized this plant’s autumnal bounty.
A Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) with a freshly plucked drupe. Larger birds like this swallow the drupes whole. Many of these speckle-bellied thrushes were present on this mid-September day. Swainson’s Thrush is the most common of our highly migratory thrushes, and they breed across the great expanse of North American boreal forest, from Alaska to Newfoundland, and south at high elevations in the west. Most birds winter from Central America south to western South America, all the way to Peru.
A Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina) perches briefly in a nonnative Norway Spruce (Picea abies) near the Fringe-trees. This warbler is another boreal breeder, and intimately linked to spruce on the breeding grounds. Even migrants seek out spruce, including the nonnative species. Cape Mays breed in a fairly narrow belt of boreal forest, from Alberta to Nova Scotia, and most winter in the Caribbean and the western coast of Mexico and Central America.
Come fall, Cape Mays often become frugivorous, plundering the bonanza of berries to be found in autumn in the eastern deciduous forest region that blankets much of eastern North America, as far north as southern Canada. Unlike the larger thrushes, warblers such as this typically puncture the skin of fruit with their sharp bills. They then drink the juices and perhaps eat some of the pulp. Many Cape May Warblers regularly visited this small Fringe-tree planting.
The most frequent frugivorous warbler at the Fringe-trees was the Tennessee Warbler (Leiothlypis peregrina). This one strikes a pose amongst some drupes, all of which bear the tell-tale evidence of feeding warblers.
While warblers are highly insectivorous during the breeding season, some add much vegetable matter in migration and winter. Tennessee Warblers winter throughout the Caribbean, much of Central America, and well into South America. I have seen them by the score in winter in Guatemala, where they avidly take nectar from the flowers of various trees. So much so that their faces are often stained bright colors courtesy of the nectar.
As a bonus, a stone’s throw away was a gorgeous Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) loaded with ripe fruit. Birds galore were taking advantage, including many Swainson’s Thrushes, occasional thrushes of other species, especially American Robins (Turdus migratorius), Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis), and most surprisingly to me, lots of Red-eyed Vireos (Vireo olivaceus, pictured).
Vireos are notorious for the number of caterpillars they take. The raptor-like hook at the bill tip is an adaptation for seizing and tearing open larvae, or so I assume. Vireos are closely related to shrikes, which are highly predatory songbirds and sport even more of a hooked raptor-type bill. In the case of the vireo, this bill also works well when plucking fruit.
A Red-eyed Vireo, caught in the act of fruit plundering. This does not take long. As soon as a bird freed one, it quickly swallowed it. Something about Sweetbay Magnolia fruit is very attractive to this species, which I did not know before this experience. At times there would be perhaps a half-dozen vireos in the tree together, and a few times they were joined by a Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus). As with the Fringe-tree, Sweetbay is a southerner not occurring until 100 miles or south of central Ohio. But in the south and in the Atlantic states it can be common and birds have undoubtedly long used it as a food source.
A juvenile Red-eyed Vireo (brown eyes) watches a pugnacious Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). A number of hummingbirds had staked claim to the nearby gardens and flowering plants. When they weren’t trying to drive each other away, they’d occasionally fly high into the magnolia to have a go at the vireos.
The Red-eyed Vireo is a true long-haul migrant. They breed over a massive swath of eastern North America and extend into northwest Canada and the U.S., mostly using caterpillar-rich deciduous forests. The wintering grounds encompass most of the northern half of South America. Some vireos probably fly 5-6,000 miles, one way. It is fascinating, to me at least, to learn about the intimate connection migrant songbirds have with plants, and to think about the role of native plants and their fruit in helping to stoke these long, hazardous journeys.
Bob Placier’s avocation is bird banding, which he does seriously and diligently. We previously saw his photos about banding adorable Northern Saw-Whet Owls, and now here are some other species. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge Bob’s photos by clicking on them.
I thought I would send along a few pics from my regular banding sessions during spring and fall migration, and a Brown Creeper winter picture from near my feeders. All photos taken here at my home in southeastern Ohio. These are all birds that I uncommonly get here.
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) – Very widespread in North America, but I get them here only in winter.
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) – Also very widespread, I catch them when they are in pursuit of songbirds. I capture more Sharp-shinned Hawks (Accipiter striatus), but think that is because the Cooper’s, being larger, get out of the nets more readily.
American Woodcock (Scolopax minor) – Common in eastern North America, and they nest in my vicinity. I watch the males do their mating display on my neighbor’s property each spring. But I have only banded two out of them out of about 23,000 birds I have done to date.
Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) – A boreal bog species, that neither nests nor overwinters in Ohio. But I generally get 1-3 each year during their migrations.
Mourning Warbler (Geothlypis philadelphia) – Another transient migrant in my area, I generally band 1-2 each migration season. A skulker, much sought after by bird watchers.
Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens) – Long considered to be a New World warbler, finally moved to its own monotypic family, Icteriidae, in 2017. An “old field” species, declining in my area as forest succession has reduced that habitat.
Today is Sunday, and that means a batch of themed bird photos by biologist John Avise. His captions and notes are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.
Pelican Feeding Modes
North America has two species of Pelicans: the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) and the American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos). Both have a large gular pouch used to catch fish. But interestingly, these two species otherwise employ completely different feeding techniques. A Brown Pelican spots fish from the air and then plunge-dives head-first to capture the prey in its rapidly expanding pouch. The White Pelican, by contrast, typically hunts in groups while swimming on the water’s surface. Several White pelicans line up with their beaks in the water and herd fish into shallow waters where they scoop them up. In effect, the gular pouches of White Pelicans collectively act like a seine, pinning their prey in the shallows or against an embankment. This week’s photographs showcase these two pelican species and illustrate their distinct feeding modes.