Saturday, February 28, 2009

Black Swan with cygnets

Did you know:

The black swan was first described by English naturalist John Latham in 1790. It was formerly placed into a monotypic genus, Chenopis. ‘Swan’ is the common gender term, but ‘cob’ for a male and ‘pen’ for a female are also used, as is ‘cygnet’ for the young. Collective nouns include a ‘bank’ (on the ground) and a ‘wedge’ (in flight). Black Swans can be found singly, or in loose companies numbering into the hundreds or even thousands.

Black Swans are mostly black feathered birds, with a line of white flight feathers of the wing edges that sometimes show when at rest, and are conspicuous in flight. The bill is bright red, with a pale bar and tip; and legs and feet are greyish-black. Cobs (males) are slightly larger than pens (females), with a longer and straighter bill. Cygnets (immature birds) are a greyish-brown with pale-edged feathers.

A mature Black Swan measures between 110 and 142 cm (43-56 in) in length and weighs 3.7-9 kg (8.1-20 lbs). Its wing span is between 1.6 and 2 metres (5.3-6.5 ft). The neck is long (relatively the longest neck among the swans) and curved in an "S".

The Black Swan utters a musical and far reaching bugle-like sound, called either on the water or in flight, as well as a range of softer crooning notes. It can also whistle, especially when disturbed while breeding and nesting.

The Black Swan is unlike any other Australian bird, although in poor light and at long range it may be confused with a magpie-goose in flight. However, the black swan can be distinguished by its much longer neck and slower wing beat.

Generally, black swans nest in the wetter winter months (February to September), occasionally in large colonies. A typical clutch contains 4 to 8 greenish-white eggs that are incubated for about 35-40 days. After hatching, the cygnets are tended by the parents for about 6 months until fledging, and may ride on their parent's back for longer trips into deeper water.

A Black Swan nest is essentially a large heap or mound of reeds, grasses and weeds between 1 and 1.5 metres (3-4½ feet) in diameter and up to 1 metre high, in shallow water or on islands. A nest is reused every year, restored or rebuilt as needed. Both parents share the care of the nest. Like other swans, the black swan is largely monogamous, pairing for life (about 6% divorce rate). Recent studies have shown that around a third of all broods exhibit extra-pair paternity.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mallards at Lake Eola

Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando

Maureen, Sara, and I spent a few hours at Lake Eola last weekend and found some real treasures. I showed you the domestic duck yesterday and today here are some precious Mallards. I know they are mallards because of the really great post by Steve B on Mallards and American Black ducks. If you don't know the difference you should check out this great post. You can really see some of the tips I learned about the white bars over and under the blue in their wings. Thanks for the post Steve. I really enjoy informative post that help me enjoy my birding even more.

I hope yall enjoy these shots and I know you will love Saturdays Camera Critter this week. It was a special treat for me and I am sure you will agree.

Thanks for stopping by and I really love your comments.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mystery Critter Round 3 Solved

Well I guess everyone is a winner this week! I think I fooled no one, except maybe that bug lady with her elaphant nonsence!! Just kidding Joan, I know you see right through me and my little attempts to win SOMETHING! ANYTHING! You get all mine and I haven't got one of yours right yet!

Also, I have to give a shout out to my little brother Scooter who went above and beyond with his Rock Pigeon lesson!

I hope everyone enjoyed this weeks game and I am out looking for next weeks Mystery so keep the comments coming and thanks for playing!


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mystery Critter Wednesday Round 3

I decide to make Roung three super easy. Or at least it seems so to me!

I am waiting for Joan of South Africa photographs to offically roll out her meme for this great game. In the mean time be sure and check her Mystery Monday out. Her critters are really cool but be careful as she is quite tricky! By that I mean that her mysterys are real mysterys and are not always critters. If I do have to say so myself I am the current record holder at her site. That's right, I have the most near misses without actually winning!

Thanks for playing,


Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Here I am once again with no ID. I can't find this duck anywhere on my normal net sources. So I am hoping someone will bail me out once again.

While you enjoy this pretty duck, I have a few questions as well. As a new serious birder, by that I mean really keeping track and photographing the birds I encounter, I am somewhat ignorant of the serious birder’s terminology. I have loved bird watching ever since I was a boy, yea way back! I used to have a bird book, forget the name of it, but I loved to identify the birds I saw. I was a good feeder and would often go out to my daddy’s house and fill his feeders for him.

My first question is what is a lifer bird? Now I get the obvious meaning. This is a new bird for you. I do, however, get the feeling that this term has taken new meaning in the world of blogging. When someone says this is a new life bird for me, do they mean that this is the first time they have ever seen this bird or is this the first time they have photographed this bird? I guess you can see where I am going with this so I will try not to bore you with too many details.

Please share with me what “Life Bird” means to you as a naturalist and a blogger.

