Zooming – May 2019

It’s the end of the month – and time to select some images that I utilized the zoom on my camera to capture. I took over 2,000 images in May and at least half of them used that feature – so I had a lot to choose from.

There are quite a few birds in the slideshow this month. Can you find: red-winged blackbird displaying its colors, oystercatcher on the beach, laughing gull, least tern on a barrel, osprey on their nest, peregrine falcon with chicks, and several crowds of shorebirds. The bird feet are those of a mockingbird.

There is a painted turtle, ghost crab and horseshoe crab in the mix as well.

Enjoy the May slideshow!

Mockingbird at Belmont

We don’t have a resident mockingbird near our house (the trees are too thick now that the neighborhood is 25+ years old), but I see them every time I got to Belmont. Northern Mockingbirds are year-round residents in Maryland. They pick up ‘songs’ from their environment – most of the time other birdsongs but it can be any noise.

I got to Belmont early on a couple of field trip days to take pictures of a bird in the nature place space. It could have been the same bird both days…or not. The space is surrounded by a meadow so plenty of opportunity for the mockingbird to spot insects for a tasty snack or meal. There are plenty of trees and vines with small fruits that develop over the summer surrounding the meadow to feed the mockingbirds into fall and winter. This is prime habitat for the birds.

See the the mockingbird slide show below – the bird enjoying the morning…before the buses arrived.

Foggy Morning at Centennial Park

Earlier this week, I enjoyed doing some photography at Centennial Park on a foggy morning. The lake was a little high from the recent rains and the fog muted the colors of the trees (still mostly green).

I stopped at a dogwood tree to capture the buds for next season and the seeds from this year.

There were some colorful leaves that showed up better at close range.

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There were some fall flowers at the edge of the lake – somewhat protected from the water run off by a large rock.

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There were not very many birds around:  a few Canadian geese on the lake

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And a mockingbird. Note the small spider web in the picture with the mockingbird.

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The spider webs and small mushroom growing on rotting mulch were the photographic high points of the walk. I post more about them next week.

Belmont Hikes with Summer Campers I

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I have started weekly hikes with summer campers at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont location. The theme for this week was ‘Fossils and Feathers’ – to I focused on birds during the hike. The cardinal flowers near the entrance to the Carriage House (the camp headquarters) have evidently attracted some hummingbirds but there were too many people about while I was there to see them.

I was early enough that I walked around to see how the butterfly meadow looks during its first season. It’s mostly grass!

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I photographed some of the flowers that are there among the grass. I hope the butterflies find them!

There were two groups of campers; the first group to hike were the younger children. We hiked down to the pond. There are birdhouses along the way down the grassy path through the newly mowed field. The tree swallows were very active…and then we saw purple martins in their house and flying off toward the pond. Turkey vultures made slow circles in the sky. There were red-winged black birds around the pond and we talked about other birds that like to be around water; Great Blue Herons and Wood Ducks both came up in the talk. We also saw dragon flies at the pond and talked about how they lay their eggs in the water. We hiked back along the tree lined drive to the manor house and stopped at the sycamore; we noticed the pieces of bark on the ground and agreed that next time they go to the stream they might try the curls of bark as ‘boats.’

I had a break between the two groups. I found a chair in the shade and took pictures of birds at the feeders and nearby trees.

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There were red-winged blackbirds, goldfinches, a red-bellied woodpecker, and a mockingbird. I was hearing the mockingbird long before I managed to see it.

The second hike was a bit longer. We walked along the edge of the forest then went a short way in…listening for birds in several places along the way. We heard birds…but didn’t see any except doves and vultures. There was a lot of other things to see: a deer, a tiger swallowtail, chicory, wineberry, sweet gum balls, lichen, a cicada’s shed.

In both groups we found a few feathers to talk about. I enjoyed the hikes…and I think the campers did too.

Josey Ranch Park in Carrollton, Texas

The baby ducklings I posted about yesterday were the spring highlight for me at the part….but I was pleased with other sites too.

The buttercups in the grass…and the serendipity of catching a butterfly in flight between flowers.

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The male grackles were facing off…asserting their dominance.

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There was a scissor-tailed flycatcher that posed on a post for picture.

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I hadn’t realized how similar they looked to mockingbirds that are also in the area….except for the vary long tail.

