Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Why Are You Here, Silly Goose?

See, even when I try to relax...

Got an email before I was about to head out to get the boys from school. It was from Ellen Rocco, fellow birder and Orange Audubon board member. Seems she found a goose out near the airport and wondered if I could verify the species and report to the bird list.

Doesn't she know I HATE that kind of thing? Finding birds and such? Bah!

So, 15 minutes later, the boys and I found the park in questions and, lo and behold, there it was: a dark-morph Snow Goose!

I got out of the car slowly as not to spook the bird. However, that was not necessary. The goose was swimming toward us...

Still, I was snapping photos as I approached the pond just in case.
2-3 shots with the Pentax, 2-3 with the digital, switch and repeat,
switch and repeat.

It flew away from us by the time we got to the edge of the sidewalk but I sat down in the grass and after it landed it turned and swam right back. The boys were, well, being boys running behind me and getting a little noisy. I stopped short of asking them to chill when the goose seemed to be heading toward them despite the din and general running about.

Snow Goose

This bird was very unafraid of us the rest of the time. At one point I actually yelled, "Hey, back up! You are too close for a picture!". The boys laughed. The goose got closer. As far as we can figure out, folks must have started feeding this goose when it arrived one day and now it kind of expects it.

The dark-morph Snow Goose used to be considered a separate species of goose. Use to be called the Blue Goose but has since been linked as a sub-species to the all white Snow Goose. Closest they USUALLY get to here is over on the Atlantic Coast in secluded locations.

So many times I have been disappointed by reports of Snow Geese over at Merritt Island which typically include closing lines such as, "The geese are in a restricted area..."

Now, yet another Lifer stops over in my neighborhood!

You can find more shots of this friendly, wayward goose right about...here.

Friday, January 27, 2006


One of the unexpected pleasures of this new office is the fact that some nice birding can be done just by walking around the block of buildings which make up the office complex. The buildings are all connected by sidewalks and various sizes of retention ponds scattered from place to place. Haven't had a chance to really scan the lakes across the street but that can't hurt the bird counts.

I was trying to anticipate the different types of birds I might be able to see daily as compared to the other location. Warblers? Sure. Goldfinches? No doubt. Hooded Mergansers? Crazy. No way. Yet, here they are. Hanging out in the pond just across the street from our main entrance.


What started out as a single pair grew to two which I watched for days during some courtship displays (more on that in a future post) and as of yesterday there are 4 pairs. They all hang out together and now use the overhang of a parking area as a cave to hide in when people approach.

So, how to get some good shots with just my Olympus C-720?

Decided to try and out-flank them. I made my way around the pond and up onto the parking area. Since they were under the structure, to them I should appear to have left. Sure enough, after just a couple of minutes they began to head back into the main area of the pond. Of course, I had to walk to edge to confirm this which scattered them back under and in another direction.

So I waited farther back for a few more minutes and let them go even farther into the pond and begin feeding. This worked well. By the time I got to the edge of the parking lot (the mouth of their "cave") they had little choice but to watch me and go about their business.

Eventually, they began to do a kind of side-step in the water so that they were more on my right side. From there they decided they had enough distance to get back under the parking lot safely. But they had to pass right by me.


Then I left them undisturbed. For now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Mysterious Case of Ms. Sapsucker.

One of the first discoveries we made after moving into the new building was that a visitor had started "hanging around" every other day or so. The Eastern Phoebes and Palm Warblers and an occasional Downy Woodpecker were nice but who could ask for a better photo op than our next guest.

I was asked what kind of Woodpecker would have red on its head. Having seen the male Downy around the day before, that was my best guess. Then she came down while I was hard at work. A female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker! Excellent!

I was recently missing the one that let me get some good shots from about 7 feet away at the old workplace neighborhood and couldn't imagine a better opportunity. This is my favorite shot of that afternoon. I took 27 digitals from all angles.


Not bad for a late Fall walk in an industrial zone.

News of the trees surrounding the new office location was promising and knowing about the nearby lakes and retention ponds I mentioned in earlier posts were an even better prospect. New birds were bound to show up in this new spot. So, it was a little surprising to find this new Sapsucker in a different perch: the edges of our 2nd floor windows.

This is one of the early shots from my window.


With the tinting on the outside of these windows we have discovered that she cannot see in much at all. Either that or she just doesn't care. I have the camera set to macro and the lens is right next to the glass.

