Autumn: Happy and Sad

Things are changing dramatically at the lake with the arrival of autumn. It’s to be expected, but always makes me a little sad. The Little Green Herons are already gone, most of the Wood Ducks have left to start their journey south, and I’ve seen a few species on a brief migration pit stop.  The bright side is that I’ll get to see several types of waterfowl I don’t normally get to photograph.  Last winter into spring there were Hooded Mergansers, Redhead Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Lesser Scaups, Buffleheads, and several others that at least made a brief visit with some staying around for a few weeks.

This post is a little long, but it was a good day at the lake yesterday!

The remaining pair of Wood Ducks decided to pay me a visit in exchange for a little corn.

The remaining pair of Wood Ducks

The remaining pair of Wood Ducks

The previous shot isn’t a great one, but I got a kick out of the Mallard action in the front!

This guy is almost done with his molt into his breeding plumage

This guy is almost done with his molt into his breeding plumage

Wood Duck drake in flight

Wood Duck drake in flight

Wood Duck drake in flight

Wood Duck drake in flight

Pretty in sunlight

Pretty in sunlight

Not too shabby in the shade, either

Not too shabby in the shade, either

Getting as many shots as I can before they leave

Getting as many shots as I can before they leave

Wood Duck hen

Wood Duck hen

The Great Blue Heron, a regular at the lake these days, arrived late in the afternoon for a bit of fishing, and to attempt to evade the strange looking thing with the black box.  It’s a game, but curiosity is starting to get the better of him.

Incoming Great Blue Heron

Incoming Great Blue Heron

Incoming Great Blue Heron

Incoming Great Blue Heron

Heron photobombed by George

Heron photobombed by George

A little Pied Billed Grebe watching the heron arrive

A little Pied Billed Grebe watching the heron arrive

Sticking the landing

Sticking the landing

Scared off by a stump removal crew

Scared off by a stump removal crew

I figured that would be the last of him for the day, but I was wrong.  He came back after the noise stopped to taunt me some more.

The Great Blue Heron is back

The Great Blue Heron is back

Relocating

Relocating

Coming in for a landing

Coming in for a landing (it was a short relocation)

Touchdown!

Touchdown!

"Are you going to watch me the whole time?!"

“Are you going to watch me the whole time?!”

"Stop following me!"

“Stop following me!”

Hiding in the weeds, fishing

Hiding in the weeds, fishing

"Are you STILL stalking me?"

“Are you STILL stalking me?”

Fish found

Fish found

The heron didn’t actually catch a fish this time.  Some moronic fisherman decided it would be fun to catch several, let them die, then toss them into the water & along the shore.  There were at least 10 dead fish all along the shoreline that were apparently too small to keep.  At least one of them ended up as dinner.

Down the hatch!

Down the hatch!

One of the highlights of the evening is feeding cracked corn to the swans and mallards.  Fortunately for me, this fascinates the heron.  He’s learned what’s coming and while I went to the car to get the corn, he relocated so he had a front row position for the show.  Sorry I missed those flight shots, though!

The heron relocated again, and is now about 15' away

The heron relocated again, and is now about 15′ away

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Stalking a fish

Stalking a fish

Got it!

Got it!

Heron with his prize

Heron with his prize

Heron with his prize

Heron with his prize

Giving the fish false hope

Giving the fish false hope

Changed his mind.  It's dinner.

Changed his mind. It’s dinner.

Heard a door close from about 50 yards away

Heard a door close from about 50 yards away

Using the aeration pipe as a bill cleaning device

Using the aeration pipe as a bill cleaning device

He stayed around, fishing and watching, for about 45 minutes.  He left when some residents came by on their evening walk.  It touched me a little that he was so comfortable around me, but would leave when others he didn’t know came within 50′.  These birds are incredibly smart!  Let’s face it:  Most birds are if you just give them a chance to prove it.  Well, maybe not the Canada Geese.  😉

Heron at his favorite evening roosting spot

Heron at his favorite evening roosting spot

One of my favorite things about fall is the arrival of the Pied Billed Grebes and the American Coots.  The Coots have yet to show, but the Grebes are back.

