Acadian Flycatcher Nest

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07 19 14 Davidsonville Park 006

Walking between the ponds at Davidsonville Park the other day, I noticed this bird nest slung between two slender branches, twigs really, in a small maple tree overhanging one of the ponds. It almost looked like a tiny hammock swinging in the summer breeze. I couldn’t imagine what kind of bird made such a fragile looking nest. Before long, I glanced at the nest again, and the bird was there. The nest was barely bigger than the bird, who appeared to be warbler-sized.

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I thought through the possibilities for this bird. My first impression was a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, as I often see them darting about in this section of woods. However, a bit of research revealed that the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher’s nest is made of spider webs and moss seemingly glued to the branch of a tree. Nothing like the little hammock of this bird. I looked through Kinglets and Prothonotary Warblers, also often seen flitting around the ponds. No nests resembling this little nest. Finally, I posted the picture on our local facebook birders’ page. Many thanks to Emily, Joanne and Hugh who all offered their thoughts regarding the identity of the bird. It was Hugh who correctly identified the bird as an Acadian Flycatcher.

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The Acadian Flycatcher is most often identified by it’s song, an explosive ‘peet-sah’ call. This particular bird never sang, so I didn’t have that advantage to help in it’s identification. The Acadian Flycatcher breeds in the eastern half of the United States. They are found in deciduous forests, along streams and in swamps, often hanging their nests over the water. True to form, this bird nest was in a maple tree set in a deciduous woods, overhanging a small pond.

My First Year of Birding and Blogging

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This Marsh Wren was the first photo I posted on the blog.

This Marsh Wren was the first photo I posted on the blog.

A full year has passed since I began this blog. 365 days. 363 posts. 8,572 views. 1,543 comments. The highest number of views in one day: 173. Modest stats, but still amazing to see in print. The statistic that amazes me the most is the data that shows from which countries readers are viewing the blog. It boggles my mind that people from all over the world read this little blog. The countries from which people have viewed this blog during the first year: United States, Canada, Sweden, Brazil, United Kingdom, India, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Argentina, Romania, Australia, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Armenia, Japan, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Mexico, Greece, Switzerland, Pakistan, Germany, Turkey, Ecuador, Slovenia, Belgium, Spain, Malaysia, Vietnam, Poland, Thailand, Philipines, El Salvador, Singapore, Ireland, Tunisia, Columbia, South Africa, Peru, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Puerto Rico, United Arab Emirates, Chile, Malta, Portugal, Tanzania, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Taiwan, Czech Republic. During the year, I’ve ‘met’ many wonderful people through this blog. It’s a privilege to interact with so many people, from so many walks of life, from so many places. There’s so very much more that unites us as human beings than that which divides us.

For the first anniversary of this blog, I’m going to post my favorite photos of the year. Some are my favorites because I got an incredibly clear shot, some because it’s well composed, some just because I love the bird, and the best include elements from all three characteristics. The photo I put at the beginning of this post, not because it’s technically a good photo. I just love it because of the exuberance of this shy little Marsh Wren as he sings in a driving rain. Anyway, here are some of my favorites:

This Prothonotary Warbler photo just seems well composed to me, plus I just love these beautiful little birds.

This Prothonotary Warbler photo just seems well composed to me, plus I just love these beautiful little birds.

 

This is when I first started adjusting the lens speed and ISO setting. As a result, the Little Blue Heron just seemed to jump from the marsh grass.

This is when I first started adjusting the lens speed and ISO setting. As a result, the Little Blue Heron just seemed to jump from the marsh grass.

 

This Black-Throated Green Warbler just seems to be striking a demure pose.

This Black-Throated Green Warbler just seems to be striking a demure pose.

This Savannah Sparrow photo almost seems like a plate in an old-fashioned bird field guide. I think it's something about the plain background.

This Savannah Sparrow photo almost seems like a plate in an old-fashioned bird field guide. I think it’s something about the plain background.

I just like the composition of this photo.

I just like the composition of this photo.

This White Ibis close-up showed such detail.

This White Ibis close-up showed such detail.

It's not a great photo, but it's such a great bird!

It’s not a great photo, but it’s such a great bird!

This Cooper's Hawk was so hungry. He just wouldn't leave his dinner for anything!

This Cooper’s Hawk was so hungry. He just wouldn’t leave his dinner for anything!

I love the details on this photo of Snow Geese in flight.

I love the details on this photo of Snow Geese in flight.

It was SO cold this day. The Hermit Thrush fluffed his feathers as much as he could to stay warm.

It was SO cold this day. The Hermit Thrush fluffed his feathers as much as he could to stay warm.

I love the way the fence curves around the Red-Headed Woodpecker.

I love the way the fence curves around the Red-Headed Woodpecker.

The Pileated Woodpeckers posed so nicely that day!

The Pileated Woodpeckers posed so nicely that day!

Just love those Prothonotary Warblers.

Just love those Prothonotary Warblers.

And the Yellow Warblers are pretty stunning, too.

And the Yellow Warblers are pretty stunning, too.

I tried to keep this to just ten favorite photos, but just couldn’t do it! I’d be curious to know – which photo is your favorite and why?

 

 

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

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07 18 14 Chincoteague 125

Chincoteague and Assateague Islands are barrier islands on the Atlantic Ocean that straddle the Maryland/Virginia border. They are known for their wild ponies. Oral history holds that they are descendants of horses that survived Spanish galleon shipwrecks, though scientists now believe they are descended from horses that were kept on the barrier islands by very early colonists who kept them on the islands to avoid colonial duties and taxes. True to form, the horses were grazing in the swamp grass close to the road, though I was more interested in the Cattle Egret that followed them everywhere.

