Saturday, January 27, 2007

Twilight Swans

I had posted about the new swan released at Lake Davis last year. Soon after that, I didn't see it on the lake any longer and began to worry that the owners earlier fears had come through. Maybe a dog had gotten this young swan.

Time passed and I eventually saw one and then two swans at the lake. Then they, too, would be gone only to return later on. These new birds must have fully functioning wings instead being clipped. It would be an advantage over attacking mongrels.

Soon, I got used to seeing them come and go and didn't pay a lot of attention if they were gone. One evening, I had to take some film up to be processed and decided to swing by the lake on the way out. It was getting nearly dark and I thought I saw a new gull on the water so I pulled over to have a look.

On the other side of the lake the pair of swans had grown to a small flock of SIX!


The next morning, the oldest boy calls out, "Seven!". Indeed there was.

As of today, they continue to move from lake to lake in the area. I know they go across the park to Lake Cherokee which is virtually dog free but other than that I do not know.

The thrill of one morning was heading out to work and there were 4 of them flying over the tree tops, over me, and over the freeway straight for Lake Davis.

A perfect way to start the morning.

Quick Trip To Viera

Richard and Christine were giving banding demonstrations over on the coast for the Space Coast Birding Festival and today they were setting up at the Enchanted Forest. I wanted to join them and even managed to talk the boys into coming along for some outdoor fun.

On the way, we swung by Viera Wetlands to see what we could see. The Masked Ducks had moved on. There didn't seen to be a lot of special stuff there but some had seen a Cinnamon Teal and I hoped to add that one to the list. No luck on that, either.

Many other ducks were there, however, including Blue-winged Teals and Green-winged Teals.

An early swing around the Click ponds included a couple of foraging Bonaparte's Gulls which is always nice to see.

Bonaparte's Gull

Taking our time rounding all of the cells at the wetlands, we found hundreds of Coots and Teal. I could barely make out the Green-winged Teals as they were sticking to the reeds. Suddenly, a Northern Harrier circled in and flushed everything out of one corner and into the open. At least I could see the Teal a little better now even though they were still pretty far away.

Green-winged Teal

My favorite shot of the trip was this drake Northern Shoveler gettin' all Kung-fu on us.

Northern Shoveler

Always something interesting out at Viera.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Living Statues

I was having a nice moment watching our Wintering Myrtle Warbler chase some Goldfinches around the backyard. Usually this event would play out farther out in the yard but this morning they flew straight toward the backdoor.

Suddenly, the Myrtle flew across the deck, onto a flower pot, and froze right there. I was happy to have a great view of this sometimes skittish bird sitting about 4 feet in front of me. A minute later I realized that it had grown completely quiet outside. Not one peep.

Every bird that had been flitting around sparring for feeder opportunities had frozen in their tracks as well. The Myrtle right in front of me, Mourning Doves near the bird bath, and Blue Jays in the laurel trees. Nothing moved.

The next thought I had was that there must be a predator around that flew in undetected by me but definitely not by the creatures that really needed to know what was going on.

I headed back to the front of the house and grabbed my camera to try and at least get a Warbler shot. Never had to open the door and didn't want to cause this small visitor to become hawk treats on my account. You can almost see a state of fear in his eyes.

Myrtle Warbler

The only time he did move was to get a better look out into the yard. He turned enough to show why they are called Yellow-rumps.

Myrtle Warbler

Nearly 10 minutes later, the doves and Warbler had managed a side exit one by one. That left Gimpy, the Blue Jay with a broken leg that is part of the larger troop that patrols the neighborhood.

Blue Jay

He refused to budge even after I finally decided it was safer to search for the predator. I took many photos as I walked back and forth, scanning the oaks for whatever might be out there.

Not finding anything, I went toward the back of the yard and decided to reposition the bird bath that was out there. I shifted it until it was more level and stood up. Directly ahead of me on the other side of the fence in the oak tree I could see what all the fuss was about.

Cooper's Hawk

The Cooper's Hawk sat still but was swiveling its head from side to side, searching for lunch. I went inside to get the longer lens. It was still there when I got back. So was Gimpy. 10 minutes later, the hawk flew off.

10 minutes after that the Myrtle was chasing the Goldfinches again.

It was very interesting to have living statues all around the yard for a while and proved again that birds can see things we can't always see. Their lives might just depend on it.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Quick Swing Down Lust Road

I left Vermi back at the lake and decided to swing by Lust Road to see if anything was out. It was pretty quiet.

I was trying to relocate the Vesper Sparrows for a better shot than before. I did hear some bird calls and slowed near the gate. Movement was backlit near the fence so I walked out to investigate. Just on the other side of the fence were a few adult White-crowned Sparrows.

I was attempting to get a good shot of them but they retreated to the bushes. I figured I might get some to reappear by pishing. Almost immediately, a juvenile White-crowned popped up right in front of me.

White-crowned Sparrow

There were some Vesper Sparrows farther down the fence but they quickly dove behind the it and into some tall weeds not to be seen again that day. Might have to try again next Winter.

There were a few Kestrels having just as hard a time finding sparrows as I was.

American Kestrel

Another Visit with Vermi

What better way to start a new year than a return to visit the Vermilion Flycatcher? We didn't stay up all night welcoming in the year so it was a little easier to get up and over to Lake Jessup by dawn.

A little easier.

Weather was still a mess. Rain bands were streaking across the state quickly from West to East and the temperature was chilly but not too bad. It left me all alone with the wildlife. Everyone was either sleeping in or didn't want to get soggy shoes.

I was actually hunting for Sparrows this morning but I never found the target birds I was searching for. The cattle were moving farther out in the pasture but still eyed me as I stomped through the grass and mud.

I decided to head in the direction of the herd to inspect a new swath of land I hadn't walked before. As I glanced to my right I noticed that I was almost on top of the Vermilion Flycatcher just ahead of me! In the gloom I hadn't even noticed his bright red feathers for some reason.

Vermi, as I took to calling him, let me get pretty close. Every now and then he would fly off in another direction but I was able to approach again to about 20 feet everytime. Then I would head off to look for sparrows and come back and hang out with Vermi some more.

This continued for a couple hours as I tried to cover the cameras when the rain swung through. I got lucky enough to not be under the full brunt of showers blowing by but I eventually was cold and wet enough to call it a morning.

I said my good-byes to Vermi and sloshed out of the pasture. I also started the year with a picture I was happy with.

Vermilion Flycatcher