Lawn ornaments

IMG_7250-2

Some lawns have plastic pink flamingos.

IMG_7251-2

Others have Great Egrets.

IMG_7254-2

I see them sometimes when I’m out walking, and they’re out stalking.

IMG_7258-2

Egret crossing.

IMG_7259-2

Sewall’s Point is a nice place for birds.

IMG_7261-2

Walk this way.

Walking with egret

img_6853-2

Observe and learn from the Great Egret.

img_6855-2

On a windy day, avoid open areas at water’s edge and take a walk along the well-vegetated roads of Sewall’s Point.

img_6856-2

Again today, and for the past several days, we have winds sustained at 20 mph and gusting to 25 or 30. It really musses one’s hair and feathers.

img_6857-2

What a pretty feather-butt.

The pristinely white Great Egret gets even more dressed up for the breeding season. A patch of skin on its face turns neon green, and long plumes grow from its back. Called aigrettes, those plumes were the bane of egrets in the late nineteenth century, when such adornments were prized for ladies’ hats.

Much nicer to have a moment or two with the living bird. A few photos, to preserve and share, will be the feather in my cap.

img_6860-2

We walked next to each other for a minute or two, on River Road.

img_6863-2

Then the egret turned to walk into the woods on a vacant lot with waterfront along the St. Lucie River.

On this western side of Sewall’s Point is a ridge of high land, a “backbone” extending the length of the peninsula. The natural vegetation here is tropical hardwood hammock.

Tropical hardwood hammocks are closed canopy forests, dominated by a diverse assemblage of evergreen and semi-deciduous tree and shrub species, mostly of West Indian origin.

And…

Tropical hardwood hammocks are found nearly throughout the southern half of South Florida, with large concentrations in Dade County on the Miami Rock Ridge, in Dade and Monroe counties in the Florida Keys and along the northern shores of Florida Bay, and in the Pinecrest region of the Big Cypress Swamp. Analogous communities are also found in the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles (Robertson 1955). Most maritime hammocks on barrier islands in South Florida are similar to this community. Large areas of tropical hardwood hammocks are still found in Everglades NP and Biscayne NP in Dade County, throughout the Florida Keys in Monroe County, and in Big Cypress National Preserve in Collier County. Tropical hardwood hammocks also persist in small preserves along the Atlantic coastal strip from Dade County north to Martin County.

Martin County, that’s us.

img_6867-2

Good-bye, bird. Thank you for walking with me.

Birds at Lakeside Ranch STA

img_6408-2

Good morning, Lakeside Ranch STA (Stormwater Treatment Area).

I signed in at the gate with the president of Audubon of Martin County bright and early yesterday morning and joined a few other cars driving around here and there on the narrow roads on top of the dikes in the 2600 acres under the care of the South Florida Water Management District.

Lakeside Ranch STA is located on the northeast side of Lake Okeechobee, about 50 minutes from my home in Sewall’s Point.

img_6409-2

Great Blue Heron in the misty morn.

img_6410-2

Peaceful and pretty. Temps around 57 when I arrived at 7 a.m., climbing to 75 or so by the time I left at 10:30.

img_6424-2

Sandhill Crane flyby.

img_6425-2

Another birdwatcher.

IMG_6460-2.jpg

Great Egret and Great Blue Heron.

img_6531-2

Anhinga keeping an eye on me.

img_6477-2

Tri-colored Heron hunting for breakfast.

img_6486-2

Snowy Egret and  juvenile night heron.

IMG_6532-2.jpg

Little Blue Heron and Tricolored Heron.

img_6526-2

Rotten photo but I’ve been seeing these birds in Florida and didn’t know what they were. Audubon president helped me ID it as a Palm Warbler. “Yellow butt? Brown capped head? Wagging tail?”

The rusty-capped Palm Warbler can be most easily recognized by the tail-wagging habit that shows off its yellow undertail. It breeds in bogs and winters primarily in the southern United States and Caribbean.

img_6502-2

Voguing grackles. Or maybe males having a sing off? I am pretty sure these are Boat-tailed Grackles.

Boat-tailed Grackles are large, lanky songbirds with rounded crowns, long legs, and fairly long, pointed bills. Males have very long tails that make up almost half their body length and that they typically hold folded in a V-shape, like the keel of a boat.

Males are glossy black all over. Females are dark brown above and russet below, with a subtle face pattern made up of a pale eyebrow, dark cheek, and pale “mustache” stripe.

These scrappy blackbirds are supreme omnivores, feeding on everything from seeds and human food scraps to crustaceans scavenged from the shoreline.

Boat-tailed Grackles are a strictly coastal species through most of their range; however, they live across much of the Florida peninsula, often well away from the immediate coast.

img_6539-2

Is it a duck?

IMG_6446-2.jpg

Or a wading bird? Neither… it’s a Common Gallinule!

