Sunday, January 17, 2016

More Hooded Merganser Fun

Time to check out the Hooded Mergansers again on the way home. They are only here a relatively short period and for some reason I still get a lot of enjoyment of watching and photographing them. They weren't doing all the mating rituals like they were last visit but were nice and close just swimming around like this female.

Hooded Merganser

Several males were still around, as well.

Hooded Merganser

I love all the different shapes these bird can make with their head feathers. From full circles to medium squared-off tabs.

Hooded Merganser

The females are usually seen diving for food often and their head feathers are usually flat but even they can get that styled up round look.

Hooded Merganser

How about a nice dart-shaped triangle?

Hooded Merganser

The Hooded Merganser will be heading out sooner than I like to think about. For now, I can get the pleasure of hanging out with these amazing divers for a little while every Sunday.

Hooded Merganser

Had some better lighting today. A lot of rain in the past and forecast for the near future. Wonder how they look with drops all of the surface. Hmmm...

Friday, January 15, 2016

Cedar Waxwings at Work

I have been lamenting not seeing that many Robins and Waxwings this year. We had a bird rain shower blow through while at work and I heard the Cedar Waxwings flocking across the parking lot. Once the rain let up I had to walk around to the adjacent business to get the light right. A huge flock of Waxwings were sitting in the trees after feeding on the invasive Brazilian Pepper in the growth between our businesses.

Cedar Waxwing

There are a couple of birds with orange tips on them which you don't see that often. Moments later they all flew off to the West and vanished over the trees. Hope this is not the last flock of Waxwings I get to photograph this season.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Titmice and Chickadee

Heading out of the house again and I heard the birds moving toward the feeder so I had to run back for the camera. This time I was able to ease out of the front door to get some closer views. The Tufted Titmice were first to the feeder and eyed me briefly.

Tufted Titmouse

It quickly grabbed a sunflower seed before taking it back to the shrubs to eat it.

Tufted Titmouse

Then the continuing Carolina Chickadee joined in as the Sun began to dip behind the trees.

Carolina Chickadee

Still enjoying the Chickadee. Stick around, little guy. The new tail feathers look good on you!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Hooded Merganser Flock

Once our banding sessions are done this time of year I take a detour through Maitland Center to see if I can find Hooded Mergansers in the retention ponds. They arrive in small numbers earlier but by now there are dozens of them feeding and swimming between ponds. They also begin to perform courtship displays now and I got lucky to be there at the right time today.

Not going to make too many comments since I have so many shots but will elaborate about some images. Just enjoy the views. I always seem to get them in this formation under cloudy skies but I love these little divers. We begin with a female.

Hooded Merganser

Next, a few male portraits.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Another female checks out the suitors around her.

Hooded Merganser

A view of a male more head-on showing how thin they can appear.

Hooded Merganser

Not sleeping. Just fluffing out those head feathers.

Hooded Merganser

How about a little tail feather crown?

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

The tension is building...

Hooded Merganser

Males begin to size one another up.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Now, the displays start! Head wagging and swimming toward each other in signs of supremacy.

Hooded Merganser

My favorite part is when they paddle their feet and rare up out of the water. The female up front is even getting into the action!

Hooded Merganser

One male stretches his neck toward his rival.

Hooded Merganser

Another tilt to the skies.

Hooded Merganser

Then relax.

Hooded Merganser

Puff up that belly and crest.

Hooded Merganser

Now thrust!

Hooded Merganser

Sometimes you can look cool only so long until the wind ruins your perfect quaff.

Hooded Merganser

Finally, a winning male follows a female to pair up.

Hooded Merganser

A great half-hour hanging out with the Mergansers. I should have a few more weeks to get shots. Can't wait!

Wood Stork

Not much time to bird besides my weekly banding jaunts. So, here is a Wood Stork near the house before dark.

Wood Stork

Yep. Just a Wood Stork. I still flash back to trips heading home to our house in the Keys and Dad saying how rare it was to see them back in the 70's. Their numbers were so low that they were teetering on the brink. Now they have rebounded nicely and can be found all over Central Florida and elsewhere. Love them.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Chickadee at Home

I was heading out to the store and heard an uncommon call at the house. Along with the calling Tufted Titmice there was another call. Could it be? Yes! A Carolina Chickadee!

Not the best shot as I had to take it through the screen but good enough for an ID. It is also molting out its tail.

