Birds at Sanibel pier

IMG_6149-2

A sign near the Sanibel City Pier.

IMG_6155-2

Wonder if the Osprey is eating one of the Frequently Caught.

IMG_6150-2

Birds were standing around on the beach, waiting for people to catch fish.

IMG_6153-2

Not this bird, though.

IMG_6159-2

In a tree near the pier, a couple of egrets arranged themselves for comparison, Great and Snowy.

IMG_6161-2

In another branch, a juvenile Reddish Egret!

IMG_6167-2

Perched on a railing right next to me, a young Snowy Egret.

IMG_6172-2

Egret and husband on the city pier, yesterday.

IMG_6175-2

Great Egret in a tree.

IMG_6181-2

The Reddish Egret at surf’s edge with a Snowy.

IMG_6185-2

The Snowy on the railing had funny legs, black in front, yellow in back. I guess it is changing from young to adult.

IMG_6188-2

Birds looking for bait.

IMG_6190-2

Snowy Egret is letting me stand next to it.

IMG_6191-2

Close up.

IMG_6194-2

See what I mean about the legs.

IMG_6195-2

Here’s the Snowy Egret legs I’m used to.

IMG_6196-2

Side by side comparison.

IMG_6202-2

Great Egret still in the tree, looking sort of slinky yet majestic.

IMG_6221-2

Osprey still working on that fish.

IMG_6222-2

Love this shot, and that sea eagle’s eye!

IMG_6223-2

Nyctanassa

IMG_5656-2

I saw a brown heron-like bird fly past me and land in a tree by that pond I like in Indian RiverSide Park.

IMG_5660-2

Some sort of juvenile Night Heron – probably Yellow-crowned, I thought.

IMG_5666-2

Oh hey, what’s in the same tree? An adult.

IMG_5671-2

In the animal kingdom, among back-boned animals, their Class is Aves, Order: Pelecaniformes, Family: Ardeidae (herons), Genus: Nyctanassa. The Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Nyctanassa violacea, is the only surviving species in the genus, as the Bermuda night heron is extinct.

IMG_5673-2

The name comes from Ancient Greek words for “night” and “lady” or “queen”, referring to the yellow-crowned night heron’s nocturnal activity and its beauty.

IMG_5680-2

The other night herons around here are Black-crowned and their genus is Nycticorax (“night raven”) with two species on earth living and the rest prehistoric or extinct.

IMG_5682-2

It was Saturday evening and the park was pretty busy, but these birds were not spooked.

IMG_5684-2

Big eyes, like the ones in stuffed toys.

IMG_5700-2

Audubon…

More solitary and often more secretive than the Black-crowned Night-Heron, the Yellow-crowned is still quite common in parts of the southeast. Particularly in coastal regions, often feeds by day as well as by night. Its stout bill seems to be an adaptation for feeding on hard-shelled crustaceans — it is called “crab-eater” in some locales.

IMG_5707-2

A good look.

IMG_5732-2

The adult flew down and stood by the water for a bit, but I left before I saw it catch any dinner.

True colors

Three photos from the archives, for the glorious Fourth.

red

Red.

white

White.

blue

And blue.

From this morning…

IMG_5528 (1)-2.jpg

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

Feral Florida: Duck, duck, goose

IMG_4844-2

A face only a mother Muscovy Duck could love?

The “warts” are called caruncles.

IMG_4851-2

A couple of Egyptian geese relax on the lawn.

After a trip to Home Depot in the Martin Square Shopping Center on US 1 in Stuart, I stopped by the pond on the northwest side to check out the duck situation.

IMG_4853-2

White Ibis too, coming over to see if I have any stale bread.

IMG_4861-2

The strange, warty-faced Muscovy Duck causes confusion for some bird watchers, as it’s very distinctive and quite commonly seen, yet does not appear in some field guides. Truly wild individuals are restricted to south Texas and points south, but domesticated versions occur in parks and farms across much of North America. Wild Muscovy Ducks are glossy black with bold white wing patches and are forest dwellers that nest in tree cavities. Their range expanded into Texas in the 1980s; feral populations also exist in Florida.

