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. ¬†ūüėČ

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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.

Birdwatching with my niece

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Birds are nesting on Bird Island, in the Indian River Lagoon, a few blocks and an open channel away from my home.

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My seven-year-old niece was visiting with her parents and little sister and one afternoon last week we went birding.

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She was into it.

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She liked the binoculars and learned to use them quickly.

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We could see Wood Storks with nesting material.

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So many large birds perching and nesting on top of the mangove trees.

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Pelicans, cormorants and egrets are there now too, with a few vultures waiting for an opportunity to dine.

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Clean up crew.

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Birds everywhere!

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Next we went to Sandsprit Park looking for parrots but didn’t find any. We did spot a big bird “fishing”.

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This Great Blue Heron was quite comfortable around a fisherman at the end of a dock.

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My niece was thrilled at the bird’s size and beauty.

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A Great Blue Heron is not something she sees often in her Philadelphia suburb.

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“He’s so pretty!”

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GBH: Largest of the North American herons with long legs, a sinuous neck, and thick, daggerlike bill. Head, chest, and wing plumes give a shaggy appearance.

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Big feet!

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We saw other birds in the park too, including this clever crow taking bags out of the trash and rolling them around to see if there was any food left in them.

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In Manatee Pocket, a pelican caught a fish.

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We drove to a neighborhood in Port Salerno near Pirate’s Cove where I had seen parrots a few times before and… bingo! Quaker Parrots, aka Monk Parakeets.

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“My goal is to see parrots this vacation,” my niece had told me a couple of days before. We high-fived each other.

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It may come as a surprise to see noisy, green-and-gray parrots racing through cities in the U.S. But Monk Parakeets, native to South America but long popular in the pet trade, established wild populations here in the 1960s. They are the only parrots to nest communally; dozens live together year-round in large, multifamily stick nests built in trees and on power poles.

We saw 8 or 10 flying around and they appeared to be nesting in a cabbage palm covered in viney vegetation.

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Monk Parakeets are very social, spending their whole lives living in bustling colonies of dozens of individuals. Every morning they leave their nests to forage, spending the day climbing through trees (sometimes using their beaks as a climbing aid) or dropping to the ground in search of food. At dusk they all gather back at the nests to roost, both during the breeding season and after it is over.

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Monk Parakeets were introduced to the U.S. in the 1960s via the release or escape of pet birds. Since then their numbers have grown and they now occur in several cities including San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, New York, Providence, Miami, and St. Petersburg. They are also numerous in their native South America. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 20 million, with 3% of these in the U.S. and none in Canada or Mexico. The species rates a 6 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Monk Parakeet is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Historically, most management efforts toward Monk Parakeets, both in the U.S. and in South America, have been directed at curbing their populations because of their reputation as an agricultural pest. As it turns out, their populations have persisted but have not spread, and in the U.S. there are no longer active programs to control their numbers.

I guess we have learned to live with these noisy, pretty little green birds.

Looking up at Wood Storks

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Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away! (Sing it, Frank.)

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Today was a Wood Stork Day here in Sewall’s Point, with so many of these large white and black¬†birds wheeling overhead on thermals.

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That’s quite a wingspan, 60 to 65 inches.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

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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Florida Audubon says…

The Wood Stork is one of Florida’s signature wading birds, a long-legged, awkward-looking bird on land that soars like a raptor in the air.

American Bird Conservancy

These social storks nest colonially, with up to 25 nests in one tree. Pairs often mate for life.

In Florida, Wood Storks breed during the late winter dry season, when their fish prey are concentrated in shrinking pools. They regularly fly up to 12 miles from the nesting colony while foraging and will go much farther during droughts in search of food.

 

Feeling nesty

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Smile and say, “Wood stork nesting season!”

I went for a walk around the neighborhood with my bird camera yesterday. Snapped these pics on Oakwood Drive in Sewall’s Point.

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Wood Storks were in live oak trees collecting branches to fly back to their nesting site, probably just across a small channel of water on Bird Island in the Indian River Lagoon.

Funny to see these very large birds balanced atop trees in people’s front and back yards.

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Palms, moon, bird and plane over Oakwood.

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Wood Storks are lovely in flight.

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With those pretty feathers, graceful wings and ugly bald head, the Wood Stork is really Beauty and the Beast in one bird.

A large, white, bald-headed wading bird of the southeastern swamps, the Wood Stork is the only stork breeding in the United States. Its late winter breeding season is timed to the Florida dry season when its fish prey become concentrated in shrinking pools.

Hawk and stork

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Broad-winged hawk in our tree again. At least I think it’s a Broad-winged Hawk.

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I could hear it calling from inside the house so I went out with my camera.

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Lately Wood Storks¬†have been spiraling above our backyard, sometimes mixed in with flocks of vultures! I don’t think they are deliberately associating… just riding thermals together.

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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