Readers’ wildlife photos (and videos)

We’re going to omit the usual wildlife pics today on the grounds that few people will be reading on the holiday, at least in America, and I’m sure the photographers want lots of folks to see their work. So here are three of mine: bunnies that I saw on my way to work. They’re Eastern Cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus), ubiquitous in the Eastern U.S.  The pics were taken with my iPhone, so they’re not great. Still, it’s great to see bunnies on my way to the office, and they rarely are seen in pairs:



Oh hell. I’ll put in two lovely videos for the record; these were taken is by reader Rick Longworth, whose notes are indented (be sure to watch them on the Vimeo site by clicking on “vimeo” at lower right and then enlarging):

This is a follow-up on the film report I submitted earlier on blue heron (Ardea herodias) nest building in May (see below).  I returned to the rookery, which has about 20 nests, when the chicks were almost full grown.  They were exercising their wings and venturing out along branches away from the nest.  Some nests were empty – probably already fledged. My goal was to document the feeding behavior.

When a parent returns with a gullet full of fish, the young rush, not toward the parent, but to the nest where the meal will be provided.  The young have already assumed their begging posture – slightly crouched and bobbing with wings lifted a bit.  They vocalize with a croaking, stuttering call.   The parent lifts its head high as if to say, “don’t be in such a hurry”,  and the brood begins to reach up with open mouths.  One of the chicks then grabs the adult by the thick part of the beak and pulls its head down toward the nest, which causes the adult to regurgitate into the nest.  Sometimes this forceful maneuver must be repeated several times before the parent will dump the load. The young scramble, fighting each other for the food and calling raucously. The parent heads off for another gut full.

I noted that the young seemed to know their parents from a distance and assumed the begging positions before the parent had gotten to the nest.  Other nestlings on adjacent nests seemed uninterested and took no notice of the commotion.

I was unable to tell male from female parent since herons show little sexual dimorphism. After watching the feeding for about 3 hours, I estimated that each adult seemes to spend about two hours hunting before returning to feed the young.

Lucky for me, as you can see in the film, many of the rookery trees were dead and leafless which made filming much easier.

I can’t seem to find Rick’s post on nest-building in this species, so here’s that video:

Great blue herons nesting near Dover Plains, NY. 4-24-2017.
Early nesting pairs – the females improve the nests with sticks brought in by the males.

13 Comments

  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 4, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    There are a bunch of bunnies in my yard. A couple weeks back the “newly hatched” ones were around so I think there was a nest of babies again. There were some bunnies I saw that weren’t fresh from the nest but not big enough to be fully grown either. Then there are the adults I see occassionally. The one adolescent I saw was really cute because it was munching on dandelions & then would get startled & run, with it’s little cotton tail showing, under a nearby coniferous tree.

    • Posted July 5, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Any photos?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 5, 2017 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

        No, sadly though I did take a picture last year of a bunny that my dog had in her mouth. I told her to drop it and she opened her mouth and the bunny hoped away. My dog is soft mouthed as she’s a retriever but also as a retriever she wants to put everything in her mouth. It was actually funny to see the bunny hop out of her mouth.

        Jerry posted that picture of the baby bunny last year.

  2. Joseph Stans
    Posted July 4, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I’m impressed by the young heron who, in the midst of an energetic squabble decides to exit stage left and maybe find tick tack or snickers bar not in dispute.

  3. Posted July 4, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Just yesterday I was out photographing insects. I pulled into my favorite spot in my favorite park, which is next to a large pond. It was completely empty of people, which was weird but very welcome. Standing about 40 feet away in the pond was a rather startled blue heron. It was an awesome bird. We looked intensely at each other in the completely silent park. But when I carefully crept out to get my camera in the back, it of course flew off to a farther spot in the pond.

  4. claudia baker
    Posted July 4, 2017 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Great rookery films!

    There is a heron rookery near here, and 3-4 times a day an adult heron, (can’t tell if it’s male or female), flies elegantly past my front window, along the lake edge. First one way, then back again, presumably to feed its chicks. I love the way they hold their head as they fly quietly past. So serene and lovely.

    Cute bunnies too!

  5. Posted July 4, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Have you urban foxes in Chicago? …that might eat the bunnies…?

  6. Posted July 4, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    A friend of mine is obsessed with rabbits. She’s currently taking care of some “rescue rabbits” which look a lot like these. I suspect they are the same or near to it specieswise (given that we’re in Ottawa).

    They sure grow fast!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 4, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      Sometimes people decide to let their domesticated bunny free. I used to see one or two when I worked in a park. The bunny was lucky to survive an Ontario winter but some make it through. I don’t know if they breed with the locals or not.

  7. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 4, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Great work Rick! Very interesting. It was cool to see the birds perform the behaviours you’d just described.

  8. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted July 5, 2017 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    This is what my iPhone pics of those rabbits – which I know thanks to this post are Cottontails – look like. Seen a pair as well.

    This is also the one I saw almost get picked up by a Cooper’s hawk, I posted on a RWP once.

  9. Posted July 5, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I like the cottontail photos. They resemble illustrations for a children’s book. As if they are deliberately processed, or even artwork.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 5, 2017 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, the similar pose makes them look like statues in Jerry’s photo.


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