Author Archives: Amy

drift for a minute, an hour even

Northern Cardinal at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
Sojourns in the Parallel World
Denise Levertov

We live our lives of human passions,
cruelties, dreams, concepts,
crimes and the exercise of virtue
in and beside a world devoid
of our preoccupations, free
from apprehension—though affected,
certainly, by our actions. A world
parallel to our own though overlapping.
We call it "Nature"; only reluctantly
admitting ourselves to be "Nature" too.
Whenever we lose track of our own obsessions,
our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute,
an hour even, of pure (almost pure)
response to that insouciant life:
cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing
pilgrimage of water, vast stillness
of spellbound ephemerae on a lit windowpane,
animal voices, mineral hum, wind
conversing with rain, ocean with rock, stuttering
of fire to coal—then something tethered
in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch
of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free.
No one discovers
just where we've been, when we're caught up again
into our own sphere (where we must
return, indeed, to evolve our destinies)
—but we have changed, a little.

Gallinules among the lilies

I love this photo, I love this bird.

This is a Purple Gallinule, in bright morning sun.

Lurking in the marshes of the extreme southeastern U.S. lives one of the most vividly colored birds in all of North America. Purple Gallinules combine cherry red, sky blue, moss green, aquamarine, indigo, violet, and school-bus yellow, a color palette that blends surprisingly well with tropical and subtropical wetlands. Watch for these long-legged, long-toed birds stepping gingerly across water lilies and other floating vegetation as they hunt frogs and invertebrates or pick at tubers.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Purple_Gallinule/overview

We saw this bird and others at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Florida yesterday morning. It’s a piece of the northern Everglades that has been preserved for wildlife and lovers of wild places. The main entrance is in Boynton Beach.

It’s cool how a bird this colorful can also appear camouflaged.

Also notable: the amazing feet.

Related: the Common Gallinule.

The Common Gallinule swims like a duck and walks atop floating vegetation like a rail with its long and slender toes. This boldly marked rail has a brilliant red shield over the bill and a white racing stripe down its side. It squawks and whinnies from thick cover in marshes and ponds from Canada to Chile, peeking in and out of vegetation. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Common_Gallinule/overview

This one was noisy, with its “squawks and whinnies.”

We also observed Florida’s most famous large reptile.

We stared at the alligator and he didn’t blink an eye, move, or even look back at us. “Whatever,” is the motto of the gator at rest.

First Forster's

The long wooden pier out into the Indian River Lagoon, behind the Snook Nook bait and tackle shop in Jensen Beach, is often worth a quick look.

Mainly gulls. One little Ruddy Turnstone.

One tern on a piling. Turns out to be a Forster’s Tern, bird number 222 for me.

Flashing slender, silvery wings and an elegantly forked tail, Forster’s Terns cruise above the shallow waters of marshes and coastlines looking for fish. These medium-sized white terns are often confused with the similar Common Tern, but Forster’s Terns have a longer tail and, in nonbreeding plumage, a distinctive black eye patch.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Forsters_Tern/overview

I will keep an eye out for that eye-patched tern, now that I learned this species, a winter visitor around here.

Wood storks at Indian Riverside Park

Wood Stork.

I was quite close to this three-and-a-half foot tall wading bird yesterday at the big freshwater pond at Indian Riverside Park in Jensen Beach.

Portrait of one of the weirdest-looking birds in Florida.

The wood stork is a large, long-legged wading bird that is a member of the stork family (Ciconiidae). It is distantly related to herons, egrets, and ibises (Order: Ciconiiformes). However, recent genetic studies suggest storks are more closely related to the new world vultures (Family: Carthartidae).https://myfwc.com/research/wildlife/birds/wood-storks/introduction/

I can see that.

There were two of them, on a slow hunt around the pond edge.

Their long bills dip in deeper than other wading birds. And they can wade in deeper water thanks to those long legs.

A Tricolored Heron was keeping close to nab fish that were stirred up by the big stork feet.

Big pink feet.

I wonder if this is a pair. Nesting season should be happening soon.

Nice pose.

When you see your first Red-headed Woodpecker

Here I am, looking for a bird.

Something moving out there on the dead tree.

Yes!

My first Red-headed Woodpecker!

The gorgeous Red-headed Woodpecker is so boldly patterned it’s been called a “flying checkerboard,” with an entirely crimson head, a snow-white body, and half white, half inky black wings. These birds don’t act quite like most other woodpeckers: they’re adept at catching insects in the air, and they eat lots of acorns and beech nuts, often hiding away extra food in tree crevices for later. This magnificent species has declined severely in the past half-century because of habitat loss and changes to its food supply.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-headed_Woodpecker/overview

So many Red-bellied Woodpeckers everywhere and so few Red-headed Woodpeckers.

The Red-headed Woodpecker is one of only four North American woodpeckers known to store food, and it is the only one known to cover the stored food with wood or bark. It hides insects and seeds in cracks in wood, under bark, in fenceposts, and under roof shingles. Grasshoppers are regularly stored alive, but wedged into crevices so tightly that they cannot escape.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-headed_Woodpecker/overview

A bird worth getting to know.

I found this bird by checking eBird to see where the species had been seen lately. I had the good luck to have gone birding with a local birder who had posted a recent checklist that included a Red-headed. I emailed him to ask for guidance and got a great description of what I might see along Fox Brown Road in the Allapattah Flats, including the general location of beautiful bird. What luck!

