A few mornings ago…
A few mornings ago…
Roseate Spoonbills and Snowy Egrets were wading in a shallow pond at Kiplinger Nature Preserve off Kanner Highway in Stuart the other day.
It’s 157 acres of pine and scrub flatwoods, plus freshwater and mangrove swamp at the edge of the South Fork of the St. Lucie River. You can hear traffic noise in most parts of the preserve, otherwise it seems quite remote and natural.
The spoonbills were blasé as the snowies trooped and fussed past.
Two species of wading bird that seem to have no need of camouflage. They were easy to spot through the woods from the trail.
I was using my new Christmas camera, a Nikon D850 with a 28-300mm lens. I have a lot to learn, but I’m excited!
From All About Birds, 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.
The Roseate Spoonbill is the only one of the six spoonbill species found in the Americas.
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.
Some diving-duck “snowbirds” were swimming just off the west causeway park under the Ernest Lyons Bridge, Sewall’s Point this morning.
There were eight of these Red-breasted Mergansers. Here is a rare moment when all of them were on top of the water, not diving.
Fun fact from Cornell Lab of Ornithology…
Red-breasted Mergansers need to eat 15 to 20 fish per day, which researchers suggest means they need to dive underwater 250–300 times per day or forage for 4–5 hours to meet their energy needs.
The Red-breasted Merganser is a shaggy-headed diving duck also known as the “sawbill”; named for its thin bill with tiny serrations on it that it uses to keep hold of slippery fish.
Range Map from Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The winter months are the best time to go looking for a Red-breasted Merganser, when they are fairly common along coastal waters in the United States and Mexico. Look for them in sheltered estuaries and bays swimming along in small groups or by themselves. Red-breasted Mergansers forage near the shore, so a spotting scope may not be needed to get good looks.
Snowy Egret too, brightening this windy rainy gray day.
New bird! This little Semipalmated Sandpiper is the 190th bird I have photographed, IDed and blogged.
I was at Fort Pierce Inlet this morning and took a quick walk out on the jetty after rain.
Have I mentioned the sargassum is a bit of a problem on area beaches right now? This is the worst I’ve seen it – very thick and full of trash.
Ruddy Turnstone goes poof.
At first I thought the solo little sandpiper with the turnstones was a Sanderling.
But it seemed smaller, especially next to the turnstone, and active in a different way, zipping around here and there.
Preening Ruddy Turnstone and the little sandpiper.
The flock of turnstones and little sandpiper. First fisherman arrives.
One of these birds is not like the others.
I checked for birds resembling Sanderlings on All About Birds and thought this might be a Western Sandpiper. I posted the guess to What’s This Bird, to doublecheck, and was helpfully informed it was a Semipalmated Sandpiper.
Small and plain in appearance, this sandpiper is important in terms of sheer numbers. It often gathers by the thousands at stopover points during migration. Semipalmated Sandpipers winter mostly in South America, and studies have shown that they may make a non-stop flight of nearly 2000 miles from New England or eastern Canada to the South American coast. The name “Semipalmated” refers to slight webbing between the toes, visible only at extremely close range.
A sign near the Sanibel City Pier.
Wonder if the Osprey is eating one of the Frequently Caught.
Birds were standing around on the beach, waiting for people to catch fish.
Not this bird, though.
In a tree near the pier, a couple of egrets arranged themselves for comparison, Great and Snowy.
In another branch, a juvenile Reddish Egret!
Perched on a railing right next to me, a young Snowy Egret.
Egret and husband on the city pier, yesterday.
Great Egret in a tree.
The Reddish Egret at surf’s edge with a Snowy.
The Snowy on the railing had funny legs, black in front, yellow in back. I guess it is changing from young to adult.
Birds looking for bait.
Snowy Egret is letting me stand next to it.
See what I mean about the legs.
Here’s the Snowy Egret legs I’m used to.
Side by side comparison.
Great Egret still in the tree, looking sort of slinky yet majestic.
Osprey still working on that fish.
Love this shot, and that sea eagle’s eye!
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.
We saw this Yellow-crowned Night Heron in mangroves near a short boardwalk.
Look at that red eye.
It was overcast and the light wasn’t great, especially looking up, but heck! here’s a Red-bellied Woodpecker anyway.
Lots of nonchalant rabbits, munching here and there.
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.
Spotted Sandpiper, my second I’ve ever IDed. The first was two days ago.
John spotted it from pretty far off.
