Raptors at TCWC

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Members of Audubon of Martin County visited the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center to learn about raptors yesterday, out in the wilds of Palm City, Florida.

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Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk.

Injured birds and other animals are rehabilitated and released, when possible.

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Crested Caracara is a “falconized vulture,” we learned, and a clever bird.

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Pelicans had their own swimming pool.

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Gracie the Bald Eagle has lived at the center for many years. She is missing part of a wing and will never fly. She fell or was pushed from her nest when she was barely a fledgling and a local rancher found her.

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This falcon is probably a hybrid between a Peregrine and a Tundra Falcon and was probably being used for unofficial falconry when rescued from someone’s garage, according to center director Tim Brown.

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This bird does not seem to mind being handled and seems tuned in to Tim.

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Nice tattoo. I think he likes raptors.

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Beautiful feathers.

The visit was a good chance to get close to some amazing birds, though a little sad too to see them tethered or caged instead of flying free and healthy.

“Most of the birds are here because they got a little too close to humans,” said Tim, “so we think it’s right for humans to try to help them.”

Winter bird

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Forget the palms. Palm Warblers like live oaks and other deciduous trees. Or being down near the ground hunting for bugs and berries.

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The Florida Gardener’s Guide (which I borrowed from our excellent local library) waxed poetic about these trees that are such an important part of the neighborhood.

A Southern Live Oak may live for 300 or more years. Its massive branches can stretch horizontally, if allowed, so that the canopy is wider than the tree is tall. Its furrowed bark and leathery leaves support millions of living creatures, smaller than we can see, and a good many large enough for us to discern: Lichens, Mosses, Liverworts, a couple of squirrel nests, gnats, aphids, hair-streak larvae, germinating seeds of Bromeliads, mats of Resurrection Fern and Thick Fern, an ant highway, and a well-worn path of raccoons that teeter from topmost branches and watch the goings on below. A whole world lives in this one organism, and on, around, and under it, while it, too, thickens, stretches, and lengthens through complex metabolic activities.

It pulls water from the ground at the rate of hundreds of gallons a day, and it takes in carbon dioxide from the air and releases oxygen. The mycorrhizae attached to its roots are probably connected to other trees around it, like the invisible strings of matter in the universe, linking and interacting with other trees.

Wow!

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Spotted this little Palm Warbler down low where I could see it, in a neighbor’s yard on Ridgeview Road.

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Zoomed in.

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From the Florida Eco Travel Guide

Palm warblers are common winter residents in Florida, arriving in late September and staying on until April. You will see these small, active birds along forest edges, in open woods, and disturbed areas, including farmlands and marshes. They feed mostly on insects, but occasionally eat berries. Palm warblers are easy to recognize because they continually bob their tails.

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Getting to know my neighbors!

Looking up at Wood Storks

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Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away! (Sing it, Frank.)

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Today was a Wood Stork Day here in Sewall’s Point, with so many of these large white and black birds wheeling overhead on thermals.

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That’s quite a wingspan, 60 to 65 inches.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

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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Florida Audubon says…

The Wood Stork is one of Florida’s signature wading birds, a long-legged, awkward-looking bird on land that soars like a raptor in the air.

American Bird Conservancy

These social storks nest colonially, with up to 25 nests in one tree. Pairs often mate for life.

In Florida, Wood Storks breed during the late winter dry season, when their fish prey are concentrated in shrinking pools. They regularly fly up to 12 miles from the nesting colony while foraging and will go much farther during droughts in search of food.

 

Palm warblers

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Palm Warbler finally holds still for the briefest of moments.

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I have been seeing these active little birds with wagging tails and chestnut caps around the neighborhood. Their calls are “weak trills,” “thin tsips” or “sharp chips.”

Snowbirds like some of my neighbors, it appears…

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Despite its tropical sounding name, the Palm Warbler lives farther north than most other warblers. It breeds far to the north in Canada, and winters primarily in the southern United States and northern Caribbean.

And despite their name, I haven’t seen them in any palm trees!

Birds at Lakeside Ranch STA

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Good morning, Lakeside Ranch STA (Stormwater Treatment Area).

I signed in at the gate with the president of Audubon of Martin County bright and early yesterday morning and joined a few other cars driving around here and there on the narrow roads on top of the dikes in the 2600 acres under the care of the South Florida Water Management District.

Lakeside Ranch STA is located on the northeast side of Lake Okeechobee, about 50 minutes from my home in Sewall’s Point.

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Great Blue Heron in the misty morn.

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Peaceful and pretty. Temps around 57 when I arrived at 7 a.m., climbing to 75 or so by the time I left at 10:30.

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Sandhill Crane flyby.

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Another birdwatcher.

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Great Egret and Great Blue Heron.

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Anhinga keeping an eye on me.

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Tri-colored Heron hunting for breakfast.

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Snowy Egret and  juvenile night heron.

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Little Blue Heron and Tricolored Heron.

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Rotten photo but I’ve been seeing these birds in Florida and didn’t know what they were. Audubon president helped me ID it as a Palm Warbler. “Yellow butt? Brown capped head? Wagging tail?”

The rusty-capped Palm Warbler can be most easily recognized by the tail-wagging habit that shows off its yellow undertail. It breeds in bogs and winters primarily in the southern United States and Caribbean.

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Voguing grackles. Or maybe males having a sing off? I am pretty sure these are Boat-tailed Grackles.