Thanks for stopping by,

Monday, February 23, 2009

I want my bicycle...

The birds are just pouring in! YAY!

I have to admit that I am not very good with the sparrows even though I really want to learn. So I am asking for help with these. Maureen took this shot so be sure and give her a "great shot" shout out. I know yall will get sick of seeing this feeder by the end of the summer but not to worry it is moble and I can swap it our for something else redneck later! I thought about cutting a tractor tire in half but Maureen wouldn't let me. Probably for the best; you got any idea how much a tractor tire cost these days?

Click to enlarge. Maureen did a great job with this shot because when you enlarge you get to see the sparrows from all angles.

Update: Thanks everyone for the helpful comments. I believe that we have a winner with Chipping Sparrows!

Please help me with the sparrow ID and the first to correctly ID them will get to ride Sara's bicycle. That is "IF" Darby, the golden retriever, will let you get close. Darby is such a great dog. This photo was taken this weekend. Sara keep riding ahead and Darby worries about any member of the pack that gets too far away. So I yelled to Sara to stop and wait for us. Sara called Darby and he pulled at the leash so Maureen let him go check on her. He went right up beside her asked if he could ride too. He loves Sara and we love them both. This is why we decided not to sell either one.

Thanks for stopping by everyone,

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Red-Bellied Blue Jay...

I thought that would get your attention!

Believe it or not this is the first post of a bird captured in my own yard. Everything I have posted to this point has been from my work walks for day trips to special parks. Maureen and I have been working to bring birds into our yard an learn how to position the feeders in order to get good shots for the blog. We are very excited about the spring and summer and attracting as many birds as we can. I saw nice hawk flying around today out the back door. I guess the truth is we did have one post with a hawk from the back yard, it was one of my first and I didn't take the photo, Maureen did. It is the post entitled "Frog leggs anyone?". Give it a look if you have time.

In the mean time I hope you enjoy this photo of a Blue Jay and Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bicycle riding squirrel...

I set this up right outside of my back window near the pool for the birds. As you can see, obviously birds can't ride a bicycle! Squirrels Can!

Thanks for stopping by,


Camera Critters

Friday, February 20, 2009

Random Nature Photo's

Click and enlarge the photo's that interest you. I took all of these while out for my walks at lunch. No real theme here just photo's of things that caught my eye so I shot it! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy the post.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mystery Critter Round 2 Solved

I loved these beautiful butterflies!

Congratulations to Bird Girl from My Bird Tales! She nailed it! Be sure to pay her blog a visit.

This was taken at the Lucas Nursry last weekend. I have several photo's from there and look forward to sharing them with you. I will probably post most of them on my Observations blog since some have little to do with the theme of this blog. I am putting together a cool series of their wind mill water pump so keep an eye out for it soon on Craig's Observations.

Thanks for playing,


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mystery Critter Wednesday Round 2

Name this Critter!

Good luck everybody!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another Grackel in Flight

Back to the Applebee's trash bin!

As a beginner photographer, blogger, and all round nature nut, I was getting a little frustrated with the whole flight photography phenomenon. Believe me when I tell you people like Hannibal, Steve, and good old Salty, are the exception to the rule. These are professional photographers. Basically, they ROCK and I SUCK!

But that is ok for me to say that. I do not ascribe to allow myself to remain in the halls of suckdom forever. I have a plan! I plan to not suck so much one day! When it comes to flight photo’s I was recently told to shoot a lot, keep a few. I like that advice and I’m working that out right now.

I developed what I now call the “ ‘neak up on ‘em” technique. I call it that because it reminds me of an old children’s joke. How do you catch a wabbit? You ‘neak up on him. Anyway I digress. Here is the technique. I get as close as I can zoom in and take a shot or two. Then I take another few steps and take more shots. Rinse Repeat. I mean I keep doing this until I think he is going to fly, or in the case of a wabbit, hop.

At that point I do the half click on the shutter to focus, aim a little ahead of him and wait. Sometimes it seems I am waiting forever and these is when I can feel the eyes watching me standing in the parking lot wondering what that idiot is doing. It’s amazing all the things that go through your mind when you are waiting. But you have to be diligent, I have heard that sometimes you mind can wander and the next thing you know you are focused on an empty ledge or limb. This of course has never happened to me, but I have heard it’s true.

So our victim, errr, I mean critter takes off and CLICK! Got him! Plus, my dear fellow critter catcher, I wanted to step up my game and get a nice inverted shadow of the Boat-Tailed Grackle. So I waited to the precise second the sun and grackle where in perfect harmony with the stucco fa├žade and whammo clicko capture!

Yea, I know, I totally got lucky. But, I was serious about the technique. The shot and shadow was a total lark, well not a lark but a grackle, accident. Click to enlarge and thanks for stopping by.


