Monday, June 24, 2013

The Jewels of the North Carolina Mountains: Day 2 & 3 -- June 11 - 12

       This post continues the travelogue from my and Carl's North Carolina Mountain vacation from June 9 through June 16 outside of Waynesville and Cataloochee.  If you wish to read the introduction to this vacation and the events of Day One, click here.

180 Degree View from Sam Knob -- North Carolina -- June 10, 2013 -- Photo by Carl Miller

         Before leaving on our vacation, I contacted a birding guide via Birdingpal .  Last month, I had been reminded of this global volunteer service by a fellow birder that Carl and I met by chance on a weekend trip to the Beaufort area.  Via this site, traveling birders can connect with local birders who volunteer their time to show visitors the species of his area.  This same fellow, Rod, was headed to the Asheville area and he had contacted a birding guide who was going to show him a Cerulean Warbler!  In all of my trips to the NC mountains, I have missed seeing the Cerulean Warbler so I quizzed him a bit more.  His guide, Steve Semanchuk, was certain that he would be able to show him this species.  Sure enough, a few days later, we received an e-mail from Rod and his wife Marie.  They did indeed, with Steve's help, see a Cerulean Warbler.  Thus, I also contacted Steve via the Birdingpal website and we set up a time to go out in search of this new life species for Carl and me.  Steve was a bit concerned that we might arrive too late.  Cerulean Warblers stop singing mid-June and are difficult to find once they stop singing. 

        We met Steve on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) just north of Asheville to begin our day of birding.  One of the best ways to see warblers along the parkway is to stop at overlooks with an open area.  The birds like these edges and it is easier for us to look into the treetops as often we are looking down into the trees.  At our very first stop along the parkway, we found a family of Black-Throated Green Warblers!  The little wigglers did not sit still for a moment.  But I managed to get these 3 shots below.

Black-throated Green Warbler -- Blue Ridge Parkway just north of Asheville, NC -- June 11, 2013

Black-throated Green Warbler -- Blue Ridge Parkway just north of Asheville, NC -- June 11, 2013

Fledgling Black-throated Green Warbler -- Blue Ridge Parkway just north of Asheville, NC -- June 11, 2013

        Steve predicted that we would see Cerulean Warblers possibly at our next stop (I think it was
Craven Gap overlook).  Sure enough, with our windows down, I could identify the song of the Cerulean Warbler -- "Poor, poor pitiful me!" -- even before we exited the car.  There he was -- practically over the car.  He entertained us quite awhile -- dancing around from branch to branch singing his song and chasing away another Cerulean Warbler!  He would not sit still long enough for us to get a decent focus lock on him.  But we finally managed the next few shots.

Cerulean Warbler -- Blue Ridge Parkway -- near Craven Gap overlook -- North Carolina -- June 11, 2013

Cerulean Warbler -- Blue Ridge Parkway -- near Craven Gap overlook -- North Carolina -- June 11, 2013

Cerulean Warbler -- Blue Ridge Parkway -- near Craven Gap overlook -- North Carolina -- June 11, 2013 -- Photo by Carl Miller
We were thrilled -- so early in the day and we had achieved our primary target species!  We continued along the parkway stopping frequently at overlooks and we were able to see and hear several more species including Blackburnian Warbler (a life species for Carl!), American Redstart, American Goldfinch,

American Goldfinch -- Blue Ridge Parkway -- near Craven Gap overlook -- North Carolina -- June 11, 2013

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Carolina Wren, Scarlet Tanager,

Scarlet Tanager -- Blue Ridge Parkway -- near Craven Gap overlook -- North Carolina -- June 11, 2013

 Worm-eating Warbler, Northern Parula, Red-Eyed Vireo, Blue-Headed Vireo, Black and White Warbler,

Black and White Warbler -- Blue Ridge Parkway -- near Craven Gap overlook -- North Carolina -- June 11, 2013

and of course, Indigo Bunting.

