Friday, March 31, 2006

Gouldian finch - first flight

I was just looking through some old photos and came across this one from 2003. The young gouldian finch fledgling in this photo is Davy, one of my hand-fed finches. He and his two siblings were just learning to fly and I was having a bit of trouble keeping track of them. Pup2 to the rescue!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Beauty and the Beast

the Beauty...

I'm often disappointed with photos that I take of beautiful flowers, but I really like this one. It looks like there might be a teeny light bulb sending out light from the center.

the Beast...

I took these photos today at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. A very nice volunteer named Susan, told me that we might come across a crocodile as we biked along the wildlife road. She told us that we would be able to tell that it's a crocodile rather than an alligator because when its mouth is closed we would be able to see both its upper and lower teeth (as opposed to an alligator, where we would see only its lower teeth when its mouth is closed). Sure enough, when this one closed its mouth, we could still see all of its teeth. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of it with its mouth closed. We watched it for about 10 minutes and during that time it only closed its mouth a couple of times for a few seconds each time.

We really enjoyed our day there ... the bike ride along the Wildlife Trail this morning and a presentation by Bill Thompson and Julie Zickefoose this afternoon ...

Their presentation about Bird Identification was informative and funny and they even played a few songs. Apparently "real birders" wear their binoculars even while they are playing the guitar!

P.S. - the "Beauty and the Beast" title of this post only refers to the flower and the crocodile - not Julie and Bill!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

the Pups love Spiedie Fest

If you've never been to our hometown of Binghamton NY, you've probably never heard of a spiedie (pronounced "speedy"), those delicious chunks of chicken breast marinated in a special sauce (called "spiedie sauce", of course), then grilled and eaten as a sandwich on a slice of Italian bread. Spiedie fest in Binghamton takes place on a weekend in August, has been going on for over 20 years and now draws more than 100,000 visitors.

Spiedie fest in Naples FL just celebrated it's third year and drew a crowd of 17 to our back patio. Our pups don't get to attend spiedie fest in Binghamton, but they love our little-bitty festival here.

So where was Pup1 while Pup2 was making the rounds looking for crumbs? Most of the time our timid little girl was in her crate avoiding the crowd. But she's no dummy and the moment I left my plate unattended to take some photos, she magically appeared.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Another photo of the lovebirds

Unlike society finches, gouldian finches aren't usually known as cuddlers. But lately Daytona and Lana have spent much of their time cuddling together in one of their food dishes. When I pointed the camera their way, they popped their heads up and posed for me.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Some spring observations

My husband, the pets and I spend our winters in Naples, Florida, which is not exactly the nature lover's paradise that we have at our house in the woods in North Carolina. In our winter home subdivision everyone lives in a motorhome or (like us) in a small modular home. There are about 500 tiny homesites around a little lake and it's kind of pretty in a perfectly manicured kind of way.

When I need a nature fix, I usually head to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary or the Nature Conservancy.

But yesterday I found an observation site right here in our park. Our little clubhouse backs up to some woods (which amazingly haven't been covered with concrete... yet), and I pulled a lawn chair under a tree and spent a couple of hours there with my camera and binoculars. I saw lots of "pairs": pileated woodpeckers, blue jays, mourning doves, great crested flycatchers, and these two lizards on the fence:

The next photo shows the boy lizard puffing out his "throat thing". I wish I had a video, because it was very cute how his throat puffing was preceded by a few push-ups. I guess if I was a girl lizard, I might be impressed.

I took dozens of photos of the Great Crested Flycatchers, but almost all of them were under-exposed. This was one of the "least bad".

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sandhill Crane

Unlike Birdchick, I didn't need to brave a Nebraska snowstorm (thank goodness), to take this photo of a Sandhill Crane. This one was hanging out on a golf course in Sebring Florida.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Magical Snipe

This morning I opened up the latest edition of I and the Bird. I was trying to decide which of many the great blogs to read first when this line caught my eye: Tai Haku of Earth, Wind & Water went on a Snipe Hunt, taking a picture of "a non-existent magical creature".
Non-existent and magical??? What a coincidence! I just saw one (for the very first time) last week!

I looked outside Thursday morning and saw this bird. Now I know I'd never seen one of these before... I would have remembered that beak. I grabbed the camera and snapped tons of photos. As I got closer to him, he hunkered down into the grass, and even though I knew right where he was, I had a hard time spotting him. Very good camouflage, no wonder I'd never seen one before.

wilson's snipe

Comparing my photos to the photos in my field guide, I identified it as a Common Snipe. But when I attempted to enter my siting into eBird, there was no Common Snipe listed, just a Wilson's Snipe.

