Butterflies That Don’t Look Like Butterflies

In the last few weeks butterflies have become a lot more common, especially during warm late spring afternoons. To the casual observer some don’t even look like butterflies.

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Below are some seen recently where there’s no question what they are.

The very small Banded Hairstreak, (Donna).

Another very small butterfly, the Summer Azure, (Donna).

Hackberry Emperors are a very common medium size butterfly that shun flowers but on a warm day will often land on your skin.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a large butterfly that’s easy to spot and usually easy to get a picture of.

The profile of the medium size Eastern Comma is a bit confusing but in flight there is no mistaking it for anything but a butterfly, (Donna).

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But then there are some where we’re not quite sure, a moth, butterfly, or something else?

The Silver Spotted skipper is one of the largest of the skippers and for that reason fairly easy to spot. It is a fast flier not floating like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Habitat: Disturbed and open woods, foothill stream courses, prairie waterways. Range: Extreme southern Canada and most of the continental United States except the Great Basin and west Texas; northern Mexico. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

The Zabulon Skipper is very small, common but easy to miss. Habitat: Brushy openings near moist forests and streams. Range: Massachusetts west through southern Michigan to central Kansas; south to central Florida, southern Louisiana, and northeast Texas. Strays to New Mexico, South Dakota, and southern Quebec. A separate population ranges from central Mexico south to Panama. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

Two very small and seldom seen Crossline Skippers. Habitat: Open grassy areas including prairies hills, barrens, power line cuts, old fields, forest openings. Range: Western North Dakota east across central Minnesota, southern Ontario, and southern Quebec to central Maine; south to northeast Texas, the Gulf Coast, and northern Florida. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

A Peck’s Skipper on a dandelion. A very small fury butterfly. Habitat: Many open grassy habitats including meadows, prairies, lawns, marshes, landfills, roadsides, vacant lots, and power line right-of-ways. Range: British Columbia east across southern Canada to Nova Scotia; south to northeastern Oregon, southern Colorado, northwest Arkansas, and northern Georgia. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

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And then there’s this rather unusual specimen.

American Snout, Habitat: Forest clearings and edges, thorn scrub, brushy fields, roadsides.
Range: Argentina north through Mexico and the West Indies to southern United States. Migrates to central California, southern Nevada, Colorado, and most of the eastern United States. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

While fascinating it’s not clear what purpose the snout serves, (Donna).

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Given that many butterflies are very small and some fly very fast it can be a challenge to spot them. However once spotted, they transport one into a world that few visit and get to appreciate.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

Getting Along Just Fine

At first, as we looked across the river, there appeared to be a Double-crested Cormorant hanging around with a bunch of turtles. But a closer look revealed that one turtle didn’t resemble the others. The others, Northern Map Turtles, were almost too many to count. The unique turtle was a Spiny Softshell Turtle which, while not uncommon, can’t compete with the map turtle when it comes to shear numbers in central Ohio. 

With it’s neck almost fully extended, it’s almost as though the softshell wants to be a cormorant. The cormorant and softshell made the picture interesting, but it was fascinating to see that they were getting along just fine.

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As opposed to just two weeks ago, the brilliantly colored male Baltimore Orioles are much harder to spot with trees leafed out. However, one obliged by landing on the exposed branches of a nearby sycamore. 

Enjoying a tasty meal in a sycamore tree.

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We’ve transitioned from spring to early summer wildflowers. Two of my favorites, both anemones are Canada Anemone and Thimbleweed. The Spiderwort was photographed in bright late morning sunlight, not the best conditions, but the dark background made it work. The flower of the ninebark is amazingly beautiful considering the plant’s rather ordinary name. 

Foxglove Beardtongue “grows in moist, sandy soil in full sun in meadows, prairies, fields, wood margins, open woods and along railroad tracks. Its bloom period is from late spring to early summer. The plant is known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds“. Ref: Wikipedia.

This small bee is only a little over 1/2 inch long.

Thimbleweed

Spiderwort

Canada Anemone, “in the past used medically by North American Indigenous peoples as an astringent and as a styptic for wounds, sores, nosebleeds, and as an eyewash. The root was respected by Plains tribes and used for many ailments”. Ref: Wikipedia

Wild Raspberry

Ninebark

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Along the reservoir small regular waves under overhanging branches create a fascinating pattern of reflections.

Waves and reflections.

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Sometimes just an inadvertent glace in a direction not planned draws one into an adventure of unexpected wonder.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

A Warbler Fascinates and Delights

We are blessed to have Prothonotary Warblers nesting in central Ohio. Much of the nesting success can be attributed to the numerous nested boxes that have been installed and maintained in the habitats favored by this delightful bird. During hikes and while canoeing we also see nesting activity in abandoned woodpecker cavities. It is always a little more special to observe the prothonotary’s behavior in a natural setting. Especially for the photographer.

