Planting shrubs can be for the birds


A treetop Osprey, Pandion haliaetus.

Our town of Sewall’s Point is on a narrow peninsula between the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon and there are lots of these fishhawks living here.

A few more pics from yesterday morning’s bird walk.


Blue Jay on a wire with a wind-blown punk hairdo.


Many, many Palm Warblers are here in winter and this is one of them.

Unless you live in Canada, spring, fall, and winter are your best times to see Palm Warblers. They spend the winters in the Caribbean and in a narrow strip along the southeastern United States and occasionally along the West Coast. They’re a fairly common early migrant across much of the East, reaching New England by mid-to-late April. They start slowly heading south in late August.


  • Though the Palm Warbler’s name might imply it is a tropical bird, it’s actually one of the northernmost breeding of all warblers (only the Blackpoll Warbler breeds farther north). They got their name from J. P. Gmelin who named them based on a specimen collected on Hispaniola, a Caribbean island with a lot of palm trees.



Lots of yellow on this warbler.


Palm Warblers primarily eat insects including beetles, flies, and caterpillars. During the winter they also eat seeds and berries such as bayberry, sea grape, and hawthorn when available.

Create a bird friendly backyard for migrating or wintering Palm Warblers by planting native plants. Learn more about birdscaping at Habitat Network.

Yesterday we planted more native shrubs in our backyard, a couple of beautyberry and a couple of cardinal firebush. Last year we planted Simpson’s stoppers, wild coffee, silver buttonwood and Bahamas maidenbush along the back fence and three dwarf firebush in one corner of our little backyard.


Last year’s firebush is about to bloom and feed the butterflies.


American Beautyberry, just planted. The bird-feeding berries will look like this


2018 is the Year of the Bird and the recommended action to help birds in March is to add native plants to your backyard. Here’s how to do it where you live: Native Plants Audubon.

Also: A Yard Full of Native Plants Is a Yard Full of Well-Fed Birds

As for feeding the Osprey, whatever keeps the rivers and oceans healthy and full of fish keeps the skies full of fishhawks too. Obviously!

A morning sampler of driveway birds

From my front picture window by the couch, while sipping coffee, I could see a small flock of warblers moving through the trees so I went out in the driveway with my camera.


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in the Norfolk Island pine.


Yellow-rumped Warbler.


Overhead, a noisy Osprey.




I love that I see Ospreys in my neighborhood all the time, all year round. A day never goes by without seeing or hearing at least one.


My town is on a peninsula between the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon. Good fishing!


Turkey vultures too!

Birds at the golf course


Loggerhead Shrike.


I took a walk past the Ocean Club Golf Course at the Hutchinson Island Marriott yesterday morning. Photos could be better, since most of the birds were on the wrong side of the light and far away.


This is the most interesting bird. These shrikes don’t live in NH, where I started watching birds, and I’ve only seen a couple them in Florida.

Audubon Field Guide: Loggerhead Shrike

In open terrain, this predatory songbird watches from a wire or other high perch, then pounces on its prey: often a large insect, sometimes a small bird or a rodent. The Loggerhead is gradually disappearing from many areas, for reasons that are poorly understood.

Forages mostly by watching from an exposed perch, then swooping down to take prey on or near ground or from low vegetation. Kills its prey using its hooked bill. Often stores uneaten prey by impaling it on thorn or barbed wire, returning to eat it later.


Wikipedia: Shrike…

Shrikes (/ʃraɪk/) are carnivorous passerine birds of the family Laniidae. The family is composed of thirty-one species in four genera. They are fairly closely related to the bush-shrike family Malaconotidae.

The family name, and that of the largest genus, Lanius, is derived from the Latin word for “butcher”, and some shrikes are also known as butcherbirds because of their feeding habits. The common English name shrikeis from Old English scrīc, alluding to the shrike’s shriek-like call.


In a tree near the pond, an Osprey was dining on a freshly caught and still wriggling fish.


So many Ospreys around here. I like to watch these big, beautiful fish hawks.


Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottus, is the only mockingbird commonly found in North America.


Wikipedia: Northern Mockingbird

The northern mockingbird is known for its intelligence. A 2009 study showed that the bird was able to recognize individual humans, particularly noting those who had previously been intruders or threats. Also birds recognize their breeding spots and return to areas in which they had greatest success in previous years. Urban birds are more likely to demonstrate this behavior. Finally, the mockingbird is influential in United States culture, being the state bird of five states, appearing in book titles, songs and lullabies, and making other appearances in popular culture.


I spotted a pair of Mottled Ducks. This one with a yellow bill is the male. Female has an orange bill.


Palm Warbler, I do believe. They never seem to be in palm trees.


Snowy Egret.


This Belted Kingfisher was swooping around noisily over the pond, but I captured it in a rare moment of perching.


Back home we had some interesting “birds” overhead. A couple of F-18s were looping around over Sewall’s Point. The Stuart Airshow is this weekend!


The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a twin-engine supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multirole combat jet, designed as both a fighter and attack aircraft (hence the F/A designation). Designed by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) and Northrop, the F/A-18 was derived from the latter’s YF-17 in the 1970s for use by the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The Hornet is also used by the air forces of several other nations and, since 1986, by the U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.

I had help identifying these birds from my husband, who is an airline pilot and flew a variety of fighter jets in the Marine Corps.



As the F-18s took a couple of turns overhead, an Osprey was perched atop our Norfolk Island pine.

Bird walk


Crow on a picnic table by the Indian River Lagoon, Town Commons in Sewall’s Point.

I took the dog for a walk the other day and brought my camera, poking around for a few birds.


Osprey flying out of a tree, carrying a mostly eaten fish, intersection of Sewall’s Point Road and Ocean Boulevard.


Osprey zooming over low over cars.


Tricolored Heron on a log in the Indian River Lagoon.

According to…

On the southeastern coastal plain, the Tricolored Heron is a characteristic bird of quiet shallow waters. Strikingly slender, with long bill, neck, and legs, it is often seen wading belly-deep in coastal lagoons. Although it is solitary in its feeding, it is sociable in nesting, often in very large colonies with various other herons and egrets. Formerly known as Louisiana Heron.

It’s been hot and humid, no surprise in summertime Florida!


Eagle above


That distant, tiny dot above the tree horizon is something special.

Friday afternoon I was walking here on River Road in Sewall’s Point, just a few blocks from home, when I heard an Osprey screaming. It flew over my head, chased by a slightly larger bird.


They circled back around and passed over again, Osprey in the lead, distinctive black and white bird on its tail.


Bald Eagle!

My guess is that the Osprey had a nest with chicks. I think they stayed safe.


I was super-excited to see a Bald Eagle. I wished there were other people around too I could yell and point at the sky, “Bald Eagle!”


But at least I had my camera so I could point and shoot and share it later.

What a bold, beautiful bird.

Bridge walk and diving duck


Osprey on a light pole, Ernest Lyons Bridge.


Daughter Laura and I walked across the bridge and back around noon today, about 2 and a half miles altogether.


Nice views of the Indian River Lagoon from the bridge.


And soaring ospreys.


And a dolphin.


Ring-billed gull loafing on a light pole.


Laura spotted a diving duck and I zoomed in.


Looks like a female Red-breasted Merganser.

A large diving duck with a long thin bill, the Red-breasted Merganser is found in large lakes, rivers and the ocean. It prefers salt water more than the other two species of merganser.


The Red-breasted Merganser breeds farther north and winters farther south than the other American mergansers.

Good eyes, Laura!

First morning in Florida


Brown Pelican above the Indian River Lagoon. As you can see, we’re not in New Hampshire anymore.

Yesterday was our first full day in our new home, a little green concrete-block-and-stucco house built in 1969. So much to do, boxes everywhere, but I made time for a morning bird walk.


I tried for a couple of years to get a good shot of a Belted Kingfisher. We used to see one or two at our pond in warmer (no ice) months. They were flighty little alarmists there. Here one is posed nicely, almost mellowly!, in sunshine on a bridge railing.


The Ernest Lyons Bridge connects our new hometown of Sewall’s Point to Hutchinson Island, a barrier island on the Atlantic Coast. The area near the west side of the bridge has lot of Ospreys. First you hear them, with their high, piercing, almost plaintive whistles.


Then you seen them fishing, or looking for fish.


Unique among North American raptors for its diet of live fish and ability to dive into water to catch them, Ospreys are common sights soaring over shorelines, patrolling waterways, and standing on their huge stick nests, white heads gleaming. These large, rangy hawks do well around humans and have rebounded in numbers following the ban on the pesticide DDT. Hunting Ospreys are a picture of concentration, diving with feet outstretched and yellow eyes sighting straight along their talons.


Osprey on the bridge railing, doing well among humans.


We visited this area in April, July and September and I always see ospreys here. In New Hampshire they were migratory. Looks like we can enjoy them year-round in Florida, woohoo!..


Ospreys are unusual among hawks in possessing a reversible outer toe that allows them to grasp with two toes in front and two behind. Barbed pads on the soles of the birds’ feet help them grip slippery fish. When flying with prey, an Osprey lines up its catch head first for less wind resistance.


Wonder what that fish is thinking.

The official raptor of Cedar Key


In Cedar Key, along Florida’s gulfside “Nature Coast,” you are never more than 50 feet away from an osprey. At least it seems that way. Fishing, nesting, defending nests from black vultures, chirping their loud whistley call, glowering down from trees at passersby. I love this bird.

Unique among North American raptors for its diet of live fish and ability to dive into water to catch them, Ospreys are common sights soaring over shorelines, patrolling waterways, and standing on their huge stick nests, white heads gleaming. These large, rangy hawks do well around humans and have rebounded in numbers following the ban on the pesticide DDT.

marsh house

The Marsh House, Cedar Key. Our home away from home for a few days. Perfect spot.



I love a good marsh.

white ibis

White Ibis.

I wasn’t even unpacked (although I did have a glass of wine in my hand) before I hit the porch and spotted ibis, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, a Great Blue Heron, vultures and osprey. This is a birdy place.


George Washington did not visit Cedar Key, but John Muir did.

Sign outside the Cedar Key Museum State Park.

salt kettle

Confederate salt kettle outside the museum.

I picked Cedar Key for the birds, nature, seafood and warmth after a long winter. Turns out to have some cool Old Florida history too. TIMELINE.

After a tasty seafood dinner at Steamer’s Clam Bar and Grill in the vintage waterfront downtown, we drove a mile back north to our rental and walked a boardwalk over mangroves and marsh, around the edge of a big old cemetery founded in 1886. In the gathering darkness, bats fluttered above. We heard the little night noises of animals, water moving in small waves through seagrass, wind in the pines, palms and spanish-moss-draped live oaks. We spied the glow of a couple of small lights next to headstones in the cemetery. “Spirit lamps,” I whispered.

“I think there is something a little bit spooky about Cedar Key,” I said, and my husband agreed.


And something a little bit wild too.