Birdwatching with my niece

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Birds are nesting on Bird Island, in the Indian River Lagoon, a few blocks and an open channel away from my home.

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My seven-year-old niece was visiting with her parents and little sister and one afternoon last week we went birding.

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She was into it.

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She liked the binoculars and learned to use them quickly.

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We could see Wood Storks with nesting material.

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So many large birds perching and nesting on top of the mangove trees.

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Pelicans, cormorants and egrets are there now too, with a few vultures waiting for an opportunity to dine.

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Clean up crew.

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Birds everywhere!

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Next we went to Sandsprit Park looking for parrots but didn’t find any. We did spot a big bird “fishing”.

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This Great Blue Heron was quite comfortable around a fisherman at the end of a dock.

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My niece was thrilled at the bird’s size and beauty.

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A Great Blue Heron is not something she sees often in her Philadelphia suburb.

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“He’s so pretty!”

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GBH: Largest of the North American herons with long legs, a sinuous neck, and thick, daggerlike bill. Head, chest, and wing plumes give a shaggy appearance.

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Big feet!

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We saw other birds in the park too, including this clever crow taking bags out of the trash and rolling them around to see if there was any food left in them.

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In Manatee Pocket, a pelican caught a fish.

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We drove to a neighborhood in Port Salerno near Pirate’s Cove where I had seen parrots a few times before and… bingo! Quaker Parrots, aka Monk Parakeets.

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“My goal is to see parrots this vacation,” my niece had told me a couple of days before. We high-fived each other.

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It may come as a surprise to see noisy, green-and-gray parrots racing through cities in the U.S. But Monk Parakeets, native to South America but long popular in the pet trade, established wild populations here in the 1960s. They are the only parrots to nest communally; dozens live together year-round in large, multifamily stick nests built in trees and on power poles.

We saw 8 or 10 flying around and they appeared to be nesting in a cabbage palm covered in viney vegetation.

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Monk Parakeets are very social, spending their whole lives living in bustling colonies of dozens of individuals. Every morning they leave their nests to forage, spending the day climbing through trees (sometimes using their beaks as a climbing aid) or dropping to the ground in search of food. At dusk they all gather back at the nests to roost, both during the breeding season and after it is over.

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Monk Parakeets were introduced to the U.S. in the 1960s via the release or escape of pet birds. Since then their numbers have grown and they now occur in several cities including San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Providence, Miami, and St. Petersburg. They are also numerous in their native South America. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 20 million, with 3% of these in the U.S. and none in Canada or Mexico. The species rates a 6 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Monk Parakeet is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Historically, most management efforts toward Monk Parakeets, both in the U.S. and in South America, have been directed at curbing their populations because of their reputation as an agricultural pest. As it turns out, their populations have persisted but have not spread, and in the U.S. there are no longer active programs to control their numbers.

I guess we have learned to live with these noisy, pretty little green birds.

Decorating with birds

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Pelicans are everywhere.

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And now in my house too.

Chainsaw art purchased at Jammin’ Jensen, a street festival of arts and music held every Thursday night in downtown Jensen Beach.

Raptors at TCWC

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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.

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Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk.

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

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

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Pelicans had their own swimming pool.

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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.

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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.

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

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Nice tattoo. I think he likes raptors.

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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.”

Pelican perch

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Pelican preening, with tuna tower.

Photographed at Pirate’s Cove in Manatee Pocket, Port Salerno, after a boat trip with friends.

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Shiny.

East windy

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Strong east wind blew lots of venomous Portuguese man-o-wars onto the beach yesterday.

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Brown Pelicans cruised south over the beach, crabbed into the wind.

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Their big wings seem designed for easy lift.

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Brown Pelicans feed by plunging into the water, stunning small fish with the impact of their large bodies and scooping them up in their expandable throat pouches. When not foraging, pelicans stand around fishing docks, jetties, and beaches or cruise the shoreline. In flight, lines of pelicans glide on their broad wings, often surfing updrafts along wave faces or cliffs. Their wingbeats are slow, deep, and powerful.

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Whew: Radar had good workout in soft sand, high on the beach to avoid man-o-wars.

Night herons have big googly eyes

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I surprised this bird on the path to the Indian River Lagoon at Chastain Beach this morning. I think it’s a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

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Audubon.org: Learn to Identify and Differentiate Night-Herons

Don’t panic: There are only two.
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Night heron getting its stalk on.

