Sunday, May 31, 2009

Canada Geese: Family Outing

A few weeks ago, I witnessed Canada Geese apparently providing an organized escort for two families of geese safely across a section of the lake at Fort Yargo State Park. I was guessing that the two unattached geese were functioning as look-outs/escorts to provide safe passage for the families but wasn’t totally sure.

This morning, I stopped by the park office before going around to one of the picnic areas to photograph a wildflower. As I drove down to the bay where I had seen the families earlier (Segment 11), I saw a single goose swimming purposefully across the bay toward the bridge I was approaching. At first it appeared to be alone.

However, following a little distance behind was a family of four – two adults and two young goslings. I tried for a family photo but, as with a lot of family photos, one or other of the members failed to cooperate.

This family swam under the bridge and up into the upper section beyond the bridge. The lead unattached goose swam ahead. The family of four followed.

And then… Another family of six, two adults and four goslings escorted by a second unattached goose. These goslings were older – bigger and with adult feather coloring in the tail.

The families swam on up into the swampy area.
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Monday, May 25, 2009

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis): Nest

We’ve had a week or so of gray weather interspersed with rain showers and thunderstorms. Not good weather for rowing but I can’t stay inside all the time. So … I’ve been taking a daily walk down to the creek and then around the field. Yesterday, it started to rain lightly when I set off down the field but I didn’t expect it to last. The rain got heavier the further I went but it clearly was a shower. I decided to shelter under trees down at the road. I’m not sure why I looked back into the woods – probably just occupying time.

There, not more than three feet above the ground was a bird’s nest with chicks. Their eyes were closed and they were almost naked, a little bit of down and some wing feathers. I could hear quiet ‘chipping’ calls – softer than the scolding that chickadees deliver. I followed the nearest sound and finally spied a female cardinal sitting higher up in the tree. The source of the second call – presumably the male – was off to the right, possibly in a tree across the road. I got some shots with a zoom lens and flash but the lighting wasn’t good enough to get close up shots. Today, I went back with an led flashlight. The shot of mum sitting on the nest is a little dark. I tried not to disturb her but she was very shy and took off.

I did get some good shots of the chicks who, for some reason, thought it was dinnertime and responded accordingly for a few seconds.

I’ll keep an eye on the nest if I can do it without disturbing the mum too much.

Reference information:
Northern Cardinal (Cardinal cardinalis)
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Canada Geese: Patient Gander

The gander was standing guard on a log across from the island (Segment 16) where the goose is sitting eggs. He was alert and somewhat guarded but didn’t honk or give away the location of the nest.

Gander on Guard

I happen to know where it is because they have used this site for several years.

Goose Sitting Eggs
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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Southern Black Widow Spider: Latrodectus mactans

I picked a sprig of Spoon-leaf Purple Everlasting (Gamochaeta purpurea) to photograph the seed head. As I rolled it the stem over between my fingers to pose the seed head, I noticed a small spider spinning a web along the stem between the individual flowers. It continued spinning its web apparently unconcerned by the movement.

It was only when I identified it that I discovered it was a male Southern Black Widow spider (Latrodectus mactans). Black Widow spiders are generally found in undisturbed sites – under logs, in woodpiles etc. This sighting was unusual in that the spider was on a plant in an open field.

Identification resource:
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Canada Geese: Safety Patrol

I was rowing beside the Group Camp (Segment 10) where I first saw the goslings, keeping an eye out for them although I suspected that they were long gone to a more secluded place – probably up into the section beyond the bridge connecting the Nature Center to the Group Camp. Nothing … but not surprising.

I rowed down to the bridge. A single goose was swimming back and forth just on the other side of the bridge, It wasn’t the casual ‘swim across the lake’ type of swim. It was swimming back and forth in a clearly purposeful fashion. I could see another pair of geese a little further beyond the bridge also swimming purposefully and honking. I was a little puzzled because I couldn’t see any reason for all the fuss.
I continued to the end of the bridge, turned around and worked my way back to the end of that segment and turned into the bay (Segment 11). I almost didn’t row this section; dark clouds had appeared and the wind had picked up quite markedly. But since I had extra meters already, it was an opportunity to really pick up additional distance.

