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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Surreal Cerulean Celebration

[Port Huron SGA. June 2017]

The perils of unfettered excess are well publicized; virtue, as universally acknowledged, is circumscribed by the fine line of careful moderation. Yet, could we challenge conventional wisdom and dare to flirt in unbridled decadence over a single species? 

We posit that the answer to the above question is an emphatic "yes" and in this post, we ask the reader to indulge freely as we celebrate a brilliant songbird hued in surreal tones of cyan and azure -- the Cerulean Warbler. An avian gem widely regarded as the most aesthetically pleasing of all the birdlife found in North America. A claim whose proof demands nothing less than the complete dedication of this post to this singular subject: the exceptional Cerulean Warbler.

The male Cerulean Warbler is a sight to behold. Unlike some of our larger warblers such as Bay-breasted or the Prothonotary, the Cerulean is a small warbler with pure white underparts. The head and back are azure with blue streaks.

The male also shows a distinctive neck band as well as flank streaking.

The Cerulean Warbler appears in JJ Audubon's "Birds of America" as the "Azure Warbler".

Described by Alexander Wilson in 1810: "This delicate little species is now, for the first time, introduced to public notice .... On the borders of streams and marshes, among the branches of the poplar, it is sometimes found....the front and upper part of the head is of a fine verditer blue...". 

Unlike many of our warblers that nest on or close to the ground, the Cerulean nests high up in the tree canopy.

Sadly, the Cerulean is classified as "Vulnerable" having suffered steep population declines -- only a quarter of the historical population from the 1960's remains extant today.

The Cerulean's nesting grounds lie in the Eastern US with a small fraction extending into Canada. In winter, these distinctive warblers are found in South America.

An unwritten rule of this blog is to feature a selection of birds to excite the reader's interest in a particular birding locale or hotspot. This post breaks this rule in focusing on a single species -- the Cerulean Warbler -- an exceptional warbler whose charisma demands exceptional treatment!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Kari's Snowy Plover

[SW Florida. April 2017]

At the confluence of the land and sea, from the pure white sands of Florida's beaches, an avian mirage crystallizes, bit by bit, into a small feathery ball sitting on bright, silvery legs. If, as it is said, that Helen was the face that launched a thousand ships, then surely, the Snowy Plover is the shorebird that caused a thousand clicks!

And, indeed, while this vision has been captured by numerous photographers, including this blogger, perhaps the full aesthetic justice that this spectacular plover deserves requires the eye of an artist -- and in this regard, we are delighted to present this unique shorebird in all its ethereal glory thanks to Kari Pagnano who eloquently describes the scene in her own art and words:


Nature offers an endless source of subject matter to paint and the beauty and individuality of birds are gifts that inspire me. 

Observing the stillness of a bird at rest leaves me peaceful and the exuberance of sudden flight fills me with delight. 

What I am most interested in communicating with my paintings is serenity and beauty in a quiet, straightforward manner.

I am so happy to have discovered the Digital Plume Hunter and his beautiful photography to expand my bird references and knowledge.

Kari Pagnano


Kari's art expresses the universal joy of discovery and enchantment that we all feel when communing with nature in silence. An inspiration this writer humbly hopes rings true for every reader of this blog. 

Indeed, the Snowy Plover was the highlight of 6 plover species enjoyed during a Spring visit to Southwest Florida at fabled venues such as Bunche Beach and Little Estero CWA:

  • Snowy Plover
  • Wilson's Plover
  • Piping Plover
  • Black-bellied Plover
  • Semipalmated Plover; and,
  • Killdear (aka Meadow Plover)
We start with the Snowy Plover that has been celebrated in art so masterfully by Kari:

In contrast to the dainty Snowy Plover, Wilson's Plover is larger, with a robust bill and dull, pink legs: 

A gorgeous male seen at Little Estero CWA where this breeding pair were also spied:

The female, above, shows a beige collar and paler markings compared to the male below:

Another view of the magnificent male:

Next, Piping Plover is another plover to enjoy on SW Florida's beaches -- a threatened species at risk because it breeds where people and their pets abound -- resulting in frequent nesting failure:

Piping Plover is also a pale plover with a dark (but unbroken) band; however, note the orange legs and bill.

Semipalmated Plover is a much more commoner species and shows orange legs and a brown back:

In breeding plumage (above), a black mask develops in addition to the band and "headband".

Compared to the above, the Black-bellied Plover is a giant:

This is our largest plover and this particular individual is still molting into alternate plumage.

And, lastly, Killdeer (or Meadow Plover) -- this is our only double banded plover and since it isn't coastal, it is best found in marshes (here seen at Harns Marsh):

Nature may be celebrated in so many different ways -- for some, a furtive view through binoculars; for others, through the magic of digital capture; and for the rare few, in sublime art with paint and canvas as Kari's paintings have so beautifully illustrated.