16 November, 2014 Stirring up a hornet’s nest
This post isn’t really about stirring up a hornet’s nest literally or figuratively. I took a gorgeous picture of a hornet’s nest near the river this week so what the heck. I haven’t seen one in many years, for whatever reason, and this one is a beauty. I’ll use it for my first picture:
It was hanging in a Sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) on the edge of Riverside Drive, a few minutes walk upstream from Pony Pasture. Sweetgum, if you’re interested, is in the top five deciduous trees at Pony Pasture and along that riverbank. The tree in that picture is easily identifiable as a Sweetgum by the spiny fruit (gum balls). The leaves on a Sweetgum tree are also very obvious but they’re difficult to see in that picture because it’s so late in the season.
I took a picture of a female Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) while Evie and Turner and Mackey and I were hiking at the river this morning. We were nearly finished; you could almost see the car in the parking lot from there. Here she is:
I forgot at that time how to distinguish a male from a female, but it’s not that hard if you can get a close look. This image is more than sufficient. See how her eye is in that black line on her head? And just below that, a white line? Males are identical, including the red crest. But just below the white line, see another black line? In males, that black line has a red stripe in it. It’s quite obvious. If you click on the link in the paragraph above (Pileated Woodpecker), you can see it there. I’ll get a male sooner or later.
This may give you an idea of why I shoot a million pictures and even though I put my best ones on this blog, they’re not always great. I keep my camera on autofocus because normally that yields the best results. But if there’s something between me and my “target” (in this case, the woodpecker), the camera will focus on the first thing. In this case, a stick. Notice the stick in crisp focus, the woodpecker behind it blurred:
Such is the life of a hack nature-photographer. I have fun, anyway.
I learned while researching this that woodpeckers are not “passerines.” If you’ve read this blog much, you may have learned that around half of birds are passerines. I was looking at her feet; feet are a distinguishing feature of passerines. You can really see her feet in that picture; it’s a little disorienting to see they’re at around the level of her beak. Anyway, woodpeckers are “piciformes,” which are not vastly different from passerines. An interesting feature of piciformes (this I learned today) is they have very stiff tail feathers, which provide additional support while they climb tree trunks. Natural selection is so cool.
I got another picture of a female Pileated Woodpecker in April. It was near that spot, chances are it was the same one. I hope to get a male soon. Here’s the post from April. The picture is a bit better but far from great: Only the beginning
I think we’re going to get a lot of rain tomorrow and some wind then bitter cold Tuesday, so a lot of leaves will go away. The river was pretty earlier this week at the Z-dam:
See that guy in the lower right paddling with his little dog? They’d been hanging out in the sun on Williams Island until it began to drop. They headed back for Pony Pasture. Check out the dog in its little life jacket on the boogie board on the canoe:
Also I got a little better shot of some buffleheads, although I have a long way to go before a great one. But here is one female hanging out with three males:
Also Turner and Mackey and I squeezed in a quick hike Thursday. I was trying to get a picture of a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) as we made our way toward Charlie’s Bridge. Turner bolted out onto the bridge and a squirrel bolted up a tree. Here’s Turner looking up at the squirrel:
Here’s the squirrel, wishing it was in a different area code:
Here is the hawk, waiting above:
Kim ID’d the hawk for me. She is well informed about birds of prey and even knows a thing or two about falconry. She says squirrels are a bit too formidable for Red-shouldered Hawks. But she sent me a link (since no one could possibly make this stuff up) to a blog post about bison leather chaps for hawks who hunt squirrels. So the squirrels don’t scratch the hawk’s legs. I’m not even kidding. Check this out: Redesigned Bison Squirrel Chaps.
Since Redesigned Bison Squirrel Chaps are untoppable, I will close this post here. But before I do, my first slow motion video. Stay tuned, I’ve never tried this, I hope it will work. It’s Turner bolting out the back door hoping to get a squirrel before it gets to a tree. You can’t see the squirrel, only Turner. It’s cool to look at if it works; it only lasts 18 seconds:
Have a great week,