Eastern Screech Owls -an Album

In early June momma Screech brought two little fluffy Owlets around to show.  They were barely flying – more like bombing around … and they were very needy with their calls for food!    Here is mom below, with one of her fledgling chicks.  I have a long relationship with the screech owls around our neighborhood and every year we get to see them as they perch and hunt in and around our half acre for insects here in Lehigh.  
The tree below is over our Labyrinth and I was sitting under it when she brought them by.  Yes, I try to always have a camera on hand in the Backyard Universe just in case!  
Mom and Owlet

Mom and Owlet

Above and below a fluffly barely fledgling Screech closer up, sitting in the tree above with mom.  Mom had left them up in the tree overhead while she went off to hunt in daylight.  The only issue is, during daylight hours they can be attacked by other birds that find them and this was an open area.  I helped mom out and kept the mocking birds and jays away while the little ones sat up in the tree calling for mom to bring them yummy beetles from nearby backyards.  They were not that far from their nest in a clump of Sabal Palms behind our lot.  (We let our native yard grow tall and wild in the back for cover and hunting areas for the little ones.)  
Fluffly chick

Fluffly chick

In the below images they are much older but still sporting some pin feathers.  The don’t need mom to watch after or protect them from attacking birds.  They know to hide in the shadows during daylight hours until nightfall.

Fledgling1_01

Hiding in among the Bombax tree leaves… a wide eyed fledgling Screech.  300mm Nikon lens

Other Fledgling

I am outside, after dinner looking for the screeches.  Sometimes after a rain I hear them or late at night calling with their soft whinny call…  Eventually they will move out to other areas of the neighborhood to hunt over the Summer.  I hope they are greeted with as much awe, enjoyment and safe haven as they are met with here on the half acre.  Owls like this hunt insects, small bats, mice and snakes.  In yards sprayed with pesticides, they may suffer through their food sources that are impacted by the pesticide applications.  
I have found that when our rodent or snake numbers go up here at the Backyard Universe that we often see an influx of hawks and owls to feed on them.  It’s an intricate, connected age old cycle that will balance itself  out if we allow it to and don’t interrupt it via artificial and deadly means.  If you would like to build Screech Owl Nest Boxes for your yard, go to this link  in my prior article and read down it for the link to the nesting box instructions.
 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

This post is in response to the Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge  of the color GREEN.  I  also want to apologize for a month of non postings.  Scheduling issues, as well as health things got in the way of creativity.  But I should be back on track now to pick up the blogging so I hope you’ll stay with me and explore the richness of your backyard and community.  There really is allot to see out there and the first step to exploring it, is to go outside.  

To see the individual images larger, please click on them.

My choices for Green include a selection of small green insects, birds and amphibians you are likely to encounter either in your Florida backyard, or on a boardwalk at your local Nature Center or Preserve.  All of these green critters are quite small and can easily be missed if you’re hurried.  The Green Tree Frogs are found during the day resting up or hidden in leaves or along board walks.  The Green fly pictured on the big leaf is out in our yards daily, hanging around foliage, feeding off of rotted plant material.  The beautiful Iridescent Sweat Bees are normally found close to your grasses.. they move fairly slow so they are easy to follow around and study although I have seen them hovering high over trails at almost eye level when you step into their territory – last Friday I was able to hang around a good while watching their antics over the CREW Land and Water Trust trails.  

The Florida Green Anole can be a bit harder to find.  They have been replaced in many areas by invasive lizards (like the brown ones on your porches and lanais)  and loss of habitat.  This Anole is from Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, there you can find them along the boardwalks and on Alligator Flag leaves enjoying the sun, and looking for insects.  The beautiful, delicate Juvenile (he does not have his red throat yet) Ruby Throated Hummingbird is attracted to red flowers like Native Firebush, Red Shrimp Plants.  Vines, trees, and shrubs that attract hummers include honeysuckle, morning glory, trumpet creeper, albelia, butterfly bush, flowering quince, rose of sharon, weigela, flowering currant, rosemary, buckeye and horsechestnut, black locust, flowering crabs, hawthorns, mimosa, and tulip poplar.  I’ve also seen them feeding on the orchid like flowers of Bombax trees.  I hope you have enjoyed my selection of  “Green” and that it inspires you look around your local habitat for more of… the little things…         all photography by Linda S. Jacobson.

To see the individual images larger, please click on them.

