Birds at Lakeside Ranch STA

img_6408-2

Good morning, Lakeside Ranch STA (Stormwater Treatment Area).

I signed in at the gate with the president of Audubon of Martin County bright and early yesterday morning and joined a few other cars driving around here and there on the narrow roads on top of the dikes in the 2600 acres under the care of the South Florida Water Management District.

Lakeside Ranch STA is located on the northeast side of Lake Okeechobee, about 50 minutes from my home in Sewall’s Point.

img_6409-2

Great Blue Heron in the misty morn.

img_6410-2

Peaceful and pretty. Temps around 57 when I arrived at 7 a.m., climbing to 75 or so by the time I left at 10:30.

img_6424-2

Sandhill Crane flyby.

img_6425-2

Another birdwatcher.

IMG_6460-2.jpg

Great Egret and Great Blue Heron.

img_6531-2

Anhinga keeping an eye on me.

img_6477-2

Tri-colored Heron hunting for breakfast.

img_6486-2

Snowy Egret and  juvenile night heron.

IMG_6532-2.jpg

Little Blue Heron and Tricolored Heron.

img_6526-2

Rotten photo but I’ve been seeing these birds in Florida and didn’t know what they were. Audubon president helped me ID it as a Palm Warbler. “Yellow butt? Brown capped head? Wagging tail?”

The rusty-capped Palm Warbler can be most easily recognized by the tail-wagging habit that shows off its yellow undertail. It breeds in bogs and winters primarily in the southern United States and Caribbean.

img_6502-2

Voguing grackles. Or maybe males having a sing off? I am pretty sure these are Boat-tailed Grackles.

Boat-tailed Grackles are large, lanky songbirds with rounded crowns, long legs, and fairly long, pointed bills. Males have very long tails that make up almost half their body length and that they typically hold folded in a V-shape, like the keel of a boat.

Males are glossy black all over. Females are dark brown above and russet below, with a subtle face pattern made up of a pale eyebrow, dark cheek, and pale “mustache” stripe.

These scrappy blackbirds are supreme omnivores, feeding on everything from seeds and human food scraps to crustaceans scavenged from the shoreline.

Boat-tailed Grackles are a strictly coastal species through most of their range; however, they live across much of the Florida peninsula, often well away from the immediate coast.

img_6539-2

Is it a duck?

IMG_6446-2.jpg

Or a wading bird? Neither… it’s a Common Gallinule!

The Common Gallinule inhabits marshes and ponds from Canada to Chile. Vocal and boldly marked with a brilliant red shield over the bill, the species can be quite conspicuous. It sometimes uses its long toes to walk atop floating vegetation. This species was formerly called the Common Moorhen and is closely related to moorhen species in the Old World.

img_6548-2

Red-winged Blackbird.

img_6480-2

Killdeer.

A shorebird you can see without going to the beach, Killdeer are graceful plovers common to lawns, golf courses, athletic fields, and parking lots. These tawny birds run across the ground in spurts, stopping with a jolt every so often to check their progress, or to see if they’ve startled up any insect prey. Their voice, a far-carrying, excited kill-deer, is a common sound even after dark, often given in flight as the bird circles overhead on slender wings.

img_6554-2

Let these dead trees be decorated with Anhingas!

img_6569-2

Aw, sweet. Two Great Blue Herons starting a nest in a cabbage palm.

img_6586-2

My first Eastern Meadowlark!

The sweet, lazy whistles of Eastern Meadowlarks waft over summer grasslands and farms in eastern North America. The birds themselves sing from fenceposts and telephone lines or stalk through the grasses, probing the ground for insects with their long, sharp bills. On the ground, their brown-and-black dappled upperparts camouflage the birds among dirt clods and dry grasses. But up on perches, they reveal bright-yellow underparts and a striking black chevron across the chest.

img_6592-2

Juvenile White Ibis strikes a pose.

img_6604-2

Cattle Egret, that chunky little white egret found near or away from water. Often seen (by me) on top of shrubs planted in medians.

img_6615-2

Anhinga draws attention to an important road sign.

img_6618-2

Great Blue Heron pose.

img_6635-2

Alligator smile.

img_6639-2

There were five gators in this one spot.

img_6597-2

View across a small canal to another birdwatcher’s car.

img_6647-2

Blackbird (grackle?) draws attention to this important sign.

img_6632-2

Cattle and cattle egrets, just past the edge of the STA.

img_6650-2

Sandhill Crane, maybe on top of the beginnings of a nest.

IMG_6662-2.jpg

Glossy Ibis.

A dark wading bird with a long, down-curved bill. Although the Glossy Ibis in North America lives primarily along the Atlantic Coast, it also can be found in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

IMG_6668-2.jpg

Blurry pic because it was far away, but with important identifying features. I described this bird to the Audubon president when I got back to the gate and he said it was a Loggerhead Shrike. Another new bird!

