Dog Days of Summer
The “Dog Days” of August are upon us. The Romans and Greeks called these summer days “Dog Days” and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies." Seems an appropriate description to me after seeing the news. Well, certainly the heat, haze and humidity dominate our local Broward weather along with typical afternoon thundershowers. Summer green growth sprouts through the marsh grass and reflects on the still morning waters in the channel. Early morning and evening sessions are sweltering but there are still birds to photograph and adventures to share. My bird photo wish list is getting shorter. Recently I have begun to see one on my remaining short list, the Anhinga in the area. I have been hoping to get some better photos of this bird.
The Anhinga is a surface diving bird found in many southern swamps. Per the Cornell Laboratory of Onithology, “the Anhinga is known as the Water-Turkey for its swimming habits and broad tail, and also as the Snake-Bird for its habit of swimming with just its long head and neck sticking out of the water.” Its familiar flight pattern of high flying with outstretched wings with only a seldom flap of the wing is becoming a more frequent sight on the Broward. I am still hoping to get that perfect shot of them “sunning” with outstretched wings. The female can be distinguished because it has a light tawny colored neck. The male has a dark black feathered neck sometime speckled with white and brown feather patches. Both have silvery white streaks on the wings and tail feathers. “These birds feed by stalking fish underwater. The diet consists of many small- to medium-sized wetland fishes, with very small amounts of crustaceans and invertebrates. Anhingas typically spear fish through their sides with a rapid thrust of their partially opened bill. Usually stabs with both mandibles, but may use upper mandible only on small fish.”
A female Anhinga with a long outstretched neck glides overhead at sunset
and I capture a great fly by shot. A male Anhinga lands in the tree close to my
dock and remains long enough for some photos. I notice it open its beak and
airway while exhibiting a sort of panting similar to a dog panting on a hot summer
day. Maybe there is something to those
Roman and Greek superstitions. Later I catch a few more photos further up the river on one of my initial kayak treks. Still not the keepers I want yet though.
The signs of the times do seem to some
to point towards some coming calamity. On the other hand they also are a fine
time for a cool glass of lemon-aide, and a nice afternoon nap under a shady
porch. I feel that nap coming on, all that paddling wore me out. In the meantime, Ya’ll Be Blessed. Harry