Friday, December 27, 2013

Hole Punch Cloud Time Lapse Over Florida


hole punch cloud skyfall cloud fall-streak


A nice example of a Hole Punch Cloud or Skypunch or Fallstreak. Winter is the time of year when these type of clouds are most often observed in Florida. More info at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallstreak_hole

I filmed a "Cloud Waterfall" - another fascinating cloud formation over mountainous regions last August:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCqfuvueKyA

New HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at:
http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=MyBackyardBirding

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Animals Bring "Joy To The World"



A few of the animals featured on "Backyard Birding and Beyond" in 2013 pass on their holiday greetings to bring "Joy to the World". 

New HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 




Sunday, December 22, 2013

Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture Preening Behaviour



A preening Turkey Vulture and Black Vulture in the backyard are taking their appearance, hygiene, and feather maintenance very seriously. It is also unusual for two individual vultures of different species to spend the night roosting so closely together. I am always impressed with the quiet dignity of large vultures at roost. You might change your mind about vultures after watching these two attractive neat freaks. One has to look their best before heading out for a day of eating roadkill - which is a valuable service.

New HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 

Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture Preening


Baby Owls Say Humbug to Chipmunks Caroling "We Wish You A Merry Christmas"



Upbeat Chipmunks continuously singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" might get on some people's nerves. Here is a little holiday fun as the young Screech Owls are brought to the nest box entrance by the sounds of Chipmunk Carolers singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" .

New HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 


Eastern Screech Owlets Christmas Songs

Baby Owls Say Humbug to Chipmunks Caroling "We Wish You A Merry Christmas"

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Red Shouldered Hawk Mating Pair




Male and female Red Shouldered Hawks have just completed a "sky dance" over the backyard (which I missed filming)  and are resting high in a long-leaf pine tree. This would be a great place for a nest, but as you can hear the Blue Jays and squirrels are constantly sounding alarm trying their best to make them feel unwelcome in the neighborhood. Mating seems to be ahead of schedule this winter as a pair of Ospreys have also been "sky dancing" recently.

New HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 

Red Shouldered Hawk Long Leaf Pine Tree Florida


Painted Buntings (Greenies) in Stereo



The Painted Bunting population in the backyard has reached about 8 now and only 1 is a mature male in the classic Painted Bunting colors of blue, red, green, gray and yellow. The others are "greenies" - either females or immature males - the only all green or emerald and jade-colored songbird in the US. 

New HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 


Painted Buntings in Florida

Magnificent Turkey Vulture Wingspan



The largest visitor to the Backyard (an Eagle has never been filmed at rest) - is an impressive migrating Turkey Vulture that spent the night in the long-leaf pines behind the backyard and spent some time warming up in the morning sun before soaring to find the nearest roadkill. Seeing the full wingspan of nearly 6 feet was a delight - play this at full HD on a large screen.

New HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 

Turkey Vulture Wings and Wingspan





Sunday, December 15, 2013

Giant Leaf-Footed Bug - Amazing Insect Camouflage



This quite large and attractive Florida Leaf-Footed Bug ( a true bug) has at least two camouflage factors going for it. This particular large sub-species, which I think is Leptoglossus zonatus, I have not seen before, has the large leaf decorations on its feet and is likely a large male, but it also has markings on its body to make it look just like a resting moth with false eyes on the back of its head. If that doesn't work it can emit a foul odor as it is related to the stink bug. It needs the disguise and defense mechanisms because this bug is slow - - really slow and deliberate and it could care less that I am just inches away filming it. Watch as it searches a Brazilian Pepper Tree for green fruit, it wants unripe green berries not red ones.  While this class of bugs can be serious pests, especially the small ones that attack green fruit of gardens and citrus groves these big ones rarely reach the density to do serious damage. I have not had a problem with them on my mango trees. It is somewhat ironic that it is in this case it is attacking the invasive Brazilian Pepper and at the end you can see it using its long proboscis to pierce and suck the juices of the fruit.

New HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 

Leaf-Footed Bug - Amazing Insect Camouflage



Leaf-Footed Bug - Amazing Insect Camouflage

The signature "leaf-foot"

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Golden Fairy Club Mushroom - Coral Fungi



I was fortunate to notice this little patch of Golden Fairy Club Mushrooms (Clavulinopsis laeticolor) a type of Coral Fungi along the Mountain to Seas Trail. As you might guess it is not edible. In many miles of hiking only this tiny little patch was noticed - I had never seen it in the wild before. It was unusually wet in the Great Smoky Mountains this past summer and many varieties of fungi were noted. More to come.

New HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 
http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=MyBackyardBirding


Golden Fairy Club Mushroom - Coral Fungi

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Squirrel Listener - Relaxing Nature Meditation



The Red Squirrel Listener - Relaxing Nature Meditation. Spend some quality time sharing  breakfast, tea or lunch at the creek-side home of the most attentive creature you'll ever encounter - the Squirrel Listener. Twelve minutes of up close undivided attention, eye contact, and the sounds of a small stream - you'll swear she is right in front of you.

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 

Red Squirrel nature meditation

The Squirrel Listener - Relaxing Nature Meditation

Free Range Cattle in Florida




A small herd of free range cows ( cattle ) block the road on public land in Florida. Out looking for birds, but couldn't resist filming these attractive cows that were reluctant to get out of the "road". Cows love to make eye contact, one wonders what they are thinking, and they would win a staring contest. There are all sorts of ethical, environmental and health issues revolving around various methods of raising cattle for food - that's certainly not my area of expertise. But cattle raised in this fashion out in the open within family/social units no doubt live better lives.

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 

Free Range Cows Cattle in Florida



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Green Lacewing Larvae or "Trash Bug" Uses Prey's Dead Bodies as Camouflage



 Green Lacewing Larvae Uses Prey's Dead Bodies as Camouflage


A Green Lacewing Larvae uses its prey's corpses as camouflage. I noticed this strange creature moving on our Mango Tree and took a closer look. When it is still you can not see it as it attaches the bodies of ants, aphids, small beetles and some of the smallest spiders I've ever seen to its back in a pattern to blend in with the mottled tree bark of the Mango tree. How it does this must be an amazing sight - there are literally dozens of dead bugs attached to its back.  The larvae is known to attach debris to itself and is sometimes called the "trash bug". This blog goes into more detail on this fascinating insect. Apparently sightings of this behavior are  rare as the disguise is so effective. In the video you will see how the bug blends right in with the tree trunk. And this little bug really moves fast even though it is extremely top-heavy, so it is difficult to get clear video and stills without injuring it - I briefly captured the bug for filming and then returned it to the tree to continue its beneficial work of preying on aphids and the like. This is one of the most beneficial of insects and one can buy the larvae to help control insects on fruit trees and gardens. I do not use pesticides on the trees as it indiscriminately kills beneficial insects - I just let nature take its course. "Whistling Down the Road" courtesy of YouTube audio library.

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 

 Green Lacewing Larvae Uses Prey's Dead Bodies as Camouflage

 The clearest picture of the dozens of dead insect bodies that make up the camouflage of the Green Lacewing Larvae.

Adult Green Lacewing of Florida (UF/IFAS photo)

 Green Lacewing Larvae Uses Prey's Dead Bodies as Camouflage

 Green Lacewing Larvae Uses Prey's Dead Bodies as Camouflage

Effective disguise on a Mango tree

 Green Lacewing Larvae Uses Prey's Dead Bodies as Camouflage


Black Capped Chickadee in Eastern Hemlock Tree



Video: Black Capped Chickadee in Eastern Hemlock Tree

A Black Capped Chickadee eating larvae on an Eastern Hemlock Tree in the Great Smoky Mountains. Nice to get a shot of a Chickadee eating natural food and also working to give the Hemlock Tree a little help as they are endangered trees in the high mountains. Chickadees feeding don't sit still long.

