Author Archives: Amy

Peace and quiet

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White Ibis in the mangroves.

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We walked out on a new boardwalk though mangroves to the Indian River Lagoon, at the Clifton S. Perry Beach on Hutchinson Island. This park opened very recently, just south of Santa Lucea Beach and north of the House of Refuge.

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Bird on a board.

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Grubby ibis.

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I would never have seen these birds without boardwalk access to this spot that is otherwise inhospitable to humans. The birds did seem a bit surprised to see us there. They can be quite bold beggars at Indian RiverSide Park, walking right up to people and looking for a handout.

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But maybe sometimes they like a people-free place. I tried not to disturb them too much!

Duck, duck, goose?

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I visited some Egyptian Geese chicks yesterday, at a pond next to Ocean Blvd in Stuart.

Or should I call them goslings even though Egyptian “geese” are really ducks?

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The Egyptian goose is believed to be most closely related to the shelducks (genus Tadorna) and their relatives, and is placed with them in the subfamily Tadorninae. It is the only extant member of the genus Alopochen, which also contains closely related prehistoric and recently extinct species.

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Ma and Pa and two of the five young ones.

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Florida Fish and Wildlife says that the nonnative Egyptian Geese are present in Florida but not confirmed to be breeding. I think it’s time to update that assessment.

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I guess these chicks are really closer to “juveniles” or “immatures” as their feathers are changing from fluffy down to real adult feathers.

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After nibbling green grass they launched onto the water to nibble some pond weeds.

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My Florida birdwatching Christmas carol would include “five geese a-swimming.”

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I watched these birds for about 15 minutes. They tolerated my presence and even came closer, though the adults chased off the ibises that came near. I guess they have probably been fed by people and competed for that food with ibises.

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Scruffy little molting bird.

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Splendid plumage, shining in the sun.

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Proud-looking goose.

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I’m fascinated by the beautiful feathers.

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Haney Creek hawk walk

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A Northern Mockingbird draws attention to a sign at Haney Creek Park in Stuart, FL. I took a little walk there yesterday morning.

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There is a nice trail that loops through the woods. I thought I saw a strange lizard on this sign.

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It’s a toy, ha! But it did draw my attention to the name of the lichen along the trail: Reindeer Moss.

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Wikipedia…

 Cladonia rangiferina, also known as reindeer lichen (c.p. Sw. renlav), lat., is a light-colored, fruticose lichenbelonging to the family Cladoniaceae. It grows in both hot and cold climates in well-drained, open environments. Found primarily in areas of alpine tundra, it is extremely cold-hardy.

Other common names include reindeer moss, deer moss, and caribou moss, but these names may be misleading since it is not a moss. As the common names suggest, reindeer lichen is an important food for reindeer (caribou), and has economic importance as a result. Synonyms include Cladina rangiferina and Lichen rangiferinus.

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Reindeer lichen, like many lichens, is slow growing (3–11 mm per year) and may take decades to return once overgrazed, burned, trampled, or otherwise consumed.

Don’t step on it!

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Did you ever look at one particular dead tree and think, that’s a good spot for a bird, and then a bird swoops in and perches there?

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American Kestrel!

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 The American kestrel usually hunts in energy-conserving fashion by perching and scanning the ground for prey to ambush, though it also hunts from the air. It sometimes hovers in the air with rapid wing beats while homing in on prey. Its diet typically consists of grasshoppers and other insects, lizards, mice, and small birds (e.g. sparrows). This broad diet has contributed to its wide success as a species.

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As you can see, my fascination with Dahoon holly continues.

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Nice little pop of color in the Florida autumn landscape, here at the edge of a seasonal wetland.

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Dahoon holly… Provides significant food and cover for wildlife. Deer browse the young growth. Small mammals, turkey, quail, red-eyed vireos and other songbirds eat the fruits.

I’d plant it in my yard but it likes wetter soil.

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Coming in for a landing! Another raptor appeared on a nearby snag.

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Red-shouldered Hawk!

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I spotted this one in three different locations at Haney Creek during my walk.