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Some interesting facts: “Prothonotary Warblers forage in the understory, slowly hopping along branches, twigs, and on the ground in search of food. Sometimes they climb up tree trunks and pick insects off the bark similar to the way a Black-and-White Warbler forages. When the male establishes his territory he searches for potential nesting sites in standing dead trees and places a layer of moss in each hole. He selects a few good spots and displays in front of each site for the female. He flies slowly up above the tree canopy with tail spread and slowly flutters back down. To entice the female to check out potential nesting sites, he enters and exits the hole several times. As soon as the female selects a site, she starts building a nest. On the breeding grounds males and females aggressively defend their territories, chasing away intruders with snaps of their bills and sometimes with physical attacks. They are monogamous and maintain their bonds during the breeding season. –  –  –  Prothonotary Warblers are uncommon to fairly common in good habitat. Their populations declined over 1% per year from 1966–2015, resulting in a cumulative loss of 42% over that period,”. Ref: Cornell All About Birds.

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One such area not far from our home is the O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve Twin Lakes Area along the Scioto River watershed north of Columbus. We decided to use a canoe to explore the area thinking that it would provide the best access to the birds. Many of the birds in this area seem to be using nesting boxes.

Excellent Prothonotary habitat.

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You never know what birds will do and even while shooting it’s often not obvious because one to preoccupied making sure the subject is in focus, especially when you’re in  a moving canoe. Having said that, we were excited to find a prothonotary in the process of obtaining a meal.

A tasty morsel, an orb weaving spider is spotted, (Donna).

Without much hesitation.

Down the hatch.

Burp!, (Donna).

Yum!

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A little later, and not more than 100 yards from where the spider used to live, another sighting. Could it be the same bird? This one decided to sing, perhaps energized by a recent meal?

Getting ready.

A quiet beginning.

. . . and then as if working towards a grand finale, singing with some stomping (actually scratching).

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As mentioned in previous posts many warbler pass through central Ohio but we are blessed to enjoy this one just a little longer.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Bringing Up The Rear

It’s been over a week since we’ve seen a significant number of spring migrants passing through our local park. For this year at least, female Redstarts and Black-throated Blue Warblers trailed their male counterparts by a few days. It was exciting to see Yellow-billed Cuckoo along the edge of the reservoir again this year.

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When the Blackpoll Warblers move through Griggs Reservoir Park it’s usually a sign that spring migration is near it’s end. “Blackpoll Warblers breed in black spruce and tamarack forests (further north) in Canada’s boreal forests. In western Canada, they also use thickets of spruce, alder, and willow. In northern New England they breed in wet areas with evergreen trees. During migration they stop over in scrubby thickets and mature evergreen and deciduous forests. On their wintering grounds east of the Andes in South America, they occur in forest edges and second-growth forests below 10,000 feet. Blackpoll Warblers are numerous throughout their range, but their numbers have declined severely in recent decades. Much of their far-northern breeding range lies outside of the area covered by the North American Breeding Bird Survey, making it hard to estimate population trends precisely. Nevertheless, the NABBS records suggest an extreme decline of nearly 5% per year from 1966–2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 92% during that time period.” Ref: Cornell All About Birds.

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The ruffled feather look.

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The female Black-throated Blue Warblers were also part of the late migration mix. “Black-throated Blue Warblers breed in large tracts of mature deciduous and mixed evergreen-deciduous woodlands with a thick understory of shrubs including hobblebush, mountain laurel, and rhododendron. In the Appalachians, they tend to occur at elevations of 2,600–5,250 feet, but they occur at lower elevations in hilly terrain farther north. After breeding, individuals often move to shrubby young forests (i.e., early successional habitats) with their offspring. During migration they occur in all types of woodlands, parks, and gardens. On the wintering grounds they inhabit dense tropical forests, woodlands, shade-coffee plantations, and second-growth areas with trees. Black-throated Blue Warblers are common and their populations increased by 163% between 1970 and 2014, according to Partners in Flight“. Ref: Cornell, All About Birds.

Female.

Male for comparison.

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We’ve been hearing Red-eyed Vireos more in recent days. The White-eyed and Warbling Vireos have  apparently moved on.

Red-eyed Vireos often make their presence know by their almost constant repetitive calls, (Donna).

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Eastern Wood Pewees are still seen, but many may head further north as they don’t seem as common in the park in the summer.

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Occasionally we still see a Yellow Warbler.

