Saturday, December 29, 2007

Nice End to the Year: Vermilion Flycatcher

Wanted to make a run at finding Vermi again while I had the chance. If you have been reading along, I got many pictures of him last year and he returned in November but I wasn't able to visit him again until now.

Heavy fog shrouded the Lake Jessup pastures at dawn and didn't burn off until after 8 AM. The morning still provided some diversions as I waited, though.

Still, it took until much later before I found Vermi again.

When I first spotted him, I was on my way out. Nearby, a Red-shouldered Hawk was perched about 20 yards away. Vermi just preened in the cattails and waited.

I didn't see the hawk leave but once he did, the flycatcher resumed feeding and got closer.

I still had to slog through 2 feet of water and mud to get this passable shot.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Now that Winter is settling in, the water should dry up a bit and the going might be better for easier shots.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Say's Phoebe

Actually took all of these shots on the 21st but forgot to get to them. Busy, busy holiday season.

We are lucky enough to have a rare visitor to the nearby area. A Say's Phoebe has taken a wrong turn and ended up on the northern edge of Lake Apopka. Grabbed the boys and made them trek out with me in the misting rain and approaching dark to make sure we found it before it disappeared again.

Followed the directions and didn't see it on a quick glance. Continued on down the road to look for Scrub Jays. Finding none, I slowed my return to the reported spot and stopped and scanned a field. Another car pulled up on the opposite side of the road and out stepped Dave Simpson.

We chatted how this must be the place and as we looked out into the field again he said, "There it is!" He brought out his scope and we got great looks at the bird.

Say's Phoebe

Dave was just there to tick the bird and headed off, satisfied. I stayed on and tried to get some shots while the boys played in and around the van. A couple of other folks looking for the bird stopped by and were thrilled I had it in my sight and hugged in joy having made the spotting.

Say's Phoebe

I am not too thrilled with the shots I got. They are identifiable but not great. I will try again when I am not hampered by very low light.

We headed home by way of the Kingbird roost and I was amazed by how close the birds were to the main road. Construction is ongoing on the back side of the roost as they are planning on making an extension straight through the main roost site.

Where will all of these birds we enjoy settle in the years to come?

The Kingbird roost is an amazing spot. This time of year, thousands of birds, including Western Kingbirds, Robins, and our Fork-tailed Flycatcher from last year, rest for the night in the now disappearing orange groves. Sad to imaging they will all be gone in the future.

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers also hang out here in Winter and tonight they were literally right over the main road passing by the roost.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

I am still trying to figure out the mystery of the flash for this new camera but I did manage a couple of shots without flash before we left. It was almost totally dark so I am a little pleased by these shots.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Will try to spend some time back here before the spot is gone for good.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Redhead: Early Christmas Present

I have been staring at the neighborhood lakes for years in hopes of discovering something in the Winter months that wasn't a Ring-necked Duck. The Northern Shoveler was nice earlier in the month but this is even better.

I swung by Lake Cherokee during some last minute shopping and noticed a few Ring-necked Ducks swimming in my direction. I turned my attention back to a cypress tree to ID the warblers feeding there. Then I looked back at the other ducks.

A Redhead had popped up next to the Ring-neckeds! Better yet, they were all getting closer!!

They were all moving closer but toward a shady spot that the ducks favor near one of the benches. Problem was there would be less light and I was on the wrong side of the trees to see them there. I needed to move to the other side for a shot but I knew this would make them swim back out toward the center of the lake.

Having little choice, or time, I went for it and managed a pretty nice shot.


A bit later, they started feeding near some reeds and drove along the shore to try another angle. Not bad. Even got a fair picture to the Ring-necked Ducks for once.


Time will tell if we have a new Winter resident or if it will just take off soon.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

First Goldfinches Return

Back at our feeders, anyway.

Carolyn noticed one on the sock feeder yesterday and it was seen back at the same feeder this morning. Must be time to start settling in. Numbers will increase from here.

Need to try and get some shots with the new camera this year.

For previous shots, go here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

St. Pete CBC

Kind of quiet around the state lately but there were plenty birds around to make my first Christmas Bird Count (CBC) a fun, but tiring, day. Lee Snyder, leader of our count circle, kept totals of the birds we had seen as the day wore on and we couldn't believe the number of 'easy' birds we were missing.

We started at 4 AM sharp in search of Screech Owls. Walking down the empty roads of Veteran's War Memorial Park in the dark, Lee would occasionally stop and do the most amazing copy of a calling Screech Owl. Every now and then an owl would answer him back. Sometimes they would swoop in for a look-see.

