The ibis good life

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Morning walk yesterday and some White Ibis were still roosting from the night before. Lazy late risers!

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White Ibis is reading the Sunday paper and sipping coffee in bed.

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Moon and bird.

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As I type this on Monday morning, we are an hour and a half past the Spring Equinox so it’s officially SPRING.

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Across the street, more roosting ibises.

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A few blocks away, White ibises were coming down from their roosts and hitting the lawns. Lots of them.

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Breakfast time.

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Northern Mockingbird in a sunny spot.

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I met a boy walking a big Great Dane. He said, “There are a lot of birds around. I can hear more birds this morning than usual.”

“It’s spring!” I said.

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Another block or two and another flock of White Ibis having breakfast. Wish I had counted my grand total of Sunday morning Sewall’s Point White Ibis.

Lawn ornaments

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White Ibis in Sewall’s Point this morning. My husband and I were out for a ride. I had my camera in the basket of my beach bike.

A wading bird of the deep South, the striking White Ibis is frequently seen on lawns looking for large insects as well as probing for prey along the shoreline.

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White Ibis poking around.

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Wikipedia: A field study late in the Florida nesting season revealed that on an average day, adult American white ibis spent 10.25 hours looking for food, 0.75 hours flying, 13 hours resting, roosting, and attending to their nests.

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They are pretty calm around people.

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.

High wire ibis

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You usually find White Ibis poking their beaks around in the dirt of a front lawn or golf course, or wading in shallow water. But sometimes they perch on wires like perching birds instead of wading birds.

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I saw this flock along A1A near the entrance to Stuart Beach today while out for a bird walk.

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Audubon Field Guide: White Ibis 

One of the most numerous wading birds in Florida, and common elsewhere in the southeast. Highly sociable at all seasons, roosting and feeding in flocks, nesting in large colonies.

White ibis morning

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Good morning, marsh. (Yesterday, from the covered deck of our rental in Cedar Key.)

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It was a White Ibis morning. I propped my elbows on the porch railing to take pictures.

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Nice little flock, with lots of juveniles. This photo shows about one-third of the number I could see.

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And one Snowy Egret

Among the most elegant of the herons, the slender Snowy Egret sets off immaculate white plumage with black legs and brilliant yellow feet. Those feet seem to play a role in stirring up or herding small aquatic animals as the egret forages. Breeding Snowy Egrets grow filmy, curving plumes that once fetched astronomical prices in the fashion industry, endangering the species. Early conservationists rallied to protect egrets by the early twentieth century, and this species is once again a common sight in shallow coastal wetlands.

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Here’s a White Ibis young ‘un.

From All About Birds: Other Names

Bec croche, L’Ibis blanc, Petit flaman (French)
Corocoro blanco, Coco blanco, Ibis blanco, Coclito blanco (Spanish)

white ibis

Wikipedia:

The American white ibis (Eudocimus albus) is a species of bird in the ibis family, Threskiornithidae. It is found from the mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast of the United States south through most of the coastal New World tropics. This particular ibis is a medium-sized bird with an overall white plumage, bright red-orange down-curved bill and long legs, and black wing tips that are usually only visible in flight. Males are larger and have longer bills than females. The breeding range runs along the Gulf and Atlantic Coast, and the coasts of Mexico and Central America. Outside the breeding period, the range extends further inland in North America and also includes the Caribbean.

And…

Their diet consists primarily of small aquatic prey, such as insects and small fishes. Crayfish are its preferred food in most regions, but it can adjust its diet according to the habitat and prey abundance. It is a tactile, non-visual forager, whose main foraging behavior is probing with its beak at the bottom of shallow water to feel form, and to capture its prey.

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And what a strange beak it is. It seems to become one with its face.

The White Ibis has a cheerful look, both elegant and a bit comical.

More photos in Flickr Album: Marsh House

The official raptor of Cedar Key

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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.

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

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View.

I love a good marsh.

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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.

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

Sign outside the Cedar Key Museum State Park.

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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.

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And something a little bit wild too.

Anhinga Trail

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Green Heron in the Everglades.

These small herons crouch patiently to surprise fish with a snatch of their daggerlike bill. They sometimes lure in fish using small items such as twigs or insects as bait.

Lots of birds and some (slow and quiet) bird watchers on the fabulous Anhinga Trail, off the main park road early in the morning on Thursday, February 26.

Photo album: Anhinga Trail

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Anhinga nest with chicks! I believe the adult bird on the right is the female.

A bird of southern swamps, the Anhinga is known as the Water-Turkey for its swimming habits and broad tail, and also as the Snake-Bird for its habit of swimming with just its long head and neck sticking out of the water.

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Cormorants have turquoise eyes!

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White Ibis.

Native American folklore held that the bird was the last to seek shelter before a hurricane, and the first to emerge afterwards. The bird was thus a symbol for danger and optimism.

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Spotted a kestrel at the south end of the main park road, in Flamingo.

North America’s littlest falcon, the American Kestrel packs a predator’s fierce intensity into its small body.

I could spend days and days in the Everglades.