Saturday, January 28, 2017

We Have Chicks!

It was a gloomy lake check today with not a lot of Wintering birds to be seen. Not many in all of mile 8 mile loop. Time to head by the cemetery before getting back home. I had yet to see much activity at the Bald Eagle nest but I only get a brief window to peek in at them these days. I didn't have a lot of expectation. It should just be another quick drive through. But...

We have chicks!

Bald Eagle

Mom was busy tearing off chunks of breakfast and handing it off to the new arrivals.

Bald Eagle

I could only see one chick at first and it soon seemed to turn my way. Hi!

Bald Eagle

Then the second chick could be seen trying to stand right next to the first baby

Bald Eagle

"Enough play time! Eat your fish."

Bald Eagle

Nice to have new eaglets in the neighborhood after last year's bust. Now just have to sit back and watch them grow. It won't be long before they are flying off on their own.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Barber Park Gulls and Sparrows

I headed over to Barber Park which is on the outer edge of my birding loop from home. There was rain earlier but I have never seen the soccer area filled with water before. Surrounding that water were many, many gulls resting on the grass.

Ring-billed Gull

When you find a whole bunch of gulls around it is important to scan through them in case any rare species might show up. The most common gull in Central Florida is the Ring-billed Gull and most of the birds here where of that variety. They ranged in age from adult...

Ring-billed Gull

...to juvenile. Some would pick around in the grasses and water but the majority of the birds were just trying to catch a nap.

Ring-billed Gull

Standing alone near the edge of the ponding water was a Laughing Gull. They are found in large numbers on the coast so at least I got one stray in the flock.

Laughing Gull

I was trying to get back in the car while the wind continued to howl around but I heard a small sound off to my right. Out of the cloudy skies, a small flock of Savannah Sparrow landed in a tree and then dropped to the ground.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrows are not uncommon in brushy areas around the state in Winter but I have never seen them in my urban area before. They picked around at the ground for a couple of minutes right in the parking lot.

Savannah Sparrow

One of the birds took a look to the sky and, suddenly, they all took wing and headed out toward the lake.

Savannah Sparrow

This park can hold some interesting things from time to time. I definitely wasn't expecting this particular grouping of birds. Tired of the wind, I headed home. Not much else was enjoying this weather, either.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Green-winged Teal

Early in the season I found a few female Green-winged Teal in the lake but haven't noticed them lately. This I discovered from a Facebook friend that a male was now out there. I swung by and, sure enough, there he was. I tried for a couple of shots before a jogger flushed it and other teal to the other side of the lake.

Green-winged Teal

For some reason I always thing that Blue-winged Teal and Green-winged Teal are the same size. Looking at this shot you can tell that Green-wings are much smaller.

Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal

The male headed up to shore to join a female. I am starting to see that I have damaged my lens somewhat, Any shots taken at the full 300 mm distance are definitely not in sharp focus any longer. Sigh.

Green-winged Teal

Time for a little drink of water.

Green-winged Teal

Here is a good example why Green-winged Teal are named that. The green really flashes when she turns to the light just right.

Green-winged Teal

One last shot of the male as he picks through the leaf litter.

Green-winged Teal

Despite my slightly crippled optics I finally got some pretty good shots of a male Green-winged Teal. All of my previous opportunities were shrouded in rain and clouds. I will have to check back in with this pair soon!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Checking for Chicks

I stopped by the nest site on the way home today. Hoping to see if there are any Bald Eagle chicks this year. I couldn't tell by just the drive by but Mom was at the nest while Dad was in the opposite tree.

Bald Eagle

I will have to keep checking. One thing I do notice is that something is wrong with my camera after accidentally dragging it off of the banding table this morning. Always something...

Monday, January 09, 2017

Mead Botanical Gardens

It was my first trip back to Mead Botanical Garden for the New Year and I was soon surrounded by the largest feeding flock of American Robins of the Winter. Problem was, they were all flying out of holly trees at waist level and quickly going into thickets across the path. I could not get a single bird out in the open for a photo. I could tell by the bird sounds all around me that they would be here for a while so I headed toward the Education Center for now.

Perched over the creek was a Red-shouldered Hawk scanning the trees for a meal.