Indigo Bunting -- Blue Ridge Parkway -- near Craven Gap overlook -- North Carolina -- June 11, 2013

In-between stops, we saw plenty of American Crows and American Robins in the road and occasionally a Wild Turkey alongside the road.

Wild Turkey -- Blue Ridge Parkway -- near Craven Gap overlook -- North Carolina -- June 11, 2013

I was so focused on the birds that I did not take much time to study the lovely wildflowers along the roadside.  I did spot this favorite though -- a Hairy Spiderwort.

Hairy Spiderwort -- Blue Ridge Parkway -- near Craven Gap overlook -- North Carolina -- June 11, 2013

We did not just notice the little birds.  We also saw Broad-winged Hawks and this beautiful Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk -- Blue Ridge Parkway -- near Craven Gap overlook -- North Carolina -- June 11, 2013

       We continued to climb in elevation.  We stopped at the Craggy Gardens picnic area and decided to hike down a trail where Steve had seen Canada Warblers about 10 days before with Rod and Marie.  Sure enough, the Canada Warbler sang a little song and Steve pished him into view.

Canada Warbler -- Blue Ridge Parkway -- near Craggy Gardens picnic area -- North Carolina -- June 11, 2013

         At that stop, we decided to continue on up the parkway to just past Mount Mitchell State Park to the Bald Knob Ridge Trail.  I had hiked that lovely trail once before a couple of years ago and was eager to do it again as I had had an in-your-face encounter with a Blackburnian Warbler who flew in when I phished.  We heard and saw in the tree tops of the spruce trees several Golden-crowned Kinglets and a few Blackburnians.  No one descended to visit us face to face though.  There were also several Dark-eyed Juncos.  We mused on our desire to see Red Crossbills.  I had struck out on those for 2 years and I was not expecting to be lucky this year either.  This was the trail though that a friend had recommended to me 2 years ago and one could still hope.  Suddenly a flock of 12 chupping birds flew overhead and lighted in the hemlocks.  Steve and I looked at each other and I said "Red Crossbills?"  He responded with "Let's go check."  Well, we were certainly at a disadvantage in terms of lighting.  These birds were grossly backlit and distant for the reach of our lens.  But we did get photos that indeed confirmed my ID -- Yes, Red Crossbills -- 2nd life bird of day and third life bird of the trip!   It was also a great find for Steve as he reported that he had not seen any in 2 years!

Female Red Crossbill (left) looking back at male Red Crossbill (right) -- Bald Knob Ridge Trail -- Blue Ridge Parkway -- June 11, 2013
 After this thrilling sighting, we decided to return to the car and make a brief stop at Mount Mitchell State Park.  Along the Commissary Trail, we saw and/or heard Winter Wren, more Canada Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Brown Creeper, Song Sparrow, and Cedar Waxwing.

          What a fabulous day of birding!  My Larkwire training certainly paid off in helping me to hear and identify birds once again and Steve's expertise and humor were invaluable and greatly appreciated.  Back in Asheville, we thanked Steve and bid him goodbye.   And thus ended a wonderful Day Two of this great vacation!

          Back at the cabin, I began plotting Day Three.  Using e-mail and tips from Steve, I connected with other fellow birders for leads to another priority life bird -- the Golden-winged Warbler.  The population of this species has declined significantly in the Appalachian mountains, reportedly down 98%!  I was not sure that we would be so lucky as to find one.  Additionally, we were told that this bird also stops singing mid-June.  I certainly wanted to try to see this species, particularly after reading a recent article in Living Bird, magazine for members of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, on a conservation plan to save the species by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and its partners in the Golden-Winged Warbler Working Group.  We learned from our contacts where we might find this bird along Max Patch Road and so our plan for Day Three was set.  We would visit Max Patch, one of our very favorite balds, in North Carolina.