Loch Ness Grebe

Loch Ness Grebe

Pied Billed Grebe

Pied Billed Grebe

Pied Billed Grebe

Pied Billed Grebe

Three of the four visiting Pied Billed Grebes

Three of the four visiting Pied Billed Grebes

The Mute Swan family, meanwhile, is doing just fine.  The not-so-little one (aka: Peeper) should be getting his first flying lessons any day now.  I missed them last year because of my work schedule, so I’m hoping I get to see at least a couple of the lessons this year.

George, sporting his new mustache

George, sporting his new mustache

George, sporting his new mustache

George, sporting his new mustache

Martha's working on her wingflaps

Martha’s working on her wingflaps

Still working out

Still working out

Still working out

Still working out

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Not to be outdone by Martha, George flapped, too.

The future student

The future student

No flaps.  Just a stretch.

No flaps. Just a stretch.

Swan family outing

Swan family outing

Coming to see if I have corn for them

Coming to see if I have corn for them

George and Martha

George and Martha

Swan family relaxing after dinner

Swan family relaxing after dinner

There isn’t a lot of autumn color around the lake, but what there is makes some beautiful reflections on the water.  (The first shot here isn’t great, but how can you not appreciate a good goose photobomb?)

Photobombed by a goose

Photobombed by a goose

Fun with reflections

Fun with reflections

More fun with reflections

More fun with reflections

Reflections

Reflections

Reflections

Reflections

Reflections

Reflections

Autumn is here

Autumn is here

I found one milkweed plant that was preparing its faeries for flight.  Did anyone else call these seed puffs “faeries” when they were kids, or did I just grow up in a strange area?

Milkweed preparing to release the faeries

Milkweed preparing to release the faeries

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

Milkweed

To put an end to this rather long post, a Mallard gave me a beautiful pose for the last shot of the day.

Mallard hen at sunset

Mallard hen at sunset

Now that my classes are over (I passed!), I hope to post a little more often.  As a good friend pointed out, blogging is an excellent way to keep a record of what happens at the lake.  He’s right, and I need to be doing this more often.

Thanks for taking a walk with me!

Greetings From a Lousy Blogger!

I admit it.  I’m a lousy blogger. I recently started a new job and the hours are such that I can usually get out just about every evening to go for a walk, and take photos. While that’s wonderful, it means that I’m spending most evenings going through the shots I took and cropping them which leaves no time to write a blog. But I guess if I have to have a problem, this isn’t a bad one!

There hasn’t been anything overly exciting happening. We still have the one cygnet (aka: the Peeper). There was some concern for awhile because he was keeping one leg propped up on his back, not using it. There was no visible injury, and it wasn’t broken, so it must have been a soft tissue injury of some sort. As of a few days ago, he slowly started using it again so apparently it’s healing well.

Peeper now has both oars back in the water

Peeper now has both oars back in the water

The Peeper is getting BIG!  He’s noticeably larger than the Canada Geese now, and he’s started practicing his chasing & nipping skills on the resident Mallards.  Surprisingly the Mallards are taking their role in the training quite well.  One minute he’s nipping at them (because they’re trying to steal his corn), removing feathers in small tufts, and the next minute they’re sitting side by side in the water, preening.  The Peeper is just preening to show off his new feathers, but I suspect the Mallards are trying to re-adjust their feathers to hide the bald spots.

George, the male Mute Swan, is getting really good at playing Catch the Corn.  As a matter of fact, he’s usually the one instigating the game now.  I’d love to post a photo of it, but I’ve tried to get one and have found that it’s really difficult to hold the camera in one hand, toss the corn and get the shot.  I’ll keep working on it.

Another thing that’s happened is that a couple of the young Mallards have taught themselves a game.  It started when they were about half grown.  When they wanted me to know they were there and wanted some corn, one of them would reach out and tug on the leg of my jeans.  Since that was really funny, of course it netted them some corn.  Then they upped the game.  Once they had my attention, and I had corn in my hand, they started hopping up to try to reach it.  Literally hopping!  Seeing a baby duck hop is probably one of the cutest (and funniest) things you could ever see.  Seriously.  Now they’re almost fully grown, still hopping and have added in a few wing flaps in an effort to perfect the corn grab.  Yup.  It’s still cute.  Unfortunately it’s also really difficult to photograph.  Another one to keep working on.

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A bad shot of the duckling tugging on my jeans

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The culprit

On to some other photos…

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Martha and the Peeper

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George, about halfway through his molt

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Whoops! Sorry, Peeper.

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A couple of the resident Wood duck hens

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Young male Wood Duck. His eyes are slowly turning to that signature red color.

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Mystery bird, scratching its face in mid-air

About a week ago, I was surprised when a Little Green Heron landed about 30 feet away.  Usually they spot me, cuss a blue streak, and fly off.  This one landed, looked at me for a moment, then started stalking the shoreline looking for dinner. Must be a youngster.

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Little Green Heron, fishing

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A good example of how nature photography can be a bit tricky at times

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The heron went on alert at one point, but I have no idea why.

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Checking out the strange two-legger with one big black eye

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“Hmmm… What IS that?”

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He flew up into a tree, almost directly overhead, to get a better look. Then he took off.

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Sunset

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Sunset

And that’s it for the moment.  Thanks for visiting!

And Then There Was One

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George and the remaining Peeper

My apologies for the delay in posting, yet again.  It’s taken me a few days to figure out how to write this objectively, and without cussing.  It continues to be a rough road for the cygnets this year.   One of the two remaining cygnets was grabbed by a snapping turtle, just behind one of his legs.  I’ll spare you the gory details of the injury.  A rescue group was contacted & he was taken to an avian veterinary hospital, but the damage to the tendons was too great.

I spoke with a wildlife rehabilitator, who is very knowledgeable about waterfowl in general, and about the predators that pose the greatest danger to them.   I had a lot of questions because the location of the injury seemed very unusual.  What it came down to was this:  There were three men fishing at the lake that evening.  They were casting, then slowly drawing the lure back in to attract the fish, and they were doing this near where the swans were located.  By doing this, they brought the snapping turtles closer to the surface, as they were going to go where the fish were going.  The Peeper was very possibly just in the way of a turtle going for a fish, and was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  So, while the cygnet died because of a snapping turtle, his death was very probably a direct result of irresponsible fishermen.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have no issues with fishing for sport or for fun.  I do, however, have issues with people who fish without regard to the wildlife that live there.  These same three men left at least two soft lures laying in the grass where they could easily have been ingested by a duck, goose or swan.  Like I said, irresponsible.  I have now been added to the list of those who have permission from the community to run off anyone fishing at the lake if they don’t have written permission to be there, and believe me I plan to do just that.    There’s still one cygnet to protect, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let idiots endanger its life.  (Oh, and I almost made it without cussing!  😉 )

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The Lone Peeper

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The Lone Peeper relaxing

There have been a lot of fun, entertaining and/or interesting things happening at the lake as well.  It hasn’t all been bad!  For instance, Martha is in the middle of her annual molt.  Her beautiful flight feathers are scattered all over the shore.

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Half of Martha’s wing feathers are gone, temporarily

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The lack of flight feathers doesn’t keep her from reigning over the geese. She still rules, but at a much slower pace.

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George, showing off the fact that he still has his wing feathers. (His turn’s next, but I don’t want to burst his bubble.)

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Dinner with dad

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George needs a bib. And a good face scrubbing. Any volunteers?

I was really surprised to see Cedar Waxwings still hanging around.  They usually just pass through as they migrate, but one pair apparently decided to stay for awhile.

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Cedar Waxwing

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Cedar Waxwing

There was a whole lotta’ peeping going on in a bush near the water, so of course I had to investigate.  I found this little fuzzball hiding out.  He was pretty small, but trust me when I tell you that he has some pretty impressive lung power.  I couldn’t figure out what type of bird he was going to grow up to be, so I decided to hang back a bit and see if a parent would show up.

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Mystery baby

After about five minutes, dad showed up with dinner.  What a nice surprise to find out I’d just seen my first baby Baltimore Oriole!  (I owe my friend Jerry a thank you here.  I originally assumed this was the mom, but he let me know that the dark orange coloring belongs to the male while the female is more yellow.  This year marks the first time I’ve gotten to see these birds, so I appreciated the information.)

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Dad with dinner

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A target that’s tough to miss!

I hadn’t seen the female Wood duck in about a month, then suddenly she showed up very briefly two nights in a row to join in on a cracked corn and whole oats dinner.