As I entered the bay the pair of geese swam past me on the other side of the bay, honking and dipping heads. I wondered if they were a breeding pair. When I continued to the end of the bay, they turned, swam back to the point I had just passed and climbed out onto the bank. I wondered if they planned to nest there although this would be a really bad spot because people fish from that point quite regularly. The pair stood there honking and fussing. It was puzzling but …

I rowed back down the bay and turned to row back down the lake (Segment 12). I’m not really sure why I hesitated. I think I decided that I wanted to try and get a couple of shots of the pair on the point. I started to photograph when something made me look off to my right.

Not one pair but two pairs of geese with their goslings were swimming across from the bridge into the bay. I didn’t get a count of the goslings with each pair but it was a delightful sight.

They swam off across the bay.

When the families were well across the bay, the pair that had stood guard stopped their honking and head-dipping displays on the point, slipped back into the water and swam after them. It appears that the single goose had been playing some lookout function and the pair that took up position on the point – honking and dipping heads – was communicating with the parents to warn of my presence and then giving the all-clear so that the families could swim safely through.

I’ve heard of Canada Geese with goslings bringing them together and sharing care and I’ve seen several families hanging out together on Briscoe Reservoir in Walton County. But this is the first time that I have seen geese other than the parents apparently participating in the care of the families by acting as lookouts to provide safe passage for the families.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

It was the Strangest Thing …

J and I were putting my boat on the car. It was dusk, about 8:00 pm. We weren’t making a lot of noise. The boat was on and we were strapping it down.

First thing we noticed was a rabbit – like this one - bipping its way up the drive. It stopped about 10 feet from us and acted like it was going to nibble grass. It didn’t startle but changed its mind about eating and bipped on further along the drive at a steady pace.

We watched with some interest because two of our cats, Minker and Gandalf, were sitting on the drive where we park the cars. The rabbit bipped right up to within about 6 to 10 feet of them, stopped and sat for several minutes. Minker and Gandalf just looked at it, probably in a state of shock at the impertinence of this creature. Gandalf is an expert hunter of rabbits, rodents and birds but he didn’t make a move. If anything, it was Minker who went into stalker mode. It looked like Minker might stalk it but she decided against it and just watched.

The rabbit took off again at a leisurely pace. It bipped in an arc back out into the field and back to the drive below where we were standing, off down the drive and into the woods.

It was the strangest thing …

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Praying Mantis Hatch

W first noticed the praying mantis hatching on the evening of March 22nd. The egg case had been laid on a branch of a small sweetgum tree beside the entrance to the greenhouse. We immediately began photographing, thinking that the hatch would be completed in a few hours. However, it took two to three days and I got my best photos during the daylight.

Newly hatched mantids crawled down and hung in a group from the bottom of the egg case. At first they looked very crumpled but would gradually straighten out to look like they do in these photos.

When they were ready, they dropped off onto the ground approximately three feet below. It seemed impossible that any would survive. However I did see one climbing up a branch a day or so later. So at least one survived the fall.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Daffodils #12: Decoy

We planted Decoy the same year that we planted Jetfire. Decoy hasn’t been as prolific as Jetfire but has done well. It is one of the daffodils that has a truly pink center.

Decoy began blooming on March 9th and bloomed for several weeks.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Green Anole: Anolis carolinensis

We have a lot of green anoles around the house. They hibernate during the winter so we normally don’t see them from late fall until spring. This year, however, one has over-wintered in the greenhouse. I saw him one afternoon and, although I had a camera with me, I was busy watering plants and wasn’t able to get the camera turned on an focused before he disappeared. He was much bigger than most of the anoles we normally see. Possibly the result of being able to hunt insects during the winter.

A week or so later, I was making my regular rounds to check on wildflowers – camera in hand – when I encountered him on the outside wall of the greenhouse. He didn’t attempt to run off so I was able to get some shots of him. I normally take a lot when I get the opportunity so I followed him as he mover relatively slowly along the wall of the greenhouse. When he got to the corner, he stopped. He apparently had had enough of being stalked.

He puffed up his body, bobbed his head, and extended his dewlap a couple of times. I was lucky enough to get a shot of the extended dewlap. He’d been a good sport so I let him go about his business with no further interruptions.

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