Saturday, March 22, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
I spent a good part of the day driving and wasn't able to stop at some really good photo ops. One was a flock of cattle egrets soaring and then gliding toward a nearby pond. Later in the day I saw a little blue heron preening itself on a grassy slope next to another pond. I had a friend with me for most of the time, but we stopped along Sarasota Bay on the Ringling Causeway to relax and look at the water (and, I was hoping, to see a few birds). I noticed that one pair of red-breasted mergansers were diving a ways out; perhaps they were the same pair I saw there last week. Just as we were about to leave for dinner, a snowy egret landed in front of us and began searching for food at the water's edge. I couldn't resist. I snapped a few pictures through my windshield, and then got halfway out of the door to get a couple more. It was an exceptionally beautiful Snowy. I kept thinking "is this a Snowy?" "Somehow it looks different." But, there were the yellow feet; has to be a Snowy.
It looked so vibrant, like a white car just coming out of a carwash. The black bill couldn't have been blacker; the white plumage couldn't have been whiter. All I kept thinking was "fresh". It just looked "fresh". Whatever that means. It seemed to be easing into breeding plumage, so I'm thinking that this was a first-winter bird.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
"... the por (sic) female was being harassed by several drakes!" Mary Osborn/
Picture source - http://www.charliesbirdblog.com/
After breeding, the mallard drakes molt into their non-breeding plumage - called the eclipse plumage - which is similar to the hen's brown feathers. At this time, there are two simple ways that one can distinguish a male from a female mallard. The hen has an orange bill with dark splotches. The drake's bill is a yellow-green. Also, the drake has black tail feathers that curl up in an obvious curlique, while the female's tail feathers do not. During the molting into the eclipse plumage, the ducks cannot fly and are more vulnerable to predation. So, the brown plumage on the drakes affords them better camoflage in the reeds and grasses of the marshes while they wait until they are once more fully feathered and able to fly again. At the end of the summer, the drakes molt back into their familiar breeding plumage of gray, white, rust, and green feathers. This molt is not as extensive as the eclipse molt that occurs in the spring, and the ducks are able to fly during this second molt.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Cookie, a 74-year-old Major Mitchell's cockatoo, bites into an apple at the Chicago Zoological Society's Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Ill (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
I read an AP article today, Time to Put That Gorilla on a Diet , about a new focus on diet and nutrition needs for zoo animals. This prompted me to add a poll to my blog asking for readers' opinions of keeping animals in zoos.
I personally stopped going to zoos about 9 years ago after I became depressed looking at the caged animals. I began to notice how many of the little primates were huddled together in a corner, some of them covering their eyes in what to me seemed to be fear - fear of being seen or fear of what they were seeing? I looked harder at the birds, many of whom flew back and forth, back and forth, within their confined space. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide. I thought how cruel to keep these animals penned up. These birds need to soar free. The monkeys and big cats, the bears and so many other animals need to roam free. But I felt especially strongly about the birds.
A couple of years ago I volunteered at the Pelican Man Sanctuary which did rescue and rehab work on birds and a few other non-avian animals. As I wandered through the walkways seeing all the birds that could not be released back to the wild, I felt good that they had a place to live and be well tended. But I seriously wondered some times about the quality of their lives.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Wow! I could see a large smudge 200 or 300 yards away, but even with my tripod at its lowest position, I couldn't focus with the wind blowing so hard! I got on my stomach as low to the ground as possible, placed the scope on the ground and held it as steady as I could out of the wind. Finally I discerned the shape and the mottled white and brown markings of the Snowy. Eureka! I saw enough to add it to my list, but oh, how I wish I could have seen it more clearly! After 5 minutes lying on the cold, wet ground with the wind howling around me, I struggled to my knees, crawled over to my car and pulled myself up. I virtually heaved my tripod and scope onto the back seat (oops) and then squeezed myself through the front door and fell into the driver's seat, exhausted, cold, and windblown...but jubilant. My feelings of satisfaction on my drive home were tempered by the fact that I had no one with whom to share my experience since the death of my husband two years earlier.
Photo ©Ted Clark