Tag Archives: Great Blue Heron

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.

Birds in a dog park

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Shrike a pose.

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Loggerhead Shrike at a dog park in Gulf Shores, Alabama yesterday morning, before our nine-hour drive back home.

American Bird Conservancy…

The husky, predatory Loggerhead Shrike is nicknamed “butcherbird” for its habit of skewering prey on thorns or barbed wire. “Loggerhead” refers to the large size of this bird’s head in relation to its body.

This shrike’s song is a bit like a mockingbird’s, featuring a series of raspy, buzzy notes and trills. Along with the bird, that song has become much less common. According to Breeding Bird Survey data, populations have declined by almost 80 percent since 1966. This trend coincides with the introduction of chemical pesticides in the United States.

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Great Blue Heron on the shores of Shelby Lake which bounds one edge of the dog park in Gulf State Park.

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Consider me aware.

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Radar had fun, before the long ride.

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LBH lift-off.

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Relocating a few yards away.

Shorebirds along the shore

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This may be the first time I’ve seen this shorebird, the Killdeer, actually along the shore. It’s usually golf courses or parking lots or road medians.

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We arrived late this afternoon at our beach rental in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Little Lagoon behind, Gulf beach across the street in front, and quite close to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. I ran right out to the lagoon to take a few photos before dark.

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It’s not breeding season but these two Killdeer were very flirty with each other.

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.

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Great Blue Heron was chilling out.

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Speaking of chilling, there were some dead fish (mullet?) on the beach. I think it is because there was a hard freeze here last night. The weather has been unusually cold all over the east coast.

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Lovebirds?

They were chasing each other constantly.

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Often seen in dry, flat landscapes, running and halting on the ground in search of insects and earthworms. Although the Killdeer is common around human habitation it is often shy, at first running away rather than flying. When a Killdeer stops to look at an intruder, it has a habit of bobbing up and down almost as if it had hiccupped. Near the nest, Killdeer distract predators by calling loudly, bobbing, and running away. Killdeer are some of the best-known practitioners of the broken-wing display, an attempt to lure predators away from a nest by feigning injury. Pairs of Killdeer tend to stay together for one to a few years.

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Killdeer have the characteristic large, round head, large eye, and short bill of all plovers. They are especially slender and lanky, with a long, pointed tail and long wings.

Brownish-tan on top and white below. The white chest is barred with two black bands, and the brown face is marked with black and white patches.

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They are members of the Plover and Lapwing family, Charadriidae.

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Cold fish.

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Lagoon view.

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Double band on the chest is distinctive, almost distinguished… if they weren’t so busy robbing and running and calling kill-deer, kill-deer!

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John James Audubon…

The Kildeer is by most people called a “noisy bird and restless.” Now to me it is any thing but this, unless indeed when it is disturbed by the approach or appearance of its enemies, more particularly man, of whom indeed few wild birds are fond. Watch them from under some cover that completely conceals you, and you will see them peaceably and silently follow their avocations for hours. In this respect the Kildeer resembles the Lapwing of Europe, which is also called a restless and noisy bird, because men and dogs are ever in pursuit of the poor thing, which after all its vigilance often falls a prey to the sportsman, who condemns it merely because it endeavours to draw him from its nest or young.

Strike a pose

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Great Blue Heron is a big bird, from three-and-a-half to almost five feet tall, with a six-foot wingspan. They hold still for photos too.

The feathery “ruff” around this one’s neck indicates it’s an adult.

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I saw the GBH today at the little pond across the street from the Sewall’s Point town hall. The Indian River Lagoon is just beyond those mangroves.

Cool, rainy and windy weather… with a cold snap to follow.

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A beak that stabs like a dagger. En garde, fishes and amphibians!

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Also by the pond, a lone Palm Warbler.

Boating near Bird Island

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Ahoy, a Magnificent Frigatebird. My husband loves these birds.

This one is immature, according to the ID photos on Cornell’s All About Birds.

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A Brown Pelican!

Boy, you don’t see many of those around here.  😉

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We borrowed a 21-foot center console fishing boat from our boat club down in Port Salerno. Radar our 20-month-old German Shepherd Dog came with us.

After trying a few fishing spots unsuccessfully, we pulled up on on a deserted island, swam the dog (he loves to fetch a ball), then we motored past Bird Island to see the sights.

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The sights included Roseate Spoonbills and I finally got a few photos.

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Pretty in pink! Here’s one with a Great Blue Heron. I spotted a total of three.

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Bird Island is a spoil island in the Indian River Lagoon, created years ago (1950s? 1960s?) from dredging the Intracoastal Waterway. Mangroves grew on it and birds began nesting here.

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A bizarre wading bird of the southern coasts, the Roseate Spoonbill uses its odd bill to strain small food items out of the water. Its bright pink coloring leads many Florida tourists to think they have seen a flamingo.

The spoonbill is Florida bird #53 for me.

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But the coolest thing was seeing baby Wood Storks!

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Just across the channel is the town of Sewall’s Point, Florida. This house is closest to Bird Island. If I lived there I’d be out on one of the balconies every day with binoculars… or maybe I’d even invest in a scope.

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Do not pester the birds. We didn’t.

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Radar was bird watching too.

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According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife North Florida Ecological Office…

The wood stork is a highly colonial species usually nesting in large rookeries and feeding in flocks.  Age at first breeding is 3 years but typically do so at 4.  Nesting periods vary geographically.  In South Florida, wood storks lay eggs as early as October and fledge in February or March.  However, in north and central Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, storks lay eggs from March to late May, with fledging occurring in July and August.  Nests are frequently located in the upper branches of large cypress trees or in mangroves on islands.  Several nests are usually located in each tree.  Wood storks have also nested in man-made structures.  Storks lay two to five eggs, and average two young fledged per successful nest under good conditions.

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Small fish from 1 to 6 inches long, especially topminnows and sunfish, provide this bird’s primary diet.  Wood storks capture their prey by a specialized technique known as grope-feeding or tacto-location. Feeding often occurs in water 6 to 10 inches deep, where a stork probes with the bill partly open.  When a fish touches the bill it quickly snaps shut.  The average response time of this reflex is 25 milliseconds, making it one of the fastest reflexes known in vertebrates.  Wood storks use thermals to soar as far as 80 miles from nesting to feeding areas.  Since thermals do not form in early morning, wood storks may arrive at feeding areas later than other wading bird species such as herons.  Energy requirements for a pair of nesting wood storks and their young is estimated at 443 pounds of fish for the breeding season (based on an average production of 2.25 fledglings per nest).

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A birdy place.

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A Wood Stork, Mycteria americana.