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It caught a crab!

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And ate it whole!

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Gulp.

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After I took pictures and the bird stalked off into the woods, I got my dog Radar out of the car to swim in the calm lagoon waters. We had a nice walk and ball-throw on the ocean beach, but it was too rough to safely swim. And it just wouldn’t be our typical morning routine if I didn’t bring him home sandy and soaking wet. Must do something about my car today!

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Pelicans are such a combination of noble and goofy.

The bird with the old man hairdo

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Brown Pelican and Royal Tern perched on pilings above the Indian River Lagoon, near Chastain Beach, Stuart.

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Incoming.

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Sunday on the dock.

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The black feathers on their heads remind me of an old man’s haircut, particularly my great-grandfather Pop-Pop.

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I like to watch them fish, with their fast aerial dives. But it’s easier to get a picture when they are hanging out on the dock.

First morning in Florida

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Brown Pelican above the Indian River Lagoon. As you can see, we’re not in New Hampshire anymore.

Yesterday was our first full day in our new home, a little green concrete-block-and-stucco house built in 1969. So much to do, boxes everywhere, but I made time for a morning bird walk.

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I tried for a couple of years to get a good shot of a Belted Kingfisher. We used to see one or two at our pond in warmer (no ice) months. They were flighty little alarmists there. Here one is posed nicely, almost mellowly!, in sunshine on a bridge railing.

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The Ernest Lyons Bridge connects our new hometown of Sewall’s Point to Hutchinson Island, a barrier island on the Atlantic Coast. The area near the west side of the bridge has lot of Ospreys. First you hear them, with their high, piercing, almost plaintive whistles.

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Then you seen them fishing, or looking for fish.

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Unique among North American raptors for its diet of live fish and ability to dive into water to catch them, Ospreys are common sights soaring over shorelines, patrolling waterways, and standing on their huge stick nests, white heads gleaming. These large, rangy hawks do well around humans and have rebounded in numbers following the ban on the pesticide DDT. Hunting Ospreys are a picture of concentration, diving with feet outstretched and yellow eyes sighting straight along their talons.

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Osprey on the bridge railing, doing well among humans.

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We visited this area in April, July and September and I always see ospreys here. In New Hampshire they were migratory. Looks like we can enjoy them year-round in Florida, woohoo!..

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Ospreys are unusual among hawks in possessing a reversible outer toe that allows them to grasp with two toes in front and two behind. Barbed pads on the soles of the birds’ feet help them grip slippery fish. When flying with prey, an Osprey lines up its catch head first for less wind resistance.

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Wonder what that fish is thinking.

Some birds of Pacific coast Costa Rica

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The first bird I saw in Costa Rica was… a grackle! Great-tailed Grackles were zooming around just outside the airport in Liberia, C.R.

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At our condo in Tamarindo, a White-winged Dove was nesting on the fourth-floor balcony.

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And howler monkeys were hanging around in the trees just outside.IMG_9951

Pacific Ocean and beach across the street.

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Magnificent Frigatebird above.

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Great Kiskadees were nesting on the rooftops of the condo.

We saw a lot of them in Costa Rica. They live as far north as south Texas.

These are bold, loud birds that quickly make their presence known. They sit on exposed branches near the tops of trees, often above water, where they give a piercing kis-ka-dee call and dart out to catch flying insects or pluck food—often small fish—from the water. They also eat fruit and sometimes come to feeders.

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I took a walk in the morning and found Black Vultures lurking.

These birds are uniform black except for white patches or “stars” on the underside of their wingtips (this can be hard to see in strong light or from far away). The bare skin of the head is black.

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Their strong beaks made it easy to rip into garbage bags.

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I never did figure out what this little bird was, hopping around like a sparrow in the underbrush.

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And I think, but I’m not sure, that this flycatcher is a Tropical Kingbird.

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Probably Brown Pelicans.

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Good morning, Sanderlings.

Sanderlings breed on the High Arctic tundra and migrate south in fall to become one of the most common birds along beaches. They gather in loose flocks to probe the sand of wave-washed beaches for marine invertebrates, running back and forth in a perpetual “wave chase.”

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Grackle time.