Thursday, July 31, 2014

Good Fences #19: Ohio Pass Road

I've decided to join in on the Good Fences meme this week, hosted by Theresa at the Run A Round Ranch. Several bloggers have posted their images of beautiful, creative or unusual fences there. Although I don't have any recent photos of fences to share, I do have a few older images of  fences from my travels.  I'm going to start paying closer attention to fences when I'm out and about so I can share them with you.  

The photos below were taken along Ohio Pass Road in Colorado as my husband and I traveled toward the town of Crested Butte. I particularly favored the old barns on open, grassy fields with mountains in the background.  Breathtaking would be the best word to describe the scenery.  

The grassy meadows lined with old wooden fences looked so inviting that I wanted to stop and visit a while at all of them.  Perhaps the next time I travel through Colorado I'll have more time to explore the plant varieties and wildlife in some of the meadows. There's no telling what I may discover!

Thank you for visiting and viewing my first Good Fences post and many thanks for sharing yours!  
Enjoy your day :)

Linking with Theresa at Good Fences

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Bossy Grackle

These birds caught my eye during my last trip to Tupelo, MS.  I was walking around in my daughter's back yard, observing the squirrels and robins when I noticed a couple of blackbirds chasing a smaller bird and harassing it.  I was relieved to see the small bird escape the terror of the bigger bullies.  The blackbirds then gathered along a fence and chattered noisily while they consistently looked upward, toward the top branches of the nearest cedar tree.  Were they looking for another victim to bully?  I wondered what they were so interested in, but I didn't see anything moving above them.  

The "gang leader" appeared to be the largest and most colorful bird of the group.  As he walked back and forth a few feet along the fence line,  he intermittently looked upward, into the tree tops, and cackled at his cohorts.  It was as if he were scolding them.  Strange, but that was my perception of him.  

Initially I thought they were just ordinary blackbirds which are common just about anywhere.  Then I noticed their bright yellow-gold eyes and the colorful reflections of their feathers.  I took note of their size- quite larger than the blackbirds I've seen before. I captured some images for later comparison.  

It didn't take long for me to identify these birds online.  The Common Grackle is a large blackbird with a long, wedge-shaped tail displaying a longitudinal ridge or keel when in flight. It appears all black at a distance but is actually highly iridescent, with colors varying from blue to purple to green to bronze, depending on the light.  The female is duller and somewhat smaller than the male.  The Common Grackle adult has bright yellow eyes.  

Grackles walk around lawns and fields on their long legs or gather in noisy groups high in trees, typically evergreens. They eat many crops (notably corn) and nearly anything else as well, including garbage. Common Grackles are resourceful foragers. They sometimes follow plows to catch invertebrates and mice, wade into water to catch small fish, pick leeches off the legs of turtles, steal worms from American Robins, raid nests, and kill and eat adult birds.  Apparently, they've created a lot of agricultural problems targeted at farmers who raise corn and rice.  Grackles are the #1 threat to corn and have had a multi-million dollar impact on the industry.  

Since they're so numerous in the U.S., there must be some Common Grackles in or near our area, but I have neither noticed or observed them before.  From the history I've read on these birds, they're more a nuisance than anything else.   Perhaps some of my readers who are familiar with this bird species has a difference of opinion- if so, please feel free to share!  

Thank you for visiting!  

Linking up with Stewart on Wild Bird Wednesday

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mr. Bully Now Has Competition

One of the sweetest birds to photograph, for me, is the Hummingbird.  They're special- so tiny yet so powerful in flight.  Their air acrobatics amaze me.  Everything about them amazes me.  

For a few months now, there has been just one hummingbird guest at our place. When they first began coming in, during March, there were at least a dozen of them, but all of them moved on and migrated north, except for one little male that I call Mr. Bully.  He's a fierce one- he thinks all of the hummingbird feeders are his and he doesn't like to share.  Mr. Bully is not sweet, and he carries no shame in chasing away every hummer that encroaches upon his territory and his feeders.  

Mr. Bully can expect to be much busier for the next couple of months.  For several days there has been a slow influx of migrating birds returning south, where they will stay until they return to central America and southern Mexico for winter.  Fall migration for the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird usually begins in September and lasts through October.  A few weeks ago another male showed up and has been hanging around, giving Mr. Bully some competition.  Now there are at least four hummers, including him, competing for the goodies in our front yard.  Although the two males and two females are constantly at war with each other, I occasionally manage to get a half-decent image when they slow down enough to refuel on nectar or sugar water. 

