Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tricolored Heron Babies

Got to take my youngest to Gatorland for a Scout event. I wanted to get out there since, after most of my life living in Central Florida, I had NEVER been to Gatorland before. Go figure, right? One reason I really want to get out there was that I had been hearing about the amount of birds that actually use to trees around the breeding swamp to nest and raise their young right next to the boardwalk.

My boy didn't want to stay too long but I told him that we had to at least get across the boardwalk so I could see the spot in person. Even though it was late in the breeding season we were not disappointed by the amount of young birds still in the nests or begging for food from their parents.

My favorite sight was that of a pair of Tricolored chicks loudly demanding feeding. Right in front of us.

Tri-colored Heron

The parent seemed overwhelmed but kept flying out to grab fish and bringing them back for the manic chicks.

Tri-colored Heron

There were many other species with young out there but these were nice in their bright plumage. I will have to get back out there earlier in the season next year. Probably alone so I can soak everything in at a slower pace.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jay Watch, 2010, Day 2

Day 2 for this years Jay Watch and the thought for the day was that we may not see many jays on this new set of points. However, it never hurts to look. If nothing else, we are bound to see some other fun things.

Case in point, at our second stop there were sounds of Red-shouldered Hawk nearby so we had to pause and see where they were before using the call tape. Stepping to my left I spooked one hawk that was quietly sitting on the top of a small pine. Then I went a little more left and there was another that flushed around other trees.

Preparing to play the tape after the hawks were far away I looked ahead of me and saw this beautiful Saddlebags Dragonfly!


Nice! But as expected the rest of the day was devoid of jays at our assigned points. To at least share a quick time with any Scrub Jays before we ended this year's search we drove to a known point and coaxed out a few birds for a photo op. Ended up with my favorite shot of the weekend.

Florida Scrub Jay

All in all, the data is helpful and I am sure I will participate again next year.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Jay Watch, 2010, Day 1

Year number 4 for me helping with Jay Watch found me back at Buck Lake. That was the first spot I helped at and the following two years were a bit more inland at Lake Monroe. Some new birds were translocated to Buck Lake this year to save them from a development project further to the south.

I got there before everyone somehow so I wandered around. I was hearing Cardinals, Red-shouldered Hawks, Mourning Doves and Bob Whites calling but the first animal I saw was a small gator hanging out in the canal running from Buck Lake.


Soon afterward the rest of the volunteers arrived so I went back to join them. We gathered to get instructions and then split up to head out to start counting jays. Catching my attention at me feet was a small bee. This fuzzy little guy turns out to be a member of the Bombylius genus. Interesting.


We set out to our first point (spots on the scrub where we are stationed to count jays for 9 minutes each) of the morning. Along the way we spotted our first Scrub Jays. Not our first point but we got out to get some practice identifying leg bands. For instance, through binoculars and camera lenses we can make out the color of this bird are White/Pink - Yellow/Silver.

Florida Scrub Jay

This Jay was moving about the trees, checking us out and providing great early morning views.

Florida Scrub Jay

We finally made it to the first point and all got out of the truck, took up posts and watched for Jays that might be brought in by the playing of jay calls. Doug got first tape duty.

Doug Stuckey

The rest of us, including leader Maria Zondervan, surveyed the surrounding vegetation for any responding jays.

Maria Zondervan

Not lucky this time but we had a lot of points to cover today. I always enjoy studying the flora and fauna as we traverse the many, many acres. Right now Bachelor Buttons are blooming everywhere.

Bachelor Buttons

One set of points was looking to be disappointingly void of Jays primarily due to the presence of a Red-shouldered Hawk sitting right over where I was set to look next. The hawk was perched high above on a power pole. I looked around anyway. To my surprise, a Scrub Jay DID show up right behind me. This bird was unbanded, to boot.

Florida Scrub Jay

We did find some other jays out near some of our points but they were at points of one of the other groups. Our last set of points for the day did contain a few Scrub Jays. My new friend was AG-GS (Azure/Green - Green/Silver).

Florida Scrub Jay

How do I know for sure of that combo? When I can, I get shots of the birds legs to verify the combination we saw through binoculars just to be sure.

Florida Scrub Jay

4 hours later and we had covered all of our points totaling 7 birds for our group, not counting the several other birds we saw along the way. But where are the juveniles this year? None seen so far. Could that long Winter have lessened breeding success this year? Not clear.

On the way home I had to drive over to Black Point. After all, I was right here anyway. Not a lot of birds out in the increasing heat. Herons, Black-necked Stilts, Mottled Ducks. Then there was a bird I was not sure of.


Looked odd to me for some reason. I later found out why. I had never seen a Willet in alternate plumage. They are usually transformed into a more gray color by the time most birds get here during Fall Migration. Go figure. Migration is on the move.

However, the patches of Blanket Flower prove that Summer is still in command.