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The mallard babies are growing up and amazingly, considering they are usually victims of various forms of predation, their ranks haven’t thinned much.

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Breeding in the park, Eastern Kingbirds haven’t been nearly as rambunctious the last few days. Perhaps they are busy with nest building.

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An immature Red-tailed Hawk was seen near it’s nest at the north end of Griggs Reservoir during a recent paddle.

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The water was certainly not enticing but the fresh green of spring made up for it.

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The highlight during that same paddle was spotting a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. A bird we don’t often see. Some nice shots were obtained due to a very light wind and smooth water. “Yellow-billed Cuckoos use wooded habitat with dense cover and water nearby, including woodlands with low, scrubby, vegetation, overgrown orchards, abandoned farmland, and dense thickets along streams and marshes. In the Midwest, look for cuckoos in shrublands of mixed willow and dogwood, and in dense stands of small trees such as American elm. Yellow-billed Cuckoo populations declined by about 52% between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey”. Ref: Cornell, All About Birds.

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Note the beautiful tail feathers, (Donna)

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Due to Covid-19 no birding “hot spots” such as Ohio’s Magee Marsh were visited, but even so it’s been a great spring migration.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

Beauty In A Very Small Package

We were actually looking for the last of the migrating warblers. Walking along the shoreline shrubs that bordered the reservoir I happened to look down. At my feet was the blur of a not uncommon, very small, blue butterfly flittering in the grass. I turned to my wife, who has a passion for such things, and said there’s something here of interest. She immediately went to work. Click here Eastern-tailed Blue for more info on this butterfly.

Male Eastern-tailed Blue.

Usually only the gray underside of the wings are visible when it lands.

In our experience, if the temperature and sunlight are just right, conditions that seem to occur more in the spring, this beautiful little butterfly, about the size of a dime with wings closed, is much more likely to show it’s beautiful blue “topsides”.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

With A Little Help From . . .

We are blessed to enjoy nature and this usually results in not being around a lot of people. A perfect combination for these times. Spring is the season of new life whether it be the young leaves and flowers of a buckeye tree, or the sometimes almost frantic activity of nesting and migrating birds. One day last week, along a wooded park road at waters edge, there seemed to be colorful “missiles” flying everywhere. In that moment, with the smell of spring flowers and a backdrop of surrounding tree green luminescence, it was hard not to feel the warm embrace and the affirmation of being part of something that is much more.

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So with a little help from our friends, be they butterflies, birds, wildflowers or trees, we are invited into a world that to our peril is too often ignored. But to work it’s magic, it demands that we be in the moment, pay attention with intention, and extend our curiosity beyond it’s usual realm. At first, we may find our curiosity stunted because, equipped with little knowledge, our imagination of what lies beyond the next “mountain” is limited. Finding the answer to that first small question may start a journey that informs and empowers in ways never imagined and that far outreach the original field of inquiry.

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In the spring birds are endlessly foraging for food in trees and in low lying brush. What in the world are they all eating? Observing bird behavior, particularly Baltimore orioles as they work over buckeye flowers, coupled with additional research reveals the answer. In the spring birds, including warblers, obtain nutrition from tree buds and the edible parts of flowers including their nectar in addition to insects. Could this be one of the reasons that the orioles like the park near our home with it’s numerous buckeye trees? Within limits, don’t look for a common yellow-throat in the top of a tall tree, most migrating birds find suitable food in a variety locations.

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So below are some birds that have brought a dimension to life in our humble city park that will not be there in a few weeks. In doing so they have expanded our awareness of life that goes far beyond our current cares.

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Black-throated Blue Warbler, Griggs Reservoir Park (GRP)

Take 2, GRP.

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Male Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Duranceau Park (DP)

Male courting display, DP.

The female looks curious, DP.

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Chestnut-sided Warbler, GRP.

Another view, GRP.

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Male Indigo Bunting, GRP. Could we be so fortunate that it would nest in the park?

Take 2, GRP.

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Male Baltimore Oriole, GRP. Baltimore Orioles build many nests in the park.

Another angle, GRP.

Immature male, GRP.

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Palm Warbler, GRP.

Singing, GRP.

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Pine Warbler, DP.

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Male American Redstart, GRP.

Another view, GRP, (Donna).

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Tree Swallows are hear for the season, GRP.

Male and female, GRP.

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Barn Swallow, GRP, (Donna).

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Northern Parula Warbler, GRP.

Another look, GRP.

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Blue-headed Vireo, GRP, (Donna).

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Warbling Vireo, GRP.

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White-eyed Vireo, GRP, (Donna).

