Mississippi Kite

I experienced a new bird breed yesterday when visiting the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia.  Joyce saw this elegant bird flying by first and we spotted where he landed, high on a bare branch.  It was very had to figure out what it was for a number of reasons.  First, I had never seen one of these before and second, it was approaching high-noon so, it was hard to pick out details of a white brested bird against the clouds and brilliant sun.

Joyce thought it may be an eagle and I thought it was a hawk of some sort until I saw it through my lens.  When I got a better look, I thought it might be an Osprey but, they don’t have the white head like this.  I have to credit David Akoubian for identifying this bird for me.  Being the great “bird nerd” that he is, he came back quickly with an ID on it.

I was lucky that I brought my long Tamron lens on this trip.  We heard that there were lots of hummingbirds at the gardens so, I hauled the big gun along.  Never expected to see this kind of sight but I’m glad that we did!

Mississippi Kite
(Ictinia mississippiensis)

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/11 – 1/1000 sec – ISO 250

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Snakebird

I first saw this bird sunning on a branch along the edge of Woody Pond at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.  It was not a familiar species to me and I initially thought it was a cormorant.

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Anhinga sunning at Woody Pond

The Anhinga’s name comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird. The origin of this name is obvious when the bird is swimming. It swims with the body submerged and just ‘s long, slender head and neck the above the water so the bird looks like a snake ready to strike.

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The “snake bird” with catfish

The Anhinga pictured above had just caught a catfish and was swimming back and forth with the prey speared on the end of its beak.  At first, the fish was flapping about but the bird held it and waited for the wriggling to stop.  The Anhinga then flipped the fish up quickly to release it from the beak. After a little juggling to re-position, the fish was quickly swallowed whole.

This was quite a process to watch.

 

North American Anhinga
(Anhinga anhinga leucogaster)

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Townsend, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
420mm @ f/9 – 1/80 sec – ISO 320

Blue Heron on the watch

On a more serious note, yesterday’s post was a juvenile tri-colored heron which was an awkward and humorous bird to see.  This blue heron is much more representative of the beautiful birds that adult herons are.  I also loved the patterns in the driftwood that provided a nice spot for this one to stand and enjoy the morning.

It is a great adventure to watch and capture images of the beauty and diversity that nature has to offer.  Time to get out and enjoy it!

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Townsend, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/9 – 1/100 sec – ISO 320

Heron fishing

I believe this is a Green Heron who was fishing along the edge of Woody Pond at the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.  I watched as this bird was concentrating hard and would periodically thrust his beak into the water and come back up with a small fish.  They must have amazing eyesight because I certainly couldn’t see anything through the reflections coming off the water.

Harris Neck is a beautiful wildlife refuge just south of Savannah, Georgia.  The peninsula was once the home of an Army airfield which was abandoned after World War II.  The area was taken over as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1962 and is home to a wide variety of  birds and other animals such as alligators.  The alligators were definitely out and about when we were there.  We saw some small ones and could hear the adults bellowing in the swampy areas.  You do need to be aware of your surroundings out here.

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
McIntosh County, GA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
500mm @ f/9 – 1/640 sec – ISO 320

Common Gallinule

Here’s a question for the bird nerds out there: What bird has a call that sounds like a kids bicycle horn?  This image is just that bird.  We spotted a number of them wading in the marshy area surrounding the ibis rookery at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge near Hilton Head Island.

The water surrounding the rookery was coated with some kind of green material which also covers the birds legs as you see it standing near the shoreline here.  The most viewed birds in this area are actually egrets, ibis and herons but the Gallinule was closer to shore and just looked neat against that green carpet of the water.  I love getting to know birds that I hadn’t been familiar with before!

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Bluffton, SC

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/16 – 1/100 sec – ISO 400

Yes, I do like suet

It was not until recently that we started hanging suet feeders and keeping them stocked.  It has certainly gotten us a wide variety of birds that prefer this over the seed feeders.  The bluebird is one of our regular visitors that will take a variety of foods but definitely likes the suet.

Woodpeckers are definitely fans but we also see some of the larger birds like Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Brown Thrashers swinging from the suet cage and pulling chunks of that block out and enjoying it.  My only struggle with the suet is keeping the squirrels away.  They love it and will hang there all day trying to get the last morsel out.  The only thing that seems to keep them off is cayenne pepper.  We have been buying a variety of suet but the type with the pepper mixed in is the only one that the squirrels don’t wolf down.

Eastern Bluebird
(Sialia sialis)
Roswell, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/6.3 – 1/80 sec – ISO 640

Gotcha!

So, I just pounded my head on the side of a tree to get some bugs to peek out of their hiding place then, Zap! I snag one with my tongue and there’s a mid-day snack.  The life of a woodpecker is so glamorous.

I don’t think I ever gave any thought to how a bird would snag a moving insect.  Kind of thought it would be like the Karate Kid catching a fly with chopsticks.  It’s more like an anteater burrowing into a termite mound but actually, the woodpecker’s tongue is like a spear with barbs on it.  They impale their prey with the tongue and the barbs pull the insects out of their holes and into the bird’s mouth.

The wonders of nature are all around us.  I love learning about this as part of my photographic journey.

Red-bellied Woodpecker
(Melanerpes carolinus )
Alpharetta, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/8 – 1/15 sec – ISO 200