Tag Archives: Florida birds

Early November in Savannas Preserve

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American Kestrel looks fierce and cute at the same time.

I saw this bird and others on Saturday during a solo 1.1-mile walk in the Martin County section of the wonderfully unique Savannas Preserve, off Jensen Beach Boulevard.

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Entrance fee is $3, self service. There is a picnic pavilion and a bathroom building.

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Info.

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The main trail heads off into the wild.

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Holly berries gave a festive, late autumn look to an otherwise not very autumnal landscape – at least for those of us who have lived in north most of our lives. This is Dahoon holly, I think.

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Wood Stork.

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Great Egret heading in the other direction.

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Main trail goes straight. This time I took the side trail to the right, heading east towards a lower, wetter area.

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Northern Mockingbird posed on a stump.

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Wildflowers in bloom.

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A group of Wood Storks was feeding near a Great Egret.

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Holly and a nest box, at the edge of the wetlands.

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Wood Storks took off and then I counted them (two others went in another direction).

My eBird checklist for the walk is HERE.

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Great Blue Heron was standing very still.

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A came upon a large trap. I guessed it might be for wild pigs, which can be such a problem in Florida.

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A pair of Anhingas.

IMG_9939Raccoon has been here.

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This part of the trail was a bit muddy from recent rains.

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Mystery track. Sort of cat-like and cat-sized. Domestic cat out for a prowl? Fox?

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Sort of boring yet oddly beautiful landscape, to me.

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Silvery saw palmettos between the freshwater marsh grass and slash pines.

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I heard this kestrel calling before I saw it.

American Kestrels have a fairly limited set of calls, but the most common one is a loud, excited series of 3-6 klee! or killy! notes lasting just over a second. It’s distinctive and an excellent way to find these birds. You may also hear two other common calls: a long whine that can last 1–2 minutes, heard in birds that are courting or feeding fledglings, and a fast chitter, usually used by both sexes in friendly interactions.

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A bit windy that day.

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North America’s littlest falcon, the American Kestrel packs a predator’s fierce intensity into its small body. It’s one of the most colorful of all raptors: the male’s slate-blue head and wings contrast elegantly with his rusty-red back and tail; the female has the same warm reddish on her wings, back, and tail. Hunting for insects and other small prey in open territory, kestrels perch on wires or poles, or hover facing into the wind, flapping and adjusting their long tails to stay in place.

 

Sula leucogaster in Florida

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At Blowing Rocks Preserve on Jupiter Island today I saw my first…

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Brown Booby!

A widespread seabird of tropical waters, the Brown Booby ranges as far north as the Gulf of California, and rarely to both coasts of the United States. Like other boobies, it feeds with spectacular plunges into the sea.

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This is a young Sula Leucogaster.  There were two others nearby. All three were plunge-diving for fish.

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I guessed by its shape and behavior that it was a member of the booby/ gannet family. I have seen Northern Gannets off the Florida coast. I googled for photos and info. Oddly enough, the image search for “boobies in Florida” didn’t turn up many birds. Finally I posted a photo to What’s This Bird on Facebook and got the Brown Booby confirmation.

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It’s blogged bird #185 for me, woot!

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Audubon

Tropical seas around the world are home to this large, long-winged, strong-flying seabird. In North America it is seen most often near the Dry Tortugas, Florida, where it perches in trees or on navigational markers. It may have nested on the Florida Keys in the past, but the only United States nesting sites today are in Hawaii.

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Look at those long, strong wings.

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Lots of weed in the surf today. And fish too. A guy fishing down the beach said there were lots of “glass minnows” and tarpon were hitting them.

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Among the terns and gulls, the boobies were a special sight today.

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At high tide when the surf is a bit stirred up it can look very dramatic at Blowing Rocks, thanks to the shelf of Anastasia limestone (aka coquina) along the beach.

