Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bordered Patch Butterfly

Bordered Patch Butterfly
 The bordered patch is a butterfly found in the southwestern United States, Mexico, Central and South America. They are usually food in habitat such as desert hills, pinyon or oak woodlands, thorn and mesquite scrub, road edges and agricultural fields.
Bordered Patch Butterfly Chrysalis Shell
 This is what is left of the chrysalis once the bordered patch emerges. In south Texas, where I took these photographs the adults can be seen flying through out the year. Adults feed primarily on nectar from flowers while the larva (caterpillar) feed on members of the sunflower family.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cassin's Finch

 On one of our trips to Yellowstone I had the opportunity to photograph a few Cassin's finch. I almost missed out because at first I thought they were house finch. House finch are pretty common through out most of the United States. But house finch have more streaking on the belly which this bird obviously does not have. Next I was thinking purple finch but Yellowstone would be a bit out of their range. It also has that distinctive red crown, a by product of the carotenoid pigments that are found in the colorful berries that they like to eat. The purple finch has a more uniform red color on the head. I finally identified the birds as a Cassin's finch, which were named after famous ornithologist John Cassin, who first recorded them in the 1850's while part of the Pacific Railroad Survey. Cassin's finch breed in the western third of the US and winter in the Pacific southwest and Mexico.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Black-billed Cuckoo

Black-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed cuckoos breed through out much of the eastern half of the United States and southeastern Canada.  They prefer woody areas, typically building their nest in deciduous trees or shrubs usually fairly close to the ground. Black-billed cuckoos migrate down to northwestern parts of South America for the winter.
Black-billed Cuckoo
 Black-billed cuckoos are insect eaters. They eat a variety of larger insects which they glean from trees and shrubs. They particularly prefer large caterpillars. They will often knock caterpillars against branches to dislodge their spines before they eat them. They are not always successful and end up with spines lodged in their stomach. To counter this they will shed their stomach lining to get rid of excess spines.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

American Avocet

American Avocet
 Every couple of years or so we make a trip out to Yellowstone National Park to photograph the wildlife. Since most of what we photograph at Yellowstone are mammals we usually stop at one or two Montana wildlife refuges on our way home. The two that we usually go to are Bowdoin NWR and Medicine Lake NWR. Both of these refuges are located around wetland areas in the Prairie Pothole region of North America. Both are typically a haven for waterfowl, waders, shorebirds and prairie species.
American Avocet
On last years Yellowstone trip we stopped at both refuges. At Bowdoin I snapped these images of an American avocet. The red coloration that you can see on the head and neck is breeding plumage. When it is not the breeding season these areas would be white. These birds typically winter in coastal water of southern California, Mexico, Florida, the Caribbean, and along the Gulf of Mexico.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Zebra Clubtail

Zebra Clubtail Male
 The zebra clubtail is a member of the Gomphidae or clubtail family. Cubtails are named for the wide or clubbed end of their abdomen that many species have. This is not a requirement though. Gomphidae are identified because they are the only clubtails that have eyes that are separated, like damselflies. The zebra clubtail is a Stylurus or hanging clubtail. They are often often hanging from vegetation.
Zebra Clubtail Female
 Zebra clubtail are found around forest streams or sandy bottomed rivers. They usually emerge later in the summer, primarily late in the summer. The first photo is an example of a male while the second is a female. As you can see the female can be distinguished easily from the male because she has very little clubbing at the tip of the abdomen in comparison to the male..

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird
 Yellow-headed blackbirds are members of the Icteridae family which consists of their smaller cousin the red-winged black bird as well as bobolinks, cowbirds, grackles, meadowlarks, and orioles. They usually breed in the central and western plains region and migrate into the south western United States and Mexico for the winter. During their winter migration they often travel as part of large mixed species flocks.
Yellow-headed Blackbird
 The prefered breeding habitat of the yellow-headed blackbird are cattail marshes. They often share this habitat with red-winged blackbirds. Since the yellow-heads are larger they often dominate the smaller red-winged blackbirds and take the prime nesting locations for themselves. Males will fiercely defend their breeding territory and may mate with up to eight females nesting within his territory.Nests are built by the female out of vegetation and connected to four our five stalks of cattail, reeds or other marshland vegetation.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson's Phalarope
 In the world of birds if there is a difference in color between male and female it is typically the male of the species that is brighter and more colorful. The reason for this can be that the more colorful males are more appealing to females and thus more easily attract a mate, thus ensuring that their more colorful DNA is passed down. Or if the species typically nests in a more vulnerable location, such as the ground, females that can blend in better are more likely to survive, along with their eggs. Since the males do not spend much time at the nest they do not need the same camouflage
Wilson's Phalarope
 The Wilson's phalarope is just the opposite of most birds. In this species it is the female that is more colorful. This is to be expected because it is the female that does the work of attracting a mate. So it is important that she look pretty. The male's dull plumage is also an advantage as he is the one that stays home to take care of the little ones. The female lays her eggs in a scrape in the dirt and then takes off to find a new man, leaving Mr Mom to build a nest of vegetation around the eggs. With sole custody he will raise the young on his own.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Have a happy wild Tom Turkey Thanksgiving

