Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Violent Lunch Hour

During lunch on Friday I got away to enjoy the beautiful blue, sunny skies, the perfect temperature, and a nice, dry breeze - the comfortable summer days of June! I headed to Valley Inn Road where I had to pick my path through Canada Geese sunning on the paved trail, only a glance of the one eye not tucked below feathers lazily checking me out.  A Gray Catbird was spilling its convoluted tune as I walked into the wooded portion of the path, and I could hear Baltimore Orioles and Yellow Warblers singing.

In an opening in the trees, two Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies were chasing each other, and then landing on the fringes of the night before's rain puddles.  I'm guessing it is a pair as I doubt two males would be this close together?
A pair of  Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies.
I was curious about why these butterflies were "drinking" off the muddy soil rather than straight from the puddle just beside them.  Seems they may have been "mud puddling".  If they were, then they are drinking from the soil where water is evaporating to drink up moisture which is more enriched with dissolved things like sodium and other nutrients.  They will actually drink large quantities and expel the liquid, quickly processing the water straight though, extracting the nutrients.  The males do this often to increase their chances of fertilizing after mating.
 Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
As I was photographing the butterfly above (which I had followed after landing at a new puddle just a few moments earlier), I noticed movement to my right... a Northern Leopard Frog was resting a part of the puddle.  It was a couple feet away.  I took a picture or two more of the butterfly, and then noticed, another frog .... well, shimmying (best I can think of) towards the butterfly.

the approach...
It didn't take much to figure out what was going to happen next, but one more second would have allowed me to zoom out to capture the "violence" referenced in my post title.  I missed it, except for the off screen action you can guess at in the following picture.

...the censored action
(too bad it wasn't the camera "sensored" action!!)

You can see the clear set of eyelids of the frog,
one of three sets it has.

After I looked up from catching these shots, I realized the puddled area around me was being carefully watched by about another five other jealous leopard frogs who had hoped to have had that juicy meal.

A Northern Leopard Frog with no lunch.

The rest of my walk was a little less eventful, but I did see a pair of Downy Woodpeckers chasing each other through the tree branches.  They were very active and hard to capture in their brief moments of staying still. They must have been quite distracted in their games because they repeatedly came very close to me, but of course not long enough for me to line them up and get a picture at that range.

Downy Woodpecker
Interesting how the camera catches how the leaves filter the light coming through to a shade of green.  Our eyes auto correct, and we don't tend to notice what the camera shows after.

Downy Woodpecker

A song sparrow landed near by, it's plain markings contrasting with its talented melodies.

Song Sparrow

As I was regretfully heading back to the office, a Common Grackle was giving it's squeaky call from a dead tree snag.  I still have not got clear in my head the differences between a Common Grackle and a Brewer's Blackbird, but am convinced upon reviewing the pictures this is the former.  From what I have gathered, the Grackle is slightly larger than a blackbird and has a stouter beak.

Common Grackle

Common Grackle displaying

One last parting shot of these two Red-winged Blackbirds... fluffed up in begging mode, the fledgling appears larger than its mother.

female Red-Winged Blackbird and fledgling

Another lunch well spent!


  1. Brian, great series of photos! It would have been cool to see the frog's tongue as it caught the butterfly. Very violent indeed.

  2. Feeling bad for the butterfly, but good for the cool to capture (most) it on camera!


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