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Blowing Rocks Preserve is an environmental preserve on Jupiter Island in Hobe Sound, Martin County, Florida, USA. It is owned by The Nature Conservancy. It contains the largest Anastasia limestone outcropping on the state’s east coast. Breaking waves spray plumes of water through erosion holes; the spray can reach heights of 50 feet (15 m). This distinctive spectacle thus earned the limestone outcrop’s name. The limestone outcropping also encompasses coquina shells, crustaceans, and sand.

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A Coast Guard boat passed just offshore.

Location…

Ruddy turnstone at Tiger Shores

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My unscientific observation of this chubby sandpiper, the Ruddy Turnstone, is that it is ADORABLE.

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This observation was made yesterday afternoon while sitting in a beach chair on Tiger Shores Beach on Hutchinson Island. No hardship was experienced in the taking of these photos.

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Highly trained German Shepherd no longer attempts to retrieve cast lures, as in days of old.

Breezy but not windy, with temps in the upper 80s and an occasional passing tropical shower. There will be no complaints here.

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This bird retains its beautiful breeding plumage still.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

There are about 350 species of shorebirds (order Charadriiformes) in the world, but there are only 2 turnstones, the Ruddy Turnstone and the Black Turnstone, both of which occur in North America.

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Young turnstones need to grow up and learn to fly quickly. They take their first flight when they are around 19 days old and fly thousands of miles to the nonbreeding grounds 2 days later. To make things harder, their parents will have departed by this time, leaving the youngsters to make their first migration on their own.

Ruddy Turnstones need to fly fast to cover the enormous distances between their breeding and nonbreeding grounds. Flight speeds of turnstones average between 27 and 47 miles per hour.

Amazing and adorable.

Birds of the refuge, Sanibel

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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.

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We saw this Yellow-crowned Night Heron in mangroves near a short boardwalk.

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Look at that red eye.

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It was overcast and the light wasn’t great, especially looking up, but heck! here’s a Red-bellied Woodpecker anyway.

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Lots of nonchalant rabbits, munching here and there.

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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.

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Spotted Sandpiper, my second I’ve ever IDed. The first was two days ago.

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John spotted it from pretty far off.

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A flock of Roseate Spoonbills and one cormorant looked like they were just waking up.

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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.

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One by one, some of the spoonbills took off and flew away. We were watching them from the observation tower.

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Bird coming towards us over the water.

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Green Heron perched just below the tower. You can really see some green in this one.

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Another colored heron, the Little Blue, was waiting just at the bottom of the tower.

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There is something a tiny bit comical about this bird. It seems poised between different feelings, stuck in indecision.

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Hey, bird.

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A decent look at the spoonbill’s bill.

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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.

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Not many cars on a July morning. That one ahead was driving slowly past a white bird.

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It was a Great Egret stalking along in the grass.

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When the car drove on, it walked towards us.

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And past.

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The egret was keeping an eye out for lizards and other delicacies.

Birds were my tasty breakfast delicacies! Figuratively, of course.

A few more birds from the causeway park

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One of the fishing piers at the west causeway under Jensen Beach bridge, looking north at the Indian River Lagoon. Guys were netting fish. A couple of members of the heron family were lurking nearby.

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Little Blue Heron on a light post.

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LBH.

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Great Egret near the boat ramp.

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Both heron and egret appear to have breeding plumage still.

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Looking toward the mainland, I spotted an Anhinga drying its feathers, its back to the sun, in classic Anhinga pose.

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Feathers and palm fronds.

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An Osprey was fishing the Indian River Lagoon. That’s the Florida Power & Light nuke plant in the distance.

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Osprey, boat traffic on the Intracoastal, and Nettles Island.

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Anhinga was not happy with the dog and me being so close. We gave it some room to keep sunning.

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You can almost count its feathers from this angle!

Lazybirding at the local pond

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I guess I’ll just change the name of this blog to the Indian RiverSide Park Pond Blog.

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But you can see why I go there: I watched all these birds while sitting cross-legged in one little spot on an ant-free patch of grass, with my German Shepherd in a down-stay beside me.

