Tag Archives: birds

Culvert birding near Green River

Pink bird, gray wall.

This Roseate Spoonbill was on its way to a roadside culvert along Green River Parkway yesterday.

Spoonbills incoming.

This mucky spot has been attracting a lot of birds lately. “Something hatched,” my husband theorized. He’s been biking past this spot and telling me, almost daily, that there’s a nice concentration of photogenic birds there.

The pipes pass under Green River Parkway to a series of freshwater ponds in the fenced-in area known as Green River.

Limpkin and chick, looking for lunch.

The gangly, brown-and-white Limpkin looks a bit like a giant rail or perhaps a young night-heron. Its long bill is bent and twisted at the tip, an adaptation for removing snails from the shell. Limpkins are tropical wetland birds whose range reaches into Florida.

When I approached the culvert, there were three women and three kids there already. The women were talking while two of the three kids threw rocks and snail shells in the general direction of the birds.

The spoonbills didn’t seem to mind. The boys’ aim wasn’t very good. But I still felt someone should take the birds’ side in this matter.

“Hi,” I said. “Just letting you know, I see an alligator here sometimes. Down where the boys are.”

“We’ve seen that alligator before,” said one woman. “It’s a little one.”

Forget Florida Man, there should be a Florida Mom meme!

I’d include the time I was at the beach and saw a shark in the waves and kids swimming nearby while moms were on the beach chatting and I thought, I don’t want to be annoying but they would probably want to know about a shark. I would. So I told them and one said, “We saw it. It’s a lemon shark.”

I took a few more photos while the boys tossed stones, then I tried a new angle. I said to the little girl who was not throwing stones (loud enough for the moms to hear), “Do you see the chicks? Aren’t they cute? See that one there, all little and brown and fuzzy, hiding behind its mom?”

“Aw, it’s cute!” she said. Soon the small group of humans continued on their way.

I continued north on the bike path, scanning the drainage ditch for birds like this Great Egret.

And this Tricolored Heron.

I passed one of the side entrances to the southern section of Savannas Preserve State Park.

Wildlife enthusiasts and photographers will enjoy the diversity of habitats this undisturbed area has to offer. 

But not right now.

State parks are closed, to prevent gatherings of more than ten people in one place.

So I kept walking north, the road and ditch on my left and the forbidden state park on my right.

Behind me, the bike trail crosses over the ditch on a small bridge, perfect for bird and alligator watching. This is near the boundary between Martin and St. Lucie counties.

Savannas Preserve to my right, so inviting.

I met a man walking south along the low dike as I walked north. He had binoculars around his neck, a good sign. We talked birds and favorite places to find birds. We lamented loss of access to a park we never see anybody else in. We agreed we don’t care if handshakes, hugs, close-talking and crowds never make a comeback. Then we each continued our own solo stalk along the margins.

Great Egret.

Spoonbill above. I turned and retraced my steps back to the culvert.

A White Ibis had arrived while I was gone.

I watched Limpkins.

This one stayed close to the foraging adult.

Roseate Spoonbills and Limpkins.

Limpkins eat almost exclusively apple snails (genus Pomacea), plus at least three other native freshwater snail species and five species of freshwater mussels. They also eat small amounts of seeds and insects, along with lizards, frogs, insects, crustaceans such as crayfish, grasshoppers, worms, and aquatic midges. Where the water is clear, Limpkins hunt for snails and mussels by sight, walking along the water’s edge or into the shallows (rarely wading deeply) and seizing prey quickly with the bill. When waters are muddy, or have extensive vegetation, they probe into the water rapidly, rather like ibis, sometimes with the head submerged. If vegetation cover is extensive, Limpkins often walk out onto the mat of floating vegetation to hunt snails that cling to the undersides of leaves and stalks. To extract the mollusk from its shell, Limpkins place the forceps-like tip of their bill into the snail or mussel to cut the adductor muscle, using scissoring motions. They then discard the shells, often in a pile if prey is abundant in one spot.

I got a good long look at Limpkins, a bird I had never heard of before I moved to Florida a few years ago.

Getting a good start in life.

My final culvert bird was a solo Wood Stork.

Great spot, I shall return.

Before driving off, I decided to pop over to Green River for a quick look. I was thinking: I bet there’s one more special thing out there before I’m finished for the morning.

There was. Flying low over distant marsh, my first Snail Kite!

The highly specialized Snail Kite flies on broad wings over tropical wetlands as it hunts large freshwater snails.

The kite is blog bird #224.

Gallinules among the lilies

I love this photo, I love this bird.

This is a Purple Gallinule, in bright morning sun.

