Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Mom's Feeders

We headed over to Mom's to sort through Dad's clothing and other belongings to see if we could recycle stuff before getting the rest to Goodwill. A somber 4 days but we managed to have some enjoyable times here and there. One of the last things Dad did before weeding and passing away was filling the feeders. If we visited and I noticed that they were empty I would head out to fill them and get water in the bird bath.

Mom mentioned that she had not filled the feeders since because she never saw any birds out there so it was not really worth it. Besides, she is busy enough. I figured I had to fill them as the rains approached to see what would show up. It rained for 4 solid days afterwards.

It didn't take long for birds to start returning to the feeders after they were loaded. Kinda like, "Where was that old guy who fed us? Yay! Food!!". House Sparrows and other birds began streaming into the yard. I enjoyed trying to examine the sparrows to see how many were juveniles like this one who was picking at grasses in between feeder visits.

House Sparrow

Blue Jays were soon to follow and there was an entire family. Juveniles were everywhere of many species but the Jay kids were super hungry for most days.

Blue Jay

House Sparrows have never been uncommon at the house when the feeders are full but I was amazed by the numbers on this visit. At one point of the last day there were at least 50 flocking through and perching everywhere.

House Sparrow

Out front at feeder #2, a juvenile Mourning Dove stayed on the ground picking up the spilled food. You can tell young doves with their feathers looking more like scales instead of a smooth, uniform brown.

Mourning Dove

Even juvenile Boat-tailed Grackles joined in at a couple of times. It was difficult to get that iridescent shine in the rain but this one works for me.

Boat-tailed Grackle

Another juvenile House Sparrow perches on the feeder pole waiting for a turn to grab more food.

House Sparrow

A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen many times but I never had the camera in my hands when she was out in the open. I had to settle for a blurry shot through the window as she rested in the Crepe Myrtle.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Despite the heavy bands of rain, once we had a small break the House Sparrows decided they needed a more thorough washing in the bird bath.

House Sparrow

There were several other species that flew through. There were Eurasian collared doves, Red-winged Blackbirds, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Starlings. On the final day, a Tufted Titmouse braved the mass of birds and took a chance at getting to the feeder.

Tufted Titmouse

When things got too crazy, it would retreat to the Crepe Myrtle and wait for the next opportunity.

Tufted Titmouse

We were packing the car to head home and I put the camera in the front seat. I decided to look out back once more and a juvenile Cooper's Hawk flew in to try for a birds meal and landed in the yard. I headed back to the car to retrieve the camera hoping for the raptor to still be around. It did stay but flew up to the power lines to keep watch.

Cooper's Hawk

The fun part about juvenile Cooper's Hawks is that they are not afraid of much. Too inexperienced. I got 30 close-up shots before we headed back to Orlando.

Cooper's Hawk

So, we got through the first wave of help to clean out Dad's stuff. We also got some good birding in the yard and saw Star Trek (I recommend it). I told Mom not to worry about keeping the feeders filled. They went through 3 fillings while we were there but they are fine on their own. Clearly.

By the way, I call it 'bird bait' and not bird seed. We only use it to bring bird to us. They are just fine on their own.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Pulse

A little break from the birds.

I do a tour of the local lakes most Saturday mornings and today I got a little hungry when I was done and drove over to Wendy's for some nuggets. This Wendy's is directly across the street from the Pule nightclub just a couple miles from the house and less than a mile from where our kids went to school. Heck, most of the victims brought to the hospital is right next to where both our boys were born. So, I have been driving past this location for most of nearly 25 years.

Pulse was originally an Italian restaurant we visited at least once. After that closed it eventually became a nightclub catering to a primarily gay clientele. The place was fairly unassuming and had a packed parking lot after hours. Again, I drove past this spot all the time heading to the stores or coming home. After the shootings the roads were closed for weeks as the investigations went on so I didn't have a reason to go near it.

Now, the spot is a memorial and people still file through all day. Some leave items, many more take photos and read what was left at the front entrance. When you leave the Wendy's parking lot to the main road you are facing Pulse. I decided to take a photo nearly two months after the event.

Pulse

Two days before the Pulse shooting, Christina Grimme, a singer who was on 'The Voice', was shot and killed 2 1/2 miles in the other direction from our house. Senseless violence so close to home. But remember, this is not a violent city. This was just two crazy events in one weekend carried out by two lunatics. I still feel safe here but deeply saddened. I, and many countless others, love Orlando. All the signs say it. 'Orlando Strong', 'Orlando United', 'Orlando Love'.

