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.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

2016 St. Pete CBC, Part 1

That time of year again! Time to head to St. Pete to count as many birds as we can in our selected count circle for the Christmas Bird Count. This year I was assigned to Area #5 in the very urban St. Pete area near Tropicana Field. Being so city like, we didn't get some species I would have expected nearly anywhere else (no Carolina Wren?) but we managed to get some nice birds along the way.

We began at Crescent Lake before dawn searching for owls in the neighborhoods. No luck. Right at dawn we returned to the lake park and started counting every thing we could see. Besides the huge number of Muscovy and Domestic duck all over the Northern side, we had a Wood Stork on a tree as theSun rose just behind the treetops.

Wood Stork

Nearby, a few Green Herons lurked in the shadows.

Green Heron

As we tried to ID a warbler in the underbrush we flushed a Black-crowned Night Heron that flew out to rest next to the stork.

Black-crowned Night Heron

There were other species added to the list but this little Gray Squirrel insisted on getting its photo taken. Fine...

TK

Small flock of wintering duck were scattered around but we decided to come back better when the light was better for some photos. They will appear in the next post. For now, we headed to Coffee Pot Bayou to the roosting spot of Brown Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants. There were a lot but I enjoyed having a couple right next to the road for some good shots.

Brown Pelican

We also spotted a Roseate Spoonbill trying to hide in the mangrove roost and numerous Anhinga.

Brown Pelican

Next, we headed to the beach as the tide was low and we hoped to get some good shorebirds to add to the list. Killian took up a spot on the end of a jetty to record bird numbers as Jim called them out while peering through his scope.

Killian

Many birds, like this Dunlin, were close enough to not need a scope.

Dunlin

There were a lot of Least Sandpipers in the close flock. I can't recall having so many shorebirds stay so close to me. They usually scatter upon approach. I guess this area is so full of visitors that the birds take little notice.

Least Sandpiper

If something else would startle the flock they would quickly return right next to us.

Least Sandpiper

There was a nice gathering of birds loafing farther down the beach so we headed in that direction. Along the way, a Eurasian Collared-Dove strolled the beach as a Loggerhead Shrike sat atop a light pole.

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Our main target was counting the 65 American White Pelican jammed at the edge of the sand spit. There were also scores of terns and Black Skimmers behind them.

American White Pelican

A Reddish Egret soon flew in and began its dancing through the shallow water in search of a meal.

Reddish Egret

We also spotted a single Herring Gull resting with a few Laughing Gulls and some Royal Terns.

Herring Gull

We were hearing Monk Parakeets near the parking lot and Killian found them on our second trip out here. They were in a tree right over a few folks getting in some training. Not a care in the world.

Monk Parakeet

Most of the Monk Parakeets were by them selves but I liked this cute pair getting their feather blown about in the breeze.

Monk Parakeet

Them they would snuggle and preen one another.

Monk Parakeet

But, we needed to head to our next stop which was a small park by a boat slip. Not too much around but a Northern Mockingbird, some Mytle Warblers, and few White Ibis.

White Ibis

Finishing up our first areas so quickly, we decided to head to the golf course a little early. We were told to return later, however, as a lot of golfers were still arriving and they thought it would be better for us to return in the afternoon. OK. Time for lunch and then back to look for a Sapsucker and other birds at the lake.

We thought the golf course might not hold that many birds, though, so we weren't totally enthused about it anyway. Boy, would we be in for a surprise. All that in the next post!