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Wood Duck hen

Then she disappeared again for a few days.  Night before last, she showed up again but seemed wary of approaching which was unusual for her.  Then two little ones came into view!  She kept a pretty good distance (thus the grainy photo) until I left the area.

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My Wood Duck friend with her two little ones

She showed up with the little ones again last night, but I only had to back up about 30 feet before she felt comfortable coming to get the corn.  Unfortunately, there were storms building and the light was still horrible.

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Two baby Wood Ducks

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Wood Duck family

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The two baby Wood Ducks (Wood Ducklings? Wood Duck Ducklings? How much wood would a Wood Duck chuck…)

And I was entertained by five young Northern Rough Winged swallows who landed in a tree right in front of me.  They sat and waited while the parents swooped all over the lake, trying to catch enough bugs to feed all of them.

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Young Northern Rough Winged Swallows, waiting for a food delivery

Finally, as I said earlier there was a storm building in the area.  The clouds were slowly billowing upward, and there were streaks of clouds around them that showed just how strong the winds were up there.   The next three photos were taken with about 30 seconds in between.

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Storm clouds

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Storm clouds

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Storm clouds

Thanks for taking a walk with me!

Swans vs. Nature, Swans vs. Geese, Mallard vs. Swan

When you get up close and personal with nature, you often see things that are disturbing or difficult to accept.  Nature doesn’t follow the rules of mankind.  That’s a good thing since the rules of mankind constantly seem to be rewritten.  Nature is more of a constant, and an anomaly.  There are predators and there are prey, and one can become the other in an instant.  There are no certainties, and being cute is no guarantee of success or survival.

These are a few of the thoughts that have going through my mind over the past couple of days.  After visiting the Peepers on Sunday evening, and enjoying the antics of the four adorable fuzzballs, I went back on Tuesday evening to find two more missing.  After talking to a resident there, I learned that both had been lost that day.  They were there the night before, and by the end of the afternoon they were gone.  One of the Peepers lost was the little white one, which seemed to be everyone’s favorite.  Hearts everywhere are broken.

I have been visiting George and Martha for over a year now, and have learned their habits and behaviors very well.  Some may question whether wildlife mourns the loss of their young.  It certainly seems that these swans are doing just that.  While they’re still acting somewhat normally, and they’re still very attentive to the remaining two cygnets, they also seem to be a little lost & a little more on edge.  For instance, I picked some unripe mulberries (a favorite treat of the swans), and tossed a couple into the water to Martha, something I’ve done countless times & she’s always anxious to get to the berries.  This time, however, when the berries hit the water Martha hissed.  She quickly figured out what I was doing and calmed right down, but it was a first.  She’s never hissed at me.  I don’t blame her in the least, and it’s on me to correct and adjust my behavior while she’s in this frame of mind.

She’s hissing a lot right now.  Two people she didn’t know tried to approach to get a better look at the cygnets (who were at least ten feet out from the shore), and she let out a hiss that I heard from 50′ away.  Needless to say, the people quickly left.  She also hissed at a turtle that surfaced nearby, at a duck that was coming toward the water, and at a water snake that swam past.  She doesn’t seem to trust much of anything at the moment.  I can’t say I blame her.  Her cygnets are disappearing at an alarming rate… four in about 10 days… to a predator she can’t see.

I’ve always had a stronger bond with George for some reason, and he’s acting like he always does around me.  He’s the first to greet me, and still likes to come and just hang out with me.  But even he is a little edgier around most other people, and even the other wildlife at the lake.  George is always the most tolerant of the Mallards, but he’s started running them off, and even gave a warning snap to one of the 13 ducklings.  No contact was made.  It was just to warn the duckling away.  However, it led to an interesting turn of events.  When George issued the warning to that duckling, the mom Mallard literally flew into action.  She launched herself at George, hitting him in the chest, then darted around and behind him, luring him away from her kids.  It worked.  He followed after her for a few feet, then just relaxed and let her go.  I have to admit, I was impressed by that little duck!  I wish I could show you some photos of the whole scene, but I was so surprised by what I was seeing that I didn’t capture any of it.

These swans really are good parents, and they’re doing a great job of protecting their cygnets as best as they can.

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Martha and the two remaining Peepers

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“You dropped a little of your dinner there, Dad. Let me clean that up for you.”

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Peeper helping himself to his Dad’s dinner

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Martha’s sharing her meal, too. Whether she likes it or not.

