The ibis good life

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Morning walk yesterday and some White Ibis were still roosting from the night before. Lazy late risers!

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White Ibis is reading the Sunday paper and sipping coffee in bed.

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Moon and bird.

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As I type this on Monday morning, we are an hour and a half past the Spring Equinox so it’s officially SPRING.

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Across the street, more roosting ibises.

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A few blocks away, White ibises were coming down from their roosts and hitting the lawns. Lots of them.

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Breakfast time.

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Northern Mockingbird in a sunny spot.

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I met a boy walking a big Great Dane. He said, “There are a lot of birds around. I can hear more birds this morning than usual.”

“It’s spring!” I said.

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Another block or two and another flock of White Ibis having breakfast. Wish I had counted my grand total of Sunday morning Sewall’s Point White Ibis.

Ducks in a ditch

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I was walking to the beach this morning and I saw this little tucked-up duck by a drainage canal along Ocean Blvd, A1A on Hutchinson Island.

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Here’ s better look. I think it’s a Blue-Winged Teal.

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Pairs and small groups of this tiny dabbling duck inhabit shallow ponds and wetlands across much of North America. Blue-winged Teal are long distance migrants, with some birds heading all the way to South America for the winter. Therefore, they take off early on spring and fall migration, leaving their breeding grounds in the United States and Canada well before other species in the fall.

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See the little patch of blue?

Size & Shape: A small dabbling duck, a Blue-winged Teal is dwarfed by a Mallard and only a touch larger than a Green-winged Teal. Head is rounded and bill is on the large side.

Color Pattern: Breeding males are brown-bodied with dark speckling on the breast, slaty-blue head with a white crescent behind the bill, and a small white flank patch in front of their black rear. Females and eclipse males are a cold, patterned brown. In flight, they reveal a bold powder-blue patch on their upperwing coverts.

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The female Blue-Winged Teal was quite close by.

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Behavior: Pairs and small groups dabble and up-end to reach submerged vegetation. You’ll often find Blue-winged Teal with other species of dabbling ducks. They are often around the edges of ponds under vegetation, choosing a concealed spot to forage or rest.

Habitat: Look for Blue-winged Teal on calm bodies of water from marshes to small lakes. The prairie-pothole region is the heart of their breeding range, where they thrive in grassy habitats intermixed with wetlands.

So I guess this pair is on its way north.

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Nearby, a pair of dabbling ducks that live year-round in Florida: Mottled Ducks.

The only duck adapted to breeding in southern marshes, the Mottled Duck is a dull relative of the Mallard. It is in danger of being displaced by introduced Mallards, primarily because of hybridization.

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Pretty feathers. And such orange feet.

Compared to other species of ducks, pair formation occurs early, with nearly 80% of all individuals paired by November. Breeding starts in January, continuing through to July and usually peaking in March and April.

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Habitat: Freshwater wetlands, ditches, wet prairies, and seasonally flooded marshes.

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Also, on Wikipedia…

The mottled duck (Anas fulvigula) or mottled mallard is a medium-sized dabbling duck. It is intermediate in appearance between the female mallard and the American black duck. It is closely related to those species, and is sometimes considered a subspecies of the former, but this is inappropriate (see systematics).

There are two distinct populations of mottled ducks. One population, A. fulvigula maculosa (mottled duck), lives on the Gulf of Mexico coast between Alabama and Tamaulipas (Mexico); outside the breeding season individual birds may venture as far south as to Veracruz. The other, A. fulvigula fulvigula (Florida duck), is resident in central and south Florida and occasionally strays north to Georgia. The same disjunct distribution pattern was also historically found in the local sandhill cranes.

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Bigger picture of where I was walking, along A1A, and the ditch next to the Hutchinson Island Marriott golf course. The water level is low now, at the end of the dry season.

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Also spotted wading in shallow water then walking off across the dry mud, a Tricolored Heron.

Shorebirds, two kinds

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Two Willets walking on a beach, St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park.

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Sanderlings too.

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Audubon Field Guide Sanderling

This is the little sandpiper that runs up and down the beach “like a clockwork toy,” chasing the receding waves. Plumper and more active than most small sandpipers, and quite pale at most times of year, a good match for dry sand. Sanderlings nest only in limited areas of the far north, but during migration and winter they are familiar sights on coastal beaches all over the world.

Decorating with birds

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Pelicans are everywhere.

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And now in my house too.

Chainsaw art purchased at Jammin’ Jensen, a street festival of arts and music held every Thursday night in downtown Jensen Beach.

