Butterfly Tuesday! Nope, that sounds terrible. Monarch Thursday!? That’s pretty bad too, grrr! I got so excited about seeing a monarch caterpillar today that I decided to post him immediately, I just wish I could come up with a catchy title. It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen one of these stripey little black and white and yellow caterpillars, so it was definitely a good day. Come to think of it, I’ve seen a lot of Monarch Butterflies this year. Ooh, Ooh, I’ve got it- Monarch Monday!!!
My poor squirrels have got it rough. They just lounge around all day, complaining that the peanuts aren’t salty enough or whining that the last peanut is waaay over there. Sometimes I feel like I should offer them a cold drink and a pillow! Squirrels are lousy tippers though, so I’m not too worried about it.
This is Cranky Hank the grumpy old Great Blue Heron. Get a load of the mug on that guy!
There’s been a steady flow of Great Egrets into the bog in the past few days. This morning there were dozens of them out on the water. I thought it would be interesting to compare the size of an egret to that of a blue heron, so I sent Cranky Hank out to that log to stand next to one. Just as I suspected, Wood Ducks are way smaller than both herons and egrets. Wait a minute, that wasn’t my point, what was it again? Oh yeah, herons are actually taller than egrets by roughly 8-10 inches.
I was moping around the bog the other day, it was hot, like a hundred and eighty degrees almost. And humid, a hundred and ten percent humidity; how can it be more than a hundred percent!?!? Worst of all, I was having no luck photographing birds, I think they were all worn out too. On my way back to the air conditioning, I mean vehicle, I thought I would stop by a particular little flower patch, Maybe I’ll finally see another Hummingbird Moth. Yeah right. There he is!!! Such a neat little creature. It pays to stay positive, I always say!!!
I am the most ferocious predator in all the land. Fish fear me, ladybirds love me, and ducks want to be me. “I’m king of the WOR—.” “Dale, wake up! You’re daydreaming. Probably that king of the world thing again, by the looks of it.” Horned Grebes aren’t ferocious at all, but some have wild imaginations.
Mmm… yummy flowers. This squirrel was enjoying some delicious flowers when all of a sudden he gave the universal sign for peanut butter stuck on the roof of my mouth!
I knew it was only a matter time before Carl’s daughter started showing up for peanuts. Look at that magnificient crest!
Gotta love spiderwort season, the fields and forest floor sprinkled with blue and gold.
For years I’d heard stories of a mysterious little goose at the bog. Possibly a hybrid Canada/White-fronted Goose, they’d say. Having never seen such a goose myself, I quickly disregarded these claims. And then one day this spring as I walked along the edge of the bog, there he was! They weren’t kidding, he really is mysterious, and he’s even got pink feet, which adds to the mystery!
There was a fascinating little creature crawling around mama’s garden the other day. Say hello to the Ailanthus Webworm Moth.
If you’ve been following along over the years, then you know I’ve got a thing for eyes. Red ones, yellow ones, even brown ones, I love ’em all! The towhees, grackles and thrashers all have amazing eyes, but the White-eyed Vireo takes the prize. Just look at that bird will ya’! This may well be my new favorite.
I was birding with mama along the mighty Duck Creek a few weeks ago and we saw some buntings, orioles and catbirds. I spotted something on the bank that looked a lot like a trash can lid, but before I could construct an angry thought about littering, that “lid” did a 180 and scurried into the water! Not before I snapped a few photos though. That’s some kind of softshelled turtle, I proclaimed weakly, almost as if asking a question. I may have even shrugged, but indeed, it was a Spiny Softshelled Turtle. Never any doubt! And then, about a hundred yards down stream, we spotted a whole pile of them!
Whac-A-Mole!!! Awww, lighten up fuzzball, I’m just kidding. Chipmunks hate that game.
