Saturday, June 30, 2012

Baby Barred Owl Doing Fine

I have been getting reports from my birding friend Gail. She has been seeing the Night Heron even though they have been hiding from me. Better yet, she sends observations of the Barred Owls that nested and fledged a young one earlier in the year. That is all archived in this blog under the Barred Owl label.

She has been seeing them right after sunrise. By the time I get there a couple hours later, everything has disappeared. However, Gail managed a photo during the latest sighting and she graciously let me share it. Seems our dark little owl is growing into a dark big owl!

Barred Owl

Also of interest, I was about to email Gail when I received the photos. I was going to tell her about the encounter I had last night...

Just before total nightfall, I heard a Great-horned Owl calling outside our kitchen window. I grabbed a flashlight and a camera and ran out to try for any photo I could get. Before I got to the side of the house, baby Barred Owl flew in and started skreeing like it does for food from the parents.

It figured out pretty quickly that it wasn't Mom or Dad and started making its way along the telephone poles before fading into the dark.

I didn't get any good shots of either bird but it sure was exciting. Then I get photos of Baby the next morning. Excellent.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Work Birds

Work is crazy busy right now. Still doesn't keep me from staring out the large window right in front of me and 'birding' as I work. Makes me a little jumpy, though.

One thing I have been trying to confirm here is that Least Terns could be nesting atop one of the buildings here in the complex of industrial buildings. A couple days ago I found a happy sight right after work. I was always thinking the birds might be on a certain rooftop but that night I found a flock of terns circling and landing on the roof across the street! At last I had a confirmation and a single Least Tern flew over my smiling face.

Least Tern

A few minutes later, as I headed out towards home, a Killdeer stood on the grass next to a very full ditch. The rain was stopped for now but the area was about flooded. This is the first Killdeer I have seen here. Wonder where they might be nesting?


Another surprise this week was the small flock of Common Nighthawks that began zig-zagging past the buildings. Very exciting. Made me leap from my chair and try for some shots. Man, they are fast.

Common Nighthawk

It is all I could do to even get a bird in focus in the distance. I loved hearing them calling as they pick off insects before drifting out of sight.

Common Nighthawk

All kind of interesting birds fly by to break up the grind and it's not often one can bird in the air-conditioning. These days, that is very enjoyable.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Baby Doves

One of my added stops on my lake rounds is a little church near the retention pond where I have had good luck with birds this year. On one stop early in the year I noticed a pretty good sized flock of White-winged Doves. I usually have a couple in my year during breeding season but this flock was interesting. So, I keep a look out for them when I can.

I drove into the parking lot today and noticed a lot of doves flying over to the fence along the smaller retention pond. I had limited time so I just took a bunch of shots of the birds before moving on. Here, an adult White-winged basks in the sunlight.

White-winged Dove

As I was going through the shots I noticed something I didn't out in the field. There was a baby in the mix!

White-winged Dove

And another, and another...I was too busy squinting against the sunlight to really take it in before. This flock is definitely breeding over here. Sweet!

White-winged Dove

Better still, I also got shots of more babies. These Mourning Doves were mixed in with the White-wings.

Mourning Dove

Young doves have feathers that are much more scaly looking and smooth out as they grow older.

Mourning Dove

More species to add to the confirmed breeding section of the Bird Breeding Atlas!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Green Heron Youngster

With a break in the weather in sight I headed over to the wetlands again to search for the Black-crowned Night Herons. They would elude me again but I did spot a shape overlooking the smaller pond. I flanked around to see if I could get in some better light for shots of this young Green Heron.

Green Heron

It stayed very calm the entire time. It was actually more interested in the flock of Fish Crows that were flying in and out of the top of the tree that it was sitting in.

Green Heron

Every now and then it would glance up at the ruckus and gaze at the crows as they flew off. This went on for quite some time.

Green Heron

So long that I grabbed a couple more shots and headed off in search of other birds, leaving our Green Heron to watch the crows some more before staring back out at the water.

