Tag Archives: Brown Pelican

Almost-spring on Bird Island

Come fly with me…

… to a strange and wonderful place known as Bird Island. It’s very close to home.

This Magnificent Frigatebird knows the way.

Black frigatebirds on lower branches, white Wood Storks above.

The storks are the most numerous nesting birds at this time of year on this small mangrove island in the Indian River Lagoon that’s just off our peninsular town of Sewall’s Point.

Frigatebirds don’t nest here, they just roost, I’ve been told. But I’m keeping an eye on that situation!

We took a boat out on Tuesday, March 17, late afternoon with the newest member of the family, Ruby the 10-week-old German shepherd. It was her first boat ride and she was great! (We are members of a boat club in Manatee Pocket, about a 20 minute ride to Bird Island.)

Brown Pelicans had reserved their own roosting and nesting spots in one section of the canopy.

Big wings, big bill.

Wood Storks flew close to the boat.

Very common sight in Sewall’s Point at this time of year, as they fly over on their way to Bird Island, sometimes even stopping in our trees to break beaches for nesting material.

Peachy pink feet visible in this photo, as well as some color under the wings.

Speaking of color, the White Ibis have more intensely colored bills and feet in breeding season.

I am so glad this island was designated a wildlife area.

A Great Blue Heron among the Wood Storks. Looks like a Little Blue Heron mixed in there too.

Birds everywhere.

Ruby was watching them too.

White Ibis flying over. They don’t stop on this island – they have their own on the other side of the Intracoastal Waterway.

White Ibis zoomed in.

My husband’s favorite bird was this Fish Crow perched on the sign, as if to draw attention to its important information!

Great Egret.

Wood Stork coming in for a landing.

“Honey, I’m home!”

“Great to see you, gimme a smooch!”

Smooch!

I’m looking forward to getting out to Bird Island again later in the season, when the chicks pop up.

Here are some photos of young Wood Storks from a trip to Bird Island May 2018.

The pelican scoop

Florida, starring Brown Pelicans!

I feel like I don’t take enough pictures of pelicans relative to how often I see them, which is pretty much daily because I live in Sewall’s Point, a peninsula connected by bridges to the mainland and a barrier island (Hutchinson).

So, here: a bounty of Pelicanus occidentalis.

Also known as a pod, a pouch, a scoop or a squadron of pelicans.

Audubon.org…

An unmistakable bird of coastal waters. Groups of Brown Pelicans fly low over the waves in single file, flapping and gliding in unison. Their feeding behavior is spectacular, as they plunge headlong into the water in pursuit of fish. The current abundance of this species in the United States represents a success story for conservationists, who succeeded in halting the use of DDT and other persistent pesticides here; as recently as the early 1970s, the Brown Pelican was seriously endangered.

We were stopping by the Fort Pierce Inlet at the north end of Hutchinson Island on a Sunday drive. It was too windy and rough to walk out on the jetty.

So we walked west along the south-side inlet shoreline to see what we could see.

The inlet connects the Indian River Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean. There is no development at the ocean end of the inlet on either side. The north side is preserved as a state park.

Fishing was the main focus, of humans and birds alike.

Fish were feeding and breaking on the surface all over the place.

Here’s a Double-crested Cormorant, popping up from underwater fishing.

Royal Tern on high.

Forages mostly by hovering over water and plunging to catch prey just below surface. https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/royal-tern

Brown Pelicans go even more “all in”.

Forages by diving from the air, from as high as 60′ above water, plunging into water headfirst and coming to surface with fish in bill. Tilts bill down to drain water out of pouch, then tosses head back to swallow. Will scavenge at times and will become tame, approaching fishermen for handouts.https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/brown-pelican#

They often look like they’re crash landing face first into salt water.

This guy had a fish on his line and was steadily working it closer and ready to gaff it when a pelican tried to steal it. He waved his gaffe and the pelican backed off, but not before trying to dive underwater and grab it.

View toward the north side jetty. Lots of birds, lots of fish.

And lots of wind.

Sometimes I look at pelicans and wonder how they stay in the air. I mean, their wings are really big, but so are their heads and bills. So big.

But they are master flyers. I like when they soar down low over the water to use what human aviators (like my husband) call “ground effect” to stay effortlessly aloft.

This juvenile Brown Pelican is banded. You can just barely see the band on the near leg, which is tucked up so nice and aerodynamically.

It was a good day for fishing, even for the humans.

I think it’s a Crevalle Jack. This man kept his fish.

I have eaten this kind of jack, very, very fresh, about 20 minutes after my husband caught it from the bridge near our house. He filleted it into chunks, I marinated it for about 10 minutes in lime juice, then cooked it in a cast iron pan with butter and Cajun seasonings. Served over white rice, it was delicious. It has dark red flesh like a tuna.

