Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

IMG_9939Raccoon has been here.

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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.

You’re welcome to our bugs, little migrating friends!

When you are looking up at birds…

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…the bird butt is a pretty common shot.

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Also the partly obscured shot.

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I think this is a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

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Yellow-throated Warbler.

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I checked Birdcast early this morning for the Migration Forecast and it looked like last night was a big night for migration. I found a mixed flock of warblers right down the street from our house, in a big live oak tree.

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The well-named Yellow-throated Warbler shows off its bright yellow throat in the canopy of forests in the southeastern United States. It hops up branches, working its way high into the canopy probing for insects in crevices and clumps of pine needles, much like a Brown Creeper or Black-and-white Warbler. Unlike those birds, the Yellow-throated Warbler is gray above with a black triangle below its eye and a white eyebrow. It is also one of the few warblers that can be found during the winter in the U.S.

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American Redstart.

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Sweet.

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This bird was calling very loudly for such a small bird. It’s a Yellow-throated Vireo.

A bird of open deciduous forests and edges, the Yellow-throated Vireo is one of the most colorful member of its family. Not only does this bird have a bright yellow throat, it looks as if it’s wearing bright yellow spectacles. This small heavyset songbird slowly hops through the canopy picking insects off branches and twigs. Males sing a burry three eight, on repeat throughout the day. Females join the males with a harsh scolding chatter during aggressive encounters.

A new sandpiper

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New bird! This little Semipalmated Sandpiper is the 190th bird I have photographed, IDed and blogged.

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I was at Fort Pierce Inlet this morning and took a quick walk out on the jetty after rain.

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Have I mentioned the sargassum is a bit of a problem on area beaches right now? This is the worst I’ve seen it – very thick and full of trash.

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Ruddy Turnstone goes poof.

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At first I thought the solo little sandpiper with the turnstones was a Sanderling.

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But it seemed smaller, especially next to the turnstone, and active in a different way, zipping around here and there.

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Preening Ruddy Turnstone and the little sandpiper.

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Snowy Egret.

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The flock of turnstones and little sandpiper. First fisherman arrives.

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One of these birds is not like the others.

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I checked for birds resembling Sanderlings on All About Birds and thought this might be a Western Sandpiper. I posted the guess to What’s This Bird, to doublecheck, and was helpfully informed it was a Semipalmated Sandpiper.

Audubon…

Small and plain in appearance, this sandpiper is important in terms of sheer numbers. It often gathers by the thousands at stopover points during migration. Semipalmated Sandpipers winter mostly in South America, and studies have shown that they may make a non-stop flight of nearly 2000 miles from New England or eastern Canada to the South American coast. The name “Semipalmated” refers to slight webbing between the toes, visible only at extremely close range.

Beach bird walk

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Bathtub Reef Beach on Hutchinson Island in Stuart, Florida last Sunday around noon. Red flag advises against swimming but does not forbid it (that would be two red flags).

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I walked south to the inlet and back, 2.2 miles, for an hour and 45 minutes, watching and counting birds.

Here’s my eBird checklist: Oct 7 Bathtub Beach.

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When little shorebirds are holding still, it’s hard to see them.

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These people walked right past and didn’t seem to notice the plovers.

Fancy houses along the beach here. It’s the gated community of Sailfish Point, right at the southern tip of the island. Can’t get in unless you live there – although you can walk along the beach.

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These are Semipalmated Plovers, a new bird for me.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

A small dark shorebird with a single band across its chest, the Semipalmated Plover is the most common plover seen on migration in most areas.

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Audubon

The most common of the small plovers on migration through most areas. On its breeding grounds in the north, it avoids the tundra habitat chosen by most shorebirds, nesting instead on gravel bars along rivers or ponds. In such surroundings, its seemingly bold pattern actually helps to make the plover inconspicuous, by breaking up its outline against the varied background. The name “semipalmated” refers to partial webbing between the bird’s toes.

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Willets flew in for a short visit.

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A Ruddy Turnstone was digging into a sea turtle shell.

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A sleepy solitary Sanderling was near the turnstone and small flock of plovers.

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The turnstone was very busy.

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I watched it rushing here and there, pushing away bits of sargassum , sticks and shells to see what was underneath.

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“It’s turning ‘stones’ like a turnstone!” I thought.

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Audubon

Best known for habit of inserting bill under stones, shells, etc., and flipping them over to find food underneath. Several birds may work together to overturn a larger object. Often probes under seaweed or debris.

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Gusty east wind and strong surf. Brown Pelican can handle it.

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Brown Pelicans have a wingspan between 6.5 and 7.5 feet. They are the smallest of the eight pelican species, but still very big birds.

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Getting closer to the inlet, I came upon a bird I’ve only seen once before: a Black-bellied Plover.

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It relocated as I walked past on the high part of the beach, but didn’t go far. Nice view of wings and tail.

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Audubon

This stocky plover breeds in high Arctic zones around the world, and winters on the coasts of six continents. Some can be seen along our beaches throughout the year (including non-breeding immatures through the summer). Although the Black-bellied Plover is quite plain in its non-breeding plumage, it adds much to the character of our shorelines with its haunting whistles, heard by day or night.

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Most migrate along coast or over sea, but numbers stop over regularly at some inland sites. Winter range remarkably extensive, from New England and southwestern Canada to southern South America, Africa, Australia.

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The other time I spotted these birds was at Ragged Neck in in New Hampshire in Nov. 2016, along with some Snow Buntings.

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An attractive, large shorebird.

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A couple of guys on jetskis were playing in the waves near the inlet.

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Sanderling in motion!

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I see these sandpipers a lot in non-breeding season.

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You don’t see too many fishermen at this spot since they have to walk a ways to get here.

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Looking across the St. Lucie  inlet from Hutchinson Island to Jupiter Island. And Sanderlings running along the sand.

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Little Blue Herons… an adult on the rocks and an immature in the water. Yes, the young ones are white not “blue”.

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Little Blue strut.

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Sanderlings at rest.

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View west from the inlet. The St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon connect to the Atlantic Ocean here.

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Sandwich Tern, a tern I know thanks to the yellow bill tip!