Rosyfinch Ramblings
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May 2009
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Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Florida & SE US, Bald Eagle Nest
Posted by: Ken @ 5:42 pm

On May 25th, an adult eagle was eating unidentified prey on the nest…

Adult At Nest 20090525

…while a second roosted nearby:

Adult Roosting 2-20090525

Our time back in Florida has sped by so quickly. Since we had a house guest,we went sightseeing at several of the popular tourist destinations. It rained regularly every afternoon, so there were morning jaunts to Butterfly World, Fort Lauderdale river front and harbor cruise, and other points along the Atlantic coast and out Alligator Alley. There was little time for birding, though we took the tram ride at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, and got out very early to visit our local Bald Eagle nest a couple of times.

The two chicks produced by the eagle pair have been flying freely for eight weeks. We were surprised to find that the parents continued to bring food to the nest right into this past week. The older chick, named Hope, was last seen on Saturday, May 23, the eighteenth week after she hatched. Her younger brother, Justice is still returning to the nest, and was possibly fed a small meal by a lingering adult only this morning. The feedings have been progressively smaller and infrequent.

This morning, while I found only one eaglet at the nest, Mike Fossler saw and photographed one adult. It was being harassed by a mockingbird. His dramatic photos may be viewed in the slide show at the end of this post.

This Anhinga, resting on our back lawn, scolded me when I disturbed it:

Angry Anhinga 20090527

The rains had greatly increased water levels in the Everglades. This was good for the wildlife, but limited viewing opportunites, as they were no longer concentrated in the small pools. Yet, I was able to capture a remarkable sequence as one bird failed to heed my mother’s admonition, to not eat anything larger than my head.

Great Blue Heron hunting along the canal at Shark Valley Visitors Center:

Great Blue Heron Hunting 20090528

The heron bags a good-sized tilapia:

Great Blue Heron Catches Tilapia 20090528

He’s not going to try to swallow that big thing alive, is he?

Great Blue Heron Ready to Swallow 20090528

I can’t believe this!

Great Blue Heron Swallows Tilapia 20090528

Down it goes!

Great Blue Heron Swallows Tilapia 2-20090528

Limpkins can be hard to find, but this one posed cooperatively:

Limpkin Portrait 20090528

An immature Little Blue Heron, in its temporary white plumage, stalks along the water’s edge:

Little Blue Heron Immature 3-20090529

At Butterfly World in Coral Springs, a pair of lorikeets engages in mutual preening:

Lorikeets 20090530

A haughty macaw eyes me with suspicion:

Macaws 20090530

This is one of many varieties of passionflower hybrids that have been developed at Butterfly World:

Passionflower 20090530

Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites

1 comment
Back in Florida!
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Florida & SE US, Bald Eagle Nest
Posted by: Ken @ 6:29 pm

Tom Mitchell captured this image of an adult bringing a fish to both chicks in the nest on Saturday morning, May 23, 2009
(c) 2009 Tom Mitchell, used with permission

We arrived in Florida late on Wednesday, and got out early the next morning to check our local Bald Eagle nest. The chicks (named Hope and Justice in a nationwide poll) are 18 weeks old this weekend. They fledged at 11 weeks of age, and usually spend the night in a roost together near the nest tree. They still return to the nest for occasional feedings. The portions brought in by the parents seem to be smaller and are offered less frequently. Although none of the observers has seen either of the eaglets with prey, we must assume that they are learning to hunt for themselves.

When we got to the nest at about 8:30 AM, no eagles were in sight, but within a few minutes both of the youngsters flew in and roosted in trees right along the road.

Justice, the younger sibling, followed his older sister to the tree:

 Justice Follows Hope 20090521

Justice’s plumage is noticeably darker:

Justice Roosting 20090521

Hope is a lighter brown, and both chicks’ beaks are starting to get yellow at the base:

Hope Roosting 20090521

Hope flies off:

Hope Flying 20090521

Heavy rains have limited observation of the nest for the past two days, and we stayed at home . This afternoon there was a break in the weather, and two  Double-crested Cormorants fished near the shore of our backyard lake. They attracted both a Tricolored and a Green Heron. I captured an interesting sequence of photos as the Tricolored stalked and then caught a small fish. The bird swallowed the fish in a blink of the eye. The last three photos were taken within a two second interval, from 4:06:06 and 4:06:08 PM EDT!

