Black skimmers, blog bird # 217

Birds chilling on the beach, Black Skimmers and gulls.

We were exploring the Fort Pierce Inlet and saw these birds near the Museum Pointe Park. From afar I thought they might be skimmers, a bird I don’t see very often, and a bird I haven’t blogged yet.

“Let’s go check it out!”

A wonderfully different bird, with that strange bill.

The strange, uneven bill of the skimmer has a purpose: the bird flies low, with the long lower mandible plowing the water, snapping the bill shut when it contacts a fish. Strictly coastal in most areas of North America, Black Skimmers are often seen resting on sandbars and beaches. Unlike most birds, their eyes have vertical pupils, narrowed to slits to cut the glare of water and white sand. Flocks in flight may turn in unison, with synchronized beats of their long wings. The world’s three species of skimmers are sometimes placed in their own separate family, although they are clearly related to the terns.https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/black-skimmer

Laughing Gulls and Willets were also resting on the white sand beach.

Piercing calls and distinctive wing markings make the otherwise subdued Willet one of our most conspicuous large shorebirds. Whether in mottled brown breeding plumage or gray winter colors, Willets in flight reveal a bold white and black stripe running the length of each wing. These long-legged, straight-billed shorebirds feed along beaches, mudflats, and rocky shores. Willets are common on most of our coastline—learn to recognize them and they’ll make a useful stepping-stone to identifying other shorebirds.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Willet/overview

Skimmer front view. Look how skinny that bill is!

The pelican scoop

Florida, starring Brown Pelicans!

I feel like I don’t take enough pictures of pelicans relative to how often I see them, which is pretty much daily because I live in Sewall’s Point, a peninsula connected by bridges to the mainland and a barrier island (Hutchinson).

So, here: a bounty of Pelicanus occidentalis.

Also known as a pod, a pouch, a scoop or a squadron of pelicans.

Audubon.org…

An unmistakable bird of coastal waters. Groups of Brown Pelicans fly low over the waves in single file, flapping and gliding in unison. Their feeding behavior is spectacular, as they plunge headlong into the water in pursuit of fish. The current abundance of this species in the United States represents a success story for conservationists, who succeeded in halting the use of DDT and other persistent pesticides here; as recently as the early 1970s, the Brown Pelican was seriously endangered.

We were stopping by the Fort Pierce Inlet at the north end of Hutchinson Island on a Sunday drive. It was too windy and rough to walk out on the jetty.

So we walked west along the south-side inlet shoreline to see what we could see.

The inlet connects the Indian River Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean. There is no development at the ocean end of the inlet on either side. The north side is preserved as a state park.

Fishing was the main focus, of humans and birds alike.

Fish were feeding and breaking on the surface all over the place.

Here’s a Double-crested Cormorant, popping up from underwater fishing.

Royal Tern on high.

Forages mostly by hovering over water and plunging to catch prey just below surface. https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/royal-tern

Brown Pelicans go even more “all in”.

Forages by diving from the air, from as high as 60′ above water, plunging into water headfirst and coming to surface with fish in bill. Tilts bill down to drain water out of pouch, then tosses head back to swallow. Will scavenge at times and will become tame, approaching fishermen for handouts.https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/brown-pelican#

They often look like they’re crash landing face first into salt water.

This guy had a fish on his line and was steadily working it closer and ready to gaff it when a pelican tried to steal it. He waved his gaffe and the pelican backed off, but not before trying to dive underwater and grab it.

View toward the north side jetty. Lots of birds, lots of fish.

And lots of wind.

Sometimes I look at pelicans and wonder how they stay in the air. I mean, their wings are really big, but so are their heads and bills. So big.

But they are master flyers. I like when they soar down low over the water to use what human aviators (like my husband) call “ground effect” to stay effortlessly aloft.

This juvenile Brown Pelican is banded. You can just barely see the band on the near leg, which is tucked up so nice and aerodynamically.

It was a good day for fishing, even for the humans.

I think it’s a Crevalle Jack. This man kept his fish.

I have eaten this kind of jack, very, very fresh, about 20 minutes after my husband caught it from the bridge near our house. He filleted it into chunks, I marinated it for about 10 minutes in lime juice, then cooked it in a cast iron pan with butter and Cajun seasonings. Served over white rice, it was delicious. It has dark red flesh like a tuna.