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I saw two pairs of ducks (other than the mallards) that are probably getting ready to leave for their breeding ground further north: gadwalls (photo is of the male)

And northern shovelers. Both were probably more numerous in the area a few weeks ago.

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There was a squirrel that did not look happy for me to walking nearby as

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An American coot that didn’t seem to know I was there at all.

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My round-trip walk was about 2 miles…good exercise…and a good outing for some photography.

Birding through a Window – February 2018

I’ve posted many of my bird pictures for the month already (bluebirds bathingbefore (woodpeckers) and after the Great Backyard Bird Count) so this post will have the ‘best of the rest.’ There were birds that just come to the birdbath – like the blue jays (we have a small flock that makes the rounds in our neighborhood most days with a stop at our bird bath…one bird at a time)

And the flickers (sporadically).

Sometimes the little birds visit the bird bath together. I managed to photograph a chickadee, goldfinch, and nuthatch together. It’s interesting to see how chunky the nuthatch is compared to the other two birds.

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I saw the nuthatch and chickadee several times during the month…but didn’t get any more worthwhile pictures. The goldfinches comes to the feeder and bird bath more frequently. They are still in their winter plumage…I keep looking for the more brilliant yellow feathers to appear.

At the bird feeder – a house finch and downy woodpecker shared for a few seconds. The woodpecker is a little bigger than the finch…but they both are light enough that their combined weight does not pull down the metal ‘flowers’ to cover the seed holes (the squirrel proofing of the feeder).

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The house finches are probably the most frequent visitors to the feeder. We have a resident group that makes rounds in our neighborhood.

The resident cardinal pair prefers seed on the ground but has developed a technique to flutter near the feeder and get seed when there is not enough scattered around underneath.

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A mockingbird came to the bird bath recently….which is unusual for us. They are around our neighborhood (I hear them and see them) but we haven’t had one that frequents our deck…maybe this one will stick around.

San Antonio Botanical Garden – Part 2

Like most botanical gardens, the San Antonio Botanical Garden is segmented. The Kumamoto En Japanese Garden was probably my favorite: the water feature surrounded by plants and rocks, a mockingbird scolding us (wanting the garden to himself), a sun and moon ‘lantern,’ and stepping stones for going off the trails.

The Sensory Garden was colorful and included sculptures (like the armadillo below) that were positioned to be touched.

The Fountain Garden included ‘Christmas balls’ floating in the water and a metal flower sculpture surrounded my greenery.

We came a garden that attracted butterflies. I managed to photograph Gulf Fritillary and

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I’ve always wanted to get some close-up Datura flowers and seeds…and there was a plant that was well positioned for that!

Two little surprises in the gardens: a design made with pumpkins under some trees and

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A chess set in the well of the amphitheater.

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There was a special display of scarecrows while we were there – created my local organizations.

The garden has several areas that talk about the various water situations in Texas: Hill country, East Texas, and South Texas.  It was more rustic than other areas of the Botanic Garden.

We didn’t see very many birds – but I did manage to photograph a hermit thrush in a tree (right off the trail in the East Texas part of the garden). I was pleased since I am rarely fast enough to get a good image of forest birds.

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Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

The day after the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival ended and before we headed back to San Antonio for our flight home, we visited the Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park. Our original plan had been to spend the morning at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas but the morning was cold and wet…not conducive to butterfly activity. So we changed our plans. It was still cold and wet but some birds in the park didn’t care. This Northern Mockingbird called attention to itself with is song(s).

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There was an area near the nature center with paved walkways – some of them intermittently covered. We walked around the area – everything was very wet.

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We took the tram into the park and got off at the first stop. There was a small butterfly garden near the bird blind (where there was no action) and the rain held off for long enough for there to be a little activity. I spotted a Painted Lady,

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A Skipper (not sure what kind),

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Queens in abundance, and

We hiked a little further and came to another bird blind…and there was plenty going on there. A Golden Fronted Woodpecker enjoyed the suet.

The Plain Chachalacas were also coming in to the feeders for a snack.

Green Jays were around as well.

It started raining harder do we found a dry place to stand until the tram came bay again. There were more people on the tram for the return visit, so we got the seat on the back of tram…riding backwards. It was a good way to end our visit. I want to go back again on a day when the weather is better!

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