         Our route to the bald would be different this time.  In order to find the bird, we needed to take the very scenic farm land road, Highway 209, which would eventually connect to Max Patch Road.  We had never driven along this road before and we loved the scenery as we passed through old farm sites!  In the past, we had always accessed the bald via a heavily wooded route from the Harmon Den exit (no 7) on I-40.    Following the "fieldmarks" as they were described to us -- old barn, old house and pond, we found a site that looked promisingly birdy.  Even before exiting the car, I thought I heard a Golden-winged Warbler along with Field Sparrow, House Wren, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and Hooded Warbler -- quite the riot of birdsong!  Sure enough -- our target bird, the Golden-Winged Warbler -- Life Bird no. 4 of this trip, was there and feisty.  We watched him run off the Chestnut-sided Warbler!  

Golden-winged Warbler -- Max Patch Road -- North Carolina -- June 12, 2013
Chestnut-sided Warbler -- Max Patch Road -- North Carolina -- June 12, 2013

Golden-Winged Warbler -- Max Patch Road -- North Carolina -- June 12, 2013

Not all of the birds heard were very willing to show themselves but I managed to capture this House Wren bringing nesting material to a hole in this snag!

House Wren -- Max Patch Road -- North Carolina -- June 12, 2013

          It was difficult to leave such a birdy area -- species found there not previously mentioned include: Broad-Winged Hawk, American Robins, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Towhees, Mourning Doves, and this Song Sparrow....

Song Sparrow -- Max Patch Road -- North Carolina -- June 12, 2013
and this Gray Catbird.

Gray Catbird -- Max Patch Road -- June 12, 1013

        Carl and I though were ready to hike on the bald so we continued the climb up Max Patch Road to arrive at this familiar destination.  With our eyes to the sky, we noted some dark clouds beginning to build to the south but we figured that we had at least an hour to hike before we need worry about a pending storm.  After all, sometimes these storms simply do not manifest.  We took the easy route up through the old orchard (apple, I think).  The hillside was crawling with sparrows as we approached the wooded area.  They would  pop up and then pop back down into the grasses and berry brambles.  We could identify by song, Song Sparrow and Field Sparrow but we could not get a visual on these wigglers.  Carl did find this superb Red-Eyed Vireo singing in the woods which we both attempted to photograph in the deep shade.

Red-Eyed Vireo -- Max Patch -- North Carolina -- June 12, 2013

           And I worked on trying to capture ephemeral beauty of the loveliest of all mountain blooms, the Flame Azalea.

Flame Azalea -- Max Patch -- North Carolina -- June 12, 2013

Flame Azalea -- Max Patch -- North Carolina -- June 12, 2013

I never feel as though my photography truly captures the essence of these blooms.  But, I must say that I am fairly content with the above images this time. 

         Carl moved ahead as I stopped to concentrate on a birdsong.  Thus, he was the first to photograph this amazing LBJ -- Little Brown Job -- aka unidentified sparrow -- singing his fool head off.  I soon joined Carl though in this amazing photo op provided by this songster.

"LBJ" or "Little Brown Job" -- Max Patch -- North Carolina -- June 12, 2013
 Carl initially thought this guy was a Song Sparrow but he was not stripey enough and the song was not right either for a Song Sparrow.  So I consulted my Sibley's App on my tablet.  The eye ring did not seem to be very strong but he sure sounded like the Vesper Sparrow song and responded to it by flying right by me to land on the post behind me.  This bird was certainly excited enough so I did not continue to play the song.  Other Vespers were singing nearby to keep him singing though and to provide us with more photo ops.

"LBJ" now identified as Vesper Sparrow -- Max Patch -- North Carolina -- June 12. 2013

Vesper Sparrow -- Max Patch -- North Carolina -- June 12, 2013

Carl is more willing to carry his tripod on hikes than am I.  And considering the nearly constant wind on Max Patch, he was smart to do so.  Because he had the tripod, he also was able to shoot video of our songbird so that we could share it here.

Thankfully, Carl was able to edit most of the sound of the wind out of the video so that we can truly enjoy this bird's song unencumbered.  At last, here is a photo of a happy Carl quite pleased with his photo op!

