Saturday, November 12, 2016

Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpipers are the smallest of the small sandpipers, measuring in from 5 to 6 inches in length. They are long-distance migrants that travel from 1,800 to 2,500 miles from the southern United States and northern South America to breeding areas in the extreme northern regions of North America.

Least Sandpipers have brown upper-parts and white lower-parts with black slightly decurved bills and thin yellowish-green legs.  They feed on invertebrates along the edges of water and favor muddier shores than other sandpipers.  

I spotted this pair of sandpipers foraging along the muddy edges of the creek bank as we traveled through St. Catherine Creek NWR.  They suspiciously watched me as I tried to clear my camera lens across the top of the tall grasses that obscured my view.  They're so small I nearly missed them.  

Friday, November 4, 2016

Banded Sphinx Moth Caterpillar

While walking along the lake's edge during our visit to St. Catherine Creek NWR, I happened to spot a caterpillar curled up in one of the grassy plants.  Its size (about 3 inches long) surprised me and I broke off the small stem the caterpillar rested on so I could get a closer look.  I haven't seen many caterpillars in my life and I had no idea what kind of moth or butterfly this one would eventually morph into.  

Of course, Google search provided an answer.  This is a Banded Sphinx Moth caterpillar, a common species in the southeastern part of the United States.   Host plants include primrose-willow and other plants in the evening primrose family.  An adult moth has a wing span of approximately 3.5 inches. Photos and more information about the sphinx moth can be found here.  

Have a wonderful weekend!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Cattle Egrets

Native to Africa, Cattle Egrets arrived in the United States in 1941.  They have since become one of the most abundant of North American herons.  Cattle egrets are small and compact compared to other herons.  They have short legs, a short but thick neck and a straight dagger-like bill.  During non-breeding season, adults are all white with a yellow bill and legs.  When breeding, they develop golden plumes on their head, chest and back.  Juveniles have dark legs and a dark bill.

Cattle egrets spend much of their time in fields, stalking insects and other small animals. They're commonly seen at the feet of grazing cattle where they can easily snatch disturbed insects.  Crickets and grasshoppers are typical items on their menu.  They also consume horse flies, cicadas, wolf spiders, ticks, earthworms, crawfish, millipedes, centipedes, fish, frogs, mice, songbirds, eggs and nestlings.  These egrets will ride on the backs of cattle and horses while picking at ticks.  

Most Cattle egrets breeding in North America migrate to Mexico, Central America, and the Greater Antilles. Several populations stay in the southern United States, mainly in coastal areas where the temperature rarely falls below 40° Fahrenheit.  Although their migration pattern is usually predictable, they may sometimes wander erratically and appear well north of their normal range.

Cattle egrets form dense breeding colonies and non-breeding roosts. They leave their roost or nesting colony just after sunrise, feed in the morning and afternoon with a rest at midday, and make their return flight an hour before sunset.  They are usually monogamous within each breeding season, with occasional trios of two females and one male.  Cattle egrets are sometimes seen as a nuisance because their colonies can be large, noisy, smelly, and close to populated areas.

These photos were captured at the St. Catherine Creek NWR in Tupelo, Mississippi.  I was surprised and grateful when they allowed me to move in close enough to get some good images.  

Thank you for visiting my blog.  I hope you enjoyed the photos and information on one of our most common birds.  Have a great Wednesday!

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