Monday, May 17, 2010


This post is an indulgence.  Time is not on my side for blogging right now - neither for posting nor for reading other folks' blogs.  The volunteer naturalist class timetable has been somewhat intense.  We have two 4-hour classes per week, plus the travel time for me to most classes is 2 hours round-trip, making it more like 6-hour classes!  We don't have homework, per se, but we are expected to read certain materials ahead of time to familiarize ourselves with the topic du jour.

Don't get me wrong, I'm loving every minute of it, and I'm learning lots, and the people are great (both classmates and instructors) - but the schedule is hectic compared to the more laid back timetable I'm used to functioning on.

Here are some photos from our most recent class about aquatic life at Clear Creek Metro Park.  The creek, as its name implies, is clear, indeed!

Preparing to do stream quality monitoring (SQM)

Checking out what's in the net.

Coming together after splitting into 2 groups, we review what kinds of critters we pulled from the creek. All were released safely back into Clear Creek.

There are lots of things that I'm missing right now.  Writing, taking photos, blogging... quiet observation of the simplest things, like watching the birds in the trees, or looking for my favorite wildflowers, like this one:

Blue-eyed Grass

I hope to be back to a more steady blogging schedule in late June, but until then, posts here and visits to your blogs will be sporadic.
Oh, by the way, our Phoebe's have decided that it's time to build a new nest. The nest that the young ones just fledged from has been used for at least 4 broods, so I imagine it's getting kind of shaggy and dirty. The new nest is still on the same side of the house, about 10 inches away from the old one, but farther away from the box where the camera is mounted, so the motion-detection function is not working as reliably right now.

Friday, May 7, 2010

And then there were two

Today was a big day for our baby Phoebes - three of them left the nest! Baby #1 flew the coop at 11:11 a.m. Baby #2 followed suit 10 minutes later at 11:21. The next fledging didn't take place, however, until 5:38 p.m. This is the first time I've seen the departures from the nest take place at such a staggered pace. There were still 2 little ones in the nest the last time I checked, and I watched up until it was so dark the camera couldn't make them out any more.

An interesting detail is that the two remaining birds continue to be brought food by the parents. I had always read that the way adult birds coerce their young to fledge is by withholding food, but I didn't really see any withholding going on with this group.

Here's the video of the first bird fledging. Based on other take-offs that I've watched (of "our" birds from last year), this little one is very matter-of-fact about the whole process, and leaves just like it's the most natural thing in the world! (At the beginning you'll note that one of the parents feeds one of the babies and takes away a poop sac.)

The second baby left in much the same manner as the first, following his or her lead and just jumping right on out.

The third baby, however, decides to use the box that contains the camera as a launching platform before exiting to the bottom left of the screen. Watch how the remaining two birds "talk" to their departing sibling:

Baby number four made a noble, yet unsuccessful, attempt at leaving. Lots of flapping, but it couldn't quite bear to let go of that nest yet!

Let's see how long it takes for those last two birds to really stretch their wings and fly away!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

They'll fly any day now

Yes folks, as my headline implies, our baby Eastern Phoebes should leave the nest any day now. They hatched on April 19th, and today marks 16 days since they hatched. Eastern Phoebes typically fledge between 16 and 18 days after hatching. I say this every year, but I cannot get over how quickly they develop. They are very handsome and healthy-looking birds, and I hope that they all fare well once they do make that leap from the nest.

Here are some videos that were captured just today (May 5th).

In this one you can see just how big they are. You can't see them all in this video, but I promise there are 5 little birds crammed into this nest:

In case you didn't believe me, here is a good view of all 5 of them in the nest as they jockey for a fresh position:

Finally, I think this is a good example of how close they are to leaving the nest. Lots of wing flapping going on in this video, getting those little flight muscles warmed up and primed. There's also some wing extending and tail bobbing going on here:

We'll have the camera going bright and early for the next few days in hopes of catching them when they leave (they took off in the morning last year, right before we left for work). I'll keep you posted with the news!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Rainy but fun flower hunting

Well, the weekend at Flora-Quest was a BLAST!!! Many thanks to Cheryl Harner (aka The Weedpicker) for organizing this great event, and also thanks to the volunteer staff who help Cheryl carry out her vision.  My group saw lots of great flowers, including some rarities for the state, in addition to some great birds.  The weather was a little sloppy, but not enough to spoil the fun.

Rainy weather does make it challenging when it comes to photography, though.  One common problem that occurs is condensation on the lens.  On one hand it makes it hard to focus, but on the other hand it makes for some cool effects that don't require any kind of special equipment, making for some very soft, and sometimes surreal, photos, like this one of Foamflower:

The only modification I made was to bump up the contrast a little, but the glowing look is all thanks to condensation on my lens.

I was delighted to meet a number of people at the event who hail from the Athens area. What a small world it is! If one of you is reading this, remember that my email address is accessible if you click on my profile link at the top of the page if you'd like to keep in touch. Otherwise, I hope I'll run into you in town!

More pictures to follow in a few days. Tomorrow I'll be prepping for my first volunteer naturalist's class!