Photo sequences: vulture vs. rake; flamingo fight

At the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago recently, I got the chance to see some particularly charismatic birds, including a colony of squabbling flamingos, and Sophia the young Cinereous Vulture. Abandoned as an egg, Sophia was raised by humans—with a vulture puppet—until she was old enough to rejoin her parents.

Sophia the Cinereous Vulture, at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

Sophia the Cinereous Vulture, at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

The morning I saw her was overcast and cold, but she was in high spirits: a man was raking her enclosure, and while her parents mostly ignored him, Sophia was fascinated. She chased the rake; he shooed her away; she stalked it. “I helped to raise her,” the man said; then, rolling his eyes, “It’s impossible to get anything done with her around.” Eventually he dropped the rake, and Sophia got to investigate.

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Banding a nest

It’s rare that I have photos of the process of banding a nest, since usually everyone is holding a chick and we don’t have any extra hands for photographic documentation. For a few nests, however, I was lucky enough to have my father with us, and boy does he like to photograph things! Thanks to him I can show you what it looks like when we band a nest.

EDIT: If you click on these (or any photos on this blog) you can see them bigger.

The nest. If you click to expand it and look closely you can see the female sitting on it.

The nest, tucked next to the clump of plants in the center. If you look closely you can see Mom sitting on it.

Me taking the chicks from the nest, with Kyle ready to catch any runners.

Me taking the chicks from the nest, with Kyle ready to catch any runners.
Photo by M. LaBarbera

Often when you approach the nest, the female will flare her tail and run around on the ground to try to draw your attention away from the nest. This is a tail-on view of Mom doing that. Photo by M. LaBarbera

Often when you approach the nest, the female will flare her tail and spread her wings and run around on the ground to try to draw your attention away from the nest. This is a tail-on view of Mom doing that.
Photo by M. LaBarbera

Mom, angrily chipping at us. Photo by M. LaBarbera

Mom, angrily chipping at us.
Photo by M. LaBarbera

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Precedented bycatch

After I made such a fuss about catching a sapsucker and a hummingbird early in the season, of course, we caught another sapsucker and another hummingbird. These guys are no longer quite so unprecedented—although they were novel species for me—but they are still awesome.

Male Williamson’s Sapsucker

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The fleeting beauty of the fall molt

As fledglings undergo their fall molt (the Prebasic I molt), their appearance changes from obvious-youngster to apparent-adult. In the middle of that transition, they look a little… wild. It’s a strange and fleeting look, here-today-and-gone-in-two-weeks. We’ve caught enough molting fledglings that I’ve been able to put together a series of photos showing the transition.

Fledgling juncos start out a streaky light brown, with dark bills and yellow gapes.

Young fledgling GRAS

Young fledgling GRAS

As they get older, the yellow gape shrinks.

Older fledgling KALI. Note the remnant of yellow gape at the edge of the bill.

Older fledgling KALI. Note the remnant of yellow gape at the edge of the bill.

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More baby pictures

Recently I found this nest, belonging to female MABY (named in honor of Arrested Development, if you’re wondering) and male ARKM.

2013_morebabiesI couldn’t see clearly how many chicks there were, so I nudged them with my finger to try to get a better look—and they all thought one of their parents was waking them up with food.

2013_morebabies2

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Awkward duck candids

The other day, I thought I’d try out a new camera lens by taking some photos of ducks. It turned out that the ducks were all having the duck version of a bad hair day. If the ducks were on facebook, they would immediately demand that I untag them from these pictures.

Female Mallard: lovely coy pose, but blinked.

Female Mallard: lovely coy pose, but you blinked.

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The slow, slimy style of snails

It doesn’t rain very often here, but when it does, the snails come out in force. I’ve always liked snails and their ilk; as a kid I kept slugs as pets. Unfortunately I think the snails here are brown garden snails, an invasive species.

snails1Sinister invaders or not, like any snails they’re surprisingly engaging to watch. Bumpy skin, patterned shells, eyes on stalks, and total flexibility give a lot of opportunities for expression.

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