Just Passin Thru...

     I have been following some of my Facebook photographer friend’s posts lately. This time of year you see a lot of folks staying indoors out of the heat and sun and working on some old photos. I have not been out as much as I would like either due to some recent surgery for skin cancer(wear your sunscreen when you wander out folks). However, I did manage to capture a brief visit of a very illusive bird “just passin thru” the Broward though.

     Last year about this time I had a brief encounter with a Least Bittern. I was anticipating another this year and sure enough I was fortunate to spot it. Per the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology “A tiny heron, furtive and surpassingly well camouflaged, the Least Bittern is one of the most difficult North American marsh birds to spot. Despite its inconspicuousness, however, the species can be rather common within appropriate habitat in its breeding range.”  One of its feeding habits is to straddle reeds to feed (this is one of my dream bird bucket shots). When alarmed, the Least Bittern freezes in place with its bill pointing up, turns its front and both eyes toward the source of alarm, and sometimes sways to resemble wind-blown marsh vegetation. This little heron exhibited all the above in my brief encounter. 

     We too are “just passin thru” this game we call life. I can just picture the Almighty looking down saying to the Angels, ”Look, there is that guy with the doohickey again!”  And then I’ll be gone, just like the furtive little bittern. Only I won’t be gone, cause you see, I am just passin thru too! Blessings. Harry 

The furtive Least Bittern, a tiny Heron that is not often seen.

When alarmed, the Least Bittern will stretch its neck out..

Is that a photographer over there? I hate getting my picture taken!

You can't see me now..I am just like a reed blowing in the wind..

But I see you Mr. Doohickey!

I was "Just Passin Thru" anyway...


     Sitting at my desk, my mind on many tasks, I glance out the window to see a large grasshopper at the front door. My mind immediately goes back to the 1972-1975 Kung Fu TV series with David Carrodine. This Shaolin Monk wooed audiences with his martial arts skills, and lessons taught him by his Shaolin Master named Po. Po called him “Grasshopper”. Grabbing my macro lens, I open the door and carefully lie down to photograph this intriguing creature. About that time the Editor walks by the front door and sees me laying on the ground. All she could think was that I walked outside and had a heart attack. Imagine the relief she felt when I sat up with my camera wondering what all the fuss was about.

     The grasshopper that “Kung Fu’d” me was a Eastern Lubber Grasshopper. “There are three species of Lubbers in the US (Horse, Plains and Eastern). (The name "lubber" comes from an old English word meaning "clumsy"--in the same way that a sailor would refer to a newbie who stumbles around on a boat as a "land-lubber".)” At nearly three inches long, the Lubber is probably the largest grasshopper you will see in the U.S. Per an online article by Lenny Flack’s Daily Bucket: Wild Florida—Lubber Grasshopper we find this following information: “Lubber Grasshoppers contain toxins in their bodies that are strong enough to kill a small bird. When larger birds or small mammals eat a Lubber, they get violently sick, throw up, and learn to never touch another one. The toxin isn't harmful to humans, but if you pick up a Lubber, it is likely to produce a glob of brown liquid from its mouth (most people call it "tobacco spit"). This liquid is harmless, though it can make a brown stain on your skin or clothes--it is a foul-tasting anti-predator mechanism. If you persist in annoying the hopper, it will next produce a frothy foam from small holes in its thorax, accompanied by a surprisingly loud hissing sound.  Once again this is harmless--it is intended to startle and scare a potential predator. Despite their large size and impressive threat displays, Lubbers cannot bite and are completely harmless to humans. (I've kept them as pets.)  But their toxins make them virtually invulnerable to small predators. Only a bird known as the loggerhead shrike preys on them regularly--it kills the grasshopper by biting off its head, then impales the headless corpse on a tree thorn to let the sun bake out all the toxins. The leading causes of death for adult Lubbers seems to be getting run over by cars and getting stepped on by humans.”

     I learned a little Kung Fu wisdom from “Grasshopper”! Always let the Editor know when you plan to go shoot macro outside to prevent heart attacks. Try to keep cool this week..take a lesson from the House Finches. Blessings. Harry

A Eastern Lubber Grasshopper sits at my front door..I grab my macro lens..

Front view Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

I only have eyes for you! Close up of mandibles of a plant eating Lubber..

Loggerhead Shrike, one of the few known natural predators of the Lubber Grasshopper

Male House Finch (left) complains..."Hey...this is the boys bird bath! No women allowed!"

Blllltttt.....shaking it off..in the bird bath..

It is hotter than a Firecracker on the 4th of July here in Florida..glad I can soak my feet n feathers in this cool bath..

Nothin like a cool refreshing bath on a hot summer day!

Under my wings...

     When I open the back door and search the marsh for signs of birds, the phrase “hotter than a firecracker on the fourth of July” comes to mind. The humid and hot blast of air tells me summer in the South is here to stay. This time of year there is not much activity on the Broward  so I do Bird Stewarding at Huguenot Beach. If you compare Chicago’s high crime statistics to that which I observed at the beach among the Royal Tern community, I would say they are close. The Laughing Gulls have turned their attention from raising chicks to robbing the Royals instead.

