Tag Archives: birds

Lazybirding June

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Gull loaf.

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A couple of young Laughing Gulls claimed a piling each at Sandsprit Park a few days ago.

Not a lot of bird action these days, with wintering birds gone and nesting season nearing the end. Or am I the lazy one?

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The grackle (Boat-tailed) is a reliable presence, easily spotted and willing to pose for portraits. This one found me, flew down from a cabbage palm, landed on a railing by the waters of Manatee Pocket and said, “HERE  I AM, LADY.”

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Yesterday evening I saw this Yellow-crowned Night Heron near the entrance of the east causeway park of the Ernest Lyons Bridge. I was riding in the passenger seat of the car, with my camera on my lap and simply asked my husband to slow down, then I leaned out the window and click! (Or whatever the digital camera sound is.) That was easy.

It’s my first photo of an adult Nyctanassa violacea! (Order Pelicaniformes, family Ardeidae.)

While not as slender as a typical heron, the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron’s smooth purple-gray colors, sharp black-and-white face, and long yellow plumes lend it a touch of elegance. They forage at all hours of the day and night, stalking crustaceans in shallow wetlands and wet fields. Their diet leans heavily on crabs and crayfish, which they catch with a lunge and shake apart, or swallow whole.

Here is a juvenile eating a crab, back in Dec. 2016 when I first moved to this exotic locale.

Black-crowned Night Herons at the zoo

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There is a small colony of Black-crowned Night Herons living, by choice, and appropriately, in the Florida Wetlands section of the Palm Beach Zoo. (MAP)

There were a number of nests in the treetops. We noticed because they were squawking overhead.

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A juvenile stands around.

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Black-crowned Night-Herons are stocky birds compared to many of their long-limbed heron relatives. They’re most active at night or at dusk, when you may see their ghostly forms flapping out from daytime roosts to forage in wetlands. In the light of day adults are striking in gray-and-black plumage and long white head plumes. These social birds breed in colonies of stick nests usually built over water. They live in fresh, salt, and brackish wetlands and are the most widespread heron in the world.

And my photo life list bird #175.

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Adults are pretty distinctive, particularly on the tops of their heads, or “crowns”… but spotted brown juvenile Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night Herons are easy to confuse. The yellow on the bill is an identifying feature, according to Nicholas Lund writing The Birdist’s Rules of Birding #115: Learn to Identify and Differentiate Night Herons.

Another big clue: adult Black-crowned in the trees above this juvenile!

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Night heron and turtle gaze deeply into one another’s souls… wondering the eternal questions of the animal kingdom, “Can I eat it?” and “Is it going to eat me?”

Oystercatcher

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Oystercatcher!

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A large, boldly patterned bird, the American Oystercatcher is conspicuous along ocean shores and salt marshes. True to its name, it is specialized in feeding on bivalves (oysters, clams, and mussels) and uses its brightly colored bill to get at them.

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I was walking over the bridge between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island Tuesday evening with my husband and dog. Down below, we saw herons and egrets and then one solitary oystercatcher… which is now Blogged Bird #173 (see the sidebar of my Photo Life List). And didn’t have to say, “I wish I had my bird camera!”

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On eBird I noticed that oystercatchers are sometimes sighted around here, but I have never seen one in Florida… until now.

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When I was a teenager, I rowed a small rowboat from my grandparents’ house on a lagoon in Ocean City, New Jersey out into the bay to a large marshy island where I went for a walk, feeling like an intrepid explorer, and saw a large flock of funny looking black-and-white shorebirds with orange beaks. I always remembered them as a special discovery, although I didn’t know what they were, living their half-secret lives away from places I usually went. What other creatures live close to us that we never see or notice, I wondered.

Years later I saw them again on Cape Cod and discovered, via the internet which now existed, that they were American Oystercatchers.

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Gallinules own the pond

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Common Gallinule, juvenile, gets its greens.

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I stopped by the pond at Indian RiverSide Park the other day and spied on the gallinules, since nothing else was around except some bold beggar squirrels.

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The fluffy white undertail looks like a bunny rabbit butt.

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Nearby, an adult…

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…was preening.

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Looking good, little gallinule.

Pigeon toes and the feral rock doves that live at the pier

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Are pigeons pigeon-toed?

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I suppose by definition, yes?

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Geek out to the variety of toe arrangements (dactyly) in birds. Pigeons are anisodactyl, like most “perching” birds aka passerines.

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Here’s an interesting pigeon toe. It’s got a white nail.

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And one white nail on the other foot too.

Does this bird have an all-white great-grandparent? A ceremonial release dove or homing/ racing pigeon that did not go home?

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Many pigeons I see regularly on the pier at Indian RiverSide Park have some color variations beyond the blue barred pattern of plain old Columba livia, the rock dove (rock pigeon, common pigeon). Maybe they are descendants of some escaped or released domestic birds?