A birdy place in the not very birdy season of Florida summer. And within my 5-mile radius.

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This photo is like a natural history museum diorama of wetland bird life!

Left to right: juvenile White Ibis; Black-bellied Whistling Duck; Tricolored Heron; Mottled Ducks.

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They had no problem sharing space. I took these photos Friday around 7 p.m. The park was busy, including a softball semi-final game with extra cars and people.

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A male Mottled Duck, Anas fulvigula, with a bit of blue secondary feathers (wing patch, speculum) showing on the wing.

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The ibis was the busiest, probing here and there, and the duck the least busy, standing with zen-like calm.

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The ibis was carrying a little minnow around for a while.

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Such a diversity of water loving birds here in wet Florida.

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The Black-bellied is quite a different looking duck from the mallards and mallard-like Mottleds I see regularly. And funny that it is standing in the water.

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Two very different bird beaks.

The beak, bill, or rostrum is an external anatomical structure of birds that is used for eating and for preening, manipulating objects, killing prey, fighting, probing for food, courtship and feeding young.

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Neat illustration on Wikimedia Commons.

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The Tricolored Heron is a sleek and slender heron adorned in blue-gray, lavender, and white. The white stripe down the middle of its sinuous neck and its white belly set it apart from other dark herons. This fairly small heron wades through coastal waters in search of small fish, often running and stopping with quick turns and starts, as if dancing in a ballet.

And stabbing them with its beak, en garde! A little fencing heron.

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You can see the tip of the Black-bellied Whistling Duck’s beak turns down a bit at the end. That part is called the nail…

All birds of the family Anatidae (ducks, geese, and swans) have a nail, a plate of hard horny tissue at the tip of the beak. This shield-shaped structure, which sometimes spans the entire width of the beak, is often bent at the tip to form a hook. It serves different purposes depending on the bird’s primary food source. Most species use their nails to dig seeds out of mud or vegetation, while diving ducks use theirs to pry molluscs from rocks. There is evidence that the nail may help a bird to grasp things; species which use strong grasping motions to secure their food (such as when catching and holding onto a large squirming frog) have very wide nails.

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An ibis beak has a special addition.

The bill tip organ is a region found near the tip of the bill in several types of birds that forage particularly by probing. The region has a high density of nerve endings known as the corpuscles of Herbst. This consists of pits in the bill surface which in the living bird is occupied by cells that sense pressure changes. The assumption is that this allows the bird to perform ‘remote touch’, which means that it can detect movements of animals which the bird does not directly touch. Bird species known to have a ‘bill-tip organ’ includes members of ibisis, shorebirds of the family Scolopacidae, and kiwis.

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This young ibis was carrying this little fish around a for a while.

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Not sure what it was waiting for to gobble it up.

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The colors of the juvenile White Ibis are a nice gray brown.

When baby White Ibises hatch their bills are straight. Their bills don’t start to curve downward until they are 14 days old.

Wow! Maybe so they can break out of the shell?

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New vocabulary word…

The speculum is a patch of often iridescent color on the secondary feathers of most duck species. It is often seen as a bright patch of color on the rear of the wing when the wing is spread during flight or when the bird is stretching, preening, or landing. The color of the speculum will vary by species, as will its width and any non-iridescent borders.

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The other duck’s wing patch is off-white and looks like a stripe when the wings are at rest.

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a boisterous duck with a brilliant pink bill and an unusual, long-legged silhouette. In places like Texas and Louisiana, watch for noisy flocks of these gaudy ducks dropping into fields to forage on seeds, or loafing on golf course ponds. Listen for them, too—these ducks really do have a whistle for their call. Common south of the U.S., Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks occur in several southern states and are expanding northward.

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The Tricolored Heron is petite compared to the big ones I photograph all the time.

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Like this Great Egret a short distance away, owning its spot by the pond.

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What our juvenile White Ibis will look like when he’s all grown up.

