Monday, August 29, 2016

Wood Duck & Whistling Ducks


W...is for Wood and Whistle!!!


Today I couldn't decide, so I chose both. Two of my favorite ducks - the Wood Duck and the Black-bellied Whistling Duck. For the longest time, I envied  the photos of other photographers pictures of the Wood Duck. So, it was definitely on my bucket list! Finally, one day on an outing I discovered them in a pond in a neighborhood lake. I was beyond thrilled to say the least. 

The Whistling Duck are fun to watch and they have a very distinctive sound that they make. I love watching them but their chicks can be easy targets for predators, such as alligators, which I witnessed on another one of my outings.





Wood Ducks

The Wood Duck is one of the most stunningly pretty of all waterfowl. Males are iridescent chestnut and green, with ornate patterns on nearly every feather; the elegant females have a distinctive profile and delicate white pattern around the eye. These birds live in wooded swamps, where they nest in holes in trees or in nest boxes put up around lake margins. They are one of the few duck species equipped with strong claws that can grip bark and perch on branches.

Wood Ducks have a unique shape among ducks—a boxy, crested head, a thin neck, and a long, broad tail. In flight, they hold their head up high, sometimes bobbing it. Overall, their silhouette shows a skinny neck, long body, thick tail, and short wings.

In good light, males have a glossy green head cut with white stripes, a chestnut breast and buffy sides. In low or harsh light, they'll look dark overall with paler sides. Females are gray-brown with white-speckled breast. In eclipse plumage (late summer), males lose their pale sides and bold stripes, but retain their bright eye and bill. Juveniles are very similar to females.

Look for Wood Ducks in wooded swamps, marshes, streams, beaver ponds, and small lakes. They stick to wet areas with trees or extensive cattails. As a cavity nester, Wood Ducks take readily to nest boxes.






Whistling-Duck

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a boisterous duck with a brilliant pink bill and an unusual, long-legged silhouette. In places like Texas and Louisiana, watch for noisy flocks of these gaudy ducks dropping into fields to forage on seeds, or loafing on golf course ponds. Listen for them, too—these ducks really do have a whistle for their call. 

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a large, gooselike duck with a long neck, long legs, and short tail. In flight, look for their broad wings, long neck, and hunched back. They are dark overall: a chestnut breast and black belly are set off by a bright-pink bill and legs, grayish face, and broad white wing stripe, also visible in flight. Immatures are duller than adults, with a dark bill, pale breast, and mottled black belly.


Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks roam edges of shallow ponds, golf courses, city parks, and schoolyards. They also frequent agricultural fields, particularly flooded rice fields. They seem to readily adopt human-altered habitats, and this has helped them move north into the southern U.S. in recent decades.

Be blessed and be a blessing!





Source: allaboutbirds.org

Monday, August 22, 2016

V of A-Z in the Nature Series



Vultures

Two species of vulture occur in Florida, the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) and the black vulture (Coragyps atratus).

Turkey vultures have reddish heads while the heads of black vultures are black. The turkey vulture holds its wings in a slight "V" while soaring, whereas the black vulture's wings are held straight. The tail of the black vulture is usually more fanned out in flight and is shorter and broader than that of the turkey vulture.

The black vulture flaps its wings more and soars less than its relative. From below it has whitish patches near the tips of the wings, whereas the wings of the turkey vulture lack these patches.


Vultures eat carrion in the form of road-kills or dead cattle in pastures. Black vultures are more aggressive and may occasionally kill or injure lambs, calves, cows giving birth, or other incapacitated livestock.

Vultures are under state protection, therefore it is unlawful to shoot or harass them without a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.  If, however, the vulture is tearing up a screen porch, or chewing up shingles or roofs, then you may want to consider scaring them with Pyrotechnics.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Urchin




Urchin or Urcheon aka Sea urchin


Photo by Cheryl Howard


Sea urchins or urchins archaically called sea hedgehogs, are small, spiny, globular animals that, with their close kin, such as sand dollars, constitute the class Echinoidea of the echinoderm phylum. About 950 species of echinoids inhabit all oceans from the intertidal to 5,000 meters (16,000 feet; 2,700 fathoms) deep. The shell, or "test", of sea urchins is round and spiny, typically from 3 to 10 cm (1.2 to 3.9 in) across. Common colors include black and dull shades of green, olive, brown, purple, blue, and red. Sea urchins move slowly, feeding primarily on algae. Sea otters, starfish, wolf eels, triggerfish, and other predators hunt and feed on sea urchins. Their roe is a delicacy in many cuisines. The name "urchin" is an old word for hedgehog, which sea urchins resemble.