The Common Gallinule inhabits marshes and ponds from Canada to Chile. Vocal and boldly marked with a brilliant red shield over the bill, the species can be quite conspicuous. It sometimes uses its long toes to walk atop floating vegetation. This species was formerly called the Common Moorhen and is closely related to moorhen species in the Old World.

img_6548-2

Red-winged Blackbird.

img_6480-2

Killdeer.

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.

img_6554-2

Let these dead trees be decorated with Anhingas!

img_6569-2

Aw, sweet. Two Great Blue Herons starting a nest in a cabbage palm.

img_6586-2

My first Eastern Meadowlark!

The sweet, lazy whistles of Eastern Meadowlarks waft over summer grasslands and farms in eastern North America. The birds themselves sing from fenceposts and telephone lines or stalk through the grasses, probing the ground for insects with their long, sharp bills. On the ground, their brown-and-black dappled upperparts camouflage the birds among dirt clods and dry grasses. But up on perches, they reveal bright-yellow underparts and a striking black chevron across the chest.

img_6592-2

Juvenile White Ibis strikes a pose.

img_6604-2

Cattle Egret, that chunky little white egret found near or away from water. Often seen (by me) on top of shrubs planted in medians.

img_6615-2

Anhinga draws attention to an important road sign.

img_6618-2

Great Blue Heron pose.

img_6635-2

Alligator smile.

img_6639-2

There were five gators in this one spot.

img_6597-2

View across a small canal to another birdwatcher’s car.

img_6647-2

Blackbird (grackle?) draws attention to this important sign.

img_6632-2

Cattle and cattle egrets, just past the edge of the STA.

img_6650-2

Sandhill Crane, maybe on top of the beginnings of a nest.

IMG_6662-2.jpg

Glossy Ibis.

A dark wading bird with a long, down-curved bill. Although the Glossy Ibis in North America lives primarily along the Atlantic Coast, it also can be found in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

IMG_6668-2.jpg

Blurry pic because it was far away, but with important identifying features. I described this bird to the Audubon president when I got back to the gate and he said it was a Loggerhead Shrike. Another new bird!

The Loggerhead Shrike is a songbird with a raptor’s habits. A denizen of grasslands and other open habitats throughout much of North America, this masked black, white, and gray predator hunts from utility poles, fence posts and other conspicuous perches, preying on insects, birds, lizards, and small mammals. Lacking a raptor’s talons, Loggerhead Shrikes skewer their kills on thorns or barbed wire or wedge them into tight places for easy eating. Their numbers have dropped sharply in the last half-century.

At the end of January, I attended a couple of days of a local Audubon Field Academy. I am signed up next to do a day with raptors at a local wildlife rehab center, then a unit on migration at the end of March. More field trips are on the calendar too.

Meanwhile, back to fixing up this little old Florida concrete-block-and-stucco house. I am painting the last of the three bedrooms today before the wood floor installation guys arrive tomorrow.

Egret on the doorstep

img_5743-2

Ding dong, Great Egret calling!

img_5747-2

Do you have any lizards today? I am tired of little fish.

img_5748-2

I like to walk around people’s yards in Sewall’s Point sometimes to supplement my diet. Variety is the spice of life.

img_5749-2

Lizard, yum!

A Christmas visitor

img_5162-2

Crappy photo but a cool thing that happened this Christmas morning. A Great Egret landed in our little backyard, who knows why.

It also happens to be my first truly backyard bird since we moved to Florida. And what a bird!

img_5163-2

It flew off when I tried to get a pic outside of the screened porch.

img_5163-1-2

The elegant Great Egret is a dazzling sight in many a North American wetland. Slightly smaller and more svelte than a Great Blue Heron, these are still large birds with impressive wingspans. They hunt in classic heron fashion, standing immobile or wading through wetlands to capture fish with a deadly jab of their yellow bill. Great Egrets were hunted nearly to extinction for their plumes in the late nineteenth century, sparking conservation movements and some of the first laws to protect birds.

img_5159-2

Here is a better picture of a Great Egret I spotted this morning while walking over the bridge to Hutchinson Island.

Now the bird part of my day is done. Husband, daughters and I just opened gifts and we are getting ready for a trip to the beach, then a dinner of ham, baked macaroni and cheese, spaghetti squash, and a delightful Bahamian rum drink called a Goombay Smash.

Merry Christmas!

Keeping an eye on Hampton marsh

img_3223

First thing we noticed, bird-wise, on our walk in Hampton marsh yesterday was the enormous flock(s) of crows swirling around and making a ruckus. This photo captures about a quarter of the number we saw (and heard).

