Tag Archives: Roseate Spoonbill

Evening at Ding Darling

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I do love the summer clouds of Florida.

During our trip to Sanibel Island last week, we also drove through J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge one evening, to compare it with our morning sightings.

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The Roseate Spoonbills were actively feeding.

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Spoonbills feed in shallow waters, walking forward slowly while they swing their heads from side to side, sifting the muck with their wide flat bills.

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Also actively feeding: a Reddish Egret!

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Audubon, Reddish Egret

A conspicuously long-legged, long-necked wader of coastal regions, more tied to salt water than any of our other herons or egrets. Often draws attention by its feeding behavior: running through shallows with long strides, staggering sideways, leaping in air, raising one or both wings, and abruptly stabbing at fish.

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I really got into the Reddish Egrets on this trip. They are the rarest herons in North America and Sanibel is one place you can see them.

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Along for the ride again, the dawg.

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Incidentally, here is one of the dog-friendly things we liked about Sanibel. And it was so hot the whole time that we all needed to drink a lot of water and stay hydrated.

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Reddish Egret looks a little funny head-on.

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Families were also visiting the refuge in the evening, in search of snook. These folks were also watching a manatee.

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We spotted three Reddish Egrets in three different locations, all looking for dinner. All were pretty far away so the photos aren’t great, just good enough.

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Really unique coloring.

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One wing.

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Feathers on the head and neck look sort of shaggy at times.

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Common Grackle nomming the tree berries.

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Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

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Birds of the refuge, Sanibel

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This morning around 8 a.m. we drove the one-way road through J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge here on Sanibel Island, where we are staying for a few days.

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We saw this Yellow-crowned Night Heron in mangroves near a short boardwalk.

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Look at that red eye.

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It was overcast and the light wasn’t great, especially looking up, but heck! here’s a Red-bellied Woodpecker anyway.

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Lots of nonchalant rabbits, munching here and there.

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Dogs are allowed in the refuge, in cars or on leashes, so we brought ours.  He’s cool with birds but the rabbits were torture.

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Spotted Sandpiper, my second I’ve ever IDed. The first was two days ago.

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John spotted it from pretty far off.

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A flock of Roseate Spoonbills and one cormorant looked like they were just waking up.

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The refuge is home for over 245 species of birds, according the the Ding Darling website. The Roseate Spoonbills are one of the Big 5 that attract birders to the refuge. We saw some birders with scopes set up, watching this flock.

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One by one, some of the spoonbills took off and flew away. We were watching them from the observation tower.

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Bird coming towards us over the water.

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Green Heron perched just below the tower. You can really see some green in this one.

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Another colored heron, the Little Blue, was waiting just at the bottom of the tower.

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There is something a tiny bit comical about this bird. It seems poised between different feelings, stuck in indecision.

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Hey, bird.

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A decent look at the spoonbill’s bill.

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On the side of the road in the mangroves, a Snowy Egret was standing on one leg as birds are sometimes wont to do. Love the bright yellow feet.

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Not many cars on a July morning. That one ahead was driving slowly past a white bird.

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It was a Great Egret stalking along in the grass.

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When the car drove on, it walked towards us.

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And past.

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The egret was keeping an eye out for lizards and other delicacies.

Birds were my tasty breakfast delicacies! Figuratively, of course.

Bird Island: the name says it all

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Radar spots Bird Island.

Just off the east side of Sewall’s Point, in the Indian River Lagoon, the spoil island is one of the top ten bird rookeries in Florida. We borrowed a boat from our boat club on Thursday and went to see how nesting season is coming along.

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Is this place even real?

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Of all the islands in the Indian River Lagoon in Martin County, the birds have chosen this one for nesting, feeding, roosting, loafing.

We stay outside the Critical Wildlife Area signs and use binoculars and a superzoom camera to watch but not bother.

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Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Wood Storks. Oh my!

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The most Great Egrets I’ve seen in one place – they seem to prefer the solitary lifestyle outside of breeding season.

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Snowy Egrets and a Wood Stork at the top right of this photo. Is that a rare Reddish Egret on the left? Or a Tri-colored Heron? Can’t tell.

(Update: confirmed to be a Tricolored Heron – white belly – by helpful birders on Facebook’s “What’s This Bird?”)

I saw what I thought were three Reddish Egrets on a sandbar adjoining this island a couple of months ago, doing their distinctive fishing dance, but didn’t have my camera. In March, we spotted what I think was a Reddish Egret on Bird Island and I got a photo (it’s in this post). (Update: that one confirmed as a Reddish Egret, yay!)

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“Gear down,” noted my husband, the airline pilot.

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Fuzzy-headed juvenile Wood Storks. It’s been a phenomenal breeding year for these big wading birds. I see the adults flying back and forth over our house every day now. Sometimes a fish crow or two can be seen chasing a stork out of “their” suburban residential territory.

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Wood Storks occur only in a few areas in the United States, so to get a look at one, head to a wetland preserve or wildlife area along the coast in Florida, South Carolina, or Georgia.