Since the family was busy having dinner, I decided to take a walk along the lakeshore.  I usually get the duck brigade following me on my walks, so I turned around to check and found that the swans were following as well.  I have to admit, it’s very touching when they do that.

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It’s not paranoia if you’re really being followed

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Dad and Peeper

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Purple Loosestrife that grows along the edge of the water. It’s very invasive, but the caretakers do a good job of keeping it in check.

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Yellow Wild Iris also grows along the water’s edge

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Hmmm… I wonder where George is…

The thirteen mini-Mallards are still doing just fine.  It’s so funny to watch them develop their duck-like qualities.  I’m already seeing them mimic their mom.  When most Mallard drakes approach, she stretches her neck out, opens her bill and chases them off.  These little ones are starting to do the same thing!  I really need to get a shot of that.

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A few of the mini-Mallards, relaxing

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Mini-Mallards

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Mini-Mallards

I went back to the lake Wednesday afternoon.  I was afraid of what I might find, but there were still two Peepers.  At this point, I’m praying that nature will be kind and spare these last two.

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Martha and her two Peepers

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Peepers relaxing in the grass

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“Hello!”

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Fighting to stay awake

In my last blog entry, I believe I promised to post a few shots of the ongoing territory battle between swan and goose…

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Martha on the chase

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Martha blowing right past me in pursuit. Wish you could hear those wings!

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“Now go away, or I shall taunt you for a second time.”

The last photo for this entry really has nothing to do with anything.  I visited Holliday Park Wednesday, and was watching a little Nuthatch bouncing all over a tree.  She hopped up the trunk and another one came around to meet her.   She had a little one, and was gathering food for him.  I’d never seen a baby Nuthatch before!

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Nuthatch feeding her baby

Per Quiet Solo Pursuit’s request, I’m adding a couple of photos of the Nuthatch youngster finding its own food.

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Young Nuthatch getting some sort of larvae out of the tree bark

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Young Nuthatch learning how to find munchies

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“Hey mom! I got a BIG one!”

That’s all for now.  Thanks for taking a walk with me!

From Six to Four

I haven’t been able to get out and about as much as I’d like lately because they turned my work schedule upside down.  I did manage to get out and about last Wednesday, and again this evening, and there’s some catching up to do.

On Wednesday, I started out by going to Holliday Park, which is a local nature preserve.  One of the first things I noticed is that I really did need to watch where I stepped.  There were bright green Six Spotted Tiger Beetles everywhere!  Pretty little things, and at least they were easy to see so I could avoid squishing them into oblivion.

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Six Spotted Tiger Beetles were all over the place at Holliday Park

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View from the path through Holliday Park

At one point, as I was walking through a non-beetle-infested section of the trail, a hummingbird flew up and hovered in front of my face for a few seconds.  I wanted to snap a photo so badly!  I was afraid if I moved to bring up the camera, she’d be gone in a flash so I decided just to enjoy the moment.  When she was done with her assessment, she flew up into a nearby tree and perched on top of a dead branch for a moment, giving me a nice chance at a photo op.  I took four shots, and only one actually focused on the bird.  Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

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Ruby Throated Hummingbird out on a limb

Holliday Park runs right along the White River.  When I finally made it down there, I discovered that it was well past its banks after several heavy rains.  Several sections of trail were completely submerged, so I couldn’t get to some of the better birding spots.  The ducks, however, loved it.  A pair of Mallards found a spot that didn’t have a strong current and were having a great time splashing around, diving and bathing.

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Post-bath wing-flap

While I was watching the ducks play, I caught movement near my foot & looked down to find a garter snake trying to sneak past.  When I looked down, it panicked and retreated back into the bushes.  I stood still, hoping it would come back out.  While I waited, a rather noisy little family came along.  The woman with them yelled over to me and asked what I was watching, and wondered what kind of animal I’d spotted.  When I told her it was a snake, she quickly gathered up her offspring and high-tailed it out of there.  Guess it was a little too much nature for her.  On the plus side, it’s good to know how powerful the word “snake” can be.  It was a lot quieter after they left!  I think all of the noise scared off the snake though.  He never did reappear.

After leaving Holliday Park, I headed for my friend’s lake to check on the Mute Swans and their cygnets.   I was sad to find that one of the cygnets was missing.  We were down to five.