With the sun at its back, the Tricolored Heron intently watches the water, stirred by a brisk breeze. “I see the fish!”:

Tricolored Heron 5-20090522

It strikes and succeeds (click and select larger size to see the water droplets frozen in space). “I seize the fish!” (04:06:06 PM):

Tricolored Heron 20090522  

Taken one second later (04:06:07 PM)”I squeeze the fish!”

Tricolored Heron 2-20090522

Then, only one more second later (04:06:08 PM), “Down the hatch!”

Tricolored Heron 4-20090522

A Green Heron fishes patiently nearby:

Green Heron 20090522

1 comment
My birding companion has a new little sister
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Grandchildren, Illinois
Posted by: Ken @ 6:49 am

Agramonte 20090513

Our Illinois daughter’s family dog is a golden Tibetan Mastiff named Agramonte. He is now 17 months old and is a wonderful companion for their two small children. An ancient breed, Tibetan Mastiffs retain some features of ancestral wild canids. They mature slowly, taking about 4-5 years to attain full size. They also go into estrus only once a year, and have a rich undercoat that is shed all at once in the spring. This means that they do not release dander into the air for about 11 months of the year, so they are considered to be “hypoallergenic.” This was an important consideration in selecting this breed, as one of the children suffered severe allergies from their previous pet, a Dobie-Lab mix named Maceo. The sad story of Maceo’s last days is detailed here: Losing a Best Friend

Agramonte, at four months of age, with las Nietas:


Agramonte, true to his breed, is intelligent and  placid, but stubborn. In Tibet, where they are sometimes chained all day and released to roam at night, they are known as vicious guardians of the villages.  Happily, the family took great pains to socialize him with other dogs and also people of all ages, so his protective instincts are tempered. He enjoys the company of the children, and does not protest when they climb all over him. Even though he now weighs over 100 pounds (and may put on 30 to 40 more) he exhibits some adolescent traits, such as making off with shoes and toys, to the delight of the children and consternation of their parents.

Agramonte accompanying the girls on a nature walk:

Nietas y Agramonte

When we are in Illinois, I frequently take Agramonte for walks, something he eagerly anticipates. We often stroll through a nearby streamside park with wood-chip paths that loop into a forested area, great bird habitat. When Agramonte walks, he likes to keep moving, tugging on his leash while I am trying to look through my binoculars. My solution has been to stand on his leash while I birdwatch, trying to ignore his tugs and impatient whining. Finally, he accepted my disturbing habit, and learned to simply lie down and rest, a skill that seems to be perfected in this breed. When a Tibetan Mastiff decides to lie down, few forces on earth can make him get up and get going again!

Sagua at 4 months:

Sagua 20090513

Well, all this has changed, as his masters believed that it was not good for him to be alone. Last week, we drove up to Wisconsin and picked up a four month old female, a black and tan named Sagua (actually Washanti’s Ermita de Sagua la Grande, named after the little church in our son in law’s home town in Cuba). The two dogs get along famously, and play to the point of exhaustion. Agramonte has already lost most of his mischievous traits.  It took Sagua a few days to get used to the leash, but now she leads the way and has no respect for my desire to make frequent stops. I’ve found it easier to just leave the binoculars at home when Sagua accompanies us into the woods!

Agramonte caused this distressed Killdeer to go into a distraction display as we unknowingly walked near its nest:

Killdeer Distraction Display 20090524

I went back later and found its four eggs, only a foot from the edge of a manicured lawn:

Killdeer Eggs 20090512

We have tried to squeeze as much spring migration birding into our schedule before departing. Walks in local nature area (sans dogs) have produced some images of representative species.

Sedge Wrens are claiming territories in the meadows at Nelson Lake Forest Preserve in Batavia, IL:

 Sedge Wren 20090519

Nearby, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak sings his heart out:

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 20090519

Competing Baltimore Orioles display to each other as females look on:

Male Orioles Interacting 20090518

1 comment
Looking for bluebirds in Jones Meadow Park
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Illinois, Birding "Patches"
Posted by: Ken @ 7:15 am

So far this spring, we have failed to catch sight of a bluebird. From the reports of local birders, we know they are around, but family obligations have kept us from going very far afield. Still, they were present last year at a nest tree in Jones Meadow Park near our home, and most mornings during the past couple of weeks we have tried to squeeze in even a half hour of birding, there or at another Batavia (Illinois) park, Hawk’s Bluff Park.

