Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cedar Waxwings Are Cool

Timing is everything somedays.

I was actually taking a break in the middle of the day to search for some parakeets. I had seen them in different spots over the years but can't find a permanent, reliable place to get them on my local travels. So I did some drive arounds without luck and headed home, empty-handed. I stepped out of the van and heard a ton of high-pitched calls in front of the house. Goldfinches? Nope. Cedar Waxwings!

I was unloading the things I had in the van while keeping an ear to the sky and trees when I saw a bit of movement near the street. Birds were starting to head to the holly trees mere feet from the yard. Waxwings were mobbing. I grabbed the camera and positioned myself in the one stretch of shadows and began trying to focus on the fast flying, berry-grabbing birds. It was a very nice 20 minutes. I got a lot of good shots as they drifted back and forth, like this one.

Cedar Waxwing

Seriously, is there a more elegant looking bird than a perfectly lit Waxwing? I find them so stunning.

Cedar Waxwing

Those tans and yellows and that deep black around the mask. I almost can't breathe as I squeeze off shot after shot when they stop for a brief moment, hoping I can get a photo to capture the beauty of them. Did well today.

Cedar Waxwing

The best part of looking through the shots, though, was finding I got some good berry grabbing moments. The birds were quickly stripping the two trees right before my eyes in mere seconds. Every wave wiped out another section on the branches.

Cedar Waxwing

A bird would choose a branch, size up where the remaining berries were and slurp them down. I love this shot of a near-gone gulp.

Cedar Waxwing

Something I was happy to catch, I never saw the Waxwings actually tossing the berries into their mouths as they were about to swallow them. The camera doesn't lie.

Cedar Waxwing

Sorting through the 100 photos, I made another interesting discovery. Notice that tail tip on this bird?

Cedar Waxwing

Most Cedar Waxwings have yellow tips on their tails. This one is orange. I remember reading about this more rare sighting before so I did some research and the most agreed upon reason that some birds have orange tips is due to diet. Some birds feed on honeysuckle berries and develop the different coloration. This shot clearly shows the orange tips. Nice.

Cedar Waxwing

The encounter was over too soon for me. They left a few berries on the tree but the traffic was increasing and eventually the birds flew off to the North. There are usually one or two days that Robins and/or Waxwings put on a frenzy in the neighborhood. Trick is being there.

Cedar Waxwing

This may have been my only chance for this many Waxwings at one time this season and I am super happy to have been able to witness it. Bring on the Robin frenzy!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Diving Hooded Mergansers

I always try to look for the Wintering Hooded Mergansers when I leave the banding site. Last week, a mowing crew scared everything away but today I happened upon a flock of Mergansers as I circled the back parking lot. Luckily, this flock was too close to shore to be able to hide before I got a few shots off.

Hooded Merganser

As the flock moved away. I was able to get a few more shots. This one was closer than the last and I was trying to focus in on the male.

Hooded Merganser

Before they drifted out too far I got the male singled out.

Hooded Merganser

When the birds are either hungry or frightened, they dive under the water to either grab food or swim underwater as far as they can to avoid any danger.

Hooded Merganser

Once they have reached their goal, the birds re-emerge from under the pond and show off their new hair-dos.

Hooded Merganser

A female was also diving with that male. Though they do not sport the contrasting black and whites, they are still pretty little ducks.

Hooded Merganser

The number of ducks is fluctuating but I enjoy seeing even a single bird during this time of year. Fortunately, there have been nearly a dozen every week. Mergansers are cool.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Still Watching Turkeys

Another day leaving work, another great view of the local Wild Turkey flock that have been hanging out for the past week. Timing and light were more in my favor today. Plus, the birds did not seem as concerned when I slowed for shots. The Toms were still vigilant and now there are at least 8 birds in this flock hanging out. Colors are still as vibrant as ever.


I even managed to get a shot of the male and female in the same shot which I really like.