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Yellow Warbler, GRP, (Donna).

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Blue-winged Warbler, DP, (Donna).

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Black and White Warbler, GRP, (Donna).

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Yellow-throated Warbler, GRP.

Take 2, GRP, (Donna).

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White-crowned Sparrow, GRP.

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White-throated Sparrow, GRP, (Donna).

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Magnolia Warbler, GRP.

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Prothonotary Warbler, GRP, (Donna).

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Scarlet Tanager, DP.

Take 2, DP.

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Yellow-rumped Warbler, GRP.

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The Great-crested Flycatcher nest in the park, GRP.

Northern- Flickers also nest in the park, GRP.

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Tufted Titmouse are a year round resident, GRP, (Donna).

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As are Downy Woodpeckers, GRP, (Donna)

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House Wren, GRP, (Donna).

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Catbirds are also a summer long resident, GRP.

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Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, DP, (Donna).

Female, GRP, (Donna).

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Mallard family, GRP, (Donna).

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We hope that this post finds you in good health and that in this season of new life and rebirth, you find your celebration.

Chipmunk

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Thanks for stopping by.

Nature In The Time Of Covid-19

It may go against our initial reaction, but if it illuminates a greater understanding and appreciation of life and it’s inter-relatedness, we are blessed to live in the time of Covid-19. Not since before to the advent of modern medicine and most notably antibiotics, has serious illness and death been so relevant to the way we live our daily lives. Stories of mass death due to plagues and other pestilence, in what to us seems like the distant past, are well documented. More recently there have been periods where death has been a greater part of our awareness, WW II comes to mind, but in that war few in the civilian population of the United States had to worry that their “number” might be called. Now the lethal enemy could be lurking in the smiling face of someone just a few feet away and so we find a kinship with those in our more distant past.

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One can only guess how most folks dealt with outbreaks of cholera before there was any idea of how it came to be or spread. Certainly fear, and the hope that through prayer to god one would be spared, was a big part of it. But then what? Suppose you were blessed with another day? How did you experience it? My guess, and I’m sure that of most, is that there was a heightened value placed on each day, if one was not grieving the death of a loved one.

I have reached the age where cherishing each day is no longer just an intellectual concept but one that is experienced. Still, events of the last few weeks have heightened that awareness.

During this time, walks in nature have been an escape but have also served as a reminder of what it has to teach. Learning about the natural world, and appreciating all that comprises it, has been a passion for a number of years. As a result, like any passion, whether one is a painter, gourmet cook, or restores antique cars, while so engaged, one can be totally in the moment and for a time all else is forgotten.

However, this passion for, and love of, the natural world not only has provided times of escape from many of life’s cares but has evoked an awareness of being part of something greater. This goes against our usual mindset, undoubtedly fostered in part by the sheer number of humans on the planet, that we are exceptional, and are somehow above and separate from other living things. But a virus doesn’t know whether it is invading the body of a human or a frog. In either case, the results can vary from just an annoying illness to one that is fatal. Bacterial infections, although often treatable by modern antibiotics, may have the same range of outcomes. But viruses and bacteria are nature and are essential to life as we know it, and often death.

A walk in the woods is a reminder that living things are constantly being born and dying and that to our eye the beauty of autumn color is often as captivating as a spring wildflower attracting pollinators, birth and death. Nothing lasts and any illusion we have of permanency is just that. So Covid-19 has come knocking at our door with an unrelenting song of illness and death and with it the fear that even though we may not have many of the of the high risk criteria no one can be too sure. A new normal at least for a time. We have reluctantly become part of the humanity of history, of the black plague, and of the polio vaccine. We share their fear and joy.

A quiet walk on a wooded path challenges one to be alive now as fungi is seen thriving on a dying tree while a bluebird, with captured insect, flies to it’s nest bringing food for it’s young. It challenges us to hold all life as sacred informed by the humble realization that until the very recent past we were but a small part. In our ephemeral moment the call to us all is to be relevant to the needs our world, to those around us, and to all living things, to reach out in love.

Birds Being Birds

Early migrating spring warblers and other birds are moving through the area. With that in mind we’ve spent a fair amount of time in recent days looking into bushes and up into trees. Yellow-rumps have been found almost everywhere, but for yellow-throated warblers we had to look into the very top of tall sycamore trees making a good picture a challenge. Along with early warblers, many Ruby-crowned Kinglets were seen with males often displaying their ruby crown.

As if to throw out the welcome mat, spring wildflowers, including Large-flowered trillium compliment the beauty of migrating birds.

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While trying to find warblers along Griggs Reservoir we were distracted by the behavior of other birds. In the last few days that has included a crow, eastern bluebirds and red-winged blackbirds.

