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Fledgling Brown Thrashers in my Backyard

This weekend I was out in the backyard with my camera, waiting for a hummingbird.  The Brown Thrashers were flitting around as usual.  We’ve had  more thrasher sightings this year than in previous years.  Then I figured out why.  You can imagine my surprise when I saw three fledgling Brown Thrashers pop out from under a bush!

Three Fledgling Brown Thrashers!

Three Fledgling Brown Thrashers!

The little thrashers have already learned the first rule of bird photography.  Never all look at the camera at the same time!

Parent Brown Thrasher

Parent Brown Thrasher

Now I understand why I see Mama and Papa Thrasher emptying out my feeders so quickly.  They have a lot of mouths to feed!   Does this parent look a little frazzled to you?

Juvie Brown Thrasher in Firebush

Juvie Brown Thrasher in Firebush

The fledgling Brown Thrashers look a lot like their parents already.  The only major distinguishing feature is that the juvies have blue eyes, instead of the yellow eyes of the parents.

I was hoping to find hummingbirds in my firebush that evening.  But it turned out to be a great bush for the juvie thrashers, too!  I guess it provides good shelter for them, conveniently located next to the birdbath.

So it didn’t take long for one to hop to the birdbath.  But I didn’t imagine that a second one would soon join him!  They were very cute as they splashed around together.

Bath Time For Two

Bath Time For Two

I spent a very happy hour in the backyard watching these guys.  They were fearless!  They could have cared less about the photographer sitting in the corner.  It just makes me want to get to work on my photography blind.  Then I’ll be able to get even closer! :)

Week-Old Black Skimmers are Still Cute!

The baby Black Skimmers that I photographed four weeks ago as hatchlings are already learning to fly.  But I’m a little behind on my blog, so we’ll back up a few weeks to when they were just a week old.  That diet of needlefish must pay off well.  The week-old Black Skimmers are much bigger than when they first hatched, but they are still pretty cute!

Big Yawn!  Week-old Black Skimmer Chick at Indian Rocks

Big Yawn! Week-old Black Skimmer Chick at Indian Rocks

It’s pretty hot on the white sand in the scorching Florida afternoon sun.  The smart babies know how to deal with the heat – they dive under the shade that Mom and Dad provide!  It doesn’t pay to get to the colony really early in the afternoon, as the light is bad for photography, and the babies won’t come out.  If you wait till 5:30 or later, the sun is no longer as high in the sky, and the late afternoon breeze kicks in to cool both photographers and their subjects.

Is That For Me?

Is That For Me?

At one week old, feeding is not as much of an effort as it was for the hatchling skimmers.  These babies have a week of practice of getting those big fish down their throats, and with each fish they eat, the babies get bigger and bigger.  No longer do the needlefish seem ridiculously disproportionate to their little bodies, although they are still quite a mouthful.  It gets harder and harder to photograph the feedings, because the babies don’t take as long to swallow!

Adult Black Skimmer with Needlefish

Adult Black Skimmer with Needlefish

Most of the fish get covered in sand before they arrive at the mouths of the chicks.  Maybe it’s little skimmer-salt?  Well, my grandmother always did say that each child has to eat a pound of dirt!

Mom, I Have to Tell You a Secret

Mom, I Have to Tell You a Secret

It’s easy to anthropomorphize these cute creatures.  I think the little guys will go poke at Mom’s beak to tell her that they are hungry.  But it looks very tender, almost as if the babies are confiding their great secrets to their patient mother.  “Mom, little Johnny in the next hole says that these little stubs are for flying…when can I do that, Mom, when?”

The Little Gymnast

The Little Gymnast

The week-old Black Skimmers do a fun little thing that I like to call the “hop-skip-jump.”  I think they are exercising their wings, preparing for that wonderful day when they will take flight and follow Mom out to sea.  But you have to run before you can fly.  The baby skimmers are challenging to photograph as they run around flapping their wings, adding in little hops at random.  They don’t exactly give a five-second warning.  It’s tough to get them coming towards the camera, in focus, and isolated against a white beach background.  In the shot above, I was focusing on Mom and her cuddly chick when the little gymnast decided to stretch his wings.

Mom and the Kids

Mom and the Kids

This next shot is the same family, as the sun set.  It always amazes me how quickly the light fades about twenty minutes before sunset.  The little ones look happy to see the sun go away.   Mom was barking a call to her mate.  She looks alert and happy as she gets a break from the harsh rays of the sun.

Sunset on Florida's Gulf Coast

Sunset on Florida’s Gulf Coast

Speaking of sunsets, I haven’t shared many of them lately because they haven’t been too spectacular.  Puffy clouds in the sky really make a beach sunset photo pop.  Otherwise, you end up with an expanse of beach and an uninteresting orange sky.  But on this night, there were a few wispy clouds on the horizon, so I used my Beast to take a few quick shots of the giant orb as it disappeared below the horizon.  What a way to end a fun afternoon with friends and birds!

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in my Own Backyard!

Finally!!!  It’s taken me years.  I planted a hummingbird garden back in 2006.  I’ve refined it year after year, and while I’d get the occasional hummer, they never seemed to stay for long.  But this summer we must have a nest nearby.  I’ve been seeing hummers pretty often for the past couple weeks, and tonight marks the third night in a row that I’ve seen them every few minutes in the evening.  Wow!  Tonight we even had two vying for the best flowers.  They were such fun to watch as they zipped around the yard, right over my head.  When they got into a territory dispute they’d fly higher and higher, tiny hovering specs against a great blue sky.  For the first time ever, I heard their little calls in my own backyard.  So even though we were eating dinner out on the porch, I of course had to drop everything and go grab my camera.  Rich continued chewing in between chuckles as he watched me watching hummers.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Coral Honeysuckle

Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Coral Honeysuckle

The light was low and I was hand-holding my Beast, and in the excitement of the moment, I didn’t immediately realize that I’d left the camera on f/20.0!  But I got a few shots of my fleeting friends, and some of those shots were even in focus! :) Over the past week I’ve tried to identify whether I was seeing a male, a female, or a juvenile.  For Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, which are the most common hummers in Florida, the males have a gorgeous dark throat (gorget) that flashes bright red in the sun.  The females lack the dark throat.  Juveniles look like females, but if they are juvenile males, you can start to see their gorget growing in, dot by dot.  So I think I have at least one juvie male, who proudly flashed his red speck at me in the waning sun…

I'm a Real Boy!

I’m a Real Boy!

The little guys sampled my fire bush, honeysuckle, various salvias, porterweeds, firecracker plant, and my powderpuff bush (yep, I’ve got the Top Ten Florida-Friendly Hummingbird Plants pretty well covered!).  It’s so great to see them enjoying the plants that I’ve taken such time to grow for them!

I tried to photograph both of them, but I don’t know for sure if I did or not.  At least one of them has a red spot.  I don’t know if the other one does.  It’s too bad they don’t come with name tags! :) Something tells me I won’t have to go far for good birds on my off-Friday morning…

If you want to learn more about attracting hummingbirds to your backyard, I summarized a bunch of information from a talk from hummingbird bander Fred Bassett.  It’s definitely worth a read!