Tag Archives: Brown Pelican

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

Looking at pelicans

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Brown Pelican on a seawall in Sewall’s Point.

They are big birds, but the smallest of the six pelican species of the world.

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This one is banded and has a bit of fishing wire wrapped around a toe. I couldn’t get a shot of the markings on the band.

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A pelican nearby, without a band, looking at me but right past me. It seems like we look into their eyes but birds do not look into ours.

Ruddy Turnstones on the jetty

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Ruddy Turnstones on rocks along the jetty in Fort Pierce on Sunday.

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These chubby little shorebirds are long distance migrants.

In North America, Ruddy Turnstones migrate to western Europe, southeast Asia, Australia, South America, and the west and east coasts of North America. Some birds travel more than 6,500 miles between breeding and nonbreeding grounds.

And…

Ruddy Turnstones breed along rocky coasts and in the tundra across the High Arctic. In North America they breed in sparsely vegetated tundra near marshes, streams, and ponds. During migration they stop along coastal rocky and sandy beaches, mudflats, and shorelines of freshwater lakes to refuel. On their wintering grounds they congregate along rocky shorelines, mudflats, deltas, and sandy beaches.

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The ruddy turnstone has a varied diet including carrion, eggs and plant material but it feeds mainly on invertebrates. Insects are particularly important in the breeding season. At other times it also takes crustaceans, molluscs and worms. It often flips over stones and other objects to get at prey items hiding underneath; this behaviour is the origin of the name “turnstone”. It usually forages in flocks.

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Like the Brown Pelican, Ruddy Turnstones also search for bits of bait and fish from the fishermen on the jetty.

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This pelican is not shy.

Bird Island bird spies

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Ahoy, Bird Island!

Four of us old friends, aboard a 21-foot Hurricane deck boat nicknamed “Little Tanny” for the color of its canopy, went exploring yesterday.

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We stayed outside these signs that mark the boundary of the rookery/ bird sanctuary on an island in the Indian River Lagoon just to the east of Sewall’s Point, FL.

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Arrow points to the location of the little island full of birds.

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Roseate Spoonbills caught our attention with their bright pink wings.

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According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

The flamboyant Roseate Spoonbill looks like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with its bright pink feathers, red eye staring out from a partly bald head, and giant spoon-shaped bill. Groups sweep their spoonbills through shallow fresh or salt waters snapping up crustaceans and fish.

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Brown Pelican and spoonbill.

  • Roseate Spoonbills get their pink coloration from the foods they eat. Crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates contain pigments called carotenoids that help turn their feathers pink.

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Bird Island is a special place… for birds with preposterous bills.

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Roseate Spoonbills nest in colonies with egrets, ibises, and herons, typically on islands or over standing water. They nest in mangroves, Brazilian pepperbush, willows, sea myrtle, and other shrubs near the water. They tend to put their nests in the shadiest part of the tree or shrub, up to 16 feet high.

They lay 1 to 5 eggs, incubate them for 22 days, and the chicks stay in the nest for 35 to 42 days. There are just a few spoonbills on Bird Island right now.

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A mild chaos of comings and goings. Wood storks are nesting in greatest numbers.

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Yesterday morning, on a walk before boating, I got lots of photos (like this one) of Wood Storks that had flown the short hop from Bird Island to Sewall’s Point to break off branches for nesting material. (I will post those photos later.)

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Wood Stork in flight.

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Wood Storks showing off their best side.

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Next: a very exciting find, spotted by Lisa, a Reddish Egret, a first for me!

A medium to large heron of shallow salt water, the Reddish Egret comes in a dark and a white form. It is a very active forager, often seen running, jumping, and spinning in its pursuit of fish.

And…

There is little information on Reddish Egret population trends or numbers, but the species appears to be declining. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates a continental population of 6,000-10,000 breeding birds, rates the species about a 15 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and lists it as a Species of Moderate Concern. Reddish Egret is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action.

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John maneuvered the boat around to the northwest side of the island and we spotted a few Magnificent Frigatebirds, usually seen soaring high over the beach or ocean.

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This appears to be a nesting pair.

Males have a bright red pouch on the throat, which they inflate like a balloon to attract females. Females unlike most other seabirds look different than males with their white chest.

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The frigate bird with a white head is a juvenile.

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Frigatebirds, wood storks, cormorants… this mangrove tree has it all going on.

