Archive for the ‘birds’ Category

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.

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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.

P1250015-RW2-Ver2_Aperture-BFX

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.

Swamp Sparrow

April 14, 2014

I admit I’m a recovering “sparrow snob.” Sparrows are so common, it’s easy to overlook their beauty. For example, notice the subtly beautiful coloration of the Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana) shown in the following photos — the bird is camouflaged with its habitat so well!

This individual was spotted on 02 April 2014 during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park.

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)

Swamp Sparrows spend a lot of time foraging for insects and aquatic invertebrates in the swamp at my favorite marshland park. The next two photos show the sparrow snacking on swamp SWAG.

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More animal tracks

March 22, 2014

The following photograph shows tracks made by a juvenile Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) on the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park, spotted during a photowalk on 20 December 2013. The bird hopped onto the boardwalk from the marsh, and walked from right-to-left.

Great Blue Heron tracks

Here is the same photo rotated from landscape- to portrait view. In this orientation, the heron walked from bottom-to-top (relative to the photo).

Great Blue Heron tracks

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female)

October 3, 2013

The following photos show a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) resting after feeding on Jewelweed flowers (Impatiens capensis) located near the beginning of the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female) Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female)

Did you know birds have three types of eyelids? I shot all of the photos in this set using burst mode (2 FPS); the following photo shows the bird’s eyelids closed.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female)

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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