More Winged Things

Well, Anne and I did ride up to the coast this morning, to Oostduinpark in Scheveningen, and the dunes are huge, perhaps the highest points I’ve seen in the Netherlands so far. It was a beautiful morning with clear skies and calm winds, the bike ride up from Delft was pretty nice, and there are even a few ponds in the dunes, so there was plenty of nature to see.

Right off the bat, we spotted some completely new ducks for me, and they look like canvasbacks (Aythya valisineria). Here’s a male, who was pretty far out on the water and had the sun behind him, so just a perfect setting for a portrait.


And here’s a female in similar light.


After the ducks, I was thrilled to spot another speckled wood butterfly, which I first saw just yesterday, but only the ventral (outside) of its wings. Our hero today was willing to show us the pretty dorsal (inside) of its wings.


In the woods beside the trail, we could hear a wren chirping incessantly, and when we looked closer, we saw at least 4 individuals, perhaps two recent fledglings foraging with one parent, while the other parent warned them about us and/or told us to get lost.

Here’s a youngster, who seemed not quite sure what to do.


And here’s the chatter box, who seemed to have strong opinions about what we should do. We never stepped off of the path, let alone into the woods, and after I finally got some pictures, we gladly complied.


The dragonflies were plentiful by the coast, too, and this one appears to be an immature male common darter (Sympetrum striolatum)


Finally, as Anne and I were having a little refreshment at a concession stand before our ride home, this crow stopped by to bid us adieu, and this might be the best portrait a crow has ever allowed me to take.


I am happy to report that I have even more pictures, and when I eventually identify the critters in them, I’ll post them here for you.

Things with Wings

The big news is that Anne arrived in Delft for a visit on Tuesday, yay, and she likes going for bike rides in the countryside, so we rode out together this morning until it was time for me to stop for pictures while she kept going.

I didn’t see anything film-worthy until I got to the stork nest, but the youngins were puttin’ on quite a show for you this morning. I’ve never seen both chicks so clearly standing at the same time, let alone one spread its wings. Those sure look like flyin’ feathers to me, so it shouldn’t be long now before they fledge, eh? Woo Hoo!


Closer to the ground, well water actually, I spotted my first damselflies here, and they were not wasting any time. These appear to be a pair of azure damselflies (Coenagrion puella). The male has a “head and thorax patterned with blue and black” while the female is “pattern similar to that of the male, but with glittering, glossy green replacing the blue coloring.” I have seen mating damselflies in Estabrook before, but not like this.


Further afield, this little cutie stopped by for a moment, and looks to be maybe a young sedge warbler, but I can’t say for sure. I was at a disadvantage because it kept the sun at its back and took off when I tried to move. Oh well.


On my way back home, I came across another new butterfly for us, this nicely understated speckled wood (Pararge aegeria). It was quite shy and liked to line up with the bright sun so that I had a dickens of a time capturing an image of its pretty wings.


Finally, as I neared the south side of Delft, there was a quartet of white-bellied barn swallows taking a break from their morning hunt on a fence beside the bike path. It took me two tries to learn their level of comfort with me, but when I crawled toward them on my hands and knees, they were willing to grant me this portrait.


And I’m gonna put a comma right here and save some pictures for tomorrow, just in case. Anne and I are thinking of taking the train up to the coast in the morning, which could be fruitful, but I can’t guarantee anything.

PS. Anne made it back safely to my apartment before I did, which is good because she had the key, and so she could let me in.

A ruff morning.

I visited the wooded cemetery on campus again this morning, but I didn’t get much for pictures. I heard one of the falcons again, and spotted it on the same tower as yesterday, but that was a block away so not really worth the film. I could also hear a chiffchaff and a wren, but they didn’t want to come out to play.

In fact, the only pictures I took today were of great tits, and this is the one that was in focus. They forage a bit like their cousins, the chickadees, hanging every-which-way as they inspect the branches for food.


Luckily for us, I did see a couple of other birds yesterday out in the countryside. In the same water where we saw the bar-tailed godwits, the common redshanks, and the green sandpipers, this time there was a group of Ruffs (Calidris pugnax). It seems “ruff” is their entire name, and the Pedia of Wik doesn’t list a single alias.

They appear similar to the redshanks, so much so that a google search of “redshank vs ruff” lists several articles trying to show and explain the differences. One take-away is that ruffs, especially males, are highly variable, and that’s what I saw, too.

Here’s an “immature” with a “scaly back”.


