Dog Days

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

 

Anhinga female flying overhead. Note the tawny colored neck.

The Anhinga glides by with outstretched wings.

A male Anhinga lands in the tree by the dock. It exhibits a "panting" type display.  Must be the heat!

Female Anhinga about to fly. 

Anhinga lifts off! 

Classic Anhinga pose on a hot dog day in August.

Gee, can't a gal get any privacy?  

Enjoy those remaining summer days!  Soon it will be time to cheer for the Bengals again!

Annie the Anhinga says send that cool weather down to Florida, its too hot here! 

Osprey Dawn

     The sky is deep summer blue with barely a ripple on the water as the sun begins its morning rise. Sitting high on the bare limbs of the salt washed bones of an old live oak on Blackrock Beach, it watches for signs of unsuspecting fish swimming in the ebbing tide. It is a perfect Osprey Dawn.

     A fin breaks the surface as the mullet swims skimming the surface from below. One more thrust of its strong tail and the mullet leaps high into the morning air and makes a loud splash as it jumps for joy in the morning light. Its joy is short lived however as eight steel like claw talons suddenly wrap themselves around the fish and it is lifted swiftly out of the water.  Wait! Wait! This is not where I am going today are the last thoughts of the mullet before going on an unplanned journey through life. The Osprey’s keen eyes had seen the fish a quarter of a mile away while soaring high over the river and circling in wait. Then it folds its wings and dives quickly upon the streaking shadow below. The rest is breakfast (for the Osprey). 

     Also called a “fish hawk”, the Osprey surely lives up to its common name. Fish are its favorite fare and this fowl was designed and perfected for such a task. Its unique diet of live fish, keen eyesight, and the ability to hover and dive quickly with outstretched talons grabbing the unsuspecting fish make it a formidable hunter and fisher.  Brown feathers on the topside of the wings and mostly white underbelly mark this bird. The large yellowish orange eyes have a brown stripe across them. The talons are long, sharp, curved hooks, made for grabbing and quickly securing the fish for transport. Its unique prehensile rear talon allows it to carry the fish in a fore and aft position often seen.  The mature females can be distinguished by a brown “necklace” of feathers around the base of the neck while the males are all white under the neck, breast, and armpits through the underside. Found throughout North America, it is a year round resident of the Broward.

     I routinely see them coming up the river carrying fish nearly as big as the bird. Sometimes there are more than one fish in the talons.  Recently I captured (at distance from the dock), an Osprey fish catch in progress. One day I hope to be underneath an Osprey as it dives and capture the interaction at the waters surface.  Now that I have my new Wavewalk Kayak I can at least give it a try. Been getting some good shots lately from the Kayak on a few other birds too. You've received many remarkable nature photographs over this past year, but this photo of a nesting Falcon is perhaps the most remarkable nature shot that you’ve ever seen. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Nature is truly breath-taking!  In the meantime, you have a nice Osprey Dawn and a cup of coffee. And be glad you were not the breakfast. Be Blessed. Harry

 

The Osprey or Fish Hawk, sits on a perch and anxiously scans the river for signs of fish. 

With steel like springs in its legs it prepares to launch!

We have Liftoff! 

And launch! Iron like talons are sharp and at the ready!

Target acquired below! 

A female Osprey returns with two prized catches on a perfect Osprey Dawn! 

Flounder anyone? 

Time for a fluff! 

Now we relax a bit. 

Hey is that a fish? 

I think so! Lemme take a closer look. 

An Osprey dives into the Broward while a Great Egret watches nearby.

The Osprey emerges...and begins to rise. 

Liftoff and breakfast! 

Now this is a fresh catch of the day Osprey Style.  The Egret wishes it could have a bite.

Well, gotta go..Be Blessed and have a Great Osprey Dawn Day! 

Amazing and rare photo of a nesting Falcon in a tree. Photo by and courtesy of William C Selsor of NC.  

Now that was a real foot stomper heh!  Got Ya!

The Three Stooge-icans

     One late afternoon this past week a truck pulled up and delivered my new Wavewalk Kayak. The tide had gone out so doing a test ride was out of the question. Holding a paddle and a camera at the same time is nearly impossible.  I researched some special camera straps and supports that would allow me a quick reaction when I wanted to photograph something while paddling in a small boat. This morning I got the Editor off to work and then loaded up my new Kayak with my camera gear, a new chest strap, some water, phone and munchies and headed up the Broward. The tide was incoming and the current was strong as I paddled upriver. Over my shoulder a hedge of egrets flew by and into the sun before I could reach for the doohickey. Once the Herons were by me it was useless to try to shoot into the sun.

