Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egrets are huge, elegant birds that frequent wetlands and shores of the river and lakes in summer.  They are not often seen in our area of North Central PA, but one was visiting a friend’s wetlands and I was able to put in with the kayak and get close shots of this awesome bird!  Like other herons and egrets, they will watch for fish or frogs in the water and like lightning, spear them through or grab them with their dagger-like beak. This Great Egret may look silly way […]

The Garden Spider and the Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Garden Spiders are impressive with their large size, and bright markings.  They belong to the orb weaver family, and are known to build webs as wide as several feet, only to take them down and rebuild again the next day. They will spin a heavy zig-zag in the middle of the web.  For whatever reason this is done, it gives warning to any bird flying by to stay clear and prevents damage to the web. I remember as kids, going out to the field with our jars, to catch the […]

Great Horned Owl family

Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owls as neighbors While doing some incredible winter birding this past February in our nearby farmlands, our group of birding friends spotted a huge nest in a long row of trees surrounded by hundreds of acres of fields. The locals call these hedge rows, even though they are mature trees separating one farmer’s field from another.  With frequent checking, we soon saw a pair of Great Horned Owls at the site!  One was on the nest and the other nearby.  A Red-tailed Hawk was also nesting a few […]

Seven Surprising Facts about Moths I Learned on my First Mothing Night

Luna Moth

What’s a Mothing Night? Something I had always wanted to try, but never did, was to set up a bright light at night in order to attract moths.  When I heard of other birding friends who did this regularly, I invited them to my house in the woods of Central PA to see what they could attract.  Paul Dennehy, a 9th grade science teacher who has been mothing for a score of years, brought his equipment and set it up in the yard before it got dark. I learned some […]

Damselfly party!

Bluet Damselfly Wheel

After the storm yesterday, I noticed a few hazy patches of vegetation in the water, maybe 25 feet out from shore.  A photograph with a long lens showed what was making the hazy movements.  There were hundreds of damselflies, most in tandem, busily laying their eggs in the vegetation!  These are mostly Powdered Dancers, with a few Bluits joining the massive egg-laying party.  Wikipedia gives an interesting explanation for the Latin name of Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta): The common name refers directly to the male’s pruinosity, appearing to be covered […]

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Ducks are one of our smallest ducks, at 15 inches. They are all head, beak, and stiff tail, with a short body in between. They often swim with their tails upraised, and unlike other ducks they are able to slowly sink below the surface of the water.  According to, Ruddy Ducks can be very aggressive during breeding season and will even attack rabbits along the shore!  Males perform unusual courtship displays in which they stick their tails straight up while striking their bills against their inflated necks, creating […]

Doves and Pigeons of Southeast Arizona

Inca Dove

  Inca Doves, Common Ground-Doves, Banded Pigeons, White-winged Doves, and Mourning Doves were fairly common on our birding trip to Southeast Arizona. With Mourning Dove being the only common Dove in our part of the Eastern US, it was fascinating to see doves of all sizes, shapes, and behaviors in Arizona. Inca Dove Inca Dove, the size of a large sparrow, has dark-gray tipped feathers, making them appear scaly. These doves have a square-tipped tail and rufous under the wings, readily seen when flying.  They were often observed by our […]

Elegant Trogons

Elegant Trogon

Elegant Trogons are supposed to be the highlight of any birding trip to southeast Arizona; that is, if you are lucky enough to see one!  They seemed to be late arriving at Cave Creek Canyon near our group’s home base of Portal, AZ. Only one pair had been seen in various places the week we were there;  sometimes at a sycamore tree in a dry creek bed near a trail crossing, and a couple of times flying through the campground.  My friend and I were with a Road Scholar birding group, and […]

Black-tailed Rattlesnake

Black-tailed Rattlesnake

According to an article on Black-tailed Rattlesnakes, this venomous snake packs a punch and “is capable of delivering large amounts of potent venom.  If encountered, it should be left alone.  A large percentage of envenomations occur when a snake is handled or abused.” While on a birding trip to Cave Creek Canyon in Arizona last week, our group was treated to more than birds!  We saw many lizards and a few snakes also.  This beautiful Black-tailed Rattlesnake was sitting on the road and I was able to get photos and […]