And here’s a female or non-breeding male “with blotchy markings on the neck and belly.


I didn’t see any breeding males, sadly, because they are supposed to have “fancy neck ruffs that can be black, white, buffy, reddish-brown, or any combination thereof.”

Lastly, I saw a couple of these, which I thought might be a new bird for us, but it turns out to be a young European starling, just like the ones we see in Estabrook, but before the dark adult feathers come in with little light spots on the ends.


And those are the pictures fit to print.

Some Mysteries Solved!

It was a little grey this morning, but the clouds were not leaking, so I headed out to see what I could see. I had hardly gotten a couple of blocks from my apartment when I heard a familiar call, but I figured it was a gull. When I heard it again, I couldn’t be sure it was a gull, so I stopped to look around. I didn’t see anyone in the air, but a quick glance at the nearest high-point revealed a pair of peregrine falcons, just like the ones we have on the south face of the Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (EMS) building on the UWM campus. Here’s the one that wasn’t shy.


Once I got out into the countryside, I spotted our buzzard again, in its usual spot.


Just beyond the buzzard there were several small birds foraging along the edge of the bike path, and one was kind enough to let me have this close up. Based on its color and its behavior, I thought maybe it might be a grey wagtail, but they are surprisingly yellow. Instead, this little one turns out to be a juvenile white wagtail. The adult white wagtails I’ve seen also like to forage on pavement.


I reached the stork nest at last and found the two youngster starting to show a little orange in their beaks.


And one adult keeping an eye on things from the comfort of a nearby chimney.


Finally, my old buddy Brian wrote in to suggest that mystery bird number 1 is a reed bunting, and at first I thought “no way!” I’ve already posted pictures of a reed bunting, and I checked the immature/female pictures online, and they were far too drab for our mystery bird. But then I scrolled a bit further, and sure enough, there’s our cutie. The first few pictures were just taken with a drab camera, I guess. Here’s one image again, to refresh your memory.


Brian continued and suggested that the second mystery bird is a European greenfinch, and sure enough, the female does indeed have the green over her eye and a bit of yellow on her wing and tail. Same as above.


Ta da! I have the best readers! Thanks, Brian.

Some mysteries…

I’ve still got some pictures left from the weekend, so here we go.

I believe this little cutie is a chiffchaff granting me a more-intimate portrait than last time.


This, however, is mystery bird number one. It looks like a sparrow, or a bunting, but I can’t find a good match, even though it was kind enough to offer me such nice back and front views.


Same goes for this mystery bird number two. I thought for sure it was a young or female chaffinch or goldfinch, but I can’t get a match on this one either.


At least there’s no mistaking this peacock butterfly. Phew!


If you have any more luck than I have with identifying mystery birds one or two, please don’t hesitate to chime in.

Another warbler in the woods…

Here’s another singer from my trip to the wooded cemetery on the TU Delft campus. He’s a male Eurasian blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), an Old World Warbler, and one of the seven species in the genus Sylvia, which are called typical warblers, for reasons that I am sure made perfect sense at the time.


Boy, could he sing. I’ve glimpsed them out in the countryside, too, near where I’ve captured the chaffinch and goldfinch, but I couldn’t get an image until Sunday.


Here’s a typical view I get of a great tit, also in the cemetery. Not so great, but you can clearly see its white cheeks and black beard.


Here’s an image of another meadow brown butterfly showing the top (dorsal) side of its wings. Pretty enough, if you’re into earth tones, I guess, but not as nice as the bottom (ventral) side I showed you already.


For comparison, here’s yet one more look at a peacock butterfly, because I took so many, and because I just can’t help myself. They clearly chose a different path.


Finally, here’s one more interesting character from the cemetery. I’d still be trying to identify it if that face didn’t look so familiar, I hadn’t played a hunch, and I hadn’t gotten lucky. It is a young, perhaps freshly fledged, blackbird. Too me, they look just like their North American cousins, the American Robins, despite the very different plumage.


And that’s it for today, folks. Catch ya next time.

Parallel Worlds…

After taking pictures in the countryside and writing to you about it on Saturday, I went on a big bike ride to run some errands, so Sunday morning I needed a break from my bike saddle. Luckily, I’ve gradually noticed a big chunk of forest right in the northwest corner of the TU Delft campus, and it took me only about 10 minutes to walk there. It turns out to be a huge cemetery, surrounded by a moat except for one short gated part, and the gate was not locked. I haven’t been in a forest this deep and peaceful since following the Milwaukee River through Estabrook Park. Sweet!