Mr. Bully is pictured in the first image above.  The remaining images are hummingbirds that have recently arrived.  They all seem to love the dwarf Hummingbird Bush, or Hamelia patens Compacta, also called the Scarlet bush or Fire bush.  This is the first Hummingbird Bush included in my summer garden and I'm very impressed with it.  It has tolerated our summer heat without any issues and requires little care other than routine watering.  I'll definitely plan to purchase another one next year and grow my collection of them. 

I plan to post more photos of these beautiful little creatures soon.  I wish you all a wonderful week ahead. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tufted Titmouse Family

On May 3rd, I posted photos of the female Tufted Titmouse gathering materials for her nest.  Weeks later the fledglings began making their appearance at our bird feeders. These photo groups include both parents and their young from the months of June and early July.

Adult Tufted Titmouse- both sexes of these birds are similar in appearance,
making it difficult for me to distinguish between the two
Juvenile titmouse perched upon a Bougainvillea branch
Another juvenile perched on a shepard's hook, after visiting a feeder- see the tiny seed in its mouth?
Juvenile on left, parent on right. The juvenile was cracking his seed
upon the hard metal surface of the feeder.
The adult tits often swoop in, grab a seed and take off.
Sometimes the seeds are bigger than their tiny beaks.
It's easy to distinguish the juvenile in this pair of images-
just look at the fluffy "tufts" of feathers
Adult titmouse- love the little round head, big black eyes and tiny beak

What a precious little bird family.  They're a pleasure to observe around the feeders and I love their high whistled peter peter peter song.  Often I will hear them before I see them.  They can become quite vocal at times, especially when the family are all together- reminds me of my own family ;)   Have a great Sunday, Everyone!  Thanks for dropping in!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Blanket Flowers: Bright & Colorful

One of the brightest spots on my front porch this summer is the pot of Blanket Flowers, or Gaillardia Aristata. The bright orange-pink petals with intense yellow tips draws attention from bees and butterflies. Blanket Flower gets its name in areas where fields are filled with them because they "blanket" the field in blooms. They have also been called Indian flowers and Firewheels.  

Blanket flowers are related to Sunflowers, Daisies, and Asters.  Their large, long-lasting blooms grow up to 4 inches across. Bi-colored flowers include orange, red, and yellow. Flowers bloom from early summer to fall, if spent blooms are deadheaded.  These beauties are great in or along fields and in butterfly gardens. They're also good for cuttings. Blanket flowers are easy to grow perennials.  They like full sun and are drought tolerant- important when one lives close to the southern coast.  

I hope everyone enjoys their Saturday.  I plan to do some heavy cleaning indoors. Lately I've neglected my usual household chores because I've spent more time outdoors (where I'd rather be).  Everything is now piling up so I must, I must, I must do some cleaning, like it or not.  Maybe I'll finish in time to catch the late evening hummingbird show on my front porch :)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sunshine, Freedom & A Little Flower

One must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower...
this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail proved he had everything he needed then and there.

It was a perfect morning to capture some great shots of this gorgeous butterfly as he spent several minutes on the Lantana blooms.  His bright yellow wings captured the morning sunlight as it softly filtered through the foliage, presenting a clear image of the defining black tiger stripes for which he is aptly named.  He gracefully fluttered from bloom to bloom and gathered sweet sips of nectar, paying little attention to the clicking of my camera lens.  I was caught up in his beauty and grace... the butterfly is truly a wondrous creation.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Brown Thrasher Family

These young thrashers appeared out of the tall brush for the first time three days ago.  I suspected a nest was somewhere behind the grassy fence line because their parents were frequently seen there.  I observed the young ones for a little while as they investigated the wide open space on my side of the fence.  They initially proceeded with caution, staying close to the brush and each other.  When they became more comfortable, they intermittently walked and hopped along several feet near the fence line, pecking at the ground. Obviously their "thrashing" skills will develop as the young birds mature.  

I contemplated the appearance of the young thrashers in the same area yesterday. They didn't show. However, they surprised me a little later when they made an appearance in the tree near my front porch. They had followed a parent to the bird feeder.  Soon one of them made clumsy attempts to follow the parents lead.  I saw the family again yesterday evening- this time they were under the huge azalea tree on the opposite side of the yard.  

