Thursday, December 31, 2009

Viera Wetlands

Made a run out to Viera Wetlands for the last trip of the year to locate the Masked Duck drake that has been hanging out and first reported by fellow photographer friend, Donna Faylo. Nice spotting, Donna!

I got there right at sunrise so I swung around the Click Ponds to see if anything interesting was there. Not a lot of birds except for a lot of Wood Storks.

Wood Stork

Once I got to the far side of the ponds I had a great view of the sunrise along with a large flock of Tree Swallows grabbing insects from the water's surface.


There were already a lot of car traffic near the Masked Duck spot but no duck yet so I made a short trip around the berms to see what else was waking. There were Caracaras flying over and the swallows here as well. Near the shore, a Limpkin grabbed and banged away at a snail.


Through my binoculars I could see photographers stepping out of their vehicles so the duck must have started its morning foraging. I made my way back around Cell 4 but was distracted by sparrows in the grass. There were several Savannah Sparrows hopping in the grass and dirt flinging dirt out of the way with each hop to see if they could uncover any breakfast. This one managed a nice treat.

Savannah Sparrow

On the opposite side, a Northern Harrier cruised overhead in the low light.

Northern Harrier

Closer to shore, a Great-blue Heron sat in a low palm tree.

Great-blue Heron

I finally got back to the real reason I was here for the morning and the Masked Duck was out in the open.

Masked Duck

Pretty little duck. Females were here a couple years ago but this is the first reported drake.

Masked Duck

Right on schedule at 8:30 AM the duck began to move back into the reeds. This timing was observed in the preceding days, as well.

Masked Duck

So, back to exploring the other cells before moving on. Other ducks are here, too, including the resident Mallards.

Mallard Duck

The wintering Blue-wing Teals were present in large numbers and often close to shore.

Blue-wing Teal

Green Herons are always a nice find but a bit more secretive most of the time.

Green Heron

Many Anhinga can be seen at close range drying their black and white wings.


Nearby, I spotted this small group of female Ruddy Ducks which were paddling just off of the shoreline.

Ruddy Duck

One more bird to view on the way out of the Wetlands. A Glossy Ibis caught some sort of little eel (or something like it) and made a quick meal of it.

Glossy Ibis

Time to head home but what is a trip to the coast without a stop by Merrit Island. Out at Parrish Park there was a large group of birds including Ring-billed Gulls and many resting Black Skimmers.

Black Skimmers

Just behind them was a very loud and begging Royal Tern. Another beautiful bird.

Royal Tern

One more stop for the day (OK, two. I did go around Bio Lab Road but there was not much out there besides the alligators.) with a trip through Black Point. A lot of cars but not too much near the roads. There were Northern Pintails, Wigeons, etc. way out on the flats but not much more. Except for this nice flock of American Avocets near stop 7.

American Avocet

A nice way to round up the year. Time to head home and chill the champagne for New Year's Eve.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goldfinches are Back

Goldfinches are back in the yard. Finally. How can I tell? Because the area under the feeders is gathering finch poop!

American Goldfinch

Plus, the yellow feeder is showing evidence of use.

American Goldfinch

They are later than usual but I am glad that they are back. Shouldn't be long before I hear their calls outside every morning. Will make the approaching cold more worth it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Bird Cam

Got a couple of fun Christmas presents this year. First was the Plant Cam from my wife which I will be using to record different plants as Spring gets closer. The other was the BirdCam which I am testing right now. The first test was setting it outside at the parent's house. I tried the bird bath first but that was quiet so I moved it to the ground under the other feeder.

Not a bad result with all of the activity at one point.

Webcam One

This is a crop of that image showing the House Sparrows.

Webcam Crop

Then I moved it back to the bird bath and captured a shot of the Blue Jay and Grackle.

Webcam Two

Back home, I set up facing the tray feeder. Got some good shots of the Mourning Doves but often got too many shots of the raiding squirrels.

Webcam Three

The only fun part of the squirrels is when they jump off and make the tray feeder spin. Makes for interesting images.

Webcam Spin

However, I want to get birds in these shots so I will have to change my position for the cam. More post from this cam to follow.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gulf Beaches

Before heading back to Orlando, we spent some time over on the Gulf beaches for a nice walk and then a fine dinner.

Our first stop was over at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary at Indian Shores. As their web site states, this is non-profit is "...the largest wild bird hospital and bird sanctuary in the United States, based on the admission of up to 8,000 birds per year." They have all sorts of birds that they rehabilitate and then release back into the wild.

With all of the birds in the enclosed spaces other birds stop by to roost like this beautiful Black-crowned Night Heron.

Black-crowned Night Heron

We headed to the beach just beyond the sanctuary to let the boys play near the water. Of course, I was drawn to the other birds loafing on the beach and headed down to get some shots if I could. The gull I wanted to get a shot of was scared off by visitors before I could do so so I walked back to the family while combing the shore.

