Flight Day

While fishing with our granddaughter down by the falls, we are joined by an osprey, also looking for a catch. None of us has any luck, and the osprey moves on.

We decide to follow him back to the nest. Mom and babies are in residence when we arrive, and after a bit of observation we realize that one of the young ones is finding his wings preparing for first flight.

After stretching his wings a few times, he practices lift off, then seems to confer with his mother.

Dad arrives just as junior takes first flight, circling the ball diamond and landing on a light post.

Pardon the photo quality. The day is windy and overcast, and in my excitement, I fail to hold the camera steady.

This fishing exhibition turned out to be quite memorable.

New Baseball Fans

Baseball is big in our town. Home to the Baseball Hall of Fame, we have several diamonds, attracting ball fans from far and wide. This year, we have a family of new fans with a view of their own.

When we first spotted the nest, there appeared to be one young osprey peeking over the top. On a subsequent visit, we noted two. This photo clearly shows three, but I’m not sure we’ve seen the whole crew yet.

More entertaining to me than baseball, I confess.

(Linking up to Granny Shot It’s new challenge: Bird of the day.)

Drama in the Woods

A high-pitched chirp caught my attention the moment we entered the park. We’d come to Stratford for a meal out and decided to check up on the swans. Ric found a bench by the river, while I wandered in search of the source of the incessant note.

It seemed to be coming from a clump of trees surrounding a still body of water. Thick foliage blocked much of my view, as did the light of the late day sun. A mallard couple swam in the mucky water and grackles flit in and out of trees.

Low on energy, I didn’t wander far before heading back to the car. Just before the parking lot, I noted movement across the pond, high atop a scrag. As I focused my lens to capture what appeared to be a nest, a bird flitted in front of it.

Hard to tell in this light what I was seeing, but it soon became clear that the bird was the source of the noise that had captured my attention. I shuffled around the pond for a closer look, but the bird became even more agitated, so I backed off, finding refuge behind a tree and waiting. Soon, the culprit re-emerged.

A hairy woodpecker!

It wouldn’t be until later, when we reviewed our photos, that we would piece together the story. Seems a squirrel decided to nap at the top of the scrag. Ric’s photos revealed that just below where the animal was resting was the woodpecker’s nest. Momma was looking out for her babies.

Nature’s drama is so much more interesting than T.V.!

(All photos from personal collection.)

Sparrow Study

As common as these little birds are, did you know there are about thirty-five different sparrow species in North America?

Personally, I love sparrows: their happy chirps, and perky presence always makes me smile. The featured bird and this younger version above nest in a creeping vine on a nearby carwash. Although, I am in no way an expert, they fit the description of House Sparrows.

This Chipping sparrow, with the red crown, nests in a neighbour’s bush, and came out to pose for me in the rock garden.

Look how sweet this Song Sparrow is! Nature’s artistry is masterful.

Lately, I’ve been paying more attention to the more common birds, discovering they really are quite uncommon.

Mom, Mom, Mom…

Spring means babies! This cute little robin didn’t know enough to run away. His mother, on the other side of me, had her mouth full and couldn’t quite call out.

Needless to say they were both okay.

I found this happy grouping at the river’s edge. Just watching this busy Mom made me tired. Can’t you hear all those little duckling voices: “Mom, Mom, Mom!”

The Rookery

There is a small wooded area, really just a patch of Live Oaks, that grows between the main highway out of Rockport, Texas and the waterfront. We’d passed it many times, and hadn’t noticed, until friends pointed it out.

It’s a rookery: the place herons and egrets come to build nests and nurse their young. I’ve never seen anything like it.

A viewing area allows us to watch the comings and goings of Great Blue Heron, Great Egrets, and others, all sporting their full breeding regalia.

We observe birds collecting twigs for nests, and pairs working together to arrange them.

Some birds, no doubt due to the close proximity of their neighbours, protest loudly, and we witness a few scuffles, but the birds soon settle down to the task at hand.

We will return here often in our last days, honoured to share in such a miracle, our cameras loaded with images to process for sometime to come.

Birding Heaven

Port Aransas has a birding centre that was damaged during hurricane Harvey. The new facility opened this week and it’s incredible!

A flock of sandpipers fly in just as we arrive. I search across the marsh to see where they’ve landed, now camouflaged among the reeds, mud, and shallow waters. I follow the sidewalk to the newly opened section – a boardwalk that extends far across the waterway with a high overlook built at the central point.

Birds are everywhere and it’s difficult to know where to aim first.

“Are there alligators?” I ask a couple.

“Three.”

He points out where to see the largest one. I head that way. A huge beast of a gator lies on the grass just below the lookout tower. To the right, where the land juts out another gator is basking in the sun, surrounded by long grass, not far from a flock of Roseate Spoonbills.

A Black-Necked Stilt flies by and I decide to start with him. I love the elegance of these birds. Avocet, more spoonbills, some gulls, and moorhen swim nearby.

I head back toward the beginning, where Ric has stopped. Overhead a Purple Martin swoops in close.

“Hello gorgeous,” I coo. ” Any chance you’ll land for me?”

The bird flies low to my right and that’s when I see it. The third alligator. He sees me too and our eyes lock. I take a few pics and note that he is still fixed on me.

“Hey,” I say calmly. “I don’t mean you any harm. Go about your business.”

He starts to back up and that’s when it hits me: Do alligators back up before they jump? Can they jump?

I back up too, and take more photos.

He turns and disappears into the tall grass, but not before giving me another look.

I have that effect on people too.

“Did you see the alligators?” I ask Ric. He goes off in search of them.

I note a heron sitting on a small island. It’s a Black-Crowned.

Something startles the flock of spoonbills and they rise up all at once – a wave of pink wings. Spectacular.

Moments later, four startled bitterns fly off, and then a half a dozen more.

“Something has scared them off,” the man beside me says.

“Must be the alligator that was resting over there.”

“Have you ever heard their mating call?” the man asks. “It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard. The sound echoes for miles. Makes you feel like you’re at the bottom of the food chain.”

I think about the staring contest. I can believe it. These are formidable beasts.

One of the spoonbills has flown back and landed on the same small island as the heron. He is in full breeding regalia.

Ric catches back up to me just as the first drop of rain hits.

Time for lunch.

What a day! I check my camera for number of photos shot: 349.