Strut Your Stuff

Great Blue Heron, Blue Mash Nature Trail, Gaithersburg, MD

As a birding newbie & very beginner bird photographer, great blue heron (GBH) are a lot of fun to watch and photograph. They are large, easy to find, exotic looking, and can put on quite a good show!

Some rules have been broken here… If you want to be a good bird photographer, you don’t really want to take a bunch of pictures of the back of a bird. But in this case, I wanted to show you this GBH strutting his stuff, showing off his great size and plumage. I think he wanted everyone to notice him and take lots of photos of his awesomeness and that’s exactly what I did!

He just went on, and on, and on, strutting around and showing off. Do you know any humans like this GBH? Ever seen someone who loves to show off, craves attention and glory? It somehow seems more acceptable for a wild bird to be an attention hog than it is for a person. It takes all the different personalities to make the world interesting, though, doesn’t it? Next time I see a person flapping their “wings,” working hard to get everybody’s attention, wanting all the glory for themself, I will resist annoyance, step back and try to enjoy the show.

Great Blue Heron, Blue Mash Nature Trail, Gaithersburg, MD

Hope You Like Hummingbirds

Young Hummingbird

I hope you like hummingbirds, because I sure do…AND I have lots of photos to prove it! I’ve been working on my camera skills by stalking the birds in my backyard all last week. Above is my current fav hummer shot. Pretty sure it is a young one because it’s all fluffed up & not scared off by me & my camera.

The hummingbirds are literally juicing up for their migration which will occur very soon. Since they’re hanging around my feeder so much, practicing on them seemed to make sense.

If you don’t yet have a hummingbird feeder, hurry and get one to attract hummers to your yard before they disappear until next spring. It’s not too late, but will be soon! Maybe they’ll remember your delicious nectar and decide to live in your yard next year. Hummingbirds are known to return to the same place year after year, ya know.

Above is the lone male in my yard. He is a little smaller, faster and a lot more nervous around me and my camera than the females and the young. But I managed to get a few shots…

Hummingbird Hanging Eight!

Above is a little lady who decided to stand on a flower bud! She is so light, she didn’t even cause the bud to droop while standing on it. Trivia question: How many toes does a hummingbird have? Answer: Four on each foot/eight total toes. I am in awe of how teensy tiny their feet are.

I could just watch these little birds all day long. In fact, thanks to COVID-19, I get to see a lot more of them than I would any other time in my life!

Did you know that hummingbirds cannot step or hop? They can only perch or fly, so if they want to move three inches to the left, they need to fly there.

I think people who spend time observing and appreciating wildlife may have an edge over others when trying to understand our place in the universe, how very small we are, and how capable God is of seeing us individually and loving us affectionately.

“I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.” Psalm 50:11

Wood Duck Wednesday

Female Wood Duck, Lake Hallowell

Well, look at this pretty lady! What is it about wood ducks? Is it their dramatic eyes? Their crest? The pretty blue feathers mixed in with the soft browns? While I haven’t spotted the extravagantly colored male, I’ve really learned to appreciate the females this season!

I hope you are having a good week focused on what is good in your life and in the world around you. Pause and take a look around and you WILL see something beautiful.

No Such Thing as an Ugly Baby

Fledgling Red-Winged Blackbird, Lake Hallowell

Do you believe there’s such a thing as an ugly baby? Today, I was with someone who chose another elevator because there was a baby on the first one & she “doesn’t like babies.” Waaa? I am just the opposite–I love ’em! Big, little, fat, scrawny, long, short, quiet or loud… If I could get paid to hold, cuddle and play with babies all day, I’d gladly make a career change.

Well, I kinda feel the same about baby birds. They start out quite funny looking with their translucent skin & closed eyes. Then they start growing downy feathers, but are still prehistoric in appearance. Finally, their real feathers grow in, but still may be awhile before some birds take on their adult appearance.

Male Red-winged Blackbird, Lake Hallowell

If the fledgling is female, it’s coloring will stay similar to what it is in the top photo. But if it’s a male, he will look like the photo above, with black feathers and striking red/yellow bars on his wings.

