Friday, August 19, 2011

Viera Wetland Detour

I was headed home after the first day of Jay Watch and figured that since I was in the area, or closer than I might be in a long time, I veered South to check out Viera Wetlands near Melbourne, FL. There have been reports of sightings of Fulvous Whistling Ducks the past few days and I hoped for at least a distant glimpse.

I first swung around the Click Ponds and came upon a huge flock of birds, mostly Roseate Spoonbills.

Roseate Spoonbill

Closer to the shore, a Snowy Egret waits for a meal.

Snowy Egret

The small pines that line the right side of the cells held a few Fish Crows resting and searching the area for opportunities.

Fish Crow

I scanned the cells for the ducks. Not much on the beginning side but a few Moorhens and a nice Great Egret posing on a palm stump.

Great Egret

Swinging around the far side turned the light the wrong way but I couldn't resist still trying for a decent shot of the local Limpkin.


Throw in a badly lit White Ibis and it bookends that side of the drive.

White Ibis

Flying overhead, an Osprey zoomed in a circle and landed on one of the dead trees and constantly looked back and forth for the next fish to appear.


The most surprising moment of the trip was when a doe and fawn appeared right in front of me on the drive. The doe quickly crossed the road and waded into the cell.


The fawn was not so sure about this move and stayed on the fence side. I was hoping it would cross, too, but it just kept to the tree side and refused to. So, I had to get a poor shot through the windshield.


Once I passed the fawn, it circled back to join its mother. Once it was safely behind me I continued my search. A flash of blue caught my eye and soon found a feeding Purple Gallinule. It would never come into view more than this, though.

Purple Gallinule

Resting on a culvert, an Anhinga sized me up.


I wasn't really looking for Least Bitterns but we all know they are there. Once one showed itself in the reeds I just had to slow for a few shots.

Least Bittern

At one point, it seemed to be saying, "Farewell!" as I headed out of the wetlands for the drive home.

Least Bittern

Alas, no Fulvous Whistling Ducks for me. I will have to try some other place at some other time in the future.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Jay Watch, 2011

The Saturday after we returned from our Alaska trip I had to go out for the annual Jay Watch out at Buck Lake. This marks my 5th year doing Jay Watch and it is always a fun, though hot, couple of days. Our task is to locate as many Florida Scrub Jays as possible and hopefully discover some new juvenile from any year's nesting season.

We use tape recorders to play Jay calls to bring the birds closer so we can register bands and count any birds in the surrounding areas around specified locations throughout the property. Unfortunately, we did not locate any juveniles this year. We did find a lot of the banded adults and even a nest that indicates that they at least tried, however.

Florida Scrub Jay

After our first stop I found a flower I had not seen before. Neither had anyone else. Weeks later we found a match. A Florida Milkweed (Asclepias feayi) that was not known to be there in the past. A great find!

Florida Milkweed

On the second day, I found a couple of jays at point 4. The first in was an adult that sat at the top of the oaks.

Florida Scrub Jay

Another bird flew in and it turned out to be a female. Easy to tell once she began to do the typical 'hiccup' calls that only the females do.

Florida Scrub Jay

It was nice to capture this behavior happening right before me.

Florida Scrub Jay

On one of the last stops I relocated a bird that I got good shots of last year. Still here and healthy.

Florida Scrub Jay

One more shot before we end the year's surveys.

Florida Scrub Jay

Results will be tallied by the end of the year and then we will have another meeting to get those results of all of the volunteers from all over the state.

Monday, August 15, 2011

One More Visit to Lake Davis

One more chance to get use to the rental lens before the Alaska cruise so I head back to Lake Davis. As soon as I arrived, Momma Mallard brought the young ones up for a rest and feeding.


Out in the lake, some older Mallards watched me with care.


A few Wood Duck chicks drifted by just off shore.

Wood Duck

Then an older one slid into view. Love the feathers.

Wood Duck

I worked the shoreline to find more birds and had a nice White Ibis wander close to me.

White Ibis

Introduced years ago, the Chinese Geese have been hanging out in the same spot for the past few months. They are quite obvious as they start honking and advancing toward anyone who strays too long.

Chinese Goose

Just above the geese was an Anhinga in the Cypress tree.


Then we headed off to the other side of the country for our excellent adventure. You know what happened there.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

So, a long time since I posted about the local birds but I had to get through the Alaska trip. Now I have to catch up on the local fare. Before we left on the trip I took the rental lens on a tour of Mead Garden and Lake Davis to get a feel for it.

Off to Mead. Near the ampitheatre I could hear come Carolina Wrens darting about and tried to get a shot of one deep in the bushes.

Carolina Wren

I decided to head down the creek path to see if anything was interesting down there. Not many birds so I focused on some of the flowers. First up was a nice Button Bush, still in bloom.

Button Bush

A little farther up the trail, the Ginger is in full bloom, too.


Up by Pennsylania Avenue, a pair of Wood Ducks swam in the creek.

Wood Duck

Back at the pond, another male Wood Duck rested in the shade.

Wood Duck

Mead is always a nice stop but time is short and I need to swing by Lake Davis. Sunning along the shore was an Anhinga.


Finally got an OK shot of the Common Moorhen chick before it headed into the reeds.

Common Moorhen

The Mallards are growing up nicely and the lens does a nice job capturing a pose.


