Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Disabled Dove

This Mourning Dove wasn't seen at the marsh this morning ('tho I have seen them there), but on the path that runs from St. Anthony Street across to the marsh entrance. It is one of a pair that I encounter nearly every morning in the same location. I include it here because I noticed, when I enlarged the shot, that the bird's right foot is misshapen. Its toes curl under, and it walks on the top of its 'wrist'. I can imagine that it must have difficulty clinging to a branch. It looks healthy (the partially closed eye in the shot is not permanent; its eye was wide open in other shots).

Fresh fish

This shot made my day today, maybe even my month. I've mentioned that I've seen and heard Belted Kingfishers, usually a pair, around the marsh recently, but have had the darnedest time getting a decent shot of one. This morning I spotted this one when it landed on a tree limb, and was able to get off several shots before it flew off. It wasn't until I enlarged the photo that I saw she (the rust color means it's a female) had a fish in her beak! I knew there were stickleback fish in the marsh, and there may be killifish (both small fish up to 8 cm long), but obviously there must be enough to warrant the presence of two kingfishers (the second may be a juvenile), and the 25 to 30 cormorants that are now on the marsh.

Pretty pollinator

It seems to be a time for insects at the marsh. The crickets are singing away in the tall grasses, grasshoppers and damselflies abound, the odd cloud of midges is encountered when walking, bees are busy collecting pollen in the goldenrod. This morning I noticed this bronze greenbottle fly on one of the many varieties of goldenrod, possibly Slender Fragrant Goldenrod. Apparently bottle flies are also pollinators. It has been said that goldenrod attracts more kinds of insects than any other flower.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wary Woodie

This juvenile male Wood Duck was still at his perch this morning when I took this shot, but he was alerted to my presence and flew off soon afterwards. Note how supple his webbed feet are.

Youthful antics?

This young cormorant was continually diving and popping back up close to one of the viewing stands this morning. It didn't appear to be feeding, perhaps it was just having some fun. You can see its lighter colored feathers in the top shot, and its spread tail feathers in the shot of it diving. (You can probably tell I'm fascinated by these birds.)

Hoppers & flyers

I often hear rustling and movement in the tall grasses alongside the trail, and always wonder what little critters are hiding there. Today when I'd approach the grasses, things were hopping and moving all over the place, including the three creatures shown here. At the top is one of several grasshoppers, this one on a blackberry leaf, that I noticed. The middle shot is of another pond damselfly - I hope you can make out its pretty wings. And the bottom is, of course, another young Leopard Frog, one of three I saw jump into the tall grasses in a span of two feet. Apparently these frogs move onto the land in mid-summer, returning to the water in October or November to hibernate in the muddy bottom.

Caught on the fly

A hot day at the marsh, but the wildlife was active nonetheless. I heard something flush out of the tall grasses at one point this morning, and was able to catch the retreating form of this female Ring-necked Pheasant. This is the first time I've been able to capture one 'on film'.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Special treat

I stood at one spot near the woods this morning for some time, calling to the birds, and was rewarded by several, mainly Yellow-rumped Warblers, coming very close to me. But what pleased me most was catching this young Magnolia Warbler in a Glossy Buckthorn bush, as it was the first one I had noticed this year. Probably a migrant that had stopped here for a spell.

Warbler of the marsh

Several varieties of songbirds were also present at the marsh this morning. I saw a number of Common Yellowthroats moving about in the undergrowth close to the water's edge. I was happy to see them, as it had been some time since I had sighted one. I worked hard to get a shot of one; this shot of a juvenile male was the best I could do. You can see his black face mask beginning to show.

Frequent flyer

Belted Kingfishers were in evidence at several places at the marsh this morning, as they have been most mornings, of late. I saw this one fly by and then land in one of the dead English Oak trees, so got a quick shot before it flew off again. It's at times like this that I yearn for a DSLR with a telephoto lens, but I know that would require a tripod (too heavy to hold still in the hand). I definitely couldn't carry all that around every morning, plus I know I would miss shots that need to be made at the moment or be lost.

