Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sora and Spoonbill from the Bird Walk

As mentioned in the previous post, here are a few shots of the birds we encountered as darkness closed in on us out at Black Point on Merritt Island. Had to bump up the ISO so there is a lot of noise but...

First up, one of the Soras that crept out of the mangroves to feed in plain view.


This particular bird gave us great views as we watched from a row of foliage next to the water.


Pretty little 'chicken'.


Nearly hidden from view we found a Roseate Spoonbill feeding among the few ducks. If only clipping branches at a park weren't illegal! Probably why it seemed to be laughing at me.

Roseate Spoonbill

Moving to the end of the last observation deck we got better, unobstructed views.

Roseate Spoonbill

Even in the gloom that pink really stood out well.

Roseate Spoonbill

Beautiful birds!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Meeting Laura Erickson

A friend joined up to support the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and to get subscriptions to "Living Bird". I get to share the magazine as well as any other goodies (decals, etc.).

She received a letter letting her know that she was invited to a special bird walk with Laura Erickson during the Space Coast Birding Festival. My friend doesn't go out on too many outdoor hikes so she passed the invitation along to me. I hadn't planned on attending anything at the festival this year but since it was a special walk, why not?

Plus, I have been listening to Laura's radio shows and podcasts for years so it would be a chance to meet someone of like mind.

However, as the day approached, word of a strong front was posted and by the time I got to the meeting location the rain did begin to fall. I went inside to receive my complimentary copy of Laura's book, "The Bird Watching Answer Book", which she compiled for Cornell (thanks for the autograph, Laura!) and we all gathered to discuss if the walk would go on as planned or not.

Some folks opted out. Some wanted to go on the planned excursion to Viera Wetlands to find the Masked Duck. The rest of us stayed close and decided to try finding anything interesting at Black Point. Seeing as I had a van, I was elected to drive. My pleasure since it is a favorite haunt.

We paused at Parrish Park first to look over the resting gulls and a Black Skimmer that Laura is peering at through her scope.

Laura Erickson

Then I hurried the folks along as darkness was approaching and I wanted to get a look at Black Point before we were not allowed in. Not many birds in the first parts of the drive but I suggested that we stop at the new observation areas along the way. Here, the group finds a Sora in the mangroves.

Laura Erickson

At the farthest blind we all took in the wading birds.

Laura Erickson

I will be posting more of my bird pictures from here shortly (as this post is getting long!) but it was a pleasure meeting everyone involved even during a gloomy late afternoon with only a few handfuls of birds along the way.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cute Posing Goldfinch

O.K., I will be done with Goldfinch posts for a while but I wanted to share just a couple more since they were so cute.

American Goldfinch

What can I say? We wait a long time for them to show up for just a few months. Can't resist.

American Goldfinch

Next, I will move on to other exploits!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let's Do the Twist!

I posted about behaviors yesterday and today I found another image on the card from this morning. I always wonder why the Goldfinches do this from time to time.

Is the seed caught in the notch a weird way? They do this from time to time just like the hanging upside down feeding position.

American Goldfinch

Maybe just a chiropractic therapy...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Goldfinch Behavior

Here are some interesting shots from the BirdCam showing some American Goldfinch behavior at the feeders. I like finding the odd image out of the standard poses. Like this one which seems to show a female thinking, "I would REALLY like to get THAT seed waaaaaay down there!"

American Goldfinch

These birds drop in to the feeders so quickly it is hard to get any shots. If you watch them in the big picture of the whole backyard, they usually will simply drop out of the trees and onto a feeder. Every now and again they will come in from one feeder that is level with another.


American Goldfinch

Of course, there are always the domestic squabbles between these communal diners.

American Goldfinch

Fun to watch!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Goldfinches: Male/Female Comparison

Have been enjoying the Audubon Birdcam shots. Especially as they allow a close comparison between male and female birds this time of year. By Spring, they will be very easy to tell apart from a distance but during the Winter it becomes much more difficult.

So, here is a nice study up close from today's captures. First off, a Winter male. Note the 'jet-black' wings and the yellow head and slight yellow on the shoulders.

American Goldfinch

Females are more drab, as most females in bird species, with brownish head feathers and slightly less black wings.

American Goldfinch

Good to see so easily this way. Though I welcome them all to our yard!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Few Goldfinches Today

Here is a close-up of one of the female Goldfinches at the Web cam. Pretty bright but a nice pose.

American Goldfinch

The boys also bellied up to the bar a bit later in the day.

American Goldfinch

Nothing special, but fun to find on the card.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Couple of Backyard Birds

After the exciting Robin experience (see below) I headed back into the house to get some more chores done. Soon, however, I heard a loud racket out back. The Titmice were going crazy! What could be out there? Grabbing the camera, I ran out and slowly made my way around the greenhouse to peek at what could be causing the commotion.

Snake? Hawk? Who knows. I never found the subject of ire. I did find a Titmouse in the Mulberry tree, though.

Tufted Titmouse

Their calls of distress also brought along several other species such as Yellow-rumped Warblers, Carolina Wrens, Gnatcatchers, and a large group of Palm Warblers. Once the threat seemed to have vanished, the warblers stuck around to feed in the remaining Beauty Berries.

Western Palm Warbler

I enjoy having a few minutes to spend with the Palm Warblers. Very common this time of year but always fun to observe.

Western Palm Warbler

Now I wait for more Goldfinches to arrive and to get more shots of them with the BirdCam.

