Monday, January 19, 2009

Finches Get Along

Well, that is interesting.

For the first time ever here, I have just witnessed American Goldfinches and House Finches feeding together. Check out this crappy shot through the kitchen screened in window.


Typically, the House Finches haven't shown up at the feeders until just after the Goldfinches take flight back home in the Spring. Then the House Finches flood in. However, the House Finch numbers have been increasing over the past couple of years and I know that they have bred here last year.

Must be here to stay. Fine by me. Glad to see them mingling together.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Backyard Birds

Titmice always grab my attention because they usually attract other birds that check out their calls. Today it just seemed like a pair were busy calling to one another near the kitchen feeders. But they did seem to be on the watch for something.

Tufted Titmouse

They continued to call all around the yard as they flew from spot to spot, occasionally grabbing a seed along the way. They would then retreat to the oaks.

Tufted Titmouse

Goldfinches continues to flit about. Mostly wondering what the HECK I am doing out there.

American Goldfinch

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lake Jessup Swallows

Went out to see what was left of the North Lake Jessup Conservation Area after TS Fay flooded the entire area after days of heavy rains. Many local roads were covered for days and the area where the Vermillion Flycatcher visited the last two years was 3 feet deep in water.

I arrived a little later than planned but found a nice windy day sweeping across what has become less of a sparrow habitat and more the actual cattle pasture that it was intended for.

The floods removed all of the weedy brush that the sparrows love and I found no sparrows on my trip at all. A few Palm Warblers darted about but nothing like the numbers of birds found previously. The only thing left were a few raptors staring at the ground in hopes of finding food and a huge flock of Tree Swallows.

Gave me a chance to try the frustrating task of getting images of little bullets soaring past every few minutes. Sometimes they would actually fly within feet of me but getting an auto-focus lens to deal with these streaking hunters was quite a chore.

Out of all of the times that I pressed the shutter release I maybe ended up with only a handful of good shots. Like this one.

Tree Swallow

One of the surprising finds was that I captured a juvenile among all of the adults swooping past. Didn't even notice the difference while I was watching.

Tree Swallow

A number of the swallows were swooping low to grab insects from the water surface just around the muddy edge. Nabbed this one milliseconds after it hit the water for a snack.

Tree Swallow

A last adult in flight.

Tree Swallow

Even if there are few birds out on this pasture it is always a thrill to be surrounded by Tree Swallows. It is a grand experience every time and brings a smile to my face though I might be 2 feet deep in mud.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

American Goldfinch

Feeding increases and the Goldfinches are getting a 'little' less wary. Though this is a fairly cropped photo, they are letting me get closer, closer, closer...

American Goldfinch

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A New Year of Birding Begins

What is one to do when just informed that his company is folding just before the end of the year? Go birding, of course!

So, I headed over to the general Apopka area to see what I could see and clear my head on the first day of the year. Never did find the recently reported Ash-throated Flycatcher but I did find plenty of birds to keep me busy and bring a smile here and there.

First stop, Lust Road. This is a favorite spot for birders which may cease to be in the near future. Highways are being built all around and are basically eliminating the "Kingbird Roost" already. For now, there are still a number of birds to be found along this edge of Lake Apopka.

You can almost always find a Painted Bunting trying to avoid detection near the gate along the ditch.

Painted Bunting

White-crowned Sparrows are found year-round along the southern edge of the fence at Lust Road. You can see them darting here and there and when you do get a chance to photograph them they are usually sitting on the fence in the shrubs.

White-crowned Sparrow

Nothing else of notice here so I headed over to the Ranch Road area in Astatula on the northern edge of the lake. I want to see if the Say's Phoebe was still hanging out. It took a while to find anything interesting there but I was happy to see several Bluebirds out in the distance. Finally, though, I did notice a spec out on a far-away fence. It was the Say's.

It hardly ever gets close to the road so the best I could do was get a couple shots as it swooped for insects before settling on the fence again.

Say's Phoebe

One of the tell-tale ID marks for the Say's is the black tail feathers. They show up nicely here.

Say's Phoebe

OK, that bird checked off and time to see if anything was along Ranch Road and Clay Island. On the way to Clay Island I noticed that a parcel next to the Scrub Jay habitat is being developed. Not good. I don't see the Jays in their usual hang out. Just before the parking area I do find a large flock of Black Vultures arguing over a dead animal.

Pretty in their own way.

Black Vulture

I didn't walk too far at Clay Island but did have a long encounter with an Osprey trying to find a spot to eat a small fish. My favorite shot of this bird in flight.


Later, it decided to land on the telephone poles and offered a few more great views.


Just after the Osprey settled in for a snack, a Turkey Vulture glided by.

Turkey Vulture

On the way back out of the Clay Island area, I heard a lot of bird noise near the parking lot. Titmice, doves, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers fed along the tree line but I was more interested in the Golden-silk Spider inspecting its web.

Golden-silk Spider

I headed back toward home and stopped in the Scrub Jay area for a final look. Fortunately, the family popped up to say 'hi' for a few minutes. Still safe for now.

Florida Scrub Jay

I still say that these birds should be the Florida state bird. Gorgeous.

Florida Scrub Jay

On the way to the house I swung past my former work place to say hello to any Hooded Mergansers that winter there. I found one drake who almost made me forget that I won't be seeing them anytime I want anymore.

Hooded Merganser

Home at last, and what better way to end a New Year's Day than have a visit from our Flying Squirrels right after dark.

Flying Squirrel

Now to get on with the task of finding new work. A new year might just offer a new direction.