Field Notes Update

Baby Mourning Dove by Todd Henson

I stopped by my folks place one day in early June, and was walking around behind their house when I saw my mother through the deck window waving her arms to get my attention. Then she began pointing at a spot on the deck. I had no idea what she wanted me to see, but I walked further around to look where she was pointing. It didn’t take me long to spot this small, newly fledged, bird resting quietly atop a box of sproutlings.

A young, newly fledged, Mourning Dove resting atop some sprouting plants.

The baby bird didn’t move as I walked around it, up the deck stairs, and inside. My mother gave me her camera and I went back out to see if I could capture a few images of this amazing little bird. It never moved as I approached, slowly and cautiously, not wanting to frighten it or draw the ire of its parents. I could see it following me with its eyes, but it stayed quiet and still. My mother had said it had been there for a while now, and that a Robin had landed beside it and she thought it had actually pecked at the little bird’s head. Interestingly, a nest of Robins directly overhead had just fledged the week before.

A side view of the baby Mourning Dove, seen through the sproutlings. Notice the red patch on the back of its neck.

If you look closely at the photo taken from the side and slightly to the back you can see a red spot on the back of its head. I’m not sure if that’s the result of the Robin or if it was already there.

I didn’t spend long photographing it. I didn’t want to draw the attention of any predators that might be attracted to a defenseless baby bird. There are outdoor cats in that neighborhood and any one of them would just love this little bird as a snack. I went back inside and began researching what it could be. Though a Robin had approached it, it looked nothing like a Robin to me. I thought it had the body type of a Mourning Dove, and when I researched online that is, in fact, what it was.

A parting shot of the young Mourning Dove resting atop the box of sprouts.

We waited and watched through the window, hoping to see it fly away or a parent return to care for it. Several times it stood, moved in circles, and stretched it wings, but then sat back down. We thought perhaps it was just resting and gaining enough strength to fly. Eventually an adult Mourning Dove flew into a nearby tree. That was all it took. The fledgling stood, stretched, and flew up into the tree beside its parent.

We never saw the bird again, at least not in its fledgling state. Who knows, perhaps it’s now one of the many Mourning Doves who frequent my folks yard. I cherish moments like these, when you have the opportunity to witness something special, something you don’t see every day. My folks had the same experience with the Robins when they fledged. Beautiful moments.

You don’t always have to travel to witness the wonders of wildlife. Keep your eyes open in your own neighborhood. You never know what you might see.

Parasol Mushroom by Todd Henson

A horizontal view of a parasol mushroom growing out of a small patch of grass.

The Parasol mushroom is an interesting mushroom with a textured cap topped with lots of little growths (they appear to be called scales) and a ring on the stem just below the cap. It gets its name from its resemblance to a parasol (umbrella).

A vertical view of a parasol mushroom growing out of a small patch of grass.

I found this particular specimen in a small cluster of grass right in the middle of a wooded trail in mid-July. I’m very surprised it hadn’t been trampled, but I don’t think the trail gets a huge volume of traffic. I’m also not sure how quickly this mushroom grows so I don’t know how long it had been on the trail.

I was fascinated by how it was growing right in the little patch of grass so I got down on my stomach and captured a couple frames from ground level. You can just barely see the ring on the stem, just below the rim of the cap. I probably should have photographed it from the other side, looking up under the cap, but didn’t think of that at the time.

Lesson for the future: Take the time to work the subject before moving on. With these sorts of subjects you often can’t go back later as it could disappear at any time.

When I first published this post I had mistakenly identified this mushroom as an Amanita rubescens, known as The Blusher. Many thanks to Antonín who pointed out it looked more like a parasol mushroom. After spending more time researching and reading up on both species I agree with him. Identifying mushrooms can be a challenge and I still have much to learn, which is one of the great draws of nature photography. Every photograph I create, and every post I publish, is an opportunity to learn something new. If you ever see any species in my posts you feel I’ve misidentified please leave a comment and let me know. Thanks much!

Visitors to the Hibiscus by Todd Henson

I’m continually fascinated by all the life we so often overlook. We plant flowers and watch them grow, admiring their beautiful buds, but we often miss the small insects that make these plants their home or feeding ground.

One afternoon I decided to photograph the hibiscus flowers, but quickly began noticing the little bugs crawling over the plants. So I pointed my macro lens at the insects and continued shooting, having a great time exploring their closeup world.

Long-legged Flies

A Long-legged Fly on an hibiscus leaf.

Top down view of an iridescent, metallic looking Long-legged Fly.

I caught movement on the leaves of an hibiscus and noticed a fly, but different from typical house flies. These are Long-legged Flies, and are considered beneficial by gardeners as they feed on some of the pests in gardens, such as spider mites and aphids. I love their iridescent metallic sheen. Even flies can be beautiful.

Spotted Cucumber Beetles

A Spotted Cucumber Beetle with hibiscus pollen on its legs.

A Spotted Cucumber Beetle eating the hibiscus pollen off its front legs.

Facing the Spotted Cucumber Beetle.

Next up I found a Spotted Cucumber Beetle feeding on hibiscus pollen. Grains of pollen were all over its legs, and a couple pieces were even stuck to its antennae. This beetle is considered a garden pest as it eats the leaves of many agricultural plants. In this particular case, though, perhaps it may help pollinate the hibiscus.

Notice the yellow grains of pollen of the hibiscus flower.

Looking closely inside the hibiscus you can see the grains of pollen.

Versute Sharpshooter Leafhoppers

Versute Sharpshooter Leafhopper on an hibiscus leaf.

Moving in closer to the Versute Sharpshooter Leafhopper.

Versute Sharpshooter Leafhopper on the edge of an hibiscus leaf.

Last up was a very interesting insect, a Versute Sharpshooter Leafhopper, with stripes of green, orange, and cyan. They get the name leafhopper because of how they hop around the leaves. The sharpshooter part is apparently due to the small holes they create when plunging their mouthparts into leaves to extract the sap. Because of how they feed and what they feed on they are considered a garden pest.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short excursion among the insects frequenting the hibiscus in the garden. What sorts of insects have you found around your flowers and garden plants? Are they beneficial or pests?