     Royal Tern life is fascinating to observe. I have never seen such parental dedication and collaboration among adults to give their downy chicks every chance available to survive. The parents take care to try and guard not only their chicks, but also those of other Royals from attack by predators. These communal groups of adults and chicks are termed a “crèche” (British term meaning “a nursery where babies and young children are cared for during the working day). Conversely, one can observe the Laughing Gulls behavior. After their chicks are half grown they are ignored and left to fend for themselves for the most part. The adults and juveniles then spend most of their efforts trying to rob the Royal Terns when they bring in food from the sea or steal it from the mouths of the downy chicks. It is not uncommon for one Royal Tern with a fish or squid in its mouth, to be seen followed by three or four Laughing Gulls all trying to steal the food. They are very adept at thievery. The Royals often shelter the chicks under their wings to keep the predators at bay. Although the Royal Tern parents take every precaution and fiercely fend off the predators, they are sometimes just overwhelmed by the sheer number of attacks from the thieving gulls.

     I wonder if the Laughing Gulls learned this behavior from watching man or vice versa? Why work for a meal when your neighbor is easy pickings. We are told “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy”. Hmm.., now I now why man invented the gun. (But that is another “hot topic” I am sure we will hear a lot about over the next few months.) In the meantime I will just take cover under the wings of my Maker, just like the birds. Blessings...Harry

"Well, we hatched our young ones..time for some easy pickings on those Royals over there!" Laughing Gulls prepare to steal food from the Royal Terns..

Thanks for the shrimp dinner there sucker!

Royal Tern with downy chick await another meal...

The loyal Royal Tern gets another fish for its chick..

How is that one for size? Royal Tern chick swallows it whole.

That was a good start but I want more! Get me more fish!

Got another one..now where is junior? 

Ops..wrong chick..sorry kid....Royal Terns will only feed their own chicks..

Feed me! I'm hungry...Royal Chick cries for food...more like demands it.

Here I come with more breakfast..Royal Tern winging in the food..

The fish head is a bit too large for junior to swallow!

You almost got it kid..swallow it. The gulls might attack!

It is just too big for junior and he spits it out..his cousin says "Hey let me try"...The parent intervenes.."No..stay away from my kids food!"

The Laughing Gulls take this opportunity to attack and steal the fish from the mouths of the Royal Chicks..

The Royal Tern laughs it off...I will just get junior another one..remember..he who laughs last, laughs best..

Calamari anyone? 

How about some fresh Mayport shrimp too? 

Royal Tern chick profile...it knows the parent will soon return with more..

This Royal Chick though seems to have an "attitude" though..after all, it is hot down here on the beach..

I call this one "Princess Charlotte", the Royal Tern Downy Chick

Hey, I'm over here...and hungry!

Hey, I'm over here...and hungry!

The parent Royal Tern returns with another meal..

Don't worry my child...Got you under my wings...

The Epic Struggle...for Independence Day..and on The Broward

     Happy Fourth of July. Today we celebrate the epic struggle for Independence fought and won by our forefathers. Sadly the liberties and legacy they left us is being eroded daily in my sometimes “not so humble” opinion. I doubt that our Founding Fathers ever envisioned a day when a 33-year retired veteran would be forcibly removed from a private retirement ceremony on an Air Force Base and then thrown off base for planning to use the word “God” in a flag folding ceremony for his retiring comrade (at his friend’s specific request). Sadly, I must also report the epic struggle between the two Clapper Rail families of the Broward River, the Clapfields and McRails, is still ongoing.

     You may recall the ongoing feud that resulted in a family “union” between Clyde Clapfield and Nellie McRail. These two Clapper Rail clans lived on opposite sides of the channel on the Broward. However, family feuding could not keep these two “love birds” apart. We all thought last June’s birth of five cute little clappers would heal the decades old feud. Such is not the case. Recently I witnessed another Clapfield Clapper Rail having his “way” with one of the McRail females. A nasty mud brawl ensued between the relatives again. I am beginning to think this epic struggle will never end.

     I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, under God. Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. These words are no longer said in most of our public schools today. Why? And they wonder why we are so divided as a nation today. This division unfortunately affects families too. Is your family being divided like the Clapper Rail clans? There is an old saying that says the family that prays together stays together. Perhaps those who still believe in this nation should also pray. I believe there is wisdom there. Blessings to you and your families this Independence Day. Take time today to pray for our nation and your families.  Harry

Today is a day to remember our nations struggle for Independence...the liberties they fought for are being attacked..

That is because there are still too many bird brain politicians making decisions in Washington DC and our State and local governments..and now even in the military..

One of the McRail female Clapper Rails was taking her morning bath recently..

One of the Clapfield Clapper Rails crossed the channel...evil intent was in his eyes..

For mature audiences only...it wasn't exactly love..

Harsh words were spoken on the marsh..the call for revenge was heard..

"You lookin at me" said one of the McRails

Feathers were ruffled on both sides of the channel again..

The McRail Clapper Rail male crossed the channel looking for a fight..

Soon the mud brawl began..it was not a pretty sight..hmmm..seems like our  political debates today..

Let's pray for the true Spirit of America of our Founding Fathers returns to our land and families before it is too late..

email: selsorhd@me.com

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