Thursday, May 27, 2010
here and here). I can't be sure when the babies hatched, but the adults have been busy feeding them in the nest for the last ten days at least (since we returned from Florida). Now three hungry fledglings clamor for handouts from trees within about a 30 yard radius of the nest.
The Brown-crested Flycatcher nest is also empty. On Sunday the parents were still carrying in bugs and flies (see last Sunday's blog), but by Monday afternoon all was quiet, nobody home. I watched from the deck yesterday but saw no sign of flycatchers, young or old. I knew from previous years that the flycatchers did not stay particularly close to the nest just after fledging. Only once have I seen a young one make its first flight, poking its head up out of the vertical railroad tie a couple of times and then flying to the oak tree. But I thought I would see them this time since they were so close to the deck I spend so much time on. I looked for the flycatcher family yesterday but never saw any birds that looked like fledglings.
Today I did. Unfortunately, what I saw was a flycatcher interacting with a fledgling Bronzed Cowbird. Cowbird parasitism affects not just flycatchers but cardinals and especially hooded orioles, at least by my observations. I hope that the one cowbird chick I saw was not the only young bird the flycatchers raised in their house beside our house. I'll be watching for signs of successful nesting.
And speaking further of Anacuas, their green/gold berries are turning brighter gold and a few already orange. The nest tree is too small for berries yet, which is probably fortunate for the birds since when anacua berries ripen, the tree is a magnet for kingbirds, kiskadees, mockingbirds, thrashers, green jays and woodpeckers. I noticed yesterday in my ramble around the yard that a few of the gold berries are ripening to orange. If you look really close at the picture of the fledgling Kiskadees at the top of this post, you can see that one has a berry in its beak. I first thought it was a red berry of the fiddlewood but then decided it was a bright orange anacua berry because the fiddlewood berries are black when ripe (thus the alternate name negrito). I wouldn't think an adult Kiskadee would feed its young unripe fruit! Regardless, the young bird didn't seem to know what to do with the berry ripe or not. It clutched it in its beak for the longest time.
In addition to the three noisy, hungry Northern Kiskadees, I know that Starlings and Great-tailed Grackles and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers already have successfully nested. I'll keep reporting on what I find in my front-yard spying. Perhaps my reluctance to get too close to nesting areas means I miss some clues. I'm just disappointed that such a beautiful Altamira Oriole nest isn't being used. Something happened when we were away from home, but I don't really know what --and there's no reason to think the orioles aren't elsewhere in the neighborhood or across the river.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Here's a link to an earlier post about their arrival for the breeding season.) Looking at the first photo above, it's obvious how they got their name: the hapless fly grasped in the flycatcher's strong fly-catching beak looks like one I photographed a while ago (the photo is in this post) and the brown crest, unlike the crests of some birds, is always standing tall.
That's what this one to the left is doing. (You can tell it's singing because of its puffed up throat, what poets call "full-throated.") I love the song. It sounds to me like "come over here; come over here!", with kind of a warbly and rolling, but at the same time slightly buzzy, quality. The call is a short "whit!". It's puzzling why they sing so close to the nest. Sitting on a branch within just a few feet of the nest, They sing and then quickly slip into the box, brown tail sticking out slightly from the entry hole. Click on the photo to see what treat this bird has for the babies.
Last summer Brown-crested Flycatchers nested in a birdhouse further out along the drive, a location they have chosen for about ten years. Before that they nested in railroad ties turned on end that decorated the end of the drive by the road. The first site was abandoned because it became so overgrown with bougainvillea and esperanza. I can't see an obvious reason for abandoning the second site except that this new box must have just looked homier.
When Summer Tanagers migrated through the valley a couple of weeks ago, they sat in the same fiddlewood tree as the flycatchers and snapped at bees, which seems to be their favorite food. Here's one of my favorite pictures (taken the first week I had my camera last fall) of a female tanager eating a bee. You could clearly hear her strong tanager beak snap snap snap as she sat there in the tree.
