Tag Archives: Bald eagle

Field trip to Platt’s Creek

IMG_1791-2

Pie-billed Grebe… “part bird, part submarine.”

A week ago, on March 21st, I went on a field trip organized by the local Audubon to Platt’s Creek Preserve, a restored wetland area in St. Lucie County.

IMG_1799-2

Incoming ducks.

IMG_1800-2

These were Mottled Ducks. We had two expert birders leading the trip, Eva Ries and David Simpson, and their identifications and commentary were so helpful and educational.

IMG_1811-2

A couple of males were fighting for a few minutes.

IMG_1813-2

A male and a female watched.

IMG_1825-2

Boat-tailed Grackles were everywhere, and the males were noisy, bold and impossible to ignore.

IMG_1826-2

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.

smallbird-2

This is a Blue-headed Vireo, a new bird to me that is a “common and vocal bird of Northeastern forests.” Our expert birders identified it by its song. Maybe someday I will be able to do that too.

IMG_1845-2

In our party of 10, I am the one who spotted the  Bald Eagle first and I’m pretty proud of that. What a bird, look at those wings!

IMG_1862-2

Northern Harrier that appears to be pursued by a Tree Swallow? This could have just been the angle of the photo, or maybe that little bird was pissed off.

We saw a couple of harriers working the boundaries of the woods and marsh area. Very cool raptors.

The Northern Harrier is distinctive from a long distance away: a slim, long-tailed hawk gliding low over a marsh or grassland, holding its wings in a V-shape and sporting a white patch at the base of its tail. Up close it has an owlish face that helps it hear mice and voles beneath the vegetation.

IMG_1869-2

Also soaring around up in the sky, a couple of Swallow-tailed Kites. This one was eating a lizard while flying, nice trick.

IMG_1870-2

The lilting Swallow-tailed Kite has been called “the coolest bird on the planet.” With its deeply forked tail and bold black-and-white plumage, it is unmistakable in the summer skies above swamps of the Southeast. Flying with barely a wingbeat and maneuvering with twists of its incredible tail, it chases dragonflies or plucks frogs, lizards, snakes, and nestling birds from tree branches. After rearing its young in a treetop nest, the kite migrates to wintering grounds in South America.

IMG_1872-2

Common Gallinule keeping an eye on us.

IMG_1881-2

Sandhill Crane in someone’s backyard. Some birds are easier to spot than others.

IMG_1883-2

Limpkin stalking the pond side vegetation.

An unusual bird of southern swamps and marshes, the Limpkin reaches the northern limits of its breeding range in Florida. There, it feeds almost exclusively on apple snails, which it extracts from their shells with its long bill. Its screaming cry is unmistakable and evocative.

In all, we tallied 51 species in our 3-hour, 1.5 mile walk. David Simpson posted the checklist to eBird HERE. Very helpful photos and descriptions for us birding newbies!

A walk in Atlantic Ridge Preserve

IMG_9926-2

Sandhill Crane photographed through the windshield as we drove to Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park in Stuart, FL. There are a lot of these big birds in this riverside neighborhood off Paulson Road. They have a certain nonchalance.

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 7.52.35 AM.png

It’s a big park, 5800 acres in southern Martin County. It’s barebones too. If the phone line is busy to the Jonathan Dickinson State Park ranger station, as it was when we called, then you can’t get the code to the gate at the park entrance and you have to climb over the fence (and throw your dog over too).

27331792_10215536810797675_7030169090059994799_n

There is a map available in a box at the entrance.

IMG_9931-2

Our first bird sighting inside the park was this sweet little Eastern Phoebe at a marshy spot in the wet prairie.

IMG_9939-2

Phoebe fun fact: “In 1804, the Eastern Phoebe became the first banded bird in North America. John James Audubon attached silvered thread to an Eastern Phoebe’s leg to track its return in successive years.”

IMG_9940-2

Eastern Phoebes sit alertly on low perches, often twitching their tails as they look out for flying insects. When they spot one, they abruptly leave their perch on quick wingbeats, and chase down their prey in a quick sally—often returning to the same or a nearby perch.

sayo_phoe_AllAm_map

IMG_0006-2

Bird #2 was a Bald Eagle! Slow flapping flight over wetlands.

IMG_0016-2

Speaking of wetlands, there were ditches on one or both sides of the flat sandy track and our dog stayed well-hydrated.

IMG_0018-2

Radar soaks his feet.

IMG_0022-2

Jungly, in that wet-dry Florida way.

IMG_0024-2

The view.

IMG_0029-2

Tracking. We saw signs of deer and wild (or feral) pigs but no encounters.

IMG_0033-2

A couple of miles in, John gets a phone call. Can’t we ever get away from it all??

IMG_0036-2

Wild thing.

IMG_0037-2

Sign in the middle of nowhere.

IMG_0040-2

Vegetation. Kind of monotonous in a beautiful way.

IMG_0041-2

Saw palmetto everywhere. Which is ironic because we want to plant some on our property and can’t find it available in local nurseries. Someone told us that the state buys a lot of it from the wholesalers because they have to plant a large percentage of native stuff when they landscape roadways etc.

IMG_0043-2

Pine Warbler in a pine tree.

IMG_0047-2

This is my first Florida sighting of a Pine Warbler.

I first encountered one in April of 2015 in my New Hampshire backyard, visiting a suet cake I put out: A warbler. And then again in March of 2016 nibbling my homemade suet dough on a porch railing: An Easter visitor.

