Monthly Archives: April 2015

White ibis morning

good morning marsh

Good morning, marsh. (Yesterday, from the covered deck of our rental in Cedar Key.)

white ibis

It was a White Ibis morning. I propped my elbows on the porch railing to take pictures.

white ibis

Nice little flock, with lots of juveniles. This photo shows about one-third of the number I could see.

white ibis snowy egret

And one Snowy Egret

Among the most elegant of the herons, the slender Snowy Egret sets off immaculate white plumage with black legs and brilliant yellow feet. Those feet seem to play a role in stirring up or herding small aquatic animals as the egret forages. Breeding Snowy Egrets grow filmy, curving plumes that once fetched astronomical prices in the fashion industry, endangering the species. Early conservationists rallied to protect egrets by the early twentieth century, and this species is once again a common sight in shallow coastal wetlands.

white ibis juvenile

Here’s a White Ibis young ‘un.

From All About Birds: Other Names

Bec croche, L’Ibis blanc, Petit flaman (French)
Corocoro blanco, Coco blanco, Ibis blanco, Coclito blanco (Spanish)

white ibis


The American white ibis (Eudocimus albus) is a species of bird in the ibis family, Threskiornithidae. It is found from the mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast of the United States south through most of the coastal New World tropics. This particular ibis is a medium-sized bird with an overall white plumage, bright red-orange down-curved bill and long legs, and black wing tips that are usually only visible in flight. Males are larger and have longer bills than females. The breeding range runs along the Gulf and Atlantic Coast, and the coasts of Mexico and Central America. Outside the breeding period, the range extends further inland in North America and also includes the Caribbean.


Their diet consists primarily of small aquatic prey, such as insects and small fishes. Crayfish are its preferred food in most regions, but it can adjust its diet according to the habitat and prey abundance. It is a tactile, non-visual forager, whose main foraging behavior is probing with its beak at the bottom of shallow water to feel form, and to capture its prey.

White ibis

And what a strange beak it is. It seems to become one with its face.

The White Ibis has a cheerful look, both elegant and a bit comical.

More photos in Flickr Album: Marsh House

The official raptor of Cedar Key


In Cedar Key, along Florida’s gulfside “Nature Coast,” you are never more than 50 feet away from an osprey. At least it seems that way. Fishing, nesting, defending nests from black vultures, chirping their loud whistley call, glowering down from trees at passersby. I love this bird.

Unique among North American raptors for its diet of live fish and ability to dive into water to catch them, Ospreys are common sights soaring over shorelines, patrolling waterways, and standing on their huge stick nests, white heads gleaming. These large, rangy hawks do well around humans and have rebounded in numbers following the ban on the pesticide DDT.

marsh house

The Marsh House, Cedar Key. Our home away from home for a few days. Perfect spot.



I love a good marsh.

white ibis

White Ibis.

I wasn’t even unpacked (although I did have a glass of wine in my hand) before I hit the porch and spotted ibis, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, a Great Blue Heron, vultures and osprey. This is a birdy place.


George Washington did not visit Cedar Key, but John Muir did.

Sign outside the Cedar Key Museum State Park.

salt kettle

Confederate salt kettle outside the museum.

I picked Cedar Key for the birds, nature, seafood and warmth after a long winter. Turns out to have some cool Old Florida history too. TIMELINE.

After a tasty seafood dinner at Steamer’s Clam Bar and Grill in the vintage waterfront downtown, we drove a mile back north to our rental and walked a boardwalk over mangroves and marsh, around the edge of a big old cemetery founded in 1886. In the gathering darkness, bats fluttered above. We heard the little night noises of animals, water moving in small waves through seagrass, wind in the pines, palms and spanish-moss-draped live oaks. We spied the glow of a couple of small lights next to headstones in the cemetery. “Spirit lamps,” I whispered.

“I think there is something a little bit spooky about Cedar Key,” I said, and my husband agreed.


And something a little bit wild too.

A warbler

pine warbler!

Pine Warbler, looking up at a suet cake.

Two of these lively little warblers have been in the neighborhood for a few days.

Pine Warblers are often difficult to see as they usually stay high up in pines. Insects make up most of their diet, but they also eat fruits and seeds. They occasionally forage on the ground or come to feeders. Males sing even, rich trills from the tops of pines.


The Pine Warbler is the only warbler that eats large quantities of seeds, primarily those of pines. This seed-eating ability means Pine Warblers sometimes visit bird feeders, unlike almost all other warblers.

Most warblers leave the continental U.S. for winter, but the Pine Warbler stays in the Southeast and is one of the first to return northward in spring.

Crows and a sparrow

marsh crow

Bird silhouette. A crow hunting/ scavenging in Hampton Marsh.

I parked at the end of Depot Road and walked the old rail bed with the dog this morning. (I visited on April 12 too.)

Depot Road rail bed

I love this way into Hampton Marsh. They say it will be a publicly accessible, fixed up rail trail someday and I have mixed feelings about that.

marsh crows

Lots of crows in the marsh today. My theory is that recent super high tides and rain flooding have left fish stranded high and dry. Or else some bugs or other invertebrates are hatching out.

