Monday, February 27, 2012

Boat-tailed Grackle

Stopped by Joe Kittinger Park near the Orlando Executive airport today to see if anything interesting was around. Not much. But there were a few Boat-tailed Grackles around. This one seemed rather interested in me so I had to get a shot.

Boat-tailed Grackle''

These are very common birds around Central Florida and I guess we take them for granted. They are rather pretty, though. Noisy, but pretty.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New Lake Bird and Hungry Migrants

As I headed home, I noticed a bird that was definitely not one of the usual members of the community. It was very white. Most of our wintering ducks are dark. I tried and tried to wait for it to come out of its resting position but it never would.

Horned Grebe

This bird had me confused for the entire time. I posted the shots to the birding blogs and the call was unanimous. This was a Horned Grebe! Not a first for me in life but a first for our Lake Davis since I have lived here.

Horned Grebe

The Sun was setting and I was about to head out when a hungry flock of birds moved in. Most of them were Robins. Light was dropping out fast but I tried a few shots. They were feasting on palm berries next to the lake.

American Robin

Joining in with the Robins were a few Starlings.

European Starling

But Robins stole the brief show. Another couple of big raids and the entire species will head out to the North.

American Robin

Glad I was there to witness it again this year.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Greenwood Wetlands

A large flock of Ring-necked ducks have been hanging out at the small retention pond on the North end of the Greenwood Wetlands. They usually stay in Lake Davis and Cherokee but this year a fraction of the huge flock has moved over here for a while. I notice them from the road and usually can't swing back for any good light but today it looked like a chance to get a couple shots on the way home.

I parked in the lot and prepared to go straight down to the pond but I was interrupted by a flock of Cedar Waxwings swarming the trees before the bridge. Of course, I had to try and get a shot. They were deep in the branches which were now leafing out fast in this warm weather but I did get a shot of one nearby.

Cedar Waxwing

I circled a couple of other trees to get any shots sans branches. Finally I snapped one feeding on berries I wasn't really aware of at the time. Once I saw the shot on the computer I could easily see that they were feeding on mistletoe berries.

Cedar Waxwing

Then onto my task. The ducks were nice and close to the shore today so time to get a workout with the new lens. The nice day provided a super clear view of a pair with the female striking a nice pose.

Ring-necked Duck

Next, a great shot of a male and you can even make out the namesake ring around the neck on this drake.

Ring-necked Duck

Already some of my best shots of this species. Might gets some more shots later but they will begin to head home in the next few weeks so at least I got a quick visit in while they are here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

2012 Sparrow Drives, Part 2

Ok, Day 2 of the Sparrow Round-up!

Word of the day was wind. A lot of wind. Problem with that is the poles used to set the nets are not permanently anchored in the ground, like we do at our banding site. The area is an old limestone quarry and the folks who run the place don't want rebar driven into the ground for future rounds, mainly because humans tend to enjoy either taking the rebar or just messing with it. Humans.

So, we did the best we could. THis round of volunteers was instructed on procedures and began walking the area trying to drive birds toward the nets.


Like two weeks ago, we caught a lot of LeConte's Sparrows.

LeConte's Sparrow

Finally, we caught a Grasshopper Sparrow, one of the main species being sought after on these drives.

Grasshopper Sparrow

A bit later on, Marianne shows off one of the LeConte's Sparrows.

LeConte's Sparrow

Halfway through the morning the wind got so bad that a third of the volunteers were tasked with simply holding stretches of net poles as each round was run. It was quite the challenge.


The day wrapped on schedule and the data will be recorded and processed but it is always fun to experience. We bid farewell to Weekie Wachee until next year.


On the way out, Maria and I looked for some birds but didn't come up with much new. Pine Warblers are singing and we did spot a Common Loon. We also had an accommodating adult Ring-billed Gull on the road out.

Ring-billed Gull

Once I got back near the house, I checked out the Bald Eagles and found Mama on the nest. She has been hit or miss so maybe the chicks are about to emerge.

