Scissortail Ballet

October 17, 2017 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - Oklahoma, Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography, Wichita Mountains NWR, Wildlife)

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

One look at the impossibly long tail of the scissor-tailed flycatcher might make you wonder if handicaps this bird by its excess. But once you see the owners in flight, you realize the tails have a purpose.

They act as rudders of sorts, allowing the birds to dart after flying insects with finesse.

The males sport the longer tails, and if they had the capability, they’d probably take great pride in their amazing accouterments.

This is the Oklahoma state bird, and in summer they find plenty of places in the small trees dotting fields and prairies to make their nests.

It seems as if the scissortails revel in their acrobatic ability.

Notice the female’s shorter tail.

These birds were at Fort Sill, which is part of the Wichita Mountains.

In fall they gather by the dozens – or even hundreds – as they discuss their migration flight plans.

I haven’t seen a gathering that large, but just seeing one in an aerial ballet is enough majesty for me.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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A Touch of Nature in Maryland

October 5, 2017 at 3:26 pm (Butterflies, Dragonflies and Bugs, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography) ()

I’m visiting Maryland at the moment, and had a chance to visit the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center  during some down time. Several sweet whitetail does posed pretty for me. This gal has a floppy ear for some reason.

I visited the North Tract, hoping to see birds, but didn’t see many at all.

The deer and the butterfly garden made up for it though.

It was at the end of milkweed season, but a few caterpillars were still munching.

Monarch caterpillar

There was only one chrysalis that I found, and it was hours away from hatching a butterfly.

Aphids clustered along some of the milkweed stalks.

Bumblebees and various flies that mimicked bees feasted on the New England asters and other flowers.

Several very small flies rarely seemed to land.

The milkweed pods were releasing their seeds on silky fluff to be carried by the wind.

The seeds ready for their silk to unfurl.

Red/orange and black Milkweed Bugs also find a home on the milkweed plants.

Large Milkweed Bug adult

Even the nymphs are the color of “danger – I’m poisonous!”

A nursery of Large Milkweed Bugs

It’s amazing what you can find in a small patch of flowers!

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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Total Eclipse of the Sun

September 3, 2017 at 4:02 pm (Nature, Nature photography, Night Sky, Photography, Time-lapse, Video) (, , , , )

Solar eclipse as viewed from the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary along the banks of the Platte River, Gibbon, Nebraska, August 21. I used a Nikon D750 with an 80-400mm lens for the stills and the video of the eclipse’s ending, and a Nikon D600 and Canon SX60 for landscape videos. A solar filter was used on the lens prior to totality.

Since I live a day’s drive from the path of totality of the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, I decided to make the trip to near Kearney, Nebraska to see what may be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

I chose the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary in nearby Gibbon because I had visited it in March to view another amazing natural event – the migration of hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes. I was surprised that so many people were gathering in predetermined places as if to watch a sporting event. Park for $10, enjoy the food concessions, buy souvenirs, etc.

UGH!

Since there were thousands of square miles available for viewing the totality, I couldn’t understand this mindset. Fortunately, only a handful of people had the same idea I had, including my brother and his family. I wanted to experience the total eclipse in its natural state, without a bunch of hoo-hah folks around ruining the soundscape. And this was already a special place for me.

I set up two video cameras in a blind, and stood just outside with a clear view of the sun. Using the prescribed solar filter, I recorded the progress of the moon as it “took a bite” out of the sun. When totality occurred, the filter came off, and I recorded the first half in stills, and the second half in video.

Here’s the video from all three cameras:

Three things struck me about this eclipse.

First, I thought it would be dark as night. Instead it was as if the last light of dusk was at the horizon, with a dark blue sky above.

Second, it reminded me of the annular eclipse I had witnessed in Maine in 1995, the way the light looked as if a window tint had been placed over the sun. You could tell it was sunny and the shadows were distinct, but there was a strange dimness. The sun dappling the leaf shadows on the ground took on the shape of the sun’s crescent, becoming thinner as totality approached. (During the annular eclipse, the leaf shadows were donut shaped!)

Third, looking with the naked eye at the ebony disc of the moon surrounded by its sun halo was one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve had in nature. I can understand why this would have spooked primitive peoples.

One thing I didn’t take into account was the traffic jam on I-80 following the eclipse. I had made airline reservations six weeks earlier to fly from Omaha to Seattle to visit family. Speed for 150 miles averaged 35mph, meaning I was about 30 minutes too late for my flight. They were all booked for the next day, and I had to pay an extra $250 and two nights in a Motel 6. Grrrrrr…

But, the Seattle visit was a great one, and the experience of the eclipse was A. MAZE. ING. Especially because my brother, his wife and my niece were able to experience it, too.