Snowy Egret


Thanks to my good friend Hap I now know that I misidentified this bird. This is in fact a Great Egret, not a snowy egret or even a great white heron. Here is some information for those want to learn as I enjoyed doing…

A large white heron, the Great Egret is found across much of the world, from southern Canada southward to Argentina, and in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. It's the largest egret in the Old World, and thus has garnered the name Great White Egret. But in the Americas, the white form of the Great Blue Heron is larger and warrants that name. In the United States, the Great Egret used to be called the American Egret but that was hardly appropriate, since the species range extends beyond America and indeed farther than other herons.

Information provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds website.

Thanks again to Hap for keeping me straight in my quest to learn!


This bird was so still that for a minute I thought it was one of those yard decorations, like the pink flamingo's. Maureen and I were at our local nursery and I snuck off to see what I could find. I found this little pond off the beating path and saw the most beautiful bird. But he was so still. Frozen in place not moving an inch. I snaped a few photo's but had a really bad sight line with all the bamboo. Not to mention the fact that I was certain someone was watching me laughing at the idiot taking pictures of the fake bird!

I ventured off around the bamboo and snuck up behind him. Got another shot and decided to get closer to see if he would move. Thank goodness he did and I was so excited that I wasn't nuts I missed the flight photo!

The numbers of these beautiful birds were greatly decreased when hunters sought after them for their feathers for ladies hats. Thanks to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, they have rebounded.

Bad focus. So close...

I love how this shot turned out. The little boy fishing, the white fence, and the landing snowy egret.

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, February 15, 2009


I wanted to share these Grackel photos from last week. I also hope someone will help me out with the correct Grackel ID. I seem to be struggling with the Grackel family. I did notice the yellow eyes though. I believe this is the Common Grackle. What do you think?

I cut through the Applebee's parking lot on my way to the historic Maitland Cemetary that is only a couple blocks from work while out on my daily lunch walk. I saw this guy and was able to get a shot of him calling.

Then I was hoping to get some of that color from his feathers and the sun...

Ok, nice. Now people are starting to stare because I was standing next to the garbage can's pointing a camera up in the sky. I figured somebody would make enough noices to scare this one off his perch and I hoped to get a flight shot. Sure enough someone slamed their car door and I took the shot. Not perferct focus, but cool wings! Be sure to click and enlarge.

Thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Perhaps the most famous critter of all...

What a great day we had at Disney!

Camera Critters

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mystery Critter Round 1 Solved

Ok, I suspect I will catch some heat on this one. You see I never said it was a bird! You can read the comment again, I said, not really!

Congrats to Joan for nailing it right off the bat! I have never guessed one of her's correctly. Of course many others saw through my deception as well.

I found this little guy while out for one of my lunch break walks. Tough getting a good shot of a turtle when the hide from you.

Thanks for playing everyone!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mystery Critter Wednesday Round 1

I confess, I totally stole this idea from Joan from South African Photographs. I hope she starts her own meme with this idea. I will be the first to sign up. It’s loads of fun and I can tell she has a blast with it. Mostly she makes fun of me and my crazy outlandish guesses. I hope you approve Joan, as they say forgery is the sincerest form of flattery!

Here is round one, I only hope I did not make it too easy.

Name this critter:

Thanks in advance for playing along. The answer is coming tomorrow.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bears have to eat too...

It's early morning...

The day of our Disney trip. Two o'clock and all is quiet. Not a creature was stiring, not even a mouse. (Get it, pun intended, we are going to Disney, the mouse, get it.... never mind...) Then all of a sudden, Darby our faithful guard dog slash lazy golden retriever barks loud enough to wake the dead, as well as Sara sleeping in her room, still not sure what her 6th birthday surprise is going to be come morning. Forty-five minutes later I get everyone back to sleep and crawl back in bed wondering, what was that all about? Believe you me, Darby got a good scolding to boot.
Morning comes and Maureen is up first; she looks out the window and wonders why someone through garbage in our yard. You see, we keep the cans behind the fence and sealed up tight. As she looks she realizes, hey that is our garbage!

Then things start to make sense. It seems we were paid a visit from what can only be a black bear. I certainly have not seen any dogs or cats that can do this to a 6' gate!

He tore the hinges with 3" lag bolts straight from the post.

Looks like he was able to rip off one of the slats, reach in to get leverage and rip the gate down.

Now I have to rebuild the gate...
and figure out a way to stay up all night and get a photo of that guy! lol
We live near the Wekiwa River State Park. We see the bears in our neighborhood from time to time and have even seen them climb these fences. I have no idea why he or she chose to tear the gate down this time instead of climbing it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

More Disney Critters

Just to finish off the Disney critters...

Here is a Disney Sea Gull...

A Disney Rabbit...

Some Disney White Ibis...

Another Disney White Ibis...

Last but not least, The great white heron...

I hope you enjoyed the critters as much as I did...