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at:
http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=MyBackyardBirding

Black Capped Chickadee in Eastern Hemlock Tree


Blue Jay Trains Human To Hand Feed It A Peanut !



Hand Feeding a Blue Jay


The narrative on the video tells the story. I trained a Blue Jay to eat peanuts from my hand - not just any peanuts, but healthy roasted and unsalted ones that I should be eating myself. Of course it's always nice to gain the trust of a wild animal, it is good for their survival that they have a natural wariness. But then it occurred to me that I was the one that had been "trained" to give the Jay a tasty peanut - and on its conditions. I'm not falling for that anymore, it has to come to me! We'll see who wins this battle of willpower? These are huge Blue Jays, it just may be that the Jay is too big to land on my hand and bend and easily get a peanut.

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at:
http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=MyBackyardBirding

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

SpaceX Falcon 9 Successfully Launches SES-8 Commercial Satellite from Cape Canaveral



SpaceX Falcon 9 Successfully Launches SES-8 Commercial Satellite from Cape Canaveral December 3, 2013. Just a gorgeous launch of the new Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral after sunset - the absolute best time for a picturesque launch with blue/black skies and the sun still shining on objects at very high altitude. And this one didn't disappoint. Although early on I had the camera at the wrong setting for light metering/balance and had trouble focusing as the sky was nearly dark with an intense spot of light, but recovered to get some great shots of the progress of the launch with booster firing and separation and then the boosters and fairings etc falling back into the sea as the loud sound of the launch reaches the camera.

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 

SpaceX Falcon 9 Successfully Launches SES-8 Commercial Satellite
SpaceX Falcon 9 Successfully Launches SES-8 Commercial Satellite from Cape Canaveral



SpaceX Falcon 9 Successfully Launches SES-8 Commercial Satellite


SpaceX Falcon 9 Successfully Launches SES-8 Commercial Satellite




















Sunday, December 1, 2013

Talking Baby Squirrels



Red Squirrel Babies Talking while eating - or perhaps chattering and babbling would be a better description. Only a Squirrel Whisperer would know for sure, but it probably has something to do with "their space". These are three of the five cutest baby squirrels that are only one week out of the nest box https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAsnmZ1j5ac  and as you can see they are still getting along great - not!

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at:
http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=MyBackyardBirding


                                                                      You Talking to Me?


                                                                        What are they talking about

Friday, November 29, 2013

Bald Eagle and Flock of Crows....Goodyear Blimp



A large flock of crows ushered in by the first cold spell of winter 2013 attracts the interest of a Bald Eagle as the Goodyear Blimp passes over the area - what are the odds of that happening in one day? Crows and Eagles generally don't get along as you can see in this video from last winter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0ybGVYkQps  
Always a rare treat to see an eagle soaring over the yard, but to have the Goodyear Blimp within sight at the same time is way too random to fathom. American Crows are generally not  migratory in the deep south, but they have unique seasonal behavior. They seem to form up into large flocks and move through the area and disperse into the vast interior range lands for the winter or congregate at landfills. I never see individual crows other than maybe one or two days a year in the cool season. They make a ruckus when they move through.
More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 

Bald Eagle and American Crows


Goodyear Blimp over backyard



Baby Red Squirrel Taking a Little Nap



One of the five baby squirrels is trying to take an afternoon nap after leaving the nest and getting tired of exploring its new huge Eastern Hemlock Tree house, however a neighboring chipmunk is doing its best to keep it awake. This is one of the five from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAsnmZ1j5ac

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 
Baby Red Squirrel Taking a Little Nap
Baby Red Squirrel Taking a Little Nap


Cuban Tree Frog Changes Colors



Cuban Tree Frog
Cuban Tree Frog
A Cuban Tree Frog changes colors three times to be light, medium and dark to try and blend in with its surroundings. An athletic and attractive tree frog in the wild it has largely spread through central Florida and is considered an invasive species . It is said to have an irritating skin secretion that discourages predators, but I have seen young ones eaten by Red Rat Snakes. If you let the red rat snakes and other snakes live in and near your backyard ecosystem they will help keep the balance of nature! It is recommended to euthanize these frogs when captured ( http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/frogs/cubantreefrog.shtml ) however, I rarely see or hear them in or around the house - this one was found in an old bucket and I couldn't bring myself to capture and kill the creature.

