Thursday, June 30, 2011

The marsh is a smorgasbord

This female black duck and her eleven offspring (not all shown here) were engrossed in feeding when I walked the trail this afternoon. Various pond weeds make up the major part of their diet, particularly in the summer months.

The big bug's counterpart

I saw more dragonflies this afternoon at the marsh, including this one that kept landing on the path - it probably liked the warmth of the slate. It is the same species of dragonfly as in yesterday's posting - the Common Whitetail skimmer - but this one is a male. It's obvious why it is called a 'whitetail'.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Being shutter happy

This is one of my favorite shots of the year so far. Yesterday I was watching the tree swallows sweeping around, and noticed that some seemed to be feeding their fledgling offspring in mid-air. One of the juveniles happened to land on a tree branch, so I just focused on it and waited for mom (or dad) to deliver breakfast, and this is what resulted.

A big bug

Yesterday for the first time this year, I noticed several dragonflies zipping around "hawking" for mosquitoes at the marsh. This one happened to stop and perch an old cattail stalk. It's a female Common Whitetail skimmer dragonfly, one of our more common varieties.

It's Not Easy Being Green

Well, I thought I'd post a better shot of one of the green frogs at the marsh. I just missed ending up in the water when I leaned over to get this shot yesterday. I was only about four feet away from it, and it stayed put long enough for me to take its picture. I must admit, they are pretty creatures.

Taking turns

Yesterday I saw the male gadwall in the top photo standing on a little clump, in the same location that I've been seeing him for several days now, emitting his low, nasal mepp sound. I had been seeing a pair in the same spot, so presumably the female is nesting nearby. Today I saw the male mallard (bottom photo) standing on the same little clump. I know it doesn't look much like a mallard; that's because it's a cross between a mallard and a black duck, which isn't unusual. There are a number of these strange looking hybrids at the marsh, usually hanging out together.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mother on alert

This family of wood ducks was fairly close to the shore when I spotted it this morning, so I was able to get a decent shot. "Mom" heard me before I saw them, and began calling to her brood. There are at least three wood duck families at the marsh this season.

Sun lover

Today, when the sun finally broke through the cloud cover, at least one of the painted turtles emerged to bask in the sun's warmth. And a second one was thinking about it - see its head at the right, behind the stick.

Puddles are for splashing!

Yesterday there were still puddles on the trail, and I happened on this American goldfinch making good use of one of them, as you can see from these shots. It certainly looked like it could have used a blow dryer when it finished!

A different kind of wild

I don't know if this falls in the category of wildlife, but it does pertain to the marsh area. Saturday marked the grand opening of the new skateboard park built next to the parking area at the marsh entrance. On Sunday a number of young people were practicing their moves at the new facility (one here sans helmet, which is a required item).

Friday, June 24, 2011

Turtle troubles

I had nearly finished the circuit this morning when I saw a number of students from the junior high who were out on a scavenger hunt. One of the girls was looking at something alongside the trail, which seemed to be one of the items on their list. After she moved on, this is what I saw - one of the painted turtle nests that had been raided by something. Although I've seen many of these looted nests this is the first time I've seen one with an egg still intact. This raiding of the turtle nests hasn't seemed to have put much of a dent in the turtle population at the marsh.

Singing the blue

The pond by the railbed was still loaded with green frogs 'singing' their gulk...gulk...gulk song when I approached this morning. Once again I took a few shots, and found another anomaly when I zoomed in. It was a blue frog. Apparently there are occasionally green frogs that are lacking their yellow skin pigment, and appear as blue green frogs. Isn't nature neat??

Another butterfly

Here's another small butterfly I found this morning on my walk; I believe it is a one of the Ringlets. Apparently butterflies are cold-blooded, and some species fold their wings into the lateral position, like this one, when basking in the sun. (Is it me or do there seem to be more butterflies around this year??)

One bird in the bush

Remember the tree swallow nesting box that sits in the small wild apple tree? This morning I noticed a tree swallow perched on a branch of the tree. You can see the little apples that are beginning to form.

That's a mouthful

There were several yellow warblers flitting about the gray birches when I walked the trail this morning. I patiently waited for one of them to hold still long enough for me to get a decent shot, and was finally rewarded. As you can see, this one's beak was stuffed with insects (crane flies maybe??). It's a good thing that yellow warblers don't seem to be declining in numbers, as they play a big role in keeping harmful pest populations under control. Midges, mosquitoes, and insect larvae are favored diet items.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

First flight?

Here's a shot of one of our common smaller butterflies, caught yesterday in the brilliant sunlight. I believe it's a Northern Crescent. The first brood usually emerges from the chrysalis stage beginning in mid-June.

