Sunday, February 25, 2007

Orlando Wetlands

I had heard from some birders that they had seen a Gull-billed Tern out at Orlando Wetlands so I thought I had better get out there. It was seen in a part of the Wetlands I had never been over to. Just didn't even know it was there. I always stayed so focused in the main sections.

This other part is just across the road you drive in on as you approach the parking lot. How I missed it all these years, I don't know.

Got there at dawn and made my way across the berm from the parking lot. I did hear a Virginia Rail in the cattails so at least I would have one Lifer no matter what. As directed earlier, I took a turn at the Red-shouldered Hawk's nest and crossed to the other side of the road.

Up a slight incline there was indeed a whole other world over here! I wouldn't have time to walk all of the trails but decided to at least head around the main pond/lake in front of me. Once the sun was up and just after a sundog display, I turned around to face the wetlands for this shot.


There were a lot of Palm and Myrtle Warblers along with scores of Boat-tailed Grackles. Small flocks of Blue-winged Teal and Hooded Mergansers moved nervously from shore to shore. No Gull-billed Tern in sight.

I did manage to find a few Green-winged Teal and a few Lesser Yellowlegs. A Forster's Tern cruised overhead. Ibis foraged in the swallow water. Away from the water was very few birds sounds in the bushes.

Most evident were Common Yelllowthroats and every now and then a Savannah Sparrow or Catbirds would make a brief appearance.

Grey Catbird

There was a warbler type bird that flew out across the path as I rounded the far side of the water. I tried to track it down but could never get a clear look before it vanished into the woods. I had to settle for a curious Swamp Sparrow instead.

Swamp Sparrow

My time was up so I had to walk faster back to the car. Next time I hope to make it around a few more trails. I always consider a day at the Wetlands an excellent way to spend some time. Might have to take the bike next time to cover more ground.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Washington Oaks Finds

The Florida Parks service was having a little shindig for volunteers in the district and this year it was honoring the 1 millionth volunteer hour, give or take a few, at Washington Oaks Park near Ormond Beach. I was looking forward to seeing what the ceremony might be like and to try and get in a bit of birding.

Even if you never make it into the main part of the park, my favorite part of this area is the beach with its coquina rock formations, shells, and the occasional fun bird sighting. Today we even found a starfish, I think and Armored Star, that I let the youngest hold as it crawled across his hand. We decided not to hold any of the numerous jellyfish that the wind had pushed on shore.

Armored Star

After making that first beach investigation it was time to head into the park proper and check the activities. We were given a schedule of events and lunchtime and headed off to look around. I had high expectations for some good birds in this part of the park but there was very little activity all day. A few expected birds but nothing too exciting.

Once lunch and the ceremony speeches were concluded the boys were getting bored. Time to hit the beach one last time. They headed toward the rocks while I was more interested in a large gull seen as we crested the dunes.

I followed it down the beach a while and tried to get some photos to ID later and it finally allowed me to slowly get in range. Turns out it was my second ever Greater Black-backed Gull. This time a juvenile.

Greater Black-backed Gull

I finished getting more shots and was turning to join the family when I noticed a black shape in between the waves. It was moving fast and the waves were crashing quickly, making a good view difficult. A few minutes later, the bird moved closer to shore and revealed itself.

A male Red-breasted Merganser!

Red-breasted Merganser

I have read reports of them along the eastern coast in the past but always managed to miss them. The last time I had seen this species was out in Washington State. A very pleasant surprise!

Made up for the common birds seen all day.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Really Ruby-crowned Kinglet

One of the first Ruby-crowned Kinglets I ever saw was at Mead Garden and the crown was what gave it away for me since I had never seen one before. Out at Wekiva, we band a LOT of Kinglets. Most them are females so we don't get to see the crowns.

We even had one last winter that had only ONE ruby feather indicating it was a young male.

This morning we captured one of the most ruby of all the male Ruby-crowns I have ever seen.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Can't mistake that ID!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Nashville Warbler

Once a month for the past couple years, there has been a census count for the birds that frequent Mead Garden in winter park. I try to get to as many as possible but those darned Scouts keep coming up with things to do!

However, I did manage to return for the February count to meet up with birding friends and count some birds. Waxwings and Robins were in full force as were American Goldfinches. We managed to find all of the resident Woodpecker species and most other expected birds for the Garden.

My favorite part of the count is to go out on the boardwalk which has been suffering from neglect since Hurricane Charley torn through our fair city. Jeanne didn't make things better. Only part of the walk is open for the general public but we are aloud to head into the more dangerous portions for the count.

Local birding expert Bruce Anderson and I chose to brave the closed portion of the walk while others waited near the butterfly garden. We tallied up all Waxwings and Robins and a few hawks as we made our way around the back portion of the walk.

Staring out across the Primrose Willows, Bruce called out that he had an Orange-crowned Warbler in front of us. I almost didn't look since we had a couple of those already but I slowly glanced up to check it out anyway. I noticed an eye-ring and for some reason exclaimed, "No, it looks like a Nashville!"

