Saturday, July 24, 2010

Baby birds, hummingbirds and a "bald Cardinal"

I heard some faint chirping coming from the Cardinal's nest in the boxwood by the carport on Friday. I got the stepstool that I use for photographing moths and peered into the nest. There were 2 tiny, nearly featherless chicks huddled on the bottom. I had to hold the camera above the nest and shoot blindly to get this shot. They have very attentive parents, I enjoyed watching them bring food to the nest. I sure hope those are Japanese Beetles in her mouth! This photo of the mother feeding the chicks was shot over the top of the car about 10 feet from the nest and in the shade with my slow telephoto lens, so it isn't as sharp as I'd like. If you notice, the nest is very clean, there are no droppings from the chicks in the bottom. I saw the mother remove the droppings, which are contained in a casing. I don't know if she ate them (yuck!) or if she dropped them on the ground beneath the nest.

Lately, I've been seeing a scraggly-looking male Cardinal hanging around the front yard. He seemed to have a lot of the gray feathers showing. I just assumed he was molting and didn't think much more about it. I was stunned when I saw him again today, but much closer... he was BALD! The poor guy didn't have any feathers on his head or neck! His chest feathers were pretty bedraggled too. I don't know if he has an infestation of parasites (mites, lice, avian "mange"?), I just hope whatever it is isn't contagious because he is the father of the little chicks! It doesn't seem to keep him from doing his paternal duties though, he has been bringing mouthfuls of insects to the babies.

I guess love is blind because the female doesn't seem to notice! :) I just hope this is a temporary condition, I doubt he would survive the winter like this. It has been very hot, maybe he is just trying to keep cool! One interesting thing about this photo though, is that it is possible to see his ear. Notice the hole just below the eye?

***Update: I learned that he does have mites! I just hope he doesn't pass them on to his babies, but I don't see how he can avoid it.

I also enjoyed watching the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds as they visited the feeder; there was one male and one female. The Cardinals may have a good "marital" relationship, but not the hummers, they squabble and fight all the time! It seems like they spend more time chasing each other away from the feeder than they do actually eating! I shot this guy as he was coming in to the feeder. The shot is cropped very tightly.

Later, I was happy to see a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth land on a plant on the patio. I think they should be called "Bumblebee Moths", because they look more like them than a hummingbird. I guess it is because they hover in front of the flowers.

Speaking of moths, I was thrilled to see a Rosy Maple Moth on the porch last week. They are so pretty with their pink and yellow scales. Unfortunately, they can be absolutely insane flying around the black light, the porch light, fluttering all over the sheet and the carport! It is impossible to photograph something that is bouncing around like a Superball in a small room! I finally caught it in a net and gently put it on an Impatiens flower. It gave me enough time to get one shot, then it took off and started going crazy again! I have documented nearly 140 different moths since June 1, it has been amazing!

This morning I noticed my Surprise Lilies were blooming in the garden. They live up to their name because they always do catch me by surprise and bloom when I least expect it! They are so pretty with their pale pink flowers.

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