Creatures that lurk in the bayou

Four critters. Two of them are not birds. Maybe if you've tired of my incessant bird-mongering, you'll stop by. Please?

First off, a turtle. Everyone likes turtles right? [Insert link for YouTube turtle kid video that three of you still have not seen somehow.]

Here it is, a mediocre photograph of a Pond Slider in a Louisiana bayou.


Every floating log and breaching boulder was overstocked with these fellows. It was difficult to photograph them however because of the speed of the boat and the shyness of the turtles upon our approach.

Pond sliders are quite common. You might know them better as Red-eared Sliders (a subspecies), which is common in pet stores. It delighted me to find out that these sliders are no good for turtle soup. Not that I'd be opposed to trying turtle soup. I just wouldn't want to shatter my vision of the hordes of sun-happy ancients. Like twenty-somethings on the first day of a music festival.

Secondly, a snake. I nearly jumped out of the boat with joy after finding several snakes along the way. I figured there might've been gators in the water though. So I refrained.

Not your everyday water snake.


Rather than discussing cutesy things like what they eat and when they sleep, let's talk about what happens when you try to pick one up. It's pretty motley. They bite. Vigorously. And they emit jets of malevolent musk mixed with feces. They do not prefer that you handle them. Slightly different from the little water snakes I used to gather in my hands and pockets as a child on the north fork of the Gunnison River. Though I'm certain those snakes did not prefer me either.

If you're a regular reader, you might know that I find the antics of Great Blue Herons (and by antics I mean that you turn 100 years old watching them take one step) pretty entertaining. The GBH found in the bayou was no exception. He just seemed more creepy because he was wading in the still dark waters of a swamp. Amidst giant mangrove trees that masked him for whole minutes at a time.

Da-dum (Jaws theme music).






And lastly, my very first Prothonotary Warbler. The natives refer to them as swamp canaries. A bayou is a colorful little ecozone and these warblers somehow make it more lucid.


I hope you enjoyed your quick escape into the bayou. Don't forget that you can click on the photos to enlarge them AND you can leave me comments at the bottom which I will readily read and respond to.

Great Blue Heron takes catch of the day

This is Henry. 20160501-img_0197

Henry waited all day for the fisherman behind him to catch a fish so that he could steal it.


He whiled away the hours looking into the sea and contemplating life.


He watched tourists visit the nearby restaurant and gorge themselves on fish tacos.


He pretended that he was the only Great Blue Heron waiting for the fisherman to catch a fish.

Meanwhile, down the pavement a few steps from Henry, another Great Blue Heron lurked. Gerald. He was much closer to the fisherman.

With one final cast by the fisherman's sore, sunburned arm, a fish leapt from the water and took the hook. Henry's eyes widened, his breath quickened.

He started toward the fisherman with the haste of a glacier, not ever putting urgency before grace.

Gerald's stoic countenance emerged from the shadows. He was three feet away from the fisherman.

The fisherman examined the fish in his hand, decided it wasn't worth his trouble and looked over his shoulder at Gerald.

Henry continued toward the man, knowing his time was running short. He moved with intensity. He moved with the fervor of a snail.

The fisherman tossed the fish in the air and who was there to catch it?


It was Gerald. The victor.

Henry continued to move toward Gerald making very poor time. Perhaps one footstep every 30 seconds as is customary for herons.

Gerald flourished in his triumph, holding the fish in his bill this way and that. He pretended not to see Henry.

20160501-img_0212 20160501-img_0219 20160501-img_0220

Henry literally never even sped up enough to challenge Gerald for the fish. It was actually kind of frustrating to watch.

Let's be honest though, Gerald's markings in the above photo are beautiful. It's no wonder the handsome young gent made off with the fish. Heh.

Herons, every flavor

I've never seen so many different types of herons in one place. Marsh Trail, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. Let's start with the most recognizable one, the Great Blue Heron.



There might be a tiny photobomb in the photo above. If you think their coexistence is always peaceful, you've got another thing coming.

