Tryst in a trice


Birds devote little time to mating. This sequence of four pictures showing Tree Swallows spanned two seconds.

The female Tree Swallow crouches low and lifts her tail as the male approaches.

He lands on her back as she spreads her cloaca.

The male wraps his tail under hers to align their cloacae. Each bird slightly everts its cloacal tissue.

Mating takes place with, what is known as, the cloacal kiss.

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If a butterfly takes to the air, would it not be butterflying?

Well, that is my semantic position and I am sticking to it. Especially, as I am seeking to do a better job of taking pictures of small flyers in the air (see, flying birds, swallow love & war).

With its proboscis partially unscrolled, a Pale Swallowtail Butterfly flies toward a source of nectar. I was struck by the position of the legs which are tucked up behind its head in a manner I had previously seen with dragonflies.

A Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly is about to visit a lilac.

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Summer arrives


You know summer has arrived when you see both a Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly and a Spotted Sandpiper. 

Don’t be mislead by media automatons that parrot a claim about an official start of any season. That claim is nonsense. Summer is a meteorological event, the timing of which changes with location, not some fixed astronomical event. Further, no official ever proclaimed that it begins on the date of the summer solstice—and why would anyone believe any official (or commentator) who did offer such a silly claim?

A Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly sips nectar from some lilacs.

A (female) Spotted Sandpiper patrols the water’s edge for delectables, 

and finds a grub to swallow.

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Flying birds


It is May and the shore along the Lake is filled with birds. Some are wading, some floating, some flying. It is the flying ones that are the most difficult to photograph—they are usually fast and distant. Yesterday, I had three modest successes in taking detailed pictures of flying birds.

A male Hooded Merganser and his son flew low enough over the water to have a good reflection.

Although this Cliff Swallow was in the sunlight, it was against a very dark background.

As I was trying to take pictures of Cliff Swallows, a female Osprey landed behind me. Shooting quickly, I did not realize that it was banded until I examined the pictures later.

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Not camera dross


I don’t always look at the contents of my camera’s memory card immediately. Having taken pictures of things around me, I quickly move on. Yet, now and then, things I thought were dross, turn out well. Here are a few from recent days.

This Song Sparrow sang vigorously, then looked at me as if to say: “This is my reality.”

Insects are notoriously difficult to photograph in flight. Success is often the result of happenstance, as was the case of this Hover Fly approaching some Deer Brush.

I have only seen a female Common Merganser alight atop a piling during spring. Why are they there? On this occasion, the merganser’s presence was challenged by a European Starling, which probably had a cavity nest lower in the piling. The merganser is still quacking towards where the starling was as it approached.

A Huntsman Spider was doing the huntsman thing of hanging around bark waiting to pounce on insects at night.

When I see White-tailed Deer along the shore, they are usually doe. But here was a buck. He has just started on this year’s antlers. It will be many months before they are ready to be used to contest a doe.

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Doug Thorburn, that indefatigable wanderer of local mountains, sent me these two pictures of a grouse he saw this last week when he tracked down the sound of drumming. The trouble is, I cannot tell what it is. The head looks like a Dusky, while the breast and wings look more like a Spruce. 

Can anyone settle the question? 

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Killdeer nest


It was the frenetic display of a feigned broken wing that signalled the unexpected nearness of a Killdeer’s nest. 

Indeed, a quick look around revealed four camouflaged eggs lying on the open ground.

I promptly retreated, the Killdeer relaxed and returned to its nest. Part of one egg is visible.

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Mallard chicks


A month and a half ago, Miss Mallard put on a show for her intended. Her pole dance had the desired result.

From a distance, the specks were tiny, dark and moving. From closer, the specks became seven mallard chicks.

Mommy waited and the chicks caught up.

And they feasted together.

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Muskrat grazing


I assumed that after the variety of yesterday, I would lie low today, but then a muskrat stopped by.

Muskrats get a bad rap: They aren’t rats, they are large aquatic voles; They don’t attack swimmers, they are herbivores. I have probably seen this one a dozen times in the last month, but always partially submerged and during the twilight of dawn. Now, it was grazing on a dilapidated dock in the afternoon sun. 

May is the month to watch for young males doing a walkabout in search of a nesting site of their own.

Each wants to find a place where there is a good supply of vegetation to eat. With luck, this one will stay around.

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Bountiful watching


Nature watching has been bountiful in the last few days. In addition to the just posted toads in amplexus and the dipper chicks, some things seen were:

A Cliff Swallow peeking out of its nest;

A marmot contemplating (“You disparaged my vanity on your previous posting, but when I’m not sleeping, eating, or mating, I really am a contemplative fellow.”);

Goslings following their parents;

A Painted Turtle lazing in the Lake (The rest of us must wait for summer.);

An early season dragonfly perching (possibly a female Spiny Baskettail);

A close view of a Barrow’s Goldeneye Duck revealing its iridescent head;

A Black Bear grazing on dandelions (It did not like being watched.);

Nothing beat a coyote impudently walking with its back to the traffic flow, which stopped on the road and pooped.

Posted in birds, bugs, herptiles, mammals | 3 Comments