Lurking in the marshes of the extreme southeastern U.S. lives one of the most vividly colored birds in all of North America. Purple Gallinules combine cherry red, sky blue, moss green, aquamarine, indigo, violet, and school-bus yellow, a color palette that blends surprisingly well with tropical and subtropical wetlands. Watch for these long-legged, long-toed birds stepping gingerly across water lilies and other floating vegetation as they hunt frogs and invertebrates or pick at tubers.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Purple_Gallinule/overview

We saw this bird and others at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Florida yesterday morning. It’s a piece of the northern Everglades that has been preserved for wildlife and lovers of wild places. The main entrance is in Boynton Beach.

It’s cool how a bird this colorful can also appear camouflaged.

Also notable: the amazing feet.

Related: the Common Gallinule.

The Common Gallinule swims like a duck and walks atop floating vegetation like a rail with its long and slender toes. This boldly marked rail has a brilliant red shield over the bill and a white racing stripe down its side. It squawks and whinnies from thick cover in marshes and ponds from Canada to Chile, peeking in and out of vegetation. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Common_Gallinule/overview

This one was noisy, with its “squawks and whinnies.”

We also observed Florida’s most famous large reptile.

We stared at the alligator and he didn’t blink an eye, move, or even look back at us. “Whatever,” is the motto of the gator at rest.

Wakodahatchee in nesting season

img_9702-2

Hey, Cattle Egret… it’s time for your makeover…

DSC_4529

Oh you sexy thing!

First photo was taken last fall. Second photo was taken a couple of days ago at the amazing and renowned Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach. It was our first visit during nesting season and there was LOTS to see. I took a thousand photos, for real. I will be posting some of the good ones over a few days.

DSC_4526.jpg

I had noticed a bit of buff coloring on breeding Cattle Egrets before but never have I seen the candy corn bill and purple “lores” just in front of the eyes. Eyes are a different color too!

DSC_4673

A boardwalk through the wetlands gets you closer to the birds.

DSC_4679

This female Anhinga is also in breeding plumage with a blue ring around her eyes and a greenish tinge to her lores. Her chin is black too.

DSC_4692

She let me stand right next to her and take this glamour shot.

DSC_4697.jpg

Hello, bird.

DSC_4511

Glossy Ibis chick!

DSC_4513

Chubby and fluffy like chick, but with a bit of ibis curve to the (striped) bill already.

DSC_4644

Great Egret chicks watches the skies for the return of mom/ dad.

DSC_4501.jpg

I played hide-and-seek with a Green Heron.

DSC_4506

Black-bellied Whistling Duck at rest.

DSC_4507

They have longer legs than you might guess.

DSC_4521

Another a water’s edge.

 

Two more new birds

DSC_1992

Melodious Blackbirds at the fruit feeder trees at Arenal Observatory Lodge.

DSC_1993

The Melodious Blackbird is a rather unique and vociferous all black icterid of Mexico and Central America. It has a relatively thick and long bill, but most noticeable is that the legs and feet look a size too big on this mid-sized blackbird.

DSC_2038

Arenal Volcano stayed hidden behind clouds during our visit.

DSC_2039

Inside an observation tower we found a small, strikingly-colored bird resting on the floor. It may have flown in an open window and hit another window or couldn’t find its way out. It seemed fine. And what a great close up look!

DSC_2042

Figured out later it was a Green Honeycreeper.

DSC_2044

Very attractive small tanager of humid tropical lowlands. Found in humid evergreen forest edges, plantations, and gardens; at times with mixed-species feeding flocks of honeycreepers and euphonias. Often in pairs, feeding at all levels in fruiting trees and bushes. Note the short, curved bill. Males are a unique green-blue color with black hood and a banana yellow beak. Female resembles female Red-legged Honeycreeper but is larger, brighter, uniform green, with yellow lower bill and grayish legs.

DSC_2045

Tiny little thing. It made it out the window and away into the tropical forest before we left.

Sandhill Cranes at Green River

dsc_0833

A pair of Sandhill Cranes walked up onto the dike in front of us yesterday morning as we were looping back from a nice bird walk (see egret pics too).

dsc_0838

My husband John and I were walking where the retention ponds are located just off Green River Parkway in Jensen Beach. We’ve been going there a lot lately.

dsc_0839

Whether stepping singly across a wet meadow or filling the sky by the hundreds and thousands, Sandhill Cranes have an elegance that draws attention. These tall, gray-bodied, crimson-capped birds breed in open wetlands, fields, and prairies across North America.

dsc_0840

We see cranes often in this area of Jensen Beach, with a section of the Savannas Preserve just across the parkway. They also like to visit bird feeders in people’s yards around here, or walk along roadsides.

dsc_0841

They are so big, which such magnificent wings.

dsc_0842

They mate for life.

dsc_0844

When we arrived at Green River I told John, “I’ll be happy if I get a good photo or two of a Sandhill Crane today.”

dsc_0845

Never fail to notice when your wishes come true!