    It has been many decades since I was in a canoe or paddleboat of any kind. But just like riding a bicycle, the routine and strokes and rhythm soon return and I really begin to enjoy the scenery along the river marsh. As I round the bend in the bright morning sunlight I see them. The same three White Pelicans I believe I saw fly down the river a few days ago. White Pelicans are on my “short list”.  Although the Browns often come near, the White Pelicans rarely come close to my area of the Broward, and remain in the deeper main channel.  The trio sit on the dock and watch me approach. The birds then huddle and appear to converse and look like the three stooges, Larry, Curly and Moe.  So I name them the Three Stooge-icans. Larry takes off leaving Curly and Moe in the dust. I turn and follow them with the doohickey as best I can and watch them land about a hundred yards down river. The chase is on. Surprisingly the “Stooge-ican” let me paddle right up to them. Taking a picture from a bobbing Kayak is not as easy as I thought it would be but I manage a few keepers of these magnificent white birds. 

     White and Brown Pelicans frequent the area but I normally only see them during the fall and winter months.  The whites are one of the largest birds in North America and exciting to see gliding by on those broad white wings with black trailing edges. Per Cornell Ornithology laboratory “ The White Pelican does not dive for fish as the Brown Pelican does. Instead, it dips its head underwater to scoop up fish. Several pelicans may fish cooperatively, moving into a circle to concentrate fish, and then dipping their heads under simultaneously to catch fish.”  I have observed this behavior mentioned.  Drifting with the tide, I continue back to my neck of the Broward. There are several birds I spot in a tree in the meandering creek that runs by the school.  Ducking under some overhanging tree limbs, I discover where all the birds I see fly by hang out. There were Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue, Tri-Colored, Little Blue, and Green Herons. And my favorite Spoonbill, Rosie was there too! They all take off when they spot me but I let them know “I’ll be back! “

     After about three hours of paddling something suddenly came to me. My age. Oh my shoulder hurt now, and my hip and leg begin to cramp up. And I was just getting to enjoy this. Hmm, if I only had a small engine…Wonder how many Tylenol it will take to get to sleep tonight….in the meantime..Ya’ll be Blessed. Harry

My new Wavewalk Kayak with initial outfitting. Length 11.4', width 28.5 in, wt 59 lbs. Max recommended load 360 lbs.

 

Front view of Kayak and launch site. 

Three White Pelicans, Larry, Curly and Moe! 

Least Tern in non breeding colors observes me closely.  

Larry, you go first!  

Who goes first? 

There goes Larry, I'm leavin too says Curly! 

Curly leaves second, who left first? Larry? 

Moe leaves third. Who left second,? Larry left first.

There goes Moe! Aint no more!

All I see is the south end of the Stooge-icans, Larry and Curly.  Larry left first.

This birds butt is for you! 

Larry left first, Curly second and there ain't no Moe! 

See ya later, watch out for the Gator!

I find the secret Broward Bird Hangout!

I have been spotted, the Egrets take off! 

Then the Herons begin to jump ship (or tree).  

Rosie the Spoonbill prepares to leave! 

Rosie takes flight too!. I'll be back I shout! 

Joy comes in the Morning..

     It is another steamy August day on the Broward. This is the hottest month of the year so far but pretty normal in the overall perspective for Florida. My coffee and camera are at the ready as I sit down and watch the marsh come to life. The sun is clearly beginning its southward march as the sunsets are starting to come into view over the river again.

     Earlier I introduced you to the Green Herons I see fly overhead in the morning and evening. One evening lately I was trying to photograph a Red Wing Blackbird on the copula wind vane when one of the Green Herons lands on the roof in front me. I try to catch a quick shot but it zips off too fast. The next morning two of them fly overhead, zig by me and then circle around. They land in the marsh channel right in front of me. This time I had my finger on the doohickey and caught a few frames. They sure are comical looking as they flare to land. That green crown of feathers on top of the head sticks up like a Mohawk style haircut as they come in to hunt. I show the photos to the Editor and she proclaims, “That is Timucuan!” First she gets on me for naming the birds and now she is doing it.  Well Timucuan it is then. Named after the tall tribe of local Native Americans found in this territory in our early history.