Red-shouldered Hawk

As I approached the Cypress stand I noticed another Red-shouldered Hawk flying up into a tree. By the time I got in a good position for photos I could just make out that it was snacking on a frog.

Red-shouldered Hawk

There was not too much action around the boardwalk so I headed back to the 'island'. American Robins were still there and I finally got one bird out in the light but still behind branches.

American Robin

On the back side of a Brazilian Pepper shrub I could finally make out a few Cedar Waxwings darting in for berries. When a shadow passed over all the birds froze to stay hidden. It was the only way I could focus on this bird.

Cedar Waxwing

Soon, they resumed feeding and then would fly back to an adjacent tree. There have not been that many Cedar Waxwings around this season.

Cedar Waxwing

Also in the pepper tree was a female Northern Cardinal looking out over the pond.

Northern Cardinal

I headed back to the car. Along the way, a Great Egret was prowling along the path and paid zero attention to me as I got a bunch of shots as I walked beside it.

Great Egret

Finally got a nice feeding flock of Robins. Perhaps there will be a couple more before they all head back North.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

New Year's Hike

I have used New Year's Day a hiking day for the past several years. Usually I choose a place I haven't been to before but today I decided to go back to Clay Island since there was a report of a pair of Groove-billed Ani hanging out by an observation tower. Not sure which direction to head (there was only one tower I knew of from years ago) I headed West. I only found a flock of Tree Swallows in the air after walking the first 15 minutes.

Tree Swallow

There were zero birds in the water. Not even a Common Gallinule. Just one American Alligator tucked back in the reeds.

American Alligator

I eventually came upon an observation tower. A Red-shouldered Hawk was calling across the canal. A few Palm Warblers were scattered just past the tower. Nothing else was in view.

Tower

I got to the top of the tower and was soon at eye level with a single Turkey Vulture drifting by. The rest of the area was clear and still. I was getting bored. I also just realized that I should have gone to the next turn than the one I took. Now I couldn't get to the original tower which was across the canal. Sigh.

Turkey Vulture

I follow the path in the only direction I could travel and eventually got to the observation tower where others had reported the Anis. They were a no-show for me. Really bored. I decided to head home. Up on the wires on the way back was a lone American Kestrel.

American Kestrel

I climbed back into the car feeling defeated. These first of the year hikes are usually teaming with birds. I rounded the curve and had a Sandhill Crane feeding in a yard.

Sandhill Crane

90 minutes of hiking. 4 bird photos. At least I know where some birds are. Back in my neighborhood. Happy New Year.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Hooded Merganser Joy

I always swing by a local retention pond after my bird banding to check if there are any Hooded Mergansers swimming about. They prefer a certain pond every year and sometimes they make good subjects. Sometimes they want nothing to do with me and retreat to the underside of a parking structure. Today they didn't mind my being there.

Hooded Merganser

In the past, my shots have been rather hit or miss. Could be raining. Could be getting there when the light is too harsh. A lot of times they are just constantly moving and my shots seem too soft for me. For whatever reason today my shots were spot on.

Hooded Merganser

I ended up with a ton of shots I liked and I had to just narrow down choices for this selection. I will probably go back to revisit the gallery again in a while but for now I needed to stop. The males were giving me a lot of nice poses I enjoy.

Hooded Merganser

The female Hooded Mergansers were cruising a little closer to me and would just stare after coming up from a dive for food.

Hooded Merganser

Then the light would strengthen just a bit more and light up their crest.

Hooded Merganser

Such a cute, coy looking lady.

Hooded Merganser

I always think the eyes on these birds ends up a little blurry. Drives me crazy. The rest of the shot is in focus.

Hooded Merganser

Now I wonder if since Hooded Mergansers are divers that perhaps it is a nictitating eyelid like sharks. It is "a transparent (or translucent) third eyelid present in some animals that can be drawn across the eye for protection". Would explain it to me.

Hooded Merganser

A final shot of two females drifting past.

Hooded Merganser

I could sit with the Hooded Mergansers all day but I had other things to do. Like wash bug spray off of me. And bird poop. Happens when banding birds.

