Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Handsome birds

There were several of the wood ducks roosting in or busily feeding in the water around the snags at the marsh this morning. The three with red eyes are the males, with a female at the right.

Yellow on purple

The strong winds of Sunday and Monday bent over the common reed (phragmites) at the marsh. Yesterday both American goldfinches and yellow warblers were feeding in the reeds, which I haven't seen before. Perhaps the bent over stems were easier to perch on.

One lone grebe

I was very happy to see this little pied-billed grebe yesterday, as grebes have been few and far between this year at the marsh, which is unusual. There were at least three pair at the beginning of the season, and one of those pair I know nested, but something must have happened to them. I miss the juveniles, who would congregate at this time of the year and cavort about in the water.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

See through damselfly

Here's yet another of the many damselflies seen around the marsh these days, perched atop a clump of wool-grass. It's body is almost translucent.

Another marsh garden plant

Another flower blooming in marsh habitats this time of the year is the Spotted Touch-me-not (named for the seed capsules that burst upon touch), aka Jewelweed. I noticed this one in a partially shady spot this morning, with the dew still present on its leaves and stems. The blossoms are a favorite of hummingbirds, and are frequented by bees and butterflies. Apparently the juice from the leaves and stems was used to treat poison ivy and other rashes by First Nations peoples.

Bees love yellow flowers

This is a close-up of the bur-marigold that is now in full bloom all around the marsh. If you look closely, there is a bee on the bud on the right, which I didn't notice at the time I took the shot.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Intent warbler

There were a number of yellow-rumped warblers about this morning at the marsh, although they seem to congregate in the area around the wood-duck nesting boxes and the adjacent woods, why I'm not sure. This one, a juvenile I believe, was busily foraging for insects along tree branches. (I added a poster-edges filter to sharpen the image.)

Watch where you step

This tiny (no more than two inches long) leopard frog leapt out of my way this morning when I was venturing off the trail to check the wood ducks. It's the first one I've seen in several weeks.

In mid-flight

The flat-topped white asters are coming into bloom at the marsh, and the bumble bees seem to gravitate toward them. I tried to get a shot of this bee on one of the clusters, but without success, so I used the burst function on my camera and caught it in flight.

Sad reminder

I don't like to see these Bur-Marigolds (Bidens) come into bloom at the marsh because it always reminds me that summer is coming to a close (it comes too soon for me). However, they do add a colorful note to the landscape. These flowers are also known as Sticktights or Beggars-ticks, as the seeds of the plant stick to clothing and animal fur.

Welcome any day

I have been seeing more dragonflies at the marsh recently, more than I've noticed on previous years. (These are good insects to have around; they don't bite, they don't sting, and they devour numerous pesky insects daily!) I caught this attractive one yesterday. No luck trying to identify it so far, perhaps one of the darners?? Perhaps someone out there knows their Odonata better than I.

New warbler for the list

This clump of choke cherry trees at the marsh has always been a prime spot for seeing birds, and Tuesday was no exception. It wasn't until I got my photos downloaded to my computer that I was able to identify the bird that I had seen. It turns out to be a first for me at the marsh, a chestnut-sided warbler. It's likely a juvenile, although it could be an adult in its summer dress. It's also possible that it was hatched at the marsh, as its the right kind of habitat for these birds apparently.

Evidence in the duckweed

This shot of a young American black duck, which was feeding in the duckweed until I disturbed it, gives a good indication of the molting that is presently taking place among the waterfowl, what with all the feathers caught in the duckweed.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A typical marsh scene

I thought I'd post a more general view of the waterfowl on the marsh to give a better sense of their context. Most of the ducks seen here are black ducks, although there are a few blue teals and mallards in the mix, and one northern shoveler at lower right. There are also a few ducks perched in the various snags.

Sneaking up on them

I found several ducks hiding away in the dead trees this morning, four male wood ducks and six black ducks, mostly males (yellow bills). The purple speculum on one of the black ducks' wings is in plain view here. (The black duck is the only dabbling duck that doesn't look much different after it undergoes its summer molt.) The birds were all aware that there was something lurking in the bushes.