Photo by Cheryl Howard

Sea urchins are members of the phylum Echinodermata, which also includes sea stars, sea cucumbers, brittle stars, and crinoids. Like other echinoderms, they have five-fold symmetry (called pentamerism) and move by means of hundreds of tiny, transparent, adhesive "tube feet". The symmetry is not obvious in the living animal, but is easily visible in the dried test.
Specifically, the term "sea urchin" refers to the "regular echinoids", which are symmetrical and globular, and includes several different taxonomic groups, including two subclasses: Euechinoidea ("modern" sea urchins, including irregular ones) and Cidaroidea or "slate-pencil urchins", which have very thick, blunt spines, with algae and sponges growing on it. The irregular sea urchins are an infra-class inside the Euechinoidea, called Irregularia, and include Atelostomata and Neognathostomata. "Irregular" echinoids include: flattened sand dollars, sea biscuits, and heart urchins.
Together with sea cucumbers (Holothuroidea), they make up the subphylum Echinozoa, which is characterized by a globoid shape without arms or projecting rays. Sea cucumbers and the irregular echinoids have secondarily evolved diverse shapes. Although many sea cucumbers have branched tentacles surrounding their oral openings, these have originated from modified tube feet and are not homologous to the arms of the crinoids, sea stars, and brittle stars.
At first glance, sea urchins often appear incapable of moving. Sometimes, the most visible life sign is the spines, which attach to ball-and-socket joints and can point in any direction. In most urchins, touch elicits a prompt reaction from the spines, which converge toward the touch point. Sea urchins have no visible eyes, legs, or means of propulsion, but can move freely over hard surfaces using adhesive tube feet, working in conjunction with the spines. Regular sea urchins don't have any favorite walking direction.

Photo by Cheryl Howard

Pictures in this blog post were taken on our vacation to the Bahamas using an Olympus underwater camera.

Be blessed and be a blessing. 



For more on Sea Urchins visit www.wikipedia.com

Monday, August 8, 2016

Terns

T...is for Terns




Terns are related to gulls but are generally smaller and more slender, with relatively long pointed wings and straight pointed bills. Most terns feed exclusively on small  fish captured by plunging headfirst into the water from flight; some noddies and some terns pluck prey from the water's surface rather than plunge-dive. Most species forage singly but gather in noisy flocks where food is concentrated. These feeding frenzies may also include gulls, especially small species, and jaegers. Terns roost in dense flocks on sandbars or beaches.




Least Tern (above is a picture of an adult breeding Tern). Common locally around nesting colonies; uncommon to rare elsewhere. Nests on sand dunes just above high-tide lines among scattered debris and grass, as well as flat rooftops near water. Much smaller than all other terns, with relatively slender wings, short tail, and very large bill. In breeding plumage note white forehead and yellow bill.


Be blessed and be a blessing!





Source: The Sibley Field Guide to Birds

Friday, August 5, 2016

Relationships


Relationships






The best relationships always have love at their core: love through service (Galatians 5:13); love through stewardship (1 Peter 4:10), which is to say using the gifts God has blessed us with to help one another; and love through sacrifice of our time, talents, and, yes, even our treasure. (1 John 3:16-18) 


Is love at the center of your relationships?


Be blessed and be a blessing!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Stilt


"S" in my nature series is for Stilt


The Black-necked Stilt is somewhat local on shallow ponds with muddy bottoms and grassy edges. Often in pairs or small groups.



Walks delicately, tilting forward to pick food with its needle-like bill. Slender shape, black and white plumage, and extraordinarily long red legs are unmistakable. It's call is a loud sharp pleek or keef or wreek; often repeated incessantly.



Be blessed and be a blessing!







Source: The Sibley Field Guide to Birds

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