Why were they there? It looked like a big crow meet up.

img_3227

It’s a great place for a dog walk, with the long, straight path of the old rail line cutting right through the marsh. Except Radar doesn’t like to walk across the scary old bridge so he swims and meets us on the other side.

img_3231

Crows everywhere, keeping an eye on us. Keen students of human activity that they are.

img_3232

We also saw several lone sandpipers… Greater Yellowlegs.

img_3250

John and Radar on the path, with crows watching.

img_3255

Greater Yellowlegs keeps an eye on the sky. (Later we saw two Bald Eagles a few miles away, when we stopped for lunch at Applecrest Farm in Hampton Falls.)

img_3257

The two yellowlegs species are very similar. Size is marked different when they appear together and can be compared against each other. Greater Yellowlegs‘s bill appears slightly upturned and blunt-tipped, while Lesser Yellowlegs’s bill is straight and sharp-pointed. Lesser’s bill is always dark, while Greater’s bill is grayish at the base in nonbreeding season. Voice is best distinguishing character: Greater gives three or four piercing notes, Lesser two rapid, softer short whistles (sometimes or or three).

This bird was calling, and definitely with three piercing notes.

img_3262

Although the Greater Yellowlegs is common and widespread, its low densities and tendency to breed in inhospitable, mosquito-ridden muskegs make it one of the least-studied shorebirds on the continent.

Heh.

img_3265

Blink!

img_3268

A very sweet looking bird, if you ask me.

img_3269

Greater Yellowlegs takes off. Marsh is getting its October colors.

We saw egrets and herons from a distance, but my photos weren’t great. Here are a couple of pics from a few weeks ago in the same marsh…

gbh

Great Blue Heron.

ge

Great Egret.

Hello, I’m back

IMG_1005

Great Egret goes fishing, in Stuart, Florida.

I was in Florida for a few weeks and I have been a slacker when it comes to keeping up with the blog. And I have some nice bird pics from the Sunshine State too.

Home now, and the bluebirds are nesting in the bluebird box…

IMG_1056.jpg

Will she lay another or will there be just two baby bluebirds? The nest is made of pine needles, with a bit of feather down fluff for added insulation.

IMG_1060

Chickadees come to the feeder even when I am standing right next to it, the bold ones.

Fishing in East Boston

DSC00218

Great Egret fishing in East Boston near the airport.

DSC00225

For our 28th anniversary, my husband and I were staying at the Hyatt Boston Harbor – with great views across the harbor to the city. We got around by water taxi and explored the waterfront and North End (delicious dinner at Bacco). We also went on a Duck Tour with our youngest daughter, a college student in Boston with a summer job there too.

DSC00229

My husband (an airline captain) got back to Logan Airport from a trip at 3 a.m. and met me at the hotel. I was first up that morning, so I took a stroll on the Harborwalk and watched this elegant bird, among other things.

DSC00231

A lovely member of the bittern and heron family, Aredeidae, in the order Pelicaniformes – it’s amazing how white this Great Egret’s feathers stayed even while wading Boston Harbor at muddy low tide.

A visit to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center

great egret head

Ardea alba, the Great Egret, on the roof of an aviary for injured birds at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center in Tavernier, Florida.

I visited last Friday afternoon, during a three-and-a-half day trip to the Sunshine State. Here is a Flickr photo album of the bird center.

broad winged hawk

Beautiful bird.

There were 4 or 5 Broad-winged Hawks, mostly with wing injuries. One was missing an eye.

A boardwalk led visitors among the different enclosures. Turkey vultures and hawks were segregated with their own kind, but the shorebirds were all together in several large enclosures.

sad turkey vulture

Sad Turkey Vulture.

The enclosures were large and airy (outdoors) and very clean. This place seems well-run and well-cared for. The only other person I saw while I was there, besides one staff person, was a man with one leg, another visitor.

fuzz head

The path among the aviaries ends at the Florida Bay, where I sat on a bench among a bunch of Brown Pelicans and watched White ibises dipping their beaks into the mud in the mangroves.

A sanctuary for healthy as well as injured birds, it seems.

owl1

Big yellow eyes. This Great Horned Owl is one of the permanent residents due to injuries.

our history

Three cheers for Bird Ladies, especially this one.

The Florida Keys Wild Bird Center (The Center) is a not for profit 501(c) 3 conservation organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of native and migratory wild birds that have been harmed or displaced, to providing or locating a humane shelter for those birds that cannot be released, and to educating the public toward the importance of coexistence with all wild bird species.

preen

Impractical but pretty feathers, grown by the Great Egret in breeding season. This bird kept appearing just ahead of me during my hour long visit, posing it almost seemed.

The Great Egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society, one of the oldest environmental organizations in North America. Audubon was founded to protect birds from being killed for their feathers.

wing

Poof, a small gust of wind and the nuptial plumes were a mess.

The pristinely white Great Egret gets even more dressed up for the breeding season. A patch of skin on its face turns neon green, and long plumes grow from its back. Called aigrettes, those plumes were the bane of egrets in the late nineteenth century, when such adornments were prized for ladies’ hats.

I have more photos from my trip and will make a couple more albums, when I get around to it.

roof moon egret

Great Egret on the roof, with the moon.

More than 95 percent of the Great Egrets in North America were killed for their plumes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Plume-hunting was banned, for the most part, around 1910, and Great Egret populations quickly began to recover.

egret moon