The park and nearby neighborhoods were checked and we ended up a total of 11 Screech Owls to throw into the totals at the end of the count. We called for Rails and Great-horned Owls, using tapes of other birds, but got no returned attention.

Arriving at our main count area, Joe's Creek Preservation Area, before dawn we entered the fenced off confines. Here we did manage to get return calls from Virginia and Black Rails. The Black Rail were mere feet away.

There were not as many species as we would have liked to find but every species counts...during a count. We added Prairie Warblers, Black-crowned Parrots, Goldfinches, all the Wren species, herons, hawks. Nothing unexpected.

Shorebirds were most noticeably absent. No Turnstones. No Plovers. A couple Willets. Few gulls. Weirdest thing along the shore was actually a Gopher Tortoise emerging FROM the waves. They are typically found in dries areas in the state.

A total of 82 species were recorded by our team after 11 hours. Not bad but we were hoping for 100 or more. Birds are just scarce in the region for some reason. Later reports confirmed it was so all through the count zones.

There was a nice surprise an hour later. I headed back to Veteran's War Memorial Park to see if I could see one of the Great-horned Owls that Lee thought he saw a couple hours earlier. I got to the general area that it was suppose to haunt and took the mini-recorder out of my pocket and pressed 'play'.

Within 2-3 seconds after the owl calls spilled out of the tiny speaker, I saw a shadow spreading out from one of the distant pine trees. Then, a Great-horned Owl landed not too far from me.

Great-horned Owl

It stayed in the shadows of one pine before moving up into the tall part of the dead tree and into the sunshine in the shot above. The owl did not seem interested in me at all. It wanted to know where that 'other' owl was. It began to give up and I played the tape again for a couple seconds.

It moved to an even closer branch.

Great-horned Owl

It was beginning to make calls of it's own, still searching from side to side for the owl it had heard.

Great-horned Owl

A few minutes later, this bird moved off to me left. Suddenly, a SECOND owl emerged from my right and settled on a branch not far from where the other was. This one would actually look at me if I clicked my tongue a bit. Quite a stare.

Great-horned Owl

We were told an owl was roosting here. Now we know there are two. A perfect end to a semi-eventful CBC.

Friday, December 14, 2007

All I wanted for Christmas...

...was a new digital SLR.

For the past 3 years.

It arrived today. Still a lot to learn about the workings of it but I decided to take a quick trip across the street to try and get a shot of the Hooded Mergasers that frequent the pond in the parking lot from year to year.

Not the best shot. Yet. This is the best of several of the Hoodies I attempted with the limited time I had.

Hooded Mergaser

Next try will be tried with a bit more experience.

This Tri-colored Heron was too busy fishing to care much about me and provided a nice shot.

Tri-colored Heron

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Urban Northern Shoveler

The Ring-necked Ducks have been increasing in good sized flocks recently but they seem to be sticking mainly to Lake Cherokee instead of their usual hangout of Lake Davis. I suspect it is due to the low water levels Lake Davis has suffered all year long. Lake Cherokee stays more or less at a constant height and is full of fish and leg room.

Therefore, Lake Davis is fairly quiet right now. Only it's regular Mallards, other ducks and geese and Moorhens as there along with some just arriving American Coots. Don't even hear the Kingfisher this year.

Then I get an email from Ellen Rocco saying she has spotted a Northern Shoveler on the south shore of the lake. She had mentioned that she thought that it appeared to be a male in non-breeding plumage. It was nearly dark and I knew I wouldn't be there in time to check it out and mentioned that I hoped it would stick around until the morning.

I dropped the kids off at school the following morning and swung by the lake on the way home. Sure enough, in the same spot described the night before, was a Shoveler feeding with a few Mallards near the shore.

Northern Shoveler

Just over a year ago I found a female Shoveler in a retention pond behind a warehouse but other than that Shovelers tend to stick to the coasts. This is definitely the first one I have seen at Lake Davis.

Wish we could get some other coastal goodies over here!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Red Fox Sparrow

What a way to start December! Finally got photos of a Fox Sparrow after all this time.

Red Fox Sparrow

I found my first Fox Sparrows on our trip to Washington state. Unfortunately, all the best shots I took of them were stuck on the one digital camera card I have ever had go bad. Knock silicon...

On this foggy morning in Wekiva State Park I finally had a chance to make up for that loss. Even better, with a bird secured in my grasp.

Red Fox Sparrow

With the weight of the bird in the bag, I thought we had a Catbird. It was completely shocking to pull this bird out. They are not suppose to be here.

Red Fox Sparrow

Not that I am complaining.

Red Fox Sparrow

Gets me even more geared up for the Christmas Bird Count in less than
2 weeks.