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Martha and the five cygnets enjoying some cracked corn and whole oats.

Chances are very good that they cygnet was taken by one of the massive Snapping Turtles that live in the lake.  I’ve read that Snappers can get up to 18″ across.  I got a photo that day that makes me question that.  There are two in the following shot, and one appears to be much bigger than 18″.  If you look at the small tree stump in the water, then look behind it and just to the left, you’ll see the larger of the two turtles.   The other turtle is also of good size, and is behind the stump and just to the right.

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Two large Snapping Turtles. You’ll spot them more easily if you go full screen.

The other type of turtle in this lake are Painted Turtles.  I found this gal in the process of digging out a hole to lay her eggs.  These turtles pose no danger to the cygnets or ducklings.

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Painted Turtle preparing to lay eggs

Here are a few shots of the swans and cygnets.

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Three of the cygnets having dinner together

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The proud parents

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All five cygnets, just hanging out together

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Dinner with dad

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A Cardinal stopped by for a drink

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Looks like one Peeper is preening the other, doesn’t it? He’s not. There’s a little cracked corn on that cygnet, and he’s helping himself to the goods.

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“Hey! I was saving that for later!”

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Stre-e-e-e-etch

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Peeper wing-flaps aren’t too impressive… yet. But they’re cute! Hard to believe those little stubby wings will end up in a 7′ wingspan!

I’m not seeing many female Wood Ducks around right now.  My guess (hope) is that they’re nesting.  There are several males hanging around, but the females are conspicuously absent for the most part.  This is the only female I saw today.

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Wood Duck hen

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A group of male Wood Ducks

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A couple of the Peepers

More sad news greeted me at the lake today.  George and Martha have lost another one.  I know it’s likely to happen, but it’s still heartbreaking.  While I still think the Snapping Turtles are the most likely predator, I have heard a Great Horned Owl there recently, and this evening I heard a Barred Owl calling.  It’s possible, since the swans generally sleep on the shore, out in the open.  They’re also still small enough that a hawk can’t be ruled out.

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George, Martha and four Peepers

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Martha and the remaining Peepers

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It’s not easy putting your head under your wing at this stage!

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“Hi Dad!”

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The Decoy. This guy came up near George and Martha, honking for all he was worth, luring them out of the water and into a chase.

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Meanwhile, his buddies tried to quietly sneak by.

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Nice try, but it didn’t work. Martha spotted the group and make quick work of relocating them.

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The Peepers, enjoying the show.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any shots of the Great Chase.  I was in a bad position behind several trees, and the wind kept blowing leaves into the shots.  None of the shots were worth keeping.  I’m sure there will be a lot more chase scenes, so I’ll try to get better shots of the next one!

On a brighter note, there’s a Mallard with 13 ducklings.  She started out with 14 but lost one pretty quickly.  She’s managed to protect all of them for about 2 weeks now, and they’re growing like weeds!

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Mallard hen with 14 mini-Mallards (taken 2 weeks ago)

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Momma Mallard with 13 mini-Mallards (taken today, June 2nd)

As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed something orange at the top of a tree.  It was a Baltimore Oriole.   One of these days I’d love to see one a little closer so I don’t have to push my zoom to the limit!

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Baltimore Oriole

That’s all for now!  Thanks for taking a walk with me!

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

I’ve been asked more than once why I choose to frequent just one primary location for taking nature photographs.  That’s usually followed by “Don’t you get bored?”  There are several reasons behind my decision.  First and foremost, I live in Indianapolis.  While there are quite a few beautiful green spaces around, they’re visited by a LOT of people.  That means kids running around yelling, people walking their dogs, people wandering around talking on their cell phones, all of which chases away most of the wildlife.  It also completely ruins that wonderful relaxation that comes from just being out there, surrounded by nature.

Second, and probably just as important, when you frequent one specific area nature just seems to start to accept you as part of everything.  After going to this lake several times a week for over a year now, I’ve made a lot of “friends”.  Some have decided that I’m okay because of the cracked corn I’ve been taking to help the swans through the winter & into the spring until the plants they eat really take hold.  Others have just seen me there so often that they don’t seem to be concerned about me so much now.  There are Wood Ducks and American Coots that will come fairly close.  There are a couple of Song Sparrows I see regularly that seem to have lost their fear of me.  The Mute Swan pair are so used to me now that they’ll bring their cygnets right up to me, knowing that I won’t bother them.  I’ve even interacted with a Great Blue Heron, and a couple of Little Green Herons.  The list goes on and on.

