Bird + paradise

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Northern Cardinal on a white/ giant bird of paradise flower.

The flower is named for the bird it resembles.

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Eating seeds?

There are a lot of cardinals living here in Sewall’s Point.

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I watched this cardinal on River Road this morning while out for a walk with my camera and a wide-brimmed hat. It’s hot and sunny!

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UV index is 12 today… on a scale of 1 to 10!

Sing it

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Little bird with a big voice. Here’s a video of a Carolina Wren Song.

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There were a couple in the backyard the other evening, flying short distances between fences and ground.

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Fluffy. They are such a beautiful warm brown color.

Pretty in pink

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Spoonbills at Bird Island a couple of weekends ago.

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Are they courting?

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Audubon.org Roseate Spoonbill:

In courtship, male and female first interact aggressively, later perch close together, present sticks to each other, cross and clasp bills.

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So pink!

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Very common in parts of the southeast until the 1860s, spoonbills were virtually eliminated from the United States as a side-effect of the destruction of wader colonies by plume hunters. Began to re-colonize Texas and Florida early in 20th century. Still uncommon and local, vulnerable to degradation of feeding and nesting habitats.

Wren again

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Carolina wren in the bottlebrush tree right in front of our living room window.

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After perching for a couple of minutes, he flew up into the gutters and scuffed around for dinner.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Insects and spiders make up the bulk of this wren’s diet. Common foods include caterpillars, moths, stick bugs, leafhoppers, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and cockroaches. Carolina Wrens occasionally eat lizards, frogs, or snakes. They also consume a small amount of plant matter, such as fruit pulp and seeds from bayberry, sweetgum, or poison ivy.

Red-startled

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It thunderstormed and rained hard yesterday as a cool front passed through and after the rain, surprise! there were warblers. Especially noticeable were the American Redstarts flitting around, including this male I photographed across the street.

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Female American Redstart.

American Redstarts are incredibly active insectivores that seem never to stand still. They rapidly spread their cocked tails, exposing the orange or yellow in a quick flash, which often startles insect prey into flushing, whereupon the redstart darts after it, attempting to catch it in the air.

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Bonus photo, flowers!

Plumeria aka frangipani is in bloom. It’s the Hawaiian lei flower.

Stilts and limpkins

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We took a drive all the way around Lake Okeechobee yesterday. On one little walk we spotted this wild animal!

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Just kidding. It’s Radar, our goofy German Shepherd.

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On another stop we spotted the aptly named “Stilt” bird… the Black-necked Stilt.

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We were at the Harney Pond Canal Recreation area on the west side of the lake, near the little town of Lakeport.

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There is a strange rickety bridge/ boardwalk over to an island.

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Nice views of what, from this Army Corps of Engineers map, appears to be Fisheating Bay.

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Incoming stilt.

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On the little island is another boardwalk with a view, going up to a little observation spot. Hundreds of dragonflies everywhere!

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Here are a few.

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It was very windy, with an east wind, and some dragonflies were clinging to branches, windblown.

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Looking back at the recreation area across the bridge.

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Looking out into the bay and marshes.

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Hey, what’s that bird? It’s new to me. I searched the internet later and discovered it’s a Limpkin!

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

The limpkin is a long-legged species of waterbird that has dark brown feathers with streaks of white on the head and neck and absent on the rest of the body.  Limpkins can grow up to 28 inches (71.1 centimeters) long, with a 42 inch (106.7 centimeters) wingspan, and weigh up to 46 ounces (1,304 grams) (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology 2011).  White blotches and triangular marks can be found on the neck and upper body.  The key physical feature of the limpkin is their down-curved bill, which is used to feed on their primary prey, apple snails.

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Thirsty Turkey Vulture.

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Black Vulture soaring over us.

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Limpkins and maybe some kind of gallinule?

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A nice watery, marshy spot.

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View from the rickety bridge.

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Black-necked Stilt.

A striking black-and-white bird with very long, thin red legs, the Black-necked Stilt is found along the edges of shallow water in open country.

And…

They have the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, exceeded only by flamingos.

Carolina wren

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Can you find the little brown bird?

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Bingo!

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The Carolina Wren is beautifully camouflaged but actually kind of noisy, and that’s how I found it across the street from my house, yesterday, hopping around in the leaf litter.

In summer it can seem that every patch of woods in the eastern United States rings with the rolling song of the Carolina Wren. This shy bird can be hard to see, but it delivers an amazing number of decibels for its size.

I chatted with a neighbor a few blocks away last night, while out walking my dog. She said a fledgling wren hopped onto her shoulder while she was gardening yesterday, while one of its parents screamed at her from a few feet away.

The Carolina Wren creeps around vegetated areas and scoots up and down tree trunks in search of insects and fruit. It explores yards, garages, and woodpiles, sometimes nesting there. This wren often cocks its tail upward while foraging and holds it down when singing. Carolina Wrens defend their territories with constant singing; they aggressively scold and chase off intruders.

What’s black-and-white and blogged all over?

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Many Black-and-white Warblers in Sewall’s Point today!

I took a three-mile walk through the neighborhood with my camera and spotted these little birds in groups of three or more (probably many more, but they are small and hard to see) in seven or eight different large live oak and banyan trees.