Snook (a fish I had never heard of until I moved here) are one of the most beloved fish for inshore Florida fishermen. But snook are not always in season (including right now): FWC regulations.

So gaze longingly at the snook and go catch a jack.

Fort Pierce Inlet is a nice destination, easily accessible, and a great place to walk and bird-watch.

I even spent a little time with a charming pair of Eurasian-collared Doves, fishing for love.

Coo.

Causeway birds – January

Ospreys always overhead. Every day.

This one was soaring above one of our favorite spots, “the causeway.” It’s a park under the west side of the Ernest Lyons Bridge that crosses the Indian River Lagoon, connecting Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island. We can walk there from home. It’s a favorite spot to throw the ball for the dog and watch birds, fish, boats, fishermen and windsurfers.

We are the watchers. The walkers and watchers.

Here’s a bird we watched.

A Great Blue Heron was standing in shallows on the north side.

This bird can strike a pose. Vogue Heron.

It is showing some blue coloring near its eye and some long dark plumes on its head. Its legs are turning a darker color too. Mating season ahoy.

Spotted from afar, a Spotted Sandpiper. I moved slowly closer.

These are the most widespread sandpipers in North America, but not super common around here as far as I can tell. They migrate north for their summer mating season.

The tail bobbing movement of this bird is distinctive, and caught my eye while I was watching this one and trying to ID it.

From Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

  • Its characteristic teetering motion has earned the Spotted Sandpiper many nicknames. Among them are teeter-peep, teeter-bob, jerk or perk bird, teeter-snipe, and tip-tail.
  • The function of the teetering motion typical of this species has not been determined. Chicks teeter nearly as soon as they hatch from the egg. The teetering gets faster when the bird is nervous, but stops when the bird is alarmed, aggressive, or courting.

I tallied the birds I watched on this day and submitted an e-Bird checklist here: Amy Kane January 3 Ernest Lyons Bridge 7 species

I think I’ll check in at this spot once a month this year, and keep an eye on the birds close to home.

That includes our winter friends the vultures, like this Black Vulture on a causeway lamppost.

“I think the most important quality in a birdwatcher is a willingness to stand quietly and see what comes. Our everyday lives obscure a truth about existence – that at the heart of everything there lies a stillness and a light.” – Lynn Thomson

We see Sandhill Cranes

A series of Sandhill Crane photos, from a walk at Green River on December 4. They are the same two cranes, somewhat unhappy that we chose the area for a dog walk.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife…

Sandhill cranes are iconic members of the Florida ecosystem. They stand almost 4 feet tall and their bugling or rattling calls are frequently heard in natural areas or overhead. Sandhill cranes occur in pastures, open prairies and freshwater wetlands in peninsular Florida from the Everglades to the Okefenokee Swamp.

Florida sandhill cranes are present in many urban areas including golf courses, airports and suburban subdivisions. This is due in part to the rapid development of their native habitat by humans. Cranes are attracted by open settings (mowed grass) and the availability of foods such as acorns, earthworms, mole crickets and turf grubs.

We see Sandhill Cranes fairly often in this place on the west side of Green River Parkway, across from the southern part of Savannas Preserve, in northern Martin County, Florida. Very impressive birds!

I rename a bird

“Indigo Blue Heron”

Shading from deep violet to dark gray-blue, the Little Blue Heron is truly indigo-blue.

These feather colors just make sense when you put your small heron in front of a saltwater backdrop, as I did here at the causeway.

The Indigo Heron begins the hunt, stepping, stopping, stepping again and keeping an eye out for movement.

Move slowly, blend in, get ready to strike…

…with finger on the shutter button, gotcha. My indigo bird, blogged.

Savannas slow-down

Checking in at Green River

Glossy Ibis yesterday at Green River, northern Martin County, Florida.

Morning walk before the temps climbed again. It’s been hot for this time of year.

Cypress with birds.

Little Blue Heron and big Great Egret.

Looking across one of the big ponds/ little lakes.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

A couple of cattle egrets.

Common Gallinules.

When you want to look at wetland (and its birds) but you don’t want to get wet, Green River is great because of the dikes.

Autumn color, Florida style.

Cypress like wet feet, and knees.

Alligator in the distance.

More flying things I love.

Stuart Air Show this weekend.

Little Blue Heron wading for breakfast.