American Crow, fish for brunch:

Along the reservoir a crow carries off a scavenged shad in it’s beak, flying overhead it lands in a nearby tree and proceeds to dine, (Donna)

We were not sure whether this was a normal practice but the head was soon separated from the body, (Donna).

Then on to the main course, (Donna).

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The more common Virginia Bluebells add their color to the welcome mat.

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Eastern Bluebird harmony, then not.

As a male and female bluebird were busy with “homemaking” tasks I took a few shots:

Female Eastern Bluebird

The male.

Together with nest hole visible.

Leaving the happy couple I walked to our nearby car as my wife trailed behind. Putting my gear away I looked back to see my wife with her camera pointed at the ground. Apparently another female had decided to challenge the status quo resulting in an epic battle which went way beyond mere posturing. We have heard that competition during mating is not restricted to males and that often rivalry’s between females can be even more spirited. What we witnessed certainly bore that out.

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(fight action by Donna)

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Normally white, this Cutleaf Toothwort shows just a hint of pink.

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As we tried to listen for the faint treetop call of a yellow-throated warbler, a red-winged blackbird made it’s presence known:

Male Red-wing Blackbird.

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 Not far away a blue jay was enjoying the hazy morning sun.

Blue Jay

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Chickadees seemed too busy to notice anything but the task at hand.

Carolina Chickadee

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Dutchman’s Breeches also graced the landscape.

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Oh yes, we did manage to see a few warblers and even kinglets but their behavior wasn’t nearly as entertaining as that of some of the park’s normal residents.

Male Yellow-rumped Warbler. Right now the yellow-rumps are by far the most common.

 

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Yellow Warbler

Male Palm Warbler. A bird that’s quite common in Florida in the winter.

Male Black-throated Green Warbler with what appears to be nesting material. A bit unusual as this bird is not indicated to breed in central Ohio.

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Ruby-crowned Kinglets seem to be everywhere.

Okay, one more picture!

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As of the date of this post there have also been reports of Northern-Parula, Pine, and Yellow Warblers all of which we have yet to see. In the coming weeks, as the spring migration continues and before the trees fully leaf out and obscure the view, there should be no shortage of birds to entertain.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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The Other Florida Herons

This post covers the other herons seen in Florida. Unlike the Little Blue and Tricolored which are most commonly seen in Florida and the gulf states these other herons can be seen further north. In our case as far north as Ohio. In fact In our travels we have even observed Green and Great Blue Herons north of Ohio in states such as Michigan.

While it’s amazing to see a Great Blue Heron spear large fish and than undertake the seemingly impossible task of swallowing it (not always successfully), the herons in this post have their preferences but will eat just about anything that gets too close. Black and Yellow-crowned Night Herons can be observed feeding during the day as well as at night but as their name implies they prefer the night. And yes, I did say spear, as most herons often spear their prey rather than grabbing it with their bill. What follows, as the heron goes through a multi-step process to manipulate and position the fish so that it can be swallowed head first, is fascinating to watch.

Hillsborough River, FL.

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As mentioned in a previous post, a canoe is a good tool to use when observing birds that make their living along the shoreline of various bodies of water and we certainly found that to be the case for the birds in this post. An added plus is the beautiful areas that we get to explore even when the birds aren’t present.

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Green Heron:

Silver River, FL. (Donna)

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron:

Silver River, FL.

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Great Blue Heron:

Hillsborough River, FL.

Payne’s Prairie SP, FL.

 

Myakka River SP, FL.

 

Myakka River SP, FL.

<<< >>>

Alligator Lily, Hillsborough River, FL.

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Black-crowned Night Heron:

Myakka River, FL.

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron, Hillsborough River, FL.

Myakka River SP, FL.

Silver River, FL.

Myakka River SP

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Myakka River, Myakka River SP.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction to the other Florida herons. We find looking for them, as well as observing them once found, to be endlessly entertaining. Thanks for stopping by.

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They Eat Skunk???

This was supposed to be a post about spring wildflowers and migrating warblers but the other day, while I was bicycling with a friend, my wife was busy exploring the park near our home. What she discovered goes against everything I would have thought possible.

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A Red Tailed hawk eating a skunk!

Immature Red-tailed Hawk with skunk.

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I case there are any doubters, “Maybe it was someone’s unfortunate Tuxedo Cat”, my wife indicated that while capturing the repast, the fragrance was unmistakable. Stay tuned for wildflower and warblers in the next post.

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Thanks for stopping by. 

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PS: If this post leaves you wondering about our feathered friends ability to smell, click on Can birds smell?

 

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