Thursday, May 29, 2008

Great-horned Owls at ARC

I couldn't escape work to help with the new owls that needed banding. They were set for the weekend but the date was moved up. But there some good shots from the day to post.

This time they had some Great-horned Owls. Wish I could have been there as those birds are extremely cool. Here Scott McCorkle holds up the first bird to band.

Great-horned Owl

The bands are applied.

Great-horned Owl

Sometimes it take 3 to get through the operation!

Great-horned Owl

We have a bigger group of birds to handle during the upcoming weekend. Can't wait.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Northern Rough-winged Swallows

Just when I thought there would be nothing to chat about...

I had to make a run out to the Scout store just south of Apopka, FL. Cubs needed some belt loops and achievement pins and such. It was a nice day but I only had a short time in the middle of the work day.

On the way back out to the van I heard some calls far overhead. I couldn't determine exactly where they were at first. The echoes off of the building were a little distracting. Eventually, however, I spotted some soaring shapes in the clouds.

Once I spotted them my steps quickened. I nearly broke into a run to get to the camera! I have seen Northern Rough-winged Swallows flying by before but never had a chance to get a shot. I managed a few but they all turned out like this.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Still, not bad for them being so far above me. The birds drifted south on the winds as they called and darted. In a few minutes they were out of sight and out of ear-shot.

Right place, right time.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Grey Kingbirds at Honeymoon Island

How could I not stop by Honeymoon Island once I was so close to it after banding Purple Martins? We were only a few miles away. Glad we dropped by as we found many Grey Kingbirds all along the Osprey Trail in only a brief time. It was getting hot and I was hoping to find some other birds but the amount and close proximity of the Kingbirds was a real treat.

We did see many Ospreys at their nests but the Kingbirds caught my attention just after we entered the trail. Others were seen and heard as they called and chased one another throughout the abbreviated walk. Once we got near the parking lot again, the show really began.

I have only seen Grey Kingbirds up on power lines in the past. Today, they were feeding in the lower branches and made several stops just feet away in many different spots surrounding the restrooms and parking area. Who can resist eye-level views of this beautiful bird?

Grey Kingbird

Some birds seemed rather oblivious to our close approach. Feeding was on the agenda!

Grey Kingbird

It was very exciting to see them from any other view besides just staring at bellies.

Grey Kingbird

Even when they were a bit higher up, they made perfect photo opportunities.

Grey Kingbird

A great end to a quick birding check. Maybe we can stop back in for other birds next Fall or Winter. The beaches should be more full of other species by then.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Banding Purple Martins

Purple Martin landlord Susan Pulling put out a call on the bird lists in hopes of finding someone to band her new Martin chicks before they fledged and took off on their journey. The post was not long before the pelagic trip I was scheduled for but said I could help.

Hopefully, they would still be there by the time I arrived. According to her charts, they were set to take flight on the morning of the first chance I had available! We crossed our fingers and watched the clock and the gourds.

The day came. Susan said they were still there and we hurried over to her beautiful Dunedin home. Susan donned plastic gloves and we began extracting the chicks for banding. We tried a box first in hopes of getting a few at a time but they were so close to flight that we quickly decided that one at a time would be the way to go.

Purple Martin

My oldest boy decided to tag along and I coaxed my Dad to join in, also. Someone needed to take photos and I figured he would enjoy the experience.

Purple Martin

Usually when banding, there are at least two people at the table. One banding and one recording data. Today I had double duty.

Purple Martin

Susan looks on as another chick is banded.

Purple Martin

Here, I do a quick check of the just banded bird to see if every thing is A-OK.

Purple Martin

A close-up of a newly banded chick.

Purple Martin

Proud landlord and bander. This is Susan's first attempt to attract Martins and it turned out to be a great success. Next year, she will check through scopes to see if any of these same chicks return as adults to raise a new generation.

Purple Martin

A fun new experience for all of us. Reports are that the chicks all left the very next day!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Owl Banding at the ARC

It is that time of year again when birds that have made it to the Avian Reconditioning Center in Apopka are ready to be released. We have been informed that many birds of different species will be readied for release in the next couple of weeks. The first of these birds were 3 Barn Owls.

Here is the first lucky customer that will be fitted with a new band before release.

Barn Owl

Carol McCorkle collects and holds each bird as Richard applies the band.

Barn Owl

The main order of business was finished quickly so I checked out a new addition to the center before heading back to work. The McCorkles have added an outdoor section to one of the mews so the young birds can get acclimated to the outdoors more quickly. Right now it is occupied by a few Red-shouldered Hawk chicks.

Red-shouldered Hawk

In due time, these chicks will also get banded and released.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Can't wait!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pelagic Birding Trip

The day finally arrived. The trip was planned many months ago and seemed like it was so far away. Today we would depart from the marina at 3 AM and head 100 miles out across the Gulf Stream in search of pelagic birds. This would be my first Pelagic trip.

Much like air travel, I couldn't sleep as we headed out into the darkness. Too much to look at even in the pre-dawn hours. Shore lights. Boat lights. Lighthouses.

