Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Flying on Wings of Glass

Images for what is to come...these dragonfly wings are  like RenĂ© Lalique jewelry without plique-a-jour enamel.  Nature well represents the dragonfly as having wings of glass, yet these serve the fast and darting creature better than would glass. 

Have you ever felt you were flying on wings of glass?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Broad Winged Hawk from Nestling to Almost Grown

Broad Winged Hawk Migration is Coming..
Grow up little hawk!

This is the growth of a wonderful Broad Winged Hawk from nestling to fledgling to almost grown enough to be set free. These birds have to grow up in a hurry.

The first photo is from July 2, 2011. This little hawk was nestless and was cared for in a nest made of pine needles in a suitable basket. Notice the downy covering of the baby bird.

July 7, 2011 arrived and the Broad Winged Hawk looks like a gangly adolescent. Actually, the bird was brought in from special home care to the rehabilitation center for raptors and provided the pine needle nest. When a bird leaves the nest it is called a fledgling. This one was a little young for that but left the nest anyway.

July 16, 2011 arrived and the hawk has changed a lot. Do you think so? Click the photo to see the larger version and look for what remains of the downy feathers.

July 21, 2011 came and the hawk is just at full sized. The bird will lose that last tiny bit of down, perhaps gain weight and feather out a little more. Note the eyes:  The eyes are the color for a juvenile and some time will pass for the color to change to the rich eye color of the adult.  The photos below were also taken on July 21, 2011.

The hawk is on a schedule to South America and will need to mature before migration time arrives. Not having been raised by its natural mother and father, it is good that  this hawk will likely join others sometime during the long migration flight.

When fall and winter are here in North America, the new hawks join older ones to migrate. Broad Winged Hawks will migrate to northern South America, a flight recorded by satellite of selected hawks to be 4,350 miles!* That is a long flight. This hawk is typical of the Broad Winged, solid, medium sized and beautiful. Long before migration time, this bird will have been released and honed its flight and hunting skills in nature, living as it should in the wild. Then migration comes and the hawks know what to do and where to go. While some birds migrate alone, Broad Winged Hawks gather in large groups called “kettles” and along the migration route may be seen in groups of 100's or many more spread out on the sky as they fly by to their new home.  When the seasons change, the hawks will return to North America to nest and raise a new family.

These stocky hawks are in the soaring family called buteo. However, they often hunt from the canopy of the forest, able to dive down through the trees to find a dinner of amphibians, large insects, small mammals and sometimes a small bird.

To hear their voice, visit the *Cornell Lab of Ornithology at this link:                          Cornell Ornithology, Broad Winged Hawk

July 29...Special Announcement

Broad Winged Hawk Released On July 29, 2011
And Is Now Living In The Wild

I apologize for not having good photos of the young Broad Winged Hawk flying to freedom. Here is a photo of the bird just prior to the flight. Lighting was not bright enough to use a quick shutter speed to stop the blur of the wings and the flight. When the hawk flew, my positioning also proved not the best. Every released bird does fly away but in different paths and directions. This Broad Winged Hawk stayed almost a minute looking at the surroundings.  Remember, for the young bird this is a first time into freedom. It does not know what to expect and is not fully aware where it's nature will lead. The glove raised and suddenly the Broad Winged flew, quite quick, low and away from me immediately to behind a tree line. 

The hawk was released in the arboretum operated by The University of Tennessee in the eastern part of the state. The Arboretum is within the 2,260 acre Oak Ridge Forest and there is room enough for these birds within the nature site. In the background is Kevin Hoyt, appointed on July 5, 2011 as new director for the facility. Will the young hawk stay in this forest? We really do not know but both the hawk and the forest will be well served it if does.  A link is here for the UT Arboretum:          Arboretum Release Area

First of all, the hawk must be old enough and well able to fly. This broad winged hawk spent the last 8 days in the larger enclosure which allows flight room.  The bird is given a live diet similar to what it would hunt in the wild.  Like owls, hawks also spit out  pellets of indigestible items and the pellets are examined to see what has been eaten.  Flight and energy levels are also observed and health is evaluated.  When ready to go, the birds can become quite active and if held too long when ready the feathers may be broken or damaged from eager flying in an enclosure.  This Broad Winged Hawk was in perfect condition for release.  Naturally, as with a bird from then nest, juvenile birds will develop wing strength and improve hunting skills while in the natural environment.  It is exciting to see a bird fly to freedom!  I always pray for it to survive well and learn to cope in nature quickly.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


WILD CORN SNAKE PET, WILD TOAD PET, BABY OWL,  RACCOON, BOX TURTLE...the list goes on and on. People like to try and make pets of wild creatures and generally the loser is the wild creature.

Depending on where you live,  you might be breaking the law!  Wild Creatures are not made to be pets and to do so is illegal, illegal, illegal in many places. You must be properly licensed to keep wild animals and that means you are trained to provide proper care and have a valid reason beyond your personal entertainment and desire to have a wild animal pet. 

Are you a kid with a wild thing, like tadpoles turning into frogs in a little aquarium?  I have not written this post to frighten you.  Please have your parents read the post and talk about it. That is fair, don't you think?  Talk about what is the best thing to do now.

This toad came by for a visit on a rainy day, sitting in the gutter drain.

Quoted from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Website:

“My child wants to make a pet of a box turtle (or any wild animal) we found in the woods. How do I care for it?"