This is all a big help since I can’t really afford to get a better camera right now.   I’m using a Canon PowerShot SX40, and while it’s a good camera overall, it isn’t so great at shooting things at a long distance.  Having nature come closer lets me get some pretty decent shots.

The last big reason for going to the same place is an interesting one.  This lake is privately owned, but while the residents definitely enjoy it, they had no idea that so many different types of birds lived on & visited their lake.  Seeing the photographs I’ve taken has made several of them really appreciate what they have.  They’re starting to take notice, and are genuinely interested in learning about what they’re seeing.  That makes me very happy!   I never even considered that my taking photographs would make people curious, but that’s exactly what’s happened.

So, on to the photos.  These were taken this past Wednesday.  It was one of those days when so much was going on that it was hard to know which way to look!  As usual, Martha (the female Mute Swan) was busy chasing geese away from her six Peepers.

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Martha on the job

Her mate, George, was also helping keep the area cleared of those pesky geese.

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George offers his assistance

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“Help!! She’s after me!”

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Martha seems to enjoy flying low across the lake to chase the geese. I must admit it’s pretty impressive!

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Stopping just short of the shoreline. I’m always sure she’s going to crash, but she never does.

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Mom and the Peepers

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The Peepers are learning to do headstands to get at the underwater plants.

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This is the lightest colored Peeper. The others have gray or tan fluff.

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Goose Chasing… Something the whole family can enjoy!

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Mom and the Peepers

While wandering around, a little orange butterfly went fluttering by.  I chased it for awhile waiting for it to land.  When it finally did, I got a good look at its wings and realized that it had managed to escape from at least one bird.  The back part of its wings were pretty chewed up!

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Two-thirds of a butterfly

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Lots of pretty yellow wildflowers. I’m not very good at ID’ing wildflowers, so if anyone knows what this is…

My mom has been wanting to come and visit the lake with me for months.  The arrival of the Peepers spurred her into actually making the trip.  The folks at the lake were nice enough to give me permission to bring her along, and she had a great time watching the little ones, and watching George and Martha control the geese.   Unfortunately, I completely forgot to get a picture of her with the swans.  The best I got was her hand as Martha stomped past.  (That was surprising in and of itself.  Martha usually avoids most people, but I guess she decided Mom was okay.)

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Mom was so enchanted with Martha as she walked past that she forgot to take a picture.

There were several nesting Mallards at the lake, but quite a few of the nests were destroyed by spring flooding.  At least one was lost to raccoons.  These are the first two ducklings to appear this year.  The mom seems to be a little young, as she keeps leaving the little ones alone.  This is not good considering there are quite a few snapping turtles in the lake, and Cooper’s Hawks in the area.

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The first Mallard ducklings of the season.

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The ducklings on their own. Mom was nowhere to be seen.

A Great Blue Heron arrived at the lake, and of course it landed on the far side.

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Incoming Blue Heron

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A nice fluff-up after landing

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Caught something

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Down the hatch!

A Red Winged Blackbird blew past, chasing one of the resident Cooper’s Hawks.  I wasn’t fast enough to catch it.  The hawk landed in a tree, and I almost landed in the lake trying see around all of the leaves to get shots of him.  Unfortunately for him, he landed near a Blue Jay’s nest.

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The hawk, happy he’s not having to deal with the Red Winged Blackbird any more

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Enter the irate Blue Jay

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“Aw man! Here it comes again!”

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Divebomb

Back to the swans.  While Martha was off chasing away geese, George took over babysitting duty.

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Pulling up plants for the Peepers

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George is such a great dad!

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Hanging out with George

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Not sure why they were all circled around George like that, but it made a cute photo!

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Martha launching

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Martha in full-on chase mode

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Song Sparrow checking out the action. Probably is happy he isn’t a goose.

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Evening preening session

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Evening preening session

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Pre-nap stretch

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The evening nap before being taken to their safe spot for the night

That’s it for now.  Thanks for taking a walk with me!

