Not a lot bigger than a gnat

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in an orange tree, spied from along River Road in south Sewall’s Point.

First time I’ve seen one of these tiny fellows. I got ID help on the Facebook page What’s This Bird.

A tiny, long-tailed bird of broadleaf forests and scrublands, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher makes itself known by its soft but insistent calls and its constant motion. It hops and sidles in dense outer foliage, foraging for insects and spiders. As it moves, this steely blue-gray bird conspicuously flicks its white-edged tail from side to side, scaring up insects and chasing after them.

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A Black-and-white Warbler was nearby.

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And a few Yellow-rumped Warblers were in the neighborhood too.

All of these little insect-eating birds are winter residents, in town for “the season.”

White birds in High Point

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White Ibis coming in for a landing. These birds are all white except for black-tipped wings.

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They are wading birds, but also lawn birds around here.

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This flock is going to work on a nice green lawn at the southern end of Sewall’s Point, in the neighborhood known as High Point.

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White feathers, pink legs and bills, blue eyes.

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Probing for insects. I have seen them eat snails in my backyard too.

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Lawn aeration courtesy of these members of the family Threskiornithidae, the ibises and spoonbills.

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We see flocks of White Ibis often, wading in shallow water, walking on lawns, flying overhead.

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High Point should have an ibis on its welcoming pillar.

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Nearby, a peekaboo glimpse of the Indian River Lagoon and a Great Egret.

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Wading.

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A block away, one of the neighborhood predators.

Birds in a dog park

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Shrike a pose.

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Loggerhead Shrike at a dog park in Gulf Shores, Alabama yesterday morning, before our nine-hour drive back home.

American Bird Conservancy…

The husky, predatory Loggerhead Shrike is nicknamed “butcherbird” for its habit of skewering prey on thorns or barbed wire. “Loggerhead” refers to the large size of this bird’s head in relation to its body.

This shrike’s song is a bit like a mockingbird’s, featuring a series of raspy, buzzy notes and trills. Along with the bird, that song has become much less common. According to Breeding Bird Survey data, populations have declined by almost 80 percent since 1966. This trend coincides with the introduction of chemical pesticides in the United States.

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Great Blue Heron on the shores of Shelby Lake which bounds one edge of the dog park in Gulf State Park.

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Consider me aware.

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Radar had fun, before the long ride.

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LBH lift-off.

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Relocating a few yards away.

Lagoon king

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Sittin’ on the dock of the bay, a Belted Kingfisher.

This is bird #10 of 2018. I thought I’d start a sidebar count for this year, for fun.

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With its top-heavy physique, energetic flight, and piercing rattle, the Belted Kingfisher seems to have an air of self-importance as it patrols up and down rivers and shorelines. It nests in burrows along earthen banks and feeds almost entirely on aquatic prey, diving to catch fish and crayfish with its heavy, straight bill.

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I spotted the bird on the dock from the back deck of the rental.

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I love the punk hair styles of the kingfishers.

Fort Morgan

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The nonchalant cormorant.

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Looking north toward Mobile Bay from Fort Morgan, Alabama.

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We drove from Gulf Shores out to Fort Morgan because we do love a nice peninsula. Breezy and chilly, but sunny.

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Oil rigs in the bay.

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Shrimp boats too.

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Which way to the beach? More Double-crested Cormorants.

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There is a dog beach at Fort Morgan. Radar was happy about that. He loves the beach. We went on the beach across from our rental too, because it’s off season and nobody was around.

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Nothing like a good stick.

Sometimes it’s hard to get good bird photos when traveling with a dog, especially one shaped like a bit like a wolf. At least he (mostly) doesn’t chase birds. He prefers squirrels and balls.

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Just offshore were 7 or 8 Bufflehead ducks, disappearing now and then under water. This is a male.

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This is a female.

A buoyant, large-headed duck that abruptly vanishes and resurfaces as it feeds, the tiny Bufflehead spends winters bobbing in bays, estuaries, reservoirs, and lakes. Males are striking black-and white from a distance. A closer look at the head shows glossy green and purple setting off the striking white patch. Females are a subdued gray-brown with a neat white patch on the cheek.

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Bufflehead chase.

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On land at Fort Morgan, an Amy-attracting sign.

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The migrants included my old friends the Killdeer, bobbing, running, calling and flying…

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Killdeer flies off.

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And my other old friends the Yellow-rumped Warblers.

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Show us your butt!

Eagle with my coffee

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Good morning, birdy rental house.

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Put down coffee, pick up camera, walk out onto back deck… take photo of Bald Eagle, bam!

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This juvenile was fishing in Little Lagoon. Such big wings they have.

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Birds are everywhere.

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Morning light on cool bird art.

Shorebirds along the shore

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This may be the first time I’ve seen this shorebird, the Killdeer, actually along the shore. It’s usually golf courses or parking lots or road medians.