Carl on Max Patch -- North Carolina -- June 12, 2013

            The storm clouds that had earlier appeared to be amassing had moved away from our area.  So we were safe from stormy weather.  We enjoyed our walk back down the bald.  Other birds that we saw or heard there included the Eastern Towhee, an Eastern Bluebird family, Barn Swallows, Least Flycatcher, Song Sparrows, Field Sparrow, Indigo Buntings, American Robins and Cedar Waxwings.

           By mid-afternoon, with errands to run in town, we decided to call it a day.  We enjoyed our drive back and stopped a couple of times for more birds at another old barn, old house and pond site along Max Patch Road.  There, we saw and/or heard House Wrens, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Barn Swallows, Indigo Buntings, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Gray Catbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak!  We also saw a family of chickens.  This young chick did not follow its mother when she scurried her brood away from us as he was quite preoccupied with his beetle!

Chick from a chicken! -- Max Patch Road -- June 12, 2013

Chick from a chicken! -- Max Patch Road -- June 12, 2013

        Thus concluded for us another two days of wonderful mountain birding excursions!  We were quite pleased at how our vacation was going -- 4 life birds for both of us!  For our next day, we decided we would return to Cataloochee in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to hike, bird and shoot more photos.  Stay tuned to learn about our great morning there in the next edition of Pluff Mud Perspectives!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Jewels of the North Carolina Mountains: Day One -- June 10

Blue Ridge Mountains -- view from Elk Ridge Cabin above Waynesville, NC -- June 2011

            For the past three years, I have made a week-long escape to the North Carolina Mountains as soon as school let out for summer to seek out the jewels -- the birds, the waterfalls, the cooler temperatures, the flowers and the 3-dimensional vistas!  Nirvana!  This year was no different.  Carl and I returned again to the Elk Ridge Cabin, close to Waynesville and Cataloochee, to continue our exploration of this favorite area.  Everything is ideal about this cabin -- the privacy, the views, the decor, the porch swing, the comfortable beds, the deck!  The owners have thought of everything so you need not worry if you forgot something.

Elk Ridge Cabin above Waynesville, NC -- June 2011
             On our first full day, keeping an eye on the weather due to a threat of rain, we decided to explore familiar places close-by on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) which we had not really visited since becoming birders.  Out of Waynesville, we took Hwy 215 up to the BRP.  The higher we drove, the foggier it became.  Suddenly, on our right (4 miles from the top), we spotted  a rushing torrent -- a waterfall with a very serious output of water that flowed under the road.  We parked and I captured the following photos. 

Pigeon River West Fork Waterfall on Hwy 215 -- North Carolina -- June 10, 2013

          On this trip, I tried shooting waterfalls a couple of ways.  First, I sought to create the smooth water flowing over rock with long exposures.  Then, with short exposures, I "froze" the torrent in action.  With this particular fall, I prefer the freeze frame method as it captured better the raging mood of the river.  See the 2 photos below for a comparison.  What do you think?

Pigeon River West Fork Waterfall on Hwy 215 -- North Carolina -- June 10, 2013

Pigeon River West Fork Waterfall on Hwy 215 -- North Carolina -- June 10, 2013

We assumed the yellowish tone to the water was due to sediment stirred up by recent rains.  We did not see a signpost for this fall.  But later, with a little googling, I was able to discover its name: Pigeon River West Fork Waterfall

          The rain began as we finished up with this fall.  We continued our route up to the Devil's Courthouse up on the BRP at Milepost (MP) 422.4.  Carl and I had never really visited the Devil's Courthouse as birders before.  Having heard that good species could be located here, we were interested in seeing what we might find.  The rain stopped by the time we had arrived but we were completely socked in by clouds.  We were not going to see much!  Fortunately, my significant practice with the Larkwire birdsong recognition program paid off.  On the trail up to the top, we only saw one bird -- a female Canada Warbler -- but I was able to ID several others including Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Blackburnian Warbler species, Winter Wren and Brown Creeper!  On our descent back to the parking lot, we saw Chestnut-sided warblers and Cedar Waxwings.  As we returned to the car, the rain began again.  Because we had studied the radar map that morning, we were convinced that the shower would not continue long. 

