Friday, July 18, 2014

Bluebird Breakfast and Pearl Crescent Puddling

I began my walk at 7AM this morning, and I had the property all to myself for a little while.   Small rabbits were in various spots on the paths, but they quickly slipped into openings in the grass (visible only to them) before I could get very close.  The dew was still on the meadows, and I searched for black-and-yellow garden spider webs but didn't see a single one!

The Red-Tailed Hawk was screaming again in the tree at the end of the pond.  (This had happened on a previous early morning walk.)  No smaller birds were dive-bombing him this time, so maybe he just likes to let everyone know who's boss first thing in the morning.  I'm here!  I'm king of this tree!  Bow down to me, you tiny songbirds.

Red-Tailed Hawk

I couldn't even see the spider web when I was in the field, although I can in the photo.  The only reason I saw this while I was out was because the fly was struggling to escape, and the spider was working quickly to disable it.

Eastern Bluebird (juvenile)

Mourning Doves

Northern Flicker
(showing off the pretty yellow underside of his tail feathers in this position)

Indigo Bunting (female)

Some days I just don't have the energy to try to identify sparrows that all look alike to me.  I don't know what kind this one is, but I really like the composition of the photo.  I admit to being a lazy birder!  Sometimes, I am content just to come home with a photo that I like.....

I saw three varieties of butterflies at this time of day:  several Common Wood Nymphs flitting non-stop through the meadow edges, one American Copper and one Pearl Crescent.   The abundance of birds more than made up for it!

American Copper

Black-Capped Chickadee, preening

Pearl Crescent

OK.  Back to being a lazy birder....  I haven't taken my binoculars with me the last couple times I've been out.   My shoulders and back have been stiff from an increase in work at my job, so I was giving myself a break from the load of binoculars, camera and backup supplies in my backpack that I typically take with me!  Today, I regretted it (of course).  I saw an all-red bird in a distant tree and couldn't get a good look at it.  Here it is.  I am going to guess that it's a Summer Tanager, which would be a life bird for me. I don't think the photo is good enough to be sure, so I won't count it.  It definitely had a song that I didn't recognize, so there's no chance at all that it was a cardinal. 

possible Summer Tanager

Baltimore Oriole (prob. a juvenile)

Eastern Kingbird

When I was heading back towards the parking area, I came to intersection of the trail that goes to the keyhole and the trail that was not mowed during breeding season.  There has been a male Eastern Bluebird perched in a lower branch on the tree there almost every time I've gone by this summer.  I'm assuming there was a nest nearby.  Today, I saw the male fly down to the path, pluck an insect from the grass and return to another bluebird perched on one of the tree branches, which he promptly fed.   I missed it!  I decided to wait and see if by chance I could witness this a second time, and I did...several times!  The lighting was all wrong for photos, but here they are anyway!  I played with the photo to see which "effect" made it look the best.  Do you like one of these better than the others?

Straight from the camera

Black & White

 High Key effect
(brightens enough to make IDs possible)

Low Key effect
(darkens the contrast so only silhouettes remain)

I like the last one the best.  By the way, I think the third bird in the background was an Eastern Phoebe who was hoping to line up and be fed insects too!

I went back to Breakneck Hill at lunchtime.  You'd be surprised how much the sights can change just by taking a different path at a different time of day.  During this walk, I took the front path over to the community gardens and then around to the meadows and back.   On the front path, I came across a very tattered Gray Hairstreak.  Poor thing is missing a lot of its wings!

Gray Hairstreak (or what's left of one)

Purple Loosestrife (behind the garden area)

Spotted Knapweed

I was really excited to find a dozen or more Pearl Crescents puddling in front of the wetlands area.  They sure are pretty, and I've never seen this species puddling before.  Fun!  Supposedly, they are benefitting from minerals by doing this.  Typically, it is the male of the species, and the minerals support reproduction.

Pearl Crescents

While I was crouched down watching the Pearl Crescents, a small field mouse or shrew came out of the grass bordering the wetlands.  As I moved my camera to focus on it, it got scared and retreated into the grass.  Boy, was I sorry to miss that shot!

On the other side of the orchard, I found more Pearl Crescents.  These were doing a courtship dance among the fleabane.  An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail also breezed through here but did not cooperate for a photo.

Right about when I needed to turn around and retrace my steps, a Spicebush Swallowtail caught my eye.

Spicebush Swallowtail

The fun wasn't over yet, either.  As I passed by the wetlands again, I spotted what was either a very tattered Great Spangled Fritillary, or quite possibly a new species for me at BHCL.  I have now confirmed it to be a Silver-Bordered Fritillary, which is a smaller fritillary.  I have only ever seen these at Appleton Farms in Ipswich, so this was quite an exciting find!

It's pretty tattered and torn.  It's amazing that it can still fly.  Wouldn't you just love to know what happened to cause these large missing chunks of its wings?

While I was obsessively photographing this butterfly so that I would have no problem identifying it when I got home, I happened to look down and see a pair of dragonflies mating.

Last, but not least, I spotted a small black butterfly flitting in the field as I walked the front path back to the parking lot.

Common Sootywing

I thought about leaving this last one out, but it just didn't seem fair!  It's hard to compete with the big showy butterflies, or the puddling group, especially when "soot" is part of your name!

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