Saturday, June 24, 2006

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

Mirror, mirror on the wall.....

I seldom notice Grackles after spring has waned and summer is here.

However, in March after a long winter, I find myself yearning to see this bird appear outside my windows again as the Grackle is one of the first returning birds to our feeders in the spring and a forerunner of the many different species of migrating birds to follow.

I had a favourite Grackle one year that I named Guardly. Guardly Grack was a lingerer not having left when the others did in the fall and he stayed late that year tho I can't exactly remember the dates. I gave him the name Guardly for he was always very cautious and careful about not coming too close; he always fed only in the further most back feeder. Guardly acted in a guarded manner; thus his name, Guardly.

My camera finds the Grackles iridescent glossy plumage irresistible and while browsing through my photo files I find many Grackle images in my collection.

for another posting on Grackles see:

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Eagle and the Crow

Once upon a time Eagle was sitting high up in a tree surveying the river below.

Then along came Crow and Crow started to taunt Eagle.

"Caw, caw, caw! Caw, caw, caw!"

"Get out of here, Crow, and leave me alone!" shouted Eagle.

But Crow did not go far away and kept returning to tease and dive at Eagle while all the time cawing loudly; so that all the creatures within hearing distance along the river knew that Crow was up to his old tricks again and that Crow would not be satisfied until he had chased Eagle away from his perch high up in the tree.

Eagle was perplexed and he thought and thought about what he could do to get Crow to leave him alone. And all the while Eagle thought and thought, Crow kept diving and cawing at Eagle and continued to make a general nuisance of himself.

So Eagle decided,

"All right, Crow, I'm leaving. You can have the old tree to yourself!."

And Eagle flew away.

And when Great Blue Heron, who had been feeding quietly across the river, saw Eagle flying towards him he decided that he should get out of Eagle's way in a hurry. So Great Blue Heron lifted his giant wings and flew further down the river to find another feeding place.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia)

This little orange and brownish-greyish butterfly is very common in the meadow near my home. It seems to be in abundance at this time of year; seen more frequently by me than any other species I encounter.

And so I find myself often photographing the Common Ringlet simply because sometimes there are no other photographic choices at the time. Also I do not believe that there is ever the best picture possible taken until you have taken another and then another and another to be able to make comparisions with. So this little butterfly is often the focus of my attention.

And so following my
philosophy that
there can never be
one picture too many, I was delighted yesterday to have been able to
capture a picture showing the frontal or upper side of the Common Ringlet. A small but meaningful success to me.

My butterfly guidebook only shows an illustration of its underside wings but now from my photo I am able to id a small orange butterfly in an old display case of mounted butterflies that I had bought at an auction several years ago.

Usually as soon as this butterfly alights it assumes the closed wings position but on this instance two butterflies were interacting with each other and one did not have its wings closed. To the upper right is my picture showing both the front and underside of the Common Ringlet during the encounter of these two butterflies.

Snapping Turtles

Snapping Turtles Chelydra serpentina

One day in June 2000, I was walking along a foot path beside a railroad bed when all of a sudden I saw a Snapping Turtle in my pathway; I almost stepped on it! It was huge and prehistoric looking and its long saw-toothed tail brought the image of a Stegrasaurus' tail to mind! We realized it was in the process of laying eggs for it stayed and stayed and stayed in the same location, and the earth was in a disturbed condition all around it; so we left to give it privacy to continue its task. Later that day we marked the location of its nest site and we kept checking periodically that summer on the days following to assure ourselves that the nest site remained intact. And our summer long vigilance was rewarded in the fall of that year, for on the first day of October, we saw 20 minature Snapping Turtles emerge, one at a time, out of a tunneled hole that they had dug up through the nest site. Upon surfacing they immediately headed in the direction of the river which was a distance away, and an arduous trek as they had to manouver their way through tall grasses down a steep embankment. Since that first encounter we always see Snapping Turtles each June and this year has been no exception.

Two weeks ago I saw three Snappers in a nearby pond basking in the sun while placidly floating on the top of the murky water.

And upon checking that same location a couple of days later I found one of the turtles (photo to the right below) was out of the water resting on the sandy edge of the pond.

A word of caution is prudent here for one should
never get too close to a Snapping Turtle as this

could create a danger to you
They have a surprising long reach with their neck and powerful jaws and these big turtles can move quite quickly when necessary for self protection.

I use a telephoto lens when taking photos and I always keep a respectful distance away when I encounter these big creatures and I never linger long as I do not want to intrude upon their privacy.

On the weekend past I saw a turtle laying eggs alongside the railroad bed again, as in previous years. (see the picture below)

While out walking yesterday crossing a bridge I saw a turtle in the river below; waiting in the water by the shore. As we have learned from previous years of observation it is probably likey that this turtle would soon make its long climb up the embankment to the railroad bed to create a nest site for its eggs. Sometimes within a 24 hour period we might notice some egg laying activity has taken place.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Dragonflies (Odonata)

I have a favourite pond along a roadside that I stop by often. In the spring I watch for Ring-necked Ducks and in the summer, when the water level has dropped enough for an old discarded sofa to emerge, I watch Painted Turtles drowsing on the upturned side of it, luxuriating in the warmth of a bright, summer sun.

Today when I stopped by the pond I discovered two dragonflies that I had never seen before. One was most beautiful; a Calico Pennant! The design running down the length of the abdominal segments looked like little red hearts. I am forever fascinated with the intricate patterns and beauty of nature.

A second dragonfly that was also a new encounter
for me was a Chalk-fronted Corporal. The white markings on this dragonfly made it quite easy to find in my field guide book. There were several of these flying around and they landed only for a few seconds at a time on the rock-covered ground.

Also at the edge of the pond were a pair of Familar Bluet Damselflies. It was interesting to discover that the female of this species has tan markings in the same places that the male has blue markings.

Along the same highway is an old woods road in an area that has been clearcut. I often stop there as there are a couple of small water areas on either side of the road; not big enough to be ponds but just stagnant pools that seem to stay wet all summer. In this area I saw another dragonfly that I had not identified before.

This dragonfly, pictured to the right, is a Four-spotted Skimmer. And I was delighted to discover that this was the same species as a dragonfly that I had taken a picture of last week but had not gotten around to id-ing it until today.