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 


Cuban Tree Frog
Cuban Tree Frog



Relaxing Nature Meditation - Dark Skies and High Surf in Florida with Ambient Music



The storms of November bring high winds and seas, rough surf and dark skies to the east coast of Florida. Not a typical day at the beach, but the expanse of the sky and the raw power of the sea are worthy of contemplation as are the small subtle details such as the foam and seaweed and the layers of currents as the tide expends its energy on the shore. You might notice that the horizon is not level as the tripod was knocked by the waves early on - somehow the askew view of the horizon is appropriate on a day like this. The soundtrack "Hydra" is courtesy of the YouTube Audio library. This video was taken during the afternoon high tide on November 25th, 2013 during a "High Surf Advisory".

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 

high waves and surf east coast of Florida

Relaxing Nature Meditation - Dark Skies and High Surf in Florida with Ambient Music

Friday, November 22, 2013

Funniest and Cutest Baby Squirrels - Really !



Funniest and Cutest Baby Squirrels is not an exaggeration (or"kittens" as squirrel young are called) - perhaps gentle, innocent, and curious. All sorts of words will come to your mind as you watch this video. A mother Red Squirrel high in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina has her hands full raising these precocious youngsters in an Eastern Screech Owl nest box. Try and count how many little squirrels there are as you watch the video! They are still totally dependent on nursing and this is their first morning really beginning to explore the world outside the nest box. Apparently young animals just can't resist squeezing their heads through a nest box entrance - see how owlets do it at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTmQ1mnjAJc  "Funniest and Cutest Baby Screech Owls"

The music at the end is the appropriate  "Get Outside" by Jason Farnham, courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library.

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 
Funniest and Cutest Baby Squirrels in owl nest box



Eastern Chipmunk Stuffing Its Face



In the spirit of Thanksgiving Dinner here is a short video of an Eastern Chipmunk in the Great Smoky Mountains literally "stuffing its face" to capacity. It can only gather so much by the traditional "vacuming" method so get as full a load as possible before returning to the den it forces more food in with it's front paws. They will have the last laugh though in the cold winter months when they are snug and warm beside their larder.

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 


Eastern Chipmunk eating

Tufted Titmouse Chickadee and Dark Eyed Junco Play King of the Mountain



Extreme close-up of a Tufted Titmouse and  Black Capped Chickadee  taking turns at a bird seed bonanza provided high in the forest of the Great Smoky Mountains when a Dark Eyed Junco arrives and decides to stake its claim to the whole seed pile. A game of "King of the Mountain" ensues and in the process the greedy Junco spills more seeds than it can eat. Of course it will clean them up on the ground later.

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 

Tufted Titmouse



Autumn SkyTime Lapse - Great Smoky Mountains



Great Smoky Mountains fall foliage

Late October time lapse of high cirrus clouds rolling in over the Great Smoky Mountains awash in fall color. Winter is not far behind...