Click here to visit my Artist Website

Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy

This Gallery and Blog is in response to The  Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge.  I just felt I had to make that clear since I normally write about Backyard Nature topics  🙂   and normally include some imagery in it from my backyard – you know, spiders, mushrooms, butterflies, birds  etc..  those type of things.  Not the Happy Faced Chihuahuas, Rosie Doodles and Luna, running around in my yard while I’m out there   🙂    Word Press has rolled out a new cool Display Mosaic that I had to include with the new Weekly Photo Challenge.  I think it is pretty neat.

But back to the topics at hand!   Luna and  Rosie Doodles….
They BOTH have their own FB page  and following, and are total hams.   And very photogenic I might add.  I got Luna first she is AKC, and the most docile laid back easy going Chihuahua you will ever see.  She loves to go to Home Depot and ride in the cart  and she contrasts totally with Rosie Doodles, who is also 100% Chihuahua (big attitude)  Rosie being a feisty, bossey  little thing.  I got Rosie through my Vets office, she was surrendered to them by a gal who said Rosie “was not affectionate.”   Well I can tell you, Rosie has a HUGE attitude, typical of Chihuahuas, and she is VERY affectionate.  Rosie is originally from Oklahoma where she was used in a breeding operation.  She’s had three moms, and I’m the only one she has stuck to.

They are our fur kids and they go everywhere with us including Glamping in the Florida State Parks.  When I’m out in the yard photographing some new butterfly or a new cool insect, they are out there with me in the half acre running around with those happy smiley faces on.  If you’d like to keep up with them, join their Face Book page.

When nature Photobombs..

I enjoy going out in the mornings photographing flowers around the half acre.   Both the native and non-native flowers.  This big, bright hibiscus bloomed a couple of days ago which made it an immediate target for an iPhone image, taken with the CameraAwesome app.  I took quite a few images to get one image that hopefully was decent enough to possibly offer a print of (not .)   However, when I got inside and examined the images, I found that I had been PhotoBombed!  At the time I had not noticed they were there… hiding out in the leaves…  but now, they stand out.  And they are in every image that I took.   Do you see them?   Look closely.

I have seen a lot of Photo Bombed images with horses, cats, dogs etc.. bombing someones image.  
But I had never ran across these guys.  Do you see them  yet?

Look closer..

 

Now you see them, and after a while their bright red color will stand out!  A pair of amorous Red Bugs, of which there are four species here in Florida and I think I have, at one time or another, ALL of them in my yard!  These particular ones are called Cotton Stainers.  Dysdercus suturellus.   In 1910  the cotton stainer was a most destructive pest to Cotton in Florida.  

Cotton Stainers lost their dominance on cotton in the mid-twentieth century primarily because of the elimination of it as a viable crop, and the development of pesticides.  Cotton stainers are obviously still around doing damage to some fruits and ornamental plants like my Hibiscus.  Stainers suck juices out of plants, sometimes killing them.  They also PhotoBomb.   No I didn’t kill these guys, I just picked them off my plant and gave them a good lecture!

 

New overnight surprise in the labyrinth.

Fall is coming!   another sure sign is this little Stinkhorn (Order Phallales)  that popped up in the Labyrinth overnight.  Stinkhorns are found October through March from North Carolina to Florida, to along the Gulf Coast as well as in Mexico.  I love mushrooms, in all of their variety, both canned or grocery store fresh on my pizza as well as along the trails that I wander.  

Stinkhorns are comprised of several columns that are fused at the top.  Supposedly they stink and are “fetid”  although I didn’t get down-that-close to see if it had an odor to it  (getting up would have been another matter. )  

However I did notice that it had ants under its cap and if you click on this image, you can see the fungus up close, along with the ants.  These strange little guys rise out of the ground from a body or “egg” that is hidden underground.   Long cords help to form the arms that reach skyward with the interior of the arms covered with a slime.  It’s this slime and the smell, which attracts flies, that helps to disperse the spores.  

I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on this one today to see how it’s getting along.    Just another reason to always be looking for the little things underfoot.  What’s happening in your yard today?     This is an iPhone4S image taken with ProHDR

What the Fairies left behind…

 

 

Like little cabochons of exquisite crystal, dew decorates a little leaf looking all the world like a fairies brooch, ready to wear.  I like to think the fairies will be back to collect this jewel, left behind in the Labyrinth for all to enjoy. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far

     a fledgling Owl sits in a pine bough, under a Waxing moon.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Free Spirit

 

 

This is my image submission for  the Word Press Photo Challenge of:  Free Spirit.

