Friday, March 28, 2008

Lake Mendsen Birds

Yes, I went back for yet another Yellow-headed Blackbird check. Might be the last. It seems it is really gone. No new reports and no new sightings by me.

Other birds are still there, though. Loads of Boat-tailed Grackles and a Double-crested Cormorant or two. Spotted a tern the other day.

Nice to see a Wood Stork prowling the edges of the small pond.

Wood Stork

Along the other shore there lurked a Great-blue Heron.

Great-blue Heron

Meanwhile, down in the duck weed, appropriately enough, was a female Mallard.


Nothing spectacular but still nice to wander among the wildlife.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Common Yellowthroat

Still thinking of a way to get better Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Not finding them today.

However, there was a very curious Common Yellowthroat bouncing around the bull rushes.

Common Yellowthroat

Better than nothing, I suppose.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Took yet another swing past Lake Mendsen to see if the Yellow-headed Blackbird was still around. No luck. However, as I stepped out of the van and walked toward the lake shore, the most red-bellied Red-bellied Woodpecker landed on a tree branch not more than 10 feet in front of me.

The light was perfect as evening drew near.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

He only stuck around for a minute but it was a memorable one.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Monday, March 24, 2008

Still Thinking of Yellow-headed Blackbirds

Like I suggested at the end of the last post on the Yellow-headed Blackbird, I couldn't get it out of my head. I needed to swing around the area today and see if it was still around.

I didn't find it near the restaurant so I hurried across the street to Lake Mendsen (it DOES have a real name) and stepped out of the van to the sound of a really raspy call in the bull rushes. Not two minutes later, the bird appeared.

It was in shade and in the rushes for most of the time. Then it flew off across the lake and, soon, back again. I lost sight of it and was about to give up. I headed back toward the van and couldn't believe what I saw. The bird was feeding along the ground, again in shade, right near the parking lot!

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Just after that shot it flew over the hotel and back toward the restaurant. I let it be. Nearby, Boat-tailed Grackles cleaned up and fed along the shore.

Boat-tailed Grackle

Next, a very inquisitive White Ibis flew down next to me and posed in the light of the setting sun. One of my favorite Ibis shots to date. Much more impressive in a larger format.

White Ibis

Someday, I hope to get a more clear shot of the Blackbird. It was nice to have it around. Hope it makes it back to its real home.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Greenwood Eagles

Had a few minutes so I drove back into the cemetery to see if I could get a glimpse of the Pileated Woodpeckers nesting in the dead eagle tree. As soon as I got out of the van I heard a cry and looked east. Flying toward me were 3 juvenile Bald Eagles. These were the young that fledged just before the old nest fell from the tree a couple of weeks ago.

Bald Eagle

Not far behind them was Momma who landed on a nearby pine tree as the 3 youngsters landed in the nest tree. One of the 3 flew off again soon to be joined by Pop. The two of them headed out toward the neighboring lakes. The other two sat up top and watched as Momma called out to remind them where she was.

Bald Eagle

Soon, Pop flew back in carrying a fish. He landed above me and one of the fledglings tried to move in for a snack. The two were trying to get the fish into position when it came loose and fell 50 feet to the ground not far from where I stood. Both of the eagles just kind of stared at the fish but didn't try to go after it.

The look, to me, said, "Dang...".

Bald Eagle

A few minutes later, Momma flew in from her perch and scooped up the fish and quickly had the 3 others following after her. A very interesting episode to behold.

Then I remembered. I was here to look for woodpeckers. They didn't disappoint.

Pileated Woodpecker

On the way back to the van I had a quick encounter with a Northern Mockingbird.

Northern Mockingbird

Never know what you might find when you aren't even looking for it...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Starling and Red-bellied Woodpecker

I wandered over to Greenwood Wetlands to check out the action, if any. I was hoping to get some shots of the nesting Pileated Woodpeckers at the cemetery but had no luck. Eagles weren't around, either.

So, I strolled the small lakes of the wetlands. Red-winged Blackbirds were calling. A heron here, Moorhen there. Not too much happening. There were a pair of Limpkin hanging out on the far shore but not much else.

On the way back to the car, however, I did get some cooperative Starlings. Usually, they take off on close approach but this trio was more interested in feeding and let me get some shots that were not like my previous attempts that were 30 feet overhead on a power line. This shot was my favorite.

European Starling

Even though they are invasive, looking at this coloration, how can you not like them just a little bit?

A little farther up, almost at the parking lot, a woodpecker flew in and posed for a few moments just above me.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Every bird in the neighborhood is showing signs of preparing for the nesting season. Can't wait.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mockingbird Chick

I was leaving work and off to volunteer for some Scout help when I decided to check on the local Hooded Mergansers across the street from the office. There were two females left. I started to take some shots when I heard a noise behind me.