Two for the price of one

No, this isn't the same picture I posted on the 25th, although it was taken at the same time of the morning and at the same spot. I just thought it kind of neat that this time there were two birds standing there 'in position'.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tight squeeze

In the cattails near the viewing stand, where the Red-winged Blackbirds nest in the spring, I have noticed ducks lying in what little space they could find. Over the years, the 'loafing bars' that were left for the birds to rest on when this marsh was created, have worn away completely or down to almost nothing. Especially with this summer's high water level, resting spots have become a premium. This morning, I found this Black Duck sleeping in an awkward position on a cattail clump.

Duck down

Yesterday I mentioned that the ducks were beginning their late summer molt, and there were feathers everywhere. This was part of a line of feathers I saw caught in the duckweed this morning, probably blown there by the wind yesterday. (There's a bluet damselfly there, too, if you look closely, top left.) This molt that the ducks undergo is just a partial one, it doesn't include the wings.

Captured by the light

This is another male Mallard in his summer dress, standing at the same spot as the cormorant in yesterday's posting. I include it because I was especially taken by the way the morning light struck the bird, and by the colors and patterns in his surroundings. Believe me, it wasn't planned, I just got lucky. To me, it looks more like a painting than a photograph.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eye contact

This morning this female Wood Duck was among a group of others that I often see lined up along a log in the water. She was the only one who stayed put when I got close enough to get a picture. She never took her eye off me, though.

Summer dress

This adult male Mallard was among other mallards and a couple of grebes at another resting spot in the marsh this morning. Another example of the summer (eclipse) plumage of these birds. By October he'll look like his old self.

Standing out in the crowd

A cloudy and sometimes drizzly day. This morning, as usual, there were quite a number of ducks (and one cormorant) resting on the island where the Canada geese nested in the spring. Among several sleeping Black Ducks were two ducks with white bellies, which I believe are American Wigeons. Wigeons have been present on the marsh in previous years, but this is the first time I have noticed them this year.

You can see white feathers on the ground under the ducks; the ducks have begun their late summer molt, and these feathers are present everywhere.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who's that creeping up on me . . .

When I first saw these Wood Ducks perched high in one of the dead trees at the edge of the marsh, just the tail feathers of a third were visible next to the tree trunk at the left. Then that third duck, a young female, who must have heard me in the bushes, turned around and stuck her head out to get a peek. The two larger birds are adult males.

Curious bird

The Yellow-rumped Warblers were still present in the wooded section of the trail this morning. You can hear their low, flat chep call when walking through the woods. This juvenile held still long enough for me to get this shot.

Is it or isn't it a Gadwall? (No - see below)

This duck, which I saw sitting on a clump of grass this morning, is a bit of a puzzle to me. It's head looks like that of a Gadwall, and its bill is the right color, but its breast doesn't quite fit the description, unless it is a juvenile, which always muddles things. Maybe someone out there can clear up the puzzle for me.

Addendum: After some further research, I don't think it is a Gadwall, I'm pretty sure it is a male Green-winged Teal just beginning to molt out of eclipse plumage.

Stuck in the mud

Yes, another cormorant, but I find them amusing, especially in this pose. This one had been fishing in the stream between the marsh and the main road, then moved onto the bank next to where the Black Ducks often hang out, to dry his feathers. (It looks like he should have worn his rubber boots.) BTW, I counted 26 cormorants on the marsh this morning.

This one's for you, Bonnie. Bonnie Baker, one of our local artists, did two gorgeous ink prints of cormorants for Paint the Town last weekend, both of which I placed (unsuccessful, darn) bids on.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Move over, squirt

This was an amusing little incident I caught this morning, although probably not for the young female Wood Duck at the left, who when I first noticed her was sitting on that clump of grass. Then along came this female Black Duck, at least twice her size, who wanted it for herself. The Wood Duck didn't stop to argue, but quickly departed. I guess even the duck world has its share of bullies.

Catching some rays

I happened to catch these two Painted Turtles basking in the sun this morning. It could be a male and a female, as apparently the females are larger than the males.