Boat-tailed Grackles are large, lanky songbirds with rounded crowns, long legs, and fairly long, pointed bills. Males have very long tails that make up almost half their body length and that they typically hold folded in a V-shape, like the keel of a boat.

Males are glossy black all over. Females are dark brown above and russet below, with a subtle face pattern made up of a pale eyebrow, dark cheek, and pale “mustache” stripe.

These scrappy blackbirds are supreme omnivores, feeding on everything from seeds and human food scraps to crustaceans scavenged from the shoreline.

Boat-tailed Grackles are a strictly coastal species through most of their range; however, they live across much of the Florida peninsula, often well away from the immediate coast.

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Is it a duck?

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Or a wading bird? Neither… it’s a Common Gallinule!

The Common Gallinule inhabits marshes and ponds from Canada to Chile. Vocal and boldly marked with a brilliant red shield over the bill, the species can be quite conspicuous. It sometimes uses its long toes to walk atop floating vegetation. This species was formerly called the Common Moorhen and is closely related to moorhen species in the Old World.

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Red-winged Blackbird.

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Killdeer.

A shorebird you can see without going to the beach, Killdeer are graceful plovers common to lawns, golf courses, athletic fields, and parking lots. 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. Their voice, a far-carrying, excited kill-deer, is a common sound even after dark, often given in flight as the bird circles overhead on slender wings.

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Let these dead trees be decorated with Anhingas!

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Aw, sweet. Two Great Blue Herons starting a nest in a cabbage palm.

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My first Eastern Meadowlark!

The sweet, lazy whistles of Eastern Meadowlarks waft over summer grasslands and farms in eastern North America. The birds themselves sing from fenceposts and telephone lines or stalk through the grasses, probing the ground for insects with their long, sharp bills. On the ground, their brown-and-black dappled upperparts camouflage the birds among dirt clods and dry grasses. But up on perches, they reveal bright-yellow underparts and a striking black chevron across the chest.

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Juvenile White Ibis strikes a pose.

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Cattle Egret, that chunky little white egret found near or away from water. Often seen (by me) on top of shrubs planted in medians.

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Anhinga draws attention to an important road sign.

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Great Blue Heron pose.

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Alligator smile.

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There were five gators in this one spot.

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View across a small canal to another birdwatcher’s car.

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Blackbird (grackle?) draws attention to this important sign.

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Cattle and cattle egrets, just past the edge of the STA.

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Sandhill Crane, maybe on top of the beginnings of a nest.

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Glossy Ibis.

A dark wading bird with a long, down-curved bill. Although the Glossy Ibis in North America lives primarily along the Atlantic Coast, it also can be found in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

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Blurry pic because it was far away, but with important identifying features. I described this bird to the Audubon president when I got back to the gate and he said it was a Loggerhead Shrike. Another new bird!

The Loggerhead Shrike is a songbird with a raptor’s habits. A denizen of grasslands and other open habitats throughout much of North America, this masked black, white, and gray predator hunts from utility poles, fence posts and other conspicuous perches, preying on insects, birds, lizards, and small mammals. Lacking a raptor’s talons, Loggerhead Shrikes skewer their kills on thorns or barbed wire or wedge them into tight places for easy eating. Their numbers have dropped sharply in the last half-century.

At the end of January, I attended a couple of days of a local Audubon Field Academy. I am signed up next to do a day with raptors at a local wildlife rehab center, then a unit on migration at the end of March. More field trips are on the calendar too.

Meanwhile, back to fixing up this little old Florida concrete-block-and-stucco house. I am painting the last of the three bedrooms today before the wood floor installation guys arrive tomorrow.

Feeling nesty

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Smile and say, “Wood stork nesting season!”

I went for a walk around the neighborhood with my bird camera yesterday. Snapped these pics on Oakwood Drive in Sewall’s Point.

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Wood Storks were in live oak trees collecting branches to fly back to their nesting site, probably just across a small channel of water on Bird Island in the Indian River Lagoon.

Funny to see these very large birds balanced atop trees in people’s front and back yards.

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Palms, moon, bird and plane over Oakwood.

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Wood Storks are lovely in flight.

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With those pretty feathers, graceful wings and ugly bald head, the Wood Stork is really Beauty and the Beast in one bird.

A large, white, bald-headed wading bird of the southeastern swamps, the Wood Stork is the only stork breeding in the United States. Its late winter breeding season is timed to the Florida dry season when its fish prey become concentrated in shrinking pools.

Red bird of love

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Valentine bird, this male Northern Cardinal is singing his heart out. Time for true love… or at least sexy mating rituals… in the bird world.

I have heard the cardinals now and then but not seen many since we arrived in early December, until recently. Now they are noisier and more visible. Go for it, guys!

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Also in the neighborhood, bougainvillea in Valentine’s Day colors.

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Sewall’s Point has wonderful vegetation, layers of trees and shrubs to keep the birds and my eyes happy. Neighborhood walks are so nice.

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I am still learning what is growing and blooming around me. That’s the fun part about moving to a new place.

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Lots of Zebra Longwing butterflies here. (I just learned that one.)

The species is distributed across South and Central America and as far north as southern Texas and peninsular Florida; there are migrations north into other American states in the warmer months.

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Gray squirrel, I know that one.

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Bird lover mailbox.