Almost-spring on Bird Island

Come fly with me…

… to a strange and wonderful place known as Bird Island. It’s very close to home.

This Magnificent Frigatebird knows the way.

Black frigatebirds on lower branches, white Wood Storks above.

The storks are the most numerous nesting birds at this time of year on this small mangrove island in the Indian River Lagoon that’s just off our peninsular town of Sewall’s Point.

Frigatebirds don’t nest here, they just roost, I’ve been told. But I’m keeping an eye on that situation!

We took a boat out on Tuesday, March 17, late afternoon with the newest member of the family, Ruby the 10-week-old German shepherd. It was her first boat ride and she was great! (We are members of a boat club in Manatee Pocket, about a 20 minute ride to Bird Island.)

Brown Pelicans had reserved their own roosting and nesting spots in one section of the canopy.

Big wings, big bill.

Wood Storks flew close to the boat.

Very common sight in Sewall’s Point at this time of year, as they fly over on their way to Bird Island, sometimes even stopping in our trees to break beaches for nesting material.

Peachy pink feet visible in this photo, as well as some color under the wings.

Speaking of color, the White Ibis have more intensely colored bills and feet in breeding season.

I am so glad this island was designated a wildlife area.

A Great Blue Heron among the Wood Storks. Looks like a Little Blue Heron mixed in there too.

Birds everywhere.

Ruby was watching them too.

White Ibis flying over. They don’t stop on this island – they have their own on the other side of the Intracoastal Waterway.

White Ibis zoomed in.

My husband’s favorite bird was this Fish Crow perched on the sign, as if to draw attention to its important information!

Great Egret.

Wood Stork coming in for a landing.

“Honey, I’m home!”

“Great to see you, gimme a smooch!”

Smooch!

I’m looking forward to getting out to Bird Island again later in the season, when the chicks pop up.

Here are some photos of young Wood Storks from a trip to Bird Island May 2018.

Backyard birds today

I’ve been busy with a new puppy and haven’t had time to get out “in the field,” but this morning some birds – like this adorable Blue-headed Vireo – came to my backyard.

The song of the Northern Parula was what got me to poke my head out and check the trees. Hard to ignore.

A small warbler of the upper canopy, the Northern Parula flutters at the edges of branches plucking insects. This bluish gray warbler with yellow highlights breeds in forests laden with Spanish moss or beard lichens, from Florida to the boreal forest, and it’s sure to give you “warbler neck.” It hops through branches bursting with a rising buzzy trill that pinches off at the end. Its white eye crescents, chestnut breast band, and yellow-green patch on the back set it apart from other warblers.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Parula/overview

I believe this one was an immature male. (ID info HERE.)

This laurel oak in our side yard is flowering, which attracts insects, which attracts insect eaters.

This Northern Parula is an adult male.

Also had a visit from a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

These warblers are with us in winter – bird time in Florida!

Heron the hermit

Here’s a young White Ibis losing its brown feathers and growing its adult plumage.

Walking around the pond at Indian Riverside Park, most of the birds are like the ibis, tolerating humans at close range.

Out in the middle of the pond, I zoom in to see the Green Heron keeping to himself.

This small heron is solitary at most seasons and often somewhat secretive, living around small bodies of water or densely vegetated areas.https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/green-heron

More snowbirds

American Robins are in town. They seem to like the fruit of the banyan trees.

Such a familiar sight up north, I rarely see them here… and only in winter. They were flying from tree to tree in large flocks a few days ago. Hello, old friends.

drift for a minute, an hour even

Northern Cardinal at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
Sojourns in the Parallel World
Denise Levertov

We live our lives of human passions,
cruelties, dreams, concepts,
crimes and the exercise of virtue
in and beside a world devoid
of our preoccupations, free
from apprehension—though affected,
certainly, by our actions. A world
parallel to our own though overlapping.
We call it "Nature"; only reluctantly
admitting ourselves to be "Nature" too.
Whenever we lose track of our own obsessions,
our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute,
an hour even, of pure (almost pure)
response to that insouciant life:
cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing
pilgrimage of water, vast stillness
of spellbound ephemerae on a lit windowpane,
animal voices, mineral hum, wind
conversing with rain, ocean with rock, stuttering
of fire to coal—then something tethered
in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch
of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free.
No one discovers
just where we've been, when we're caught up again
into our own sphere (where we must
return, indeed, to evolve our destinies)
—but we have changed, a little.

Gallinules among the lilies

I love this photo, I love this bird.

This is a Purple Gallinule, in bright morning sun.

Lurking in the marshes of the extreme southeastern U.S. lives one of the most vividly colored birds in all of North America. Purple Gallinules combine cherry red, sky blue, moss green, aquamarine, indigo, violet, and school-bus yellow, a color palette that blends surprisingly well with tropical and subtropical wetlands. Watch for these long-legged, long-toed birds stepping gingerly across water lilies and other floating vegetation as they hunt frogs and invertebrates or pick at tubers.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Purple_Gallinule/overview

We saw this bird and others at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Florida yesterday morning. It’s a piece of the northern Everglades that has been preserved for wildlife and lovers of wild places. The main entrance is in Boynton Beach.

