25 February, 2012

Small is Beautiful

Almost every time I have been out on Black Creek Lagoon, I have seen a flashes of a small green and cinnamon colored kingfisher flitting through the dense mangrove vegetation.  Back in October, I was finally able to get a good look at one of them and even took some photos that were good enough to ID the little bird as an American Pygmy Kingfisher, aka the Least Green Kingfisher, Chloroceryle aenea.

There are 2 other green kingfishers found in this habitat that this one can be confused with, but, at 5 1/4  inches, this one is the smallest of them.  Probably why it is called "pygmy".  ;-)

The American Pygmy Kingfisher has a cinnamon collar, in contrast to the white collar of the Green Kingfisher and the Amazon Kingfisher.

A few days later I was able to get a look at and some better shots of another Pygmy while kayaking in the mangroves.

Unlike the Amazon Kingfisher, which is considerably larger (11 plus inches!), the Pygmy Kingfisher and the Green Kingfisher both have rows of white spots on their green wings.  The female pygmy and green kingfishers have a green band across their breast.

This was a very friendly male who sat and talked to me for about 15 minutes while I photographed it from the kayak.

Nearby were what looked like nest holes excavated on the bank of the creek.  I will definitely come back later to see if I can detect any nesting behavior.Posted by Picasa

19 February, 2012

Warm February in Minnesota

This time last year I was in Belize, getting help to celebrate my birthday from our friends Chris, Sue, and Martha from Monkey River, Belize, plus help from other friends of Chris and Sue's in Belize - Wil Maheia and Mary Cariddi.  They helped me celebrate while poor Dennis stayed in Minnesota.  This year I am in Minnesota with Dennis.  It is not as warm as in Belize, but it is by far the warmest birthday I have had in Minnesota.  I took some photos around the house today showing the relative lack of snow.  It reached the low 40sF today, well above freezing.

In the woods behind our house looking toward the Zumbro River valley.
 Snow in patches that are shady during part of the day. 
The secret garden still has a good depth of snow, as does part of the roof that is shaded.
Looking up to the woods from the patio.  Even though the snow is mostly gone, there are no daffodil leaves poking up along the edge of the woods.  That is the area that I planted  in fall of 2010.
The only snow of any significant depth is in our hidden garden along the north side of the house.  I can almost imagine the grass has a little green tinge to it in the shot above.  ;-)

Happy Birthday to Andrew, whose birthday is also today.  I have never meet anyone with the same birthday before, except Edgar Allen Poe, and I don't think he counts!  

Dennis took me out to a lovely restaurant for birthday dinner, which we enjoyed very much.  A nice day to have a birthday.

18 February, 2012

More Scenes and Birds from the Canal

The entry to the drainage canal from the sea is broad and flanked by low growing red mangroves.

Farther up the canal where the water is fresh rather than brackish, there are steep banks.
On the right bank, you can see ferns cascading down toward the water.  In my previous post, I had a photo of the ferns.  
Mixed in among the ferns were beautiful Lycopodium, also called club moss.
On the left bank, where the soil is bare, there was a spotted sandpiper scrambling along.

It didn't fly off as I floated by in the kayak, letting me take some photos as I went.

It bobbles its tail up and down as it goes.
After reaching the end of the canal, I turned around and went slowly downstream toward the sea, eventually reaching the mangroves.  In a protected sort of bay surrounded by mangroves, there a number of herons and egrets.  
The light was terrible for photography, and it didn't help that the birds were far away and against the grey sky.
Never-the-less, the shots were good enough to ID this bird as an adult Little Blue Heron.

I was able to do a bit better with this individual that was considerably closer and cooperated nicely with the camera.
Its colors are quite subtle with some pale blues and pinks along the base of the bill.

The legs are greenish yellow and eyes are yellow.
It turns out this is a juvenile Little Blue Heron before it begins its color change from white to blue.

A lovely bird; one of the exceptions in which the juvenile is more striking than the adult.
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17 February, 2012

Mystery Bird?

This fine-looking bird was sitting along side the path through the mangroves behind our cabana that leads to Black Creek.  It let me approach quite close before it flew into the mangrove roots.

By size, shape, neck length, and habitat, it keys out to be a green heron.  But it is the wrong color and has a darker beak than green herons usually have.  After much searching, the most likely ID is a dark form of green, striated, or green-backed heron.  Some sources lump all those 3 into one species, Butorides striatus.  I hope to see and photograph this individual again during different seasons.  Any insights into the ID will be greatly appreciated!

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15 February, 2012

A Bit of Belize: Land, Sea, and Air

A small selection of photos from two of my Belize kayak trips back in October and November; mostly to bring to mind a warm,sunny place on these cold February days when we are so ready for spring.  Spring is still a few months away for us in Minnesota.  :-( 
The two "land" photos were taken along the canal where I was surprised to see a couple of ferns growing just above the water line.  
I haven't keyed this fern out yet.  It appears to be a climbing fern that was growing profusely on the banks of the canal. I need to get photos of its spore-bearing leaves to help ID it.
Actually, I am not positive that this one is a fern, but I think it may be in the genus Ophioglossum (adder's tongue ferns) or maybe a tongue fern.  
I will have to go back to take a closer, more definitive look.   hmmm... a good mystery to work on next time I'm in Belize.
Seeing the ferns along this part of the canal made me realize that I was upstream of the tidal portion and in an area that is fresh water.
Back out into the salt water, I saw this sting ray making its way along the shallows.  This is a medium sized individual.
Closer to home in Belize, this little whelk was grazing in the shallows.  I love the way the sunlight is refracted by the little ripples on the water; you can see how clear the water is.
While paddling back in the mangrove marsh, I heard this  frantic flapping of a flock of birds that I disturbed as they went crashing through the trees.  When I was finally able to see them, I was surprised that they were doves.  There is no solid ground below these mangroves, and I am more used to doves that like to hang out on the ground.

They wouldn't sit still for a second so my shots are not very good.  But they were good enough for me to identify them as Pale Vented Doves, which are known to prefer mangrove habitats.  I would like to get some better shots of them.
Looks like I have work my cut out for my next trip.  :-)

12 February, 2012

Minnesota Winter Dawn

This winter season here in southern Minnesota has been unusually warm, punctuated by only a couple of super cold spells and not very much snow.  We figure nature is trying to make up for last year's brutal winter.  Today is the last day of a short cold snap that started Friday.  This morning the temp was 6F (-14C) at 7:00am.  It has warmed up to 13F (-11C); we'll make up to the 20s before the day is done.  Oddly, we have very little snow on the ground because most of what we did have melted during the warm weather at the beginning of February.  Below are some views of a beautiful dawn from the front of our house taken Jan. 31 when there was still snow on the ground.

As lovely as that dawn was, this dragonfly is what we would prefer to see when look out the front door.
Dragonfly on dead hibiscus stem, South Englishtown, Toledo District, Belize.

We are now one step closer to that reality; Dennis has officially declared his date of retirement - November 30, 2012.  I added a retirement countdown widget to the blog.  As of today, he has 291 days to go ...Posted by Picasa