Learned a new tern

IMG_8285-2

Tern at Blowing Rocks Preserve yesterday.

IMG_8296-2

I think this is an immature Sandwich Tern.

IMG_8332-2

A view north along the beach with calm, receding waves. The woman on her knees was digging up lots and lots of one particular kind of shell.

IMG_8334-2

This helo flies, but not like a bird. It’s only got one “wing” and that wing spins around overhead, how strange.

IMG_8335-2

It was a lovely day to just sit and watch the waves. And we did.

IMG_8336-2

Kapow!

IMG_8352-2

I watched this little bird for a bit and realized I didn’t know what it was, so I snapped a few photos. I was sort of tern-like, but smaller and chubbier than the other terns. Also, it was skimming fish off the surface, not diving.

IMG_8353-2

I posted a couple of pics to What’s This Bird and got the answer: it was a young Black Tern!

IMG_8355-2

Audubon.org

Forages in flight, dipping to surface of water or shore to pick up items, sometimes pursuing flying insects in the air, seldom plunging into water after prey.

IMG_8357-2

In breeding season it is a beautiful charcoal gray with a black head and white butt (see pic here).

IMG_8368-2

A small, graceful marsh tern, black and silver in breeding plumage. In its choice of surroundings, it leads a double life: in North America in summer it is a typical bird of freshwater marshes, but in winter it becomes a seabird along tropical coasts.

IMG_8370-2

Bird #186 has been added to my collection.

Streamlined water bird

IMG_6613-2

Stop me if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m completely fascinated by the fact that… Anhingas don’t have nostrils!

They do not have external nares (nostrils) and breathe solely through their epiglottis.

IMG_6635-2

I photographed this fine fellow yesterday morning at the Indian RiverSide Park pond.

In order to dive and search for underwater prey, including fish and amphibians, the anhinga does not have waterproof feathers, (unlike ducks, which coat their feathers with oil from their uropygial gland). Because the anhinga is thus barely buoyant, it can stay below the surface more easily and for longer periods of time.

If it attempts to fly while its wings are wet, the anhinga has difficulty, flapping vigorously while “running” on the water. As do cormorants when drying their feathers, the anhinga will stand with wings spread and feathers fanned open in a semicircular shape, resembling a male meleagrine, which led to the anhinga being referred to colloquially as the “water turkey” or “swamp turkey.”

IMG_6614-2

I used to think Anhingas were ugly, or at least funny looking. I’m beginning to think they are beautiful, actually, in their own strange way.

Wood Ducks!

IMG_6555-2

I visited my most productive little birding pond, at Indian Riverside Park, late this morning and got a new bird for the blog, the sweet little Wood Duck.

IMG_6560-2

This is not the full-on iridescent patterned breeding male but a young and/or non-breeding male, according to my online research. Cornell Lab: Wood Duck overview.

IMG_6569-2

There were four Wood Ducks together on the pond. I think they are all non-breeding males, with the red eyes.

IMG_6571-2

One seemed to be preening another.

IMG_6573-2

Audubon.org: Wood Duck

Beautiful and unique, this duck of woodland ponds and river swamps has no close relatives, except for the Mandarin Duck of eastern Asia. Abundant in eastern North America in Audubon’s time, the Wood Duck population declined seriously during the late 19th century because of hunting and loss of nesting sites. Its recovery to healthy numbers was an early triumph of wildlife management.

IMG_6575-2

The map on the site shows they are common in all seasons in this area.

IMG_6576-2

Wood Ducks! Bird 183 on the blog life list.

Birds at Sanibel pier

IMG_6149-2

A sign near the Sanibel City Pier.

IMG_6155-2

Wonder if the Osprey is eating one of the Frequently Caught.

IMG_6150-2

Birds were standing around on the beach, waiting for people to catch fish.

IMG_6153-2

Not this bird, though.

IMG_6159-2

In a tree near the pier, a couple of egrets arranged themselves for comparison, Great and Snowy.

IMG_6161-2

In another branch, a juvenile Reddish Egret!

IMG_6167-2

Perched on a railing right next to me, a young Snowy Egret.

IMG_6172-2

Egret and husband on the city pier, yesterday.

IMG_6175-2

Great Egret in a tree.

IMG_6181-2

The Reddish Egret at surf’s edge with a Snowy.

IMG_6185-2

The Snowy on the railing had funny legs, black in front, yellow in back. I guess it is changing from young to adult.

IMG_6188-2

Birds looking for bait.

IMG_6190-2

Snowy Egret is letting me stand next to it.

IMG_6191-2

Close up.

IMG_6194-2

See what I mean about the legs.

IMG_6195-2

Here’s the Snowy Egret legs I’m used to.

IMG_6196-2

Side by side comparison.

IMG_6202-2

Great Egret still in the tree, looking sort of slinky yet majestic.

