This big bird spreading its wings is a common sight on the pond. The Double-crested Cormorant lacks oil glands to waterproof its feathers, or so we’re told. After diving for small fish, it must rely on this time-honored method to dry off. The late morning sun applied a golden patina to the scene.

This is one of only two cormorant species commonly found on fresh water, the other being the Neotropic Cormorant. The former is easily distinguishable from the latter by the larger size of its body, head and bill. The “crests” in its name are two small, whitish head plumes that appear on adults during the breeding season, from March to May.

By its white breast, we know this individual to be a juvenile. It will soon acquire the all-black-and-gray plumage of the adult. Indeed, the mottling on its breast suggests that transformation is already under way.

This photo was taken at great distance and enlarged digitally, resulting unavoidably in a soft image. The date was May 10, 2013, at 11:35 am. Click on the image to view it full screen, and the back arrow to return.
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Related: The Last Heron II*

 

The morning had broken cloudless. A cool fog lingered over the pond, waiting patiently for the rising sun to relieve it of duty. The soft glow to the east foretold a perfect day. The delicacy and expectancy of this early morning scene suggested a painters touch. It was almost surreal.

The brightening sky in the east lit the delicate fingers of fog, giving a subtle, three-dimensional quality to the scene, most apparent when the photo is viewed in dim light.

Astronomical sunrise occurred at 5:45 am this day. As usual, the sun’s appearance was delayed some twenty minutes by the high ridge on the eastern shore. The date was April 27, 2013, at 5:53 am. The view is toward the east-southeast. Click the image to view it full screen, and the back arrow to return. Cursor over for its description. Enjoy!
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Related: Fog at First Light*, Foggy Dawn II*, Foggy Dawn*.

 

⬆︎ Slide Show: Click any image to open slide show. Click on the “X” at the top left, or hit the “ESC” key to return.
Use the keyboard arrows to navigate. Click on the link below the lower right corner of an image to view it full screen.

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Every April the eternal ritual is repeated. The female swan (the pen) goes on the nest, built in a shallow depression on the shore between the marsh and the pond. The male swan (the cob) goes, well, bonkers. He engages in all kinds of neurotic behavior.

Chasing geese is one such. Recently, I saw him chasing a goose in the air — in the air, mind you! It gave new meaning to the term, “wild goose chase.”

Compulsive eating is another. This cob has just spent the past few hours close to our shore with his head in the water, nibbling edibles from the shallow bottom. The telltale green on his neck gives him away.

One day, I saw him rocket through the air from the south to the north end of the pond — and I mean “rocket.” It was fast! What he was up to, I have no idea.

From time to time, the pen comes off the nest to eat, but only briefly.

This pair have been resident on the pond for three or four years, but have yet to produce a family, failing again this year. That’s not unusual. An earlier pair, here when we arrived — and we came to know them quite well — took four or five years to pull it off.

One fine day in April, seeing the cob alone in the pond, I ran out in the yard to see if he would come to me. Sure enough, as soon as he heard my call, he did a u-turn and paddled toward me at flank speed. He was hoping not only for a handout (whole wheat bread is his favorite), but also some company, some sympathy. I know, that sounds like anthropomorphism, but long experience has taught me otherwise. I talked to him for awhile, then took these photos.

The date was April 21, 2013, and the times as posted under each photo. These vivid photos are spectacular when viewed full screen. Click on any image, above, to open the slide show. Then click on the link below the lower right corner of an image to view it full screen (in a separate tab). You may have to scroll down a bit to see the link. Enjoy!
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Related: Fighting Swans*.

 

They were far off when I first spotted them. I dismissed them as more of the Ring-necked Ducks I had seen in March. But a tingle at the back of my neck told me to look again. Yes, they were indeed new; I had never seen that species of duck before. Excited, I began leafing through the bird book to see if I could identify them — but that was a big mistake! They were moving further away.

By the time I swung the camera around, they were mere specks in the viewfinder. The photo shows two drakes and a hen in breeding plumage, fuzzy from unacceptable digital enlargement.

The shape of the head suggests they were Lesser Scaups, not the slightly larger Greater Scaups. These are beautiful ducks, small, finely feathered, with distinctive blue bills. They are diving ducks, distantly related to Ring-necked Ducks, and winter as far away as Central America.

I shot the photo on April 18, 2013 at 2:10 pm, Sadly, I never saw them again. Lesson learned: next time, shoot first and ask questions later. Click the image to view it full screen, and the back arrow to return. Cursor over for its description. Enjoy!
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Related: Ring-necked Ducks.

 

“The music paints a gossamer, transcendental image of a mystical swan swimming around Tuonela, the island of the dead.” Thus Wikipedia describes the beloved tone poem, The Swan of Tuonela, by the famed Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. Here is the full passage from Wikipedia:

The Swan of Tuonela (Tuonelan joutsen) is an 1895 tone poem by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It is the second part of Op. 22 Lemminkäinen (Four legends), tales from the Kalevala epic of Finnish mythology.

The tone poem is scored for a small orchestra of cor anglais [English horn], solo, oboe, bass clarinet, bassoon, four horns, three trombones, timpani, bass drum, harp, and divisi strings [string section]. The cor anglais is the voice of the swan and its solo is perhaps the best known cor anglais solo in the orchestral literature. The music paints a gossamer, transcendental image of a mystical swan swimming around Tuonela, the island of the dead. Lemminkäinen, the hero of the epic, has been tasked with killing the sacred swan; but on the way, he is shot with a poisoned arrow and dies. In the next part of the epic he is restored to life.

The image was captured on May 7, 2013, at 6:02 am. A bright, golden sun had arisen abruptly over the eastern ridge, setting the fog suddenly aglow, as if an electric light had been turned on. Astronomical sunrise had taken place thirty minutes earlier, at 5:32 am.

Enjoy a musical accompaniment. Click on the video, below, to play Jean Sibelius’ Swan of Tuonela. Click on the featured image, above, to view it full-screen. (Click again, and you’ll see a drop of water at the end of the swan’s bill.) The full-screen image will open in a separate tab so it won’t interrupt the music.

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Related: Misty Swans*.

 

At midnight, I happened to glance out and saw a moon so vivid, so palpable that I could almost reach out and touch it. It was suspended, seemingly, just outside my window, in an inky blackness relieved only by a few pinprick stars. When the illusion passed, I grabbed my camera and clicked away.

I shot this waning gibbous moon at 12:01 am on March 31, 2013. A “gibbous” moon is defined as convex at both edges. It occurs for several days between the full and half moons. When it appears before the full moon, it is “waxing;” when it comes after, it is “waning.” For more moon lore, see the superbly illustrated Moon Phases Calendar, and Wikipedia’s detailed Lunar phase page.

This photo is unremarkable as moon images go. My satisfaction comes from having taken it with a small camera, handheld and braced only against the window frame. Post camera, I enlarged it and sharpened it in my photo editor.

Click the image to view it full screen. Click again for more detail. Click the back arrow to return. Cursor over for its description. Enjoy!
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Related: Crescent Moon*.