The mysterious part of our tale is that she will show up at different times for each visit (one day 8 AM, the next stop at 11 AM on a different day) and she usually stays for about 15 minutes. This time is filled with her pecking at the edge of the windows, looks around and sometimes moves to a different part of the window sill and repeats.

Occasionally, she will peck, look and fly upwards along the glass and land and repeat. After the 15 minutes she moves off into the trees. Weird. Not a huge amount of bugs near the windows that we can see. If you look closely at this shot you might be able to see the scores she has made on the film on the outside of the windows.


Following just over a month of these sightings, I have come to my conclusion. I theorize that she is not digging for insects but causing vibrations on the glass that make any small insects fly of of it. She then scoots up the pane to try and grab one and then tests the next part of the glass.

Another occurence that I think supports this is that during one of these visits by the Sapsucker an Eastern Phoebe swooped in just above her to grab a bug near the glass. Has anyone heard of this behavior before? I took a couple small Quicktime movies not long ago to document the process she goes through. We enjoy watching her when she stops by.

Here is the lady in action:


Last sighting, however, was on January 16th. Doesn't keep me from checking.

We are planning on setting up a bird feeder that we can hang in one of the trees here somehow and hope I can get some more interesting reports of special birds right outside the windows.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Oh, Happy Day

Days and days of staring out the backdoor finally pay off. The American Goldfinches are back in my yard!

I headed out to fill the mixed seed feeders and as a Mourning Dove and I sized each other up (it decided I was OK today) I heard a sound I hadn't heard in a long time. Since last April, I think.

By the time I got to the backdoor again it was LOUD. One sharp vocalization that quickly ushered in a Goldfinch which lit in the oak branch overhead. After a few minutes inside, I looked back out and it was busy at the nyjer feeder.


I can finally relax...

For pictures of the Goldfinches from last year, the first time I ever got them to join us in the backyard, head here.

Many more to follow from this year, I hope.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

New Location, New Neighbors.

The old office was on the edge of an industrial zone. As stark as many parts of the area was, it still held numerous old oaks, some retention ponds, and a small lake or two. This provided a good amount of birds if you looked hard enough. We had a pretty good 2005, bird-wise, with several nesting Mockingbirds, the resident breeding pair of Sandhill Cranes, and the White-winged Doves.

Now we had to move. Lease was up and the boss wanted a shorter commute for herself. The good news is, it has more oaks and pines and is near several lakes. There is even a gazebo outside for sitting and having lunch. Sounded promising.

Stepping into the new parking lot, I was greeted by a Western Palm Warbler. Outside my window on the second floor I could look down at the drying retention pond and see an Eastern Phoebe flycatching and landing on exposed branches. Loads of Gnatcatchers move through.

Overall, I am not disappointed. Hooded Mergansers have added a nice touch to the landscape.

There are great sidewalks that weave through the buildings. Mainly under trees and wander past ponds and fountains. Once a week I walk the perimeter of the parking lot. You can hear the roaring traffic through the line of oaks but they still hold Gnatcatchers, Warblers, and a recent Blue-headed Vireo. Red-shouldered Hawks stalk Mourning Doves and an occasional Bald Eagle shares the sky with the vultures.

One of the more interesting visitors lately was a Wood Stork. We had a good rain and all of the ponds filled up. As the water began to recede the Wood Stork showed up to stomp through the shallow water and mud in search of the remaining morsels.

Wood Stork

The day before it left, it flew up into the pines to preen and rest. It was waiting for me as I headed out to band those Barn Owls I posted about last week.

Wood Stork

The past few days have been a mix. I was prompted to take a walk yesterday after seeing a nice Red-shouldered Hawk zoom past and out toward the oak line. Didn't find it but there was a nice collection of gnatcatchers, warblers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

Still waiting for larger showing of American Goldfinches, Robins, and Waxwings. Really can't wait for migration in the Spring.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Raptors of ARC

Arriving a little ahead of the rest of the banding crew, I got a chance to see one of ARC's Great-horned Owls, Gordon. What a beautiful bird!

Great-horned Owl

Carol McCorkle was bringing him out to check on his weight and allowed me to get some nice, close-up shots. He was very vocal.
I am always amazed when getting a close view of any bird of just how subtle, yet incredibly intricate the colors and patterns of feathers are and Gordon was a nice example of a nice array of overlapping colors and pattern. Plus, those incredibly yellow eyes...