The wonderful thing about Chincoteague and Assateague is that they were designated as national wildlife refuges, so they are not the typical east coast beaches, littered with condos, high rises, or row upon row of huge beach houses. Here, the wildlife ‘owns’ the beachfront. So it’s a wonderful place to go birding.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 002  At this time of year, herons and egrets are everywhere!

07 18 14 Chincoteague 014  Here, a juvenile Caspian Tern hovers before diving for its prey.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 042  I can usually find Tri-Colored and Little Blue Herons here.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 050  A Barn Swallow sat and posed for several minutes.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 074  Terns and shorebirds forage side-by-side.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 143  A Brown Pelican even stopped by for a visit, the first one I’ve seen this far north (though I know they visit from time to time).

Reflections

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The sun was bright and the water at times was still and at times was rippling in the breeze at Chincoteague on Friday. It gave plenty of opportunity to play with the reflections as the birds foraged in the shallows.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 009  An Snowy Egret gliding over the surface of the water.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 032  Only his yellow foot is reflected clearly in the water.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 071  A Caspian Tern preens himself as he rests, half-hidden in the grass.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 021  In this photo, it is the water’s glare that is reflected in the underside of the heron’s wing.

Snowy Egret

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This Snowy Egret was perched high in the pine trees as he watched ever so patiently for any movement in the water below. Whatever movement there was seemed imperceptible to me, but it was clearly evident to him as suddenly, he swooped to the water below.

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According to the website, allaboutbirds, the breeding plumes of Snowy Egrets in 1886 sold for $32 an ounce, which at the time was twice the price of gold. The plumes were used in the fashion industry to adorn women’s hats. As a result, these beautiful birds were nearly hunted to extinction before early conservationists worked to pass legislation to protect these and other herons and egrets.

Tri-Colored Heron

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07 18 14 Chincoteague 045

This graceful heron was foraging in the shallow waters of Tom’s Cove at Chincoteague, Virginia. The Tri-Colored Heron, formerly known as the Louisiana Heron, is a breeder of sub-tropical swamps. Unlike the Great Blue Heron, who often forages by freezing until it’s prey comes within range, the Tri-Colored Heron runs frantically after it’s prey, looking somewhat like the Keystone Cops in it’s  endeavors.

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My First Attempts at Photoshop

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Before

Before

After

After

Before

Before

After

After

It was a year ago that I began taking photographs of birds, and it’s been a wonderful adventure to learn about the birds and about photography. This past Christmas my kids bought me a copy of Photoshop, and it’s been sitting on my computer desk waiting for me ever since. Last night, we finally downloaded it on my laptop, and I’m now beginning to learn the process of post-editing my photos. The top two sets of photos are my first attempts.

The Blue Grosbeak is the very first attempt. From that endeavor, I learned that patience is going to be the key. Hmmm… that seems to be a central theme in these birding adventures! But anyway, if I try to change too much in one step, I end up just messing the picture up. I was a little more patient with the Red-Winged Blackbird, although right after I got to this point, I tried a little bit more and ended up smudging black ‘ink’ all over the green background. (Smiling ruefully!) Oh well, this endeavor will keep me busy for awhile!!

Wades Point

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07 15 13 Wades Point 008

I’ve spent the last few days at a beautiful spot on the Eastern Shore, Wades Point. While the property is now run as an inn, it originally was a private farm owned by Thomas Kemp, a master shipbuilder who designed and built many ships for the fledgling United States Navy during the war of 1812. Kemp built the brick manor house that still stands on the property in 1821. His son enlarged the home later in the 1800′s, and the property remained in the Kemp family until 1984, when it was sold to it’s current owners. Almost a half-mile of the property is waterfront, some of it is still farmed, there’s a large pond on one side of the property and a very small one on the other, and a nature trail runs all along the property edge. In short, it’s a great place to walk, to relax, and to watch the wildlife.

07 15 13 Wades Point 003  A Great Blue Heron roosts on a hedge row tree along one of the soybean fields.

07 15 13 Wades Point 031  Cattle Egrets forage in the horse pastures.

07 14 14 Wades Point 001  The horse’s legs look rather imposing against the Cattle Egret.

07 14 14 Wades Point 004  Of course, the insects and bugs are thick this time of year. This is a dragonfly that I’ve never seen before.

07 14 14 Wades Point 018  A Chipping Sparrow on the front yard.

07 14 14 Wades Point 012  Eventually, the Cattle Egrets took off to find another spot to forage.

After the Storm

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There’s just something about watching a storm ride across the Chesapeake Bay. As the storm clouds darken the distant horizon, the thunder rolls, ever so slowly, across and down the bay. When the storm approaches lightening flashes to the surface of the water. And when the storm passes, as the setting sun reflects off the bay, highlighting the clouds that just passed… well, then, you get to see some beautiful skies…

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The Seasons Perpetually Change

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We are in the thick of summer right now. The vegetation is thick and green, the mulberries have been stripped from their trees, the air is hazy with humidity and everything buzzes with the drone of various insects and bugs. And yet, the seasons continue to change.

07 11 14 Bombay Prime Hook 001  The shorebirds, here seen with a few of the hundreds of Egrets at Bombay Hook, are gathering in large flocks.

07 11 14 Bombay Prime Hook 028  The Black-Necked Stilt chicks are looking more and more like their parents.

07 11 14 Bombay Prime Hook 058  The Avocets’ peachy breeding colors are starting to fade.

07 11 14 Bombay Prime Hook 070  This Forster’s Tern is losing his solid black cap and his bill is turning black. The breeding season is over for this fella.

 

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