Sunday, December 12, 2010

Suncoast Splendor

Good-bye Chicago! From our airplane seats we bid adieu to gray overcast skies, gangly barren trees, burdensome, bulky winter clothing and temperatures that evoke teeth chattering shivers. Our aircraft heads southward to lush tropical foliage, white powdery  beaches and sunshine filled days. Two hours later, we eagerly disembark the plane, greeted by balmy temperatures, rustling palm fronds, idle watercraft bobbing in the harbors and a blazing sun dipping slowly below the horizon.  Ahh ... we have arrived in paradise!

Luggage is collected, car rented and we journey off on a brief drive to our destination, beautiful Longboat Key, Florida. Though the last bit of daylight is waning, I can't help but notice the stunning silhouettes of elegant waders against the cool, reflective waters of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. I bubble over with excitement at the opportunity to view and photograph Florida's beautiful avian life over the next 12 days.

This is my first entry in a series of posts featuring the lovely birds of the suncoast.

A magnificent Osprey ruffles its feathers while perched atop the remnants of an old tree

A stunning Great Blue Heron shows off its impressive wings while aloft over the beautiful blue waters of Sarasota Bay

Fluffed and feisty, this Snowy Egret makes its way rapidly across the rocks

Two lovely White Ibises share a quiet moment at the water's edge in the late afternoon

A sunkissed Willet waits for the gentle waves of the gulf to recede

Also known as the snakebird, this Anhinga perches upon a branch drying its impressive wings

Often seen along mangrove edges, a Yellow-crowned Night-heron looks out over the bay

A slender Tricolored Heron wades in the pond seeking a tasty treat

A dainty Snowy Egret gingerly navigates the pond shallows

A tiny Sanderling chases the ebbing waves in search of mollusks, sand crabs and other crustaceans 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fall Feathered Friends

Autumn is a most beautiful time of year in the Midwest. Below are a series of photographs taken in the fall season.

A sightly Hooded Merganser glides along in cool waters

I believe this stunning creature is an immature Cooper's Hawk ~ Identification assistance always welcome ~  I had to shoot through the middle of an extremely dense bush for this shot

An American Coot enjoys a peaceful day at the pond

A windblown American Kestrel scans the beach for a lunchtime treat

The lovely reflection of a Mallard Duck

A White-breasted Nuthatch searches for food amid fallen russet leaves

A female Northern Cardinal delights in a bounty of berries

The splendid wings of a Downy Woodpecker

A pretty Yellow-rumped Warbler forages in the grass

Luscious, plump, red berries for this lucky Cedar Waxwing

Two Canada Geese enjoy a morning swim ~ The interesting reflection on the water is from a highrise building in the city of Chicago

A pretty Hermit Thrush against lovely autumn leaves

A tiny Golden-crowned Kinglet searches for sustenance

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Look Back

Here in the Midwest, the fall season brings many changes. Cooler, more comfortable temperatures arrive delivering crisp, clear, refreshing air. Brilliant golds, burgundies, umbers and reds replace the lush, green leaves of summer. Autumn also brings about a chance to view beautiful birds on their migration south to warmer climates. I always look forward to visiting my favorite birding locations in the fall, as there is usually an abundance of activity. Surprisingly, this autumn season has been especially quiet for bird viewing. That being the case, I took a look back at my photograph archives to see the images I captured last year at this time. Below are several beauties seen in 2009.
~ Identification corrections welcome ~

A striking Cooper's Hawks scans for prey atop a park fence

A most comfortable place to have lunch

A pretty Hermit Thrush framed by brilliant fall foliage

A busy Golden-crowned Kinglet in search of insects

This Eastern Phoebe has its eyes on a swarm of gnats nearby

A VERY berry Northern Cardinal face

A fluffed up White-throated Sparrow also enjoys the plump, ripe seasonal berries

An Orange-crowned Warbler carefully extracts tasty seeds

A White-breasted Nuthatch against a pretty autumn background

Tasty seeds galore for this beautiful White-crowned Sparrow

A lovely Wood Thrush amid damp grass blades

Sweet mush face

Monday, October 25, 2010

Views From the Water's Edge

Below are a series of photographs taken from the water's edge of beautiful Lake Michigan and scenic North Pond in Lincoln Park.

A colorful male Wood Duck wades in the cool waters of North Pond

A lone Semipalmated Plover scans the shoreline for tasty treats

A Northern Shoveler glides on a reflective pond

One of several Horned Larks seen foraging along the beach

A handsome Peregrine Falcon stands in the shallows of Lake Michigan

A striking Killdeer enjoys a sunny day at Montrose Beach

A stunning Hooded Merganser swims in a sunlit pond

A Black-bellied Plover searches the shoreline for delectable morsels of food

A pretty Dunlin gets doused by Lake Michigan waters ...

and recovers quite nicely

A most beautiful autumn day at North Pond

A diminutive Pied-billed Grebe delights in a morning swim

A tiny Sanderling searches the shoreline for sustenance

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Most Unusual Sighting

This fall I have had very little time to go birding because of an especially busy schedule. Today, I finally had some free time to partake in one of my favorite activities. On this beautiful autumn Thursday, I set out to one of my favorite birding areas in the city of Chicago. My eyes were delighted with a plethora of Yellow-rumped Warblers, gleening tiny Golden-crown Kinglets, nibbling Orange-crowned Warblers, foraging Hermit Thrushes and a few stately Red-tailed Hawks. As the winds picked up and the sky became overcast I decided to call it a day and made one final tour of the bird sanctuary. My ears perked with the sound of a foreign bird song very close by. I scanned the tall grasses and sparsely leaved bushes for the source of the interesting tune. A splash of dazzling orange caught my attention. Mouth agape, with unblinking eyes, I shook my head to gather my wits. This brilliantly colored bird did not belong here. The dense rainforests of Uganda or damp tropical terrain of Costa Rica came to mind ... not the lake front of The Windy City. I snapped many photographs while observing my gorgeous subject dine on ripe seeds of tall grasses. With awe, I noticed the shape of the beautiful bird began to change. The radiant orange feathers of the nape and wing coverts seemed to become more plentiful and full. A most amazing sight! After a couple of minutes, the impressive bird flew a short distance to explore some nearby bushes. Elated with glee at my magnificent sighting,  I pulled out my cell phone and called Bruce to have him check the bird field guide (yes, I know I should have brought it with me) for an identification. He ran through all the Orioles but I believed this bird was not of that family. I knew a little more research was necessary and would have to wait until I returned home. I watched the luminous bird through the branches for five more minutes until it disappeared into the brush.

Upon my return home, I immediately began searching for the identity the bird. Surprisingly, it was an Orange Bishop Weaver native to northwest and eastern Africa. It is most often found in open savanna with tall shrubbery. Worried about  the welfare of the bird flying around a big city, I called two local zoos thinking the bird might have escaped. I was curtly told that no bird or animal had escaped from either zoo. Neither party was thrilled when I asked if they could refer me to someone who could help. I was given a number for a Chicago wildlife rescue service and gave them a call, but had to leave a voicemail message. Upon further research, I believe the bird was probably a pet and somehow escaped. Just last month I spotted a blue and white budgerigar in the same area. Yes, seeing this resplendent bird was a magical experience for me but I am also worried about how it will fare in this environment. Below are several photographs of this most unusual, wondrous sighting.

A most magnificent looking bird!

All puffed up!

A most striking profile ~ Take note of the color of the wing coverts in this photograph

If you compare the previous image to this photograph you will see that many of the wing coverts have filled out to a brilliant orange

One of the first photographs I took of the Orange Bishop Weaver ~ As you can see, its appearance changed drastically