Pest control

I have been trying to catch a shot of one of the many chickadees I have been seeing and hearing around the marsh lately, but they have eluded me up till today. I could hear them in this wild cherry tree, but couldn't lure them out to get a photo. I eventually moved closer to the trunk of the tree and looked up inside it, which paid off (another lesson learned). This series of shots, in sequence, shows this Black-capped Chickadee catching and eventually eating, an Eastern Tent Caterpillar. Notice that the bird's right claw is holding the caterpillar down.

A number of 'tents' have begun to show up in some of the trees around the marsh, including this one; Black Cherry is their tree of choice, apparently, but apple and hawthorn trees are also susceptible. The caterpillars feed on the leaves. Luckily caterpillars form a considerable part of the diet of chickadees - and apparently holes in leaves are a clue to them that caterpillars are present!

Addendum: I double-checked on the 25th - it was an ash tree the chickadee was in, in a clump of three, and they have several 'tents' on them. However, there are cherry trees on either side of the ashes, which may explain why the caterpillars are present there.

Tossed and turned

It was a windy morning, and it was evident at the marsh when I entered the trail and caught sight of a little duck being tossed about by the wave action. It was this Teal - whether Green- or Blue-winged I couldn't tell. It was intent on feeding. That's actually all water around her, covered by duckweed and foam blown into the corner by the wind.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gull hodge-podge

There were a number of seagulls sitting in the water and flying over the marsh this morning. This group were near where most of the cormorants perch to rest and dry their feathers. I haven't noticed as many seagulls around the marsh this summer, perhaps because the water level has been high, causing resting spots to be near or below the water's surface. I think these are all Herring Gulls, of different ages. Apparently it takes a couple of years or more before they look like the one on the left.

Caught in the act

I stepped up on the viewing platform at the marsh this morning, looked over the railing, and this is what I saw - a cormorant that had been 'fishing' right below the platform. The reflection of the dark clouds on the water's surface made for a striking shot, I felt.

Sunny warbler

The Yellow Warblers are still in evidence at the marsh, busily seeking out insects among the trees. I caught this bright-eyed little bundle of energy in an English Oak this morning. I like the complement of the multi-colored leaves to the composition.

Fowl mates

It was a cloudy morning, so I wasn't optimistic about getting good shots, but I needn't have worried. To start with, there were a number of ducks resting at the end of one of the long berms that stretches out into the water. On sunny days, that spot has the sun behind it, so all you see are shapes. Today I was surprised to see this adult Pied-billed Grebe (top photo) among the ducks - grebes usually stick to themselves - and I don't think I've ever noticed a grebe lying anywhere except on a nest. Sharing the spot with the grebe were these two male American Black Ducks, and one male Blue-winged Teal with wing outstretched (bottom photo).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

You go, girl!

Yes, I know its stretching things a bit to include this in a blog on wildlife, but I think you'll agree that this "rig" is certainly wild (and that is a seagull on top of that pole to the left). I saw it sitting on the wharf almost across from my house this morning, grabbed my camera, and headed over to get some pictures. I discovered a website address painted on the side of the van, and checked it out. It is owned by Michelle Kaiser from Nanaimo, British Columbia, who styles herself as The Gypsy Mermaid, and her vehicle is her caravan. Well, I tried to find out why she happened to be here in Annapolis Royal. No one I asked seemed to know. Then, voila, while waiting at the Paint the Town silent auction this afternoon, who should I see but the lady herself (it was hard to miss her in that short can-can skirt) . So, I posed my question. It seems she has been on the road for a year (after selling her restaurant and all her worldly possessions in B.C.); traveled down the west coast, spent the winter in Texas, then headed up the east coast, crossing into Canada just a few days ago. She happened to be on Brier Island (Digby Neck) when she heard about the Paint the Town weekend here. What a great idea, she thought, to spend the weekend with artsy people. She would fit right in! Oh, and did I tell you, she is the founder and executive director of the ARTCAR Society of Canada?? If you're interested you can check out photos & videos of her trip on Facebook. Just search for Gypsy Mermaid.