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Nice red shoulder.

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I didn’t go this way. It’s just a view of the typical landscape.

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I was keeping an eye out for a Scrub Jay, since I saw one at Haney Creek once when I didn’t have my camera. This was just a regular old Blue Jay playing hide and seek with me.

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The jay is in a live oak tree. I see a tiny acorn.

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The third time I saw the Red-shouldered Hawk it had perched in a great spot for photos – sunlight behind me and on the bird, with dark clouds beyond.

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Its legs look so long.

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This pose made me think of Horus, the Egyptian falcon god of kings and skies.

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What a beauty.

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Hawk @ home

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Some days you go to the birds, other days they come to you. This hawk was in our front yard around 9 a.m.

I went out to the garage to chat with my husband who was just back from a bike ride. I heard a persistent, shrill calling from the tall Norfolk Island pine out front. I couldn’t see the bird at first because it was not at the tip top where ospreys and kestrels like to perch.

The sound: Red-shouldered Hawk calling.

Some Blue Jays were flying around, yelling at the hawk. They like to make a fuss about the neighborhood hawks and owls. There were other birds around that didn’t seem too worried about this hawk. But I didn’t see any squirrels out in the open while the hawk was here.

Red-shouldered Hawks eat mostly small mammals, lizards, snakes, and amphibians. They hunt from perches below the forest canopy or at the edge of a pond, sitting silently until they sight their prey below. Then they descend swiftly, gliding and snatching a vole or chipmunk off the forest floor. They also eat toads, snakes, and crayfish. They occasionally eat birds, sometimes from bird feeders; recorded prey include sparrows, starlings, and doves.

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A pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks, John James Audubon.

Early November in Savannas Preserve

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American Kestrel looks fierce and cute at the same time.

I saw this bird and others on Saturday during a solo 1.1-mile walk in the Martin County section of the wonderfully unique Savannas Preserve, off Jensen Beach Boulevard.

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Entrance fee is $3, self service. There is a picnic pavilion and a bathroom building.

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Info.

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The main trail heads off into the wild.

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Holly berries gave a festive, late autumn look to an otherwise not very autumnal landscape – at least for those of us who have lived in north most of our lives. This is Dahoon holly, I think.

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Wood Stork.

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Great Egret heading in the other direction.

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Main trail goes straight. This time I took the side trail to the right, heading east towards a lower, wetter area.

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Northern Mockingbird posed on a stump.

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Wildflowers in bloom.

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A group of Wood Storks was feeding near a Great Egret.

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Holly and a nest box, at the edge of the wetlands.

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Wood Storks took off and then I counted them (two others went in another direction).

My eBird checklist for the walk is HERE.

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Great Blue Heron was standing very still.

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A came upon a large trap. I guessed it might be for wild pigs, which can be such a problem in Florida.

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A pair of Anhingas.

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This part of the trail was a bit muddy from recent rains.

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Mystery track. Sort of cat-like and cat-sized. Domestic cat out for a prowl? Fox?

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Sort of boring yet oddly beautiful landscape, to me.

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Silvery saw palmettos between the freshwater marsh grass and slash pines.

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I heard this kestrel calling before I saw it.

American Kestrels have a fairly limited set of calls, but the most common one is a loud, excited series of 3-6 klee! or killy! notes lasting just over a second. It’s distinctive and an excellent way to find these birds. You may also hear two other common calls: a long whine that can last 1–2 minutes, heard in birds that are courting or feeding fledglings, and a fast chitter, usually used by both sexes in friendly interactions.

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A bit windy that day.

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North America’s littlest falcon, the American Kestrel packs a predator’s fierce intensity into its small body. It’s one of the most colorful of all raptors: the male’s slate-blue head and wings contrast elegantly with his rusty-red back and tail; the female has the same warm reddish on her wings, back, and tail. Hunting for insects and other small prey in open territory, kestrels perch on wires or poles, or hover facing into the wind, flapping and adjusting their long tails to stay in place.