Lawn ornaments

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White Ibis in Sewall’s Point this morning. My husband and I were out for a ride. I had my camera in the basket of my beach bike.

A wading bird of the deep South, the striking White Ibis is frequently seen on lawns looking for large insects as well as probing for prey along the shoreline.

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White Ibis poking around.

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Wikipedia: A field study late in the Florida nesting season revealed that on an average day, adult American white ibis spent 10.25 hours looking for food, 0.75 hours flying, 13 hours resting, roosting, and attending to their nests.

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They are pretty calm around people.

Walking with egret

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Observe and learn from the Great Egret.

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On a windy day, avoid open areas at water’s edge and take a walk along the well-vegetated roads of Sewall’s Point.

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Again today, and for the past several days, we have winds sustained at 20 mph and gusting to 25 or 30. It really musses one’s hair and feathers.

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What a pretty feather-butt.

The pristinely white Great Egret gets even more dressed up for the breeding season. A patch of skin on its face turns neon green, and long plumes grow from its back. Called aigrettes, those plumes were the bane of egrets in the late nineteenth century, when such adornments were prized for ladies’ hats.

Much nicer to have a moment or two with the living bird. A few photos, to preserve and share, will be the feather in my cap.

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We walked next to each other for a minute or two, on River Road.

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Then the egret turned to walk into the woods on a vacant lot with waterfront along the St. Lucie River.

On this western side of Sewall’s Point is a ridge of high land, a “backbone” extending the length of the peninsula. The natural vegetation here is tropical hardwood hammock.

Tropical hardwood hammocks are closed canopy forests, dominated by a diverse assemblage of evergreen and semi-deciduous tree and shrub species, mostly of West Indian origin.

And…

Tropical hardwood hammocks are found nearly throughout the southern half of South Florida, with large concentrations in Dade County on the Miami Rock Ridge, in Dade and Monroe counties in the Florida Keys and along the northern shores of Florida Bay, and in the Pinecrest region of the Big Cypress Swamp. Analogous communities are also found in the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles (Robertson 1955). Most maritime hammocks on barrier islands in South Florida are similar to this community. Large areas of tropical hardwood hammocks are still found in Everglades NP and Biscayne NP in Dade County, throughout the Florida Keys in Monroe County, and in Big Cypress National Preserve in Collier County. Tropical hardwood hammocks also persist in small preserves along the Atlantic coastal strip from Dade County north to Martin County.

Martin County, that’s us.

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Good-bye, bird. Thank you for walking with me.

Eagle above

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That distant, tiny dot above the tree horizon is something special.

Friday afternoon I was walking here on River Road in Sewall’s Point, just a few blocks from home, when I heard an Osprey screaming. It flew over my head, chased by a slightly larger bird.

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They circled back around and passed over again, Osprey in the lead, distinctive black and white bird on its tail.

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Bald Eagle!

My guess is that the Osprey had a nest with chicks. I think they stayed safe.

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I was super-excited to see a Bald Eagle. I wished there were other people around too I could yell and point at the sky, “Bald Eagle!”

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But at least I had my camera so I could point and shoot and share it later.

What a bold, beautiful bird.

Ruddy turnstone Sunday

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Ruddy Turnstone at Bob Graham Beach last Sunday.

We were parked in our new Tommy Bahama “Relax” backpack beach chairs with built in cooling pockets and cup holders for Sunday brunch beverages and a flock of these little guys were coming quite close, hoping for crumbs from our fresh, hot Cuban sandwiches from the nearby Island Pantry.

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A shorebird that looks almost like a calico cat, the Ruddy Turnstone‘s orange legs and uniquely patterned black-and-white head and chest make them easy to pick out of a crowd. These long-distance migrants breed in the arctic tundra, but spend the off seasons on rocky shorelines and sandy beaches on both North American coasts (as well as South America, Eurasia, Africa, and Australia). They use their stout, slightly upturned bill to flip debris on the beach to uncover insects and small crustaceans.

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Chubster.

For shorebirds like the Ruddy Turnstone, getting fat is critical. Unlike humans, which use carbohydrates as fuel, birds use fat to power their migrations. Birds that don’t get fat enough before they depart often leave later and some may not even make it to the breeding or wintering grounds.

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It was a very windy day. Some fishermen battled the elements.

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There were some Sanderlings around too, as there often are with Ruddy Turnstones.

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A couple of kite surfers were fun to watch just off the beach.

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Wind and water.