The Proper Way to Relocate Geese

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George takes on three geese at once… and wins.

George and Martha hate geese.  I don’t know why, but they do.  And now that they have little Peepers to take care of, they hate them even more, which means more chasing and more posturing.  It’s a nature photographers dream!  I can actually get some entertaining action shots when I’m not laughing at their antics!

I initially thought that maybe the geese were just stupid because they keep coming close to the swans, knowing they’re going to be chased off.   Then I considered they might just be stubborn.  I finally came to the conclusion that they’re just plain nuts.  Albert Einstein defined insanity as “Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”  I’m wondering if he wasn’t watching geese when he said it.  They approach the swans over and over again, and always seem surprised when they get chased away!

I’ve pretty much ruled out “stupid”.  I’ve seen geese set George up.  One will lure him in one direction, while a couple others will try to sneak in behind him to get to the water.  Sometimes it actually works… unless Martha is lying in wait.  I’ve also seen what appears to be a goose practical joke on several occasions.  A goose will be standing at the edge of the water, swans nearby, and another goose will sneak up behind the unsuspecting goose and nip them, causing them to jump into the water and get chased back out by one of the swans.  If I hadn’t witnessed it at least a dozen times, I’d think it was just coincidence.  I have to admit, it’s pretty darn funny!  Maybe one of these days I’ll actually remember to get photos or video of it, rather than just standing there laughing.

The next few photos show Martha going after a goose that kept trying to get into the water too close to the cygnets (aka:  Peepers).  (I’ve never seen either of the swans do anything more than chase and nip at the geese.  They’ve never tried to do them serious injury.  A few feathers, however, have given their all.)

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Trying to warn the geese away from the Peepers.

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What the warning looked like from the side. Personally, I’d have evacuated. Take that however you’d like.

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“You okay, honey?”
“@!*$!”

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“You get that one. I’ll get this one.”

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The warning went unheeded. Martha is on a rampage.

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She chased him across the path…

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Across the lawn…

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Into the water…

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Across the water…

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And back to the path.

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“I hate those !@*! geese.”

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“Don’t make me call Martha.”

One of the main predators in the lake are Snapping Turtles.  They’re everywhere, and some of them are huge.  Traps are set every year, trying to cull some of them, and to give you an idea of how big some are two were caught last year that took 2 grown men to lift.  They estimated it at about 2 1/2 feet long (shell only), and weighing 60+ pounds.  The main reason it took 2 men to lift is because neither of them wanted to get close to its mouth!  Can’t say I blame them.

I tell you this because as Martha led the Peepers away from the cattails, suddenly all six Peepers separated from their usual tightly knit group and started thrashing in the water.  I had a mild panic attack!  I was scanning the water, trying to find any sign of a snapper, and hoping it wouldn’t manage to get any of them.  Boy did I feel stupid when I realized Martha wasn’t reacting, and that they were just having a great time taking a bath.  Took a couple of minutes for my heart rate to get back to normal, though!

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Peeper bath time!

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Peeper bath time!

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Peeper bath time!

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Peeper bath time! (The one on the far left was doing backward somersaults!)

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Martha leading them to shore for preening time.

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Peeper preening.

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Hard to imagine those tiny little wings will end up looking so beautiful!

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Bath time is fun, but exhausting!

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*Yawn*

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Faceplant.

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Peeper peeping.

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One of the Peepers is very light in color, while the others are tan or grey. Even the feet and bill of the light colored one are different.

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Family portrait

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It’s naptime a LOT!

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ZZZzzzzzzz…..

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A couple of Wood Ducks did a nice swim-by.

The next two photos are a perfect example of why I called my blog “Watch Where You Step”!  While I was wandering around, I found this little guy trying to get through the grass to the lake.  He was only about an inch and a half long!  If I hadn’t been watching where I was walking, this little Painted Turtle would have gotten stepped on.  I usually don’t interfere, but with his location, and his struggle to get through the long grass, I picked him up and moved him, setting him down near the water.  He quickly travelled the rest of the way on his own, and is now happily swimming with the other Painted Turtles.

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Baby Painted Turtle

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Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

A few more photos of the swan family…

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Happy Mother’s Day, Martha!

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Displaying to warn away the geese.

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“Come with us kids, and we’ll show you how it’s done.”

Thanks for visiting!  More to come!