Green Heron

Nice to see one of the babies from earlier in the year getting so grown up.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Very Hawk-y Out There

Once we completed our Jay Watch count on Sunday I headed home a different way to check a couple of spots recently reported online and now nearby. First stop, Cameron Wright Park which is actually a couple of picnic table along a parking lot leading to a boat ramp. The reason for the stop was to see the Barn Swallows nesting under the bridge.

Barn Swallow

Yep. There they are. On the way back to the van I notice some commotion in the trees over the fence line. A Red-shouldered Hawk was pouncing on limbs after something. Just never seemed to catch anything.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Turned out I would be finding hawks all over today. First at the Jay Watch area, now the bridge, and later I did my quick tour of the lakes and found another Red-shouldered Hawk trying to rest in the rain. However, the locals were none too happy.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Blue Jays buzzed the hawk over and over. Sometimes the hawk ignored them, sometimes he almost fell over backwards as he kept a close watch.

Red-shouldered Hawk

While searching Google Maps to verify my count zone for the Bird Breeding Atlas I noticed a spot of green on the map where I never knew there was one. It is actually a mile from where I used to live before I was married. Called La Costa Wetlands. Don't know if it has always been there or established recently but I figured I had better check it out.

It is just outside of my count zone but it turns out to be a very nice park. Large ponds surrounded by small oaks and mature Cypress with paths and bridges and a huge grassy expanse. There was not a ton of birds but that is to be expected this time of year. I bet it is teaming with activity during migration. Definitely going on the list.

I counted up Common Gallinules, Red-winged Blackbirds, Wood Stork, Blue Jays, House Finches, Snowy and Tricolored Herons, and European Starlings on my quick lap of the place. The habitat is nice though I might not be walking through at night.

On the way back to the car some Blue Jays began shrieking in a small oak. Sounded like predator alarms so I searched. Took me a while but I finally spotted a very wet Cooper's Hawk trying to avoid detection.

Cooper's Hawk

Seconds later, a jay managed to flush the hawk to the other end of the park. Back at the parking lot, adult and juvenile Mockingbirds snatched small bugs from the air where they hung in clouds. I need to get back here when the rain goes away.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jay Watch 2012

That time again! Jay Watch!! The weekend where we head out into the heat of June and count as many Florida Scrub Jay s as we can throughout the State. Typically the temperatures are in the mid- to upper-90s but this year we have Tropical Storm Debby blanketing us from the Sun. Problem is, now we have to worry about being washed out completely.

This year I was assigned to Lake Monroe. I arrived a bit early to see how the weather was rolling in and to get some early photos.

Lake Monroe Sign

The parking lot where we gather usually have some wildflowers blooming this time of year. Like the Tickseeds.

Tick Seed

The powers that be be decided to continue the counts for Saturday and we got really lucky. Showers were contained to the West of the state but we had threatening clouds all morning. The crowd continued to arrive while I continued to snap away at things like the Sabatias near the fence.


Sensitive Briar was blooming all over but I kind of liked it in the background to break up the yellow. TIme to start our Jay search.

Tick Seed

I ended up in the first section of the property Saturday which is undergoing a lot of habitat restoration. What used to be Wax Myrtles and pines was being burned and transformed into scrub. That means few, if any, Scrub Jays yet. I did find a Bob White Quail singing away.

Bobwhite Quail

Many checkpoints later and still no Jays. Tarflower sure are pretty this time of year, though.


FInally, at Stop 52 (not the 52nd stop for us) we spotted two Jays up on a tree. They soon flew down to an area where a 3rd Jay was already taking up watch. With the bad light and angles I only got some OK shots of this banded individual.

Florida Scrub Jay

All adults today and three were the only one we had in count areas. We did find a couple as we were driving from place to place but those would be for others to count. We would have to settle for our worn and wet few.

Florida Scrub Jay

At our final stop I could hear a familiar sound off in the distance. It grew closer and I realized this bird was going to fly pretty close. They are usually foraging along roads or fields in pairs or families so it is fun to have a Sandhill Crane fly overhead.


Sunday posed an even bigger weather threat. It was raining in Orlando when I woke up. I called Duff, the Lake Monroe coordinator, and he was going to try and get through the count. It was fairly dry when we got to the site but we did have light rain all morning.

