Monthly Archives: March 2019

Bird Island and (un)Common Eider


Many birds in one place, that’s Bird Island.


Great Blue Heron gets in Brown Pelican’s space.


Pelican relocates.


So many birds to watch. Counting them is hard, but we did it on Friday – me with binoculars and camera, husband piloting a small center-console boat from our boat club. I called out species and numbers and he tallied them on a notepad where I had already written names of birds we were likely to see.


I submitted an eBird checklist next morning: LINK


Pelican chick and parent.


Counting nesting Wood Storks and Brown Pelicans is like counting stars in the sky.


Cormorant fishing.


Rock jetties built on either side of the north end of the island help keep it from eroding, I believe.


Great Blue.


A couple of juvenile Magnificent Frigatebirds were over in the pelican section of the mangroves.


Nearby, adult male frigatebirds were roosting. A couple looked like they had crash-landed, but I suppose they were sunning.


Just around the bend we found the bird we were looking for: a Common Eider!

We had seen this bird the day before while boating with friends. I recognized it from when we lived in New Hampshire, where they were common along the coast.


Common Eiders are very Uncommon in Florida. eBird shows just a few sightings a year.


A colorful duck of the northern seacoasts, the Common Eider is the largest duck in the Northern Hemisphere.



This looks like a non-breeding male: ID photos.

What motivated this bird to visit Florida in March? Was it caught in a storm?


Coming back around the northwest corner of the island, the GBH was still there.


A new male frigatebird arrived on the scene.


The juveniles took off.


They flew around, seeming reluctant to land while the adult male was circling.


Soon there were three juveniles in the air.


Watching frigatebirds soar is like watching kites without strings, flying themselves.


As we rounded the southern end of the island, we saw the eider duck bobbing on the waters of the Indian River Lagoon.


Last time I blogged eiders was June 2016 in New Hampshire, when I photographed females and ducklings: Pop up ducks. And in March of 2016 when I watched a male Common Eider as well as a Common Loon and a Snowy Owl: Drive-by coastal birding.

Short-billed dowitcher, thoroughly photographed


Short-billed Dowitcher, with a Willet for size.


The dowitcher was tagging along behind the bigger bird, on the beach at Hobe Sound NWR, Jupiter Island.


Cloudy day and my camera settings could have been better. I will learn all that when I’m finished renovating our new house. Yeah, right.


This is my first dowitcher ID. Bird # 215 on the sidebar.


Ruddy Turnstones were turning over sargassum in search of snacks. The dowitcher was interested.


Lots of plastic trash was washing up with this bunch of weed.


A medium to large shorebird with a long bill, the Short-billed Dowitcher is a common and conspicous migrant that uses a “sewing-machine” method of foraging across the mud flats. Its long bill is short only in comparison with the very similar Long-billed Dowitcher.


Breeds in muskegs of taiga to timberline, and barely onto subarctic tundra.

Winters on coastal mud flats and brackish lagoons.

In migration prefers saltwater tidal flats, beaches, and salt marshes.


A flock of Sanderlings arrived at our stretch of beach, with a couple of plovers mixed in.


I had ID help on Facebook’s What’s This Bird… it’s a Black-bellied Plover, in non-breeding plumage. Latin name Pluvialis squatarola is kind of funny.

  • Wary and quick to give alarm calls, the Black-bellied Plover functions worldwide as a sentinel for mixed groups of shorebirds. These qualities allowed it to resist market hunters, and it remained common when populations of other species of similar size were devastated.


One of our friends, exploring the beach.

Warbler among the sea grapes (plus otter)


What a mug! Boating yesterday, we saw a young otter in the Intracoastal Waterway between Hobe Sound and Jupiter Island.


We pulled up on a narrow strip of beach on the island, narrower than usual because of full moon high tide, and walked through some sea grape trees to the ocean side, at Hobe Island National Wildlife Refuge, Peck Lake (a favorite destination).


There were some warblers in the woods, stopping over on their migration north, including this handsome, puffy Yellow-throated Warbler.


Some of these warblers winter in Florida, but this guy was in a mixed flock with other warblers in a sandy coastal habitat so I figured he was heading north.


Yellow-throated Warblers are found in pine forests, sycamore–bald cypress swamps, and woodlands near streams, especially areas with tall trees and an open understory.


A sign of spring, I say!


On the other side of the Jupiter Island, the Atlantic Ocean, clouds and wind.

Anhinga at the park


I got some nice shots of this Anhinga a few days ago at Indian Riverside Park.


I haven’t been visiting the birds as often as I’d like because we bought another house nearby that we’re remodeling. It’s crazy-busy at the moment, but in a good way.


But now and then the planets align and I’ve got my camera with me when birds are nearby doing pretty bird things like drying the feathers of their wings.

If a mockingbird perches in the forest…


…The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped. His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second, through empty air. Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass. I had just rounded a corner when his insouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight. The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest. The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.
– Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

The neighborhood owl


“The great horned owl is back!” my neighbor texted. She lives a block away. It was getting dark. But I managed to hustle over there and get a few shots of this impressive bird.


With its long, earlike tufts, intimidating yellow-eyed stare, and deep hooting voice, the Great Horned Owl is the quintessential owl of storybooks. This powerful predator can take down birds and mammals even larger than itself, but it also dines on daintier fare such as tiny scorpions, mice, and frogs. It’s one of the most common owls in North America, equally at home in deserts, wetlands, forests, grasslands, backyards, cities, and almost any other semi-open habitat between the Arctic and the tropics.


This owl has been spotted in this tree a number of times in the past month or so.


In other owl news, the Screech Owl house my husband built has been occupied by a pair of lovey-dovey squirrels. Annoying.

Haney Creek East

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I often wander the Haney Creek North section but a few days ago I finally explored “East” shown on the map above highlighted in yellow. It’s located in Stuart, Florida north of the St. Lucie River.


A trail leads away from the pull-off area along Dixie Highway.


We can thank Stuart City Commissioner Jeffrey Krauskopf for helping save this land from development. There is a freshwater marsh on the right hand side here, and brackish swamp with mangroves on the other.


An Osprey rested on top of a pine tree.


Enjoy this good bird news: Ospreys Have Made a Remarkable Recovery


Blue flag? It used to bloom by our New Hampshire pond in spring. I didn’t know it grew in this part of Florida.


Boardwalk with plenty of cautionary signs.


Got a good look at a young Little Blue Heron. Yes, they start off as Little White Herons.


Little white.


Maple? Also haven’t noticed that around here. Maybe swamp maple… which also grew by our old pond 1400 miles north of here.


Palm Warbler in the trees.

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Unless you live in Canada, spring, fall, and winter are your best times to see Palm Warblers. They spend the winters in the Caribbean and in a narrow strip along the southeastern United States and occasionally along the West Coast. They’re a fairly common early migrant across much of the East, reaching New England by mid-to-late April. They start slowly heading south in late August.


Weedy fields, forest edges, and scrubby areas are great places to look for them during migration and winter. Look through groups of birds foraging on the ground—they’re often with sparrows, juncos, and Yellow-rumped Warblers—so watch for their characteristic tail wagging to pull them out of the crowd. They also forage in low shrubs and isolated trees in open areas, where they sometimes sally out for insects like a flycatcher. Palm Warblers typically aren’t skittish, so if you find one, you should have enough time to get a good look.


I like the way the light hit the bird’s eye in this shot.


Also spotted a Downy Woodpecker, near the southern end of its range too.


View walking back on the boardwalk over freshwater.


Great Egret.


Great Blue Heron, with “civilization” beyond.