Great-horned Owl

Once we banded the Barn Owls (their legs are so fuzzy!) and got them into their mew to rest, we were afforded the opportunity to see a couple of the resident birds at ARC get some exercise.

First out was Scarlet, a Red-tailed Hawk and Carol's darling. Easy to see why.


Scarlet had an encounter with a truck some time ago and lost an eye. She is still healthy and alert and seems stuck on Carol in return. She got a few flights in for us around the yard.


Here she is on another successful flight, landing on Carol's hand after being called. You can see another palette of natural colors weaving through the underside of those great wings.


Next up: Zip, a Harris's Hawk. Yet another gorgeous creature. First I think I have ever seen as they are not Florida birds.


Talk about colors!


Zip had a lot of fun flying up to the rooftop to check out the area. Probably still looking for that escaped Quail...

Something different in this shot. No, it is not Robo-Zip. That is the inner eyelid that birds possess. I just happened to click at the right split-second.


I had a great time out at ARC and hope to head out to assist with other raptor banding in the future. I also want to get out and see Cora, the Peregrine Falcon fly!

Again, you can find more info about the birds at ARC by visiting The Avian Reconditioning Center or help sponsor a bird at the Adopt-a-Bird site.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Barn Owl Banding is a Hoot!

Fellow birders Don and Lorraine Margeson stopped by the Wekiva Basin Banding Station a little ways back to check out the process of banding and to do a little birding before they visited some friends who live nearby. Those friends, Scott and Carol McCorkle, run The Avian Reconditioning Center in Apopka, FL. often referred to as ARC.

While they were visiting us, Lorraine wondered if we might be interested in banding the young Barn Owls that were rehabing after being blown out of their home during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. They have done well and were set for release soon. Master Bander Richard Poole and his wife, Christine, said, "Sure!"

I am currently a volunteer at the Wekiva site and bander-in-training and I definitely didn't want to miss this opportunity to help out.

I arrived just after 1:00 in the afternoon and met up with Scott, Carol, and Therese Dickenson, who also works at ARC. Richard and Christine arrived shortly thereafter with fellow volunteers Ian Simpson and Jack in tow. Once we gathered and figured out the wheres and whens Scott and Teresa headed over to the mews to start rounding up the owls.

They were moving the owls from a larger mew to a slightly smaller one after the banding before releasing them. A mew, by the way, is the name for an enclosure for trained hawks or a place for hiding or retirement. In this use, a place for the owls to hang out. Here is a shot of them. The owls were going from the one on the right to the one on the left.


We were allowed in to get some shots of the birds before they were brought to the banding area. Here is one Barn Owl who can't decide whether to hang tight or fly off.

Barn Owl

Here, Scott approaches and positions the net perfectly.


Then Therese gently gets a good grip to bring it out.


Off to the banding area where the owl will be weighed and the existing pink band you can see in the photo will be replaced with a more permanent band.

To Band

The new bands look like this:


Here, Richard takes care to get the band on properly without harming the owl. Check out those talons!


For the last owl, Richard turned the pliers towards me and asked, "Wanna try one?". I began the process but the band was being a little tricky as it was my first try at banding a large bird (I just got used to the smallest!) so he took over while I looked on for some learning.


All done! Now the owls will wait in the mew until they can be transported to their original nest location and be released.

The McCorkles asked if we wanted to stick around for some of the raptors to be flown for a work out. Who whouldn't?

However, that will have to wait for the next entry.

The Avian Reconditioning Center has a web site and are open to the public on Saturdays. Check for news and directions there. They also have an Adopt-a-Bird program if anyone is interested in helping with the funding to care for some of these remarkable birds.

Friday, January 13, 2006


The plan is: Record events soon after they happen in regard to new bird sightings, bird banding days, and wildlife encounters in general. It will also be a place to post some photos that wouldn't be displayed on my home web page and will also be a first glimpse at some of those photos.

I always wanted to tell more of a story about the photos beyond mere captions and exposure details. Seems like blogs could be a nice medium to do so.

Let's see how much time I will have for this endevour.

The first topic will be about the fun time we had out at The Avian Reconditioning Center located in Apopka, FL.

ARC Entrance

The next post will be about the Barn Owls we banded there before they are to be released back into the wild and the next post will focus on some of the birds that live there full-time.