Brown Thrashers are interesting to watch- the adults dart quickly around the shrubby areas in the yard, thrashing heartily through piles of old leaves and tossing them aside.  Most often the best images I can capture of them are at the feeders because they're so fast and elusive.  Some of the features I find most attractive in the adult brown thrasher are the bright yellow eyes and heavy dark brown streaks on the chest.  

I'll post more photos of this thrasher family in a few weeks.  

Thank you for visiting!  

Linked with Stewart at Wild Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer Evening on the Lake

While at a recent birthday party for my grandson, I stole some moments away to view the surrounding lake area. It was a sweltering hot, humid afternoon with temperatures in the mid-upper 90's in Tupelo, Mississippi.  Droplets of perspiration trickled from my forehead as I walked on the grassy banks of the lake and observed the local wildlife. 

On the opposite bank, I observed a Canadian goose sitting in a brush of thin green shrubs. She must have noticed I was staring at her because she began moving more, nervously turning her head east to west. I turned my attention away from her and walked toward a beautiful large weeping willow tree centered west on the lakes edge. I appreciated the gracefulness of the willow where it stood with limbs outstretched  and long sunlit fringes of leaves which lightly swept the ground below.  The tree provided nice shade for the birds and other creatures.  A large Canadian goose took advantage of the shade as it foraged the ground for bits of food.  Moments later, a  Great Blue Heron was spotted on the opposite side of the tree.  I wanted to try and capture a closer shot of him so I quietly crept toward him, holding my camera in a ready position.  He sensed my presence and suddenly escaped across the lake, leaving me the opportunity of one more shot of him with flight wings spread a few feet above water.  

The goose from the opposite bank decided to come into the water and was soon joined by the goose from the willow tree shade.  Together they waded through the cool water, sometimes dipping their beaks into it for refreshment.  I enjoyed watching reflections of lake homes and other trees shimmy across the lake's surface, giving it a colorful sheen. Beautiful!  

As dusk approached, orange, yellow and purple hues painted the sky.  I stood in awe as I watched the beautiful transformation of day into night.  I felt grateful for this perfect ending to a very hot summer day. Goodnight Sun.  Hello's good to see you.  

I took a deep breath...there could never be too many beautiful sunsets in my life :) Each is as tranquil as the one before...

Thank you for reading my first post on  Our World Tuesday.
Come on over and read some interesting stories of other places,
with wonderful images included :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Morning Dew & Romance

There is something romantic about morning dew...

maybe it's the way the tiny droplets of water hug the tips of flowers and grass
holding on until the very last moment of their existence

or the way they capture the first light of dawn
and magnify its glow, becoming bright as luminous crystals

they'll twinkle like bright stars as they bathe in the morning sun...
then quietly disappear into thin air,
leaving barely a trace of their dewy kiss upon waking blooms.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Pincushion Flower

I purchased a few different plants to test this year- if they make it through summer with me, they'll be on my list for next year's Spring/Summer season.  One such flower I chose for this year is the Pincushion flower.  One look at the flower in full bloom and you know where its name derived from- the stamens protrude well beyond the curved surface of the ball shaped heads, giving the impression of a perfect, symmetrical pincushion.  

Commonly known to gardeners as Scabiosa, it comes both in perennial and annual varieties and it can be successfully grown in most areas.  It likes the sun but does well in partial shade also.   The Scabiosa is one of the longer blooming plants in the flower garden, beginning mid-summer and lingering until winter, if the spent blooms are removed. It will often continue blooming even after several frosts, but a hard freeze will bring the growing season to an end.  Additionally, bees and butterflies are highly attracted to this flower.  Obviously, spiders are attracted to it as or more of them had a busy, busy night!

^(..)^   More blooms to come...   Have a good day :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Walk Through Ballard Park

My previous two posts regarded some of the ducks found at Ballard Park in Tupelo, MS- the Crested Duck and the Muscovy Duck.  Ballard Park is also host to another duck- the domestic Mallard. Other birds, like the Barn Swallow, are commonly seen at the park as well. 