Busy bee

The bees love the multiflower rose blossoms that are now in full bloom. I caught this one this morning on one of the bushes next to the sign at the entrance. The bee's legs are so bulging with pollen, it look like it's wearing chaps! I wonder if multiflower rose honey smells as sweet as the blossoms do?? (A dry brush filter applied to the shot.)

X-rated pond doings

The green frogs in the pond next to the railbed were sounding away when I approached this morning. I could see heads sticking up out of the water in several places, and snapped a few shots. I didn't realize what I had gotten until I zoomed in on this shot. I know it's the season for frogs to breed, but this is a little extreme!

And then there was one. . .

I met the geese foraging alongside the trail this morning, but it wasn't until they returned to the water that I noticed the younger family only had one offspring (seen here to the right) instead of two. It looks like the second one must have met with an unfortunate end. The six young of the older pair are becoming hard to distinguish from their parents.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Buffeted by the weather??

I caught this well-worn Red Admiral butterfly this afternoon close to the trail's entrance, seemingly soaking up the sunshine. I wonder if all the rain and wind had anything to do with its condition. According to one article I read, the ideal environment for a butterfly is sunny for up to six hours each day with minimal wind. Continuous rain hampers their ability to fly.

Close call

This afternoon when I walked the trail, I stopped at the spot where I had previously seen the mallard female with five young. I was taking a shot of a painted turtle basking on a raft of old cattails, when suddenly off to my left a duck began quacking frantically. A dog had jumped in the water after her, and she was trying to distract it from her ducklings. I finally succeeded in getting the dog to come out of the water, and the mallard gathered up her little flock and moved out of harm's way. The whole time, there was no sign of the dog's owner. I have to say I was more than a little annoyed.

Moving at a snail's pace

It was rather wet on Saturday (what's new!), and when it's wet out the grasses at the marsh are often covered with little snails. I had stepped into the tall grass at one point to get a closer look at some ducks, and afterwards noticed I had gained a passenger on one of my shoes. I thought it a good opportunity for a couple of close-up shots, one of which is shown here. It took me a bit of researching to discover what kind of snail it was. It is a Common Amber Snail (Succinea putris), which lives on reeds and other plants near water. This one was no more than 5/8" long. I carefully placed it back on a leaf after taking its picture.

A rose by any other name . . .

Back to flowering shrubs at the marsh, this one just came into bloom. I believe it's what's called a Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris), our only common wetland rose.

Funny fish-catchers

This shot wasn't taken at the marsh, but nearby from the perimeter trail that borders the Annapolis River. It was low tide, and I noticed a row of black spots out near the causeway. Upon a closer look I realized it was a row of cormorants, with a couple of sea gulls thrown in. I get a kick out of watching these awkward birds, although they're not everyone's favorite. There used to be more of them at the marsh when there were more loafing bars and snags to perch on.

Tasty treats

On Friday I spotted the Canada geese in a different spot than usual, near one of the wood duck nesting boxes. They were busily foraging in the tall grass. The marsh grasses are flowering now, and the geese seem to find the flower clusters especially tasty. Here's one of the adults reaching for a clump (I applied a poster edges filter to the shot).

Time out

When I first saw this black duck family (the ones sitting in the dead tree) on Friday, the ducklings were splashing around and diving under the water. They continued the behavior for some time, then took time out here to rest and preen. I don't think the ducklings were diving for food, but just for fun, as black ducks feed by dabbling (head down, bum up). That's a ring-necked duck pair resting in the water in the foreground.

Hunting for ducks

Compared to the last couple of years, there seem to be fewer waterfowl present at the marsh. I don't know what the reason is; I think in part it may be due to the disappearance of several of the so-called loafing bars, or places for the birds to rest in between feeding times. High water levels this spring and last, wave action and constant usage probably caused their breakdown. At any rate, it seems these days that to get shots of the birds requires time and effort hunting for ones close enough to shore to photograph.

These two wood duck drakes I found perched in the dead trees just off the wooded section of the trail on Friday. This is where the males typically hang out, from the end of breeding season until fall when they have molted back into their breeding plumage.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Familiar water lily

Sun, glorious sun, finally! The strong light really set off the yellow pond lilies (also known as bullhead lilies) at the marsh this morning. There's just the one patch, but they'll continue to bloom into September.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cute as buttons

While watching one of the black duck families this morning, I almost missed a female mallard with her five new chicks, about twenty feet from where I was standing. I stood very still and watched her and her brood for a good ten minutes. The bottom shot above is a close-up of three of the five ducklings.