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Wood Storks are social birds that forage in groups and nest in colonies. Small groups of storks forage in wetlands, frequently following each other one by one in a line. In the late afternoon, when temperatures rise, Wood Storks often take to the sky, soaring on thermals like raptors. They nest in tight colonies with egrets and herons and generally show little aggression, but if a bird or mammal threatens them, they may pull their neck in, fluff up their feathers, and walk toward the intruder. Threats are also met with bill clattering and jabbing. Despite the myth that Wood Storks mate for life, pairs form at the breeding colony and stay together only for a single breeding season.

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Teenagers doing what they do best.

I’ve read that water levels affect their nesting rates. When levels are low, they have fewer offspring. Well, we did have a wet year last year!

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Just amazing to see (and hear and smell) this many birds in one place.

Bird Island is part of our town, Sewall’s Point. Here is a brief history of the island and a list of species observed, on the town website: Bird Island.

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Young stork, Brown Pelican and Black Vulture on the beach.

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Spoonbills and stork. I guess the juvenile storks start feeding on the island. I have not see the adults feed there – they fly off to other shallow waters, usually inland, usually fresh water.

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I was shooting into diffuse light, so these pics aren’t that great, but I wanted to show how many Magnificent Frigatebirds were in the trees on the northwest side of the island. I have been told that this is not a confirmed nesting site for frigate birds. I’m mildly skeptical… but humble about the limits of my bird knowledge.

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All together now, what a place!

More on Bird Island…

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch: Sewall’s Point is for the Birds!

Visit Bird Island with Sunshine WildlifeTours

My blog: Bird Island Bird Spies; Bird Island from a boat; Boating near Bird Island.

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Meyer Art Originals Wood Stork print

Bird Island bird spies

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Ahoy, Bird Island!

Four of us old friends, aboard a 21-foot Hurricane deck boat nicknamed “Little Tanny” for the color of its canopy, went exploring yesterday.

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We stayed outside these signs that mark the boundary of the rookery/ bird sanctuary on an island in the Indian River Lagoon just to the east of Sewall’s Point, FL.

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Arrow points to the location of the little island full of birds.

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Roseate Spoonbills caught our attention with their bright pink wings.

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According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

The flamboyant Roseate Spoonbill looks like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with its bright pink feathers, red eye staring out from a partly bald head, and giant spoon-shaped bill. Groups sweep their spoonbills through shallow fresh or salt waters snapping up crustaceans and fish.

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Brown Pelican and spoonbill.

  • Roseate Spoonbills get their pink coloration from the foods they eat. Crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates contain pigments called carotenoids that help turn their feathers pink.

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Bird Island is a special place… for birds with preposterous bills.

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Roseate Spoonbills nest in colonies with egrets, ibises, and herons, typically on islands or over standing water. They nest in mangroves, Brazilian pepperbush, willows, sea myrtle, and other shrubs near the water. They tend to put their nests in the shadiest part of the tree or shrub, up to 16 feet high.

They lay 1 to 5 eggs, incubate them for 22 days, and the chicks stay in the nest for 35 to 42 days. There are just a few spoonbills on Bird Island right now.

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A mild chaos of comings and goings. Wood storks are nesting in greatest numbers.

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Yesterday morning, on a walk before boating, I got lots of photos (like this one) of Wood Storks that had flown the short hop from Bird Island to Sewall’s Point to break off branches for nesting material. (I will post those photos later.)

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Wood Stork in flight.

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Wood Storks showing off their best side.

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Next: a very exciting find, spotted by Lisa, a Reddish Egret, a first for me!

A medium to large heron of shallow salt water, the Reddish Egret comes in a dark and a white form. It is a very active forager, often seen running, jumping, and spinning in its pursuit of fish.

And…

There is little information on Reddish Egret population trends or numbers, but the species appears to be declining. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates a continental population of 6,000-10,000 breeding birds, rates the species about a 15 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and lists it as a Species of Moderate Concern. Reddish Egret is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action.

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John maneuvered the boat around to the northwest side of the island and we spotted a few Magnificent Frigatebirds, usually seen soaring high over the beach or ocean.

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This appears to be a nesting pair.

Males have a bright red pouch on the throat, which they inflate like a balloon to attract females. Females unlike most other seabirds look different than males with their white chest.

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The frigate bird with a white head is a juvenile.

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Frigatebirds, wood storks, cormorants… this mangrove tree has it all going on.

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  • The breeding period of the Magnificent Frigatebird is exceptionally long. Males and females incubate the eggs for around 56 days, and once hatched, chicks don’t leave the nest until they are about 167 days old. Even after they leave the nest, females continue to feed them until they are one year old.

Each pair only lays one egg.
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Not sure if this is a male or female. Maybe it is incubating an egg and the mate is away feeding.

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Magnificent Frigatebirds eat primarily flying fish, tuna, herring, and squid, which they grab from the surface of the water without getting wet. They also eat plankton, crabs, jellyfish, and other items on the surface of the water including discarded fish from fishing boats.

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The young ‘un.

