Friday, August 29, 2008

Black Terns

Ah, a nice vacation day. Time to head to Titusville and try and find a bird I have previously been unable to locate: Black Terns. There have been reports of them in the Cape Canaveral area for a solid week so I hoped to find at least one bby getting there as fast as possible.

I turned onto Bio Lab Road (adjacent to the NASA launch facility) just around 10 AM. The first bird that I saw was feeding low over the marsh. Could it be...?

Yes! A Black Tern. Then another. I hopped out of the van and tried to get a shot as they sped over the marsh and occasionally dove into the swallow waters to grab a fish.

Black Tern

They flew along the roadside and sometimes across it to provide some very nice views. A nemesis bird, no more.

Black Tern

Farther along the road I noticed a shadow in the waters of the Indian River Lagoon. I had seen this shape before so I slowed to see what would happen. It was, as suspected, a large alligator that soon breeched the surface with its tail and head arched upward.

Soon, it grabbed downward onto some prey, But what had it caught?


Upon closer inspection, it seemed that it had caught a Horseshoe Crab and was trying to figure out how to swallow the thing without getting that barbed tail stuck in its throat. An awesome sight to watch.

One the way home, I stopped at Parrish Park to see if any shorebirds were hanging out. I found many but my favorites are the Ruddy Turnstones at this time of year. The plumage is just striking.

Ruddy Turnstone

Not a bad day. Except for the tons of mosquitoes hanging around Scrub Jay Ridge. No Jays. Only the bugs and a few migrating Prairie Warblers. Danged blood suckers nearly drained me dry!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Barn Swallows Feeding

As I sat at work, I noticed a blur of several birds whipping through the parking lot. In the past, I have seen this when the Tree Swallows return and pick off emerging termites. This seemed too early in the season for Tree Swallows so I grabbed the camera and ran downstairs.

Several Swallows were skimming the parking lot, all right, but they seemed to be larger than Tree Swallows. Once I processed the photos I saw that I had captured one pretty good shot. They fly so fast that tracking them and keeping them in focus is quite a chore.

Turns out that they were a nice wave of migrating Barn Swallows.

Barn Swallow

A very fun spectacle to behold. Especially when they zip straight overhead only feet away.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hurricane Fay Brings Surprises

Well, the storm has been sitting basically on top of us for days. Not much birding to be done. However, the lakes are finally getting recharged and that is a very good thing. Some parts of the state are being flooded to the south. I like our higher ground.

Once I picked the boys up from school I made a detour through the neighborhood to see if Lake Lancaster, one of the hardest hit lakes during the drought, was filling enough to even be considered a lake again. Indeed it was!

The rain was still falling and the oldest son said he thought he saw something in the lake. Possibly an Otter. We got out to investigate in the drizzle.

Sure enough, there was an entire family of otters having lunch!


It appeared that they had caught some kind of carp (Grass Carp, I am pretty sure).


They kept a watchful eye on us humans but were chirping away as they swam and decided how to share their catch.


This is the kind of surprise that I like.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Two More Lake Lotus Birds

Right before I headed out to get the Gallinule family shots I had two more shots along the trails to share.

There was a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers tearing up the trees in search of a snack. They were pounding the trunks so fast that pictures were quite a blur of heads and bill. Finally, one of the birds dug deep enough to extract a grub.

Pileated Woodpecker

Also, just after the shots of the Barred Owl, I found a Great-crested Flycatcher feeding in the lower branches.

Great-crested Flycatcher

Still working on getting all the final details ironed out to start banding here. Hopefully soon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Purple Gallinule Family

While making a courtesy call on the rangers of Lake Lotus to make preparations for scouting the area for proposed banding this weekend I got to do a little birding, too. Didn't see any rangers upon arrival so I wandered down the boardwalk and as I was heading along the side of the river I heard a familiar call.

There is a pair of Barred Owls that make Lake Lotus home so I veered off of my original path to track the hoots not far away. Sitting in a cypress tree over the boardwalk toward the lake I found what I was searching for.

Barred Owl

This owl was calling from this spot while the other returned the call from much farther away.

Satisfied with those shots I got back on track and heard the golf cart rumblings of one of the rangers back near the parking lot. I found Frank and he mentioned that there was a family of Purple Gallinules down by the lake just a few minutes ago. "Think they are still there?", I asked. "Hop on and we will go see.", he responded.

As we neared the fishing pier, we could hear the Gallinules calling. The reason for this was the hawk sitting atop the gazebo at the entrance to the pier. I only had time for a quick shot as it spotted us and headed for the safety of the trees.

Red-shouldered Hawk

One of the adults continued to sound the alarm for 15 minutes after the hawk left. Reminded me of a party horn.

Purple Gallinule

Scattered around the lotus leaves were 3 Gallinule chicks. The bravest kept checking me out as the clouds darkened and night was closing in.

Purple Gallinule

The adults began searching for food, feeding themselves and then the chicks once they realized that mom and dad had found something worth tasting.

Purple Gallinule

It was fun to watch the chicks maneuver across the leaves. Look at the size of those feet!

Purple Gallinule

Mom was really good at snatching snails along the leaves and would prize out the flesh and the young birds would try to grab what they could. "Hey, Mom! Where is that snail?"

Purple Gallinule

"Never mind. I found one!"

Purple Gallinule

A planned quick visit turned into an hour and a half and 200 photos! Glad I stuck around.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Looking For Lunch

Dropped by Mead Garden to see if there were any warblers arriving. Not many. A Northern Parula and a female American Redstart.

As I headed back to the car I almost ran directly into a Red-shouldered Hawk hanging out in the low branches of an oak tree. We startled each other before it settled into another nearby tree.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Must be looking for warblers, too...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Cooper's Hawk on Patrol

Not much bird watching to do while the neighborhood is circled with Cooper's Hawks.

Cooper's Hawk

They have been dropping into the oaks when not soaring overhead. I have counted up the 3 at a time.

Oh, well. Something to watch, I guess.