Carolina Chickadee

A few years ago a group of us found one at Mead Botanical Garden and that was considered the first sighting there. It seems they are spreading throughout the region and I am a few miles south. We now have some at my bird banding site in Altamonte Springs. This is the first sighting of a Carolina Chickadee at the house. Hope it sticks around for a while.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Lake Apopka New Year's Drive, Part 2

Made my way back around to the start of the drive and got a shot of the new sign and gate at the entrance. Rather penal-looking. They are now automated and open at sunrise and close by sunset. At the exit gate, you have to stop in a specific spot or it won't open. Should be interesting once the the stormy season begins!

TK

Just past the gate I had another cooperative Eastern Phoebe.

Eastern Phoebe

Northern Harriers are difficult to get photos of. At least for me. They are always tilting this way and that and I find it hard to get a shot of their heads. Got this one but wish the light was better and it was pretty far away.

Northern Harrier

Fulvous Whistling Ducks are often seen flying quickly from one side of the property to another but seldom sitting in the water. In fact, last year was my first official record of them but it was only by hearing them calling just past a clump of reeds. Today I decided to walk out along the back berm to see if I could get a shot. Fortunately, a small flock flew in as I walked so I was able to get some photos.

Fulvous Whistling Duck

Exploring further, I spotted a Ruddy Duck drifting along behind some trees.

Ruddy Duck

A lone Ring-necked Duck was a bit more in the back.

Ring-necked Duck

A pleasent surprise was a Gadwall resting on a branch.

Gadwall

American Wigeons have been reported so I was hoping to find them. A pair swam out as I headed back to the car.

American Wigeon

I now have sightings of American Wigeon from coast to coast in Florida and my first was out in Washington State years ago. The male gave me a nice wave "Goodbye!"

American Wigeon

There was also a report of some Northern Shovelers but I missed them the last time. Got one just before getting in the car (and out of the wind) hiding way behind the grasses.

Northern Shoveler

Near the end of the drive I spotted a flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks wandering through the grass.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

A final bird of the drive. One of dozens of Belted Kingfisher. This one stared at me for a while instead of darting off like all the others.

Belted Kingfisher

Two trips around the drive is a nice way to begin the year. Hoping to make many more journeys out in 2016. Still need to get that Swamphen...

Friday, January 01, 2016

Lake Apopka New Year's Drive, Part 1

Another year, another trip to Lake Apopka. I am really starting to enjoy the fact that I get there right as the gate opens and can be one of the first, and then the first, to be out on the drive. Gives me time to get to birds before others and snag some shots before the traffic scares anything off. Like this American Bittern that strode upon the stage just after sunrise.

American Bittern

The first American Alligator of the morning cruises the canal.

American Alligator

While more begin to hunt near the Pumphouse.

American Alligator

Red-winged Blackbirds are easy to spot through out the drive.

Red-winged Blackbird

You can see and hear them calling all day long.

Red-winged Blackbird

Ospreys are busy having breakfast as soon as the Sun has come up and can be found atop most phone poles.

Osprey

I spotted this Limpkin along the edge of the road and followed it to an open space just up ahead.

Limpkin

There it revealed it had breakfast, too, and tried to position the snail shell to extract the tasty snail inside.

Limpkin

It let me watch the whole time even though it was still weary of my clicking camera.

Limpkin

Around the bend, a Snowy Egret prowled along a branch.

Snowy Egret

You can never have too many shots of Great Blue Herons. Especially when they let you get right next to them in the early morning light.

Great Blue Heron

Wilson's Snipe are typically very skittish and you usually see them fly off in front of you when you walk through their hiding places. For some reason, I found a pair on the side of the drive that decided staying still was a better choice.

Wilson's Snipe

I guess they figured that those few blades of grass were disguise enough.

Wilson's Snipe

Common Gallinule are copious and as hard as I try I can't resist a shot now and again.

Common Gallinule

Another more showy Snowy Egret wades into shallow water in search of a snack.

Snowy Egret

A Red-shouldered Hawk called from one of the few manmade items on the back part of the drive.

Red-shouldered Hawk

A few Savannah Sparrows can be found flitting through the green grasses right along the road but seldom pause for a good shot.

Savannah Sparrow

Most of the Eastern Phoebes I saw today were so busy feeding that I couldn't get many good shots. This one stayed still for a little bit for me.

Eastern Phoebe

One final Red-shouldered Hawk was perched in a snag at the last turn out of the drive.

Red-shouldered Hawk

I am still trying to find the reported Gray-headed Swamphen. I have missed it on the previous 5 times around. The day is young so why not have one more try before heading home? Part Two is next!