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We arrived late this afternoon at our beach rental in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Little Lagoon behind, Gulf beach across the street in front, and quite close to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. I ran right out to the lagoon to take a few photos before dark.

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It’s not breeding season but these two Killdeer were very flirty with each other.

A shorebird you can see without going to the beach, Killdeer are graceful plovers common to lawns, golf courses, athletic fields, and parking lots. These tawny birds run across the ground in spurts, stopping with a jolt every so often to check their progress, or to see if they’ve startled up any insect prey. Their voice, a far-carrying, excited kill-deer, is a common sound even after dark, often given in flight as the bird circles overhead on slender wings.

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Great Blue Heron was chilling out.

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Speaking of chilling, there were some dead fish (mullet?) on the beach. I think it is because there was a hard freeze here last night. The weather has been unusually cold all over the east coast.

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Lovebirds?

They were chasing each other constantly.

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Often seen in dry, flat landscapes, running and halting on the ground in search of insects and earthworms. Although the Killdeer is common around human habitation it is often shy, at first running away rather than flying. When a Killdeer stops to look at an intruder, it has a habit of bobbing up and down almost as if it had hiccupped. Near the nest, Killdeer distract predators by calling loudly, bobbing, and running away. Killdeer are some of the best-known practitioners of the broken-wing display, an attempt to lure predators away from a nest by feigning injury. Pairs of Killdeer tend to stay together for one to a few years.

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Killdeer have the characteristic large, round head, large eye, and short bill of all plovers. They are especially slender and lanky, with a long, pointed tail and long wings.

Brownish-tan on top and white below. The white chest is barred with two black bands, and the brown face is marked with black and white patches.

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They are members of the Plover and Lapwing family, Charadriidae.

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Cold fish.

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Lagoon view.

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Double band on the chest is distinctive, almost distinguished… if they weren’t so busy robbing and running and calling kill-deer, kill-deer!

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John James Audubon…

The Kildeer is by most people called a “noisy bird and restless.” Now to me it is any thing but this, unless indeed when it is disturbed by the approach or appearance of its enemies, more particularly man, of whom indeed few wild birds are fond. Watch them from under some cover that completely conceals you, and you will see them peaceably and silently follow their avocations for hours. In this respect the Kildeer resembles the Lapwing of Europe, which is also called a restless and noisy bird, because men and dogs are ever in pursuit of the poor thing, which after all its vigilance often falls a prey to the sportsman, who condemns it merely because it endeavours to draw him from its nest or young.

Auld acquaintance: butterbutt

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Yellow-rumped Warbler in the neighbor’s banyan tree yesterday evening near sunset. There were a couple of them flitting around, calling softly. I pished them closer and got a few photos of one of them. (I’m always still surprised when that works.) Unfortunately, no good view of their defining feature, the bright yellow rump patch.

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Yellow-rumped Warblers are here in winter, fly north in April, and return south in late October. Here is a very cool animated map showing the species distribution and relative abundance throughout the 52 weeks of the year in North America.

The Yellow-rumped Warbler is one of the most abundant birds in North America, connecting almost every part of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico during its annual cycle.

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This is the first time I have noticed them in Florida. I first met them in my New Hampshire backyard in October 2016. Warning: gorgeous autumn foliage that will induce intense nostalgia if you have ever lived in NH!.. (But today they are having a blizzard.)

#59 is a butterbutt

Last two days

Reaching the peak

Thank you, little bird, for connecting the old and the new for me.

(This is my 67th Florida bird. My bird total in NH was 64.)

Twelve 2017 birds

A few of the many birds I saw in 2017…

january

A cuteness of peeps, at Santa Lucea Beach on Hutchinson Island.

february

Amazing feather colors! Living with a few other macaws and lots of rescued wildlife at the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center.

March

Sometimes I see random cool birds on a walk around the neighborhood.

april

Fishing the easy way, at Sandsprit Park in Stuart.

May

Sexy spoonbills on Bird Island, as seen from a small boat.

june

A little pal in the backyard.

july

Lizard lunch in Sewall’s Point.

august

Warblers passing through our little peninsula between the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie River.

september

Woodland hunter in Snug Harbor, Stuart.

october

Noisy neighbor.

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Raptor at the Stuart Airshow.

december

The ubiquitous waterbird.

Strike a pose

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Great Blue Heron is a big bird, from three-and-a-half to almost five feet tall, with a six-foot wingspan. They hold still for photos too.

The feathery “ruff” around this one’s neck indicates it’s an adult.

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I saw the GBH today at the little pond across the street from the Sewall’s Point town hall. The Indian River Lagoon is just beyond those mangroves.

Cool, rainy and windy weather… with a cold snap to follow.

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A beak that stabs like a dagger. En garde, fishes and amphibians!

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Also by the pond, a lone Palm Warbler.