Monday, October 17, 2016

Florida Lifer

I was just at Mead Botanical Garden and really wasn't in a hurry to get back but then the word got out that a rare bird was seen for more than a day in a row. So, there was a good chance it would still be there this morning. Guess I have to drag my self outta bed. Sigh.

Just after I got there I ran into Ian. He used to band birds with us out at Wekiwa Springs back in the day and we hung out for a bit and searched for birds. When I first saw him he was training his lens on one of the resident Barred Owls resting over the creek.

Barred Owl

Once we arrived at the spot where the rare bird was being seen there were several photographers canvasing the area. They were all jockeying for position, sticking their lens into branches and clicking and flashing constantly. Just the kind of scene I don't like. They weren't even sure the bird they taking photos of was even the bird being sought. Just clicking and flashing at anything moving.

I saw the bird with my binoculars. I still decided to take a walk and let the human activity die down and come back later for a photo. Glad I did. Just behind the Education Center was a Blue Grosbeak feeding on seeds. Sweet.

Blue Grosbeak

Not much around the perimeter of the property so I wandered back to the bridge. It was down to just two over-active photogs so I posted up on the bridge and waited. I had 6 Magnolia Warblers today. That is the most I have ever seen on one day. They were not in the mood to pose for a very pretty shot.

Magnolia Warbler

There were a couple of warblers flying back and forth that had me confused for a awhile. Once I got the photos on the screen I came to the conclusion that they were simply Pine Warblers and nothing as exotic as I was hoping.

Pine Warbler

I finally decided it was time to get a shot of the rare bird since the other guys drifted off, still clicking and flashing at everything. It took me a couple of minutes but I found the bird again and it soon darted out of the gloom and out toward the creek. There was my first Florida Wilson's Warbler.

Wilson's Warbler

The Wilson's Warbler looked around the air for another bug, tilting its head from side to side before bounding back into the bamboo.

Wilson's Warbler

A juvenile male Black-throated Blue Warbler was oblivious to us humans and flitted around feeding for 30 minutes, at least. Juvenile males are told by the white on their throats.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

The Wilson's Warbler made one more quick advance toward the edge of the bamboo and, although I don't like the small branch traversing the shot, I was happy to get a full ID shot showing the darker hood before it vanished again.

Wilson's Warbler

Blackpoll Warblers are easier to see in the Spring but they are all over these past few weeks but still hard to get shots of. Those legs don't lie, though.

Blackpoll Warbler

I headed home by walking near the creek again but all I could see was several Western Palm Warblers that are flowing into the state. They are grabbing all the low flying bugs in the muck and landing around everyone who happens to be walking by.


It is always fun to bird watch during the peak of migration but we have had some amazing warblers all over Mead this month. they are not showing up in closer locations, like my banding site, but it is nice to have them so close on a regular basis and are giving many birders new Life Birds and others something fun to keep track of. For me, it will be back to banding on Sunday.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Been Awhile

It has been too long since I was able to visit Mead Botanical Garden. Now that Fall migration is kicking in I decided now was the time. That and reports of some more rare birds being sighted got me out early.

The beginning of the trip was promising but the Sun was making shots difficult but birds were definitely here. By the time I got to the concrete bridge I did find a Cape May Warbler foraging over the water.

Cape May Warbler

I was there for a different flycatcher but soon a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher landed mere feet in front of me. Of course, it flew off as I aimed the camera. I had to try and chase it for a couple of minutes, only getting a brief ID shot before it flew off over the pond.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

I got to the wooden bridge to find a female Anhinga basking in the rising Sun. I stayed at the far end and she eventually flew off. Moments later, the flycatcher I was there for dropped down maybe 4 feet in front of me devouring an insect. Like the Yellow-bellied, it flew before I could click for a nice up close shot.


So I waited at the bridge hoping it would return. In the meantime, I was joined by other birds including a Prairie Warbler.

Prairie Warbler

Then a Red-eyed Vireo made a quick stop and a peek-a-boo treatment. They are hard to photograph as they move so quickly through the branches, usually higher above in the trees.

Red-eyed Vireo

A male Anhinga decided to drop into a Cypress across from be to soak up the sunlight.


Another Prairie Warbler pranced through another Cypress as I continued my watch for my prize.

Prairie Warbler

An "Elephant ear tree", (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), spreads over the wooden bridge and at one point a male Cape May Warbler spent time feeding among its branches and paused for a moment to provide me my best ever shot of this species.

Cape May Warbler

I was prepared to leave when I decided to do something I typically never do. I played a sound clip in hopes of seeing if the bird I was after was still nearby. Moments later the bird I was here for, a Least Flycatcher emerged from the bamboo for a quick minute. I have been trying to get one of these birds on my List for years. Nemesis, no more!

Least Flycatcher

Next Sunday is the official start of Fall migration and I will be spending full weekends trying to capture and band birds at the banding site. More fun ahead!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Return of the Bald Eagles

If it is daylight I try to make it through Greenwood Cemetery to see if the Bald Eagles have returned for the season. Finally, on Saturday, one of the birds made it back and was perched in a distant pine tree near the nest.

Bald Eagle

On Sunday, I found the pair in the same tree just hanging out. Time to try for a new brood!

Bald Eagle

Last years attempt was unsuccessful. Good luck, you two.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Barn Swallows at the Cemetery

With our banding season beginning again, I have less time to explore. Well, I still do my lake checks but there has not been a lot around. I try to end my trip by swinging through Greenwood Cemetery while waiting for the return of the Bald Eagles that nest here every year. No eagles yet. However, I was surprised by the large flock of Barn Swallows foraging all over the property.

Barn Swallow

As always, swallows travel very fast and trying to get a shot is tricky. I got my best one during the middle of the stop. At first, I thought it was a Cliff Swallow but later investigation showed it was a juvenile Barn Swallow.

Barn Swallow

Several Chimney Swifts were also in the area but darkness was falling so I couldn't get any shots of them. Might have to swing through again tomorrow!

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


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.


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.


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 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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.