Eagle juvenile flew by


A juvenile Bald Eagle flew by.


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Loon stressed


Yesterday’s posting asked whether a loon rising out of the water and flapping its spread wings represented preening or aggression. A brochure, Learn to Read the Signs, from the Loon Preservation Committee says that the loon uses the wing flapping for each purpose. To distinguish them, one has to read the loon’s behaviour: had it been preening, or had it shown other signs of stress?

I saw no preening prior to the wing-flapping display, but it did go on to show another sign of stress: sinking low in the water so as to become inconspicuous. It could well have been my presence that prompted the loon’s actions. On the other hand, I was on the bank when the loon came swimming by. It probably had not expected someone to be there. The loon and I then just wandered off in different directions. 

A loon sinks in the water, apparently to make itself less conspicuous.


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Loon flapping


Now and then, I have watched a loon rise out of the water and flap its wings. Why is it doing this?

The Web gives me conflicting explanations of this behaviour. Some sources explain that this is merely an adjunct to preening: the loon is realigning its feathers. Other sources say that this is a territorial display: go away, this area is mine.

I watched a loon do this on a mountain lake this morning. I just don’t know if it was merely primping, or was challenging me. Who knows?

A Common Loon rose out of the water and flapped its wings.


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Of late, raptors have become more apparent.

A week ago, a Great Horned Owlet was still in its downy plumage.

I see a Red-tailed Hawk only a few times a year. This one was soaring overhead.

The next day a different one was farther along the lakeshore.

Even farther along the shore, two Turkey Vultures were hunting.


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Spotty scraping


Spotted Sandpipers are somewhat unusual for they have a sexual role reversal: Males are largely passive; Females are territorial, sexually aggressive, and promiscuous. Previous years, I have captured scenes of sexual aggression, and mating. I now seem to have recorded rival females fighting over territory.

The observations began sweetly enough: Two spotties copulated at the the water’s edge.

Upon completion, each bird flew maybe six metres along the beach where there was another Spotted Sandpiper. But, their similarity meant that it wasn’t possible to tell which was which.

Promptly a fight began when one bird grabbed the other by the bill. Given recorded spotty behaviour, both are almost certainly females. 

The fight carried on in the air, 

on the beach, 

and a mixture of beach and air.

Which bird prevailed is unclear, but one of them was eventually driven off. 


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Spider 1, Ant 0


An ant likes nectar, but being a crawling insect, its ability to forage on many flowers is limited. That is, unless it is a flying ant, and can quickly move from one flower to the next. The problem, though, is that sooner or later, there will be a flower hiding a killer, a crab spider. 

A crab spider is an ambush predator that waits patiently on a flower for its meal to arrive. The spider grabs the prey with front legs and delivers a deadly dose of venom through its fangs. The venom’s effects are twofold: It paralyzes the insect; It digests the insect’s insides. The spider then uses its fangs like a straw to drink the insect’s insides.

A female crab spider (Misumena vatia) drinks the already digested insides of a flying ant.


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Tadpoles aplenty


A posting a month ago showed western toads in amplexus along with strings of eggs. It can hardly be a surprise to now see the fruits of that conjugation in the form of hundreds of tadpoles.

In the shallows there were numerous tiny tadpoles.

Adjacent to them was a mass of tadpoles sufficient to obscure the lake bottom.


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Four dipper chicks


There is a dipper’s nest under a highway bridge. The nest has been featured here in other years: 2016, 2015. Over the winter, the nest was damaged, but the dippers still used it.

Dipper parents frequently brought things to the nest. Sometimes it was moss to repair the nest, as the dipper in the upper left is doing. Sometimes it was food to feed the chicks, as dipper in the lower right is doing. However, if only one parent flew in and did repairs, the chicks complained bitterly about being slighted.

Although only three chicks were visible in the previous image, this shot shows four.


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Now there are three


Our local Great Horned Owl has received recent postings: Great Horned Owl, Then there were two. Now, the third owlet has appeared. 

As the interval between laying one egg and the next is a few days for the Great Horned Owl, the resulting hatched owlets are of different ages and fledge at different times.

The mother Great Horned Owl sat in a nearby tree. 

Owlet, number one, has now gained adult plumage, fledged, and sits in an adjacent tree.

Owlets numbers three (left) and two (right) are still looking over the edge of the nest.


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Mountain lady’s slipper


This is the third wild orchid found in the last few weeks. The first was the fairy slipper; second was the striped coralroot; this time it is the mountain lady’s slipper.

Two mountain lady’s slippers in the forest.


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