 Did you know that only the mature male turkey (called a tom) makes a gobble sound? Females (called hens) only cluck.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk
The rough-legged hawk is a large buteo found throughout much of the northern hemisphere.  Hawks are classified into one of two genus, Buteo and Accipiter. Buteo hawks are often referred to as soaring hawks. They have long broad wings and short tails which help them take advantage of wind currents and thermal air. Rough-legged hawks have longer thinner wings and longer tails compared to many other buteos.
Rough-legged Hawk
 Rough-legged hawks are circumpolar. They nest in the Arctic and tundra regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. During the winter they migrate south into The US, Central Asia and Europe. In Europe and Asia they are called the rough-legged buzzard.
Rough-legged Hawk
 The rough-legged hawk gets its name because it is one of two species of hawks that have feathers that run down to their feet. Rough-legged hawks also have a variety of different color morphs. All of the birds in this post are rough-legged hawks but th last photo is a light morph, the middle is a dark morph and the first is a more of a mixed morph.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe
 The pied-billed grebe is the second smallest grebe found in North America. Only the least grebe, which is only found in Texas and Mexico in North America, is smaller. Grebes are often mistaken for ducks but they differ from ducks in that they have lobed toes instead of webbed feet.
Pied-billed Grebe
 Pie-billed grebes are not strong fliers. They are much more likely to dive under the water than they are to fly away if danger approaches.When the dive under the water they often do so by sinking straight down, much like a submarine, with their head being the last thing to submerge. Under the water they are excellent swimmers. They are able to trap water in their feathers to help control their buoyancy.
Pied-billed Grebe
 Young pied-billed grebes usually leave the nest a day after they hatch. While they are able to swim almost immediately they typically spend most of their first week riding on one of their parents back. Immature grebes are easily identified by the striking feather patterns on their face.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Osprey

Osprey
 The osprey is a bird that is in a class all its own. Literally, the osprey is the only member of the genus Pandion, which is the only genus in the family Pandionidae. So what makes the Osprey so unique? First off is the fact that they have the ability to rotate one of their toes so that they have two facing forward and two facing back. This adaptation helps them to catch fish, which is their main food source. Most species of owls have this ability but the osprey is the only diurnal raptor, active during the day, that has this unique ability. Their feet also have rough pads on the bottom which helps in grabbing slippery fish.
Osprey
 Even though the osprey is the only member of its family they are not so alone. Osprey can be found on every con tenant in the world except Antarctica. They are found near water where they hunt for fish, often diving up to two feet under the surface. In the Western Hemisphere Osprey breed primarily in northern sections of North America. The breeding range includes most of Canada, the northern United States, and the Pacific Northwest. These birds migrate south to central and South America for the winter, some traveling over 2500 miles each way. Populations in Florida and the Gulf Coast typically are year round residents.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler
 The Nashville warbler is a poorly named new world warbler. Rarely are these birds found near Nashville. They breed primarily in eastern Canada, the northeastern U. S. and northern Great Lakes. They winter in Mexico and northern Central America. In the spring and fall they migrate across the central United States on their way between breeding and wintering grounds. In 1811 Alexander Wilson observed one of these birds near Nashville during migration and subsequently named it the Nashville warbler.
Nashville Warbler
 There is separate population of Nashville warblers that breed along the west coast. These birds were once considered a different species called the Calaveras warbler. Even though they look a little different and the western population will wag heir tail while the eastern population do not, the Calaveras is now considered a subspecies of the Nashville.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren
 The marsh wren is found across most of the United States and Mexico. They breed in the northern half of the US and up into Canada. They migrate down to the Gulf Coast and Mexico for the winter. They are most often seen filtering among the reeds and cattails hunting insects and spiders.



Sunday, October 4, 2015

Brush-tipped Emerald

Brush-tipped Emerald Face
Dragonfly families can typically be distinguished by their eyes. All dragonflies have compound eyes but some families of dragonflies have eyes that are separated, like a hammerhead shark, some have large eyes that look almost like a helmet, some have eyes that connect in a single point and look like an infinity symbol. Many of the members of the emerald dragonfly family have emerald eyes. This is the face of a brush-tipped emerald, Somatochlora walshii.
Brush-tipped Emerald Claspers
The brush-tipped emerald gets its common name from the hairs on the end of its claspers. It is found in the genus Somatochlora which are the striped emeralds. Most of the Somatachlora are found in bogs and swamps making them more difficult to find. The brush-tipped is smaller than most of the other somatochlora usually under 2 inches which helps to identify it in flight, although some of the more common emeralds are around the same size. They also tend to fly fairly close to the ground rarely going above the six foot level. (Note: This dragonfly was netted and the pics were taken while it was in hand. The dragonfly was then released)