Boating near Bird Island

IMG_7442-2

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

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

IMG_7445-2

A Brown Pelican!

Boy, you don’t see many of those around here. ¬†ūüėČ

IMG_7434-2

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.

IMG_7448-2

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

IMG_7452-2

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

IMG_7454-2

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.

IMG_7456-2

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.

IMG_7464 (1)-2

But the coolest thing was seeing baby Wood Storks!

IMG_7466-2

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.

IMG_7467-2

Do not pester the birds. We didn’t.

IMG_7469-2

Radar was bird watching too.

IMG_7471-2

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.

IMG_7478 (1)-2

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).

IMG_7483-2

A birdy place.

IMG_7488-2

A Wood Stork, Mycteria americana.

Birdwatching with my niece

IMG_7354

Birds are nesting on Bird Island, in the Indian River Lagoon, a few blocks and an open channel away from my home.

IMG_7355

My seven-year-old niece was visiting with her parents and little sister and one afternoon last week we went birding.

IMG_7356

She was into it.

IMG_7357

She liked the binoculars and learned to use them quickly.

IMG_7362

We could see Wood Storks with nesting material.

IMG_7349.jpg

So many large birds perching and nesting on top of the mangove trees.

IMG_7376

Pelicans, cormorants and egrets are there now too, with a few vultures waiting for an opportunity to dine.

IMG_7353

Clean up crew.

IMG_7359

Birds everywhere!

IMG_7378

Next we went to Sandsprit Park looking for parrots but didn’t find any. We did spot a big bird “fishing”.

IMG_7379

This Great Blue Heron was quite comfortable around a fisherman at the end of a dock.

IMG_7381

My niece was thrilled at the bird’s size and beauty.

IMG_7382

A Great Blue Heron is not something she sees often in her Philadelphia suburb.

IMG_7388

“He’s so pretty!”

IMG_7389

GBH: Largest of the North American herons with long legs, a sinuous neck, and thick, daggerlike bill. Head, chest, and wing plumes give a shaggy appearance.

IMG_7391

Big feet!

IMG_7393

We saw other birds in the park too, including this clever crow taking bags out of the trash and rolling them around to see if there was any food left in them.

IMG_7408

In Manatee Pocket, a pelican caught a fish.

IMG_7412

We drove to a neighborhood in Port Salerno near Pirate’s Cove where I had seen parrots a few times before and… bingo! Quaker Parrots, aka Monk Parakeets.

IMG_7421

“My goal is to see parrots this vacation,” my niece had told me a couple of days before. We high-fived each other.

IMG_7422

It may come as a surprise to see noisy, green-and-gray parrots racing through cities in the U.S. But Monk Parakeets, native to South America but long popular in the pet trade, established wild populations here in the 1960s. They are the only parrots to nest communally; dozens live together year-round in large, multifamily stick nests built in trees and on power poles.

We saw 8 or 10 flying around and they appeared to be nesting in a cabbage palm covered in viney vegetation.

IMG_7424

Monk Parakeets are very social, spending their whole lives living in bustling colonies of dozens of individuals. Every morning they leave their nests to forage, spending the day climbing through trees (sometimes using their beaks as a climbing aid) or dropping to the ground in search of food. At dusk they all gather back at the nests to roost, both during the breeding season and after it is over.

IMG_7418.jpg

Monk Parakeets were introduced to the U.S. in the 1960s via the release or escape of pet birds. Since then their numbers have grown and they now occur in several cities including San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Providence, Miami, and St. Petersburg. They are also numerous in their native South America. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 20 million, with 3% of these in the U.S. and none in Canada or Mexico. The species rates a 6 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Monk Parakeet is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Historically, most management efforts toward Monk Parakeets, both in the U.S. and in South America, have been directed at curbing their populations because of their reputation as an agricultural pest. As it turns out, their populations have persisted but have not spread, and in the U.S. there are no longer active programs to control their numbers.

I guess we have learned to live with these noisy, pretty little green birds.

Front yard birds

IMG_7335-2

I walked out the front door and a pair of Wood Ducks zipped past and landed in the strangler fig on the border of our front yard Friday morning.

IMG_7338-2

The male.

I went inside to get my camera and managed a couple of shots before they flew off.

IMG_7339-2

Then later that day the roof guys finished our new metal roof. When we came back from errands, my husband spotted a Little Blue Heron perched up there.

IMG_7343-2

Close up.

IMG_7344-2

Nice weathervane.

Lawn ornaments

IMG_7250-2

Some lawns have plastic pink flamingos.

IMG_7251-2

Others have Great Egrets.

IMG_7254-2

I see them sometimes when I’m out walking, and they’re out stalking.

IMG_7258-2

Egret crossing.

IMG_7259-2

Sewall’s Point is a nice place for birds.

IMG_7261-2

Walk this way.

Looking up

IMG_7272-2

This Prairie Warbler was singing a pretty song near my house this morning.

Song is a rapid series of ascending buzzes. Calls vary; most common is a “chek” note.

This is my first Prairie Warbler and my 50th Florida bird.

A tail-wagging yellow warbler with black streaks down its sides, the Prairie Warbler is found in scrubby fields and forests throughout the eastern and south-central United States, not on the prairies.

Go figure.

American Bird Conservancy…

Contrary to its name, the Prairie Warbler is a bird of scrubby fields, clearcuts, and open woods, where it can be located by its buzzy, ascending song, tail-pumping habit, and black-streaked yellow plumage. This species has a bold facial pattern that gives it a ‚Äúspectacled‚ÄĚ appearance.

Like other early successional species such as Golden-winged and Kirtland’s Warblers, Prairie Warbler numbers have declined due to habitat change. Along with other migratory birds, they also face threats ranging from collisions with glass to free-roaming cats.

A separate subspecies of Prairie Warbler is resident in Florida; these birds are slightly larger than migratory individuals and nest in mangroves.

From a Mass Audubon blog

Natives of more western states than Massachusetts might scoff at the scrubby clearings that we Easterners call ‚Äúprairies,‚ÄĚ but such areas provide perfect habitat for the Prairie Warbler. This species abhors forests, and breeds in shrubby clearings and only the most open woodlands. Both human-caused and natural disturbances have created plenty of Prairie Warbler breeding habitat in the Commonwealth over the past several centuries. However, as forests reassert themselves, Prairie Warblers stand to lose habitat as a result of this natural succession.