A feral population is well established here at the shopping center pond.

IMG_4863-2

Also feral…

Native to sub-Saharan Africa, the Egyptian Goose is an exotic species in North America. Their introduction and establishment is not well understood, but the species likely originated from escapees from captive waterfowl collections.

IMG_4867-2

Stretch!

IMG_4873-2

Mixed flock.

IMG_4874-2

Egyptian “geese” are big and goose-shaped, but they are believed to be more closely related to shelducks. (Link.) True to their name, they are abundant in the Nile River Valley. And in ancient Egyptian art.

IMG_4878-2

One of the oldest domesticated fowl species in the world, the Muscovy Duck was already being kept by native people in Peru and Paraguay when the early Spanish explorers arrived. The word “Muscovy” may refer to the Muscovy Company (incorporated in London in 1555), which transported these ducks to England and France.

IMG_4880-2

Aztec rulers wore cloaks made from the feathers of the Muscovy Duck, which was considered the totem animal of the Wind God, Ehecatl.

IMG_4883-2

Wild Muscovy Ducks are dark-plumaged, wary birds of forested areas. Domestic varieties—heavier, less agile birds with variable plumage—live on farms and in parks in warm climates around the world, where they can be confusing to bird watchers.

IMG_4885-2

From Birds and Blooms…

Domesticated Muscovy ducks were brought to Florida intentionally in the mid-twentieth century, thought to add aesthetic appeal to lakes and ponds. Since then, they have established massive feral populations, to the point where they are considered a nuisance in some areas. Though they are native to the tropics, they can withstand cold and even freezing temperatures, and multiple urban populations of these introduced ducks exist around the U.S. The origin of the name “Muscovy” is uncertain. “Muscovy” means “from Moscow,” but these ducks are neither native to that region nor found there other than in domestication. Some link the name to certain Native American tribes, while Carl Linneaus assigned it the species epithet moschata, meaning “musk” (due to their strong gamey odor), and this may be the most logical explanation.

IMG_4892-2

They did smell a bit fishy to me.

IMG_4897-2

They let me hang around pretty close to them and take pics.

IMG_4899-2

See you later, strange ducks.

When not to feed the birds (and alligators)

IMG_4646-2

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.

IMG_4649-2

Also, wildlife abounds.

IMG_4650-2

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.

IMG_4652-2

They walked slowly and fearlessly toward me.

IMG_4653-2

An adult and juvenile, maybe.

IMG_4656-2

Head shot of the larger crane.

IMG_4660-2

Got an itch.

IMG_4661-2

The young one.

IMG_4663-2

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.

IMG_4665-2

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.

IMG_4666-2

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.

IMG_4667-2

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

IMG_4668-2

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.

IMG_4669-2

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).

IMG_4670-2

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.

IMG_4671-2

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.

Shorebirds galore

img_5850-2

Willet in the surf at Bathtub Beach last Thursday.

img_5851-2

Willets are often seen alone. They walk deliberately, pausing to probe for crabs, worms and other prey in sand and mudflats, or to pick at insects and mollusks.

img_5852-2

Willets and other shorebirds were once a popular food. In his famous Birds of America accounts, John James Audubon wrote that Willet eggs were tasty and the young “grow rapidly, become fat and juicy, and by the time they are able to fly, afford excellent food.” By the early 1900s, Willets had almost vanished north of Virginia. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 banned market hunting and marked the start of the Willet’s comeback.

img_5859-2

A couple of Willets plus a Sanderling for size.

img_5897-2

Ruddy turnstones. I see a lot of these but have not yet blogged them.

img_5899-2

The ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres) is a small wading bird, one of two species of turnstone in the genus Arenaria. The scientific name is from Latin. The genus name arenaria derives from arenarius, “inhabiting sand, from arena, “sand”. The specific interpres means “messenger”; when visiting Gotland in 1741, Linnaeus thought that the Swedish word Tolk “interpreter” applied to this species, but in the local dialect the word means “legs” and is used for the redshank.

