Monday, February 13, 2017

Looking for Breakfast

I head around the local lakes every chance I can to see what might be hanging out. Mainly looking for Wintering ducks but you never know. Today, I headed around and spotted a Great Blue Heron with a very interesting demeanor.

He was definitely on patrol and then I noticed that there were several Muscovy Duck males in defense mode closer to the road. I had to stop for some documenting photos.

Muscovy Duck, Great Blue Heron

Then I saw what the Heron was eyeing. Nestled next to an oak tree was a Mama Muscovy Duck blocking a clutch of ducklings.

Muscovy Duck, Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Herons will eat just about everything that moves if they can and this big boy was really interested in the duckling. The males did drive him off before I left but who knows what might happen later. They eat birds, fish, baby alligators, snakes, you name it.

Muscovy Duck, Great Blue Heron

I know that Muscovy Ducks are not natives but I hate to see predators in this scenario for some reason. Maybe they will make it, maybe not. Can't hang out all day. It is a jungle out there, even in your own backyard.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

The Final Sparrow Drive?

Several of the Wekiwa Basin Banding Station crew headed out for what will be the final Sparrow Drive done by Marianne Korosy after many years of research at the abandoned limestone quarries in the Weekie Wachee Preserve on Florida's west coast. Unlike the past couple of years, conditions were much drier which is more ideal for finding sparrows in the fields. Now we just had to hope that the winds would stay down,too.

Quarry

The mornings always start with an instructional course from Clay before we get to the activity of driving for sparrows on what will be involved.

Group

Once the instructions have been delivered, the group heads out to the first phase of walking through the scrub in hopes of moving birds into the nets.

Group

Our first bird of the day was a Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow

Kay and Becki collected the next batch of birds and delivered them to the truck for data collection.

Kay and Becki

One of the next birds was a sought after Grasshopper Sparrow and it was a new capture of a migrant species.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Next up was a Swamp Sparrow.

Swamp Sparrow

Lynn insists on trying to get a shot of Andrew on these days and so Andrew got one back at her.

Swamp Sparrow

And here is Lynn's right back of the same bird.

Swamp Sparrow

In between runs, Andrew ran to check on the nets. The wind had blown down the end of the nets and in the end was an Eastern (Yellow) Palm Warbler.

Palm Warbler

Marianne processed the Palm Warbler back at the truck and there was a Western Palm Warbler caught at the same time.

Palm Warbler

One of the visitors was allowed to release the Palm Warbler after banding.

Palm Warbler

Another visitor was allowed to release the second Palm Warbler soon afterward.

Palm Warbler

In hopes of flushing out other birds from the far side of the net lanes, Lynn, Becki, and Andrew waded through the far grasses. Unfortunately, all of the sparrows decided to fly in the other direction.

Trek

The morning was calm until the Sun rose higher and the brought in the winds. The nets were soon billowing which decreases our chances of captures since birds can easily escape as the nets do not sit in their normal posture. If they are open like this the birds can simply fly back out.

Nets

Lynn was there when we did catch a Savannah Sparrow and we got a shot before it headed back for banding.

Savannah Sparrow

The next good surprise was a Le Conte's Sparrow on the way back to the truck.

Le Conte's Sparrow

Le Conte's Sparrows are one of the usual sparrows in this area from year to year and a great bird to have visitors get to see. They are are usually very elusive in grassy fields and difficult to observe up close.

Le Conte's Sparrow

During the next net run, Andrew climbed a nearby hilltop to try and spot the oncoming volunteers as they headed toward the nets. Andrew points, "There they are!"

Hilltop

Indeed they are! The crew crests the ridge and drives a few more birds towards the waiting nets.

Group

As we wrapped up the morning we got a couple more Savannah Sparrows down in the square of the nets.

Savannah Sparrow

One of the main target birds has always been Grasshopper Sparrows and we ended up with a couple more before we ended the day.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Marianne gave details of our last Grasshopper Sparrow of the day before we headed home for this fun season. Alas, this will be the last.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Congratulations to Marianne for a very successful banding project. We have known her for so many years and have been proud to be invited and to participate in her events over many, many years. Now, she moves on to new ventures and we return to the banding site at Lake Lotus. These Sparrow drives will be highly missed by all of us.

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.