Robins Choose Cedar Today

Have been seeing the Robin flocks in different parts of the local areas in large swarms. Mostly they have been gorging on Camphor tree berries and resting in the oaks in between. At our house a few days ago they were at the Beauty Berries. Today, however, they decided to hit the Cedar tree a few houses down.

American Robins

Round and round they went from tree to tree and settled in and grabbed berries from each branch of the cedar.

American Robins

Only stopping to run from a loud car rumbling down the street, they soon would come back in to grab more and more delicious fruit.

American Robins

Wonder which berries they will select next. Enjoying it while it lasts.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Evil Gnatcatcher

I was working away at the computer and heard a familiar sound outside. Now that it is warming up, I can open the kitchen window again and get a bit more ambiance from outside. So when I heard a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher call really loudly I knew it was right by that window.

Once I looked outside I could see two Blue-grey Gnatcatchers flying around snapping at emerging insects in the morning sun. I could actually hear their bills clicking together as they grabbed bugs from the air.

I ran out to try for a photo but knew it would be difficult as they were moving so quickly. I activated the flash and pointed where I thought they might end up at some point and managed one shot. One danged ghostly, evil looking gnatcatcher!

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher

Several seconds later, this bird actually moved right next to me as if to see what I was doing. It landed on a branch literally 2 feet from my right elbow before moving off into the trees. In my experiences, gnatcatchers are very unconcerned about humans when they are feeding, they are that focused and probably do not see us a real threat.

An exciting quick moment in the yard.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Goldfinch Acro-BAT-ics

One fun thing about this Audubon BirdCam is the fact that I can study the Winter plumage of our visiting Goldfinches. They usually flit about so quickly it is sometimes difficult to judge whether one is a male or female at this time of year.

Now, I can get them side by side every now and then and compare the feather patterns. For example, here is a male and a female right next to one another. The males have the yellow shoulders and the females are more drab.

American Goldfinch

My other favorite sight is when they hang upside down to feed even though they could easily feed from the port right in front of their face.

American Goldfinch

I need to study why this is sometimes preferred. Lots of fun to watch!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The First Robin Frenzy of the Year

I was starting to hear a certain buzz outside around 1 PM. I checked the backyard and noticed a lot of fast-moving shadows streaking through the oaks. I stepped outside and found this.

American Robins

American Robins were gorging themselves on the Beauty Berry fruits in the neighbor's yard and ours. Robin calls were everywhere and the birds were dropping in from every direction. Eventually, they began to find the bird baths and started taking drinks. I was scrambling to get the camera in a good position and first got this male at the bath.

American Robins

I was moving slowly as not to scare them off and then they began adding up in the yard.

American Robins

Near that bath, a Palm Warbler dropped by the grab a few seeds before disappearing into the brush.

Palm Warbler

Back at the bath, the Robins continued to swoop down and drink.

American Robins

While back at the Beauty Berry bushes, the limbs could barely support the weight of the swarming birds.

American Robins

Even by the front door the Robins were found raiding the Camphor tree. Robins all over!

American Robins

I love this time of year, especially once the temperatures rise a bit more, and there should be a few more waves of Robins in the yard before they head back North.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

This Weather is Silly

In my recollection, this is the longest cold spell we have had in a very long time. Usually, we will have a cold snap about this time but it lasts about a day or two. This has been hitting us for over a week!

This weekend was the coldest of days. It dropped into the mid-20s in Orlando for most of the night. Northerners may scoff but this is not normal for us. It gnaws at you day and night. Luckily, we have not had tremendous winds to deal with. The air, as is, is cold enough to make us all gripe.

Predictions of snow and sleet held true in some spots but all we had here was a brief spate of sleet in the early hours before dawn and then just cold. I worry about the birds in the yard. Why? Because it is a time where my meager bird baths freeze over.

We added this blue tray a while ago. It is usually held on a low resin table in the center of the backyard. Frozen solid. Looks like the raccoons got their paws in there adding dirt before the freeze.


For the past two days I have seen the resident birds hanging out in the trees in the cold. Seemingly staring at the frozen water. Even the larger cement bath was solid today.


Once I thawed out the baths and filled feeders, fingers freezing in the slight breeze, the birds hurried down to get a drink and relax and feed.

Higher temps are said to be returning by the end of next week. Can't wait.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

More Goldfinches but COLD!

Our little Goldfinch who was unhappy with the Titmouse visitor the other day (scroll down to the post below) doesn't seem to want any of her own kind there, either!

We now have three Goldfinches, at least, and there the yelling continues. Finally starting to hear the Goldfinches up in the trees in the mornings so their numbers are growing.

American Goldfinch

Bad news is, it is an extremely cold week here in Central Florida. We usually get a day or so of a cold snap but this blast of Arctic air is still pushing in. Suppose to be in the upper 20s through coming weekend. Not looking forward to it. Our 'normal' low is 50!

Bundle up.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Thistle Feeder Fight!

Happy New Year!

During all of my backyard viewing I have NEVER seen a Titmouse at a thistle feeder. In fact, I have only seen Goldfinches while waiting for some stray Pine Siskin to show up.

Today, I noticed a Titmouse kind of following the Goldfinches from feeder to feeder but not actually landing on the feeders themselves. Before I headed to bed I got the SD card out of the BirdCam to review the images from the day. There were only 18 recorded images so I wasn't expecting much.

In one image, I noticed that never-before-seen image. A Titmouse at the thistle feeder! Cool.

Webcam ETTI

It appears the the Goldfinch is none too happy about it, though.


Can't wait for the next exciting find using the cam.