Archive for the ‘birds’ Category

House Finches

April 8, 2017

Sometime after I moved to a new apartment, I noticed some cute little reddish-brown birds that sing a cheerful song. I used the free Merlin Bird ID App to identify the bird based upon a few simple observations. Turns out my little friends are House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus).

As time passed and months stretched into years, I realized the birds appeared in the spring, hung around all summer, and disappeared in the fall.

These newly established eastern populations have since become migratory, and now spend winters in the southern parts of the United States. Source Credit: BioKIDS.

05 APR 2017 | The Beacon of Groveton | House Finch (male)

These photos show two of several House Finches spotted recently near the top of the seven-story parking garage at the Beacon of Groveton, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Both individuals are male, as indicated by their reddish coloration.

05 APR 2017 | The Beacon of Groveton | House Finch (male)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Don’t “leap” to conclusions!

March 10, 2016

The woodpecker shown in the following photos has a red head so it must be a Red-headed Woodpecker, right? Wrong!

A Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) spotted at River Towers Condominiums, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a male.

This is a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), probably a male, spotted on 29 February 2016 at River Towers Condominiums, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) spotted at River Towers Condominiums, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a male.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are relatively common, unlike some of their red-headed counterparts including Pileated Woodpecker and Red-headed Woodpecker, to name a couple.

By the way, did you catch the significance of the title of this post? I shot the photos on “Leap Day 2016.”

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Red-headed Woodpecker

March 8, 2016

Although I have seen several Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) in the wild, they were never close enough to photograph. And then it happened!

A Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

I spent the morning of 07 March 2016 photowalking Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve with mixed success, so I decided to stop by Huntley Meadows Park on the way home.

A Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

I was surprised to see Mike Powell‘s car in the parking lot. Mike likes to start early and knock off by mid-afternoon. We met up and checked out one of our favorite spots. More about what we saw in a follow-up post.

A Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

As we were walking out of the park, I thought I heard Southern Leopard Frogs trilling near the trail. Mike correctly recognized the sound as one of several Red-headed Woodpecker calls. Mike scanned the tree canopy and quickly spotted the woodpecker high overhead.

A Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

It was nearly impossible to find an unobstructed view of the woodpecker. Fortunately a few of my shots are good enough to share. Nothing great, but hey, it’s a start!

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Wild Turkey tracks

February 5, 2016

Pattern recognition. The richness of my field experience is often the result of my ability to recognize patterns in nature. For example, while exploring a remote location in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park, I spotted a set of Wild Turkey tracks (Meleagris gallopavo).

I recognized the shape of the turkey footprints in snow as a result of a chance encounter a few years ago, when I was able to tag along with Mr. Kevin Walter — Natural Resource Specialist, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Belvoir — for part of a field survey of birds at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge. As we were walking along “Great Blue Heron Trail,” Kevin pointed out a fresh set of Wild Turkey tracks.

Wild Turkey tracks (Meleagris gallopavo) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

01 FEB 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Wild Turkey track

Related Resource: Wild Turkey tracks, one of over 700 spottings by Geodialist on Project Noah. [Note: “Geodialist” is my username on Project Noah.]

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to Alonso Abugattas, Ed Eder, and Ben Jessup — a professional naturalist and two excellent amateur naturalists, respectively — for verifying my tentative field identification.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Green Heron (eating a fish)

February 1, 2016

The following brief time-series of photos shows a Green Heron (Butorides virescens) preying upon a small fish in the wetlands at Huntley Meadows Park. Now you see it, …

A Green Heron (Butorides virescens) spotted eating a fish at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

10 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Green Heron (eating a fish)

…now you don’t! (The bird raised its head in order to swallow the fish.)

A Green Heron (Butorides virescens) spotted eating a fish at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

10 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Green Heron (eating a fish)

The Backstory

The Green Heron appeared while I was hunting Unicorn Clubtail dragonflies (Arigomphus villosipes). [See related post: Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (male).] Green Herons can quite skittish. The bird may not have noticed me as I was sitting quietly on my Coleman camp stool, “waiting for the game to come to me” (one of several strategies for stalking odonates).