Aerial foragers

The swallows were having a hey-day at the marsh this morning. I don't think I've seen so many swooping up, down and around as they hunted insects on the wing. I could almost reach out and touch them as they zipped around me. Although tree swallows, with their musical sounds, formed part of the loose swarms, a great many of them were cliff swallows. Their song is more like a squeaky twitter. I tried in vain to get a shot of them sailing in the air. I finally found a few cliff swallows who had stopped to rest on a power line.

Pretty birds

I wasn't planning to take my camera on my walk today, what with the inclement weather we've been experiencing, but decided to take it after all as invariably, when I don't take it I regret it. For one thing, I wouldn't have been able to catch these two green-winged teal drakes I noticed close to shore. There were three males at the one spot (likely their mates are nesting). They should be starting to molt into their summer plumage in another week or so.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Marsh iris

This is the first blue flag iris I've seen at the marsh this spring. In keeping with the insect theme, that's a fly on one of its petals.

Bringing home the grub(s)

Some of the red-winged blackbirds' young have hatched, as evidenced by the beakful of insects of this female red-wing. She and her mate were displaying some anxiety when I walked a portion of the trail this morning, so obviously they had hatchlings nearby. I've yet to figure out how they catch more than one insect at a time.

Nature's insect trap

This morning at the marsh I noticed a spider web in the grass, outlined in dew, and upon a closer look saw that the spider was home. These are tunnel webs that have a hole where the tunnel-web spider lays in wait for some unsuspecting insect to enter. The spider was on the underside of the web, so was upside down.

Canadian, eh?

Butterflies are beginning to appear, and this one stopped long enough for me to get a good shot yesterday at the marsh. It is a Canadian tiger swallowtail, one of our most easily recognized butterflies here in Nova Scotia. They are seen from late May until early July, with mid-June being the height of their presence. The Canadian tiger swallowtail is slightly smaller than the eastern tiger swallowtail, which apparently doesn't appear in Nova Scotia.

A bug dressed for hallow'een

This spring has been a banner one for insects, the marsh being no exception. Clouds of midges greet anyone who walks the trail; bumble bees visit anything that blooms; damselflies dart this way and that in the tall grasses. I saw this strange-looking bug, about 1-1/2 inches long, moving about some tall grasses yesterday. When in flight, its hind legs hang straight down. It finally stopped so I could get a shot. I'm not absolutely sure, but I believe it to be some kind of crane fly.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Artsy wildlife

I indulged in some experimentation in my editing program (Photoshop Elements) today with the shots shown here. At times I'm tempted to create an artistic edge to certain photos. I find conditions at the marsh sometimes lend themselves to this. Here, the cormorant was playfully splashing in the water; the great blue heron stood out against the green-reflected backdrop; and the bumble bee refused to hold still on the lupin blossom.

Poised on one foot

The yellow warblers are still much in evidence at the marsh - although they seem to be the only warblers around at the moment. This female was flitting about among the gray birches alongside the trail this morning. She may have a nest close by. Fortunately, the yellow warbler is one of the few wood warblers that hasn't experienced significant decline in numbers in recent years.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hiding in the grass

This is the second time this year I've seen a leopard frog, and the first time I got a decent shot of one. It hopped into the tall grass as I approached, but I was able to get a shot on my macro setting. The sunlight was striking the animal just right to give me a good shot, I thought. Note its toes which look like long fingers.

Cause for alarm

As I was heading towards the viewing stand by the railbed this morning, I caught sight of one of the black duck families close to shore. I moved quickly to see if I could get a shot of them, and obviously caused them to move just as quickly - away from me! This is the female with the eight young shown in yesterday's posting.

Posing for me

I surprised this little fellow alongside the trail this morning as he was foraging in the grass. He scampered up this gray birch, ate his find, then stared at me for a minute before heading off into the tree canopy. I find the chipmunks to be as curious about me as I am about them.

Sharing the trail

What a glorious sunny start to the day for a change. The wildlife at the marsh seemed to be enjoying the sun as well, including our resident Canada geese which I met on the trail busily feeding on the fresh grass and clover. When they passed by me, I caught a couple of the older goslings, who are nearly half the size of their parents already.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Population explosion

I walked the trail last evening, and happened on the new black duck family shown at the top, with eight young. Doesn't 'mom' look proud of her flock?? This morning I found a second black duck family, with twelve ducklings, all but one of which are shown in the bottom shot. Their mother was at the right, just out of the frame. The two wood duck families were out and about this morning as well.

Eclectic diet

I happened to spot this lone cedar waxwing this morning in a large hawthorn tree, feeding on the hawthorn blossom petals (apple blossom petals are a favoured delicacy, apparently). Except for the American goldfinch, they are the latest of the perching birds to begin nesting, the waxwings starting in mid-June.