Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Showcasing birds

Newly Fledged Robin
I spent most of Sunday afternoon (July 16) at Daniel Webster MA Audubon sanctuary in Marshfield, MA. I was hoping to photograph birds and I did. I spent a lot of the afternoon in the South blind, not gazing at the pond which had limited activity but at the shore and a defoliated tree outside the right windows. In doing so I ignored (for the most part) the comings and goings of the resident Barn Swallows, who were busy tending to nests of young birds.

These first few photos are all of recently fledged birds, the American Robin above is still a bit speckled and certainly isn't as dapper as mature robins are. 

Gray Catbirds usually look sleek and polished, this has to be a young one. It wasn't very happy down there either, and parents kept visiting. I didn't realize exactly what was going on until I looked at my photos later. The colors are right, but all that fluff?

This young Barn Swallow looks a bit unfinished, certainly not as sleek looking as its parents are. Since there were several nests in the building with non-fledged youngsters this one may be from an earlier brood.

Some of my other bird photos from Sunday. 

This is a Female Baltimore Oriole, she isn't bright orange like her mate, but I think she is still a pretty bird. There were some Honeysuckle bushes with berries near the Blind, she was probably on her way to visit them.  

I believe this is an adult Gold Finch, probably female from the coloration, it didn't hang around long, so this is my best photo.

Female Bobolink

Daniel Webster is one of the remaining nesting spots in state for Bobolinks. They build their nests in the grasses that are allowed to grown in the fields at Daniel Webster. Thankfully they wait to mow until the young Bobolinks have fledged and left the fields. But I have heard horror stories of parent birds looking for their nests after a thoughtless farmer has mowed a field early.

The above bird is a female Bobolink. She wasn't happy with me, even though I was on the mowed path. I have a feeling either her nest or some of her young ones weren't too far away from me.

Male Bobolink in flight

Male Bobolink in flight, it wasn't my intention to make a flight photograph. I had been photographing a Redwing blackbird, and when I checked the display to see how the photo looked I noticed a bird just a bit beyond the blackbird sitting on some wire fencing. I was trying to photograph the bird on the fence wire, but it took off just as I snapped the shutter. Thankfully I was using a fast enough shutter speed that the bird is mostly in focus. By the way the male is still in breeding colors.

The not very good photo above is a Lesser Yellowlegs, it was just about at the limit of what I can photograph with my current lens. There were also a couple of Killdeer in the same general area, but they were a bit too far for me to make a good photo. The photographs of them were good enough to ID the bird but not to post.

The final photo is a view from Fox Hill of some of the property at Daniel Webster. I had a really good day with Birds Sunday, hope you enjoyed a look at some of my best photos. Please note that I have added links to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds web site for each species above if you are curious to learn more about them.  Per usual comments are welcome.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Dragonflies - Some Skimmers

Widow Skimmer - Libellula luctuosa - Male Mature  

Finally a Dragonfly post, first I want to say I am not an expert. I depend on a Facebook group I belong to for most of my identifications.  However, today's post includes three very common Dragonflies, they can be found pretty much anywhere in North America where dragonflies are flying.  These three all have a couple of other things in common, they are all Skimmer Dragonflies and they all (depending on the sex for some) develop pruinescence as they age. Pruinescence is a waxy film usually white.  Skimmers are the largest group of Dragonflies, if you want to know more about them click on the link above.

Now on to today's photographs, above is a mature male Widow Skimmer, the image below is also of a Widow Skimmer, but this one doesn't show the pruinescence of the older Dragonfly. Note how the mature Male Dragonfly has developed white on the wings, blue on the abdomen, and black on the top Thorax.  Females may develop brown wing tips but won't have the white or blue though the thorax and abdomen will darken. I don't have a good photo of an older female.

Widow Skimmer - Libellula luctuosa - Newly Emerged

The next three photographs are of Common Whitetails, note the different wing pattern between males and females. 

Common Whitetail - Plathemis lydia - Male

The male Whitetail above is fairly newly emerged, the white patterning is still visible on the body.

I want to explain what I mean by the comment newly emerged (another term is Teneral). Dragonflies go through a nymph phase that lives in water, when it is time for the adult Dragonfly to emerge the nymph crawls out of the water usually on a grass or water plant stem, and like a chrysalis splits open allowing the adult form to emerge. Like butterflies they need to expand their wings and dry off. As the Dragonfly or Damselfly age they often undergo color changes, pruinescence is just one of changes.

Common Whitetail - Plathemis lydia - Male Mature

 The above photo shows a mature Whitetail where the pruinescence is fully developed. 

Common Whitetail - Plathemis lydia - Female

Above is a Whitetail female, note that her wing pattern is very different from the males. It can be confusing for beginning Dragonfly observers I know I though I had found a different species only to discover that no, it was one I had already identified just a different sex.

Blue Dasher - Pachydiplax longipennis

I have one last example for today's post. The Blue Dasher is another very common dragonfly, and from what I have read one of the most studied. I think they are a rather pretty, certainly more colorful than the other two Dragonflies in this post.

Blue Dasher Mature Male

Above is a mature male Blue Dasher and you can see where the name comes from with the blue abdomen.

One last photograph, not a very good one but I was trying to photograph a female Blue Dasher as she was depositing eggs on the surface of the lake at Ames Nowell State Park. 

Blue Dasher Female depositing eggs

In the case of the Blue Dasher both male and female dragonflies develop the blue coloration.  Correction: I have recently regained access to my one book on Odes, according to this book the females don't pruinose, so I wanted to correct my comments - Sept. 19, 2017.

That is it for today, all photographs were made by me, though not all of them from this year, in local (Southeastern MA) State Parks or other nature reserves.  Per usual comments are welcome.