After a couple of stops all I could manage was a new flower for the weekend. A small clump of Bachelor's Buttons made a pretty contract in the fields.

Bachelor's Button

Nearby, Thistle make an appearance. Still no Jays.


The final flower of the day was a variety of Spiderwort hiding under some heavier cover. We also spotted Deer, Eastern Bluebirds and Bachman's Sparrow but all while driving so no shots.


One stop to go. Stop 36. As we pull up, a Jay popped up out of the vegetation. Yay! I take this spot while the others fan out to close by stops of their own. I tried to get good shots of the bird but the light was still bad. Plus, I needed to get band colors before trying for any keeper shots. As I was maneuvering around for a better view, a second bird appeared. This one was unbanded so all I had to worry about was a photo. Mission accomplished.

Florida Scrub Jay

All count points were finished up by 11 AM. Good thing. By noon, Debby would send heavy rains all through Central Florida before heading North and out into the Atlantic.

Overall, a pretty quiet Jay Watch for me this year. Hopefully, other counters got many more birds than we did. Data will be gathered and reported by the end of the year. Then we prepare for next year.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

Have to step back a day or two. On the way home from work after the sighting of Air Force One, I drove around Lake Lancaster and was very surprised to find a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron hanging out along the receding water.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Here I have been searching for a sighting near the adults at the Greenwood Wetlands and here is one a few block away all by itself.

Black-crowned Night Heron

A possible new bird from the adults over there or another young one from elsewhere? Hmmm... Nice to find, one way or another.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Debby Approaches. Spoonbills Relax.

Not long after Air Force One zoomed past yesterday afternoon, Tropical Storm Debby began flexing some more moisture-laden muscles. I left work in increasing sprinkles before dark but still drove down to check on any new birding finds. Good thing I did.

Continuing my slew of Spoonbill sightings for the year, two more were in the creek that feeds the pond at the end of Kingspointe Parkway. These are different birds from the one I reported the other day. One is heading into adulthood and the other is definitely fully adult as told by the bald head.

Roseate Spoonbill

I love the way the rain adds to the feel that the dark red on the adult feathers seems to create a dripping effect. Now, I just need to hope that we get a break in the clouds tomorrow. Jay Watch is scheduled for the weekend and this storm is only growing stronger...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Blue and White Migrant

There are hundreds of bird species that call Florida home. Many for their entire lives, many that only stop by for a while before returning home. On occasion, we get some rarities. Like Air Force One.

Air Force One

The President was giving a speech at Disney today. I didn't give it much thought until I noticed the plane on a different course than most planes to and from the airport. Flew right past the office windows, which are tinted.

It is not a Life Bird, though. I have seen it a few times in the past. Always a thrill.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Carolina Wren Rescue

I was trying to get the last few minutes of the final snooze button time in when my wife opened the bedroom door and said, "I think we have a bird in our chimney." Sigh. For some reason, last night I thought I heard one, too, but then figured it was one of the boy' video games. A closer listen this morning, however, reveled here statement to be true.

The chimney on this old 1930's house was sealed up ages ago. For a heating source, the previous owners installed a gas furnace that vented into the side of the old chimney. We replaced that years ago and closed off the vent. Fortunately, it is still accessible.

So, once the family was out the door for their daily activities and the cat was accounted for, I moved things out of the way and removed the cover on the vent opening and peered inside. I held my old point-and-shoot in one hand and a flashlight in the other so the shots were not that good but tell the story.

I pulled the vent cover out and a rush of air whooshed by. Almost immediately I could see a tiny figure on the other side.

Carolina Wren

I could tell right away that it was a juvenile Carolina Wren. It was trying to fly up the chimney but never made it too far. It would then settle lower. I hoped it would just fly out into the house but it was still frightened. I eventually tried to coax it out with a small dish of water. It did pique some interest.

Carolina Wren

A few minutes later and success! It came out of the chimney. of course, now I had a bird in the house. I had earlier closed all our curtains so it wouldn't try to fly through the closed windows. It tried to find purchase on any small ledge.

