Author Archives: Amy

Crows v. hawk

DSC_3962

A Red-tailed Hawk was perched atop our Norfolk Island pine a couple of days ago.

DSC_3986

Some wings!

DSC_3992

It was being harried by the neighborhood Fish Crows and finally lifted off.

DSC_3993

Crows seem pretty territorial at this time of year.

DSC_3994

I was out in the driveway with my camera, watching.

DSC_3998

Some sanderlings I saw

DSC_3895

I walked from Santa Lucea Beach almost to the House of Refuge.

DSC_3887.jpg

Busy beach Saturday, not a lot of parking left along the southern end of Hutchinson Island. Lots of people.

DSC_3897

I focused on the peeps.

DSC_3900

Sanderlings running.

DSC_3903

Sanderling feeding.

DSC_3910

Sanderling at rest.

DSC_3893.jpg

Ring-billed Gull (second winter?)

DSC_3908.jpg

Brown Pelicans were fishing.

DSC_3919.jpg

Dive.

DSC_3911

Sanderling loaf.

DSC_3913

Sanderlings three.

DSC_3917

A little bird and shelly grains of sand.

DSC_3930

Ruddy Turnstone bathing in a tide pool.

DSC_3934

Ruddy Turnstone rocks.

DSC_3936.jpg

Heading south towards House of Refuge.

DSC_3948.jpg

Camo.

 

Blue-headed vireo

DSC_3841

Here is the Blue-headed Vireo I watched for a few minutes this morning in an old live oak tree near the Henry Sewall House in Indian RiverSide Park.

DSC_3845

Have I ever mentioned how much I love the writing at Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds? …

The Blue-headed Vireo offers a pleasing palette of moss green, bluish gray, and greenish yellow, set off by bold white “spectacles” (the eyering plus a “loral” spot next to the bill), throat, and belly. The wings and tail are a sharp black and white. Like most larger vireos, Blue-headed forages for insects and their larvae in trees, moving deliberately along branches, where it can be challenging to spot. Males sing a slow, cheerful carol, often the first indication of the species’ presence in a forest.

That “slow cheerful carol” was what got me to look up into the tree I was passing under.

DSC_3856DSC_3881

Nearby, a gray squirrel.

DSC_3886

It’s spring in Florida.

Bird Island and (un)Common Eider

DSC_3259

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

DSC_3261

Great Blue Heron gets in Brown Pelican’s space.

DSC_3262

Pelican relocates.

DSC_3263

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.

DSC_3264

I submitted an eBird checklist next morning: LINK

DSC_3272

Pelican chick and parent.

DSC_3279

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

DSC_3285

Cormorant fishing.

DSC_3293

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

DSC_3295

Great Blue.

DSC_3297

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

DSC_3300

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

DSC_3327

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.

DSC_3341

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

DSC_3345

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

31917301-480px

DSC_3360

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

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

DSC_3371

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

DSC_3383

A new male frigatebird arrived on the scene.

DSC_3385DSC_3387DSC_3395

The juveniles took off.

DSC_3398

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

DSC_3404DSC_3408DSC_3411

Soon there were three juveniles in the air.

DSC_3413

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

DSC_3465

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

DSC_3471

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

DSC_3040

Short-billed Dowitcher, with a Willet for size.

DSC_3046

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

DSC_3051

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.

DSC_3062DSC_3063DSC_3065

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

DSC_3075

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

DSC_3078

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

DSC_3084

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.

DSC_3091

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.

DSC_3094DSC_3104

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

DSC_3107

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.

DSC_3130

One of our friends, exploring the beach.

Warbler among the sea grapes (plus otter)

DSC_2979

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

DSC_2990

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).

DSC_3001

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

DSC_3002

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.

DSC_3003

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.

DSC_3005

A sign of spring, I say!

DSC_3010

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

Anhinga at the park

DSC_2894

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

DSC_2896

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.

DSC_2899

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…

DSC_2620.jpg

…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

DSC_2791

“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.

DSC_2792

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.

DSC_2796

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

DSC_2773.jpg

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