Least Tern Courtship – The Slip!

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Fort De Soto

During a visit to Fort de Soto at the beginning of May, I heard the familiar calls of Least Terns. Their calls take on a particular tone as they perform courtship routines. I dropped to the sand and focused on the birds. Then I started to laugh, as the male repeatedly presented a fish to the female, but wouldn’t let her take it.  She put up with his games for several minutes before giving him the slip!

Least Tern Courtship: The Male Presents the Fish and the Female Gets into Position to Accept It
Least Tern Courtship: The male presents the fish and the female gets into position to accept It
Least Tern Courtship: After the male dangles the fish in her face for a while, the female tries to grab it
Least Tern Courtship: After the male dangles the fish in her face for a while, the female tries to grab it
Least Tern Courtship: The male pretends to offer the fish directly to the female, but never hands it over
Least Tern Courtship: The male pretends to offer the fish directly to the female, but never hands it over
Least Tern Courtship: The female continues to eye the fish...or maybe she's giving the male the evil eye!
Least Tern Courtship: The female continues to eye the fish…or maybe she’s giving the male the evil eye!
Least Tern Courtship: The female shows great patience as the male dances around with the fish
Least Tern Courtship: The female shows great patience as the male dances around with the fish
Least Tern Courtship: Finally the male starts to hand over the fish as he hops onto the female's back
Least Tern Courtship: Finally the male starts to hand over the fish as he hops onto the female’s back
Least Tern Courtship - The female yanks the fish away
Least Tern Courtship: The female yanks the fish away
Least Tern Courtship: At the end, the female scooted out from under the male and ran off with the fish.  She gave him the slip!
Least Tern Courtship: At the end, the female scooted out from under the male and ran off with the fish. She gave him the slip!

The Last of the Backyard Migrants

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One morning in late April, I spent a couple of hours in the backyard with my camera, hoping to see our first-of-spring baby Cardinal and maybe a few migrants. It was a cool morning and pleasant to hear the calls of “my” birds as they woke up. We’ve been seeing the occasional Eastern Bluebird, although they don’t choose to pose for the camera. I was excited to see a Ruby-throated Hummingbird as he migrated through…

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Migrant
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Migrant

I’d been hearing the chips of a baby cardinal for a couple of days. I was hoping he’d make an appearance for my camera. He did! They are so cute and trusting at this age.

First-of-Spring Baby Cardinal
First-of-Spring Baby Cardinal

A female Red-winged Blackbird flew in and posed in the pretty morning light. The honeysuckle vine on my bird blind is a definite crowd-pleaser! The birds love to hang out up there.

Female Red-Winged Blackbird
Female Red-Winged Blackbird

I took these photos on the morning that I said goodbye to the last of my Painted Buntings. There were two greenies remaining. They stuck together like glue, perching on the same branches and following each other from salvia to salvia.

Painted Bunting "Greenie"
Last-of-Season Painted Bunting “Greenie”

On the ground below, a Common Ground Dove flew in. I mentally begged him to hop onto a branch with a nice background. Instead he strutted through the lawn and showed off his breeding colors.

Common Ground Dove
Common Ground Dove

The hummingbird came back and started nectaring from a nearby Amistad salvia. It’s fun to photograph the males and try to capture their gorgeous necks that shine bright red when the sun hits them at the perfect angle.

As I sat back in my comfortable chair, watching the world of the backyard, I heard a rather unexpected party arrive. A family of ducks pushed themselves through a break in the hedge and paraded across the backyard. I grabbed a few headshots with the big camera and then pulled out my phone for the group shot. It was a mom and her eight almost-grown babies. That’s a really good mom – it’s rare to see that many grow up together!

Mottled Duck Headshot
Mottled Duck Headshot
The Duck Family Parade
The Duck Family Parade

Great Blue Herons Building Nest

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Lake Morton

The last time I went to Lake Morton in mid-April, I found a pair of Great Blue Herons building a nest at the top of a cypress tree. Given that most herons start constructing their nests in early winter, I figured these guys had lost their baby and were attempting a re-nest. Or perhaps they were juveniles and this was their first time around. One bird appeared to already be incubating and the other went back and forth with nesting material.

Great Blue Herons are fun to watch when they are building nests. The male will fly off, spend a long time finding the perfect branch, and then bring it back to the nest.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron Landing Near the Nest
Great Blue Heron Landing Near the Nest
Great Blue Heron Nest-building: The Stick Handoff!
Great Blue Heron Nest-building: The Stick Handoff!

It was a cloudy morning. The sun kept disappearing behind the clouds. There was a small window between the trees and the challenge was to focus while the bird was in it.

Great Blue Heron in Flight
Great Blue Heron in Flight

After a while, the male was chased out of the prime stick tree by a fussy crow. The crow started attacking him and the heron took off in great indignation. After that, he foraged in the cypress tree immediately next to the nest. It was so close that he didn’t really have to fly – he did more of a hop from treetop to treetop. Some of the poses ended up being pretty funny!

Great Blue Heron On a Stick Hunt
Great Blue Heron On a Stick Hunt
Great Blue Heron On a Stick Hunt
Great Blue Heron Returning Victorious
Great Blue Heron on the Run!
Great Blue Heron on the Run!

There was one final image that I should have captured to finish telling the story of this heron nest. When I first got there, the street under the trees was clear. When I left, the street was cluttered with the branches that the bird had dropped in his endeavors!