Last bird of the day to share: Roseate Spoonbill. Cause they are pretty.


Time to head home, shower, rest up a bit and get back out to count Jays for Day Two.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Raptor Banding

We got the call to return to the Avian Reconditioning Center to see if we could band some raptors that were to be released back into the wild soon. Several species were represented plus a special 'bonus' bird we were not told of prior to arrival. I got there with the boys before 10 AM (much to their reluctance to wake on a day off) and Carol had to move one of the other birds that was not being banded so we all got a nice close up of a Barred Owl before things got underway.

Barred Owl

Soon, the raptors were be gathered up and brought in for their new jewelry. First up was our surprise bird. A Burrowing Owl fledgling! A rare treat.

Burrowing Owl

Next, it was time for the Cooper's Hawks. Several birds were ready to be banded and the boys got their first chance to watch the banding here. They have come with me banding at other locations to see smaller birds banded before but have had fewer chances to see larger birds up close. Except for the Cooper's Hawk I brought into the house after catching out back a couple years ago...

Cooper's Hawk

Carol brings out one of the Cooper's and shows us how some of the tail feathers were injured.

Cooper's Hawk

Then the bird gets its own special leg wear.

Cooper's Hawk

Allison, one of the volunteers today holds the next bird in line as Richard applies the band.

Cooper's Hawk

A beautiful bird close up.

Cooper's Hawk

Another special treat for the morning. A young Eastern Screech Owl.
Too cute!

Screech Owl

The last species of the day, American Kestrels. We had three females to band before their release.

American Kestrel

A closer look at a Kestrel. The images are darker as we need to close the door so these speedsters don't escape our grasp.

American Kestrel

Banding was done but I had to take a look at a couple other birds in the cages. There was a nice Barn Owl fluttering around the enclosure.

Barn Owl

Just behind the Owl was a very vocal Harris Hawk brought down from Tennessee. Scott hopes to teach it along with their resident Harris Hawk in the future.

Harris Hawk

More birds will get our attention for banding in the near future. Can't wait. Always an interesting time.

The Avian Reconditioning Center has a web site and are open to the public on Saturdays. Check for news and directions there. They also have an Adopt-a-Bird program if anyone is interested in helping with the funding to care for some of these remarkable birds.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Did I Mention the Bees?

I was out later one day last month just listening for birds as I am wont to do and noticed that a few Honey Bees were coming to the frog bird bath on the deck. One after another, they would buzz past me and get a drink before heading off. "Cool!" I think and go grab the camera.

Honey Bee

I was hand-holding the camera and had it set on macro so I didn't get a lot of good shots but it was fun to try. The bees didn't seem to mind me at all even though I was sometimes right on top of them.

Honey Bee

There seemed to be no end in the procession as they grabbed a spot around the edges of the water and lapped up the stuff.

Honey Bee

Eventually, I decided to see if I could tell which direction they were going after drinking. Seemed to be to the west. Wonder where the hive was. Had to be one with this many bees. Maybe I was the closest source of clean water in the upper 90s heat. I made it to the west side of our property and--HOLY CATS!

Honey Bee

A hive alright. Looks like it is in our studio walls! All the nightmare stories I have ever heard about having to call out exterminators and watching them tear into structures to remove bees or Yellow Jackets flashed before my eyes. How much is this going to cost?

Honey Bee

I do care about bees. Especially with all the recent talks about Colony Collapse. But I couldn't have this get out of hand. Or afford to have it done professionally. So I started spraying. The hive seemed to disperse. Those that survived the spray.

The next day the hive seemed nearly as active. More spray. More dead bees. More fled the scene. Two days later, more bees. I made a nighttime raid. Figured most would be inside and slower. I sprayed all I had into the holes where the bees were going in and out during the day.

The wall began to hum. Loudly.

However, only a few bees came out of the entrances. I went to bed, that sound ringing in my ears. By morning, there was little sign of the bees. A couple dead ones near the entrance. I banged on the wall. Nothing. Seems I got them.

I feel sad about it but with kids running around here I thought it best.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Ah, Some New Birds

Not new to the yard but rarely seen on the Birdcam at this location. The House Finches usually stay at the front feeder (I would put the cam there but fear it would be stolen) or on the side yard where I was capturing images of them earlier in the year. It was nice to see one out back and feeding with the larger birds.

House Finch

Every now and then Red-bellied Woodpeckers venture down from their tree branches and try to snatch a quick supplement to their mostly insect diets. I have seen it while staring outside but I don't think I have had it caught by the Birdcam.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

We have been quite dry and very hot around here for the past couple of weeks. Finally, the rains have returned to out afternoons and helping to cool us down out of the high 90s. Birds seem to be enjoying it, too.

Red-winged Blackbird and Mourning Dove

Only problem with the rain is that is makes a mess of the feeders more quickly. Oh, well. At least we are not sweating all day!