I could hear birds, of course, but they hide a lot better in the leafy treetops than big birds can in the fields or on the water, so it took me a while to find them, but I did manage to spot a couple.

I’m thrilled to finally be able to show you a European robin (Erithacus rubecula). It is a lot smaller than the American robin and not even in the same family. The Pedia of Wik claims that “the distinctive orange breast of both sexes contributed to the European robin’s original name of ‘redbreast’,” since “orange as a colour [sic] name” was “unknown in English until the 16th century, by which time the fruit had been introduced.” Further, “in the 15th century, when it became popular to give human names to familiar species, the bird came to be known as robin redbreast, which was eventually shortened to robin.” Etymology seems almost as fun as entomology.


Here he is singing a very different tune. I think John Gurda would be pleased.


I was stunned to see a Eurasian creeper (Certhia familiaris), which looks identical to the brown creepers (Certhia americana) we have in Estabrook. Sorry about the blurry image. The tree had a lot of leaves along its trunk, and the little rascal was fast. See how nicely the leaves over its head are in focus?


I’ve got one more butterfly from Saturday, an aptly-named “large white” butterfly (Pieris brassicae), also called “cabbage butterfly”, “cabbage white”, or in India the “large cabbage white”, just to be explicit. It is a close relative of the smaller “cabbage white”(Pieris rapae), we see in Estabrook Park, but it is noticeably bigger.


Here’s a grey heron fishing on one of the several canals that crisscross the TU Delft campus.


Finally, here’s one more look at one of the amazing peacock butterflies from Saturday.


Google maps thinks the cemetery is about 11.5 acres, almost the same size as Downer Woods on the UWM campus, and the total area bounded by roads is a whopping 23 acres, about the same as “the entire Downer Woods area“. Quite the little accidental urban nature preserve.

Cleanup in Aisle Three…

Oof! Sorry about my goof-up in yesterday’s report. The WordPress editor seems to struggle a bit with my switch from merely inserting images directly to imbedding image URLs from my Flickr page. I thought I had deleted the picture of the little bird with the black cap and yellow belly, to save it for today, and it appeared gone in my preview, but when I checked the report today, there it was. Dang. I’ve fixed it now, as far as I can tell.

Anyway, the Eurasian wren I wrote about yesterday is the little brown bird with a checked pattern on its feathers, similar to the ones in Estabrook, and the little bird with the black cap and yellow belly, now pictured below, is a “great tit” (Parus major), possibly a juvenile. I read that it “remains the most widespread species in the genus Parus,” and “there are currently 15 recognised [sic] subspecies of great tit.” Apparently “tit”, in other times and/or in other cultures, denotes “something small,” such as “a small horse” or “a boy”.


Anyway, another fun find from yesterday is this stunning European peacock or just peacock butterfly (Aglais io) sipping nectar from the same thistles as the small tortoiseshell butterflies we saw back in June. I read that the prominent “eye patches” on the top (dorsal) side of its wings is only its second line of defense, and the first line is staying still with its wings closed, exposing only the plain bottom (ventral) side of its wings, to look like a dead leaf. I’ll have to see if I can get a picture of one doing that for you.


There were a few specimens there, and here’s a shot with two of them. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, given that “it is a relatively common butterfly, seen in many European parks and gardens.


I spotted another chaffinch, now that I know where to look, and this one even appeared to be gleaning seeds from some chaff, supposedly the behavior for which it was named.


And here are a pair of great crested grebes doting on their chick. The adult on the right surfaced with some little morsel in its beak, paddled over and passed it to the adult on the left, who then fed it to the chick.


Finally, those thistle blossoms aren’t feeding only butterflies, and here’s one with a well-pollinated honey bee. Given its location, perhaps it is a “western honey bee or European honey bee (Apis mellifera),” “the most common of the 7–12 species of honey bees worldwide”


That’s it for now, and I’ll show you more tomorrow, if things go according to plan.

A Satisfactory South Holland Saturday

Well, I’ve been here for over a month, and I now have a local bank account into which I got paid and from which I paid my rent for July, so it looks like they’re going to let me stay a while. That’s cool ’cause now that I’ve had a taste, I’d like to see how this whole experiment turns out.

We had a beautiful morning here today, and my first stop was at the stork nest, where the chicks look healthy and appear even to be showing a little sibling rivalry.


There were new butterflies out today, and here’s a beautifully earth-toned, female “meadow brown” (Maniola jurtina) feeding on a thistle blossom on the berm between the bike path and the canal.