The Loggerhead Shrike is a songbird with a raptor’s habits. A denizen of grasslands and other open habitats throughout much of North America, this masked black, white, and gray predator hunts from utility poles, fence posts and other conspicuous perches, preying on insects, birds, lizards, and small mammals. Lacking a raptor’s talons, Loggerhead Shrikes skewer their kills on thorns or barbed wire or wedge them into tight places for easy eating. Their numbers have dropped sharply in the last half-century.

At the end of January, I attended a couple of days of a local Audubon Field Academy. I am signed up next to do a day with raptors at a local wildlife rehab center, then a unit on migration at the end of March. More field trips are on the calendar too.

Meanwhile, back to fixing up this little old Florida concrete-block-and-stucco house. I am painting the last of the three bedrooms today before the wood floor installation guys arrive tomorrow.

Birds around Arenal Volcano

IMG_0134.jpg

During our mid-March trip to Costa Rica we drove from Tamarindo to the Arenal area and spent a day and night at the Arenal Volcano Lodge (view from the balcony of our room), with a side visit to Arenal Observatory.

IMG_0138

The lodge lured birds with fruit and flowers and running water, to convenient viewing and photography distance. This is a Clay-colored Thrush, I believe.

The clay-colored thrush (Turdus grayi) is a common Middle American bird of the thrush family (Turdidae). It is the national bird of Costa Rica, where it is well known as the yigüirro. Other common names include clay-colored robin.

Someday I would love to write an article about vacation places with the best passive bird watching – like the rental house in Caye Caulker, Belize with a second-story balcony up in the trees… with me in a hammock with a rum drink!

IMG_0147

I think this is a Swallow-tailed Kite. We saw many of them but I didn’t get a great pic. Split tail, falcon-like head.

The swallow-tailed kite feeds on small reptiles, such as snakes and lizards. It may also feed on small amphibians such as frogs; large insects, such as grasshoppers, crickets; small birds and eggs; and small mammals including bats. It has been observed to regularly consume fruit in Central America. It drinks by skimming the surface and collecting water in its beak.

IMG_0153

We spotted this Crimson-collared Tanager at the Arenal Observatory, a great side trip with good lunch and many walking trails. LINK

10854262_10209016465593120_5260573161202927797_o

A pretty Blue-gray Tanager was waiting a turn at the feeders.

The Blue-gray Tanager is one of the most widespread, and ubiquitous, birds of the humid lowland neotropics. At almost any location between southeastern Mexico and central South America, it is a familiar presence at forest edge, in second-growth, along roads and rivers, in plantations, and even in urban parks and gardens.

IMG_0157.jpg

We saw a few coatis, or coatimundis,  charming furry raccoon-like mammal. This one was scouting for fallen fruit under the bird feeders.

IMG_0169.jpg

These birds were a real treat for me. We watched them while eating lunch at the observatory lodge.

IMG_0170 (1)

The Montezuma Oropendola is about the size of a crow and quite exotically beautiful. (This is one of my favorite photos from Costa Rica.)

The oropendola, or Montezuma bird as I heard one local call it, is an icterid, a member of the New World blackbird family (like my friends the grackles). It has a kind of crazy and beautiful song, which you can hear HERE.

This is a bird I will never forget.

IMG_0179

We found this bird near a trail. It seemed unconcerned by our presence. It is a Crested Guan, I think.

In protected areas where hunting is not allowed, the species can be quite approachable and even tame, but throughout much of its range Crested Guan is heavily hunted.

IMG_0181

A bit dinosaur-like, don’t you think?

IMG_0190.jpg

Very happy to capture this flitting jewel of a hummingbird. Not sure what kind it is.

DSC01602.jpg

From many places we could see the volcano. It has been dormant since 2010, which doesn’t seem like a very long time!

IMG_0214

On our little hike we came across some cattle and their bird pals the Cattle Egrets.

The short, thick-necked Cattle Egret spends most of its time in fields rather than streams. It forages at the feet of grazing cattle, head bobbing with each step, or rides on their backs to pick at ticks. This stocky white heron has yellow plumes on its head and neck during breeding season. Originally from Africa, it found its way to North America in 1953 and quickly spread across the continent. Elsewhere in the world, it forages alongside camels, ostriches, rhinos, and tortoises—as well as farmers’ tractors.

IMG_0216IMG_0219IMG_0222

Hunting cattle egret.

IMG_0243.jpg

In the woods we saw a Chestnut-mandibled Toucan.

It is one of the larger, more conspicuous species of toucan, and is often noted for its yelping, far-carrying vocalization (described by locals as “Díos te dé!”). It is largely frugivorous, but like other toucans it occasionally feeds on insects, lizards, and the eggs of other birds.

IMG_0272

Next morning at the lodge I saw this neat medium-sized bird, a Smooth-billed Ani.

A bird of tropical savannahs in the Caribbean and South America, the Smooth-billed Ani reaches the United States only in southern Florida.