Hm, technically all pigeons in North America are feral…

The pigeons or rock doves (Columba livia) found in North America are the feral offspring of pigeons brought to this continent by European immigrants. Pigeons are domesticated animals raised for sport racing, show and for food (squab). The ancestors of the pigeons we see in our cities and on our farms escaped from captivity and found a favorable environment living with humans. Feral pigeons now have a cosmopolitan distribution, having become established every place humans have built cities.

The feral pigeons found in Florida and North America are extremely variable in coloration. They exhibit the full range of coloration that domestication and selective breeding have produced. All pigeons that were developed from rock doves (Figure 1) have a white rump, usually a white diamond-shaped patch just above the tail feathers. In white birds the white rump blends with the general body color. Many pigeons have retained the ancestral rock dove coloration: gray body, darker gray head and neck, white rump, dark band on the end of the tail, dark wing tips, and two black stripes running along the back edge of each wing.

Snook Nook look

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The fishing pier, little beach and waters of the Indian River Lagoon behind the Snook Nook bait and tackle shop is an eBird hotspot that also falls within my 5-mile radius. After breakfast at the delicious Mary’s Gourmet Kitchen yesterday (open at 7 a.m. for early birds) we traveled a short distance north for a look-see at the ‘Nook.

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Osprey on sea grapes at the edge of the lagoon, making some noise.

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I’m pretty sure this is a Reddish Egret, on a quick fly by. The current U.S. population, located on the Atlantic coast in Florida and all around the Gulf Coast, is roughly 2,000 pairs, according to Audubon.

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On the dock, just one bird. So much for Hotspot!

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It looks like a “second winter” Laughing Gull. Photo at Cornell.

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Laughing Gulls are year-round residents here. I remember when I was a kid visiting my grandparents at the Jersey Shore we would only see these gulls in summertime. Their distinctive laughing call is a soundtrack to happy childhood beach and boardwalk memories.

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Next a small, spotted wading bird flew into the scene.

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Definitely a rare Dalmatian Heron, right?

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Just kidding. It’s a young Blue Heron growing up and molting from white to “blue.”

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Little Blue Herons may gain a survival advantage by wearing white during their first year of life. Immature birds are likelier than their blue elders to be tolerated by Snowy Egrets—and in the egrets’ company, they catch more fish. Mingling in mixed-species flocks of white herons, immature Little Blue Herons probably also acquire extra protection against predators.

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With their patchy white-and-blue appearance, Little Blue Herons in transition from the white first-year stage to blue adult plumage are often referred to as “Calico,” “Pied,” or “Piebald.”

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When I was a young girl going through my horse phase I remember learning the odd words “pied” and “piebald” for that particular black-and-white horse color.

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The famous Pied Piper from the Middle Ages tale is “pied” because of his multicolored clothing.

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This pied dog is a Dalmatian, of course.

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Pied little blue in the IRL.

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Wonderful photos and description at Mia McPherson’s On The Wing: Age Related Color Morphs of Little Blue Herons

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Wading bird wading, with the causeway to the bridge from the Jensen Beach mainland to Hutchinson Island beyond. Layers of moody tropically-moist storm clouds tell the story: rainy season has begun.

Lizards: it’s what’s for lunch

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A majestic Great Egret powers down another tiny reptile at the Lizard Raw Bar.

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I like them boiled, I like them fried,
But most of all I like them alive!

(Sorry.)

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Gulp. Pretty sure there are a few more lizards on the way down this bird’s neck.

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Going back for more?

Photos taken yesterday in Indian RiverSide Park. I was using my car as a bird blind.

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Can you imagine swallowing something and waiting for it to go down a neck like that?

Upside-downy

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Sweet little Downy Woodpecker half hidden in the Spanish moss. Downies are the smallest woodpeckers in North America.

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I saw a pair here on busy South Sewall’s Point Road, between Palmetto and Emarita. This one’s the male, with the red patch on his head.

They were noisy and active – at a time of day (near noon) on a bright, humid day when I didn’t expect to see many, or any, birds.

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Hooray, Downy! My first Florida sighting of one of my faithful old friends from New Hampshire.

All Amy’s Bird posts tagged with Downy Woodpecker.

Bird Island: the name says it all

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Radar spots Bird Island.

Just off the east side of Sewall’s Point, in the Indian River Lagoon, the spoil island is one of the top ten bird rookeries in Florida. We borrowed a boat from our boat club on Thursday and went to see how nesting season is coming along.

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Is this place even real?

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Of all the islands in the Indian River Lagoon in Martin County, the birds have chosen this one for nesting, feeding, roosting, loafing.