I keep trying to learn better camera techniques to capture nature’s beauty. It is a fun challenge for me to be creative in this way. But no photo can really capture the full depth of beauty around us, can it? What a photo can do is inspire the viewer to look differently at something, more closely than they would or could otherwise. What may look like an ugly baby could also be seen as a unique being, the apple of someone’s eye, or a masterpiece in progress. Every life is beautiful.

From the Bridge (part two)

Juvenile Green Heron, Lake Needwood, Rockville, MD

Continuing with the baby series, although now we are really getting into juvenile birds. These birds are on their own, but not quite fully with their adult plumage. Last time, I highlighted a juvenile black capped night heron we spotted from a bridge that crosses a marshy part of a lake. At the same time, off the other side of the bridge, was this lovely creature! My friend immediately said she thought it was a green heron. I said, “naaa, it is too small; it must be something else.” It was a little farther away than the night heron, so it was pretty easy to snap a few photos without disturbing him or her.

Later, once home, I began my online search to narrow down what this bird could be. Don’t you know, it turned out to be a green heron after all! Amy knew all along and it would have saved some time if I’d just trusted her. I’m glad she’s a good friend and doesn’t take it personally when I don’t always agree. Once in awhile, I am the one who is right, but at least when it comes to birds, she is usually the one who knows and I’m good with that!

Juvenile Green Heron, Lake Needwood, Rockville, MD

In this crazy world, we need to surround ourselves with good people we can trust. It is high time for us to show kindness and acceptance of others, human or otherwise, even when it is hard. Isn’t that what we want from others? This is my goal, with God’s help: To show love and kindness to others regardless of how “deserving” they are. I fail miserably in this area quite a lot, but commit to persist in trying to do the right thing.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. But whoever lives by the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:19 & 21

Have a blessed day!!!

Bring the Camera Every Time!

Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron, Lake Needwood, Rockville, MD

When I started to do a series of “baby” posts, I didn’t know how many baby bird photos I had taken and would take! Last week, my walking/hiking/birding buddies and I were on an EXERCISE walk, NOT a birding walk. Recently, I decided to carry my camera on EVERY walk & hike, not just birding walks, and it paid off! Last Friday, we were crossing the same foot bridge we cross once or twice a week, and here was this strange creature just sitting there staring at us… and staring… and staring. After regaining our composure, I took a couple quick shots to be sure I came away with SOMETHING to refer to later. Then, I clicked and clicked and clicked, inching closer and closer and closer. This bird didn’t budge.

Juvenile Black Capped Night Heron, Lake Needwood, Rockville, MD

New to birding, the differences between males, females, young and mature are quite a challenge at times. This lovely bird turned out to be a juvenile black crowned night heron. Huh! Never would have guessed THAT. It’s hard to believe that this young bird, stunning in it’s own right, will transform into something that looks completely different. Eventually, this juvenile will grow to have a black cap and back with gray wings. Knowing now that they are around, I’ll be on the lookout for the parents! Lesson learned: bring the camera every time!!

The next installment will be another young bird that stumped us on the same day, while walking across the same foot bridge. See ya then!

Sweet Swallows

Baby tree swallows, Lake Hallowell, 5/26/20

Can you stand the cuteness?!? These adorable little tree swallows appear to be getting their courage up to fledge their nest. On the day this photo was taken, there were several bird houses, all bursting with baby bird preciousness–tree swallows and bluebirds.

Tree swallows, Lake Hallowell. 5/26/20

Above, proud parents tending their young. Below, this brave almost-fledgling working on it’s pros & cons list of why or why not to leave the security of the nest. Pros: freedom, more space to stretch it’s wings and more independence. Cons: losing out on free meals from mom and dad, giving up the shelter of this cozy house. Freedom and independence always win out over the rest!

Baby tree swallow, Lake Hallowell. 5/26/20

Here, on the same walk, bluebird parents caring for their hatchlings. Wish I’d caught the young this time. Maybe next spring!