I was recently reviewing the Martin County, Florida eBird Illustrated Checklist to see what species I haven’t yet seen around here. Is this a new chapter for me?.. actually going out looking for a specific bird rather than just wandering around with my camera? Well, I’m sure I’ll still do plenty of wandering.

Red-headed Woodpecker is blog bird #221.

The checkered ibis

From brown to white, this immature White Ibis is patchy with new feathers.

Reminds me a bit of the diamond patchwork of a harlequin.

Adult and not-yet.

A watched a flock of White Ibis at Indian Riverside Park a couple of days ago. I focused on the young birds, with their more varied coloring.

Some were less patchy and more brown.

Side by side.

White Ibises probe for insects and crustaceans beneath the surface of wetlands. They insert their bill into soft muddy bottoms and feel for prey. When they feel something, they pinch it like a tweezer, pulling out crayfish, earthworms, marine worms, and crabs. They also stab or pinch fish, frogs, lizards, snails, and newts. Many of their prey are swallowed on the spot, but for really muddy items they carry them away to wash the mud off before eating.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White_Ibis/lifehistory

These birds didn’t care I was crouched down right near them.

Nice to get such a good look at these common Florida birds in their less commonly observed plumage.

A petite winter gull

A small gull alone, floating as light as a cork.

Riding the waves.

In winter we have more gulls.

I was thinking about tuning into the winter gull situation when I spotted this one yesterday, just south of the sailing club at Indian Riverside Park in Jensen Beach.

This gull was taking short hops off the surface of the Indian River Lagoon with occasionally dipping or shallow diving to feed.

Not to diss other gulls, but this one seemed to be making more of an effort to get its own food than I often observe in the family Laridae, suborder Lari.

Small smudge behind its ear, small black bill, orangey legs, black-tipped feathers on wings.

I got some decent photos and thought I’d be able to learn this gull when I downloaded the photos back at home.

I had heard of a Bonaparte’s gull before and that’s the first species I checked on All About Birds…

Bonaparte’s Gulls are sleek, small gulls that breed in the boreal forest and winter farther south on ocean coasts, lakes, and rivers. Adults have black heads and red legs in the summer; in winter they have a neat gray smudge near the ear. They fly with ternlike agility, flashing bright white primaries that form a distinctive white wedge in the upperwing. Bonaparte’s Gulls capture flying insects and pluck tiny fish from the water with equal ease.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bonapartes_Gull/overview

Dip dive.

I looked at similar species them double-checked on Facebook’s “What’s This Bird.”

Yes, I’ve got me a Bonaparte’s gull.

eBird: Note unique wing pattern: several outer primaries white with black tips. Red legs. Adults in breeding plumage show black head. Nonbreeding and immatures have white head with black spot behind eye. Immatures also show white primaries with blackish-brown markings on the upperwing. 

According to eBird stats, they are seen around here from mid-November to April. Snowbirds… or snowgulls.

Blogged bird #220.

eBird mobile, ducks, geese and golf balls

Duck on a golf course.

Goose on a golf course.

Egyptian Goose to be precise.

They are native to Africa but have busted free of zoos and backyard breeders and established wild populations in Florida and elsewhere.

A Mottled Duck, a common Florida duck.

This is a male, with the yellowy-green bill. Females have an orange bill. Very tame little guy. Looking adorable – hoping for a bread crust, I suppose.

My birdwatching wanders yesterday morning, at the Hutchinson Marriott Resort. I was trying to get close to a few ponds and look for winter ducks.

Also yesterday I used eBird mobile for the first time. The night before I (finally) completed the free course eBird Essentials in the Cornell Lab or Ornithology Bird Academy.

Here’s me trying to zoom in on some distant gulls to figure out what species were loafing around on the golf course. (Laughing gulls and Ring-billed Gulls, it turns out.)

Over the course of the hour I watched birds, I saw three different groups of Double-crested Cormorants. There were five individuals in each group. Cormorants come in fives?

My old eyes tuned in to the fact there were a bunch of little sandpiper birds out there too. I should have brought my binoculars but I felt like carrying my camera was enough.

They flew over to a different patch of grass. I hope nobody thought I was telephoto-stalking the golf players!

A lady walking her dog advised me to keep an eye out for flying golf balls.

Ruddy Turnstones, a couple of Sanderlings, some Killdeer.

And one lone Dunlin! It’s the bird with the longest bill in the photo above. A new bird to my blog, number 218.

Five Killdeer and one Ruddy Turnstone.

A small duck caught my eye. Wished I could get closer. Like, hitch a ride on a golf cart to go private-golf-course birding! There should be such a thing.

It was a Hooded Merganser, by itself.

In another pond was a group of three Hooded Mergansers.

I’ve seen this species of duck one other time, on a pond in NH in January 2016.

Winter visitors.

Anhinga and gulls out on the golf course, with the other winter visitors. Walking around the condos I noticed license plated from Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia.

Fuzzy, cropped in pic of a Pie-billed Grebe, also down from the frozen north.

Ahoy, six mystery ducks!

My first Lesser Scaup, bird number 219!

In another pond I saw a bunch of floating golf balls.

Wait, do they hit golf balls into the pond on purpose? That’s weird.

Here’s my complete eBird checklist from my two-mile walk: January 29 Hutchinson Island Marriott.