Posts Tagged ‘Tyrannus tyrannus’

When I went out to feed the horses this morning, I glanced up and there was a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) sitting on the barn roof, looking back at me. We eyed each other for a minute, and then I started to back towards the house to retrieve my camera. Sensing my intentions, the vulture took off and quickly disappeared. Jeez. You hardly dare leave the house without photographic equipment.

Fortunately, I took my camera with me when I strolled down to the pond yesterday and I was able to get a few pictures of Eastern Kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus).

It would have been hard to miss their presence. The two birds were engaged in a tumbling chase amongst the trees, weaving in and out of the branches, and pausing to posture with tail outspread. At first I wasn’t sure if I was watching two males battling over territory, or a male and a female courting. After watching them for a while, I concluded it was the latter.

The chase was rapid and intense. The two birds paid no heed to me except to move their performance to a tree a bit farther away. Whenever their energetic chase paused, I could see the display of fanned tailfeathers, showing off the distinctive Kingbird white stripe along the bottom edge of the tail.

When I headed back to the house, they were still at it. Hopefully, they’ll settle in and nest nearby. I wasnt’ the only spectator. This Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) sat on the fence and seemed impressed by the performance.

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Once the trees drop their leaves, the nurseries that cradled the year’s bounty of baby birds are suddenly revealed. It’s amazing how well-concealed nests are during the summer. Of course, if you pay close attention to the actions of birds, and know where to look, it is possible to find their nests while they are active. However, I have been content to let the birds live their lives in my yard without my scrutinizing of their comings and goings to closely. Consequently, I have daily walked right past nests without knowing they were present until the fall.


Many American Robins (Turdus migratorius) build their nests close to our house in trees and hedges bordering the lawn and driveway. Robin nests are among the easiest nests to identify in the fall. Robins construct very sturdy nests, weaving grasses into a cup and plastering the walls with mud. They are the only builders of cup-shaped nest to employ mud in this fashion, so dried-mud is a pretty sure sign that you are looking at a robin’s nest. The nest pictured at the top of the post was built in a hawthorn tree. The nests above and below are further examples of robin architecture.


The robin who built the nest below included some twine in the construction.


This nest, located in a Amur Maple tree, features a strip of torn plastic. The mud isn’t conspicuous, but I got out the ladder and climbed up to take a closer look. Sure enough, the mud rim can readily be observed. For more on robin nests, see Robin’s Egg Blues.



Another readily-identifiable nest to be found in the bare tree branches is that of the Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula). Orioles weave a hanging basket that is typically secured at the rim or edges to a drooping branch. It is woven with various plant fibres and lined with fine grass, hair or plant down. The nests often hang in branches over roads, an adaptation, perhaps, of an instinct to build the nest over flowing water. The nests quickly become weather-worn once the trees lose their leaves.


Many nests are difficult to identify once their occupants have departed. Here is a nest with a scenic situation over water. It may have been built by an Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus). Kingbirds like to nest on a horizontal tree limb, about halfway between the tree trunk and its canopy. About 25 % of the time, the nest is located over water. Kingbirds build a bulky, untidy nest using weed stems, grass, plant down and rootlets.


The nest below is likely that of an American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis). Goldfinches prefer to build their tightly-woven nest in a branch fork. Caterpillar webbing and spider silk is often used to bind the outer rim of the nest.



The builder of this large nest, over a foot across and high up in a larch tree, remains a mystery.


Not all the nest-builders were birds. This nest, possible belonging to Bald-faced Hornets (Dolichovespula maculata), has already started to disintegrate.


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Female Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

Female Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

Hot summer afternoons are the perfect time to dragonfly-watch down by the pond. I spotted dragonflies of 5 different species, including Green Darners (Anax junius), one of the most impressive. Green Darners are large and stocky, with an eye-catching bright green thorax and turquoise-blue abdomen. Strong fliers, several were patrolling the pond but they never settled to have their picture taken! Others were more cooperative, and their photos are featured here. Dragonflies prey upon a variety of insects, usually catching dinner on the wing.

Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta)

Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta)

Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia)

Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia)

Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)

Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)


An Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) was also catching insects. The kingbird perched on a bare branch with a good view over the pond and made hawking forays out over the water, sometimes hovering in place. Kingbirds can be readily identified by the white band across the bottom of their tail feathers.



While I was watching little fish in the shallow water over a submerged board, a water scorpion (Ranatra fusca) strolled by. They’re impressive insects, several inches long. The long “stinger” at the rear isn’t a stinger at all. It’s actually a pair of breathing tubes used to connect with the water surface. The front legs are modified to catch prey, which are dispatched with a bite.


Water Scorpion (Ranatra fusca)

Northern Pearly-Eye (Enodia anthedon)

Northern Pearly-Eye (Enodia anthedon)

Settled on some flotsam nearby was a Northern Pearly-eye butterfly. They visit mud and sap, but not flowers. Their larval foodplant is grass. A bit farther up the shore was a Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice). These pretty yellow butterflies are common, flitting over meadows and along roadsides. Their larval foodplants include white clover, alfalfa and other legumes.

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

The pond is a happenin’ place.


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