We stay outside the Critical Wildlife Area signs and use binoculars and a superzoom camera to watch but not bother.

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Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Wood Storks. Oh my!

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The most Great Egrets I’ve seen in one place – they seem to prefer the solitary lifestyle outside of breeding season.

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Snowy Egrets and a Wood Stork at the top right of this photo. Is that a rare Reddish Egret on the left? Or a Tri-colored Heron? Can’t tell.

(Update: confirmed to be a Tricolored Heron – white belly – by helpful birders on Facebook’s “What’s This Bird?”)

I saw what I thought were three Reddish Egrets on a sandbar adjoining this island a couple of months ago, doing their distinctive fishing dance, but didn’t have my camera. In March, we spotted what I think was a Reddish Egret on Bird Island and I got a photo (it’s in this post). (Update: that one confirmed as a Reddish Egret, yay!)

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“Gear down,” noted my husband, the airline pilot.

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Fuzzy-headed juvenile Wood Storks. It’s been a phenomenal breeding year for these big wading birds. I see the adults flying back and forth over our house every day now. Sometimes a fish crow or two can be seen chasing a stork out of “their” suburban residential territory.

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Wood Storks occur only in a few areas in the United States, so to get a look at one, head to a wetland preserve or wildlife area along the coast in Florida, South Carolina, or Georgia.

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Wood Storks are social birds that forage in groups and nest in colonies. Small groups of storks forage in wetlands, frequently following each other one by one in a line. In the late afternoon, when temperatures rise, Wood Storks often take to the sky, soaring on thermals like raptors. They nest in tight colonies with egrets and herons and generally show little aggression, but if a bird or mammal threatens them, they may pull their neck in, fluff up their feathers, and walk toward the intruder. Threats are also met with bill clattering and jabbing. Despite the myth that Wood Storks mate for life, pairs form at the breeding colony and stay together only for a single breeding season.

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Teenagers doing what they do best.

I’ve read that water levels affect their nesting rates. When levels are low, they have fewer offspring. Well, we did have a wet year last year!

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Just amazing to see (and hear and smell) this many birds in one place.

Bird Island is part of our town, Sewall’s Point. Here is a brief history of the island and a list of species observed, on the town website: Bird Island.

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Young stork, Brown Pelican and Black Vulture on the beach.

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Spoonbills and stork. I guess the juvenile storks start feeding on the island. I have not see the adults feed there – they fly off to other shallow waters, usually inland, usually fresh water.

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I was shooting into diffuse light, so these pics aren’t that great, but I wanted to show how many Magnificent Frigatebirds were in the trees on the northwest side of the island. I have been told that this is not a confirmed nesting site for frigate birds. I’m mildly skeptical… but humble about the limits of my bird knowledge.

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All together now, what a place!

More on Bird Island…

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch: Sewall’s Point is for the Birds!

Visit Bird Island with Sunshine WildlifeTours

My blog: Bird Island Bird Spies; Bird Island from a boat; Boating near Bird Island.

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Meyer Art Originals Wood Stork print

Morning at the pond in the park

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Common Gallinule this morning at Indian RiverSide Park a few miles up the road from us, in Jensen Beach.

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I saw a couple of adults and a juvenile together in this pond the other evening, but did not have my camera.

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This morning I found the “baby” off by itself, fluffy yet independent.

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Common Gallinules eat vegetation, seeds, snails, and insects. They pick sedge, grass, pondweed, duckweed, and flower seeds from the water surface or just below the surface. Gallinules flip over leaves with their feet to grab snails and insects hidden below.

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I went looking for gallinules and I also found a strange, new duck.

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.

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Just two, together.

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Unique color pattern.

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are dark overall: a chestnut breast and black belly are set off by a bright-pink bill and legs, grayish face, and broad white wing stripe, also visible in flight.

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Florida bird #89 for me.

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“Hey, don’t forget about me. People feed squirrels in this park, you know.”

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An Anhinga was near the ducks.

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A dark body stealthily swims through a lake with only a snakelike head poking above the surface. What may sound like the Loch Ness monster is actually an Anhinga, swimming underwater and stabbing fish with its daggerlike bill. After every dip, it strikes a regal pose on the edges of shallow lakes and ponds, with its silvery wings outstretched and head held high to dry its waterlogged feathers. Once dry, it takes to the sky, soaring high on thermals stretched out like a cross.

Whoever writes the descriptions at Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a wizard wordsmith, a pleasure to read.

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They really are strange looking birds.

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A Mottled Duck, mallard-like and common in Florida, near the two exotic-looking whistling ducks.

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Here’s the young ‘un again.

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Looks like a cross between a chick and duckling.

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At one point, an adult gallinule crossed the pond calling and calling… I would guess for its adventurous teenager.

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The juvenile ignored the calls and kept exploring and foraging.

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