Category Archives: Beyond Bounds

Hover and Perch

Pied kingfisher, composite of one diving (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis), native to Africa and Asia, is nearly as big as our belted kingfisher but he has a unique trait. He’s the largest bird able to hover in place without help from the wind.

The image above is a composite of three photos: a single pied kingfisher diving for the water. The video below (which is missing audio in the middle) shows a parent hovering and his daughter working on her dive.

When pied kingfishers aren’t hovering they hunt from a perch.

Two pied kingfishers watching for fish (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Sometimes the perch can swim.

Pied kingfisher perched on a hippopotamus (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; video from Love Nature on YouTube)

Like A Painting

Catching a fly (photo by Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith via Flickr Creative Commons license)

This portrait of an African paradise flycatcher looks almost like a painting. Photographer Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith describes how he captured it:

Followed this male around the Tshokwane picnic area in Kruger National Park looking for the right setting. The fly it was about to consume was just luck, but the background took a bit for the bird to get there.

The bird’s pose is a beautiful arc.

(photo by Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith on Flickr, Creative Commons license)


Moon and Jupiter reflected on Brofjorden, Sweden (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When the moon is bright, the sky is clear, and the wind is calm the moon’s reflection makes a path on the water.

In Sweden where this photo was taken the word for the moon’s path is mångata or “moon street.”

In English we have a name for it, though the word is rarely used: Moonglade.

(photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)

At The Hot Springs

Male crested kingfisher, Hokkaido, Japan (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Kingfishers migrate in the fall to find open water where they can fish. This stunning bird lives year-round at the hot springs in the Kitami Hills of Hokkaido, Japan because the water doesn’t freeze.

Almost the size of a crow, the crested kingfisher (Megaceryle lugubris), is native to southern Asia from India to Japan.

Read more about him and see a photo of his mate here –> Crested kingfisher.

(photo from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)

Ponds On The Ocean

Ponds on the Arctic Ocean (photo by NASA’s Kathryn Hanson via Wikimedia Commons)

Ice and snow are returning this weekend in Pittsburgh but they won’t look like this.

In July 2011 two men walked between the melt ponds on top of the ice on the Arctic Ocean. The patterns and texture resemble flocked fabric. Click here to see a fabric sample.

When the ice breaks the freshwater ponds will fall into the sea. Fortunately the two men will be back on their boat before that happens.

Find out why they’re there in the photo description at this link.

(photo from NASA via Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)

Happy New Year!

Augur buzzard (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

May your new year be filled with beautiful birds!

This beauty looks like a red-tailed hawk but he’s from Africa. His tail is red but he doesn’t have the telltale “belly band” of dashes on his chest.

This is an augur buzzard (Buteo augur) from Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Click on the photo caption to see the original featured photo on Wikimedia Commons.

p.s. Augur buzzards have charcoal gray backs and very hooked beaks, but you can’t see those features in this photo.

(featured photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Who’s On The Wire?

Bird on a wire at Carrizo Plain, CA (photo from BLM via Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s a bird you won’t see in Pennsylvania.  He was photographed at Carrizo Plain National Monument, 100 miles (as the crow flies) northwest of Los Angeles, California.

Quiz:  Who is this on the wire? … Notice his long legs.

(photo by Bob Wick, BLM via Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)

Open Wide!

Wire-tailed swallow bringing food to juvenile (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

This beautiful swallow, native to sub-Saharan Africa and southern and southeast Asia, is very similar to our barn swallow except for its two wire-like tail feathers and its preference to live near water.

The wire-tailed swallow’s (Hirundo smithii) family life is similar, too.  When the fledglings beg for food, the parents deliver it on the wing.

Open wide!

Wire-tailed swallow delivering food to young (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

(photos by Manojiritty on Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

Spoonbills Here and There

Eurasian spoonbill (photo by Andreas Trepte,, via Wikimedia Commons)
Eurasian spoonbill in the Netherlands (photo by Andreas Trepte,, via Wikimedia Commons)

A bird this unusual must surely be from the tropics, but not this one.

The Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) is a large white wading bird with black legs and a spatulate bill that’s black with a yellow tip.  In breeding plumage they have feather crests and yellow chins. Click here for another view.

Spoonbills live in fresh and saltwater wetlands where they hunt for prey by sweeping their long bills side to side below the surface, snapping them shut when they feel prey close by.

Amazingly this spoonbill nests in both temperate and tropical zones.  Though they’re sparse in Europe, their range extends to Africa and wide swaths of Asia (see map).  Four hundred years ago Eurasian spoonbills disappeared from the British Isles. Happily, they returned to breed in the marshes of Norfolk County in 2010.

Breeding range of Eurasian spoonbill in Europe (map from Wikimedia Commons)
Breeding range of Eurasian spoonbill in Europe (map from Wikimedia Commons)

Of the six spoonbill species on Earth, all but one are white.  The pink one lives in our hemisphere, the roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja).

Roseate Spoonbill (photo by Steve Gosser)
Roseate Spoonbill (photo by Steve Gosser)


Click here to see the six species of spoonbills, Platalea.  Ours is the one with “A ha ha!” in his name:  Platalea ajaja!


(photo credits:
Eurasian spoonbill by Andreas Trepte,, via Wikimedia Commons
map of European breeding range from Wikimedia Commons; click on the map to see the original
Roseate spoonbill by Steve Gosser