The Red-tailed Hawks returned to their nest across the street last winter. I couldn’t get a decent shot of them, but I knew eventually they would be stopping by for a visit. They always do, after all, this is baby bird central. One day, a few weeks ago, I heard an awful commotion out back, well, more like some kind of crazy wild animal hoedown! There was too much noise to be a cat, so I quickly deduced that it was a hawk, probably a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk from across the street. So I grabbed my camera and headed outside for a look. Yup, there he is, and there’s every blackbird and robin from the neighborhood, giving him the what-for! Carl even joined in on the fun! The wrens and catbirds are scolding him from a safe distance, and the squirrels and sparrows are lined up on the fence watching the action! Poor little hawk was probably not expecting such a warm reception on his first day out of the nest!
Tree Swallows normally perch in the dead trees way out on the bog, but that doesn’t stop me from blasting thousands of shots per year in their general direction, hoping by some miracle that one of these shots will somehow be more than a fuzzy dot in the center of the frame. Today however, they were inland! I couldn’t believe it, finally a real opportunity to photograph these beauties! Okay, calm down, keep breathing… nice and easy. Got him! At long last! I like Tree Swallows.
Here’s a little biology lesson for you: the primary difference between dragonflies and damselflies is how they hold their wings at rest. A dragonfly holds his wings perpendicular to his body, while a damselfly holds his wings parallel to his body. Lesson over. Here’s a photography lesson: prepare to be very frustrated while photographing damselflies because inevitably the autofocus in your camera won’t recognize them so you will have to switch to manual and about the time you get them into focus, they will fly away. Every time. Getting this shot isn’t a problem for a world-class wildlife photographer such as myself, but you might have these kinds of difficulties.
Baby bird season is in full swing! Besides the spring warbler migration and the fall warbler migration, it’s my favoritest thing in the whole world! Here are the baby and mama Red-bellied Woodpeckers I was watching when my turtle pal went paddling past.
I was hanging out with my turtle pal watching some woodpeckers on the tree above, when he thought it would be fun to reenact the swamp scene from Star Wars! I’m kidding of course, but seriously, and this is fascinating, he was actually doing the breaststroke. The turtle version? No? Okay, I have no idea what this turtle was doing, but it was such a cool, swampy scene and I’m glad I captured it on video.
The first time I saw a Red Squirrel was many years ago; he was tip-toeing along the top of the fence out back. He was different enough in size, color, and markings that I immediately assumed he had escaped from the zoo down the street; some kind of exotic little marsupial, perhaps. Then I went to the bog for the first time and spotted dozens of those fuzzy little buggers, and I was glad I didn’t call the zoo to report one of their animals had escaped! Today my second Red Squirrel sighting in the backyard happened, and I was just as stunned as the first time. It’s just not a critter I expect to see in the yard.
I came upon a small tree containing a baby chickadee, baby titmouse and baby nuthatch the other day, and the story wrote itself immediately. I was going to talk about each of the different group names for these birds, then cleverly and cutely combine them into one name. It was going to be epic! Then I realized that a group of chickadees and a group of titmice are BOTH called a banditry. So that story is kind of ruined but if you’ve ever seen three of these baby birds chasing each other around, you’d agree that this particular group should also be called awesome! What is a group of nuthatches called, you ask? A jar.
There’s nothing like a bunny rabbit to help turn that frown upside down. No, don’t write that, it’s not macho enough for a world-class wilderness explorer. Undo… undo! Delete! Uh oh. Unpost! Gah!!! Oh well, it’s kinda true anyway.
Here is a bumble bee frolicking among the gooseneck loosestrife. Note the cardinal singing in the background, and the young rooster learning to crow. It’s kind of a fun little video.
This is what I call the glamour shots pose, it’s a pretty standard pose for the extremely timid Northern Flicker after I pass by too closely to the base of the tree to which they’re clinging and they blast off outta there. This is the moment they realize they are in the presence of a world-class wilderness explorer and ponder coming back to get a closer look. They never come back for a closer look.
I headed west for a book signing tour last weekend and I was amazed at the reception I received in the Quad Cities. The whole town was partying and setting off fireworks in my honor, they even figured out where I was staying and lit fireworks there too! Between book signings I had a chance to do some photography in Mama’s garden. These are just a few, so be sure to check out the rest over on the Plant Pics page.