Look at those wings

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I saw this juvenile Bald Eagle circling for a long time over Haney Creek in Stuart yesterday morning.

Eagle wingspan: 6 to 7.5 feet!

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It’s not unusual to see an eagle in this Stuart and Jensen Beach area north of the St. Lucie River, but I think this is the first juvenile I’ve spotted.

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According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission…

The bald eagle, our national bird and a symbol of the United States, is a conservation success story. Today, Florida, has one of the densest concentrations of nesting bald eagles in the lower 48 states. While no longer listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act or the Florida Endangered and Threatened Species rules, bald eagles remain protected by both the state eagle rule (68A-16.002, F.A.C.) and federal law.

Florida has an Eagle Watch program coordinated through Florida Audubon.

Club Scrub-Jay

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Cool lake on a hot day at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, last Sunday, when I went on a solo trek to find scrub jays.

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I walked around this lake. It smelled a bit like a northern freshwater lake – cool, fresh, watery and alive!

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This narrow trail was shared by mountain bikers. Best to choose the trails marked for foot traffic only, I learned.

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Jonathan Dickinson preserves a large area of Florida scrub habitat.

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Florida sand pine scrub is an endangered subtropical forest ecoregion found throughout Florida in the United States.[4] It is found on coastal and inland sand ridges and is characterized by an evergreen xeromorphic plant community dominated by shrubs and dwarf oaks. Because the low-nutrient sandy soils do not retain moisture, the ecosystem is effectively an arid one. Wildfires infrequently occur in the Florida scrub. Most of the annual rainfall (about 135 cm or 53 in) falls in summer. It is endangered by residential, commercial and agricultural development.

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Can you see the mountain biker in the above two photos? There is an active club at the park, Club Scrub.

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But count me as a member of Club Scrub-Jay! (They should start one, right?) Here’s a Florida Master naturalist who is a big fan…

Why the Scrub-Jay should be Florida’s state bird, with Eva Ries

It has a beautiful dusty-gray breast, it has a gray collar around the back, it’s blue up top with a gray eyebrow, and it has the most unusual call. When they call to their compatriots, they make a rrih! rrih! rrih-rrih-rrih!

Video of Florida Scrub-Jay “happy song” while perched on a man’s hat! LINK

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They are not hard to find, when you are in their habitat. They are curious and the landscape is open.

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Audubon…

This bird is noteworthy on several counts. It lives nowhere in the world except Florida, it has a complicated social system, it has been the subject of very detailed field studies, and it is threatened by loss of habitat. Formerly considered just a race of the scrub-jays found in the west, it is now classified as a full species.

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Breeds in cooperative flocks. Each nesting territory is occupied by an adult pair and often by one to six “helpers,” usually the pair’s offspring from previous years. These additional birds assist in defending the territory and feeding the young. Studies have shown that a pair with “helpers” is likely to raise more young than a pair without. Nest site is in tree or shrub, usually an oak, with sand live oak strongly favored.

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I saw a total of three scrub-jays but just focused on getting decent shots of this one, close by and in good light.

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Range map.

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A bit jay-like appearance but without a crest. Here is the familiar and widespread (east of the Rocky Mountains) Blue Jay for comparison, from a little later that morning in the park…

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Blue Jays’ behavioral attitude seems a bit fussier and sassier, like they enjoy complaining and picking fights. I watched them a lot in New Hampshire, especially at my bird feeders.

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From a Feb 5, 2015 blog post: Birds are avian dinosaurs 

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The Scrub-Jay seems a bit more peaceful, even elegant, especially for a corvid. Although maybe I need to spend more time observing them.

Saving Florida’s Friendliest Native Bird Matters

For the past 2 million years, Florida has been home to a superlative bird found nowhere else on earth. These birds are remarkably smart, with extraordinary memory and perhaps even the ability to plan ahead. Highly social yet quarrelsome, they’re like the stars of an avian soap opera. And they’re as brash and curious as precocious kids. Many a jubilant birdwatcher has turned to find one mischievously perched upon their shoulder.

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Park sign.

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I also got close to a Yellow-rumped Warbler in a thicket, a winter visitor to Florida.

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The Yellow-rumped Warbler is the only warbler able to digest the waxes found in bayberries and wax myrtles. Its ability to use these fruits allows it to winter farther north than other warblers, sometimes as far north as Newfoundland.

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Yellow-rumped Warblers are perhaps the most versatile foragers of all warblers. They’re the warbler you’re most likely to see fluttering out from a tree to catch a flying insect, and they’re also quick to switch over to eating berries in fall. Other places Yellow-rumped Warblers have been spotted foraging include picking at insects on washed-up seaweed at the beach, skimming insects from the surface of rivers and the ocean, picking them out of spiderwebs, and grabbing them off piles of manure.

I bought an annual pass to Florida State Parks and I will be heading back to Jonathan Dickinson again soon!

A new warbler

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Catching up with Costa Rica photos!

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There’s that volcano, out there somewhere.

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Raccoon-like coatis just off the deck at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

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Chestnut-sided Warblers were in town for the winter.

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A common bird of second growth and scrubby forests, the Chestnut-sided Warbler is distinctive in appearance. No other warbler combines a greenish-yellow cap, a white breast, and reddish streaks down the sides.

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Capuchin monkey overhead.

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The volcano was recently active.

Two more new birds

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Melodious Blackbirds at the fruit feeder trees at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

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The Melodious Blackbird is a rather unique and vociferous all black icterid of Mexico and Central America. It has a relatively thick and long bill, but most noticeable is that the legs and feet look a size too big on this mid-sized blackbird.

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Arenal Volcano stayed hidden behind clouds during our visit.

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Inside an observation tower we found a small, strikingly-colored bird resting on the floor. It may have flown in an open window and hit another window or couldn’t find its way out. It seemed fine. And what a great close up look!

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Figured out later it was a Green Honeycreeper.

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Very attractive small tanager of humid tropical lowlands. Found in humid evergreen forest edges, plantations, and gardens; at times with mixed-species feeding flocks of honeycreepers and euphonias. Often in pairs, feeding at all levels in fruiting trees and bushes. Note the short, curved bill. Males are a unique green-blue color with black hood and a banana yellow beak. Female resembles female Red-legged Honeycreeper but is larger, brighter, uniform green, with yellow lower bill and grayish legs.

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Tiny little thing. It made it out the window and away into the tropical forest before we left.

Golden-hooded Tanagers

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More Costa Rica birds from our trip in January.

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We were at the Arenal Observatory Lodge when we spotted these Golden-hooded Tanagers.

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The Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata) is a neotropical species that inhabits humid forest and forest edges.

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Gorgeous colors on this petite banana-eater!

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The tanagers comprise the bird family Thraupidae, in the order Passeriformes. The family has an American distribution. The Thraupidae are the second-largest family of birds and represent about 4% of all avian species and 12% of the Neotropical birds.

Amazilia tzacatl

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This little jewel of a bird was in a garden at the Arenal Observatory Lodge, in Costa Rica.

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Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds were all over and easy to see, as they are bold and territorial.

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The food of this species is nectar, taken from a variety of flowers, including Heliconias and bananas. Like other hummingbirds, it also takes small insects as an essential source of protein. Rufous-tailed hummingbirds are very aggressive, and defend flowers and shrubs in their feeding territories. They are dominant over most other hummingbirds.