I haven’t noticed them here before today, though the map shows that Florida is one of the places they winter… along with the Caribbean, Central and South America.

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I see from my blog archives that they were in our New Hampshire woods last year on May 9 and again with a bunch of other warblers on May 14. Reading the old posts makes me a bit nostalgic for our old home.

I suspect the birds I saw today are migrating north. Just like some of the snowbirds I talked to this morning at the dog park. I will be flying north in May to visit my daughters. I miss them!

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One of the earliest-arriving migrant warblers, the Black-and-white Warbler’s thin, squeaky song is one of the first signs that spring birding has sprung. This crisply striped bundle of black and white feathers creeps along tree trunks and branches like a nimble nuthatch, probing the bark for insects with its slightly downcurved bill.

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One of the big trees in our Tree City USA. Great places for insects and birds.

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It’s been a dry winter, which I guess is pretty typical for Florida with it’s wet/ dry season climate. But after the big rain on Sunday I’ve noticed more flying (biting) insects in the past couple of days. Are these bug-eating warblers following the bug bloom north?

April showers bring… ducks

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It rained and rained on Sunday and the drainage swale at the end of our street was a little pond on Monday.

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A pair of Mottled Ducks was happy about that.

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission…

Because the plumage of male and female mottled ducks is similar, the easiest way to tell them apart is by bill color. The male mottled duck has an olive green to yellow bill whereas the female has an orange to brown bill with dark blotches or dots.

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The female is keeping an eye on the skies.

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The Florida mottled duck, often called the Florida duck or Florida mallard, is a unique subspecies found only in peninsular Florida. This nonmigratory duck spends its entire life within the state’s brackish and freshwater marshes, ponds, lakes, rivers, canals, ditches, and mosquito impoundments on the east and west coasts and inland. Approximately 40 percent of the mottled duck’s diet consists of insects, snails, mollusks, crayfish and small fish. The remainder of its diet is composed of grass seeds, stems, and roots; seeds of other marsh plants; and bayberries.

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Bonus, on the walk back up the street I got a photo of a zebra longwing, Heliconius charithonia. Did a bird take a bite of this one?

The adult butterflies are unusual in feeding on pollen as well as on nectar; the pollen enables them to synthesize cyanogenic glycosides that make their bodies toxic to potential predators. Caterpillars feed on various species of passionflower, evading the plants’ defensive trichomes by biting them off or laying silk mats over them.

They are the state butterfly of Florida.

Boating near Bird Island

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Ahoy, a Magnificent Frigatebird. My husband loves these birds.

This one is immature, according to the ID photos on Cornell’s All About Birds.

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A Brown Pelican!

Boy, you don’t see many of those around here.  😉

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We borrowed a 21-foot center console fishing boat from our boat club down in Port Salerno. Radar our 20-month-old German Shepherd Dog came with us.

After trying a few fishing spots unsuccessfully, we pulled up on on a deserted island, swam the dog (he loves to fetch a ball), then we motored past Bird Island to see the sights.

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The sights included Roseate Spoonbills and I finally got a few photos.

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Pretty in pink! Here’s one with a Great Blue Heron. I spotted a total of three.

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Bird Island is a spoil island in the Indian River Lagoon, created years ago (1950s? 1960s?) from dredging the Intracoastal Waterway. Mangroves grew on it and birds began nesting here.

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A bizarre wading bird of the southern coasts, the Roseate Spoonbill uses its odd bill to strain small food items out of the water. Its bright pink coloring leads many Florida tourists to think they have seen a flamingo.

The spoonbill is Florida bird #53 for me.

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But the coolest thing was seeing baby Wood Storks!

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Just across the channel is the town of Sewall’s Point, Florida. This house is closest to Bird Island. If I lived there I’d be out on one of the balconies every day with binoculars… or maybe I’d even invest in a scope.

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Do not pester the birds. We didn’t.

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Radar was bird watching too.

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According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife North Florida Ecological Office…

The wood stork is a highly colonial species usually nesting in large rookeries and feeding in flocks.  Age at first breeding is 3 years but typically do so at 4.  Nesting periods vary geographically.  In South Florida, wood storks lay eggs as early as October and fledge in February or March.  However, in north and central Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, storks lay eggs from March to late May, with fledging occurring in July and August.  Nests are frequently located in the upper branches of large cypress trees or in mangroves on islands.  Several nests are usually located in each tree.  Wood storks have also nested in man-made structures.  Storks lay two to five eggs, and average two young fledged per successful nest under good conditions.

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Small fish from 1 to 6 inches long, especially topminnows and sunfish, provide this bird’s primary diet.  Wood storks capture their prey by a specialized technique known as grope-feeding or tacto-location. Feeding often occurs in water 6 to 10 inches deep, where a stork probes with the bill partly open.  When a fish touches the bill it quickly snaps shut.  The average response time of this reflex is 25 milliseconds, making it one of the fastest reflexes known in vertebrates.  Wood storks use thermals to soar as far as 80 miles from nesting to feeding areas.  Since thermals do not form in early morning, wood storks may arrive at feeding areas later than other wading bird species such as herons.  Energy requirements for a pair of nesting wood storks and their young is estimated at 443 pounds of fish for the breeding season (based on an average production of 2.25 fledglings per nest).

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A birdy place.

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A Wood Stork, Mycteria americana.