Nose in the air

As I was walking along the upper part of the trail this morning, I noticed a bird fly into a clump of tall grasses not far from the shore. At first I thought it was a duck, but they usually land in the water. I was elated when I realized what I was seeing - an American Bittern! Although fairly common in our area, they certainly are not commonly seen. I've only seen one once in the nine years I've lived here. In both shots above, the bird is in its freezing pose, with beak pointing skyward. It does this to blend into its surroundings and escape notice. The bottom shot illustrates how one could easily miss seeing the bird, if it didn't move.

Snakes alive

I hope none of you have snake phobias. I almost stepped on the little Garter Snake in the top photo as I walked into the parking area this morning. I haven't seen many snakes at the marsh, so was happy to see this one, which held still while I took its picture. Then it wasn't long before I saw the second and a bit larger snake (bottom photo) on the path itself. I scooched down, set my camera's burst setting after I noticed it flicking its tongue out, and was able to catch this shot. I don't know if the blue cast to its eye was just the reflection from the sky, or if there were some problem with it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Frog fixation

I know, another Leopard Frog. But I discovered this one by forward thinking. As I was walking along the low part of the trail just before it heads into the wooded section this morning, there was the usual hopping of young frogs from the mowed grass into the tall grasses at the water's edge - except they move so quickly you don't really see them. So, I thought, I'll look ahead to see if I can see any that haven't moved yet. Sure enough, there was this little head peeking out of the vegetation.

Here kitty, kitty

I've been hearing catbirds making their cat-like mewing call at a couple of places around the marsh, usually at the same locations, but hadn't actually caught sight of one (they like dense cover). Today I persevered when I heard one in a Glossy Buckthorn bush next to the trail by the sailing school, and it paid off. The bird finally came out into the open and I was able to get several decent shots. You can see the distinctive rust color under its tail, and the black cap on the top of its head in this shot.

Two for the price of one

Well, this was one hectic Saturday, what with the Farmers' & Traders' Market, and the first day of the Arts Council's annual Paint the Town weekend. Some 75 artists from all over the province set up around the town producing artwork which goes up for silent auction at the end of the day. I've taken part myself in previous years. A good opportunity to pick up a nice piece of artwork for a good price (which I managed to do). The weather certainly cooperated.

In addition to walking around checking the various artists at work, I managed to get to the marsh for my daily trek. There were three Great Blue Herons along with the usual ducks on the little island where the geese nested early in the season. Here's two of them striking a perfect photogenic pose.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Coats of many colors

Two male and one female adult Wood Ducks were perched in one of their usual spots this morning. The males are beginning to take on their colorful winter garb.

Doing what comes naturally

I saw several Double-Crested Cormorants fishing this morning. This one (top photo) had just come up from a dive, and was swallowing its catch. You can see part of what was possibly a stickleback fish hanging from its beak. The bottom photo is of two cormorants who were taking a break and drying out their feathers.

1-2-3 dunk!

You may recall that I said that watching dabbling ducks feed off the bottom sometimes reminds me of water ballet. That's exactly what I was thinking this morning while I watched a group of juvenile Black Ducks 'perform'. I especially liked this move. Well synchronized, I thought.

Young hoodies

Boy, was I surprised - and pleased - when I got this photo in my editing program and realized I had caught a pair of juvenile Hooded Mergansers, after just having seen one a few days ago. They were swimming on the marsh near some Blue-winged Teals and Black Duck juveniles. I have seen the occasional adult Hooded Merganser on the marsh, and I saw one female with a brood of chicks last year, but this is the first year I have noticed juveniles.

Long and lean

Remember the photo of a damselfly I posted last Saturday? I contacted Glenn Corbiere in Massachusetts (he has a damselfly website) for help in identifying it, and he said he was pretty sure it was a juvenile Familiar Bluet, common around ponds and in tall grasses. (So even damselflies have juveniles!) This morning I got this shot of, I think, another Familiar Bluet.