I like crows. They are people-watchers, among other things. They study us… and are rightfully wary – though also never very  far away.


Savannah Sparrow along the old rail bed.

With this bird I have reached a new level of sparrow knowledge. “Savannah Sparrow” was my first guess to Google, I don’t know why. It’s not one I have seen and known before.

On both their summer and winter ranges, Savannah Sparrows live in grasslands with few trees, including meadows, pastures, grassy roadsides, sedge wetlands, and cultivated fields planted with cover crops like alfalfa. Near oceans, they also inhabit tidal saltmarshes and estuaries.

Named for Savannah, Georgia, these pretty little birds are in their summer range here.


Boy with a Crow, Akseli Gallen-Kallela 1884

Charming chippy

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow at the feeder.

Chipping Sparrow

A crisp, pretty sparrow whose bright rufous cap both provides a splash of color and makes adults fairly easy to identify.

Chipping Sparrow

In 1929, naturalist Edward Forbush called the Chipping Sparrow “the little brown-capped pensioner of the dooryard and lawn, that comes about farmhouse doors to glean crumbs shaken from the tablecloth by thrifty housewives.”

chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrows are warm season birds here. Welcome, little harbinger of spring!


Tree swallows are back

tree swallows on martin house

Charming domestic scene from last Saturday morning: a pair of Tree Swallows and a plastic purple martin on the purple martin house in our back field past the pond.

We have had a purple martin house out there for years (well, we take it down in the winter) and no purple martin has ever been seen by us within the bounds of our 14 acres.

tree swallow

Anyway we have grown quite accustomed to our charming tree swallows. They don’t care if we stand there and stare up at them. I guess they know how fast they can fly.

tree swallow

The antenna perches are precious, aren’t they.

martin house

The only negative thing about the situation is that tree swallows don’t nest colonially. So the other 7 rooms in the martin apartment house are unoccupied. Except sometimes there are wasps by the end of the season.

tree swallow

Tree swallows eat a lot of insects… but not when they are mellowing out on the roof, watching the sunrise.




“Oh please, I’m so shy!”

Wind-up toy bird


Killdeer spotted in a small marsh just south of Rye Harbor, east side Route 1A, yesterday around 5 p.m. during a get-out-of-the-house coastal drive after rain.

The Killdeer is the largest of the ringed plovers, and the only plover in its range with a double breast band. Killdeers have brown upperparts, white underparts, and orange rumps.

A bird of the spring and summer!

Killdeer are surprisingly unobtrusive even on green lawns, despite their warm tawny coloration. Look carefully over lawns, short-mown fields, and even parking lots, and listen for the far-carrying kill-deer. (When you hear this call, the bird may be in flight. Look for it circling you, flying stiffly on long, pointed wings. It may resemble an American Kestrel, at least until it lands on the ground and begins walking.) Though they’re often found on dry land, you should also look for them on the edges of freshwater ponds and muddy lagoons.


Killdeer are members of the plover family. I like the way their orange-rimmed eyes appear huge; they look like toy birds. Their movement on the ground accentuates the effect.

These tawny birds run across the ground in spurts, stopping with a jolt every so often to check their progress, or to see if they’ve startled up any insect prey.

More: The Precocious Killdeer

Baby killdeer always come out running.

Time for the plants to get some color too

Cardinal at Dawn

Cardinal in morning sun with maple buds.

Ah, how wonderful is the advent of the Spring!—the great annual miracle…. which no force can stay, no violence restrain, like love, that wins its way and cannot be withstood by any human power, because itself is divine power. If Spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder and expectation would there be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change!… We are like children who are astonished and delighted only by the second-hand of the clock, not by the hour-hand. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Eel Pond swans

mute swans eel pond rye

The ice has melted and the local celebrity Mute Swans are once again paddling Eel Pond in Rye. The brackish pond is just across Route 1A from Sawyers Beach and the ocean. Great spot to watch waterfowl and gulls.


People stop to look at them and take pictures.

We have had a few days of beautiful weather, melting the last of the snow, drawing us out of our houses to go explore.


I only ever see one pair here. Some years I have seen cygnets.

I have heard the local mute swan population is controlled, sometimes by removing their eggs.


A native of northern and central Eurasia, the Mute Swan was introduced into North America to grace the ponds of parks and estates. Escaped individuals have established breeding populations in several areas, where their aggressive behavior threatens native waterfowl.


The mute swan is a calm and self-confident bird. Does not spook and fly off.


Plenty of time to look and take pictures.

If they hiss or walk toward you, heed the warning signs and go. Mute swans can be aggressive, especially in nesting season, and may attack when thy feel threatened.

BBC: How dangerous are swans?

“Those intruding on their territory, including large wildfowl, land mammals and people, may be warded off with an aggressively fast swimming approach, often accompanied with hissing and busking, which is a threat display where the swans neck is curved back and its wings are half raised.

“Mute swans tend to use the power of their wings to attack rather than their beaks.”