Falcon migration

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Peregrine falcons were migrating south along the beach a couple of days ago.

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I saw a post on the Audubon of Martin County Facebook page about a pair of birders counting 40 or 50 of them on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 4 near the House of Refuge. I was heading out to Hutchinson Island anyway in the early afternoon so I stopped by for 10 or 15 minutes.

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One after another, peregrine falcons were coming along the beach. Flap, flap, flap, glide. They were faced into the fierce onshore wind, both battling and using the gusts.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Powerful and fast-flying, the Peregrine Falcon hunts medium-sized birds, dropping down on them from high above in a spectacular stoop. They were virtually eradicated from eastern North America by pesticide poisoning in the middle 20th century. After significant recovery efforts, Peregrine Falcons have made an incredible rebound and are now regularly seen in many large cities and coastal areas.

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Also saw a few Frigatebirds. There have been more around lately, with our easterly winds.

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Such a distinctive shape.

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Next stop was a little further north on the island to Florida Oceanographic Society where I joined a workshop on Seagrass Collecting.

The F.O.S.T.E.R. program relies on community-based restoration efforts to restore seagrass habitat. With a growing volunteer base, F.O.S.T.E.R. restores seagrass by collecting and growing seagrass fragments in nurseries, constructing seagrass planting units, and transplanting living seagrass into the estuary.

We headed out to Stuart Beach to collect, in strong winds.

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We saw more falcons while we were there. Weirdly exciting!

Audubon.org:

One of the world’s fastest birds; in power-diving from great heights to strike prey, the Peregrine may possibly reach 200 miles per hour. Regarded by falconers and biologists alike as one of the noblest and most spectacular of all birds of prey.

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.

Sanderling walk

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What bird is this?

I parked at Santa Lucea Beach on Hutchinson Island and walked south around 1 p.m. yesterday.

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A sandpiper doing that sandpiper thing.

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Sandpiper sees seashell down by the seashore.

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This was a Sanderling, I discovered.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Sanderling:

The Sanderling’s black legs blur as it runs back and forth on the beach, picking or probing for tiny prey in the wet sand left by receding waves. Sanderlings are medium-sized “peep” sandpipers recognizable by their pale nonbreeding plumage, black legs and bill, and obsessive wave-chasing habits.

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Hard not to sift and sort through all these pretty shells, but I didn’t want to fill my pockets and I did want to find some birds.

The strange rocks along this Treasure Coast beach are part of the Anastasia Formation. It is “is composed of interbedded sands and coquina limestones. The formation is an orangish brown, soft to moderately hard, coquina of whole and fragmented mollusk shells within sand often cemented by sparry calcite.”

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Just out past the breakers, a man in a boat. Not a calm day, but it seems it is often breezy and rough offshore here. Keep going straight east out past that boat and you’d get to the northernmost island in the Bahamas, Walker Cay, about 100 miles out into the Atlantic, I’d guess.

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Dead crab. Pretty colors.

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A Magnificent Frigatebird flew north past me.

A long-winged, fork-tailed bird of tropical oceans, the Magnificent Frigatebird is an agile flier that snatches food off the surface of the ocean and steals food from other birds.

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Coming out of an incomplete swooping dive.

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I saw five or six Sanderlings on my walk, all of them alone.

Audubon Field Guide, Sanderling Diet:

Mostly sand crabs and other invertebrates. Feeds on a wide variety of small creatures on beach, including sand crabs, amphipods, isopods, insects, marine worms, small mollusks; also may eat some carrion. Wintering birds on southern coasts may eat corn chips and other junk food left by people. In spring, may feed heavily on eggs of horseshoe crab. On tundra, feeds mostly on flies and other insects, also some seeds, algae, and leaves.

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Okay, I did pick up the pink one.

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The beach was not a busy place on a cloudy Thursday in December.

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Cornell Lab: “The Sanderling is one of the world’s most widespread shorebirds. Though they nest only in the High Arctic, in fall and winter you can find them on nearly all temperate and tropical sandy beaches throughout the world.”

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Sweet solitary Sanderling stands still on Anastasia rock.

A Sanderling is a movie star. Audubon.org: Behind the Scenes of Piper, Pixar’s New Short Film

Sanderlings spend a lot of time in the ocean, scuttling in and out of the water in search of tiny invertebrates buried in the sand. Even downy hatchlings must immediately learn to fend for themselves and feed between unrelenting waves. So the last thing any Sanderling needs is a crippling phobia of the ocean. But such is the lot of the young heroine in Pixar’s newest short, Piper. Directed by Alan Barillaro, the six-minute film preceding Finding Dory concerns the trials of a young chick as she conquers her natural habitat, and greatest fear.

The idea came to Barillaro during his morning jogs in the Bay Area, where he would see hordes of the little speckled birds scampering to feed amidst giant kelp, resembling little wind-up toys. He found this collective feeding frenzy charming, but he couldn’t quite shake his impression that these shorebirds were afraid of, well, the shore.
To create Piper, Barillaro and his entire team entered the Sanderlings’ world. They spent weekends on beaches all over the Bay Area, meeting at 5 a.m. on a dusty road under a bridge in search of the birds. “Half of us were chasing around different beaches and calling each other on cell phones until we found a flock we could get close to,” Barillaro says. “It became this treasure hunt.”

 

Some birds of Pacific coast Costa Rica

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The first bird I saw in Costa Rica was… a grackle! Great-tailed Grackles were zooming around just outside the airport in Liberia, C.R.

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At our condo in Tamarindo, a White-winged Dove was nesting on the fourth-floor balcony.

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And howler monkeys were hanging around in the trees just outside.IMG_9951

Pacific Ocean and beach across the street.

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Magnificent Frigatebird above.

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Great Kiskadees were nesting on the rooftops of the condo.

We saw a lot of them in Costa Rica. They live as far north as south Texas.

These are bold, loud birds that quickly make their presence known. They sit on exposed branches near the tops of trees, often above water, where they give a piercing kis-ka-dee call and dart out to catch flying insects or pluck food—often small fish—from the water. They also eat fruit and sometimes come to feeders.

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I took a walk in the morning and found Black Vultures lurking.

These birds are uniform black except for white patches or “stars” on the underside of their wingtips (this can be hard to see in strong light or from far away). The bare skin of the head is black.

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Their strong beaks made it easy to rip into garbage bags.

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I never did figure out what this little bird was, hopping around like a sparrow in the underbrush.

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And I think, but I’m not sure, that this flycatcher is a Tropical Kingbird.

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Probably Brown Pelicans.

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Good morning, Sanderlings.

Sanderlings breed on the High Arctic tundra and migrate south in fall to become one of the most common birds along beaches. They gather in loose flocks to probe the sand of wave-washed beaches for marine invertebrates, running back and forth in a perpetual “wave chase.”

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Grackle time.