Bald Eagle

Now all of my scheduled days are over. Maybe I can relax and get some local bird shots and maybe get something new before birds turn North.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Green-winged Teal

One week ago, I made a check on a small pond in a residential neighborhood that in the past has hosted numerous Blue-winged Teal and Ring-necked Ducks. They were there that day, too, and I decided I had better make an accurate count for my eBird report. Glad I did.

At first glance, I never even saw the Green-winged Teal hiding with the Blue-winged. As I was counting the latter, a pair of the former wandered out ahead of them. Once separated, you can't miss the male of the species.

Green-winged Teal

All of the birds were moving swiftly away from land and I only managed these two good shots before they were too far away. Unlike previous finds, I decided not to share this one. If I did, the quiet little housing area would be over-run with my fellow birders. That might cause a bit of ire. This one is mine.

Green-winged Teal

I returned today to see it they remained. Green-winged Teal do not usually stay inland here for very long. I had one near home last year but it only stayed a couple of day and that was a female. The day was cloudy with light rain so the light was not as good as I had hoped for but the male was still here.

Green-winged Teal

Hope it sticks a bit longer for another try.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Checking the Bald Eagle Progress

I drive through the cemetery nearly every day to check on the nesting pair of Bald Eagles and to see if the chicks have hatched. No chicks today but I did get to snap a shot of one of the parents again.

Bald Eagle

Babies should be visible soon.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Another check on the Barred Owl

Now that I know the Barred Owl is liking that dead tree for a nest, I returned to try and see if was home today. The oaks that tower over our houses still do not afford much light so I didn't have my hopes up for anything better than the previous shots. The first glance doesn't provide much luck and I did not see the owl inside the tree.

Barred Owl

I began scanning the surrounding branches and, to my surprise, the owl was right above me in the oaks!

Barred Owl

I tried to move around for a better shot but she took off toward the tree. She grabbed the side of the tree and peered inside.

Barred Owl

Then, in a flash, she threw herself into the nest. You can just make out the feathers as she turns herself around.

Barred Owl

Moments later and it was too difficult to see inside. I know when the front door is, though. Looks promising for more shots in the future.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Barred Owl Discovery

Last week I heard a Barred Owl calling outside of our house as I got up for work. When I got home I decided to scout around for a place it might like to hang out. It is owl breeding season and just maybe we could have our occasional visitors stay for a while.

Nothing too useful in our backyard but there is a dead tree in the neighbor's yard. As their yard is open and I often venture back there to do a little birding, it was no problem to look around further. Looking at the tree I figured it just might be inviting enough for a cavity nester. Here is how the cavity in that dead tree appears.

Barred Owl

I'd say a perfect place to set up house. I walked around to get different angles and try to find some better light. I had to step away from the tree to see directly inside but I immediately liked what I saw through the binoculars. A Barred Owl was inside!

Barred Owl

The camera was not doing as well as I had hoped so I took the above image and did a little Photoshop lightening on just the opening and you can just barely make out the owl down in there. The cropped image below reveals it a little better.

Barred Owl

Now we just have to wait for a mate to join the party and we could have fuzzy little chicks before ya know it! Stay tuned!!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Another Tour, Another Lake

Took a new route home today and found some nice birds around Lake Lancaster and then headed to check on the Bald Eagles. First, Lancaster. There hasn't been a lot out there lately but today there was a nice little grouping of birds right near the drive. Completely obvious from any angle was one of the local Mute Swans. I Spoke to the woman that bred them years ago not too far away and she released them and they move from lake to lake around the area.

Many folks are distressed at this action but they are now a part of the community.

Mute Swan

In the reedy grass nearby, several herons gathered to feed. Snowy Egrets aren't completely rare but rare enough to garner notice from me.

Snowy Egret

Feet away, a Little-blue Heron picks off small fish in the weeds.