I love having this quick little set of encounters before my long drive home.Though it does make me hungry...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

BirdCam Roundup

The BirdCam has been running again for quite some time but other bird trips and demands have kept me from doing more than scanning and deleting a bunch of the shots so here is a collection from the past month that I found interesting.

Most of the shots are of Mourning Doves, of course. They are usually jockeying for position so most of the shots end up blurry. This is a nice clear one.

Mourning Dove

For some unknown reason, every now and then the cam takes a shot that is a little to a lot of purple. Sometimes it makes for a nice duotone.

Mourning Dove

One bird species we see, and hear, everyday is the Tutfted Titmouse. However, they are so quick that it is hard to get a shot of them and when the camera snaps a shot of them they usually have their backs to the camera. Stopping to stare helped this time.

Tutfted Titmouse

This Winter we have a new guest at the feeders. A Western Palm Warbler has been flying in once the seed level is a bit lower. This mix has a little bit of fruit in it but most others birds don't seem to like that. Usually we have a Catbird eating the fruit but I haven't seen it this year. Instead, the Palm Warbler seems to love it!

Western Palm Warbler

I stopped putting out whole peanuts to save money last Summer. As a result, our Blue Jays abandoned us. Two days after I started the peanuts again...

Blue Jay

Finally, one of my favorite birds has been hitting the feeders. I banded this particular Carolina Wren when he first arrived in the yard a few years ago. He was a young bird at the time. He and his mate started living in a wind chime I hung by the front door. The wind chime has a watering can at the top and he moved in a couple days after it was put up.

Carolina Wren

Hoping to get another shot of the Indigo Bunting that has returned again this year. It should be there in between the hundreds of dove and squirrel shots I will discard.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Inland Buffelhead

Funny how things work out sometimes.

I had a chance to get my son to school and then head to work early. This meant I would be about an hour early. Not a bad thing in our business. Once I neared work, I check for my office keys and noticed they were not there. I was switching out cooler contents and left them at home. No one would be able to let me in until more than an hour as I am the first to arrive 95% of the time.

What to do? I remembered reading a post about some fun birds not terribly far away. I had over an hour to kill. Driving, it is! Mind you, I only glanced at directions to this spot and then decided I would never have time to visit there since my hours stretched from early light to zero light. I drove on on instinct. Fortunately, I remembered the street name and finally found it as I was about to give up. Then, as I rounded the curve, I spotted the bird I was after out of the corner of my eye. A male Bufflehead!


There are usually reports of Bufflehead along the coast of Florida during the Winter but I always miss seeing them. I had to go to the West coast to find my Lifers. Now, I have 3 in a tiny retention pond in Central Florida and not far from Disney!


The bird even did a little stretching so I could get and nice view of the wing pattern.


Along with the Bufflehead were about 35 Lesser Scaup and a few Hooded Mergansers.

Hooded Merganser

Circling and diving for food was a pair of Forster's Terns.

Forster's Tern

Time to head to work. A little forgetfulness lead to a nice encounter with an infrequent visitor and really made my day get off to a wonderful start. Maybe I should forget my keys more often...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Visiting an Old Friend

Since I had a little more time today, I decided to head over to Astatula and see how the Say's Phoebe was doing. I didn't spot it on the fence it has been on for the past few years so I began to worry. I headed across the road and scanned the other pasture. Still no luck. I started wondering if other birds were around so I half-heartedly scanned the entire area for any signs of birds. Nope.

Just as I was about to give up, I saw a flash out in the field near a large cart now in the field. I waited. It flashed out again and disappeared. Had to be the Say's. Yep. Now using the cart to hide and perch upon. I have revisited this bird for 5 years now and this is the best I can do.

Say's Phoebe

It typically stays way out in the center of the pastures on either side of Ranch Road. When it switches sides, I do not know, but it is always about the same distance away. At least with the new lens I can make out the shape and colors better. Again, this species is typically a Western bird, rarely found in Florida. Definitely good enough for an ID verification.

