Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Owl Eyes - New Year's Surprise

A mile a minute's pretty fast, but Owl's eyes are faster. 

A screeching halt, quick turnaround, camera at the ready...

Piercing, perceptive, unwavering eyes; hypnotic even.

The boys take turns, a few quick shots, documentary, quick-before-it-flies!!!

Confidence growing, tentative step closer, just one more, then another...don't make a sound!

Don't make a sound?! 

Like it hasn't seen you already!

Alas, it's flown!

Just a slight adjustment; the better to see and not be seen...

60D and s4 cache their pixels, Owl blithely poses.

Once-in-a-lifetime encounter, owl eyes peer deeply...

Gaze averted, t'ward tomorrow? A new year beckons...

Hoot Owl Karma.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Bird Feeders

Frigid weather may mean lean times for our feathered fauna, but Papa Jim is doing his part to ease their burden this year. He, and thousands of other like-minded folk, brave the elements to erect and maintain all manner of feeding stations throughout the barren months of winter in central Carolina. Hoot Owl Karma has assembled a few photos in honor of their efforts.

Sparrow forages on the ground for small seeds dislodged from the platform above.

Dark-eyed Junco joins the search for smaller seeds among the corn kernels and cobs and shucks. The junco is the ubiquitous "snowbird" of my youth, harbinger of wintry precipitation and school cancellations!

Carolina chickadee loves black oil sunflower seeds, just like its northern kin, the black-capped chickadee. 

Few birds linger long on the ledge, meaning more misses than catches for the camera; though a miss is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose...

The white-breasted nuthatch, largest of the North American nuthatches, has a straight or even slightly upturned bill, the better for hatching nuts, I guess.

Carolina chickadee, back for yet another seed. With precious few of their favored insect prey still around in December, chickadees will consume hundreds of high-fat, energy-rich sunflower seeds a day, and cache even more for later, if time allows.

Tufted titmouse perches in the branches above, waiting for just the right moment to nab another seed. A bit larger than the chickadee, it'll have no trouble throwing its weight around if warranted. 

White-throated sparrow strikes a pensive pose in the brush nearby, yellow eye paint and bright white throat leaving little doubt as to its place among the branches of the avian family tree.

Nuthatch makes yet another nut run, quickly checking the perimeter for competitors before tucking into the tray again.

And there, a mere three meters away, sits eastern gray squirrel, chubby cheeks and plump belly bearing witness to the one great truth of bird feeding. From the shores of the Atlantic to the banks of the mighty Mississippi and beyond...

there's no such thing as squirrel-proof!

Bald Eagle - Resilient Raptor

Yesterday's delivery run was punctuated by an unprecedented encounter. Just before 11 a.m., along a lightly developed commercial corridor just north of the Sanford city limits, a mature adult bald eagle swooped down onto the four lane thoroughfare of US Hwy 15-501/ NC Hwy 87 and retrieved a road-killed gray squirrel from the roadway, narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic.
By the time I disengaged my iPhone from its charger, the magnificent bird had disappeared beyond a copse of towering pines, presumably seeking a bit more privacy before consuming its "prey."

 Inspired by the encounter, I grabbed my camera at lunch and made the short drive up US 1 to Everett B. Jordan Dam, hoping to capture a few images to accompany this post. As though awaiting my arrival, an adult bald eagle was soaring high above the upper parking lot.

A white-headed adult and two juveniles were ensconced in a large sweet gum tree along the river below the dam. Two other juveniles perched nearby.

All were impressive creatures, sporting the massive bill unique to their clan, cloaked in varied combinations of dark brown and white feathers. As I watched quietly from the shadows of the opposite bank, first one, then another, took flight.

I caught myself holding my breath as they engaged in several seconds of synchronized aerobatics before finding new perches further down my side of the river.

Wild and free, apex predators, soaring unrivaled across the breadth of the heavens, swooping down upon the rushing waters to take their sustenance... evocative emblem of a vast and powerful empire.

Extirpated from the fishing grounds, no more nest trees, victimized by DDT, critically endangered species... pathetic victim of ignorance, carelessness and greed.

Awareness, education, habitat protection, environmental regulation...populations recovering, historic range returning.

What next, I wonder...

Friday, December 13, 2013

Eye of the Hawk

It's a chilly midwinter day in historic downtown Sanford, NC. 
Bounded on all sides by asphalt and automobiles, the sun-dappled understory of this tiny strip of now-leafless deciduous forest provides a perfect perch for Red Shouldered Hawk.

Silently surveying the entire expanse of leaf-littered Voleville down below, then scanning the perimeter of the parking lot for any sign of feathered prey, the keen-eyed and eared predator is motionless and mute save for its vigilantly swiveling head.

Here at the noontime height of human hustle and bustle, the predator's senses somehow filter through the constant sound and motion of the busy urban street corner, unperturbed by the irrelevance of man's ranting machines, yet perceiving the slightest murmur or twitch from the rat or vole. 

Eyes shielded from the sun's glare by the tangle of bare branches, this mid-sized hawk from genus Buteo patiently waits, warm in the sun's embrace, as deadly a hunter sitting here motionless as the peregrine soaring on high.

The faintest rustle in the pecan leaves below.
The auburn-feathered brow cocks ever so slightly...
The eye of the hawk zeroes in...

Our friend the hawk will roost tonight well-fed.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Halcyon Days

Workday done; office secure.

Sun, too, has called it a day.

No nature forays now, unless nocturnal.

Sun's in the south; solstice is near.

Goodnight sun. 

We're bound for home, and loved ones dear...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Appalachian Sunset

Two cool kids chase the setting sun along the Blue Ridge Parkway from Blowing Rock to the Grandmother Mountain Overlook. 

There are no words... 

Carter and Jay at journey's end. 
Well done, guys!

Thanks for sharing your photos, Jay Randolph.