They look like a flock of bird ghosts, spooky and cute.

True colors

Three photos from the archives, for the glorious Fourth.

red

Red.

white

White.

blue

And blue.

From this morning…

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Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, from Virginia Forrest Beach on Hutchinson Island, Stuart, Florida. Latitude 27.23 north, longitude 80.18 west.

Have a beautiful day… today and always.

It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.  – John Adams

Birds, the Beast and Blue Cypress

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Our sweet ride awaits, the bug-eye green boat that is the Marsh Beast. Birdwatching by airboat, oh yeah! We did that yesterday morning.

Audubon of Martin County organized the trip with Captain Kenny Elkins of Marsh Beast Airboat Tours.

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Our trip was in Blue Cypress Conservation Area, west of Vero Beach, an hour north of home. INFO and MAP

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We could get a really nice view of some birds from the boat, like this Anhinga at rest.

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Guys fishing and an osprey nest.

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Two juveniles and one adult in this photo.

Captain Kenny said this is one of the few nests with juveniles still in it.

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Another airboat coming in for a look.

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We saw lots of Ospreys during our trip.

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Ma or Pa Osprey.

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The Osprey kids’ brown feathers have more white on them than the adult.

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That’s a fine young bird!

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Osprey at rest. Big wings like a cloak.

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Osprey in motion…almost a great photo!

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We came upon some small black fuzzy creatures in the floating vegetation.

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They are seemingly running on top of the water.

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They were Purple Gallinule chicks, we were told.

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Long legs and long toes make them look funny if you are more used to hen chicks than swamphen chicks.

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Looks like a little wetland roadrunner.

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There’s an adult.

A beautifully colored bird of southern and tropical wetlands, the Purple Gallinule can be see walking on top of floating vegetation or clambering through dense shrubs. Its extremely long toes help it walk on lily pads without sinking.

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On the move.

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Iridescent.

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More chicks.

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Adult coming in for a landing.

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Purple Gallinule chicks.

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Coming up on an alligator.

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Alligator spotting is an important part of any airboat trip in Florida, right?

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A Least Bittern!.. a new bird for me.

A tiny heron, furtive and surpassingly well camouflaged, the Least Bittern is one of the most difficult North American marsh birds to spot.

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What a beauty!

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Thanks to its habit of straddling reeds, the Least Bittern can feed in water that would be too deep for the wading strategy of other herons.

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I think this is a male, because its back and crown are almost black. Females’ crown and back are brown, according to Cornell.

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A short flying hop to some new reeds.

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Shake it off.

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Thank you for posing, little bittern.

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Common Gallinule.

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We watched one big gator for a while.

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And he watched us.

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Scenery.

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Great Blue Heron in a mat of water hyacinth.

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We investigated an area I’ll called Egret Town.

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Great Egret.

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Three Greats.

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Big wings, big feathers.

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Great Egret wingspan is four-and-a-half to five-and-a-half feet.

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Another Common Gallinule.

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It was nice to have a breeze when we were on the move on a typically warm Florida summer morning.

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Nice golden slippers, Snowy Egret. Another one of those just-missed-it action photos, oh well.

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Birds and beast.

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American Coot.

Captain Kenny said they are normally here in winter, not summer.

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Coot relocating.

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Decorating the tree a bit early this year, in Egret Town.

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Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets.

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More gallinule chicks.

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An older gallinule chick among the lotus?

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These lovely lotus are native plants, we learned.

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Lotus blossom.

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Anhinga in the treetops, my last bird of the trip.

Grow up so I can tell what you are!

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Well, there’s another one. Juvenile night heron. Yellow-crowned? Black-crowned? It’s so hard when they don’t have their crowns yet.

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Perfectly still and nicely camouflaged, at the edge of the retention pond on the corner of South Sewall’s Point Road and Ocean Boulevard.

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Sometimes the pond fountain is on, sometimes off. Looking from the Ocean Boulevard sidewalk you can glimpse the town’s nice little park beyond and a bit of the Indian River Lagoon.