         So we then drove to our next destination -- the Sam Knob trail head where we waited out the rain.  While waiting, I used the Sibley app on my tablet to practice differentiating the birdsongs of 2 flycatchers that I hoped to see & hear: the Willow Flycatcher and the Alder Flycatcher.  The birds are identical to the eye and can only be identified in the field by song.  Both birds had been reported on this trail in the last 2 weeks and both birds would represent life birds for me.  Certainly, I wanted to be able to identify them!  We had hiked this trail once before in 2004 (I think).  Carl did not remember this hike though until he saw the meadow that we had to cross to get to the bald. 

View from Sam Knob of meadow below -- North Carolina  -- June 10, 2013

As we crossed the meadow, I was disappointed not to hear or see any flycatchers.  There was, however, no shortage of the common American Robins, Eastern Towhee, Song Sparrows, Gray Catbirds.

American Robin and Eastern Towhee in the meadow at Sam Knob -- North Carolina -- June 10, 2013

Signpost with a Gray Catbird headed in the right direction -- Sam Knob trail -- North Carolina -- June 10, 2013

Carl photographing the Devil's Courthouse as seen from Sam Knob -- North Carolina -- June 10, 2013

On our approach to the top, Carl photographed the vista and I concentrated on Dark-Eyed Juncos and Chestnut-sided Warblers along the trail. 

Dark-eyed Junco -- Sam Knob -- North Carolina -- June 10, 2013

Dark-eyed Junco -- Sam Knob -- North Carolina -- June 10, 2013

Chestnut-sided Warbler -- Sam Knob -- North Carolina -- June 10, 2013

               The bald is not so bald anymore.  It had been far grassier years before on our previous hike.  Now it is covered with head-high rhododendron and some grass.  Before, you could see across the bald.  This time, we decided to take separate routes to the top rock and we soon discovered that we could not see each other nor quickly find each other.  Because of the wind, we could not hear each other calling except intermittently.  Oh well, I was not too worried.  I knew the way down and I figured Carl did, too.  Suddenly, I heard one of those flycatchers -- I recognized it as the Alder Flycatcher song!  Then I inadvertently flushed it, along with a Black-throated Blue Warbler, giving me a visual on my new life bird!  I continued to hear the bird and hoped to discern the Willow Flycatcher also.  But no, each time it was the Alder.  Finally, I decided it was time to head down the mountain as I had not heard Carl call out recently. As I started down, I saw only our 2 sets of footprints heading up so I knew he was still on the knob behind me.  I took my time crossing the meadow, photographing Robins and Towhees.

American Robin -- Sam Knob trail -- North Carolina -- June 10, 2013
Eastern Towhee -- Sam Knob trail -- North Carolina -- June 10, 2013
Carl found me in the meadow. 

Carl crossing the meadow, coming from Sam Knob behind him -- North Carolina -- June 10, 2013
Between the two of us, Carl is much better with the landscape photography as is exemplified by his stunning 180 degree panorama from the top of Sam Knob.

180 degree panorama from Sam Knob -- North Carolina -- click here for a large view on Carl's Flickr page. -- June 10, 2013 

       On our way home to the cabin, we made one more stop on the BRP at the Pounding Mill Overlook as I have always had good luck finding birds there.  This time, I managed this shot of a Chestnut-sided Warbler.

Chestnut-sided Warbler
         I also found this beautiful Eastern Comma butterfly.

Eastern Comma butterfly -- Pounding Mill Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

       I believe this is a lifer for me as well as far as butterflies go!  Now, the next question -- will I begin listing my butterflies?  I am considering it! 

       Thus concludes my first post in this series: Jewels of the North Carolina Mountains.  I hope to have another post ready in a couple of days.  Stay tuned!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Next Update on the Bluebirds Postponed! .... BUT, comma ....