I'm glad this is one photo I had saved already to my Picassa album, before the big computer crash. It's another instance when I didn't discover what I was looking at until I examined the photo. For some reason (maybe because I was struggling to figure out how the camera worked) I thought I was taking a picture of a female oriole and never even saw the bee in the tanager's obviously tanager-beak until I looked at the photo!
I still haven't found what nest cavity the Ladder-backs are nesting in, but I'm on the trail and am sure it is close by. I'll probably find it when they start bringing home carry-out for the hungry nestlings.
Friday, May 21, 2010
We had paddled and trolled quietly past several rookeries (VERY quietly, I promise, and not so closely--not one bird was disturbed by our presence; if it had been, we would not have approached). I had managed to get photos of birds I love and a few I had never seen before. A Wurdemann's Heron worked on its nest just as dawn was breaking; a Bald Eagle perched on a treetop silhouetted against the rising sun; a Green Heron froze on its nest but remained calm, watching as we watched. There were also jumping tarpon (I unsuccessfully battled one as big as I am for over half an hour until it took one more magnificent leap and broke the line), and Kemp's Ridley sea turtles bubbling up to the water's surface to look around, and Spotted Eagle Rays that leaped and soared as we fished in the early morning. It was a wonderful experience.
Each evening after we returned to the cabin, I transferred photos from my camera to my powerbook. As I always do now that I am blogging, I went over in my head just which pictures I would post and what I would write about so that friends and grandchildren could share the good time. But since we were leaving the dock by 5 AM each day, I went to bed early and postponed posting until we returned home.
The problem occurred on the night we got home: my computer crashed. Maybe it was with a bang or maybe a whimper--but it was gone when I found it the next morning and I haven't been able to revive it. It died with a new battery I had installed and a new power cord that had been waiting in the mail at home. I don't know how exactly, but I killed it-- and somehow, along with it, my backup exterior disk. When it crashed (Macs aren't supposed to crash! Mine had been a jewel for seven years), I was letting the newly charged battery discharge while I backed up everything. If you know the painting of Van Gogh's Scream, you know how I look and feel.
Of course I am still in mourning and trying to find a solution. I can manage small posts with my iphone (I think--this is a test), but that explains why there's been no word from me in two weeks (my last post consisted on a few photos from home and two from the trip; I wrote it in Florida but decided not to mention that we were away from home).
Just blogging about the horrible death of my computer and disappearance of my photos makes me feel better. (That's what friends are for.)
I think I'll go see if I can find out what kinds of dragonflies these are. Or stroll up the driveway to look for late warblers. Or listen for the baby Brown-crested Flycatchers in the bird house beside the driveway. Or catch a glimpse of the Altamira Orioles as they slip out of their swaying nest.
I can always take more pictures.
Posted by Kay Baughman at 9:23 AM
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I'm really fascinated by birds' eyes. The intense red eye of a Bronzed Cowbird, the pale white eye of a White-eyed Vireo, the black-button eye of a Black-crested Titmouse: these features are the first I envision when I think of these birds.
Yes, the eyes have it. Here are some of my favorites:
A Black-crowned Night Heron hides in the back-yard Live Oak tree.
A Green Heron freezes on her nest, as though thinking she's invisible.
A White Ibis's pale iris accents the bright red face.
But it's not birds alone whose eyes fascinate me. Just look at the eye of this American Snout butterfly! Its compound eyes must give it an advantage in finding flowers to feed on. This one is upside-down on a bloom of the fiddlewood beside the front deck. Here's a closeup in case you can't see the eye.
Now that I think about it, the snout's snout and antennae are every bit as fascinating as that eye! Not to mention its proboscis.
I have looked at this photo of the snout butterfly many times since I took it last autumn--but I've always been focused on the eyes and never before noticed the proboscis, or long black feeding tube through which it gets nectar from the flowers.
My camera has helped me see so many details, opening my eyes to nature in ways that not even my binoculars had.