This is an immature or juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron, one in its first year. In early afternoon, it landed in our yard to look around. It was clearly curious. I was a bit surprised because these birds are more often seen at dusk.

I had been working in the kitchen. By the time I washed my hands and grabbed the camera, our visitor was already retreating back to the pond.

The neck is extensible; it was longer when the bird landed. It’s a deceptively big bird, evident when it spreads its wings in flight.

Several years ago, I had the privilege of photographing a mature Black-crowned Night-Heron at dusk. It’s a favorite photo, which I plan to include in a permanent gallery of bird photos, when time permits.

These two photos were taken at 2:30 pm on July 27, 2011 with a telephoto lens, and then further enlarged digitally on the computer. As always, you can click on the photos to view them in greater, splendid detail.

Update: A neighbor tells me that years ago there were many more Black-crowned Night-Herons on the pond. Alas, we’ve lost a great deal of nesting area to invasive plants such as tiger lilies and purple loosestrife. Something can and should be done about it, but eradication will require a big, sustained effort.

See related posts: Young Night-Heron II, Young Night-Heron III*. Click image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.

 

I caught site of her through the window as she crossed the lawn, heading toward the hill at the end of the house. She was dripping wet, probably just out of the pond. I grabbed my camera and shot out the back door. At the end of the house our paths met, forcing her to retreat under a neighbor’s storage shed. She looked cold and frightened, I thought.

It was almost dark under there; I could just make her out. Of course, flash is a “no-no” with animals: most don’t have the blink reflex of humans, and it could hurt their eyes. I set the camera on “Auto” and fired away. The auto focus, auto exposure and anti-shake mechanisms all did a pretty good job, considering the poor light, but a little sharpening in the computer helped at the end.

This was the first raccoon I’d seen around the house in a long time, although several neighbors have reported them recently. Frankly, I didn’t know for sure whether it was male or female, but something told me to call it “she.”

She looked scared under there, poor thing. That’s the downside of taking wildlife: worry that I may be causing harm.

Comments are welcome.

 

Every year a groundhog family winters over in a burrow under a yew hedge bordering our property. When the pups are old enough to travel, in July, the family picks up and leaves for parts unknown.

Commonly known as “woodchucks” (from the Algonquin name, wuchak), groundhogs hibernate during cold weather in burrows up to 45 feet long and 5 feet down, well below the frost line. Anywhere from 3 to 5 entrances allow for quick entry or escape (one is shown here). Special rooms are dug out for sleeping, rearing young, hibernating and other functions. Groundhogs seldom stray far from the burrow, racing back at the first sign of danger.

These creatures are rodents, and belong to the group of large ground squirrels called “marmots.” They are justly famous for their burrowing, but are also strong tree climbers and swimmers despite their heavy-set appearance. It always amazes me to watch one scramble nimbly up a tree or bush, whether to eat tender leaves, escape a pesky dog, or just to survey its surroundings.

Our “Pup” was caught nibbling the flowers in the top photo, while its mother (not shown) kept a watchful eye nearby, seemingly content with grass. So far, this family has been more interested in eating the neighbors’ flowers, nibbling ours occasionally without doing much damage. Perhaps we have the wrong flowers.

“Pup” was photographed on June 3rd. The handsome fellow at left, whom I guess to be his father, was caught at breakfast a month earlier, on April 30th.

Groundhogs are amazing creatures, despite their irritating habit of eating the garden flowers. There’s a lot more to learn about them. A wonderful source of information is Wikipedia.

Comments are welcome.

 


The water lilies were sparse this year. Herbicide was introduced into the pond, again this spring, to control invasive plants such as water chestnuts, elodea, coontail and pondweed. These non-native fast-growing species had literally taken over in recent years, threatening the diversity of the ecosystem, and posing a renewed risk of eutrophication.

The water lilies themselves had grown a bit out of control, overwhelming our little cove. By delaying their growth, the treatment seems to have limited, but not eliminated these durable favorites. The lily blossoms open in the morning, and close later in the day.

The photo was taken on July 18, 2011, at 9:36 am.

See related post: Water Lily II. Click image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close.

 


A family enjoying a Sunday on the pond, with their their guide, a German Shepherd. The weather couldn’t have been better.

Click image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.

 

From time to time, we’ve had one or two chipmunks on the property, but this year there’s been a population explosion. What caused it, I don’t know. Perhaps a warmer than usual winter, as our arborist has suggested. Whatever it was, it must have boosted the geese population as well.

The chipmunks live in our stone walls. I must admit, they add a lot of smiles around here. I’ve seen them cavort and chase each other as squirrels do, with the same joie de vivre.

Recently, I saw one being chased on the ground by a very angry sparrow. It had something in its mouth; no doubt the little rascal had stolen one of her eggs. When chasing it didn’t work, she took to the air and swooped on it, again to no avail.

When I see a blur out of the corner of my eye, I know it’s a “chippie;” only these cute little rodents have such blinding speed. I wish them well, and hope to see them back with us again next year.

These photos were taken at 8:06 am on June 18, 2011. I had to shoot through two panes of a thermal window and a screen. That accounts for the slight haze you might detect if you look closely. If I had opened a door or window to get a clearer shot, my subject would have disappeared in a blur of motion.

See related post: Chippies Are Back! Click an image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.