          I regret to say that our next update on our Parc Perlière Bluebirds is postponed.  We have encountered technical difficulties with the editing of the videos that we wish to create:  the last 7 days in the box and the fledging day!  We have enjoyed watching the fledglings in the yard now that they come to the feeder but I will save those stories for the update.  Hopefully, we will overcome the technical issues as Carl continues to work the problem.  Sigh!  Just to give you one visual teaser though, here's a photo of one of the chicks waiting on top of the mealworm feeder for his papa to get his worm.  Papa seems to be distracted though by that pesky photographer.

Eastern Bluebird chick wondering what the hold-up is on delivery of the mealworm -- April 25, 2013

        The "BUT, comma ... " in the title does mean that I have something else to share!  In fact you may become so riveted by these links, you may find it difficult to tear yourself away from the computer!  I swear it is so much better than television!  So what are these totally engrossing links that I am going to share?  Live Nest Cams -- all over the United States.  I cannot show you our babies in the nest due to server size limitations.  But you can watch baby Red-tailed Hawks, Baby Osprey, Baby Great Blue Herons, etc!

         So let's start the list!  First from the National Audubon Society, a live web cam mounted on a nesting platform is recording the story of a love triangle between 2 female Osprey, Trudy and Rachel, and a male Osprey Steve.  The previous link will give you the details (& video) on this story and will also take you to the live cam so that you can watch the saga as it unfolds.  Last time I looked, there were three eggs in the nest!  Today, I received an e-mail alert from Audubon stating that the chicks were beginning to hatch.  If you look in now, you may see an egg hatch!  But whose are they?  You will have to read the article and watch to find out!  Below is a photo of a pair of Osprey nesting here locally at Caw Caw Nature & History Interpretive Center.  As far as I know they did not have to deal with interlopers.

A pair of Osprey on the nest at Caw Caw in Ravenel, SC -- March 30, 2013

           Another wonderful live cam on an Osprey nest, featuring Ozzie and Harriet, this one sponsored in part and transmitted over the internet by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is located at the Dunrovin Guest Ranch in  Lolo, Montana.  The chicks hatched just last week! They are so cute!  And yet another pair of Ospreys, the Hellgate Canyon pair are on this cam over a parking lot next to a busy highway in Missoula, Montana.  The Hellgate pair are on eggs that are expected to hatch in mid to late June.  This cam is also sponsored in part and transmitted over the internet by Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Both of these nests are part of the Osprey Project of the Environmental Biogeochemistry Laboratory of the University of Montana.  This team is trying to determine the causes for a high degree of fatality among Osprey chicks in the area.

        Another wildlife cam sponsored by the National Audubon Society shows Atlantic Puffin on the Puffin Loafing Ledge.  Links on this page will tell you the success story on how Atlantic Puffin returned to the rocks to breed after an absence of 100 years due to the conservation efforts of Steve Kress.  Eventually, once the puffin egg has hatched, we should get glimpses of a chick's life in the burrow via the Puffin Burrow Cam.  I regret to say that I do not have any Atlantic Puffin photos to share.  Hopefully one day, I will be able to attend one of Audubon's Hog Island Summer Camps and I will be able to observe and photograph these wonderful, unreal birds then!

       Yet an additional bird cam, broadcast live by Cornell Lab of Ornithology and sponsored by the Peregrine Fund's American Kestrel Partnership, shows you life inside and outside of an American Kestrel nestbox, in Boise, Idaho!   This box contains 5 young, fuzzy chicks hatched last week.  American Kestrels over-winter here on the coast of South Carolina but I do believe that most, if not all, depart to breed further inland.  Below, you can see a photo of an American Kestrel that I was able to photograph in the ACE Basin during the 2012 Christmas Bird Count