After the sun came up, and we were about 30 miles out, we had our first bird of the day. An Eurasian Collared-Dove. Odd. Occasionally, a small flock of warblers would pass by the boat. Once the waters began to get a bit more choppy the show was about to begin.

Our first sighting was a Bridled Tern but it was too far out to get any photos. Soon afterward the call came out for a more elusive bird. A Black-capped Petrel.

Black-capped Petrel

The arcing flight of these birds was spectacular to behold.

It wasn't too long after that when a Wilson's Storm Petrel made its way into view. We spotted many of these birds during the day and several followed behind the boat picking up pieces of chum laid out by the boat crew.

Wilson's Storm Petrel

We eventually made it out to the eastern side of the Gulf Stream and the water turned a brilliant cobalt blue. Off in the distance we could all make out a flock of birds diving over a school of tuna. This is what we had been hoping to find. Among these birds were many Sooty Terns.

Sooty Tern

Joining the Terns were a few Audubon's Shearwaters.

Audubon's Shearwater

During the trip we actually had a few weary warblers use the boat as a resting spot. This Common Yellowthroat would rest on the boat awhile, take off and circle the ship, then land in a different part of the boat. We were on near constant watch to make sure no one stepped on her as she searched the deck for crumbs.

Common Yellowthroat

When the waves got higher we had to hold on tight. I know I left the deck a few times as we rolled over the largest of the waves. Looks like I wasn't the only one!

American Redstart

The trip was called a little short as the captain thought the seas might be too rough for the long haul back but we did have some other exciting finds such as a Loggerhead Sea Turtle, a couple of Marlin fins, Spotted Dolphins, and a pod of Short-finned Pilot Whales which surfaced right next to us.

Pilot Whale

We arrived back at the dock again in the dark. 19 hours at sea. Would I do it again? Sure. Tomorrow? Nope. Maybe next year.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ibis Eat Catfish?

Who knew?

I was out looking for the Spotted Sandpiper again but only found ducks and herons and Ibis. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Sandpiper was now a few blocks south, happily feeding.

While I was looking around, a flock of Ibis flew in. Some adults and some juveniles. The young were right next to me and were finding some food. I just never expected that they were eating young catfish!

White Ibis

I have shots of Great Blue Herons munching on them but I had it in my head that Ibis were after even smaller prey.

White Ibis

Closer inspection of the photos revealed otherwise.

White Ibis

Stranger thing is, this lake is so shallow, how are catfish here at all? Don't recall ever seeing any larger ones.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Northern Cardinal Babies

The Northern Cardinals that frequent our yard have successfully brought another generation into the world. The calling chicks have been noisily chattering outside the kitchen window for days.

I decided to head out to see if I could get a count as they get fed in our big palm. They stay in close to the center making a good view difficult. As I rounded the corner of the house I could make out 3 tiny shadows on the fronds. This chick is larger than the other two and almost seemed to be guarding them.

Northern Cardinal

Better yet, I can see that these are the same Cardinal parents that live here since I banded them last Fall. Baby birds are everywhere this year!

Spotted Sandpiper Returns

As I was dropping the boys of at school, I noticed a small bird on the shore of Lake Davis. Could it be that some shore birds were returning as they did last year when the lake was basically a mudflat? I would have to swing back by to be sure.

I came back via the southern route and noticed the small shape again. I hopped out and grabbed a passable ID shot.

Spotted Sandpiper

A Spotted Sandpiper had, indeed, returned!

I tried to get a bit closer but it was very skittish and flew off a ways. I took a few more shots for verification and kept my distance as it fed along the shoreline.

Spotted Sandpiper

Later, it had left this lake and I found it again the next day at Lake Lancaster, as few blocks to the south. It remained there for a couple of days, never allowing any close approach.

Nonetheless, it is nice to have a bird like this so far inland.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Purple Martins

Hot off of the Animal Kingdom chaperone trip I got to take the oldest to a birthday party two days later. Again, birds weren't at the top of the list but I do always have the camera ready.

I was actually surprised to find a Purple Martin house set up next to the rental boat area. Don't know why. Just didn't equate it with a private resort-like park.

So, once the main activities were concluded, I managed to do a little bird watching and photography tests. Martins are so fast. Except when they finish feeding the chicks and rest for a second on the edge of their apartment like this one.

Purple Martin

Every now and then you can catch them landing at the edges.

Purple Martin

Even more challenging is to try and keep up with their sweeping flights directly overhead. This shot is actually cropped from a larger shot encompassing mostly sky. An effect I rather like.

Purple Martin

If only I had a Martin apartment to care for. Their chattering and flight displays are pretty magical. Just have to visit them in different spots for now.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Animal Kingdom Cardinals

I was fortunate enough to help chaperone my son's 6th grade field trip to Animal Kingdom. I wasn't looking for birds. Really. REALLY!

O.K. Maybe a little.

As I waited for the kids to take their turn on the river rapids (no water on the camera, please), a pair of Cardinals came down to visit me. I was just taking pictures of the monkeys. Minding my business.

The female was first and she was finding plenty to eat in the blooming plants and trees.

Northern Cardinal

She was soon followed by the male.

Northern Cardinal

Off to ride Everest!