Sunday, January 23, 2011

Black-Crowned Night Heron

The mysterious Black-Crowned Night Heron is an unusual looking creature that is rare to come across.

I know it doesn't-- but it occurs to me:  Does this bird have a little penguin in it???

A Black-Crowned Night Heron party in a tree at Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery.
To me the adults have two distinctive characteristics:  those blazing red eyes and the long black strip along its head and back, hence the black-crowned moniker. Below: In flight- the Black-Crowned Night Heron

The Black-Crowned Night Heron is considered medium-sized (23-28 inches long), stocky, short necked.

Notice the white plumes on the above left heron.  The male and female aduts are considered identical as far as appearance from a distance.

This bird does its feeding at night, thus the "night" part of its name.  During the day, they can be seen and seem active only when flying away from me and my camera!

Another interesting thing about the Black-Crowned Night Heron is how the young ones or juveniles look so much differently than their parents.  They do share the red eyes (above). They go through some major transformation to eventually take on the black and white look of the adult. 

The juvenile (below) resembles the American Bittern.  But the different eye color helps differentiate the two. 

I've followed this family of Black-Crowned Night Herons for a few months now at Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery.  They have been enjoyable to observe and challenging to photograph.  They do readily mix with other species such as the White Ibis below, and with a Brown Pelican in the photo after that.

Photo (below) an adult Night Heron shares a pond tree with several Ibis, including some jueveniles of that breed
Black-Crowned Night Herons- for more about this cool customer, see

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Northern Neck, Virginia Birds and Sights

My family and I had a fun, busy and (for me) interesting visit with family in Virginia during the holidays. We spent time in the state's Northern Neck region and the Richmond area.
It was worth getting up early and going outside in freezing weather one morning to photograph the beautiful sunrise my parents enjoy from their home on the Chesapeake Bay.

It was very cold outside but seeing this warmed me from head to toe.
Lots of the white stuff on the ground in Virginia from the Christmas snowfall.

What a glorious site!
Later in the day: the sun's brilliance amid a clear sky.

My birding highlight had to be the fierce-looking Cedar Waxwing spotted in my parents' neighborhood.

I read that the Cedar Waxwing is a highly social bird that when lined up in a row on a branch is known to pass berries to each other from one end to the other.  Note the yellow on the tail feathers (two above pix) and the different colored tail feathers below.

I also spotted some Waxwing's with orange/red tail feathers.  From what I read on this website, the colors are influenced by the types of berries eaten by Waxwings. 
The Cedar Waxwing is known for getting "drunk" from its prolific berry eating.  Years ago, I recall this bird flying into my downtown Charleston office window and a colleague explaining this unsual habit.
The Eastern Bluebird was another bird spotted during walks around my folks' neighborhood.

It was a treat seeing these Bluebirds.  Just don't find them around my South Carolina neighborhood as much these days.
The Bluebirds don't seem to mind the snow.
Really enjoyed seeing some Eastern Bluebirds!

Photographed this Northern Cardinal from inside my car.  It really stood out from a distance.  I was happy to get a Cardinal near my folks' house after they gave us really neat Cardinal salt and pepper shakers for Christmas.  Thanks Mom and Dad! 

A Canada Goose pair on the move.

We kept seeing this Red-shouldered Hawk on power lines along a Northern Neck highway. 
If you're wondering, as I did, how birds can perch on power lines and not get fried-- well, there are conductivity issues.  If you want to investigate further, see this site.
On to Richmond...
After visiting her mother at Richmond's historic Hollywood Cemetery Alesia and I walked around the vast grounds and spotted American Robins all over the place.
Between the berries in the trees and the worms in the ground, the Robins found lots to eat here.

I found the white circles around the Robins' eyes particularly interesting.
This Robin didn't care for being photographed! Giving me the "evil eye"!

Along with the family visits and bird sightings, I also enjoyed the Civil War experiences of this holiday trip.  At Hollywood Cemetery, I'm next to the gravesite of legendary Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart. 
Cold Harbor was a bloody 1864 Grant-Lee battle near Richmond.  There's a Harwood from New York who died from wounds suffered in this battle.  He and hundreds of other Union soldiers are buried at the Cold Harbor Natioinal Cemetery.

Finally, Alesia and I visited another of the many preserved Civil War sites in the Richmond area.  This one is Drewry's Bluff (called Fort Darling by the Yankees).  This was a Confederate defensive position on the James River south of Richmond near Chester.  In 1862 the troops and cannons here turned back a Northern naval assault on the Southern capital.  You can see the strength of this postion in the shot below.

This fellow fishing on the James River had the right idea about how to spend a pleasant and peaceful New Year's Eve!

My first blog posting of the new year-- the longest to date.  Much more to come in 2011.