Purple Martins

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Male Purple Martin in flight with dragonfly in beak (SandraCalderbank, sandra calderbank)Female Purple Martin hovering in flight against cloudy sky (SandraCalderbank, sandra calderbank)

I have always thought Purple Martins (you know the birds that live in the hollowed out gourds) ate tons of mosquitos! Recently on a trip to Plum Island National Wildlife Refuge I spotted someone carefully cleaning the Purple Martin nests. After asking her multiple questions, I learned a lot about these beautiful birds. They DO eat mosquitoes but that is only about 1-2% of their diet. Purple Martins feed mostly on dragonflies! They feed on the fly, meaning they eat and catch food while flying.   Mosquitos  typically live close to the ground. The Purple Martins  don’t fly at night which is when mosquitos are active. I was certainly surprised to learn this fact.  They are extremely acrobatic, beautiful birds and I have come to appreciate them much more even though they don’t really eat mosquitos.

Least Bittern

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Least Bittern taking off in flight in rain at Viera Wetlands (SandraCalderbank, sandra calderbank)

I was leaving The Viera Wetlands  one April afternoon because it had started to rain and I assumed there would be no more photography action that afternoon. Suddenly this Least Bittern appeared and took off right beside me! What a gift. These small Bitterns are hard to spot because they blend into their surroundings and even more difficult to photograph in flight because it is SO difficult to find them in the reeds. They live a very secretive life and I was blessed to have this one take off right in front of me at a time when I thought photography for that day was over due to rainy weather.

American Robin

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Female American Robin perched on branch against blue sky (sandra calderbank)
The American Robin is so common and so widespread! The American Robin’s beautiful song is often the first birdsong that greets us at dawn in America. Despite their familiarity and abundance, I find them beautiful and couldn’t resist this one sitting on a dead branch.

Belted Kingfisher

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Female Belted Kingfisher in flight over water with wings aloft (SandraCalderbank, sandra calderbank)

These small birds with their large heads, long pointed beaks and rapid flight are incredibly challenging to photograph in flight. On a trip to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge last fall I watched several of these little speedy fliers zip around over the water. They are so quick I can understand why they are called Kingfishers as they swiftly catch fish and dart back to safety to eat their meal.

The Seldom Seen

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Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron perched on dead limb in evening light (SandraCalderbank, sandra calderbank)

I was intently focused on photographing Belted Kingfishers in flight as they darted by my camera one evening at Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge. The sun was quickly setting and I turned around and this “jewel” sat on a dead limb directly behind me! I thought it was a Juvenile Black-Crowned Night-Heron because I had seen several flying around earlier but something was very different. It was the seldom seen Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron.