Tag Archives: Great Blue Heron

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.

Causeway birds – January

Ospreys always overhead. Every day.

This one was soaring above one of our favorite spots, “the causeway.” It’s a park under the west side of the Ernest Lyons Bridge that crosses the Indian River Lagoon, connecting Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island. We can walk there from home. It’s a favorite spot to throw the ball for the dog and watch birds, fish, boats, fishermen and windsurfers.

We are the watchers. The walkers and watchers.

Here’s a bird we watched.

A Great Blue Heron was standing in shallows on the north side.

This bird can strike a pose. Vogue Heron.

It is showing some blue coloring near its eye and some long dark plumes on its head. Its legs are turning a darker color too. Mating season ahoy.

Spotted from afar, a Spotted Sandpiper. I moved slowly closer.

These are the most widespread sandpipers in North America, but not super common around here as far as I can tell. They migrate north for their summer mating season.

The tail bobbing movement of this bird is distinctive, and caught my eye while I was watching this one and trying to ID it.

From Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

  • Its characteristic teetering motion has earned the Spotted Sandpiper many nicknames. Among them are teeter-peep, teeter-bob, jerk or perk bird, teeter-snipe, and tip-tail.
  • The function of the teetering motion typical of this species has not been determined. Chicks teeter nearly as soon as they hatch from the egg. The teetering gets faster when the bird is nervous, but stops when the bird is alarmed, aggressive, or courting.

I tallied the birds I watched on this day and submitted an e-Bird checklist here: Amy Kane January 3 Ernest Lyons Bridge 7 species

I think I’ll check in at this spot once a month this year, and keep an eye on the birds close to home.

That includes our winter friends the vultures, like this Black Vulture on a causeway lamppost.

“I think the most important quality in a birdwatcher is a willingness to stand quietly and see what comes. Our everyday lives obscure a truth about existence – that at the heart of everything there lies a stillness and a light.” – Lynn Thomson

Haney Creek East

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I often wander the Haney Creek North section but a few days ago I finally explored “East” shown on the map above highlighted in yellow. It’s located in Stuart, Florida north of the St. Lucie River.

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A trail leads away from the pull-off area along Dixie Highway.

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We can thank Stuart City Commissioner Jeffrey Krauskopf for helping save this land from development. There is a freshwater marsh on the right hand side here, and brackish swamp with mangroves on the other.

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An Osprey rested on top of a pine tree.

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Enjoy this good bird news: Ospreys Have Made a Remarkable Recovery

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Blue flag? It used to bloom by our New Hampshire pond in spring. I didn’t know it grew in this part of Florida.

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Boardwalk with plenty of cautionary signs.

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Got a good look at a young Little Blue Heron. Yes, they start off as Little White Herons.

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Little white.

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Maple? Also haven’t noticed that around here. Maybe swamp maple… which also grew by our old pond 1400 miles north of here.

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Palm Warbler in the trees.

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Unless you live in Canada, spring, fall, and winter are your best times to see Palm Warblers. They spend the winters in the Caribbean and in a narrow strip along the southeastern United States and occasionally along the West Coast. They’re a fairly common early migrant across much of the East, reaching New England by mid-to-late April. They start slowly heading south in late August.

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Weedy fields, forest edges, and scrubby areas are great places to look for them during migration and winter. Look through groups of birds foraging on the ground—they’re often with sparrows, juncos, and Yellow-rumped Warblers—so watch for their characteristic tail wagging to pull them out of the crowd. They also forage in low shrubs and isolated trees in open areas, where they sometimes sally out for insects like a flycatcher. Palm Warblers typically aren’t skittish, so if you find one, you should have enough time to get a good look.

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I like the way the light hit the bird’s eye in this shot.

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Also spotted a Downy Woodpecker, near the southern end of its range too.

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View walking back on the boardwalk over freshwater.

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Great Egret.

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Great Blue Heron, with “civilization” beyond.

GBH nest

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“Honey, I’m home!”

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My husband and I watched a pair of Great Blue Herons yesterday, on a nest in a cypress tree in a man-made pond near the Green River Parkway in Jensen Beach.

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It seems a bit early for nesting season, but I suppose these birds know what they’re doing.

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Funny to see these big wading birds up in a tree. They are the largest herons in North America.

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Male Great Blue Herons collect much of the nest material, gathering sticks from the ground and nearby shrubs and trees, and from unguarded and abandoned nests, and presenting them to the female. She weaves a platform and a saucer-shaped nest cup, lining it with pine needles, moss, reeds, dry grass, mangrove leaves, or small twigs. Nest building can take from 3 days up to 2 weeks; the finished nest can range from a simple platform measuring 20 inches across to more elaborate structures used over multiple years, reaching 4 feet across and nearly 3.5 feet deep.

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Like other herons they often breed in colonies, with many other nests and pairs nearby, but these two appeared to be alone.

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Beautiful plumage.

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It was a sunny day, warming into the lower 70s. It felt good after a few cold, windy days.

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Some wings!

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.

 

October Big Day

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American Redstart at Possum Long Nature Preserve in the city of Stuart yesterday morning.

I joined a field trip organized by Audubon of Martin County. We didn’t see too many birds, even though migration is underway. Also, fifteen people trying to sneak up on birds is kind of a lot.

But we did learn more about the history of the nature preserve and the good spots and individual trees for seeing birds.

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A few years ago, the edges of the freshwater ponds at Possum Long were cleaned up and restored. Wading birds like the Great Blue Heron are finding their way there, slowly but surely.

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Warbler watchers.

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The American Redstart rarely holds still!

Here is our checklist, posted by group leader Robin Potvin: Oct 6 Possum Long.

Yesterday was the first October Global Big Day.  I decided to contribute a bit more and popped over to the south end of Hutchinson Island to watch birds for half an hour at Sailfish Flats in late morning.

Here is my CHECKLIST for that. Note to self: go at low tide next time, so there are birds on the sandbars too.

It was neat to spot a migrating Peregrine Falcon but I had the most fun watching a couple of kingfishers chasing each other and screaming their raucous calls.

Later in the afternoon I was in my backyard with the dog and spotted a pair of Bald Eagles high overhead, moving just fast enough to the southeast that I knew I had no time to run inside and grab my camera, just enough time to watch and enjoy.

 

 

Wake up, birds!

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Good morning, night heron.

I saw this  juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron on the mud flats by the Snook Nook bait and tackle shop in Jensen Beach the other morning.

This location is within my 5-mile “local bird” radius. (More on 5MR birding HERE at the Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds blog.)

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I like the pattern of little triangles on the feathers.

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The pier behind the bait and tackle shop is a popular resting spot for a variety of Indian River Lagoon birds. Great Blue Heron wades below.

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Gulls and White Ibis.

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These Laughing Gulls seem to be just waking up.

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Tern hanging with the gulls. I think it’s a Sandwich Tern because the bill is dark and maybe tipped with yellow. The light isn’t great for getting the colors, but Royal Terns have orange bills that are pretty bright.

A bird of marine coasts of the southeastern United States and the Caribbean, the Sandwich Tern is readily identified by its shaggy crest and yellow-tipped black bill.

One of my summer bird goals is to learn more terns.

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Bird holding still. Always good for my level of photography skill!

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Yo! Does this night heron need a cup of coffee or what?

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.

Bird Island bird spies

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Ahoy, Bird Island!

Four of us old friends, aboard a 21-foot Hurricane deck boat nicknamed “Little Tanny” for the color of its canopy, went exploring yesterday.

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We stayed outside these signs that mark the boundary of the rookery/ bird sanctuary on an island in the Indian River Lagoon just to the east of Sewall’s Point, FL.

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Arrow points to the location of the little island full of birds.

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Roseate Spoonbills caught our attention with their bright pink wings.

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According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

The flamboyant Roseate Spoonbill looks like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with its bright pink feathers, red eye staring out from a partly bald head, and giant spoon-shaped bill. Groups sweep their spoonbills through shallow fresh or salt waters snapping up crustaceans and fish.

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Brown Pelican and spoonbill.

  • Roseate Spoonbills get their pink coloration from the foods they eat. Crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates contain pigments called carotenoids that help turn their feathers pink.

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Bird Island is a special place… for birds with preposterous bills.

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Roseate Spoonbills nest in colonies with egrets, ibises, and herons, typically on islands or over standing water. They nest in mangroves, Brazilian pepperbush, willows, sea myrtle, and other shrubs near the water. They tend to put their nests in the shadiest part of the tree or shrub, up to 16 feet high.

They lay 1 to 5 eggs, incubate them for 22 days, and the chicks stay in the nest for 35 to 42 days. There are just a few spoonbills on Bird Island right now.

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A mild chaos of comings and goings. Wood storks are nesting in greatest numbers.

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Yesterday morning, on a walk before boating, I got lots of photos (like this one) of Wood Storks that had flown the short hop from Bird Island to Sewall’s Point to break off branches for nesting material. (I will post those photos later.)

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Wood Stork in flight.

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Wood Storks showing off their best side.

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Next: a very exciting find, spotted by Lisa, a Reddish Egret, a first for me!

A medium to large heron of shallow salt water, the Reddish Egret comes in a dark and a white form. It is a very active forager, often seen running, jumping, and spinning in its pursuit of fish.

And…

There is little information on Reddish Egret population trends or numbers, but the species appears to be declining. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates a continental population of 6,000-10,000 breeding birds, rates the species about a 15 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and lists it as a Species of Moderate Concern. Reddish Egret is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action.

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John maneuvered the boat around to the northwest side of the island and we spotted a few Magnificent Frigatebirds, usually seen soaring high over the beach or ocean.

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This appears to be a nesting pair.

Males have a bright red pouch on the throat, which they inflate like a balloon to attract females. Females unlike most other seabirds look different than males with their white chest.

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The frigate bird with a white head is a juvenile.

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Frigatebirds, wood storks, cormorants… this mangrove tree has it all going on.

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  • The breeding period of the Magnificent Frigatebird is exceptionally long. Males and females incubate the eggs for around 56 days, and once hatched, chicks don’t leave the nest until they are about 167 days old. Even after they leave the nest, females continue to feed them until they are one year old.

Each pair only lays one egg.
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Not sure if this is a male or female. Maybe it is incubating an egg and the mate is away feeding.

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Magnificent Frigatebirds eat primarily flying fish, tuna, herring, and squid, which they grab from the surface of the water without getting wet. They also eat plankton, crabs, jellyfish, and other items on the surface of the water including discarded fish from fishing boats.

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The young ‘un.

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Frigatebirds soar effortlessly over the ocean rarely flapping their long, pterodactyl-like wings and using the long tail to steer. Though they are frequently seen soaring, they are masters of pursuit. They chase other birds including frigatebirds, forcing them to regurgitate their recent meal, which they scoop up before it hits the water. Their gracefulness ends as soon as they head towards land, where they awkwardly perch in low shrubs and trees. Their strong toes help them hold onto branches, posts, and boat masts, but their small feet in combination with their short legs makes it nearly impossible for them to walk on land. On land, males often flutter the balloonlike throat sac (or “gular pouch”) to cool off. Males and females also regulate their body temperature by holding up their wings up to sun themselves. To get airborne, they flap a few times and use the wind to help lift them into the air.

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Meanwhile, a few branches away, Wood Storks are cuddling.

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They almost make this Great Blue Heron look small.

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Wood Storks and Magnificent Frigatebirds.

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We watched these birds for a while then traveled south to Peck Lake and the Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge and later up the St. Lucie River to downtown Stuart. Lots of boat traffic but it was still a nice way to spend a day on the water.

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Last bird I photographed on Bird Island: an Anhinga.

 

Bird Island from a boat

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Roseate Spoonbill on Bird Island yesterday.

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Must look good for breeding season.

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Great Blue Heron.

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Big feet on that bird.

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We borrowed a boat from our boat club in Manatee Pocket yesterday and took a ride up the Indian River Lagoon to the rookery just off Sewall’s Point known as Bird Island.

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It is Wood Stork nesting season. They appear to still be building nests. I have not seen chicks yet.

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The Snowy Egrets are in breeding plumage and acting flirty.

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Showing off.

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I have never seen them like this.

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Always surprising the variety of breeds sharing space on this island.

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My sister and brother-in-law were in town and we all watched birds from the boat.

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Incoming Wood Stork.

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A rather skull-like head.

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Wood Stork with wings up.

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Roseate Spoonbill again.

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Lots of Brown Pelicans on the island now too.