2016 St. Pete CBC, Part 2

Part 2 of the CBC post is going to be a bit more lengthy. I took so many more photos as the day went on and didn't expect to get many birds at the golf course. Settle in...

We headed back to Crescent Lake to look for our main target, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. We missed it the first two time. We were told where to look for the bird and as we got out of the car the first thing we found was a Red-bellied Woodpecker peeking out of a tree branch.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Gathered around the woodpecker were several European Starlings. They were all fussing at the woodpecker. Perhaps it use to be their nest site? Every now and then, one of the males would wave its wings about in protest.

European Starling

It took a little while but Jim finally spotted our bird in the Sweet Gum tree between the parking lot and the lake. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is very well camouflaged against the tree bark. If you aren't looking at the right moment it is easy to miss them.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Now that it was later in the day we got a chance to get a better view of the Lesser Scaups and Ring-necked Ducks. The Scuap is in the center.

Lesser Scaup Ring-necked Duck

Among the Ring-necked Ducks was a leucistic female.

Ring-necked Duck

I love how grumpy this Lesser Scaup looks. Hur-umph!

Lesser Scaup

One of the domestic duck present was a Graylag Goose who took some time to bathe as we were walking past.

Graylag Goose

Double-crested Cormorants were gathered along the shore. Great to have a chance to get a close look at those amazing eyes.

Double-crested Cormorant

What I didn't know about Double-crested Cormorants is that the insides of their mouth can get that Robin-egg blue. Thanks for the yawn!

Double-crested Cormorant

Not a lot of American Coots around but a few. Simply stunning in black and white.

American Coot

Couldn't resist a shot of a feather resting on the lawn.

Feather

Laughing Gulls were gathered at the North end of the lake.

Laughing Gull

We were told that WHite-winged Doves could be found at the Dairy Inn. Nope. Just wanted to prove that we did check.

Sign

We did find another dove on the way back to the lake. A Eurasian Collared Dove.

Eurasian Collared Dove

Just past the tennis courts were a pair of Yellow-shafted Flickers.

Yellow-shafted Flicker

We came back to the water tower and could here Monk Parakeets everywhere. Closer inspection revealed many nest wedged in the stairs and railings.

Monk Parakeet

A lot of the Monk Parakeets would fly down to the oaks and chew on some acorns.

Monk Parakeet

We stopped along a creek in search of more birds. Our leader, Jim McGinity, was trying to get a shot of the only ouse Wren we found today.

Jim McGinity

We were not thrilled to head to the golf course. We just figured there would not be that many species to be found out there. It was our final stop of the day. We loaded into cats and began our tour. If I hadn't have turned toward the practice range I would have missed our only raptor hiding in the shade. A Red-shouldered Hawk.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Jim and Killian were just ahead of me and seemed excited as they climbed out of their cart by a small pond. It was full of a couple dozen Northern Shovelers. I got my best shots of these birds ever today.

Northern Shoveler

They were enthralled with the ducks but I spied something else across to pond. A Spotted Sandpiper!

Spotted Sandpiper

The soon setting Sun lit up a female Northern Shoveler resting on shore.

Northern Shoveler

Just in front of her were our only Mottled Ducks of the day.

Mottled Duck

Feeling a bit more bouyed by these unexpected finds, we made the turn toward the next fairway and came upon a small flock of Blue-winged Teal.

Blue-winged Teal

Behind them was a pair of Mallard. This is the best I could get of the green feathers.

Mallard

Lurking along the shoreline was a feeding Roseate Spoonbill trying to stay hidden.

Roseate Spoonbill

You can try to hide, Roseate Spoonbill. You can try...

Roseate Spoonbill

Ospreys were busy diving for fish in all of the ponds. Just couldn't get those houses out of the way.

Osprey

My final shot of the day was a Loggerhead Shrike perched as we were exiting the course. We then turned in the carts and totaled our bird before heading home.

Loggerhead Shrike

Ten news species were gathered at the golf course. Who would have thunk it? Not bad day but I was hoping for more species in total. But, we were in very urban environments so I guess we did alright. The final total for the St. Pete CBC ended up being 163 species which was a tie for the 3rd best count ever. I was there for all the top counts. Can't wait for next year.