While searching for the returning bluebirds, we saw another member of the thrush family that has shown up in good numbers this spring. This dull-backed species lacks the reddish tail of the Hermit Thrush, sports buffy cheeks and a prominent eye ring.

A Swainson’s Thrush posed on the turf, and then took up a perch to peer back at us:

Swainson's Thrush 20090514

Swainson's Thrush 20090514

A Warbling Vireo sang its rolling and rollicking, loud and repetitive: “I see the bug, I seize the bug, I squeeze the bug, I eat it:!”

Warbling Vireo 20090514

Nearby, a Song Sparrow poured out its (what else?) song:

Song Sparrow 20090510

American Robins, common as they are, make beautiful photographic subjects:

American Robin 20090510

A Chipping Sparrow posed nicely on a fence post:

Chipping Sparrow 20090510

On the small lake, a pair of Canada Geese guarded their two little ones:

 Canada Goose Family 20090510

We enjoyed a Mothers Day brunch at Morton Arboretum, and the grandchildren enjoyed watching the Tree Swallows at their nest box:

Tree Swallow 20090510

House Sparrows had commandeered the Purple Martin condominium:

House Sparrow 20090510

The children are always fascinated by furry creatures, like this Fox Squirrel:

Fox Squirrel 20090510

Dandelions abounded on the lawns of the Arboretum, and it was fun to watch the fluffy seeds disperse at the slightest breeze:

Graci Dandelion 2-20090510

Though dressed in their Sunday best for Mother’s Day, the girls enjoyed frolicking in the extensive play area:

Carina 3-20090510

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Spring birding: Something new every day
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Illinois, Birding "Patches"
Posted by: Ken @ 10:42 pm

We set out this morning to Lippold Park in Kane County, Illinois, hoping to see our first Scarlet Tanager of the year. For the past week we searched for them in vain. Today we were not disappointed, for within 15 minutes we heard its husky “robin with a sore throat” song. As it was early and overcast, and the bird kept to the treetops, nearly all my photos were badly backlit and showed little color or detail.

This shot was about the best I got:


He took flight on translucent wings:

Scarlet Tanager Flying 20090508

We logged 37 bird species, several heard but not seen, and obtained few good photos because of the light conditions and the fact that many were small guys flitting in the treetops. A pair of resident Eastern Towhees were courting and calling loudly. They let us get quite close.

The male showed off the pattern on his back:

Eastern Towhee Male 20090508

In the female towhee, black is replaced with warm brown, no less beautiful:

Eastern Towhee Female 20090508

The male towhee provided me with my second flight capture of the morning:

Eastern Towhee Flying 20090508

A White-breasted Nuthatch peered inquisitively from his upside-down perch:

White-breasted Nuthatch 20090508

Later in the afternoon, I walked our daughter’s family Tibetan Mastiff, Agramonte, and birded Hawk’s Bluff Park in Batavia. Located along the western bank of Mill Creek, this new small park is host to varied habitats including a tall oak woodland, grasslands, stream and marsh. This afternoon’s dog walk yielded 43 bird species. The light had improved, so I did get a few nice photos.

A Baltimore Oriole gleaned the buds of a small tree, apparently eating insects, flower petals and drinking nectar.nectar:

Baltimore Oriole 20090508

This was the first oriole to hold still for a photo since we saw our first arriving migrant about a week ago:

Baltimore Oriole 20090508

Several Nashville Warblers with distinctive blue-gray heads and conspicuous shite eye rings flitted about in the understory:

Nashville Warbler 20090508

A Chipping Sparrow peered out from the shrubbery:

Chipping Sparrow 20090508

On the walk back to our daughter’s home, I watched as three Red-tailed Hawks interacted, perhaps competing for a mate.  A pair of Common Grackes harassed them as they flew to a nearby rooftop.

This Redtail screamed incessantly:

:Red-tailed Hawk 20090508

One of the grackles landed on top of a Redtail and appeared to be picking at a feather:

Grackle Attack 20090508

This Great Crested Flycatcher, hiding among the branches, was a nice find:

Great Crested Flycatcher 20090508

Here is a slide show of images I have captured at Hawk’s Bluff Park, some before a playground was added and its dedication last year–