Tag Archives: Hutchinson Island

In the pink

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We went for walk Saturday morning and I found a pink feather in the wrack line at Bathtub Reef Beach.

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The mystery feather had a likely source: Roseate Spoonbill.

We spotted this spoonbill overhead just across the street from Bathtub, along the boardwalk that passes through mangroves to small pier looking out over Sailfish Flats and the Indian River Lagoon.

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Wading bird in a tree? Well, they do roost at night and it was first thing in the morning.

The bird seemed just as surprised to see us.

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Great view of the bill that gives the spoonbill its name.

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Cool fact from All About Birds:

    Roseate Spoonbill chicks don’t have a spoon-shaped bill immediately after hatching. When they are 9 days old the bill starts to flatten, by 16 days it starts to look a bit more spoonlike, and by 39 days it is nearly full size.

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In keeping with their overall color scheme, their eyes are reddish pink too.

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Pink bird in morning sun.

The color comes from the foods they eat as they sweep their bills from side to side and sift for invertebrates, especially crustaceans like shrimp whose shells containing carotenoids that turn the spoonbill’s feathers pink.

Carotenoids, also called tetraterpenoids, are yellow, orange, and red organic pigments that are produced by plants and algae, as well as several bacteria and fungi. Carotenoids give the characteristic color to pumpkins, carrots, corn, tomatoes, canaries, flamingos, and daffodils.

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I have a spoonbill on my Florida license plate, like the sample above. It’s a specialty plate that donates to the Everglades Trust. The money is used for “conservation and protection of the natural resources and abatement of water pollution in the Everglades.”

More here: Florida Specialty Plate Everglades River of Grass.

Ruddy turnstone at Tiger Shores

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

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

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

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

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This bird retains its beautiful breeding plumage still.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

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

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

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

Amazing and adorable.

Surf-fishing cormorant

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Moody morning skies and tossing sea yesterday. Bird flies low.

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It’s a cormorant, landing in the churning surf.

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The gangly Double-crested Cormorant is a prehistoric-looking, matte-black fishing bird with yellow-orange facial skin. Though they look like a combination of a goose and a loon, they are relatives of frigatebirds and boobies and are a common sight around fresh and salt water across North America—perhaps attracting the most attention when they stand on docks, rocky islands, and channel markers, their wings spread out to dry. These solid, heavy-boned birds are experts at diving to catch small fish.

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This one was under water more than above water. Finally caught a fish, swallowed it, and flew off.

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Also spotted on Santa Lucea Beach yesterday morning: a flock of fishermen. I spoke with one of them. He said they were catching big bluefish. He said he cleans them, freezes them, and when he goes home to Michigan he has a big fish fry for 200 friends. Nice tradition!

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Looking south: a beach house, the House of Refuge tower, and a lone fisherman on the rocks.

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It was too rough to swim but Radar had fun chasing the ball in the sand. It rained on us a few minutes after this photo.