We are a wildly diverse city and we are better for it. Glad our kids were brought up tolerant of others and they really don't get why people hate others for little reason. Generations are getting smarter all the time. I was born in Gainesville and lived in several cities in Florida but Orlando will always be my home.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Jaywatch, 2016, Pt. 2

My 2nd day at Buck Lake for the Jay Watch this year. Many known faces and a few new ones as we gathered for the group photo before heading out to our check points.

Group

Once I settled in to my first point I took a bit of time to move up the trail during one of the in between call playing sessions. I was mainly looking at the trees but as I headed back to my starting point I gazed down and noticed a Black Bear paw print in the road! They looked fairly fresh. It rained last night so these prints were probably from not too long ago. They lead directly to...my check point flag and disappeared into the scrub. Gulp!

Black Bear Paw Print

Along the road were a few flowers including a native pink spiderwort also called Roseling (Cuthbertia ornate).

Roseling

At my next check point was was positioned to look back toward the rising Sun and to where I was not long ago. I began to play the call files and noticed several silhouettes approaching me. Could they be a family of Scrub Jays? No. A family of Eastern Towhee with two adults and several newly fledged young.

Eastern Towhee

We passed this stalk of flowering Palmetto on the way back to our initial check points and I was glad we had a chance to come back by it again so I could get a photo.

Palmetto

I even got to walk past it as we headed toward the truck and get an even closer view. Never saw such a stalk before.

Palmetto

Our driver, Pete, did find our one Jay of the morning.

Florida Scrub Jay

My next two stops were in areas not that common for the Jays so I always look for more flowers like the Loblolly Bay.

Loblolly Bay

My final point had a good number of Asters blooming at the edge of the roadway.

Aster

A pretty scene for the end of the day. These areas are burned periodically to clear the way for a Jay friendly environment. Snags still stand above the lush new growth and tower into the sky.

Snags

Only one Scrub Jay in our transect. I recall many more in this area years ago so it is kind of sad. We will see how the data compiles later in the year. Hopefully, the birds are gaining ground in different areas.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Jaywatch 2016, Pt. 1

Oh, how I was dreading this year's Jay Watch. We are doing it a bit later than in past years and we have been under very humid and hot weather for a week. Fortunately, the morning was not too bad and we even had a bit of a breeze to keep things a little cooler. Plus, we ended fairly early. Not too bad. We gathered for a group photo just before heading out to the survey areas.

Always easy to spot me in my beard and banding uniform.

Group

My group began at Site 41 in the area well known for a reliable group of Jays. The first one jumped up to check us out right away.

Florida Scrub Jay

Another bird (unbanned, we determined after a lot of looks and scoping) stayed high in a snag and was joined by another bird as we surveyed the area.

Florida Scrub Jay

The most curious Florida Scrub Jay came down to check us out. It only has a single Federal aluminum band. I decided to call it Silver. I didn't notice until later (we are really focused on band colors) that this bird was molting in tail feathers.

Florida Scrub Jay

One of the first Florida Scrub Jays I remember at Buck Lake was a bird with mostly green bands. I was wondering where it was when she finally popped into view. Two Kelly Green bands plus the metal band leaves me calling her Kelly.

Florida Scrub Jay

We went to our next site points and Kelly and Silver, here atop a pine, followed us down the road.

Florida Scrub Jay

We headed farther down the check points to gather Susan from her spot and I noticed a Jay coming up behind here. Turned out it was Silver once again, following us even farther along the way. Those molting tail feathers give it away, too.

Florida Scrub Jay

I was hoping to get a good shot in the open and Silver complied.

Florida Scrub Jay

Kelly soon joined us, too. These were the only Jays we had on our transect but it was nice to get some good clear shots to share with the group.

Florida Scrub Jay

The next spot found me beginning to play the taped calls to attract more jays. Soon, I saw a Swallow-tailed Kite circling overhead. We have to stop playing calls so any juveniles bring themselves into view as any predators are around. Kites will take a young bird when they can.

Swallow-tailed Kite

No trip out to the scrub is complete without me getting a shot of Tar Flower blooming. They are waning right now but still beautiful.

Tar Flower

I finished my point a bit ahead of others and started toward the truck for pickup. Susan (one of our banding volunteers) was winding up her spot at that point.

Susan

We found a few Gopher Tortoises along the side of the roads and Maria, head of the Jay Watch here, moved it to the scrub. I didn't realize it but I heard rustling and had to investigate. There it was, plowing through the underbrush.