America Kestrel -- ACE Basin -- January 1, 2013

        Of course, the Peregrine Fund has a Peregrine Falcon Nest Cam, also located in Boise, Idaho!   I just discovered this web cam.  It appears there are 4 young chicks in this nestbox overlooking downtown Boise.  I have not had many opportunities to photograph Peregrines.  A few do over-winter in our area but they are not very common here.  This species is beginning to make a comeback after being listed as Federally Endangered since 1973.  Due to a successful captive breeding and re-introduction program, peregrine falcons have begun nesting in the Carolina mountains in the last 30 years.   Here in SC, this species has successfully bred at Caesars Head State Park since 1990 and now, since 2008, peregrines have also nested in the Jocassee Gorges.  I have not had an opportunity to see this beautiful bird perched in the wild but I did attempt once to photograph its magnificent high speed (up to 200 mph) arial dives and acrobatic assaults on other species from atop Caesars Head State Park

Peregrine Falcon in a dive -- Caesars Head State Park  -- upstate SC -- September 25, 2010

It is much easier to photograph this bird when he is just "coasting" in a more horizontal fashion.

Peregrine Falcon -- Caesars Head State Park -- upstate SC -- September 25, 2010

Young Peregrine Falcon -- Bulls Island -- Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge -- February 27, 2011

        The Cornell Lab of Ornithology also hosts a Great Blue Heron live nest cam at its Sapsucker Woods Laboratory.  I recommend clicking on the 2nd camera angle tab.  The view is better due to the fact that the main camera is fairly well covered with bird poop!  Great Blue Herons do not keep house well.  If you prefer a live, cleaner view of Great Blue Herons nesting, you can visit the local rookery in the Audubon Swamp Garden at Magnolia Gardens in the Spring here in Charleston! 

Great Blue Heron -- Audubon Swamp Garden -- Magnolia Plantation & Gardens -- Charleston, SC -- March 27, 2008

Great Blue Heron chicks -- Audubon Swamp Garden -- Magnolia Plantation & Gardens -- Charleston, SC -- April 13, 2008

        Finally, I have been saving the BEST FOR LAST!  That's the rule in the Johnson home -- just ask my brother!  The absolute best nest cam RIGHT NOW -- because these 3 young  chicks are on the verge of fledging any moment now -- is the live Red-Tailed Hawk nest cam on a stadium light platform at Cornell University on the middle of the campus.  I blogged about this nest site early last summer -- post fledging, in a post called  "Another Red-Tailed Hawk Family in Far-Away Cornell Land."   Since it was post-fledging, I shared in that write-up the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's photo compilation of all the different stages of these young hawks' life in the nest as well as their YouTube video of how they installed the nest cams on top of the light platform in February in freezing, windy upstate New York weather.  After all of that, wouldn't you know that those parents decided to nest on a different platform this Spring!  So the folks at Cornell University had to dismantle and remount the cameras above the new nest late this winter.  Kudos to those guys!  Truly this cam is not to be missed!  Carl and I have followed the family life of our own neighborhood Red-Tailed Hawks for a few years now.  Our hawks also built a new nest -- somewhere unknown to us!  Sigh!  We believe their chick has fledged as we have heard his typical Red-Tailed Hawk cry.  But we have not yet spotted him.  The picture below is of one of the chicks from 2011.

Recently fledged Red-Tailed Hawk chick -- James Island, SC -- June 21, 2011

 I have seen the parents this year still hanging out on their favorite roost -- the satellite dish high above the school.

Red-Tailed Hawk Family watching over junior high above school James Island  -- Charleston, SC -- June 23, 2012

If you are interested in learning more about the history of our neighborhood hawks, you can check out these three posts from last year and the year before:

"History of a Red-Tailed Hawk Family -- Part 1"
"History of a Red-Tailed Hawk Family -- Part 2"
"History of a Red-Tailed Hawk Family -- Part 3" 

Truly though, before you read (or re-visit those old posts), check out the Cornell University Red-Tailed Hawk nestcam!  You just might see those young hawks make their first flight!  So exciting! 

        So there you have it -- quite a list of interesting live bird action to watch on the internet!  Just do not become so riveted that you forget about the wildlife outside your doors too!

PS:  While I have been working on this post, Carl has found a resolution to the video editing difficulties encountered in making our latest bluebird videos.  I should soon be able to produce a post updating you on our Eastern Bluebird family here at Parc Perlière!