Snook (a fish I had never heard of until I moved here) are one of the most beloved fish for inshore Florida fishermen. But snook are not always in season (including right now): FWC regulations.

So gaze longingly at the snook and go catch a jack.

Fort Pierce Inlet is a nice destination, easily accessible, and a great place to walk and bird-watch.

I even spent a little time with a charming pair of Eurasian-collared Doves, fishing for love.

Coo.

The latest from Bird Island

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Story time at Bird Island, it looks like.

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Wood Storks together.

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We watched from a boat.

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Roseate Spoonbill comes on the scene.

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Audubon

Very common in parts of the southeast until the 1860s, spoonbills were virtually eliminated from the United States as a side-effect of the destruction of wader colonies by plume hunters. Began to re-colonize Texas and Florida early in 20th century. Still uncommon and local, vulnerable to degradation of feeding and nesting habitats.

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They have a darker pink sort of epaulet on their shoulders.

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View from the top of the mangroves, with Brown Pelicans too.

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Juvenile Magnificent Frigatebirds and one male off to the left.

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Spoonbill on Bird Island beach.

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Brown Pelican with fuzzy chicks.

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Frigatebirds and a couple of cormorants. The northwest corner of the island is their territory.

Some sanderlings I saw

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I walked from Santa Lucea Beach almost to the House of Refuge.

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Busy beach Saturday, not a lot of parking left along the southern end of Hutchinson Island. Lots of people.

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I focused on the peeps.

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Sanderlings running.

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Sanderling feeding.

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Sanderling at rest.

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Ring-billed Gull (second winter?)

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Brown Pelicans were fishing.

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Dive.

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Sanderling loaf.

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Sanderlings three.

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A little bird and shelly grains of sand.

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Ruddy Turnstone bathing in a tide pool.

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Ruddy Turnstone rocks.

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Heading south towards House of Refuge.

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Camo.

 

Beach bird walk

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Bathtub Reef Beach on Hutchinson Island in Stuart, Florida last Sunday around noon. Red flag advises against swimming but does not forbid it (that would be two red flags).

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I walked south to the inlet and back, 2.2 miles, for an hour and 45 minutes, watching and counting birds.

Here’s my eBird checklist: Oct 7 Bathtub Beach.

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When little shorebirds are holding still, it’s hard to see them.

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These people walked right past and didn’t seem to notice the plovers.

Fancy houses along the beach here. It’s the gated community of Sailfish Point, right at the southern tip of the island. Can’t get in unless you live there – although you can walk along the beach.

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These are Semipalmated Plovers, a new bird for me.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

A small dark shorebird with a single band across its chest, the Semipalmated Plover is the most common plover seen on migration in most areas.

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Audubon

The most common of the small plovers on migration through most areas. On its breeding grounds in the north, it avoids the tundra habitat chosen by most shorebirds, nesting instead on gravel bars along rivers or ponds. In such surroundings, its seemingly bold pattern actually helps to make the plover inconspicuous, by breaking up its outline against the varied background. The name “semipalmated” refers to partial webbing between the bird’s toes.

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Willets flew in for a short visit.

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A Ruddy Turnstone was digging into a sea turtle shell.

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A sleepy solitary Sanderling was near the turnstone and small flock of plovers.

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The turnstone was very busy.

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I watched it rushing here and there, pushing away bits of sargassum , sticks and shells to see what was underneath.

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“It’s turning ‘stones’ like a turnstone!” I thought.

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Audubon

Best known for habit of inserting bill under stones, shells, etc., and flipping them over to find food underneath. Several birds may work together to overturn a larger object. Often probes under seaweed or debris.

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Gusty east wind and strong surf. Brown Pelican can handle it.

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Brown Pelicans have a wingspan between 6.5 and 7.5 feet. They are the smallest of the eight pelican species, but still very big birds.

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Getting closer to the inlet, I came upon a bird I’ve only seen once before: a Black-bellied Plover.

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It relocated as I walked past on the high part of the beach, but didn’t go far. Nice view of wings and tail.

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Audubon

This stocky plover breeds in high Arctic zones around the world, and winters on the coasts of six continents. Some can be seen along our beaches throughout the year (including non-breeding immatures through the summer). Although the Black-bellied Plover is quite plain in its non-breeding plumage, it adds much to the character of our shorelines with its haunting whistles, heard by day or night.

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Most migrate along coast or over sea, but numbers stop over regularly at some inland sites. Winter range remarkably extensive, from New England and southwestern Canada to southern South America, Africa, Australia.