IMG_6221-2

Osprey still working on that fish.

IMG_6222-2

Love this shot, and that sea eagle’s eye!

IMG_6223-2

Lazybirding at the local pond

IMG_5827-2

I guess I’ll just change the name of this blog to the Indian RiverSide Park Pond Blog.

IMG_5833-2

But you can see why I go there: I watched all these birds while sitting cross-legged in one little spot on an ant-free patch of grass, with my German Shepherd in a down-stay beside me.

A birdy place in the not very birdy season of Florida summer. And within my 5-mile radius.

IMG_5835-2

This photo is like a natural history museum diorama of wetland bird life!

Left to right: juvenile White Ibis; Black-bellied Whistling Duck; Tricolored Heron; Mottled Ducks.

IMG_5838-2

They had no problem sharing space. I took these photos Friday around 7 p.m. The park was busy, including a softball semi-final game with extra cars and people.

IMG_5839-2

A male Mottled Duck, Anas fulvigula, with a bit of blue secondary feathers (wing patch, speculum) showing on the wing.

IMG_5841-2

The ibis was the busiest, probing here and there, and the duck the least busy, standing with zen-like calm.

IMG_5843-2

The ibis was carrying a little minnow around for a while.

IMG_5845-2

Such a diversity of water loving birds here in wet Florida.

IMG_5847-2

The Black-bellied is quite a different looking duck from the mallards and mallard-like Mottleds I see regularly. And funny that it is standing in the water.

IMG_5848-2

Two very different bird beaks.

The beak, bill, or rostrum is an external anatomical structure of birds that is used for eating and for preening, manipulating objects, killing prey, fighting, probing for food, courtship and feeding young.

BirdBeaksA.svg

Neat illustration on Wikimedia Commons.

IMG_5858-2

The Tricolored Heron is a sleek and slender heron adorned in blue-gray, lavender, and white. The white stripe down the middle of its sinuous neck and its white belly set it apart from other dark herons. This fairly small heron wades through coastal waters in search of small fish, often running and stopping with quick turns and starts, as if dancing in a ballet.

And stabbing them with its beak, en garde! A little fencing heron.

IMG_5861-2

You can see the tip of the Black-bellied Whistling Duck’s beak turns down a bit at the end. That part is called the nail…

All birds of the family Anatidae (ducks, geese, and swans) have a nail, a plate of hard horny tissue at the tip of the beak. This shield-shaped structure, which sometimes spans the entire width of the beak, is often bent at the tip to form a hook. It serves different purposes depending on the bird’s primary food source. Most species use their nails to dig seeds out of mud or vegetation, while diving ducks use theirs to pry molluscs from rocks. There is evidence that the nail may help a bird to grasp things; species which use strong grasping motions to secure their food (such as when catching and holding onto a large squirming frog) have very wide nails.

IMG_5867-2

An ibis beak has a special addition.

The bill tip organ is a region found near the tip of the bill in several types of birds that forage particularly by probing. The region has a high density of nerve endings known as the corpuscles of Herbst. This consists of pits in the bill surface which in the living bird is occupied by cells that sense pressure changes. The assumption is that this allows the bird to perform ‘remote touch’, which means that it can detect movements of animals which the bird does not directly touch. Bird species known to have a ‘bill-tip organ’ includes members of ibisis, shorebirds of the family Scolopacidae, and kiwis.

IMG_5872-2

This young ibis was carrying this little fish around a for a while.

IMG_5873-2

Not sure what it was waiting for to gobble it up.

IMG_5881-2

The colors of the juvenile White Ibis are a nice gray brown.

When baby White Ibises hatch their bills are straight. Their bills don’t start to curve downward until they are 14 days old.

Wow! Maybe so they can break out of the shell?

IMG_5882-2

New vocabulary word…

The speculum is a patch of often iridescent color on the secondary feathers of most duck species. It is often seen as a bright patch of color on the rear of the wing when the wing is spread during flight or when the bird is stretching, preening, or landing. The color of the speculum will vary by species, as will its width and any non-iridescent borders.

IMG_5884-2

The other duck’s wing patch is off-white and looks like a stripe when the wings are at rest.

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a boisterous duck with a brilliant pink bill and an unusual, long-legged silhouette. In places like Texas and Louisiana, watch for noisy flocks of these gaudy ducks dropping into fields to forage on seeds, or loafing on golf course ponds. Listen for them, too—these ducks really do have a whistle for their call. Common south of the U.S., Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks occur in several southern states and are expanding northward.

IMG_5885-2

The Tricolored Heron is petite compared to the big ones I photograph all the time.

IMG_5887-2

Like this Great Egret a short distance away, owning its spot by the pond.

IMG_5888-2

What our juvenile White Ibis will look like when he’s all grown up.

They look like a flock of bird ghosts, spooky and cute.