A flock of Roseate Spoonbills and one cormorant looked like they were just waking up.
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.
One by one, some of the spoonbills took off and flew away. We were watching them from the observation tower.
Bird coming towards us over the water.
Green Heron perched just below the tower. You can really see some green in this one.
Another colored heron, the Little Blue, was waiting just at the bottom of the tower.
There is something a tiny bit comical about this bird. It seems poised between different feelings, stuck in indecision.
A decent look at the spoonbill’s bill.
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.
Not many cars on a July morning. That one ahead was driving slowly past a white bird.
It was a Great Egret stalking along in the grass.
When the car drove on, it walked towards us.
The egret was keeping an eye out for lizards and other delicacies.
Birds were my tasty breakfast delicacies! Figuratively, of course.
Our sweet ride awaits, the bug-eye green boat that is the Marsh Beast. Birdwatching by airboat, oh yeah! We did that yesterday morning.
We could get a really nice view of some birds from the boat, like this Anhinga at rest.
Guys fishing and an osprey nest.
Two juveniles and one adult in this photo.
Captain Kenny said this is one of the few nests with juveniles still in it.
Another airboat coming in for a look.
We saw lots of Ospreys during our trip.
Ma or Pa Osprey.
The Osprey kids’ brown feathers have more white on them than the adult.
That’s a fine young bird!
Osprey at rest. Big wings like a cloak.
Osprey in motion…almost a great photo!
We came upon some small black fuzzy creatures in the floating vegetation.
They are seemingly running on top of the water.
They were Purple Gallinule chicks, we were told.
Long legs and long toes make them look funny if you are more used to hen chicks than swamphen chicks.
Looks like a little wetland roadrunner.
There’s an adult.
A beautifully colored bird of southern and tropical wetlands, the Purple Gallinule can be see walking on top of floating vegetation or clambering through dense shrubs. Its extremely long toes help it walk on lily pads without sinking.
On the move.
Adult coming in for a landing.
Purple Gallinule chicks.
Coming up on an alligator.
Alligator spotting is an important part of any airboat trip in Florida, right?
A Least Bittern!.. a new bird for me.
A tiny heron, furtive and surpassingly well camouflaged, the Least Bittern is one of the most difficult North American marsh birds to spot.
What a beauty!
Thanks to its habit of straddling reeds, the Least Bittern can feed in water that would be too deep for the wading strategy of other herons.
I think this is a male, because its back and crown are almost black. Females’ crown and back are brown, according to Cornell.
A short flying hop to some new reeds.
Shake it off.
Thank you for posing, little bittern.
We watched one big gator for a while.
And he watched us.
Great Blue Heron in a mat of water hyacinth.
We investigated an area I’ll called Egret Town.
Big wings, big feathers.
Great Egret wingspan is four-and-a-half to five-and-a-half feet.
Another Common Gallinule.
It was nice to have a breeze when we were on the move on a typically warm Florida summer morning.
Nice golden slippers, Snowy Egret. Another one of those just-missed-it action photos, oh well.
Birds and beast.
Captain Kenny said they are normally here in winter, not summer.
Decorating the tree a bit early this year, in Egret Town.
Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets.
More gallinule chicks.
An older gallinule chick among the lotus?
These lovely lotus are native plants, we learned.
Anhinga in the treetops, my last bird of the trip.
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.
Is this place even real?
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.
Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Wood Storks. Oh my!
The most Great Egrets I’ve seen in one place – they seem to prefer the solitary lifestyle outside of breeding season.
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!)
“Gear down,” noted my husband, the airline pilot.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Young stork, Brown Pelican and Black Vulture on the beach.
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.
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.
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
Willet at Chastain Beach, Stuart, Florida a couple of days ago.
Willets seem to be here on South Hutchinson Island year round. They are usually alone when I see them.
Feeding both during the day and at night, Willets take most of their prey from the surface, using their sensitive bill tip to grab up worms, snails, and insects. They also probe for sand crabs and other prey on mudflats and beaches, and take shellfish and small fiddler crabs from rocky shorelines. You’ll usually see them on wetted shorelines or wading close to the water’s edge, but occasionally Willets paddle in shallow waters to chase down small fish and crabs.
One Willet and one beachcomber.
A short walk south, at Bathtub Reef Beach (closed now for renourishment and repairs) a Great Egret was fishing out by the reef.
Rough seas offshore, calm water behind the reef.
Nearby, a Snowy Egret.