 

Little bird flying to the Amazon basin

Just going back through some photos from mid-October, I found this little guy in the banyan in our front yard, spotted around noon on October 13th, and I thought it might be a new bird for me.

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I googled and guessed a vireo, maybe a Red-eyed Vireo, and posted to What’s This Bird for confirmation.

Confirmed!

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A tireless songster, the Red-eyed Vireo is one of the most common summer residents of Eastern forests. These neat, olive-green and white songbirds have a crisp head pattern of gray, black, and white. Their brief but incessant songs—sometimes more than 20,000 per day by a single male—contribute to the characteristic sound of an Eastern forest in summer. When fall arrives, they head for the Amazon basin, fueled by a summer of plucking caterpillars from leaves in the treetops.

And…

The red iris that gives the Red-eyed Vireo its name doesn’t develop until the end of the birds’ first winter. Then the brown iris the birds were born with becomes dull brick red to bright crimson in different individuals.

Blogged bird number 193!

Boat-tailed grackles by the lagoon

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On display, male Boat-tailed Grackles at the Jensen Beach bridge west causeway park, Indian River Lagoon in the background.

There are always lots of grackles in the two causeway parks under the bridge, in case you have an urge to observe these noisy and charismatic blackbirds.

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Three females in grass nearby.

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When you smell saltwater on the East Coast, it’s time to look out for Boat-tailed Grackles. The glossy blue-black males are hard to miss as they haul their ridiculously long tails around or display from marsh grasses or telephone wires. The rich, dark-brown females are half the size of males and look almost like a different species. Boat-tailed Grackles take advantage of human activity along our increasingly developed coast, scavenging trash and hanging out in busy urban areas away from predators.

I had help seeing the birds

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This is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, first thing in the morning when it was still kind of dark for my camera.

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Looking into the mangroves at a Roseate Spoonbill.

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Spoonbill with its cousin the White Ibis.

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On Saturday morning I was invited to join three more experienced birders for a walk in a bird-friendly spot between wetlands and the Indian River Lagoon on Hutchinson Island. So helpful to have them notice birds by sight and sound and explain how they could identify them.

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Morning light in a spider web.

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

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This was identified as a Tennessee Warbler. Not a great photo, but a new bird for me so here it is!

A dainty warbler of the Canadian boreal forest, the Tennessee Warbler specializes in eating the spruce budworm. Consequently its population goes up and down with fluctuations in the populations of the budworm.

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Black-crowned Night Heron.

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Night herons have such big eyes.

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Palm Warblers are back in town.

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Fluffball.

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We see lots of these in Sewall’s Point in winter, hopping around on the ground, wagging their tails up and down.

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We were surprised and happy to spot a Painted Bunting. Well, I did not notice it – I had help from the other birders! How could I miss such a bright bird?

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This is a new bird for me, #192 on the sidebar blog list.

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It really let us get a good look (if not a very good photo).

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With their vivid fusion of blue, green, yellow, and red, male Painted Buntings seem to have flown straight out of a child’s coloring book. Females and immatures are a distinctive bright green with a pale eyering. These fairly common finches breed in the coastal Southeast and in the south-central U.S., where they often come to feeders. They are often caught and sold illegally as cage birds, particularly in Mexico and the Caribbean, a practice that puts pressure on their breeding populations.

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Cattle Egrets perched up high.

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White bird, blue sky.

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A bit further down the path, a green (female or immature) Painted Bunting was scuffing around in leaves and grass.

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In migration and winter, search for Painted Buntings by targeting sources of seeds such as weedy fields or bird feeders. In the summer, cruise through secondary growth or edge habitats with dense understory and listen for the species’ metallic chip call or the sweet, rambling song of a male. Painted Buntings spend a lot of time hidden in dense habitat so patience might be necessary; however, the wait will be worth it when you finally spot this gem, surely one of North America’s finest songbirds.

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Such a pretty green color.

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Very exciting for me to see these buntings for the first time!

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Great Crested Flycatcher poses nicely in the morning sun.

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Northern Parula.

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Peekaboo.