Summer camouflage

Thanks again to the duckweed being closer to the marsh edges, I was able to get a shot of this northern shoveler yesterday (notice the large bill). After I took this shot, I noticed five more of the birds nearby. I think this one is a male, although since he is in his summer dress, it's a little hard to tell.

A closer look

I got a closer look at the hooded mergansers yesterday, at least I assume they are of the same group. They were in the cove at the sailing school.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Painting the town

This has nothing to do with the marsh, but I have to get in a plug for the very popular annual event Paint the Town which is happening in Annapolis Royal this week-end. Artists from all over the province come to literally paint the town, then place their work up for bid at the end of each day. These two young women, who happen to be twins, had chosen the work shed at the Annapolis Boat Haul-up, with its display of colorful buoys, as their subject this morning. The marsh is also featured in the occasional painting.

The curiosity of youth?

I got close enough to these two female wood ducks this morning to get a decent shot before they swam away. They may be juveniles, which may explain why they let me get within 20 feet of them. The adults are always more wary.

Waterfowl ballet

These three black ducks, seen here in their typical bottoms-up feeding posture, were after weeds on the marsh floor this morning. They were joined by two blue-winged teal.

Our smallest dabbler

This green-winged teal was feeding in the duckweed this morning, too. Its beak and the little patch of green on its wing distinguish it from the very similar blue-winged teal.

Love that duckweed

The wind has blown the duckweed into the edges of the marsh, and many of the ducks may be seen scooping it up with their beaks. These blue-winged teal were busy feeding this morning. At this time of the year, all the ducks have undergone their first molt, leaving the males looking like their female counterparts (the white feathers in the duckweed are left from molting). This makes it more difficult to tell some of the species apart. The color and shape of the bill, which doesn't change, helps to identify them.

The hoodies are back

These ducks were in the French Basin when I walked around the trail this morning. I first noticed a duck with a tail sticking up, and then realized there were seven of them. When I zoomed in, I discovered they were hooded mergansers (at this time of the year, the males resemble the females). Last year there were several on the marsh in the late summer.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


The yellow warblers are still here, although they will be on their way before long. This male was foraging in the wooded area of the trail this morning. In the top photo, if you look at the top left, you will see a damselfly clinging to a grass head. The bottom shot was taken just a split-second later - the bird had picked the damselfly off that quickly.

Easy to identify

This morning I noticed a Yellow-rumped warbler at the marsh, the first one I've seen since early in the summer, when they were around in large numbers. They usually nest in coniferous stands, or mixed coniferous & deciduous, so may have nested farther north. They should be present at the marsh into October, as they are the latest of our warblers to migrate. Primarily insectivores, in late summer and fall they also feed on berries.

Lying in wait

There was a heavy dew last night, and this morning it clung to all the sheet webs in the grasses. These webs are made by grass spiders, who lurk beneath openings in the webs in wait for any unsuspecting prey that may land on them. They are seen especially in late summer and fall. In this shot, you can just make out the spider below a hole on the left.

On alert

I realized I haven't posted many pics of waterfowl lately. There are still many ducks on the marsh, but in most cases too far out on the water to get decent shots of. Except for the wood ducks who still seem to congregate in among the dead trees near the wood duck nesting boxes. I was able to get a shot of this adult male yesterday before he jumped down and swam away.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Avian ant-eater

This was a happy surprise this morning. When I went to check out the wood ducks where they hide among the dead trees, I heard the tell-tale clear keew call of a flicker. I finally got close enough, without scaring it off, to get a clear shot of the bird through the bushes. I'm not sure if it was a male or a female, as apparently both sexes have the black cheek patches when they are juveniles (adult females do not have them). The juveniles remain in family groups after fledging, and are fed by the adults for several weeks. The two shots are of the same bird, but after taking the second shot, I noticed it was accompanied by two others.