Granted, I had never seen one in person but I do stare at a lot of books. Nashville just seemed exactly what it was. Bruce and I looked for a little longer and he agreed with me. The eye-ring was that noticeable even from the distance we were from the bird.

Remembering I had a camera with me, duh, I tried a couple shots but was not sure they would turn out that well with the bird about 25-30 yards out. I was right.

Nashville Warbler

Nonetheless, it was enough to confirm this uncommon bird in Central Florida. After I posted about the birds to the lists, there were a couple of other sighting of the same bird before it left the area.

I remembered to bring my copy of Bruce's book, The Birdlife of Florida, with me and asked him to sign-it for me. He wrote to "...remember our Nashville Warbler" and I will tape this photo next to that.

Any day with a Life Bird is a good day.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Berries for the Masses

Decided to take a walk around the office park. Don't get a chance to do that too often and with the temperatures at a very comfy level, why not?

One of my favorite stops has become across the street from our office. It has a larger pond that is divided by a roadway between parking lots. Part of the pond goes underneath a parking structure and the Hooded Mergansers use that part to hide from anyone or thing it fells is looking a bit too hungry.

On the northern edge of the pond is a row of Brazilian Peppers and just beyond that lies part of Lake Destiny. This time of year, the peppers are loaded with berries. In turn, they are full of birds.

I usually walk past the peppers and loop around behind them to view the lake and continue on with my walk back to the office. Today the birds were flying out right in front of me so I stopped and got the camera ready.

The majority of the birds were Myrtle Warblers who were greedily swallowing up berries as quickly as possible. Making it difficult for them was a very territorial Northern Mockingbird who would chase any Warbler it saw stopping on a branch. This was what was causing the birds to fly out in front of me.

Eventually, a few Waxwings signaled their approach with their high calls and landed among the branches above and next to me. They seemed to be trying to blend in and avoid the Mockers detection. It worked for a while and the Waxwings could manage a few gulps before being found out.

I thought it would be easy to get some shots of these close birds and, indeed, they were landing in plain view just feet from me. Excellent opportunities! Better than I ever have had. Camera up, press the shutter to focus, bird GONE!

Every time the Waxwing would come into focus, the Mockingbird would dive in and chase it off. This went on for almost an hour. I did finally get one photo that actually looked like a Waxwing but it was not easy.

Cedar Waxwing

I could have stood there all day had I not had work to do and a family to get to later. The number of Myrtle Warblers was impressive and the Waxwings were and added treat. Goldfinches called from the trees in the parking lot.

Time to break the spell and head back across the street.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hammond's Flycatcher

A report was posted to the lists about a Hammond's Flycatcher out at Hal Scott. Several reports were filed over the next few days saying some had relocated the bird, some doubting the ID, some swearing by the ID. I thought I wouldn't go after it as it was the middle of the week and I couldn't find time to head out there for days.

Specialty birds rarely hang around for too long. But the reports kept showing up. What the heck? Might as well go for it.

Detailed directions through the Hal Scott area were provided. Head down this path. Go past THIS rock. Stop at THIS lone orange tree, etc. I wasn't familiar with this part of the preserve but I would have my directions in hand.

Fortunately, when I arrived in the parking area, a few other birders were heading out for the Hammond's. I was getting my cameras together when I heard, "Here for the Hammond's?" in the pre-dawn darkness. "Yep." We were off.

During our mile-long hike we spotted Bluebirds, skittish sparrows, doves and heard Nuthatches and woodpeckers. The flycatcher spot was ahead.

We were told by another birder who had arrived on bike just ahead of us that it was seen in certain spots but usually came close to the trail. After 15 minutes standing on the trail I couldn't take it and headed into the woods toward the creek. I can hardly stand still too long.

I stopped about 100 yards from the trail and stood to listen to the surroundings. Goldfinches. Waxwings. Kinglets. I decided to try and see any of the birds I was hearing way up in the treetops for practice and found a small bird I thought was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet preening up in the branches.

Then it started 'flycatching'! Was this our target bird? Too high up to be sure so I tracked it through the branches. Suddenly, it swooped down toward the creek and foraged, 30 feet in front of me. This WAS the bird.

Hammond's Flycatcher

I got a couple shots for my collection as I was verifying it in my head. I knew I had to alert the others but feared calling out too loudly would scare the bird away. They couldn't see me easily through the trees. Even if they could they were all staring straight up!

"Over here!" I said in a deep enough register that I hoped wouldn't be too bird un-friendly. I kept a lock on the Hammond's and everyone hurriedly rushed to my spot.

Another group of birders arrived and saw our location and hurried over as well. Soon, we had 25 guys oohing and ahhing as shutters clicked and introductions were made. We tracked the bird for 30 minutes before heading out.

Some folks told me they had been out there 4 times so far without seeing the bird. Some had been there once or twice and sat for hour upon hour without seeing it. I walked out on a day I wasn't going to and found it in 15 minutes.

Hammond's Flycatcher

Dumb luck. I'll take it.