I also spotted another new bird for us, this shy Eurasian wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), who look just like the wrens we see in Estabrook Park. I am stunned to read that it is “the only member of the wren family Troglodytidae found in Eurasia and Africa (Maghreb).” Heck, we have at least three different species in Estabrook: the house, the winter, and the marsh.


The goldfinches were out again, and this handsome devil struck a pose on the edge of an honest-to-goodness thatched roof.


I finally found a male blackbird willing to sit for a portrait to go with the image of a female I showed you from my first day here.


And I finally found a common moorhen with her chick.


There’s more, but I’m gonna try to spread them out over a few days. Wish me luck and watch this space.

Fun with Names!

It did rain last night, as forecast, but the skies were mostly clear by morning, so out I went again. This time a female tufted duck was the first to greet me with a photo-op. I do see them around, from time to time, but I haven’t taken a picture of one since staying by the Kralingse Plas back in May.

I checked in on the storks again and found one parent and two chicks at home. You can see one chick peeking over the rim of the nest to help mom or dad keep eyes on me.

The stork nest is in the back yard of a house in a row of nice houses, and I often find little birds in the front yards. Here’s another white wagtail on someone’s garden path.

Here finally is a new bird for us, and I’m pretty sure it’s a song thrush (Turdus philomelos), although it might be a mistle thrush. I don’t recall seeing one before, but I spotted three different ones today. Oddly, it is in the same genus, Turdus, as the American robin, but the thrushes we see in Estabrook, the hermit thrushes and Swainson’s thrushes are not. Instead, they are in the genus Catharus. And, yes, this will all be on the final exam.

The front yards were busy this morning, and here’s another new bird for us, a dunnock (Prunella modularis) aka hedge accentor, hedge sparrow or hedge warbler. Ebird describes it as a “rather drab but distinctive little bird: note slender, thrush-like bill (not stout, like superficially similar sparrows).”

There was no sign of human activity this morning in any of the houses or yards in that row, but I didn’t want to hang out with binoculars and a long lens for long enough to cause some, so I tore myself away and continued on to the open water, which was still teaming with bar-tailed godwits. Here’s the one with the best pose this morning.

Across the bike path from the open water, a bunch of little birds was foraging in a long hedge of trees, which look like they might be mulberries, and this was the best picture I could get. I believe it is either a marsh tit (Parus palustris) or willow tit (Parus montanus), but the picture is not good enough to distinguish between the two. Next time. In any case, it’s in the same family, Paridae, as the black-capped chickadees in Estabrook.

I didn’t see any new waders today, and I had to go back by the row of houses anyway, so I stopped to see if there was anyone new around, and that’s when I saw this spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) flying sorties from and returning to the same spot on a branch, just like the flycatchers and phoebes in Estabrook Park. It’s an “Old World flycatcher“, however, so isn’t even in the same family, despite the “superficial” resemblance.

Then I finally struck gold in the form of this colorful European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis). I’d been catching glimpses of that bright yellow wing for a while, but this is the first time I got a good look at one, let alone getting anything on “film”.

It rivals the chaffinch, doesn’t it? The guy who came up with “goldfinch”, however, must have felt like an idiot after he got a load of the American goldfinch. He should have gone with Ewijk finch, since the village of Ewijk uses the same, white-orange-yellow-and-black, color scheme in their flag.

As I continued to make my way back to Delft, I spotted another bird of prey in the distance, and its large size, brown and white feathers, dark eyes, yellow and dark beak leads me to believe it is a common buzzard (Buteo buteo).

In more crazy naming confusion, as the Pedia of Wik explains, members of the genus Buteo, are called “buzzards” in the Old World and “hawks” in the New World. Meanwhile the New World turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) is also known in some North American regions as the turkey buzzard (or just buzzard). Sheesh!

After the buzzard, I figured I was done for the morning, and I put my camera back in my backpack, but it didn’t take long before I had to take it back out again for another Swedish blue domestic hen with a fresh batch of nine (9!) ducklings.

Meanwhile, right behind me, on the other side of the bike path, a spoonbill was busy foraging a lot closer to me than the previous one did, so here you go. Go ahead and count those feathers.


WordPress wouldn’t let me upload these last two images because it claims I’ve used up the full 13GB of storage that comes with my subscription, so I’m trying something new. I’ve uploaded the images to my flickr account instead and just gave WordPress the url for each of them. They look fine now, as I edit this post, and I’ll be curious to hear if you can tell the difference.