I decided to investigate as it was quite a loud call back in the Lagustrum shrubs.

There, in the back side of the shrubs, was a small but very vocal chick. The first Mockingbird baby of the season.

Northern Mockingbird

I dug in with the lens so I wouldn't have to approach too closely. Mom and Dad were defending the far side of the parking lot so I worked quickly and left the chick in peace.

Spring has indeed sprung.

Upon leaving the Scout volunteering, I heard my first Chuck Will's Widow calling in the trees behind the Scout building after 9:30 PM.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Yellow-headed Blackbird: Success!

The thought of the Yellow-headed Blackbird was haunting me still after not finding it yesterday. I had to swing by the sighting spot again. There was another birder there who had driven all the way from the Tampa area to try and find it.

We sat on a cement culvert and waited. She had thought she had spotted it briefly before it disappeared into the reeds. So, wait we did.

After nearly and hour it appeared! It hung close to the reed and preened for what seemed like forever. Not a good view for a shot. But I took several anyway just for positive ID purposes.

Satisfied with her find, the woman headed home. Said she had a dog to walk after a long drive home. I stayed and waited longer, hoping the bird would come out in the open. Some folks visiting the restaurant next the the spot noticed my camera and came over to chat. Wanted to know if there were good hiking spots nearby for visitors to explore.

I notice that whenever I am out with this new digital camera I get more curious people asking either what I am taking photos of and since I seem to know about birds then I must know other outdoor information. Luckily, I do!

Right after the last visitor got their info from me the bird seemed to be done with preening and began to slide down toward the water for a drink. Then, it hopped out onto the fence.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

There he was! Just looking around and posing. Even though it was at a bit of a distance I thought my shots were more in focus. Maybe my heart was pounding more than I realized in this shady spot holding a long lens at its max focus.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

I managed one more full shot just before it vanished back into the bull rushes to hide.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Ah, success. Now I could go home and forget about this wayward bird. Or could I...?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hunting for a Wayward Visitor

Word spread fast that an out of town bird watching group had found a Yellow-headed Blackbird lurking in some reeds behind a hotel. Best news was that it was just minutes form our house! No need to run 2 hours to get a new bird.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds are most common out West. Every now and then there is a sighting here in Florida. Strong fronts have been sweeping in of late and may have ushered this bird in the wrong direction.

I had some chores to run first thing in the morning so I would pass by the area on the way. It was just around dawn so I hoped traffic, cars and bird watchers alike, would be at a minimum.

I got to the spot and waited. Scanned the reeds. Waited. Nothing in sight but Red-winged Blackbirds and Grackles. Still, it is fun to watch the male Red-wings performing their calls and flaring their wings.

Red-winged Blackbird

Not much else to see. Until a Limpkin flew in to look for Apple Snails.


Time was running out for today. No Yellow-headed Blackbird. I would have to try again next time.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Swans are Back

Took the circular route home to see if the Ring-necked Ducks were still around (they are, in smaller numbers) and noticed the unmistakable white blobs of swan shapes on a far shore. I swung by to see if I could get some shots.

Two of the many local swans had returned and were looking for a handout but all I had was goodwill and my camera. So they fed off of the bottom of the lake and preened.

Mute Swan

I just love watching them dip and rise and trying to get some shots of water dripping off of their bills.

Mute Swan

The day was closing fast but the light was nice. The shutter kept clicking away for a few more minutes. The swans just fed and posed.

Mute Swan

Just as I was heading back to the car another white shape swooped in and landed nearby. It was a Great Egret with something for dinner. Couldn't tell from where I was so I slowly approached the bird to get a better look.

Great Egret

To my surprise, it looked like it had snatched up a young soft-shelled turtle! It kept try to figure out how to swallow it whole. Before it could do that, though, it flew off to the other side of the lake. Hope it didn't choke!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Migration North is Almost Here

March already? Not much even happened in February...

I figured I had better stop by the local lakes to get a shot of some Ruddy Ducks. Almost time for them to head back north. They usually are resting out near the center of Lake Davis but this afternoon they were sitting and slashing near the shore.

This female Ruddy seemed quite comfortable.

Ruddy Duck

I was especially interested in attempting to get a shot of the male. He was a bit farther out but not to far out to not be able to see his bill and plumage changing toward his Summer attire.

Ruddy Duck

Also along the shoreline was a beautiful Tri-colored Heron who didn't seem to mind my close proximity at all.

Tri-colored Heron

On the way back to the car I spotted another bird ready to head home. A Yellow-rumped (Mytle) Warbler. Haven't seen as many this year.


Time to go searching before all the Winter birds turn towards their Summer home.