Tag Archives: Northern Cardinal

Not the hammock you swing in, plus bird #216

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Hey, let’s go for a walk!

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Pet leashed, we set off into the Captain Forster Hammock Preserve, reached via the dirt road Jungle Trail along the Indian River Lagoon in Vero Beach.

If you move to Florida and you like venturing into the outdoors beyond your pool, patio and probably-tiny backyard, you quickly learn that “hammock” isn’t just that nice thing to laze around in…

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(The Dream, 1844, by Gustave Courbet, from Wikipedia hammock)

A hammock is also a term for a landscape feature. Think “hummock” but bigger.

 Hammock is a term used in the southeastern United States for stands of trees, usually hardwood, that form an ecological island in a contrasting ecosystem. Hammocks grow on elevated areas, often just a few inches high, surrounded by wetlands that are too wet to support them.

It can be a nice place for a walk too, if there are trails.

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In this hammock the first living creature we got a good look at was this Zebra Longwing.

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They are notable for their long life (compared to other butterflies) and their consumption not just of nectar but of protein-packed pollen too… and the two things seem to be connected.

Zebra Longwings live an unusually long life, and can survive more than a month as adults rather than the typical 1–2 weeks as most butterflies. This is partly because they ingest pollen as well as nectar, giving the Longwings an extra source of protein.

(Inspired, I added whey powder to my breakfast smoothie while writing this blog post.)

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This 110-acre preserve is owned by Indian River County.

The Preserve contains one of the largest remaining coastal maritime hammocks on Orchid Island. The site was home to Captain Frank Forster, one of the first Orchid Island residents who homesteaded on the barrier island growing winter vegetables and fishing along the Indian River Lagoon.

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Water and dry land were close together in the preserve, as is true in most of Florida… especially in the wet season.

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The ubiquitous saw palmetto, Serenoa repens, with its fan-shaped fronds.

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I almost didn’t post about this walk because this is a bird blog and we didn’t really see many birds that day, despite what we were promised. 153 species have been sighted at this eBird hotspot… by others.

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But I decided to share the photos anyway because of the unique habitat. We found great examples of native plants that are recommended for planting in your Florida yard to support birds, like the beautiful American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana.

From the Florida Wildflower Foundation

American beautyberry is a woody shrub found in pinelands and hammocks throughout Florida. The plant’s foliage offers cover for small wildlife. Its flowers are a nectar source for butterflies and bees, while its dense clusters of berries provide food for birds and deer in late summer and fall.

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I also posted because of this fuzzy photo, which I would normally discard but it’s the only image of a new-to-me bird.  We spotted it oddly walking along – not hopping, like most little birds – in the leaf litter.

It’s an Ovenbird! (Confirmed on What’s This Bird, my favorite online double-check and bird identification crutch.)

The Ovenbird‘s rapid-fire teacher-teacher-teacher song rings out in summer hardwood forests from the Mid-Atlantic states to northeastern British Columbia. It’s so loud that it may come as a surprise to find this inconspicuous warbler strutting like a tiny chicken across the dim forest floor. Its olive-brown back and spotted breast are excellent disguise as it gleans invertebrates from the leaf litter. Its nest, a leaf-covered dome resembling an old-fashioned outdoor oven, gives the Ovenbird its name.

It wasn’t singing, just quietly foraging here in what may be its winter home. Are the snowbirds returning already?

The Ovenbird is species #216 for this blog.

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John goes ahead. We were the only people on the trails for an hour that morning. Good heeling, Radar.

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Another favorite bird-friendly native plant, Wild Coffee, with the somewhat disturbing Latin name Psychotria nervosa.

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Trees were mostly live oaks and cabbage palms.

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Partridge pea, a wildflower and legume that tolerates poor soil and feeds butterfly larvae. And provides pretty color along the trail, eye food for humans.

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More Beautyberry.

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Berry time for Wild Coffee. But don’t get too excited about harvesting your own morning cuppa.

Shiny-leaved wild coffee, Psychotria nervosa, is in the same plant family as the stuff you find at Starbucks, but so are at least 5,999 other plants. There are something like 103 species of coffee worldwide, but only three are used to make a cup of Joe. This is not one of the three.

You can indeed make a beverage from wild coffee berries but it A) won’t taste good, B) won’t resemble coffee and C) will lack any caffeine kick. Might even give you a headache.

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Almost the color of the wild coffee berries: a Northern Cardinal. We noticed a few males but couldn’t spot the females. Kinda the whole cardinal idea.

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We were surprised to find quite a few citrus trees in one part of the woods. Probably leftover from some old groves, maybe even old Cap’n Forster’s?

I believe the historic Jungle Trail was a dirt road originally built to connect the citrus growers in the 1920s on Orchard Island/ Vero Beach.

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John tasted one. He rated it “not that great.”

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Hello again, cardinal.

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From Wild South Florida

They’re common anywhere you might care to go, deep into the woods, around town and all points in between as long as there are bushes or thickets to provide cover. Florida even has its own subspecies, C. cardinalis ssp. floridanus, found throughout most of the state.

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Orange butterfly, maybe a Gulf Fritillary?

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We were here.

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Here’s the online version, much more readable: Special Places on the Trail & Lagoon.

An hour north of home, we will return to explore along the Jungle Trail one day again soon.

Mangrove birds

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A Northern Cardinal among the mangroves? Wonders never cease.

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I was walking on this boardwalk next to a creek that flows into Manatee Pocket in Port Salerno a couple of days ago.

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I saw this immature cardinal hopping around in the mangroves with an adult. I guess cardinals really can live pretty much anywhere.

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Also in the mangroves: a Green Heron.

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Green Herons are common and widespread, but they can be hard to see at first. Whereas larger herons tend to stand prominently in open parts of wetlands, Green Herons tend to be at the edges, in shallow water, or concealed in vegetation. Visit a wetland and carefully scan the banks looking for a small, hunch-backed bird with a long, straight bill staring intently at the water.

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Across the creek, some sailboats. I am a collector of boat names and places.

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Did this one sail across the ocean??

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A short walk away, a large boat shed with a cool mural.

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Wikipedia Port Salerno

In the 1920s, a small settlement was created in the southern shores of St. Lucie river inlet. It was named “Salerno” because the main settlers were emigrants from the Italian city of Salerno.

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Also out for a walk, a couple of Mourning Doves.

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I do love a nice little stroll with my bird camera!

We ought to take outdoor walks, to refresh and raise our spirits by deep breathing in the open air. — Seneca

When the warblers were in town

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Wednesday morning I went out with my camera to see if the warblers that stopped over after the storms on Tuesday were still here. First, a cardinal in our driveway reminded me that resident birds are special too.

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Mourning dove on a morning walk through leaf litter.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker was dipping his beak into a giant white bird-of-paradise flower… for a drink of water? for insects?

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Black-throated Blue Warbler, a bird-photo first for me!

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A uniquely colored, midnight-blue bird of tangled understories, the male Black-throated Blue Warbler sings a relaxed, buzzy I-am-so-la-zee on warm summer days in Eastern hardwood forests. He’s aptly named, with a midnight blue back, sharp white belly, and black throat. The olive-brown females, while not as dramatically marked as the males, have a unique white square on the wing that readily separates them from other female warblers. This warbler breeds in the East and spends the winter in the Caribbean.

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Black-throated Blue in morning sun. Oh, you beauty.

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Another resident made an appearance on our fence, a Carolina Wren.

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In the banyan, a flash of color that can only be an American Redstart.

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Strike a redstart pose.

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Northern Parula, also a photo first for me.

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An acrobat.

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A small warbler of the upper canopy, the Northern Parula flutters at the edges of branches plucking insects. This bluish gray warbler with yellow highlights breeds in forests laden with Spanish moss or beard lichens, from Florida to the boreal forest, and it’s sure to give you “warbler neck.” It hops through branches bursting with a rising buzzy trill that pinches off at the end. Its white eye crescents, chestnut breast band, and yellow-green patch on the back set it apart from other warblers.

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I think this is a female or immature male Cape May Warbler.

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A few blocks from home, this big tree, banyan or strangler fig, was full of warblers.

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Northern Parula.

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  • Before this species received the name Northern Parula (a diminutive form of parus, meaning little titmouse), Mark Catesby, an English naturalist, called it a “finch creeper” and John James Audubon and Alexander Wilson called it a “blue yellow-backed warbler.”

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This Cape May Warbler was a bit disheveled. Molting?

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Like a teenager who just rolled out of bed.

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Northern Parula-palooza.

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Cape May.

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N.P.

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Cape May in a magnolia.

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Another Black-throated Blue Warbler.

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B-t B.

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That was a fine hour of bird watching.

Cardinals in the bird bath

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The cardinals have discovered the bird bath.

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They don’t just sip from it, or splash a little… they take nice long soaks.

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It’s got a solar fountain but they seem to prefer when the fountain is off, when it’s cloudy or the angle of the sun prevents the solar cells from powered the pump.

It’s in a corner of our yard that was overgrown with weeds and small trees. We cleared it, planted a few foxtail palms, some clumping (not spreading) bamboo, and we have been landscaping with butterfly friendly flowers.

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On this day the male and female took turns. I have also seen them in there together, which is adorable.

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She looks like she is anticipating the coming bath, like a human at the edge of a pool on a hot day.

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We don’t have a pool in the backyard for us, just for the birds. Hm.

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She was splashing then soaking.

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I got this bath for my birthday in March, ordered online from Hayneedle: Smart Somerset Verdigris Solar Bird Bath Fountain. I read that the sound of the water attracts birds.

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What a sweetie.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Providing Water for Birds

Cardinals abound

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Neighbor.

I spotted this familiar bird half a block from home this morning.

The male Northern Cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird. They’re a perfect combination of familiarity, conspicuousness, and style: a shade of red you can’t take your eyes off.

A pair of cardinals has discovered my backyard bird bath. They are also building a nest in the lemon bamboo near the bird bath. I will be keeping an eye on them and trying to get some pics.

Haney Creek list

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Green Heron!

Not an uncommon bird, but hard to spot. This is my first sighting since we moved to Florida.

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I went for a walk at Haney Creek yesterday late morning. I kept track of the birds I saw and heard and posted an eBird checklist for the first time in a while.

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The first to greet me: a couple of Gray Catbirds.

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Meow.

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Next, a non-bird.

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A slow-moving Gopher Tortoise was grazing at the edge of the path.

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On the fence at the dog run, an Eastern Phoebe.

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“Phoebe!” it said, helpfully.

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I expected to see more wading birds in the wetlands but only came up with this immature Little Blue Heron.

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That is a school just beyond the wetlands.

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The Little Blue is starting to get its adult colors.

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Why do they start off white and turn slaty blue-gray? I don’t know.

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On the hunt.

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Mirror, mirror.

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Last time I was at the dog park at Haney Creek (two days before), there were a pair of Sandhill Cranes and a pair of Great Egrets having a turf battle. I did not have my camera. I was hoping to see them this day but no luck.

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Next I walked a trail through sand pine scrub.

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There were little birds calling but I only got a good look at a few, including this Yellow-rumped Warbler.

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There have been a ton of butterbutts around this winter. I’m almost getting sick of them.

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More info on Florida sand pine scrub, an endangered subtropical forest ecoregion.

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Another gopher tortoise out for a stroll.

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Finally an animal that can’t outrun me, or fly away.

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Lots of Northern Cardinals around.

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I think it’s nesting season for them.

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Chestnut cap helps identify this (out of focus) Palm Warbler.

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Who doesn’t love a Green Heron??

Bird + paradise

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Northern Cardinal on a white/ giant bird of paradise flower.

The flower is named for the bird it resembles.

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Eating seeds?

There are a lot of cardinals living here in Sewall’s Point.

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I watched this cardinal on River Road this morning while out for a walk with my camera and a wide-brimmed hat. It’s hot and sunny!

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UV index is 12 today… on a scale of 1 to 10!

Red bird of love

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Valentine bird, this male Northern Cardinal is singing his heart out. Time for true love… or at least sexy mating rituals… in the bird world.

I have heard the cardinals now and then but not seen many since we arrived in early December, until recently. Now they are noisier and more visible. Go for it, guys!

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Also in the neighborhood, bougainvillea in Valentine’s Day colors.

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Sewall’s Point has wonderful vegetation, layers of trees and shrubs to keep the birds and my eyes happy. Neighborhood walks are so nice.

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I am still learning what is growing and blooming around me. That’s the fun part about moving to a new place.

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Lots of Zebra Longwing butterflies here. (I just learned that one.)

The species is distributed across South and Central America and as far north as southern Texas and peninsular Florida; there are migrations north into other American states in the warmer months.

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Gray squirrel, I know that one.

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Bird lover mailbox.