Becoming scarce

The marsh was relatively quiet this morning, but there were a couple of sightings worthy enough to post to the blog. I caught this great blue heron fishing in the tidal stream between the marsh and the highway. I was happy as I've only seen the occasional heron at the marsh lately.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Good birds to have around

I've seen and heard a number of Cedar Waxwings around the marsh lately, probably because of the ripening berries. But this one was feeding on a nest of tent caterpillars in a gray birch tree. Apparently cedar waxwings are "efficient predators of foliage-eating caterpillars", according to one of my sources. You can see some of the gauzy web on its beak.

Feeling good

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to see a painted turtle basking in the sun. I don't think I have seen a turtle since egg-laying season back in June. Of course the lack of much sun in the meantime may have had something to do with it.

It's a mystery to me

As I was walking through the wooded section of the trail this morning, I heard a noise, and looked to find the source of the sound. It was then I saw a squirrel at the base of a small tree carrying a big black something. It climbed the tree, trying to hold on to its burden, and I snapped this shot quickly before it disappeared into the trees. I still can't figure out what it was carrying, but I certainly have never seen anything like that before. Any guesses??

Even dandelions come in handy

There were a number of song sparrows feeding in the vegetation along the water's edge this morning, but this one happened to stop beside the path to feed on a dandelion which had gone to seed. If you look really closely, you can see the white part that it detached from the seed just below the bird.

Warming up

What a difference a sunny day makes. Not only humans but also the wildlife seemed to be rejoicing in the sun and its warmth this morning. I caught this brown butterfly on a blackberry leaf sunning itself. It is a common butterfly in our area, called a Little Wood Satyr. They feed on bird droppings and rotting fruit. The blackberries are beginning to ripen, which probably explains its presence where I found it.

Seeds aplenty

On Thursday the 11th, not much luck getting good shots at the marsh, but I did notice a number of purple finches near the water's edge in the wooded area of the trail. I had been seeing these birds there over the past week or so, but was a little confused as to their identification. They all looked like female purple finches, as I wasn't seeing any purple ones. Then I discovered that in late summer, purple finches tend to form unisexual flocks, plus the males become duller in color. This bird was feeding on the seed stalk of a curled dock plant when I caught it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Late bloomer

This little fellow is too cute for words. I happened upon him yesterday morning, along with one of his parents, moving about in some shrubs. It's obvious that he hasn't been out of the nest for very long since he still has some of his baby feathers, which I take to mean he came from a late brood for yellow warblers.

A fisher king

Yes, there is a bird in this picture. If you look really closely, you'll see a Kingfisher perched on the end of one of the branches. This is one of the places where these birds perch before flying out over the water and swooping down for fish. This is as close as I could get yesterday before it took off. Getting a shot of them is nearly impossible (for me anyway!).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A furry entertainer

I think this might be the same chipmunk I saw (and posted to the blog) a few days ago, or perhaps its mate, as it was in the same vicinity this morning, and as a rule chipmunks stick to their home range. As I passed this large clump of choke cherry trees, I thought I heard something falling through the foliage. Sure enough, when I looked up there was this little furry critter in a clump of the berries. As I watched, it plucked the berries, stripped the flesh from the pits (that's what I heard falling through the leaves), and stuffed the pits into its cheeks. Neat! (Photos digitally modified.)

On fish patrol

It doesn't seem as though there have been as many cormorants at the marsh this year as there were last year. I wonder if the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where many cormorants overwinter, had anything to do with it. At any rate, today I did find this juvenile (pale breast) perched close enough to get a reasonably decent shot.

Avian grooming

I've had a hard time lately coming up with something worth posting to the blog, what with the inclement weather and the dearth of decent photo opportunities at the marsh. I did get this shot of a female common yellowthroat on Monday, August 1st. She was busily preening her feathers, a practice I notice all birds seem to spend a lot of time doing. Reading up a little on the practice, I found that not only do they preen to clean and realign their feathers, distribute oil through them (secreted by a gland near their tails), and rid themselves of mites and other parasites - during molting, which is going on now, they also need to remove the sheaths from the new feathers as they grow in.