American crows? Uh-uh.

img_5432-2

I am feeling more confident I can tell the difference between an American Crow and a Fish Crow after two mornings in a row of a Fish Crow Convention, with attendees between 5 and 20 birds calling their uh-uhs from the Norfolk Island pine in our front yard.

img_5434-2

From my bird ID Bible, Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

Not everyone realizes it, but there are two kinds of crows across much of the eastern United States. Looking almost identical to the ubiquitous American Crow, Fish Crows are tough to identify until you learn their nasal calls. Look for them around bodies of water, usually in flocks and sometimes with American Crows. They are supreme generalists, eating just about anything they can find. Fish Crows have expanded their range inland and northward along major river systems in recent decades.

corv_ossi_allam_map

Fish Crows have a distinctive caw that is short, nasal and quite different-sounding from an American Crow. This call is sometimes doubled-up with an inflection similar to someone saying uh-uh.

img_5438-2

Size & Shape
Fish Crows fit the standard crow shape: hefty, well-proportioned birds with heavy bills, sturdy legs, and broad wings. At rest, Fish Crows’ wings fall short of their medium-length, square tails.

Color Pattern
Fish Crows are all black. Immatures are less glossy and can become brownish as their feathers wear in their first year.

Behavior
Fish Crows are very social birds—look for them in pairs in the breeding season and up to several hundred or more during migration or winter. When feeding and roosting they may mix with American Crows. When Fish Crows give their distinctive nasal calls from the ground, they often puff out their neck and body feathers, forming a distinctive, ragged ruff on the throat.

Fish crow, check! My 21st Florida bird photographed and ID’ed since we moved here Dec. 6, one month ago.

The dawn of 2017

img_5313-2

Made it just in time to see the first sunrise of 2017! That seems lucky.

Husband and I took the dog to Santa Lucea Beach on Hutchinson Island for his morning beach run, chasing the ball over and over. Fishermen were catching bluefish. People were taking photos of the sun and the ocean.

img_5341-2

It is so great to go to bed early and then get up early for the New Year. That’s how it is when you are 50-something.

img_5345-2

My first photographed birds of the New Year: grackles running around at the gas station.

img_5347-2

I fueled up and my husband got us some coffee. Here he is watching the birds while the birds watch him back.

img_5350-2

Common Grackles are blackbirds that look like they’ve been slightly stretched. They’re taller and longer tailed than a typical blackbird, with a longer, more tapered bill and glossy-iridescent bodies. Grackles walk around lawns and fields on their long legs or gather in noisy groups high in trees, typically evergreens.

Grackles are old friends of mine, ever since the day I made that wish that came true.

img_5379-2

We stopped at East Island under the bridge next, to rinse the sand off the dog with a swim in the Indian River Lagoon. I spotted this solo Willet.

These long-legged, straight-billed shorebirds feed along beaches, mudflats, and rocky shores. Willets are common on most of our coastline—learn to recognize them and they’ll make a useful stepping-stone to identifying other shorebirds.

img_5385-2

East Island under the Ernest Lyons Bridge, with John, Radar and a fisherman wearing one of those straw hats I want.

img_5395-2

Also at East Island, a Little Blue Heron.

img_5396-2

More gray and purple than blue, if you ask me.

img_5400-2

Morning light is so nice.

img_5402-2

Happy New Year to all my bird, dog, and human friends!

Tricolored heron

img_5244-2

Tricolored Heron in a pond by the golf course.

Audubon Field Guide…

On the southeastern coastal plain, the Tricolored Heron is a characteristic bird of quiet shallow waters. Strikingly slender, with long bill, neck, and legs, it is often seen wading belly-deep in coastal lagoons. Although it is solitary in its feeding, it is sociable in nesting, often in very large colonies with various other herons and egrets. Formerly known as Louisiana Heron.