Some of the ducklings are still grabbing at midges from the grasses.


I decided to try out the lens for getting a range of whites and this Great Egret made a good subject.

Great Egret

On the eastern side of the lake, another Anhinga rests on the culvert.


So far, I am impressed with the rental lens. Just getting use to the zooming action but, as seen in all of the trip posts, it works just fine. Wish I could afford to actually own it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bainbridge Island Family Reunion

We headed to Bainbridge for our family reunion. I decided to get my birding fix in early so, after making greetings with everyone, I headed out for a quick walk around the area to see what was going on. I missed a chance to get a shot of the Glaucous-winged Gull dropping shells to open them but the bird did settle in for a rest of the beach.

Glaucous-winged Gull

A flock of European Starlings were flying around and one finally settled onto a wire near the house.

European Starling

One of my favorite birds from our visit 5 years ago was a White-crowned Sparrow along the road. I headed back to where I spotted it then and, sure enough, several were still hanging around the grasses and feeding on the seeds. One of my favorite shots of the day, besides the kids and scenery, of course.

White-crowned Sparrow

We all posed for a family photo for several cameras. So many kids! Nice to be all together.

Family Photo

We celebrated for a while, cooked and cracked crabs, and had a great time before heading out.

The next morning, we hurried to the airport for the flight home. Always amazing to see Mount Rainier during our drives. This is from the airport terminal as we waited for the plane.

Mount Rainier

As we wing our way from Seattle, we get one last look at the Mt. St. Helen's and other mountains and say goodbye to the west coast and settle in for the 6 hour trip back to Orlando.


It was July 4th and we wondered if we would be able to see any fireworks from our great height. We could! In several places, though we could not place exactly where we were at the time. We got home after midnight and were warmly welcomed by Oscar, our cat, moved the suitcases out of the way and went to bed. Good to be home.

Great trip. Many excellent memories. Now, time to catch up on past bird photos and prepare for the Jay Watch planned for next Saturday.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Violet-green Swallow

I have mentioned my desire to get a shot of Violet-green Swallows. I had hoped to find them on the last trip but we were just a few weeks early for them to return. Where do I find the first sighting? At the hotel in SEATAC. Didn't have the camera then but they are always flying so quickly it wouldn't have mattered. I saw a lot of them on this trip but usually directly overhead at high speed.

While I was making my way to the neighborhood park I saw more of the birds flying overhead and I tried to get some shots but gave up after 20 minutes. I continued my stroll and caught a bird flying to a house to my right.

Violet-green Swallow

The bird zoomed out after a few seconds and I could tell it was my target bird. Does it really have a nest in that attic?! I watched for a while longer and the bird returned and left just as quickly. It was a Violet-green, after-all. I spent the next 20 minutes focusing on the spot and tried to get a shot as it bolted from the nest. It was not easy. Finally, I got a shot of an adult female heading back out for food.

Violet-green Swallow

As I waited, I had the good opportunity to meet a couple of the Neighborhood Watch members wondering what this stranger with a large camera was doing standing in front of a house. I explained about the swallows and, luckily, one flew right past us as I was talking about them. Satisfied, they left me to my obsession.

I didn't even know it then but I even got a shot of an adult male making a trip!

Violet-green Swallow

My Number One bird on my Wish List for this trip finally caught on...not film...sensor? Memory card? Whatever. Mission accomplished. Annnnnnnnd relax.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Port Orchard, July 3rd 2011

Another dawn and another trek around the neighborhood. A lot of Song Sparrows were flitting about and I even spotted a couple of juveniles.

Song Sparrow

Nearby, I noticed a nest hanging in the branches. I have been unable to figure out what species it belongs to. Anyone?


I saw a couple of small birds taking off across the street and went over to investigate. A neighbor was tending the yard and her dog ran over to play with me. I hoped it would scare off the birds but it stayed right next to me as I looked for them and got a couple shots. They were nice adult Dark-eyed Juncos of the Oregon sub-species.

Dark-eyed Junco

Last night I heard a strange song as we returned to the house. It took me all night to get the sound sorted out. It was an American Robin! When they come to Florida in the Winter they do not sing, they only make flight calls. Nice to actually hear their full voice. Many of them were feeding today including this one with the iconic pose with a tasty worm in its bill.

American Robin

My main objective was to get up to the small park down the road to see what might be there. Hadn't been there in ages. I was detoured by some other birds but that will be the next post. When I got to the park (smaller than I remembered) there were loads of birds flying near the ground. In the low light I couldn't tell exactly what they were.

Dark-eyed Junco

I tried to make them something new but all I can conclude is that they were a flock of juvenile Dark-eyed Juncos. Juncos are the only birds with white outer tail feathers that I can find and the good folks at Tweeters birding forum confirm it.

Dark-eyed Junco

Back at the house, Spotted Towhees were creeping through the shadows.

Spotted Towhee

The males were zipping by all over the place, calling and feeding. This female stayed in place and preened for a while as I tried to get a good shot. It was so dark under the trees that this was the best I could do.

Spotted Towhee

Time to put the camera down for a few minutes but not before I took this shot of a small yellow flower in the neighborhood. Still trying to find out what it is.

Yellow Flower

I love this part of the country. Finding the birds in the dense canopy is a challenge but that is part of the fun. Now we have to head off to Bainbridge Island for the family reunion.