Carolina Wren

Eventually, it made it over to a wreath of leaves. By now I had abandoned the flashlight and replaced it with my son's butterfly net. I had it in the shallow net twice but both times it escaped.

Carolina Wren

A couple minutes later and the wren headed toward the front of the house. I took a more careful netting attempt and was successful. I carried the bird outside and we were immediately met by the worried adults who heard it call as I opened the front door. One good shot for the records and away it flew.

Carolina Wren

I guess if you are a bird and going to get trapped in a house it might as well be a bird bander's. Later, it occurred to me that I should have banded this one. Oh, well.

In return for my good deed, the birding community sent me a present. A low-flying Swallow-tailed Kite! It first appeared across the complex and I thought it was carrying and feeding on a rodent.

Swallow-tailed Kite

It flew closer and dropped its meal and grabbed it again before flying directly over me. Once I processed the shot on the computer I could see it was a chick of some undetermined species. Could it be one of the Least terns we were trying to confirm in the area? A Killdeer? We will never know.

Swallow-tailed Kite

Nice to have exciting bookends to a day.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Roseate Spoonbill At Dusk

After a long dry spell I am not one to complain about working overtime. It just means less daylight to scan for birds on the way home. The past few days I haven't been getting near the lakes until right at nightfall. I had a little light left to drive down the road by the office and was met by a pleasant surprise.

There in the waning light was a Roseate Spoonbill in the creek that feeds the small pond on the other side of the road.

Roseate Spoonbill

It was busy sweeping the water for anything to snack on. I thought I saw a Spoonbill out of the corner of my eye on the way home the other night but that was a few miles down the road. This is a first sighting of one for me at this spot.

Roseate Spoonbill

I love the backlit bill on this shot. Makes our birds look a bit like a fire breather.

Roseate Spoonbill

This juvenile bird (told by the feathers still covering the head) continued to feed as I snapped away and then drove off. Seems Spoonbills are all over the place this year.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Walking Around the Lakes

Another day, another lake check. I started by driving along the shore of Lake Lancaster and found an adult Great Blue Heron going in for a rather deep dip.

Great Blue Heron

Then I decided to walk through the Greenwood Wetlands to do the usual Night Heron and owl search. Again, neither could be found. The other usual suspects were there but I was more impressed by the Red-eared Slider peering out of the shallow water.

Red-eared Slider

Under the shade of the cypress trees, a few ducklings rest before their next round of foraging in the Duck Weed.


Since I could use the exercise, and since it was such a nice day, I decided to extend my walk and head over to Lake Davis. I drive by every day but it has been awhile since the last proper inspection.

Dodging the Swan Geese, always looking for a handout, I found a small flock of young Wood Ducks basking in the sunlight.

Wood Duck

A young Mallard figured it was much better to rest up in the grasses along the shore of the lake.


There wasn't a lot going on along the southern end of the lake so I took some time to chat with a Northern Mockingbird.

Northern Mockingbird

On the West side of the lake I was tracking a Tricolored and Great Blue Heron when I noticed something more interesting. Deep in the reeds where the herons were stalking prey, a Common Gallinule sits on a nest. A nice find since we are in full swing of the Florida Bird Breeding Atlas. Every record of breeding birds is a good thing.

Common Gallinule

Soon I was attracted to another set of flying things. Dragonflies were cruising the reeds for insects so I was trying to get some shots for later ID. The wind was picking up so getting the insects to pause for any length of time was a chore. I did get one in focus and I think it is a type of Saddlebags.


While I finished up my dragonfly experiment another Common Gallinule decided I wasn't a threat and swam out past me.

Common Gallinule

As I reached the northern side of the lake I was pleased to see an entire family of Common Gallinules. For those keeping score, they officially changed the name of these bird back to Common Gallinule from Common Moorhen last year.

Common Gallinule

Every now and then the chicks would peck at the adults looking like they were giving little kisses. Love those bald heads.

Common Gallinule

A final close up as I finish my trip around the lakes.

Common Gallinule

This year has been very productive for all of our lake and marsh birds. That means that there will be plenty more photo opportunities in the future.