Hmmm, there was no Wilson's Snipe listed in any of my field guides. I found my answer on Cornell University's Bird Guide site: "The Wilson's Snipe was recently recognized as a different species from the Common Snipe of Eurasia. The two snipes look extremely similar, but differ in the shape, patterning, and usually the number of the tail feathers. The Wilson's Snipe typically has 16 tail feathers, whereas the Common Snipe has 14."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Gentle motion

We spent yesterday morning at the Nature Conservancy of Naples. There is a saltwater aquarium in their little museum, and I thought I'd try snapping a few photos. I didn't expect much and that's about what I got. They are filled with motion and blur, but at least they're colorful!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I never thought of "decorating" our pups for St. Patrick's day. Maybe next year... this one looks quite festive!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The eagle and the grebe

One of my favorite yoga poses is called the eagle. It's a pose that's helpful for both muscle stretching and balance. When performing this pose, or any of the other balance poses, it's helpful to focus on something in the distance. My focal point this morning was this pied-billed grebe floating on the lake.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The big gulp

Here in Florida, when I look out our back door at our little lake, I see little blue herons and tricolored herons almost every day. But I've never seen a great blue heron here.

I took these photos of this great blue last year on Don Pedro Island. This bird would stand near the dock while my brother-in-law fished. Whenever my brother-in-law caught a fish that was too small to be a keeper, he would toss it to the heron. Maybe not a good idea, maybe turned the heron into a lazy fisherman, but it did allow me to get some close photos of him eating his snack.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Where have all the record players gone?

I bought this book (published in 1964) at a flea market last week for $3 (if my husband had been with me, he would have probably gotten it for $2, but bargaining is not my forte.) And except for the beat up dust jacket, the book is in excellent condition.

I had an interesting exchange with the vendor who sold me the book...
Vendor:“There are some records in the back with bird songs”
Me: (after opening the book and seeing a folder holding six 45 rpm records) “I don’t have any way to play those”.
Vendor: (astonished) You don’t have a record player???
Me: (even more astonished at her surprise) “No”.
Vendor: "Well maybe you have a friend that has one."
Me: (doubtfully) "Yea, maybe".

Now I'm certainly old enough to remember 45rpm records and record players, but I haven't owned either one in a long time. I've asked a few friends (my age and older) if they still own a record player - nope. Tonight a new friend came over for dinner. When I asked her if she owns a record player she gave the usual reply - "I used to, but not anymore". But coincidentally when I showed her the book, she said "I used to have that very same book!"

Anyway, I’m finding the book “charming”. The introduction included a very cute story written by Melville Bell Grosvenor ,the president of the National Geographic Society (now deceased): When he was 11 years old, his bird-loving father would pay him to make nest boxes for the wrens on their property (25 cents for each box that attracted a nesting pair). Melville noticed that their martin house with it's many compartments would draw many nesting pairs, so he figured if he did something like that for the wrens, he'd be rich! He built a box with 18 compartments - $4.50 worth. Just one problem - only one pair of wrens moved in. So, that's how he learned the difference between the colony nesters, like martins, and the very private wrens.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Gouldian finch love story, cont'd

This may look like your average family photo, but hidden behind it is Daytona's treasure.

Each evening when he and Lana are out of the cage, he scours the floor for more nesting material. I know that his gathered stash doesn't say much for my housekeeping skills, but in my defense, I gave him the ripped up tissues and sisal fibers. He just needed to gather them off the floor. The feathers and the millet spray he found on his own.

At bedtime, I usually just move the picture and the two of them fly back to their cage. But last night Lana stayed there to pose for this photo.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Venice, Florida

We took a little road trip today and ended up in Venice, Florida ...

at approximately 1:48pm ...

This caught my eye - "Venice News And" what????

I just needed to take a closer look to fill in the missing info -

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Missed the photo

When our pups are outdoors they are usually hooked to a leash. But when I'm sitting outside on our little patio, I usually let them free to hang with me. They know the rules. They are not allowed to wander off the patio into the grass. Whenever I see them step off the patio, I give them a gentle verbal warning "Stick around" and they step back. Yesterday when I glanced up from my sudoku puzzle, I saw Pup2 taking her freedom to the "legal limit". Her two front feet and her right rear foot were in the grass, her nose sniffing something interesting. Only her left rear foot was still (barely) touching the patio, stretched back so far it would have made a yoga teacher proud. It was very cute, but of course I didn't have the camera ready at the right moment. So instead I'm posting this photo of her where she looks very demure.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Babies in the nest

We joined my parents in Zolfo Springs today for our annual outing to the flea market. Unlike previous years, our trip included a bit of birding. My parents knew the locations of 2 nests - eagles and owls.

These two babies were keeping a watchful eye out for their parents. My father said that the parents could usually be seen in a nearby treetop or on a telephone pole but we didn't see them today.

These owls are nesting in a tree in the middle of a golf course.