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wild Florida Red Rat Snake Swallows Lizard



Wild Florida Red Rat Snake


A young Red Rat Snake (also called a Corn Snake) captures and squeezes a Brown Anole Lizard not much small than itself and spends the next 15 minutes slowly swallowing it. Florida Red Rat Snakes are constrictors just like their large exotic cousins such as the invasive Burmese Pythons and they capture, kill and eat their prey the same way, just on a much smaller scale. This one does it all while hanging upside down from a backyard outbuilding. Mostly nocturnal, the snakes learn that the outdoor lighting attracts lizards and that is prime hunting ground. Unlike the invasive pythons that kill and displace native wildlife, this snake is a native and performs an invaluable service by keeping the lizards, mice and rats in check. The Brown Anole Lizard being eaten is itself an invasive species that is relatively larger than native lizards and more agressive and rapidly displacing Green Anole Lizards and timid Gecko's. These snakes should not be killed. Unfortunately finding a small snake like this doing its job in the backyard too often leads to the killing of the snake. This little backyard drama allows us a closeup look at the process. The camera was only 3 or 4 inches from the snake the entire time. This snake is undoubtedly the offspring of this large Red Rat Snake filmed earlier this summer:

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Elk Versus Photographer Great Smoky Mountains National Park !


Elk versus photographer Great Smoky Mountains

Elk Versus Photographer Great Smoky Mountains National Park

An encounter between a young spike male elk (one really can't call him a "bull elk") went viral this week. The young elk took an unusual interest in a photographer at Cataloochie Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and appeared to be playfully sparring with the man who kept his head down early in the encounter. This intrigues me because I am very familiar with the elk in the GSMNP and have filmed them often and never seen any act like this unless people tried to approach or otherwise act threatening. Indeed, as the video below shows you can be quiet and low-profile and get exceptional video of the elk going about their business. A video playlist of some of my encounters can be seen here. Huge bull elks such as this 800 pounder I filmed below could kill you in a heartbeat if provoked.



Sadly the elk was killed by the park service after this event. I had many questions about the encounter - and it turns out this young elk had been causing some problems before and that people had been feeding it Doritos and chips etc., probably starting when it was still a calf. This is very unfortunate, and of course against the law and violation comes with a steep fine. But people will be idiots and feed the wildlife and the odds of being caught are low. I do not know how aggressive the rangers are at enforcement, but I do know that budget cuts have thinned their ranks. Cataloochie in particular is unfortunately set up for this kind of animal abuse because it is so accessible to people just passing through. The classic conundrum of the popular national park, how to somehow preserve wild nature while making it safe and easy for people to experience. The reality is most people never get more than 100 yards from the car at any time when they visit the park.  

Clearly conditioning this young elk to expect a salty treat when people stand by the road is the root cause of this viral encounter. The photographer's actions can always be second guessed - he had an opportunity at the 2:42 mark in the video to just walk/run away as it appeared the elk was losing interest. Instead, he turned back around and that seemed to escalate the encounter leading to the head-butting. But he didn't have the advantage of our after-the-fact viewpoint. It really boils down to a fascinating, but sad convergence of an elk who had been fed against the law and a photographer who loves wildlife trying to get a good shot. The underlying message of this video should not be lost - and that is feeding large mammals like elk and bears results in endangerment of the public and, sadly, almost always is a death sentence for the animal.

Elk versus photographer Great Smoky Mountains

An opportunity to just walk away early on?









Friday, November 15, 2013

Yellow Rumped Warbler Hovering Skills



Yellow Rumped Warbler hovering up close and loud! A little chirp each time it arrives and takes off and the whirl of its rapidly flapping wings. While not able to sustain hovering like a hummingbird, the effort this warbler puts into eating with a certain style is truly admirable. This video is of just one lovely bird that found the suet feeder and would spend the entire day in the tree taking quick hover flights for a bite to eat. A slow motion video of the same bird set to the Blue Danube Waltz is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkpgP1WxaE8

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: 


Yellow Rumped Warbler Hovering

Yellow Rumped Warbler Hovering

Yellow Rumped Warbler Hovering


Elk Nap Great Smoky Mountains National Park



Elk Great Smoky Mountains National Park


A mellow clip of four elk (a mother and her three calves) I watched taking a nap in the Great Smoky Mountains this past October. What strikes me most about this session was the utter silence except for the slight rustling caused by the wind. It's so rare to have silence these days even in the national parks.

More HD videos every week. Please Subscribe at: