Strike a pose

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Great Blue Heron is a big bird, from three-and-a-half to almost five feet tall, with a six-foot wingspan. They hold still for photos too.

The feathery “ruff” around this one’s neck indicates it’s an adult.

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I saw the GBH today at the little pond across the street from the Sewall’s Point town hall. The Indian River Lagoon is just beyond those mangroves.

Cool, rainy and windy weather… with a cold snap to follow.

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A beak that stabs like a dagger. En garde, fishes and amphibians!

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Also by the pond, a lone Palm Warbler.

Birds at the golf course

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Loggerhead Shrike.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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Snowy Egret.

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

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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!

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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.

 

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

Palm warblers are back

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These little birds showed up on our street about a week ago. Small but impossible to miss because they were IN the road every time I drove or walked that way, hopping here and there, bobbing their tails constantly.

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I got some ID help from the Facebook group What’s This Bird. They are Palm Warblers.

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I met them for the first time in late February last year: LINK.

But they looked a bit different because their plumage was changing towards breeding season. Also, they may be part of the western not eastern subspecies, according to a Facebook birder. They “summer” a-way up north in the boreal forest and winter here in Florida, where there are palm trees.

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From Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

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.

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Canada’s boreal forests stretch for miles and miles. The great boreal forest, often called “North America’s bird nursery,” is the summer home to billions of migratory birds and an estimated 98% of all Palm Warblers.

Palm Warblers breed in bogs and areas with scattered evergreen trees and thick ground cover in the boreal forest. During migration they stop in weedy fields, forest edges, fence rows, and other areas with scattered trees and shrubs. They use similar areas on the wintering grounds including second-growth forest patches, marshes, prairies, parks, and coastal scrub.

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Important, interesting, worthy! Boreal Conservation: Boreal Songbird Initiative

As the voice for boreal birds, the Boreal Songbird Initiative (BSI) is committed to protecting the Canadian Boreal Forest—the largest intact forest on Earth—on behalf of the billions of migratory birds that rely on it.

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And while we are focusing on road creatures, I found this run-over snake a couple of streets away on Lucindia North. I took a photo in order to ID it later. It’s a VENOMOUS Eastern Coral Snake!

Winter bird

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Forget the palms. Palm Warblers like live oaks and other deciduous trees. Or being down near the ground hunting for bugs and berries.

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The Florida Gardener’s Guide (which I borrowed from our excellent local library) waxed poetic about these trees that are such an important part of the neighborhood.

A Southern Live Oak may live for 300 or more years. Its massive branches can stretch horizontally, if allowed, so that the canopy is wider than the tree is tall. Its furrowed bark and leathery leaves support millions of living creatures, smaller than we can see, and a good many large enough for us to discern: Lichens, Mosses, Liverworts, a couple of squirrel nests, gnats, aphids, hair-streak larvae, germinating seeds of Bromeliads, mats of Resurrection Fern and Thick Fern, an ant highway, and a well-worn path of raccoons that teeter from topmost branches and watch the goings on below. A whole world lives in this one organism, and on, around, and under it, while it, too, thickens, stretches, and lengthens through complex metabolic activities.

It pulls water from the ground at the rate of hundreds of gallons a day, and it takes in carbon dioxide from the air and releases oxygen. The mycorrhizae attached to its roots are probably connected to other trees around it, like the invisible strings of matter in the universe, linking and interacting with other trees.

Wow!

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Spotted this little Palm Warbler down low where I could see it, in a neighbor’s yard on Ridgeview Road.

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Zoomed in.

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From the Florida Eco Travel Guide

Palm warblers are common winter residents in Florida, arriving in late September and staying on until April. You will see these small, active birds along forest edges, in open woods, and disturbed areas, including farmlands and marshes. They feed mostly on insects, but occasionally eat berries. Palm warblers are easy to recognize because they continually bob their tails.

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Getting to know my neighbors!

Palm warblers

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Palm Warbler finally holds still for the briefest of moments.

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I have been seeing these active little birds with wagging tails and chestnut caps around the neighborhood. Their calls are “weak trills,” “thin tsips” or “sharp chips.”

Snowbirds like some of my neighbors, it appears…

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Despite its tropical sounding name, the Palm Warbler lives farther north than most other warblers. It breeds far to the north in Canada, and winters primarily in the southern United States and northern Caribbean.

And despite their name, I haven’t seen them in any palm trees!

Birds at Lakeside Ranch STA

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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.

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Great Blue Heron in the misty morn.

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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.

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Sandhill Crane flyby.

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Another birdwatcher.

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Great Egret and Great Blue Heron.

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Anhinga keeping an eye on me.

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Tri-colored Heron hunting for breakfast.

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Snowy Egret and  juvenile night heron.

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Little Blue Heron and Tricolored Heron.

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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.

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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.

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Is it a duck?

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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.

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Red-winged Blackbird.

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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.

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Let these dead trees be decorated with Anhingas!

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

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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.

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Juvenile White Ibis strikes a pose.

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

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Anhinga draws attention to an important road sign.

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Great Blue Heron pose.

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Alligator smile.

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There were five gators in this one spot.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.