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The other time I spotted these birds was at Ragged Neck in in New Hampshire in Nov. 2016, along with some Snow Buntings.

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An attractive, large shorebird.

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A couple of guys on jetskis were playing in the waves near the inlet.

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Sanderling in motion!

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I see these sandpipers a lot in non-breeding season.

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You don’t see too many fishermen at this spot since they have to walk a ways to get here.

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Looking across the St. Lucie  inlet from Hutchinson Island to Jupiter Island. And Sanderlings running along the sand.

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Little Blue Herons… an adult on the rocks and an immature in the water. Yes, the young ones are white not “blue”.

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Little Blue strut.

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Sanderlings at rest.

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View west from the inlet. The St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon connect to the Atlantic Ocean here.

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Sandwich Tern, a tern I know thanks to the yellow bill tip!

Pelican twins

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A couple of big Brown Pelican chicks at Bird Island the other day, with an adult nearby.

Brown Pelican chicks remain in the nest for 77-84 days. I’m guessing these two are near the end of that time.

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I saw two sets of twins that day.

Bird Island can be very busy during the nesting season of Wood Storks and other birds, late winter through spring. It’s quiet now and a nice place to raise the next generation of Pelicanus occidentalis.

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Pelicans, Bird Island, the fishy waters of the Indian River Lagoon, and September’s towering cu.

Vitamin blue

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I like where I live!

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In the 8 o’clock hour, this morning at the beach, I wasn’t the only one appreciating.

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Sanderlings are back in town!

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They nest in the tundra of the High Arctic and spend the rest of the year all over the place, mostly on sandy beaches, from Nova Scotia to South America. I see plenty around here in fall and winter.

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Hard-packed sand here today, good for walking and running, with lots of whole shells washed up too.

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(Taller buildings start at the border of the next county north, St. Lucie.)

Birds and fisherfolk are excited about the run of the baitfish. I confirmed at the Snook Nook bait and tackle shop yesterday that they ARE anchovies, also known around here as glass minnows.

Glass minnows and silversides are anchovies. Yes, the same anchovy that you eat on pizza or in Caesar dressing. The bay anchovy is Anchoa mitchilli for those of you that hope to catch me in my identification mistakes. They range from Maine through the Gulf of Mexico in great abundance. They are easily recognized by the fact that they are transparent with a broad silver stripe down the side and are seldom over three inches long.

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Sanderlings feeding.

According to Wikipedia (citing the Oxford English Dictionary), the name derives from Old English sand-yrðling, “sand-ploughman.”

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Pelicans passing by, with some typically awesome summer clouds.

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It is very good for you to stare out at blue ocean and sky, did you know?

The color blue has been found by an overwhelming amount of people to be associated with feelings of calm and peace,” says Shuster. “Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state.”

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Just don’t look directly at the sun. Oops.

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Birds and shells galore. And the typical beachfront condos of the Martin County part of the Treasure Coast. Our county has a building height restriction of four stories.

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Radar had a good workout.

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I call that ear position “Naughty Rabbit.”

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Just offshore, the Sunday morning tarpon seekers.

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Water temps today are 81 degrees F. The air was a couple of degrees warmer than the ocean this morning, but going up to 90 today (as usual).

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Surf-forecast.com

Stuart Public Beach sea temperatures peak in the range 29 to 30°C (84 to 86°F) on around the 10th of August and are at their lowest on about the 11th of February, in the range 21 to 24°C (70 to 75°F).

Actual sea surface water temperatures close to shore at Stuart Public Beach can vary by several degrees compared with these open water averages. This is especially true after heavy rain, close to river mouths or after long periods of strong offshore winds. Offshore winds cause colder deep water to replace surface water that has been warmed by the sun.

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Sanderlings feed by running down the beach after a receding wave to pick up stranded invertebrates or probe for prey hidden in the wet sand. Diet includes small crabs, amphipods and other small crustaceans, polychaete worms, mollusks, and horseshoe crab eggs.

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My husband said he noticed a big hatch-out of tiny, new mole crabs (aka sand crabs, sand fleas) the other day. I wonder if that food resource is one reason the Sanderlings are here now.

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In winter I don’t always see this many together. I’ll bet these Sanderlings are in the middle of a bigger trip south.

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The Sanderling is one of the world’s most widespread shorebirds. Though they nest only in the High Arctic, in fall and winter you can find them on nearly all temperate and tropical sandy beaches throughout the world. The Ruddy Turnstone and the Whimbrel are the only other shorebirds that rival its worldwide distribution.

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“You care about birds and blue horizon brain waves, but I only care about the ball. C’mon, throw it.”

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Lonely beach toy.

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A few Ruddy Turnstones with the Sanderling flock.

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The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach. – Henry Beston

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.