     I don’t know how long they will remain in the area but I make it a daily effort now to try and capture a photo of them when possible. Would love to trail after them in a boat someday to see where they hang out. Speaking of boats, I did a test drive in a Wavewalk “W”Kayak recently. It is not your normal sit down style of Kayak, this one has a pair of pontoons and a straddle seat in the middle that you can sit up in or stand. For those of us with back issues it is a great alternative. Guess I will have to send a request to my Editor for an added expense account. I also capture a good shot of an Osprey and catch of the day coming up the river that I shared with you earlier. The light is poor due to clouds but it came close enough to see the scales on the fish. That poor fellow didn’t look too enthused about the ride though.

      That is how life goes sometimes. You are swimming fine, enjoying life in the big water and then something or someone comes along and everything changes, and not for the good. It’s tough to cope with. It seems we all have or know someone with the sudden loss of a loved one, an unexpected illness, a financial crisis, or relationships that are going nowhere fast. I just want to let you know there is indeed Hope, and someone we can count on. And you have me to cheer you up today too. Remember Joy comes in the morning! Be Blessed. Harry

 

Hot summer day on the Broward! 

Green Herons wing overhead each day.

Today they circle around and come in for a landing! 

The wings begin to flare for landing! 

What is that coming out of the top of the head? 

Check out the Mohawk hairdoo! Meet Timucuan, the Green Heron! 

The Green Heron is hard to distinguish from the marsh grass. 

The Green Herons are making this a regular stop now. 

If I just had a boat I could follow it to its roost!

Far up the Browad I see an Osprey with a huge fish under wing! 

Now that is the Catch of the Day!  

Summer Breeze

     A refreshing mid-summer breeze is blowing from the west over the Broward as the sun begins its job of lighting the morning sky.  Recent rains have turned the brown marsh grass a cool summer green color that reflects on the water coming through the channel. The Red-Wing Blackbirds are busy flying to and fro throughout the marsh. Sentinel birds sound the alarm as the Red Shouldered Hawk announces its presence. The hawk is quickly “escorted” and harassed out of blackbird “airspace” in a hurry. Another morning begins on the Broward.

     As I walk up the dock with my chair in my left hand and camera in my right I see George, the Yellow Crowned Night Heron, wing towards me and attempt to land on one of the poles of gourd shaped birdhouses in the neighbors yard. Pure instinctive reaction causes me to raise the camera in a one-arm sweep and push the doohickey. It looks like a perfect three toe landing. However, a closer look at the photos reveal it was far from perfect and ole George barely made it. Must have been all those crabs it has been eating adding too much weight for the landing calculations.

     Continuing up the dock I notice a group of Great Egrets flying east over the river. Their white feathers gleam in sharp contrast with the crisp blue sky in the background. Suddenly, the amorphous flying group fans out in a V shaped formation often seen in migrating ducks and geese. By George, I have a hedge (of Egrets) in a flying wedge (A group of egrets/herons is called a scattering, sedge, siege, or a hedge).  I also catch a few frames of a pair of Green Herons again heading east up the river.  I hope to get some closer photos of this pair one of these days. If I had a boat I would follow them.

     August is upon us as we enter the main hurricane season.  Potential storms are already rolling off the coast of Africa. The Storms of Life affect all of us, good or bad, young or old.  It is not a coming judgement day or punishment. Bad things happen to good people sometimes. One day we will know the reason why. Think of the good times, the refreshing summer breezes, the warm glow of green grass on the river.  Look at these birds on wing. Someday we too will fly home with them. Till then..Be Blessed..Harry

 

A refreshing "Summer Breeze" blows on the Broward.

The Red Shouldered Hawk announces its presence and is quickly "escorted" out by the sentinel Red-Winged Blackbirds.

As I walk up the dock I catch "George" the Yellow Crowned Night Heron coming in for a landing. 

George Flares his wings to land on the perch. 

Opps, he misses the pole! To fast a descent from too many crab sandwiches?  

A not so perfect three toe landing! 

A Hedge (of Great Egrets) in a flying Wedge V-shaped formation! Their white feather gleam in contract to the summer blue morning sky.

Great Egret makes a more Graceful landing approach! 

The flare out! 

And a gentle touchdown! George needs to take some lessons! 

Green Heron fly by.  Hope to see more of these later!

Osprey looking for lunch!

Floating on a Summer Breeze, the Little Blue Heron wings by on a sky blue morning!  "Summer Breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing like the jasmine in my mind!"

Pileated Woodpecker streaks across the sky like a Rocket-man! Hmmm..so will we someday!

email: selsorhd@me.com

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