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  • The breeding period of the Magnificent Frigatebird is exceptionally long. Males and females incubate the eggs for around 56 days, and once hatched, chicks don’t leave the nest until they are about 167 days old. Even after they leave the nest, females continue to feed them until they are one year old.

Each pair only lays one egg.
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Not sure if this is a male or female. Maybe it is incubating an egg and the mate is away feeding.

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Magnificent Frigatebirds eat primarily flying fish, tuna, herring, and squid, which they grab from the surface of the water without getting wet. They also eat plankton, crabs, jellyfish, and other items on the surface of the water including discarded fish from fishing boats.

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The young ‘un.

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Frigatebirds soar effortlessly over the ocean rarely flapping their long, pterodactyl-like wings and using the long tail to steer. Though they are frequently seen soaring, they are masters of pursuit. They chase other birds including frigatebirds, forcing them to regurgitate their recent meal, which they scoop up before it hits the water. Their gracefulness ends as soon as they head towards land, where they awkwardly perch in low shrubs and trees. Their strong toes help them hold onto branches, posts, and boat masts, but their small feet in combination with their short legs makes it nearly impossible for them to walk on land. On land, males often flutter the balloonlike throat sac (or “gular pouch”) to cool off. Males and females also regulate their body temperature by holding up their wings up to sun themselves. To get airborne, they flap a few times and use the wind to help lift them into the air.

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Meanwhile, a few branches away, Wood Storks are cuddling.

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They almost make this Great Blue Heron look small.

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Wood Storks and Magnificent Frigatebirds.

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We watched these birds for a while then traveled south to Peck Lake and the Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge and later up the St. Lucie River to downtown Stuart. Lots of boat traffic but it was still a nice way to spend a day on the water.

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Last bird I photographed on Bird Island: an Anhinga.

 

Bird Island from a boat

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Roseate Spoonbill on Bird Island yesterday.

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Must look good for breeding season.

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Great Blue Heron.

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Big feet on that bird.

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We borrowed a boat from our boat club in Manatee Pocket yesterday and took a ride up the Indian River Lagoon to the rookery just off Sewall’s Point known as Bird Island.

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It is Wood Stork nesting season. They appear to still be building nests. I have not seen chicks yet.

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The Snowy Egrets are in breeding plumage and acting flirty.

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Showing off.

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I have never seen them like this.

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Always surprising the variety of breeds sharing space on this island.

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My sister and brother-in-law were in town and we all watched birds from the boat.

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Incoming Wood Stork.

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A rather skull-like head.

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Wood Stork with wings up.

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Roseate Spoonbill again.

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Lots of Brown Pelicans on the island now too.

And a heron in a mangrove tree

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I believe this is a juvenile Little Blue Heron. Maybe they could rename it Little Blue Heron That Starts Off White.

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This bird was near the boardwalk that crosses from the Intracoastal Waterway to the ocean beach at St. Lucie Preserve Inlet State Park, a wonderful place for nature and quiet at the northern end of Jupiter Island. Accessible only by boat… or a very long walk up the beach from the parking lot at Home Sound Wildlife Refuge to the south.

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We were there a week and a half ago. Busy holiday time has made me a blog slacker. But now it is quiet Christmas morning and lo, the blog revives. Merry Christmas! The day will be busier soon, with my daughters visiting from the cold north and my husband the airline pilot winging his way home from London.

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The pretty green eye of the Little Blue.

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The Little Blue Heron is a stand-and-wait predator, rather than a frenetic, dashing-about predator. They watch the water for fish and other small morsels, changing locations by walking slowly or by flying to a completely different site.

A mellow little fellow, easy to photograph.

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Also from the boat trip, a Brown Pelican close-up.

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Have you noticed the tip of a pelican’s bill? It’s a built-in fish hook!

Also, the bird’s pouch (a “fishing net”) expands to hold up to three gallons of water, which is then expelled, leaving the fish inside.

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This looks like a neat movie: Pelican Dreams trailer.

What’s it like to try to get to know a flying dinosaur? Filmmaker Judy Irving (“The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”) follows a wayward California brown pelican from her “arrest” on the Golden Gate Bridge into care at a wildlife rehabilitation facility, and from there explores pelicans’ nesting grounds, Pacific coast migration, and survival challenges. The film is about wildness: how close can we get to a wild animal without taming or harming it? Why do we need wildness in our lives, and how can we protect it?

I wish you Peace, Love and Joy this day. And I hope you see a few cool birds.

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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.

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.”