For some reason, this Ruddy Turnstone wanted to walk right up to me. Easy shot of one of my favorite shorebirds.

Ruddy Turnstone

Fun! We then headed to rotating dining room to eat and then stopped down at the shore one more time. I thought I spotted a new type of gull for me but it turned out to be another version of the common Laughing Gulls. Gulls are tough for me. Especially since I hardly get to see too many.

Here are many variations of Laughing Gulls found right there down the beach. Version 1, a juvenille:

Laughing Gull

...then older...

Laughing Gull

...then older still...

Laughing Gull

...then adults...

Laughing Gull

...and another.

Laughing Gull

Still searching for different gulls on my travels.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Parent's Backyard

Swung over to the parents for Day Three of Christmas and got a quick view of some of their local yard birds. There seemed to be some concern in the birds like they were watching for trouble out there somewhere. As I walked into the backyard, the Blue Jays were in frozen postures to keep from being seen.

Except by me.

Blue Jay

Just a bit later, their female Cardinal came over to the same Crape Myrtle and posed for a while.

Northern Cardinal

Always nice to see some other birds that visit others' yards in another part of the state.

Next post will showcase our trip to the beaches.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

St. Pete CBC, 2009

Another year, another good count. Cold front was moving through and had not cleared out as we began but we started calling for owls at 5 AM. Our only owl was a Great-horned that flew into a treetop in the near dark which we all viewed before it took off.

No Screech Owls today. 2nd year we have been skunked on this species.

We headed to the point of Veteran's Memorial Park at dawn as the tide was set to be -1 and we hoped for some shorebirds along the meager beach front. We found a large group of Willets near the picnic area right away.


The loudest noise permeating the air was that of hundreds of Laughing Gulls loafing and feeding on the open sand and mud.

Laughing Gull

Also hanging out in the gloom was a single Semi-palmated Sandpiper.

Semi-palmated Sandpiper

That bird was foraging near the lone Little Blue Heron in the area.

Little Blue Heron

Flocks of Forster's Terns, Double-crested Cormorants, and White Ibis added to the filled skies as the clouds continued to blanket the views.

White Ibis

There began to be some breaks in the cloud banks as we added Dunlin, Oystercatchers, Red Knots, and others to our species list. It reminded me of Indiana Jones witnessing the Sun pointing to the tombs.

Beam of Light

We then headed off to Joe's Creek to see what we could stir up. Invasives have clogged up some of the better open areas. Specifically Brazilian Pepper. We found no Swamp Sparrows though they were here in past years. We did manage to scare up a Sora and watched as Rosette Spoonbills and Wood Storks soared overhead.

Wood Stork

Blue-grey Gnatcatchers were ever-present all day but hard to photograph.

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher

We missed finding any Goldfinches this year but we did have some nice things pop up like Eastern Towhee and Carolina Chickadee. I was almost caught off-guard when a few Pine Warblers dropped in just in front of me.

Pine Warblers

Checking the canals, we got a few more species but not as many as in previous years. Cooper's Hawks, Mallard, our single Black-crowned Night Heron hiding in the far branches and a near skeleton of what we determined to be that of an otter. At least we had a Black and White Warbler show up just in time!

Black and White Warbler

We made a fast run over to 66th street to look for Least Bitterns but were unsuccessful. Here, the rest of the team scans for the Bitterns.


A quick lunch break allowed me to scan some of the other local ponds but there was nothing of note. We had Blue-winged Teal, Coots, Moorhens and a few turtles finally getting a chance to bask in the emerging sunlight.


We headed back to Veteran's Park after Dave and Jim scored an American Bittern near a local strip mall and I searched for the Yellow-crowned Night Heron that has been in the area for years. It was not to be found today but there were other things to photograph. Where the Night Heron should have been there were only scores of Fiddler Crabs leading me to believe that the bird hasn't been here for a while.

Fiddler Crab

Nearby, Palm Warblers erupted from the grasses and lit in the oaks. Most were Western Palm Warblers.

Western Palm Warbler

A bright glint of yellow caught my eye and revealed a pair of Eastern, also known as Yellow, Palm Warblers.

Eastern Palm Warbler

We continued to tick more species as we moved along, 91 in total for the day, but my interest was captured by the Spotted Sandpiper we first discovered early in the day. As the light broke through I was able to finally get some good shots of this bird which was not too concerned of my presence.

Spotted Sandpiper

It only regarded me with apprehension a few times as I scrambled down the rocks to get a better view but would then figure I was no threat and begin foraging again.

Spotted Sandpiper

Every now and again it would grab a small meal hiding in the sand and enjoy a quick snack to eat.

Spotted Sandpiper

Besides having a Sora almost jump into me, this was some of my favorite moments of the day. Being close to a lovely bird and enjoying the fresh new cold front moving through.

Spotted Sandpiper

Awaiting the totals for the day but this was the best set of numbers I have had in this spot over the years. Can't wait until next year!