Little Blue Heron

Even more rare than the Snowy Egret was the Glossy Ibis in the group. Glossy Ibis are very common all over the coasts but it is nice to see them here inland. Especially as they near breeding plumage.

Glossy Ibis

Back around Lake Emerald. Another Wood Duck slowed for a shot.

Wood Duck

Off to the cemetery for a check on the eagles. Luckily, I got another sighting of the Coyote that lurks near the eagle nest. It was skittish as always but this is the first shot I got with the new lens.


Nothing of much interest at the eagle nest. Just one adult hanging out in the pines.

Bald Eagle

Tomorrow is another day but this was a nice swing through for a few minutes before chores had to be done. Where are those eaglets?

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Quick Tour of the Neighborhood

Heading home after a morning of bird banding a week ago, I swung through my usual lake routes to see what I could see. Not a ton of birds but a few shots of interest. One of the small ponds called Lake Emerald provided a nice glimpse of a Wood Duck.

Wood Duck

At the far end of the lake was a sunning Anhinga.


Over at the Eagle nest, Mom is situated on the nest signaling that chicks may be at hand.

Bald Eagle

No definite movement from beneath but it should be time for the chicks anytime.

Bald Eagle

I will continue to monitor the nest from time to time but, quite honestly, the large amount of photographers there recently kind of depresses me for some reason. Use to be just me and the eagles. Should have kept my mouth shut years ago, I guess.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

2012 Sparrow Drives, Part 1

Guess I had better catch up on the sparrow drives we did out at Weekie Wachee with our good friend Marianne Korosy. Marianne learned to band with us at our Wekiva banding site years ago and has gone on to other bird studies throughout Florida. This is the 5th year of her studies on sparrows at this site. Maria joined me for her first drives.

Once the 20-plus nets were set, covering a couple hundred yards of the preserve, volunteers were instructed on techniques that would be used to flush birds hiding in the thigh-high grasses and palmetto. The group lines up and walks through an area, clapping and shouting as they walk to move the birds toward the waiting mist nets.


Once the group reaches the nets, any captured birds are removed from the net by trained banders, placed in soft cloth bags, and taken to Marianne for data processing.

Drew removing a Sparrow

Then, the volunteers move to the end of where they began before and repeat the process again until they cover the entire net array, first in one direction and then the other.


The most commonly captured bird today were LeConte's Sparrows. I believe it was a record number for any day of these drives. I place this bird in the bag for transport and reset for the next round.

Drew removing a Sparrow

Midway through our first run (we did both sides of the array twice), we captured a very surprising bird. Bill Pranty (a bird biologist and author whom I am proud to know as a friend and I even have a photo in one of his books, A Birder's Guide to Florida) holds up the first ever captured Wilson's Snipe at this site!

Wilson's Snipe

Snipe are very elusive and bolt away from you once flushed or startled by close approach so I had to take a break and get some shots up close. Marianne was just as surprised as the rest of us and examines the bird once it arrives at the table.

Marianne Korosy

Unfortunately for banding data purposes, Snipe are considered game birds so they cannot be banded without special permits.

Wilson's Snipe

However, we could spend some time admiring the bird's plumage and marvel at its other features.

Wilson's Snipe

A beautiful bird above and below.

Wilson's Snipe

Ready for the final close up just before being released back into the preserve.

Wilson's Snipe

We finish the first round and take a rest, tighten the shoelaces and prepare for round 2.

Drew resetting

Our latest capture, a Sedge Wren, is removed from the net as photographers snap away.

Bird being extracted

Back at the table, one of the many LeConte's Sparrows is fitted with a new band.

LeConte's Sparrow

Truly, amazing little birds. Colors are so rich up close.

LeConte's Sparrow

To close out the day, we captured a Swamp Sparrow, a couple of Grasshopper Sparrows, and a Savannah Sparrow, shown here.

Savannah Sparrow

All in all a pretty good day, though winds were a challenge as it pushed nets over from time to time. The next drive would be in 2 weeks and that will be featured in Part 2!