I was given a chance to redeem my honor this morning: I found another weird tiny white basket levitating in my path. Vowing to vanquish fear and re-commit myself to science, I immediately switched to my close-up lens, though I kept a weather, non-viewfinder eye on the creature itself. Today’s basket was suspended from a very slender filament of some kind, visible in a number of photos I took, though not, as it happens, in this one, which I am posting because it shows clearly another signal difference: today the little white gondola had a passenger, a gray larva. At some point during photography, I noticed that I had transitioned to standing on my tiptoes; while I had been photographing, the gray passenger had gradually winched the gondola and itself upward. At some point, upon stepping back for a perspective view, I noticed an identical larva-in-gondola suspended just a foot or so away, a little lower in the air. My working theory now is that my encounter yesterday was with an empty gondola, still trailing the thread on which it had been suspended, which was serving it as a sail, and that when the thread caught on me and my camera, I got the mistaken impression that it was coming for me. Now that I have taken a calmer look, I do not find these creatures any less creepy. With what dark purpose do they lower themselves from the trees?
A pair of house wrens have made their nest inside a very upstanding but dead tree, all of whose limbs have been stripped off—as close to a post as a tree can become without passing under a lathe. The two parents were carrying insects to the nest in their beaks—the chicks mewed from inside when they sensed a parent approaching, and sometimes peeked out of the lower of the two holes in the tree here—and were not happy about the attention that I was paying them. They kekked at me minatorily, and only traveled to their nest in quick darts, and sometimes one parent would sit on a nearby twig and quiver its wings anxiously. Maybe it was trying to distract me by pretending to be wounded?
When I checked in on the three green heron fledglings, I saw two of them hanging out a few trees away from their nest.
This is a bird I’ve had trouble identifying before. In another shot, a bit of yellow is visible along the sides of its belly, and it’s clearer that there’s a dark stripe across its eye. I think it’s a warbling vireo, but I’m not sure!
Toby was with me when I photographed this black wasp with blue wings, but then I had to bring Toby home, because the muggy heat was making him wobblier than usual, and I went back outside alone, which left me free to spend more time in the park than I probably should have. In the heat, unfortunately, the park was mostly still and dead. I did see a couple of quite beautiful, mostly black butterflies, but only one posed for me, and I made the mistake of trying to change the lens on my camera in order take a close-up; it fluttered away before I got the lens mounted. The only other thing of note was a woodpecker, high in its tree, and I was trying, ineffectually, to photograph it when a raptor crashed through the canopy, gripping a not-small furry creature in its talons, pursued by two other raptors, all of them crying angrily.
The prizewinner took his breakfast to the crook of a tree, and boasted over it, while tearing off gobbets and swallowing. He was in no hurry, and in a few minutes, several other birders caught up to us, one of whom identified the trio as Cooper’s hawks. I thought that the successful hunter must be a parent, and that the other two must be fledglings, who were hoping for a share of the parent’s meal. But now that I’m home, and can look at Sibley’s, I see that all three were juveniles, which would explain why the one who did make a kill did not share.
The siblings who hadn’t killed loitered on branches nearby and cried, loudly and unembarrassedly. They seemed to be asking for handouts. The raised claw, in the photograph just above, looks to me like a request—like a hawk’s version of an extended palm.