IMG_0058-2

Tracks on the trail.

IMG_0060-2

We heard this hawk calling and calling and when it finally flew off its distant perch I couldn’t believe I got the photo with enough detail to ID it: it’s a Red-shouldered Hawk.

Whether wheeling over a swamp forest or whistling plaintively from a riverine park, a Red-shouldered Hawk is typically a sign of tall woods and water. It’s one of our most distinctively marked common hawks, with barred reddish-peachy underparts and a strongly banded tail. In flight, translucent crescents near the wingtips help to identify the species at a distance. These forest hawks hunt prey ranging from mice to frogs and snakes.

IMG_0061-2

Also spotted, a solo Blue Jay keeping an eye on us.

IMG_0064-2

This common, large songbird is familiar to many people, with its perky crest; blue, white, and black plumage; and noisy calls. Blue Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. Their fondness for acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period.

IMG_0074-2

We walked along a large canal at one point, the “Seawind Canal” according to our black and white paper map. (We also used Google maps on my phone to not get lost.)

IMG_0076-2

A nearby committee of vultures took wing and became a kettle of vultures as we walked by. Lots and lots of them, seeming to really check us out.

IMG_0078-3

Black Vultures have the white wingtips.

IMG_0079-2

During the day, Black Vultures soar in flocks, often with Turkey Vultures and hawks. Their flight style is distinctive: strong wingbeats followed by short glides, giving them a batlike appearance.

It was a 4.5 mile walk in total, with some pleasant vistas and a nice collection of birds. We will go back to Atlantic Ridge.

Eagle above

img_6890-2

That distant, tiny dot above the tree horizon is something special.

Friday afternoon I was walking here on River Road in Sewall’s Point, just a few blocks from home, when I heard an Osprey screaming. It flew over my head, chased by a slightly larger bird.

img_6891-2

They circled back around and passed over again, Osprey in the lead, distinctive black and white bird on its tail.

img_6892-2

Bald Eagle!

My guess is that the Osprey had a nest with chicks. I think they stayed safe.

img_6893-2

I was super-excited to see a Bald Eagle. I wished there were other people around too I could yell and point at the sky, “Bald Eagle!”

img_6894-2

But at least I had my camera so I could point and shoot and share it later.

What a bold, beautiful bird.

Raptors at TCWC

img_6723-2

Members of Audubon of Martin County visited the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center to learn about raptors yesterday, out in the wilds of Palm City, Florida.

img_6724-2

Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk.

Injured birds and other animals are rehabilitated and released, when possible.

img_6726-2

Crested Caracara is a “falconized vulture,” we learned, and a clever bird.

img_6733-2

Pelicans had their own swimming pool.

img_6736-2

Gracie the Bald Eagle has lived at the center for many years. She is missing part of a wing and will never fly. She fell or was pushed from her nest when she was barely a fledgling and a local rancher found her.

img_6737-2

This falcon is probably a hybrid between a Peregrine and a Tundra Falcon and was probably being used for unofficial falconry when rescued from someone’s garage, according to center director Tim Brown.

img_6742-2

This bird does not seem to mind being handled and seems tuned in to Tim.

img_6746-2

Nice tattoo. I think he likes raptors.

img_6752-2

Beautiful feathers.

The visit was a good chance to get close to some amazing birds, though a little sad too to see them tethered or caged instead of flying free and healthy.

“Most of the birds are here because they got a little too close to humans,” said Tim, “so we think it’s right for humans to try to help them.”

A bird from my bigger “backyard”

sunrise hampton beach

Sunrise Hampton Beach, N.H.

My husband and I went out for a bagel and coffee at Jumpin’ Jacks Java yesterday morning. Great beach views from their front windows on Route 1A/ Ocean Boulevard.

A little bit later we were driving north along the coast and saw a couple of crows mobbing something at the top of an evergreen tree in North Hampton, just across from the ocean on the Little Boar’s Head promontory.

bald eagle north hampton

It was a bald eagle! I have seen them over the Merrimack River and Great Bay in winter, but never in (my town) North Hampton.

A local birder reported 3 others in the area yesterday too.

Looks like the good trend continues…

Concord Monitor last February: Bald eagles enjoying resurgence in N.H.

During a January bald eagle count, volunteers with New Hampshire Audubon set a new state record. On Jan. 12, they counted 67 eagles in five regions, the most in one day in the event’s 30-year history. The previous high was 61, which had been recorded three times since 2008. Between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15 volunteers counted 83 birds, one shy of the state record for the annual two-week watch.

“The bird is finally almost fully recovered from a real depressed population back in the 1970s,” said Chris Martin, a senior biologist and predatory bird specialist with New Hampshire Audubon.

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.cls

Based on the annual mid-winter counts, the number of bald eagles in the state has doubled every decade since 1983, when volunteers tallied only seven birds. In 1993, 21 eagles were recorded. Ten years later, 40 birds were spotted. While the numbers aren’t definitive, organizers use a consistent number of volunteers to check the same areas at the same time of year.

“I’m not saying there are exactly 67 bald eagles in New Hampshire. There are clearly more than that,” Martin said. “But by using the same method every year, we see where the numbers are going, which reflects the population throughout New England is recovering and growing in a big-picture way.”

bald eagle talons

Eagle flies away. Nice talons.

More photos from our January Saturday morning on Flickr.