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

THE StriX-FILES | Re-opened

January 2, 2016

I spotted a Demon Owl at Huntley Meadows Park on New Year’s Eve. Kidding! The owl was roosting high in an evergreen tree, and the sky was almost completely overcast during the afternoon on a winter day. Think dim, diffuse light. As a result, I had to goose the power ratio of my external flash unit so high that it caused “red eye.”

Flash light reflected from blood behind the retina causes the “red-eye effect.” I removed the red-eye in post-processing (see below), but the owl looks possessed in the unedited version!

All joking aside, comparing and contrasting the before/after photos enables the viewer to get a clear picture of the owl’s large pupils, an adaptation that enhances night vision.

A Barred Owl (Strix varia) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is shown roosting high in an evergreen tree.

31 DEC 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Barred Owl (Strix varia)

In my experience, Barred Owls (Strix varia) prefer to roost in evergreen trees during the months when leaves have fallen from deciduous trees. Although this photograph will never win any awards, it is a good illustration of two related points: evergreen trees provide cover from other birds that harrass owls; owls are well-camouflaged in this environment.

A Barred Owl (Strix varia) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is shown roosting high in an evergreen tree.

31 DEC 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Related Resource: THE X-FILES returns to FOX television with a six-part mini-series! Gee, can you tell I’m a fan of the original TV series?

THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). Source Credit: The X-Files YouTube channel.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Year in review: New finds in 2014 (non-odonates)

November 22, 2014

I’m an equal opportunity photographer. Although I tend to focus on photographing odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) I will photograph anything interesting that catches my eye. This retrospective features non-odonate new finds for 2014.

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

21 April 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) warbler

Common Yellowthroat (male)

21 April 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Bee-like Robber Fly (Laphria macquarti)

Robber Fly (Laphria macquarti)

22 July 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Handsome Meadow Katydids, mating pair (Orchelimum pulchellum)

Handsome Meadow Katydids (mating pair)

10 September 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Clip-wing Grasshoppers, mating pair (Metaleptea brevicornis)

Clip-wing Grasshoppers (mating pair)

19 September 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Northern Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)

Northern Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)

19 September 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: This is Part 3 in a three-part series — a retrospective look at 2014.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Predator-Prey Relationships

August 6, 2014

“Eat or be eaten” is perhaps the most fundamental law of nature. Predator-prey relationships can change suddenly: one minute a predator, such as a frog, is hunting for its next meal; next minute the frog becomes the prey and is a meal for another predator, such as a bird, higher on the food chain.

The following time-series of photographs, shown in reverse chronological order, features a Green Heron (Butorides virescens) preying upon a frog in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park on 04 August 2014.

Green Heron (eating a frog)

Photo 4. Down the hatch!

Green Heron (eating a frog)

Photo 3. Frogs are easier to swallow head first.

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Photo 2. Gotcha!

Green Heron (eating a frog)

Photo 1. Going in for the kill.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Palm Warbler

May 8, 2014

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

This post features several photos of a Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum) spotted on 21 April 2014 during a photowalk along the gravel road between the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail and the new observation platform at Huntley Meadows Park.

The bird’s hackles are raised in the following photo, indicating it may be angry for some unknown reason. (The idiom “get your hackles up” means “to get angry.”)

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) and Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata) also were spotted in the same wooded area.

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Yellowthroat

May 2, 2014

The following Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) warbler was spotted during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 21 April 2014. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration.

Common Yellowthroat (male)

I was on my way out of the park when a small unknown rodent caught my attention in the marsh alongside the boardwalk. As I waited for the rodent to reappear from its nest, this handsome little bird perched nearby just long enough for a couple of quick shots.

Common Yellowthroat (male)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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