Proud bluebird parents, Lake Hallowell 5/26/20
Bluebirds, Lake Hallowell. 5/26/20

What do these images make you ponder? They make me feel calmer and more hopeful for the future. Birds live the life I wish I could. They are so free to be exactly who they were made to be!

These birds’ lives are beautiful and precious to our creator, and so is yours!

What the Hawk?!?

Hawkstravaganza 2020

Continuing with my baby bird series… Last year, I noticed a hawk family had taken up residence in the woods behind my home. I wasn’t “into” birding at that time, but was certainly interested in this new development. The impact they would have on my feeder birds was of concern as well. At that time, I observed what seemed to be two adults and a young hawk. I tried to figure out what type of hawks they were: Sharp shinned hawks or cooper’s hawks, I wasn’t sure.

This summer, equipped with binoculars, camera and Audubon app on my iPhone, I began noticing hawks in the yard again. But it seemed like they were EVERYWHERE. What the hawk was going on?!? One day, I looked up and saw FIVE hawks on one singular pine tree! Strangely, most, if not all of them appear to be young. It has been a backyard hawkstravaganza!! With the aforementioned equipment, I determined them to be Cooper’s hawks, which are common in my area. Judging by appearance, one might think sharp shinned hawks, but these ladies and gents are too large. Also, their calls are different & what I’ve been hearing are definitely Cooper’s hawks’ kiks, caks & calls.

Having these glorious creatures in my yard has been mixed–really fun at times & other times, a little hawkward. It’s been exciting to watch them fly and swoop through the yard, across the deck & into the woods. Also, it’s been entertaining to observe these young cooper’s hawks romp and play in the woods behind my yard, chasing each other, hopping around, leaping over fallen trees and vocalizing. However, in my yard at the same time have been two bird houses containing bluebird & house wren hatchlings as well as a feeder full of songbirds. After reading up on hawks, I stopped stocking the feeder. The experts say once the feeder birds move elsewhere for lack of food, so will the hawks. It’s been two weeks since I stopped filling the feeder and the hawk presence has decreased a little, but they are still around. In fact, I spotted a red shouldered hawk in my yard the other day, but no good photos. Today, the baby birds have all fledged from the bird houses, so I may chance filling the feeder again soon.

What about you? Have you noticed hawks in your area? They really are fun to watch with their soaring and daring flight moves! While they enjoy feasting on our beautiful songbirds (bad!), they also feed on small mammals such as mice (good!).

Thank you so much for reading this far. I know this was a longer entry than usual and it took some commitment to read it to the end! Hopefully, the end result will be for you to go on a hawkventure of your own! By September in the mid-atlantic area, many varieties of hawks will be seen migrating south in large numbers, so dust off your binoculars and go find some!!

Hawkstravaganza2 2020

Mystery Solved

How about this beauty? Any idea what it is?? We beginner birders were stumped. Upon asking around, we heard people say it was a snowy egret, a little egret, maybe a young great egret…

It is amazing the small differences that separate two different species or subspecies. At the time of this photo, I could see the legs had a greenish hue which doesn’t convey well in the photos. What I didn’t notice at the time, but I can see in the photos, there are some blue-gray tail feathers. Have you figured it out yet? Keep reading…

Does size matter? Of course it matters in the bird world! Size helps narrow down what you’re looking at as much as color can. We estimated this bird was about 2-3 feet long. After going back to my Audubon app dozens of times, I was happy enough with this creature being a juvenile snowy egret. Look it up! It matched to me!!

We have a friend who is a very experienced birder. We very much wanted to verify our hypothesis & so glad she was prepared to help. Are you ready to solve this mystery? Were we right or wrong?

WRONG!!! This lovely creature turned out to be a juvenile little blue heron! Who would’ve thought?!? I have a long way to go in learning the vast variety of birds in my region, let alone anywhere else. But that’s okay because birding has helped me refocus on the positive, on the beauty of God’s creation, and on what’s most important in life.

I hope that as you spend time in nature, you FEEL how truly loved by God you are. Thank you for joining me on my journey.