Ballard Park includes a 3 acre lake, 1 amphitheater, 2 pavilions, 1 stage, 3 restroom facilities, skate park, disc golf course, 2 playgrounds, 1.3 mile trail, life trail system, .25 mile track, 1 maintenance building, 20 picnic tables, 2 sand volleyball courts, Oren Dunn Museum, Parks and Recreation Administrative Office, 16 lighted multi-purpose fields, and 1 athletic operation center.  Yes, it's a fairly good sized park, but I only visited a portion of it- the portion which included the lake.  

Hubby and I first entered the west side of the park, which includes a playground area for children.  The first critters we saw scurrying about were some busy squirrels.  Since it was still early morning, they were full of energy.  I watched them chase each other around tree trunks then up and down limbs in the tree tops.   

There were several Muscovy ducks near the picnic tables at the edge of the lake.  As a matter of fact, a couple of them were quite comfortable as they sat and walked along the picnic tables.  I posted photos of them in my previous post here.  

As we approached the south end of the lake, Hubby and I observed a small group of female domestic Mallard ducks.  I love the color and pattern of their feathers, especially the young female.  They stood quietly as we walked near and I snapped a few shots of them.  They're accustomed to public attention and probably expected a handful of duck feed in return for the photo favors ;)

The east side of the lake was prettier, with more shade trees and walking paths.  One of the paths led to a shady area where several ducks rested and a Graylag goose stood quietly near them.  The goose watched us closely as we slowly walked by.  I stopped briefly to capture a few stills and I thought of how peaceful it seemed in this little spot, away from the main path.  It would be a nice place to lay out a blanket and read a good book...or take a quiet nap.  

Around the next bend in the walking path was another group of Muscovy ducks.  This was a rather large group of black and white Muscovies which briefly entertained me with their strange head bobbing behavior. There were a couple of mating pairs in this group and they didn't mind our presence a bit.  

As we approached the gazebo at the edge of the lake, I spotted something moving inside it. Upon closer observation, the moving object proved to be a Barn Swallow- not one, but two of them, flying around their nest which was located under the gazebo's wooden eave.  I had never seen Barn Swallows before, so it was a pretty exciting moment for me!  I oohhhhed and awwwed as I captured a couple shots of them before they flew away.   It wasn't the best circumstances for good photos because of the shade and location of the nest under the eave.  The swallows perched upon nails which extended from the wood frame near their nest, how convenient!  

Just beyond the gazebo, another, yet small group of ducks were hanging out near the edge of the lake.  It was in this group that I spotted the Crested duck.  I posted photos of it two days ago- they can be seen here.  It appears the first duck in the photo below has a small, incomplete crest (the crest sizes vary with these ducks).  

Close to the southeastern portion of the walking trail, I stalled a few moments to admire the beautiful plumage of this domestic Mallard.  The sunlight perfectly illuminated his emerald green headgear.  This was one of only a few male domestic Mallards that were observed in the park that day- they were definitely outnumbered by females.  

My hubby grabbed my attention and told me to look under the small covered walkway crossing the lake, just south of where we stood.  Following his direction, I then saw at least a dozen Barn Swallows perched along the edge of a horizontal wooden beam, near the inside top of the cover.  Wow!  I thought.  Now that would make a great photo!  

Unfortunately, as I eased toward the covered walkway, the swallows flew away.  I waited several minutes for their return, but it didn't happen.  Disappointment settled in for a fleeting moment.  I could see tiny pieces of their nests over the top of the wooden beam...apparently there were several swallow nests there.  I had no idea that birds would nest so close together.  

While I waited for the return of the swallows, I watched a pair of House Sparrows peck on particles in the grass and hop along the concrete walkway, looking for food.  The male sparrow grabbed a white feather then flew off... he probably tucked the feather into a nest shared with his mate.  

My hubby pointed out the small fish on the waters edge so I took a look.  There were literally scores of fish in the murky water near the bank.  I don't know much about fish, but he and my son said these are goggle eye for now I am taking their word for it.  I can bet that they've made good snacks for several local birds.  

A pretty brown and white domestic duck lay in the grass just on the other side of the covered walkway. After a few photos, the duck grew tired of my presence and took off into the water.  Even better...I snapped a few photos of him paddling around and preening in the lake water.  

I was happy with our little adventure through Ballard Park.  I was given the opportunity to see and photograph birds new to me- the Crested duck, the Muscovy ducks, a Graylag goose, Barn Swallows, and House Sparrows.  Pretty productive for slightly over an hour of my time ;)