Let's focus on size so that you can get the full effect of the variety of herons living in the same habitat. The Great Blue Heron can reach heights of up to 4.5 feet. I'm not even a foot taller than that. Whoa. At its largest, the GBH can weigh up to about 8 pounds. That's a solid bird. Birds don't weigh very much. Its wingspan can reach up to 6.25 feet! Here, this will make it easier to compare them (please note that I'm using the maximum values observed for each field):

Great Blue Heron Height: 4.5 feet (137 cm) Weight: 8 pounds (3.6 kg) Wingspan: 6.25 feet (190 cm)

Next up we have the Tricolored Heron.






Just a quick reminder that I saw these birds within minutes of each other, even seconds. It is immensely satisfying for a birder to experience the occasional easy-birding-paradise!

Tricolored Heron Height: 2.5 feet (76 cm) Weight: 1.25 pounds (550 g) Wingspan: 3 feet (90 cm)

Next we have the Green-backed Heron (or Green Heron, as we call it in the United States).



Green Heron Height: 1.5 feet (48 cm) Weight: 0.5 pounds (260 g) Wingspan: 2 feet (60 cm)

Though there are three herons pictured above, 12 different types of herons inhabit the area. That includes egrets and bitterns because they're in the same family. The vast variety of shapes, sizes and colors are customary for non-passerine bird families. I think we can all agree that herons are underrated and should be getting at least as much attention as flamingos.

Join me Sunday for the kickoff to Iceberg Week here on InkFromTheQuill!

My Not-So-Secret Spot - Fruitgrower's Reservoir

You know what they say, "One gal's irrigation source is another gal's birding paradise." Right? Anyway. Fruitgrower's Reservoir, or Hart's Basin, is probably my favorite place to bird on the western slope of Colorado. If you're my mom or some other long-time subscriber, you know that I have posted about Hart's Basin before: Hart's Basin (Part One) and Hart's Basin (Part Dos). As I mentioned, Fruitgrower's Reservoir is a hot spot for the Sandhill Crane migration. In fact so many cranes stop into this area that the nearby town of Eckert has a yearly celebration called Eckert Crane Days.  What else is Eckert known for? Orchards. Many many fruit orchards.



And this is the reservoir. It is a long skinny body of water with many surrounding wetlands and pasture.




As for the birding part of the trip, it was one of the best times I've had. I took my Granny, another lover of birds and photography, and we made our way around the reservoir looking for cranes. We were slightly early, so we only saw the first arrivals but we did see a few.







Sandhill Cranes, standing tall, can reach a height of about 4 feet (or 120 cm). At this height they only weigh about 8 pounds. These cranes, at their cleanest, are light grey all over their bodies. The brown tinge you see--which deepens as spring turns into summer--is a mud stain.

The photo below will throw you for a loop. Check out my bird chimera! The head of a Great Blue Heron and the body of a Sandhill Crane. What are the odds?!


Actually, this Great Blue Heron was kind of stealing the show for a while with his majestic poses. Or maybe it's just that I really love herons.




The most common water bird at the reservoir on this day was, without a doubt, the Canada Goose.



In many of these photos you can see heat waves in the background. It was actually quite warm and sunny. I appreciated this very much coming from wintry Newfoundland.

To finish off the water birds, we must take a look at these American Coots. Again, looks like a duck but is not a duck. This guy has enormous lobed feet rather than the classic duck feet that you're picturing in your head. Also, a very short tail.



Much like the Western Meadowlark (don't worry, we'll get to him), the American Kestrel is a bird that I associate with home. I see them every time I visit and I think they are perhaps, the most underrated falcon of all time. Look at this beautiful male.




And if ever there comes a trip when I return home to Colorado and fail to see a Western Meadowlark, I shall be quite disappointed.



A quick note before I post: WordPress experienced some sort of glitch and has removed photos from many of my old posts, ugh. I hope to have everything fixed soon (hopefully in the next week). Thanks!


The Management ;)