"In Tennessee, no one is allowed to keep any animal as a pet taken from the wild, which to many people's surprise includes tadpoles, frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, baby birds, squirrels, raccoons, and young deer. If the animal is injured, call the nearest of TWRA's four Regional Offices for a list of permitted rehabilitators, who will keep the animal until it can be returned to the wild. If it cannot be returned, the rehabilitator will turn the animal over to someone with a special Educator's Permit, who may be able to use the animal in a classroom or teaching setting.”


The Wildlife Regulations should be checked for where you live. However, wisdom says to leave the wild critters alone in their environment.  Take to a rehabilitator if circumstances are critical.

Sure, that little owl fallen from the nest is cute, responsive and you would love to keep it. Please don’t do that! Only properly trained and licensed people should care for wild animals. Wild animals are part of the natural cycles around us and are not intended to be a child’s “nature pet”. In fact, taking an animal from the wild is about the worst thing you can do for the animal.  Will you be able to give it the wild life it is born to live?  Once a baby animal sees you as its "mom", it is imprinted on you. As far as I know,  only animals which are raised by a mother/father like furry animals and birds will imprint.  It will not have the natural associations with others of its own kind and would die if released into the wild without the recognition and skills needed to hunt and eat, to meet and get along or avoid others of its kind and to avoid the greatest predator which is people.

Call your wildlife agency and/or  veterinarians and keep calling or checking the net to find an animal rehab facility. That is where you can find out what to do. With wild snakes, turtles, toads, and other critters which are not injured and are old enough to care for their own needs, simply turn them loose in a proper place not far from where you found them.


The brown water snake was caught in a small stream about 2 miles from my childhood home. It seemed ok to keep it in a small glass enclosure to show to friends and take out once in a while to be in the sun in my hands.  I got bit once in a while but it was not poisionous and the bite was not so bad.  I gave it a bowl of water, some bugs and a tadpole but that in no way took the place of its original stream and all the food for it there.

One day I went outside with the snake to let it sun. Being a kid, I got distracted for a moment then noticed the snake was gone! Oh no!  I searched everywhere and could not find the snake.  Two days later while walking around the neighborhood about a quarter mile from my home, I found my water snake.  It was on the curb and dead. A car had run over it.  Where was the snake? It was in a direct line from where I lost it to its home in the stream.  Going home?  That is what I believe and I learned the lesson to leave the wild critters in their home. I was the kid who had a snake pet and the snake died because I took it from its natural home. Now, when I see a water snake I will watch it or try to get a photo but I leave it alone to live the life intended.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


From the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia, USA:   Graves of Civil War and Families, Deserters and Friends.

Oh, not to dwell on graves too much here...I prefer that direction.  Yet, I wonder what direction this one went and who remembered.  What did they remember?

Yes, someone does remember this next one enough to shroud the stone.

These photos were lost in files, overlooked as are many graves of those gone on.  The camera was an old point and shoot Minolta Dimage F1, a top line 4 mp of its time early in 2004.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Holiday Fireworks and Nature's Rainbows

Yesterday was the 4th of July, a Federal Holiday in the United States of America to remember the formal acceptance of the Declaration of Independence.  This declaration was a statement of independence from Great Britain and offered explanation of the separation declared by congress on July 2, 1776.  Of course, from 1775 to the final treaty of 1783 was the Revolutionary War of the new America with Great Britain. 

America won that one and also the follow-up attempt by the Brits in the war of 1812, a war in which the national capitol of Washington was ravaged, the White House destroyed. Francis Scott Key's poem which gave the words for "The Star Spangled Banner" was written during this later war, not during the revolution.

The 4th of July is known for grilling out, get-togethers and parties, a day of fun and little if any work, overeating certainly ...all followed that evening with fireworks displays large and small.  Firecrackers are heard a few days before and after the holiday, causing dogs to hide.  Certain people appear to put aside a special savings so they can buy the largest and most dramatic fireworks to take the evening out in noise, colorful showers of sparks, whistles and booms.  For others, this is the only time of the year they call the police on their neighbors.

With a few nights like that, the Brits might not have tried again in 1812.  Maybe the city of Washington would not have been devastated and Ben Franklin could have come back from those parties in France.

Here is a closer view of an aerial fireworks shower. Below is the usual stuff, exciting and loud.

Camera Settings for Fireworks These settings are close to those recommended elsewhere and do provide a margin to play with and still get decent photos. Use a tripod and manual exposure, setting up beforehand if possible to avoid obstacles (such as people) between you and the display.  Use a low ISO like 100 and a tighter aperture. I used around f/8.  A photographer friend of mine likes a tighter aperture, closer to f/16. Fireworks are bright enough to do without going for high ISO and wider aperture, certainy so with longer exposures. Use "bulb" and click open the shutter when you want and let it close when yoiu want. In the above photo, the first click was when the shell first left the ground and the shutter was closed just after the shell burst into all the streams.  A later and quicker shutter would be used to capture only the burst (without tail).

A rainbow's end...this is the place to look for a pot of gold.  Did I look for the gold? No. It is too elusive and moves away as I get closer.  Go to the trees where this rainbow ends and it will move from you.  Look closely in the trees and see if you spy the treasure.

A more wonderful reward than the elusive pot of gold is the rainbow itself.  This most unusul full arc rainbow delared its beauty in silence and in peace.  This is a holiday for the spirit, a short break from everyday and visit to silent joy, elation and wonder. 

click the image for a larger view

The rainbow has no national date of celebration. It happens when it does and you have to be there. There is no buying a rainbow at a stand by the side of the road. Do you know the story of the rainbow and why each rainbow is its own tiny holiday?