Gopher Tortoise

Only one family to record but I was happy to get some shots along the way. Tomorrow, I will be in another transect at Buck Lake and hope to find more Jays.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Atlas V Launch

Time for another Atlas V launch. This morning was a bit too bright for my liking but all I have to do is step outside and wait for a couple of minutes before...liftoff!

Atlas V

The rocket rose into the bright sky. Not another cloud in the area.

Atlas V

One of the fun things I like about launches is seeing what the contrail is going to do based on light, wind, ect. Got a little contrast in there but it was nothing too spectacular.

Atlas V

Back to work!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lake Apopka on Father's Day

I was pondering what I wanted to do on this Father's Day and opted to take a drive along the Lake Apopa North Shore Drive to do some contemplating since this would be the first one without my Dad. I almost decided against it since there was an approaching storm headed that way but when has a little rain stopped birding?

The only problem was that the storm was coming from the East meaning we wouldn't have that nice morning light. One of the first birds I spotted was a juvenile Black-necked Stilt picking at snacks in the water.

Black-necked Stilt

Nearby, a juvenile Common Gallinule sat on its nest and called loudly.

Common Gallinule

The first clouds moved closer and made the morning nearly dark as I tried for my first Osprey photo.

Osprey

Even with a bit more light I had to do some acrobatics inPhotoshop to show the next Osprey doing its own acrobatics during breakfast.

Osprey

American Alligators were pretty active this warm morning and they were cruising most everywhere. Some days you can hardly find a few.

American Alligator

The last time I was out here the Green Herons were constantly flying by instead of posing. At least I had one cooperate today.

Green Heron

I thought I had another Green Heron fly over the road ahead of me. It wasn't until I got home to look at my images that I figured out that it was actually a juvenile Least Bittern! Didn't know they nested out here.

Least Bittern

Something else I had never seen before was a female Red-winged Blackbird catching a dragonfly to eat. Thought they only ate seeds. I guess mostly...

Red-winged Blackbird

There were a lot of Anhinga around today and one female perched on a branch next to the drive.

Anhinga

I rounded the next bend and spotted an Osprey with a large fish. He just looked at me like, "Don't even think about it!"

Osprey

Another Osprey flew in just below the first bird on a perfectly placed branch. I eased forward whispering, "Please don't move..." but he decided to take flight as I snapped. I think I like this shot even better than the one I was hoping for.

Osprey

As usual, you loose count of the number of Common Gallinules at some point. Still a bunch of juveniles around.

Common Gallinule

I was pleased to have a couple of Common Ground Dove around, especially at this spot. They are typically seen near the end of the drive.

Common Ground Dove

Hunkered down on the bank of a canal was a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Male Red-winged Blackbirds are always calling from branches all over the property.

Red-winged Blackbird

Just below him was a young American Alligator prowling though the water as the rain began to fall.

American Alligator

Can't recall seeing so many Bladderwort blooms out here. Perhaps I was never here at the right time. There were large rafts of them all over the back stretch.

Bladderwort

Just before the last big turn heading toward the swallow area, a female Boat-tailed Grackle hopped up to take a look around.

Boat-tailed Grackle

Not too much farther along, a Pied-billed Grebe surfaced with a tadpole.

Pied-billed Grebe

It spent most of the time flinging it around and diving back under water to retrieve it again. It then began to thrash it about to tear off smaller piece. Made me smile for some reason. It was really shaking that thing!

Pied-billed Grebe

Once it made a small enough collection of pieces it began to eat them one by one.

Pied-billed Grebe

A juvenile Little Blue Heron paused for a moment before continuing to forage along the road.

Little Blue Heron

Another Black-necked Stilt family was feeding a bit farther into the Marsh with the parents flanking their chick as they picked through the grasses.

Black-necked Stilt

This shot reminds me of an Audubon painting the way it is posed.

Black-necked Stilt

I really was happy with this shot of the juvenile Black-necked Stilt. The background was perfect and those feathers are just to so pretty.

Black-necked Stilt

In between showers, a Rainbow weakly appeared for a minute or so before being swallowed up again.

Rainbow

Speaking of swallow, I was finally at the area where the Barn Swallows nest and many adults were there with juveniles in tow. I didn't even try for a flight shot today. Not in these conditions.

Barn Swallow

I relaxing tour of the property. Happy with some of the photos. Missing Dad.