Next one: April 8, 2014. Mark your calendars!

https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/april-8-2024/

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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Nighthawks and Pauraques

May 29, 2017 at 8:12 am (Bird photography, Birds - Oklahoma, Birds - Texas, Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography, Southwest Birds, Wildlife) (, )

Common nighthawk

Nighthawks are among the birds of my childhood. Their “buick buick” calls at dusk, the quick wingbeats followed by a glide, remind me of warm Southern nights. I remember being outside when it was nearly dark, and a nighthawk flew past my head.

I took off after it in my bare feet. (My feet were perpetually black in summer from running on pavement).

It landed in the fields behind our house, and to my surprise I was able to pick it up. I carried it around awhile, proud of my trophy. I figured it was a juvenile that didn’t know how to fly very well yet.

Of course, I released it after a few minutes.

I’ve seen male nighthawks courting their ladies. The females were on a post or the ground and the male would make a steep dive, pulling up with a roar of wind through his wingtips. It was an amazing sound.

Here’s a female I saw last month in Osage County, Oklahoma just as the sun had set. The male was flying nearby and you can hear the “roar” as he dives near her off-camera.

The common nighthawk is found all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The lesser nighthawk is found in very southern parts of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of a lesser nighthawk.

 

I’ve only seen lesser nighthawks at Big Bend National Park in Texas. They tended to run right into my car headlights after insects, and it broke my heart when I hit one.

Notice how big the eyes are. Nighthawks need to see in the dark. The mouths are huge, too, to scoop flying bugs into their maw.

I saw about two dozen common nighthawks on a trip through farmland between Lawton and Frederick, Oklahoma recently. I’ve never seen so many before, many sitting on fence posts or “bob wahr.” One was even high on a phone line.

I also saw relatives of theirs, the common pauraque, in far South Texas several years ago.  We were told exactly where they were resting amid leaves on the ground at Estero Llano Grande State Park. But it still took a minute to see them even though they were literally out in the open. That’s how good the camouflage was.

Common Pauraque

See what I mean?

Common pauraque

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website: Eastern common nighthawks are browner than those from the northern Great Plains, which are silvery gray overall.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

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Greater Prairie Chickens

April 27, 2017 at 5:50 am (Bird photography, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , )

Greater prairie chickens battling for dominance

It’s been a month since I saw the greater prairie chickens doing their spectacular mating calls and dance, but I’ve finally gone through all the photos and here are some of the best ones.

There were about two dozen males on the lek on the Switzer Ranch in Burwell, Nebraska late last month. They spent a lot of time “booming” and challenging each other.

No prairie chickens were harmed in the making of this blog.

The facial feathers, the orange eyebrows, and the bladder sacs that create the woo-woo-woo “booming” are dramatic enough, but the little dance and flared wing and tail feathers that go along with it make this display absolutely charming.

Three hens finally showed up, having visited another lek. Apparently they didn’t find the make and model they were looking for, and left the boys strutting their stuff among themselves.

Male displaying for female

Two males sizing up each other.

Why can’t we all just get along?

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

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Hackberry Flat in Spring

April 25, 2017 at 1:36 pm (Bird photography, Birds - Oklahoma, Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Wildlife) (, )

American Badger

I figured I’d start with the badger since it’s the most unusual animal of the day. It’s technically not in the boundaries of Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in Southwest Oklahoma, but pretty close. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Booming Grounds

April 7, 2017 at 7:40 am (Bird photography, Nature, Nature photography, Video)

The dance and song of the greater prairie chicken in Nebraska is worth the long trip to see this!

The machine-gun fire of still camera shutters obscures the woowoowoo “booming” but if you turn up the volume you can hear its constant drone in the background. There were two dozen males on this lek in Nebraska sounding off and putting on a display for the three hens that finally flew in.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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Crane Poetry in Motion

March 29, 2017 at 8:42 am (Bird photography, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , , )

Viewing the Greater Sandhill Cranes at the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary in Kearney, Nebraska this weekend. While editing the video I realized some of the frames of cranes in flight had a poetic feel to them. Here are some of them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Birds at my feeder

March 14, 2017 at 8:50 am (Bird photography, Birds - Oklahoma, Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma)

Male house finch

My best photographs of birds at my backyard feeder come on overcast days, because there are too many window reflections on a sunny day. Read the rest of this entry »

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Owls ‘n Hawks

March 6, 2017 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - Oklahoma, Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography) (, , )

Short-eared owl

Short-eared owl

I understand the short-eared owls at Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area in Southwest Oklahoma will be leaving soon for their breeding grounds up north. This was my second time seeing them last Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »

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