Saturday, September 30, 2017

Disaster Relief and Vetting the Charities // "Nature red in tooth and claw"

Photos in this post show Nature on a good day at the Howard County Conservancy, Mount Pleasant, last weekend even as the Caribbean, Florida, Texas and Mexico suffered Nature having a bad day. I'm including below this paragraph a link to a Consumer Reports article on vetting disaster relief organizations before donating, and it lists other ways to help. CR published the article soon after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. I found it linked on the Facebook page for Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria Updates, which found it still quite relevant.

Consumer Reports on vetting disaster relief charities


Last Saturday: Nature on a better day at the Howard County Conservancy. Birdwatchers witnessed the migration of hundreds of broad-winged hawks. These birds are heading to northern South America for the winter and will funnel through Texas on the way.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bird Review

These are recent photos (taken within the last couple of weeks) of birds around Lake Kittamaqundi. I'm including notes on their frequency and migration. First, to the left, a blurred but evocative view of a sharp-shinned hawk. I'm going by its smaller size and stout, rounded shape of wings to distinguish it from the closely related Cooper's hawk. Sharp-shinned visits the area during migration. Cooper's is a year-round resident.

A timely reminder, please: Let's avoid leaving litter and fishing tackle on the ground or lost on branches. Besides being ugly, this debris is very dangerous for these birds and other wildlife.

Above: Double-crested cormorants. They are summer residents, but their numbers increase when more northern residents are migrating. I understand that they are so numerous in some parts of the United States, such as the Great Lakes area, that they are considered pests. If we say cormorant in this part of Maryland, double-crested cormorant is understood. (Both sexes have crests on their heads during breeding season.) I'm waiting to find a vagrant great cormorant or neotropic cormorant at Lake K., though chances of seeing those species are better on the state's coast.

Below: An iconic bird on our lakes and rivers -- the great blue heron. They are a common sight here but still amazing when you see one like this. Year-round residents, though some migrate. They breed in the area, and the new herons show up at the lake throughout the summer. This one shows almost or completely mature plumage.

Above: Red-shouldered hawk, adult or nearly adult. Year-round. At least one breeding pair lives in the woods around the lake.

Below: Ring-billed gull is an occasional summer visitor which is found here in greater numbers during winter.

Above: A pterodactyl. Or a great blue heron.

Below: A female common yellowthroat is soaked by dew while foraging, or perhaps she is taking advantage of the dampness to bathe. This is a warbler species resident and breeding here during the summer. (I am being taunted by other migrating warblers which are passing through now, and I have a few distant or blurry views in my photo files.)

Above: Female belted kingfisher with a fresh catch. Year-round (unless a winter is too harsh and they can't fish anywhere?). At least one breeding pair lives at the lake, and I was there a few weeks ago when two or three new kingfishers were chasing each other around.

Below: Pileated woodpecker. Year-round and breeding here also.

Above: Pied-billed grebe. Migratory and usually a sign of fall and spring -- but in recent years, we've been finding them in Maryland in the middle of summer.

Below: Green heron, common but elusive. About the size of a chicken. It breeds here during the summer and should be migrating south soon. I wonder if the current heat spell here and effects of hurricanes further south might delay migration.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Rare Butterfly at Lake Kittamaqundi

Long-tailed skipper. I chanced upon it puddling on wet ground beside the path on Monday afternoon (Sept. 18). About two inches long, it's related to the silver-spotted skipper common around here during the summer. Usual range for the species is further south in the United States and into the tropics, but it can stray northward. This generated some excitement in the Howard County butterfly survey, and the Maryland Biodiversity Project requested a photo for its database. (MBP is under Nature and Wildlife Links in the blog margin. Information about the butterfly survey is on the Howard County Bird Club site also in that section.)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Saturday at the Lake; the Bird Club's Fall Count

I had an early start at Lake Kittamaqundi yesterday for the Howard County Bird Club's Fall Count 2017. I covered the lake and vicinity as other club members counted at locations across the county, then we gathered for the Tally Rally and potluck at a member's house in the evening. (Most of us entered our lists on eBird, adding to that database for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.) Here are a few scenes and birds that I took while counting around the lake. A few flocks of joggers were active in the morning, plus some swarms of insects at the edge of the water, which made for an interesting scene in the photo below.

Male Downy Woodpecker

Young Great Blue Heron in the Little Patuxent River next to the Lake

Double-crested Cormorants Raise Their Wings to be Counted

Fish Crow at the Lakefront -- identified by voice

Half of a Pair of Hairy Woodpeckers -- larger relatives of the downy

Dramatic Afternoon Sky

A Pair of House Finches

Our Path Cruiser -- I'm glad to see the regular patrols by police now.

Jewelweed Attracts Hummingbirds -- but not during the count!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Monarch of the Lakefront

Above: A monarch butterfly nectars on the ornamental flowers at the Lakefront yesterday afternoon. Below: Other recent butterflies around Lake Kittamaqundi and a scene....

monarch caterpillar

monarch caterpillars

variegated fritillary

cloudless sulphurs

painted lady

eastern comma

common buckeye

eastern tailed-blue

algae mats "grace" the lake surface in late summer

Saturday, September 9, 2017


That's birders' code for "First of Season Pied-billed Grebe". The bird was at the Lakefront with mallard friends at Lake Kittamaqundi yesterday morning. Usually a visitor during migration and sometimes staying in the area through winter, the species has been documented in Maryland during the summer in recent years.

In the last photo here, a green heron explores the wooden pier at the Lakefront.

Friday, September 8, 2017

American Redstarts Bathing

At the Howard County Conservancy earlier this week. Photos above are the redstarts in a stream. Photos below are the Grassland Loop and a great spangled fritillary.