I love being out in nature, and I mean IN nature.. especially in the wetlands of our SW Florida swamps.  The peacefulness and variety of wildlife and plant life is amazing.   Numerous things abound to pique the senses at every sloggy turn.  Of course you’re soaking wet, maybe even up to your waist – careful, watch out for that fallen log you have to find a way to go over or under or that hole! – but that’s what your stick is for, probing ahead of your strides…  but…. the water is clear, cool and clean… I call it “refreshing” on a hot Spring day in South West Florida.  No, the water in the Swamp is not stagnant, it’s flowing along and you’re following it around the next turn and in my case, hoping I don’t fall down        (I tend to have problems with gravity.)  I feel best when I am out of doors, hiking a trail or wading in water with my camera and walking stick.

 

 

 

 

Dragons of the Air and Water

 

 

On the grand scale, Tropical Storm Isaac just missed us but on the smaller scales of things.. insect scales?  it was rough for the insects.  Butterflies are easily affected by high winds and rain.  To survive, they find areas in your yard or woods that are sheltered from winds and driving rains.  Around the house an insect may find a quiet corner to stay in, maybe go up under the eves or anywhere that takes them out of direct wind and rain.

This White Peacock Butterfly is lying down, almost flat in the green dog fennel bushes along the canal at Harns Marsh, here in Lehigh.  How’s that for avoiding bad weather?  Make like a leaf.  At first, I thought I was looking at a leaf!  Insects are affected by subtle changes in heat and even barometric pressure, everything from the smallest ant, to the largest butterfly is affected by heat, light and moisture among other things.

This Peacock Butterfly is weathering high winds by hiding out and laying low in a dog fennel bush.

 

Watching Summer dragonflies buzzing over our backyards, ditches and empty lots, we see a species dependent on the ability to respond to temperature changes in its environment through Thermoregulation.  Thermoregulation is regulating ones internal body temperature even when the surrounding temperature is different.  These animals are also referred to as being ectothermic or just ectotherms – a more common description would be “Cold-Blooded.”  Reptiles, fish and yes, even insects have to regulate their temperatures in order to function and they have learned to do it quite well, not being at the total mercy of their environments.  We see alligators moving in and out of heat and cold to “get just right” or “regulated” internally.

Alligators and lizards have the ability to regulate their internal temperatures by moving around in their environment to cool off in the shadows, or to get warm on a log or bank.   One way for dragonflies to keep from overheating on a hot sunny day is to become less active.  I’m sure you’ve seen a dragonfly perched with its wings pointing forward and down – this is a dragonfly that is regulating its body temperature  by positioning its wings so that they are absorbing less of the suns rays and that dragonflies internal temperature?  around 110 degrees F.

an Ornate Pennant Dragonfly perches on a Blue Butterfly bush in my yard. He’s hunting for other insects to catch on the wing – He’s also conserving energy.

 

Watching dragonflies, we see another highly efficient hunter capable of catching their prey – mosquitos, butterflies, moths etc.. on the wing.  They like to land or “perch” on a stalk to devour their prey.  If they have devoured a moth or a butterfly, all you may see left over on the ground are the wings.  Have you watched a dragonfly eat?  They don’t waste any time and the prey is quickly reduced to wings.  Summer brings us two Dragons to watch, one of the air, and one of the water.

Alligators and Crocs have been around for 200 million years and Dragonflies around 300 million years.  Both of them share similar adaptations that have allowed them to survive in their environments despite being Cold-Blooded.  That’s pretty cool!

 

Tropical Storm Isaac – Needed Rain.

 

As I write, Tropical Storm Isaac is moving along off our South West Florida Coast.  While thankfully not producing the damaging amounts of high wind and tornadoes expected from the initial computer models (we were looking at a Cat 1 predicted above) for my location, Lehigh Acres, which is a part of Fort Myers.  

Tropical Storm Isaac has provided some much-needed rain for our natural areas.  The rains come in occasional squalls and will probably continue to do so throughout the rest of our evening and into part of Monday.  I’ll go hiking this upcoming week and re visit the marsh  to see what wildflowers are blooming thanks to Tropical Storm Isaac.  

Composite image of ” Doves on a Wire” taken today, in my backyard.  Combined with a TV map of the Tropical Storm.
iPhone4S image, processing done in AwesomeCamera and with Pictwo app.