Double-crested Cormorant at Indian Riverside Park. This one is a juvenile – its feathers are lighter in color than an all-black adult.
Note the little “fishing hook” at the end of its bill.
Time to dry the feathers!
Double-crested cormorants are gregarious birds that are almost always near water. Their main two activities are fishing and resting, with more than half their day spent on the latter. When at rest, a cormorant will choose an exposed spot on a bare branch or a windblown rock, and often spread its wings out, which is thought to be a means of drying their feathers after fishing. (Cormorants have less preen oil than other birds, so their feathers can get soaked rather than shedding water like a duck’s. Though this sounds like a liability, this is thought to be an adaptation that helps cormorants hunt underwater more effectively.)
Soon it was time to forage again. They eat a variety of plants, seeds, tiny animals and insects. Believe it or not, popcorn and bread are not very good for them.
Egyptian goslings (like the chicks of domestic hens) are precocial, born with downy feathers and ready to start feeding themselves right away, as opposed to altricial birds born naked and helpless, staying in the nest for some time, needing to be fed.
Cormorants are altricial… and so are human babies!
This is a male, with the yellowy-green bill. Females have an orange bill. Very tame little guy. Looking adorable – hoping for a bread crust, I suppose.
My birdwatching wanders yesterday morning, at the Hutchinson Marriott Resort. I was trying to get close to a few ponds and look for winter ducks.
Also yesterday I used eBird mobile for the first time. The night before I (finally) completed the free course eBird Essentials in the Cornell Lab or Ornithology Bird Academy.
Here’s me trying to zoom in on some distant gulls to figure out what species were loafing around on the golf course. (Laughing gulls and Ring-billed Gulls, it turns out.)
Over the course of the hour I watched birds, I saw three different groups of Double-crested Cormorants. There were five individuals in each group. Cormorants come in fives?
My old eyes tuned in to the fact there were a bunch of little sandpiper birds out there too. I should have brought my binoculars but I felt like carrying my camera was enough.
They flew over to a different patch of grass. I hope nobody thought I was telephoto-stalking the golf players!
A lady walking her dog advised me to keep an eye out for flying golf balls.
Ruddy Turnstones, a couple of Sanderlings, some Killdeer.
And one lone Dunlin! It’s the bird with the longest bill in the photo above. A new bird to my blog, number 218.
Five Killdeer and one Ruddy Turnstone.
A small duck caught my eye. Wished I could get closer. Like, hitch a ride on a golf cart to go private-golf-course birding! There should be such a thing.
It was a Hooded Merganser, by itself.
In another pond was a group of three Hooded Mergansers.
I’ve seen this species of duck one other time, on a pond in NH in January 2016.
Anhinga and gulls out on the golf course, with the other winter visitors. Walking around the condos I noticed license plated from Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia.
Fuzzy, cropped in pic of a Pie-billed Grebe, also down from the frozen north.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They have a darker pink sort of epaulet on their shoulders.
View from the top of the mangroves, with Brown Pelicans too.
Juvenile Magnificent Frigatebirds and one male off to the left.
Spoonbill on Bird Island beach.
Brown Pelican with fuzzy chicks.
Frigatebirds and a couple of cormorants. The northwest corner of the island is their territory.
Bird Island sign, in the Indian River Lagoon just off Sewall’s Point, Florida.
Double-crested Cormorant on top. Probably a juvenile, with the buff-colored breast and neck.
The gangly Double-crested Cormorant is a prehistoric-looking, matte-black fishing bird with yellow-orange facial skin. Though they look like a combination of a goose and a loon, they are relatives of frigatebirds and boobies and are a common sight around fresh and salt water across North America—perhaps attracting the most attention when they stand on docks, rocky islands, and channel markers, their wings spread out to dry. These solid, heavy-boned birds are experts at diving to catch small fish.
This morning around 8 a.m. we drove the one-way road through J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge here on Sanibel Island, where we are staying for a few days.
We saw this Yellow-crowned Night Heron in mangroves near a short boardwalk.
Look at that red eye.
It was overcast and the light wasn’t great, especially looking up, but heck! here’s a Red-bellied Woodpecker anyway.
Lots of nonchalant rabbits, munching here and there.
Dogs are allowed in the refuge, in cars or on leashes, so we brought ours. He’s cool with birds but the rabbits were torture.
Spotted Sandpiper, my second I’ve ever IDed. The first was two days ago.
John spotted it from pretty far off.
A flock of Roseate Spoonbills and one cormorant looked like they were just waking up.
The refuge is home for over 245 species of birds, according the the Ding Darling website. The Roseate Spoonbills are one of the Big 5 that attract birders to the refuge. We saw some birders with scopes set up, watching this flock.
One by one, some of the spoonbills took off and flew away. We were watching them from the observation tower.
Bird coming towards us over the water.
Green Heron perched just below the tower. You can really see some green in this one.
Another colored heron, the Little Blue, was waiting just at the bottom of the tower.
There is something a tiny bit comical about this bird. It seems poised between different feelings, stuck in indecision.
A decent look at the spoonbill’s bill.
On the side of the road in the mangroves, a Snowy Egret was standing on one leg as birds are sometimes wont to do. Love the bright yellow feet.
Not many cars on a July morning. That one ahead was driving slowly past a white bird.
It was a Great Egret stalking along in the grass.
When the car drove on, it walked towards us.
The egret was keeping an eye out for lizards and other delicacies.
Birds were my tasty breakfast delicacies! Figuratively, of course.
Looking north toward Mobile Bay from Fort Morgan, Alabama.
We drove from Gulf Shores out to Fort Morgan because we do love a nice peninsula. Breezy and chilly, but sunny.
Oil rigs in the bay.
Shrimp boats too.
Which way to the beach? More Double-crested Cormorants.
There is a dog beach at Fort Morgan. Radar was happy about that. He loves the beach. We went on the beach across from our rental too, because it’s off season and nobody was around.
Nothing like a good stick.
Sometimes it’s hard to get good bird photos when traveling with a dog, especially one shaped like a bit like a wolf. At least he (mostly) doesn’t chase birds. He prefers squirrels and balls.
Just offshore were 7 or 8 Bufflehead ducks, disappearing now and then under water. This is a male.
This is a female.
A buoyant, large-headed duck that abruptly vanishes and resurfaces as it feeds, the tiny Bufflehead spends winters bobbing in bays, estuaries, reservoirs, and lakes. Males are striking black-and white from a distance. A closer look at the head shows glossy green and purple setting off the striking white patch. Females are a subdued gray-brown with a neat white patch on the cheek.
On land at Fort Morgan, an Amy-attracting sign.
The migrants included my old friends the Killdeer, bobbing, running, calling and flying…
Killdeer flies off.
And my other old friends the Yellow-rumped Warblers.