Say's Phoebe

There weren't a lot of birds out this day. It was nearing noon and the winds were up so besides the Say's I only found an American Kestrel and a few Palm Warblers near the doves down the road. So I headed out along Ranch Road hoping to find some Bluebirds or Florida Scrub Jays. No sign of either but there were a lot of Tree Swallows. I decided to head home.

As I neared the Say's site again, I noticed a speck on the wires ahead. Bluebird! Actually closer than I had expected. Too bad it wouldn't come closer or pose in a more natural setting.

Eastern Bluebird

I looked behind me and noticed another spec out on the fences. The female Bluebird was waiting for me to leave.

Eastern Bluebird

I had to linger a bit longer, however. I noticed a lot of activity in the nearby oak. Mostly Palm Warblers but there was more yellow in there so I stepped out to investigate. Sure enough, there were several Pine Warblers joining in the hunt for tasty insects.

Pine Warbler

Seems like there are more Pine Warblers around this year. Maybe the warmer weather has something to do with it. Or maybe the warmer weather has me out there looking more!

Pine Warbler

Either way, it is only January and the Pine Warblers and other birds are singing their Spring songs and I couldn't be happier.

Gobble, Gobble.

Well, that was a surprise.

I left work just before sundown. There are few open places in the industrial space where our office is located but there is a pond nearby that I check from time to time. As I approached it tonight I noticed a large shape near a hedge surrounding a parking lot. I slowed and drove closer and discovered it was a female Turkey!


The bird moved under the hedge so I drove into the parking lot for a better view. Then I saw another turkey. Then another. Then another... Six in all, including two Toms. The birds moved back across the road and into a grassy area. It took me a while to get into a good shooting angle but I finally got one of the Toms in the light.


Beautiful feather colors that you don't think about. Turkey are rather abundant in Florida just not usually in such urban areas. Go figure.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Increased Activity at the Eagle Nest

The eagles are spending more time at the next recently. Could be a sign of chicks to come! This is Dad coming back to the nest tree.

Bald Eagle

If I could only get more time in the daylight. Busy, busy...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Quick Check on the Mergansers

Stopped by the Merganser area after banding and found a few hanging out. Kind of liked this female taking a stretch as I approached.

Hooded Merganser

I was trying to get some shots of the other birds when a lawn maintenence crew parked right near the pond and scared the flock. Ended up with a flight shot but then they were gone.

Hooded Merganser

Fewer birds but always a joy to watch.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Black Point Drive, Part 2

Now that I had gotten my target bird, Gadwall, I continued my tour of the loop at Black Point. I wanted to try and make it around to the entrance again before dark so I made my way down the road, stopping briefly to get some other shots along the way. Just past Stop 7 I spotted a small flock of American Avocets resting in the shallow water.

American Avocet

To the right, a Belted Kingfisher watches for its next meal.

Belted Kingfisher

Some of the driving was slow as tourist stopped in the middle of the road to stare at something they have never seen before like this gator drifting up near Stop 10. "That's a baby!," I told them as I passed them on the left.

American Alligator

Back to the entrance and back to Stop 4 to see if the Gadwall had come closer to the road. Nope. Oh, well. I had the ID shots I was after so now a I could take a casual drive as sunset approached. There were not a lot of shorebirds around only a Semipalmated Plover...

Semipalmated Plover

...and a few peeps on the mud flats.


I relocated the Reddish Egret that was posing during my last trip. This time it was dancing around and fishing.

Reddish Egret

Drifting by in one of the impoundments, a male Northern Pintail. Such an impressive duck.

Northern Pintail

Approaching the Avocet flock again, I found a Snowy Egret cruising the edge of the road.

Snowy Egret

As the last of the day's sunshine finally breaks through the clouds a Pied-billed Grebe chugs along.

Pied-billed Grebe

Nearby, a pair of Hooded Mergansers looks for a place to rest for the night.

Hooded Mergansers

Finally, a flock of Roseate Spoonbills glows in the waning light. One even yawns as I make my way towards home.

Roseate Spoonbill

12 hours and 300 miles later and I can get some sleep myself. A long day but an inspiring one. I love Black Point Drive.