Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Few Minutes of Awe

We had a chance to sleep in for once. If you consider sleeping in having the youngest walk in the room and ask for stuff every 15 minutes. At least it didn't start until after dawn.

Before it got too hot I hurried outside and was going to just get rid of the leaves on the deck but figured since I was out there I might as well mow. The birds weren't that happy that I set out food and then made it all noisy but it had to be done. As soon as I completed all the yard work I was going to do I sat on the back steps to enjoy the breeze and relax.

That's when the high-pitched sounds grew and grew in the oaks at the back of the yard.

Suddenly, Cedar Waxwings fluttered out from the treetops and landed near the feeders and in the cherry laurels. I was under one of those and the birds were seaching the branches for any remaining berries left over from the Robin feasts. There were a few out on the tips of most branches.

There I sat as Waxwings were literally 2 feet in front of my face and over my head, their weight dropping them down directly in front of me over and over again. The calls filled my ears, nearly drowning out the American Goldfinches that seemed none too happy with the intrusion.

Me? I soaked in every last view I could get of these beautiful birds. They will be leaving soon.

Cedar Waxwing

Monday, March 26, 2007

This Year's Model

Goldfinch numbers have been lower than the previous years but there are still enough around to keep me happy. The top numbers at any one time has peaked at around 30 birds. Way down from the 100-plus last year and 60-70 the previous year.

The birds this year seem a bit more picky about which feeding station they prefer. Fourtunately, one of the favorites is right outside the boy's bedroom. Every now and then they perch in the Firebush while waiting for a chance to feed.

American Goldfinch

The males are even more selective. They are mainly staying far in the back of the yard or outside the kitchen window where the screen makes photographing them less than satisfying. The females are still pretty. Their gold is working its way into the plummage, too.

American Goldfinch

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Eastern Bluebird Surprise

Ask and you shall receive?

At the end of the last post I had mentioned that we saw many Bluebirds along the trip to and from Crystal River but I was unable to get any shots of them. Except for one right outside the hotel room that is verrrrrrrrrry far away. I showed the photo to the wife and said that I really needed a good shot of a Bluebird again.

The last shot I even got of a Bluebird was years ago in Winter Park. I never saw them in that area anymore.

Today, as I checked the nets while banding at Wekiva, I rounded the back loop of nets and saw a bird in the lower panel. At first, I was surprised by the color of the bird. We don't get many medium-sized birds with blue feathers. My first thought was that it might be a Scrub Jay. Some do live within the park.

I got closer and the other colors became more evident. Not a Scrub Jay. A Bluebird!

Eastern Bluebird

There are many nest boxes set up around the park and some years there are successful clutches of eggs resulting in chicks. Last year, there were no eggs in any boxes. When the chicks do hatch, they are banded in the nest. Adult birds don't end up in the nets.

Until today.

Even better, one of the nearby boxes had two eggs inside and another Bluebird leaving the scene. Maybe this signals the return of babies to the park.

Eastern Bluebird

Beautiful bird.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Seaside Sparrow

Without much of a chance to do much birding I was looking forward to our short vacation trip to Crystal River. I had been mentioning I would like to check out a spot there some day, even if it meant I drove up alone some morning to get there at dawn. To get that out of my head, the wife chose it for a family trip.

Weather outlook was pretty good and I was getting prepped to find a new Life Bird: Seaside Sparrow. I made tape loops of the bird's calls and songs and studied these and images to make sure I wouldn't casually miss what might be a quick glimpse of this small bird.

As we headed out, the weather reports were taking a turn for the worse. If I were lucky, the front would stall and leave some time for warm birding. If not, winds were scheduled to pick up behind the front and the temperatures were forecast to drop rapidly.

I wasn't lucky.

The front came through very quickly, bringing high winds, rain, and impending temperatures in the 40s by morning. I hadn't considered that last part and neglected to bring any long-sleeved shirts or jackets. Just a Kissimmee Prairie T-shirt and thin pants as I figured it would be hot and muggy. Oh, well.

Headed out to be at the beach at dawn and found slightly lower winds but it was around 40 degrees. Brrrr.

Out on the beach, Skimmers, Laughing Gulls, Black-bellied Plovers, and Sanderlings were flowing in from the Gulf to rest in the shelter afforded by the beach and a few dunes and marsh. Very few other birds were in evidence.

I was told that there was a section of the marsh just before the beach that the sparrows were usually found. I headed over with tape recorder, camera, and binoculars in hand and stepped out in to the harsh winds whipping up past the shore instead of standing next to the road. I was told that playing the tape from the road would bring up some sparrows but the wind was getting so strong that I doubt anything heard my playback.

Into the Spartina Grass I sloshed. I figured going after the birds was going to be my only chance. Fortunately, it only took a few minutes to start hearing the birds call. Soon a few sparrows were darting out of the grass just feet in front of me.

I finally found one bird keeping very still but singing as it held on to the swaying grasses. Getting my camera to focus on a small waving blob in the high wind was proving to be a task but I did get my first Seaside Sparrow!

Seaside Sparrow

I knew there were several more in the area. I could hear them talking to each other as I slowly made my way around the marsh. The only other chance for a photo was of this birds looking toward the sun as I was deciding I was tired of freezing.

Seaside Sparrow

I tried many other birding spots in the surrounding few miles but never heard any other Seaside Sparrows. In fact, there were not to many other birds found anywhere since they were hunkered down, waiting for a better day. The only other birds in abundance during the trip were Bluebirds which lined CR 44 all the way to Crystal River.

Couldn't get a shot of them, though.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Cardinal Visit

We were grinding out pages here at work when I heard, "Drew! There is a bird over here right next to the window!" Like I am interested in birds or something...sheesh.

I didn't tell Chandler at that moment but I was quite impressed when he did a dead-on Northern Cardinal as we walked across the building to see the bird. Indeed, that is exactly what it was.

Northern Cardinal

This silly bird was standing on the very thin window ledge and calling like crazy. It stayed there for a while and barely seemed to acknowledge me as I leaned in close for a photo.

It left soon afterward to hang out with the other Cardinals here. They breed in the bushes all around the office complexes and I can't wait to hear the demanding chicks in the next couple months.