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Members of Facebook’s “What’s This Bird” IDed this as a Yellow-crowned Night Heron and shared a helpful link: Birdzilla: Juvenile Night Heron Comparison.

When not to feed the birds (and alligators)

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A couple of big birds walking at Park of Commerce Boulevard just off Beeline Highway in northern Palm Beach County.

The wetlands in that area are remnants of northern Everglades, with some big employers too like Pratt Whitney and destinations like Palm Beach International Raceway.

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Also, wildlife abounds.

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We were at the gas station there yesterday, after giving up on a walk in a too-wet wetland. When I saw these Sandhills Cranes, I walked over and sat at a picnic table (with my camera) to see what they would do.

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They walked slowly and fearlessly toward me.

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An adult and juvenile, maybe.

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Head shot of the larger crane.

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Got an itch.

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The young one.

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Probably people have fed these cranes, which is illegal in Florida.

In Florida, it is illegal to feed manatees, sandhill cranes, bears, raccoons, foxes, and alligators.

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Feeding wildlife often has a detrimental rather than a helpful effect. Feeding animals may cause some species to concentrate so much on this supplemental feeding that they become a nuisance or a threat to people (e.g., bears, sandhill cranes). When fed, alligators can overcome their natural wariness and learn to associate people with food. When this happens, some of these alligators have to be removed and killed.

A bold, 12-foot alligator killed a woman in South Florida a few days ago. It had taken up residence in a park in an urban area where people fed the animals and sabotaged traps set out to capture nuisance critters.  Some people can be so dumb.

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But I can certainly understand the temptation to attract and interact with this cool animal. Growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, I read National Geographic, watched animal documentaries and TV shows, and dreamed of safari jobs and adventures getting close to large animals in wild habitat.

But of course you don’t have to go to Africa to observe wild animals.

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The cranes gave up on me and headed toward the Fried Chicken and Hot Subs.

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My husband and dog were at the table over there. The top of our German shepherd’s head is just visible. Radar has his ears in the irritated-with-us position. He was ready for a big walk, but the trails in J.W. Corbett WMA were mostly under water. Rainy season has been too rainy.

Much of South Florida is dense-pack developed, but there are huge swaths of preserved land for exploring too. Many are Wildlife Management Areas, with dirt roads and some trails, where hunting is legal. I’m realizing why I see a lot of jacked-up mud trucks with monster tires around here. An airboat would have come in handy yesterday too.

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Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Living With Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill cranes are cherished members of the Florida ecosystem. They stand almost 4 feet tall and their bugling or rattling calls are haunting and beautiful. Sandhill cranes occur in pastures, open prairies and freshwater wetlands in peninsular Florida from the Everglades to the Okefenokee Swamp.

Florida sandhill cranes are present in many urban areas and some unlikely places such as golf courses, airports and suburban subdivisions. This is probably due in part to the rapid development of their native habitat by humans. Cranes are probably attracted by the open setting (mowed grass) and availability of some foods (acorns, earthworms, mole crickets, turf grubs).

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A few minutes after I took these photos, I watched a guy gassing up at a pump toss some leftover unidentifiable mystery food from a styrofoam container onto the ground in front of the cranes and they pecked at a few bites.

The omnivorous Sandhill Crane feeds on land or in shallow marshes where plants grow out of the water, gleaning from the surface and probing with its bill. Its diet is heavy in seeds and cultivated grains, but may also include berries, tubers, small vertebrates, and invertebrates. Nonmigratory populations eat adult and larval insects, snails, reptiles, amphibians, nestling birds, small mammals, seeds, and berries.

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Whether stepping singly across a wet meadow or filling the sky by the hundreds and thousands, Sandhill Cranes have an elegance that draws attention. These tall, gray-bodied, crimson-capped birds breed in open wetlands, fields, and prairies across North America.

Elegant even at a gas station.