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Frigatebirds soar effortlessly over the ocean rarely flapping their long, pterodactyl-like wings and using the long tail to steer. Though they are frequently seen soaring, they are masters of pursuit. They chase other birds including frigatebirds, forcing them to regurgitate their recent meal, which they scoop up before it hits the water. Their gracefulness ends as soon as they head towards land, where they awkwardly perch in low shrubs and trees. Their strong toes help them hold onto branches, posts, and boat masts, but their small feet in combination with their short legs makes it nearly impossible for them to walk on land. On land, males often flutter the balloonlike throat sac (or “gular pouch”) to cool off. Males and females also regulate their body temperature by holding up their wings up to sun themselves. To get airborne, they flap a few times and use the wind to help lift them into the air.

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Meanwhile, a few branches away, Wood Storks are cuddling.

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They almost make this Great Blue Heron look small.

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Wood Storks and Magnificent Frigatebirds.

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We watched these birds for a while then traveled south to Peck Lake and the Hobe Sound Wildlife Refuge and later up the St. Lucie River to downtown Stuart. Lots of boat traffic but it was still a nice way to spend a day on the water.

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Last bird I photographed on Bird Island: an Anhinga.

 

Bird Island from a boat

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Roseate Spoonbill on Bird Island yesterday.

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Must look good for breeding season.

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Great Blue Heron.

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Big feet on that bird.

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We borrowed a boat from our boat club in Manatee Pocket yesterday and took a ride up the Indian River Lagoon to the rookery just off Sewall’s Point known as Bird Island.

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It is Wood Stork nesting season. They appear to still be building nests. I have not seen chicks yet.

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The Snowy Egrets are in breeding plumage and acting flirty.

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Showing off.

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I have never seen them like this.

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Always surprising the variety of breeds sharing space on this island.

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My sister and brother-in-law were in town and we all watched birds from the boat.

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Incoming Wood Stork.

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A rather skull-like head.

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Wood Stork with wings up.

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Roseate Spoonbill again.

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Lots of Brown Pelicans on the island now too.

Not flamingos

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Roadside Roseate Spoonbills.

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They are doing some work next to A1A, Ocean Blvd, on Hutchinson Island, not far from the bridge to Sewall’s Point. The disturbed earth and drainage ditch water have been attracting wading birds including these spoonbills.

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Pretty pink feathers but a little bit ugly on top, especially when they go bald as adults.

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These birds were mostly just standing around when we pulled over and I jumped out of the car for a few photos, on the way home from Publix.

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What a unique bill!

This species feeds in shallow fresh or coastal waters by swinging its bill from side to side as it steadily walks through the water, often in groups. The spoon-shaped bill allows it to sift easily through mud. It feeds on crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, newts and very small fish ignored by larger waders.

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Roseate Spoonbills are members of the ibis and spoonbill family, Threskiornithidae.

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Roseate Spoonbills are pink because of the pigments in the food they eat, same as flamingos. But that doesn’t really explain why other birds that eat shrimp and crustaceans don’t turn pink.

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Pink legs too.

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They are shaped a lot like ibises.

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Here are a couple of White Ibis nearby for comparison.

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There was also a Tri-Colored Heron across the ditch.

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Five spoonbills altogether.

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The heron was noisy.

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Pink feathers in afternoon sun.

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See you all around, I hope.

Pretty in pink

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Spoonbills at Bird Island a couple of weekends ago.

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Are they courting?

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Audubon.org Roseate Spoonbill:

In courtship, male and female first interact aggressively, later perch close together, present sticks to each other, cross and clasp bills.

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So pink!

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Very common in parts of the southeast until the 1860s, spoonbills were virtually eliminated from the United States as a side-effect of the destruction of wader colonies by plume hunters. Began to re-colonize Texas and Florida early in 20th century. Still uncommon and local, vulnerable to degradation of feeding and nesting habitats.

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.

Hunter’s Moon and… wood storks?

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You can’t see any birds in this photo but they are there, finding their secret night time roosting spots. Almost-full Hunter’s Moon was rising over the pond last night as I took the dog for one last walk.

Our contingent buyers got their house under contract and we now have a closing date of November 30. Hard to think of saying good-bye at the most crazy beautiful time of year. I will close my eyes and think of the wretched cold, gray, months-long winter plus mud season instead. And of new adventures.

We are making an offer on a house in Florida’s Treasure Coast. Soon I will be learning some strange new birds…

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Like the Wood Stork.

A large, white, bald-headed wading bird of the southeastern swamps, the Wood Stork is the only stork breeding in the United States.

I took these photos on our vacation last April. A spoil island in the Indian River Lagoon in Stuart, FL has been adopted by nesting birds of all sorts. It is a very short boat or kayak ride from the neighborhood we hope to live in.

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Arrow points to Bird Island. The town/peninsula of Sewall’s Point is our hoped-for new location.

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In April, we went on a pontoon boat nature tour and had lunch next to this island, watching storks, brown pelicans, white ibis, spoonbills, snowy egrets, cormorants, night herons, osprey, and even a few magnificent frigatebirds!

Will this be in my new “backyard”? …

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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.

Flamingo? We will not make that mistake, oh no.

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