In 2012 I wrote a blog post about the Unknown Birds folder in my photography archive. The folder was over-full and impossible to navigate.
I needed a better system.
The obvious solution was to separate my Unknown Birds folder into a series of known bird folders.
At first I tackled the problem in my usual way, with books and bookmarked websites and a notebook to keep track of everything.
I still find sparrows, warblers, and chickadees endlessly confusing.
But my Unknown Birds folder is almost empty.
Still unknown. Probably a warbler, possibly a Tennessee Warbler?
Almost. The above bird is has defied all of my attempts to identify it. (It also defied most of my attempts to photograph it, which is why my best photo from the encounter is poorly lit and out of focus.) So I’m asking for help. Can you identify my unknown warbler? Is there enough information in the photo for a definitive identification? Please comment, especially if you can correct or confirm any of my other identifications!
Finally, the following photos are evidence of what happens when I get over-excited about a visitor in the yard and forget to check my camera settings…
There’s more wrong than right in these photos, but I kind of love them anyway.
I visited with friends last Saturday, sampling dishes of couscous and sweet potato frittata and chia seed pudding. After eating, we took a stroll around my friend’s yard, which slopes down to a watery area. A watery area with a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron!
My friend has seen these birds in her yard several times in the past, so we weren’t caught completely by surprise. Even so, I was very excited. (And very grateful that she had suggested I bring my camera.)
We watched for a while as the heron hunted in the shallows.
Then we wandered on, exploring more of the yard.
When I was leaving, as we all stopped on the driveway to say our goodbyes, the heron flew into a pine tree in front of the house. To our amazement, it crept out onto a branch and settled into its nest! Right in the front yard!
I’ve already packed my tripod in the car, so I won’t forget it next time I visit. The nest is too high for steady video, without a tripod…
I spent much of Tuesday dodging rain, popping in and out of the house with my camera, hoping to catch a photo of our returning hummingbirds. The hummingbirds didn’t cooperate, but the yard’s other birds were quite willing to pose.
During one session of waiting and watching, a brief disturbance in the pear tree was followed by a grackle landing in the grass.
Just before I snapped the above photo, I caught a glimpse of what looked to be a rather large moth disappearing down the grackle’s throat. See all the fuzz on its beak? That’s moth fur. A few moments later an intact wing (and parts of other wings) drifted out of the tree’s upper branches.
After I finished photographing the wing, I noticed something else in the grass. Another moth!
I haven’t seen a Polyphemus moth up close since I was a child. This one seemed stunned, letting me take photos with my macro lens from every angle. I have a suspicion that the grackle had just eaten her mate.
She didn’t have any visible wounds, but she was clearly unable to fly. I let her climb onto my hand, then snipped a twig from the pear tree–something familiar for her to rest on as she recovered from whatever shock had knocked her to the ground. While she rested, I took a few more photos…
The Polyphemus Moth page at the University of Florida’s Featured Creatures site explains the origin of the moth’s name: “It is named after Polyphemus, the giant cyclops from Greek mythology who had a single large, round, eye in the middle of his forehead (Himmelman 2002). The name is because of the large eyespots in the middle of the hind wings.”
When it became apparent that my moth wasn’t interested in leaving her new perch, I propped the twig in my butterfly box and moved her into the garage.
I meant only to keep her safe until an approaching storm had passed, and planned to release her after dark. (Polyphemus moths are nocturnal. Also, they don’t feed as adults. Their sole occupation after emerging is to mate and, in the case of females, lay eggs.) But my moth had plans of her own. By the time the weather cleared, she had begun laying eggs.
I didn’t want to disturb her during such important work, so I left her to it. By morning, I was the stunned one. So many eggs!
I’m planning to put most of the eggs back in the pear tree, when she’s finished laying.
Most, but not all. I can’t resist keeping a few. For documentary blog purposes…
As spring accelerates toward summer, everything is growing and blooming and nesting.
Sun is the catalyst, speeding life along.
Sometimes a shadow overhead interrupts the yard’s chirrup and flutter.
But spring resumes when the danger has passed.
Some afternoons turn sleepy with increasing heat.
But evenings are cool and mosquito-free, perfect for exploring.
Perfect for sitting outside with a book, too. I haven’t been doing much writing, but I’ve been reading a lot, working my way through a stack of nonfiction, historical fiction, classic sci-fi, and poetry. Now I want to add a few graphic novels to my shelf. Any suggestions?
After our successful Monarch Butterfly experience in 2014, I spent much of last summer eagerly anticipating a new crop of caterpillars. Late in September, they arrived.
Despite the fact that the milkweed was beginning to die back in anticipation of fall, the caterpillars molted through multiple instars.
Unfortunately, none of the caterpillars survived to maturity. Over a period of three or four days, I found a few caterpillar bodies curled under the milkweed, but most simply disappeared.
Frustrated by this failure, I moved the milkweed into what I hope will be a healthier location. I also added seeds given to me by a friend. The seeds haven’t sprouted yet, but the yard’s old milkweed seems happy in its new surroundings. So I am once again eagerly anticipating a new crop of caterpillars.
According to the Journey North tracking map, Monarch Butterflies have been sighted in South Carolina and Tennessee. Hopefully, by the time they get to Virginia, the yard will be ready!
Spring makes me wish for a more powerful macro lens.
I want to capture all of the delicate splendor of the yard as it wakes from winter.
I use words like “corolla” and “calyx” in poems,
and name characters after weeds and wildflowers.
Speedwell and Dandelion.
Spring is the only time of year when I truly love ants.
As I follow ants with my camera, I find other treasures.
When carpenter bees emerge, my imagination becomes airborne.
I stalk our carpenter bees with both macro and long-focus lenses.
Long-focus lenses let me stalk the yard’s other visitors, too.
But I always return to the macro lens, yearning to be closer.