It’s cool how a bird this colorful can also appear camouflaged.

Also notable: the amazing feet.

Related: the Common Gallinule.

The Common Gallinule swims like a duck and walks atop floating vegetation like a rail with its long and slender toes. This boldly marked rail has a brilliant red shield over the bill and a white racing stripe down its side. It squawks and whinnies from thick cover in marshes and ponds from Canada to Chile, peeking in and out of vegetation. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Common_Gallinule/overview

This one was noisy, with its “squawks and whinnies.”

We also observed Florida’s most famous large reptile.

We stared at the alligator and he didn’t blink an eye, move, or even look back at us. “Whatever,” is the motto of the gator at rest.

First Forster’s

The long wooden pier out into the Indian River Lagoon, behind the Snook Nook bait and tackle shop in Jensen Beach, is often worth a quick look.

Mainly gulls. One little Ruddy Turnstone.

One tern on a piling. Turns out to be a Forster’s Tern, bird number 222 for me.

Flashing slender, silvery wings and an elegantly forked tail, Forster’s Terns cruise above the shallow waters of marshes and coastlines looking for fish. These medium-sized white terns are often confused with the similar Common Tern, but Forster’s Terns have a longer tail and, in nonbreeding plumage, a distinctive black eye patch.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Forsters_Tern/overview

I will keep an eye out for that eye-patched tern, now that I learned this species, a winter visitor around here.

Wood storks at Indian Riverside Park

Wood Stork.

I was quite close to this three-and-a-half foot tall wading bird yesterday at the big freshwater pond at Indian Riverside Park in Jensen Beach.

Portrait of one of the weirdest-looking birds in Florida.

The wood stork is a large, long-legged wading bird that is a member of the stork family (Ciconiidae). It is distantly related to herons, egrets, and ibises (Order: Ciconiiformes). However, recent genetic studies suggest storks are more closely related to the new world vultures (Family: Carthartidae).https://myfwc.com/research/wildlife/birds/wood-storks/introduction/

I can see that.

There were two of them, on a slow hunt around the pond edge.

Their long bills dip in deeper than other wading birds. And they can wade in deeper water thanks to those long legs.

A Tricolored Heron was keeping close to nab fish that were stirred up by the big stork feet.

Big pink feet.

I wonder if this is a pair. Nesting season should be happening soon.

Nice pose.

When you see your first Red-headed Woodpecker

Here I am, looking for a bird.

Something moving out there on the dead tree.

Yes!

My first Red-headed Woodpecker!

The gorgeous Red-headed Woodpecker is so boldly patterned it’s been called a “flying checkerboard,” with an entirely crimson head, a snow-white body, and half white, half inky black wings. These birds don’t act quite like most other woodpeckers: they’re adept at catching insects in the air, and they eat lots of acorns and beech nuts, often hiding away extra food in tree crevices for later. This magnificent species has declined severely in the past half-century because of habitat loss and changes to its food supply.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-headed_Woodpecker/overview

So many Red-bellied Woodpeckers everywhere and so few Red-headed Woodpeckers.

The Red-headed Woodpecker is one of only four North American woodpeckers known to store food, and it is the only one known to cover the stored food with wood or bark. It hides insects and seeds in cracks in wood, under bark, in fenceposts, and under roof shingles. Grasshoppers are regularly stored alive, but wedged into crevices so tightly that they cannot escape.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-headed_Woodpecker/overview

A bird worth getting to know.

I found this bird by checking eBird to see where the species had been seen lately. I had the good luck to have gone birding with a local birder who had posted a recent checklist that included a Red-headed. I emailed him to ask for guidance and got a great description of what I might see along Fox Brown Road in the Allapattah Flats, including the general location of beautiful bird. What luck!

I was recently reviewing the Martin County, Florida eBird Illustrated Checklist to see what species I haven’t yet seen around here. Is this a new chapter for me?.. actually going out looking for a specific bird rather than just wandering around with my camera? Well, I’m sure I’ll still do plenty of wandering.

Red-headed Woodpecker is blog bird #221.

The checkered ibis

From brown to white, this immature White Ibis is patchy with new feathers.

Reminds me a bit of the diamond patchwork of a harlequin.

Adult and not-yet.

A watched a flock of White Ibis at Indian Riverside Park a couple of days ago. I focused on the young birds, with their more varied coloring.

Some were less patchy and more brown.

Side by side.

White Ibises probe for insects and crustaceans beneath the surface of wetlands. They insert their bill into soft muddy bottoms and feel for prey. When they feel something, they pinch it like a tweezer, pulling out crayfish, earthworms, marine worms, and crabs. They also stab or pinch fish, frogs, lizards, snails, and newts. Many of their prey are swallowed on the spot, but for really muddy items they carry them away to wash the mud off before eating.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White_Ibis/lifehistory

These birds didn’t care I was crouched down right near them.

Nice to get such a good look at these common Florida birds in their less commonly observed plumage.