Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Winter Ducks Returning

Our 'Winter Ducks', as I term them, are returning in numbers all of a suddens. Teals have been speckling the small ponds here and there but I never consider the Winter Ducks here until the Ring-necked Ducks arrive. Maybe due to the fact that this is the first year I have found Teal in the background before.

Not far from one store I visit I have been monitoring Blue-winged Teal. Some days there might be 2, somedays 40. Tonight I got to one pond as the Sun was setting and gave me some interesting lighting. I am pretty pleased with this shot of a Male Blue-winged Teal.

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal do dominate the arriving flocks but there are other birds tucked in there, too. The Blue-wingeds have a white patch near their bill but there is also a couple of Green-winged Teal in there. Note the center bird that has no white near the bill and a bit more green in the rear. Can't wait for the males to arrive for some extra color.


Best of the bunch tonight was a Ring-necked Duck diving just to the left. Nice and close and not minding my approach.

Ring-necked Duck

I drove home around Lake Davis and actually found 59 more Ring-necked Ducks. They are back and right on time. Now we wait for the odd birds to show up.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I Missed Palm Warblers

As the Fall season moves along and the temperatures fluctuate from warm to cool to warm my mind wonders, "Where the heck are those Palm Warblers?!" Seems like they should have been here by now. So far, I have only seen a few of them at a time. In the past, it felt like they got here earlier. Today would prove they are back. In force.

I took a quick jaunt over to the LaCosta Wetlands, mainly to see if any ducks were arriving over there. I was told by a regular visitor that there are usually a lot of ducks that hang out in the Winter. I found exactly none today. However, I did find a rather elegant Snowy Egret wading in the water at the back of the property.

Snowy Egret

Just after I took a few shots of the Egret I noticed some bird activity just up the way. Seems a small flock of Western Palm Warblers were finding insects along the waterway and in a small tree. Probably the biggest flock I have seen to date.

Western Palm Warbler

So, they are around in increasing numbers. To prove that point, as I headed to the grocery store in the evening I found myself basically surrounded by flocks of Palm Warblers at nearly every turn! They were hopping across every lawn and grassy area right outside the van window.

Western Palm Warbler

It always amazes me that there is so much food scattered along every branch and under every blade of grass. Birds find it effortlessly.

Western Palm Warbler

What can decorate a newly mowed lawn any better that a cute little warbler?

Western Palm Warbler

I am so glad they are back. I enjoy watching those tail feathers bobbing up and down and seeing them rise in small waves from the ground into the low branches when I round a curve.

Western Palm Warbler

Of course, now I can't wait for the Myrtle Warblers to follow close behind!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Twilight Wilson's Snipe

I took my usual drive around to check on the duck situation this evening but I was more surprised by another bird as night closed in. In the retention pond next to the church were a few Mallards and Wood Ducks. Once I tallied them up I began to walk to the larger pond and was stopped in my tracks by a shape down near the water in front of me. In the twilight, I could make out the shape of my first of the season Wilson's Snipe.

Wilson's Snipe

I had to focus through the chain link fence that surrounds the pond but that fence probably kept that bird from flushing too quickly. Snipe tend to fly away when approached, often before you get to spot them. Using the flash would have lit up the fence so I am glad I got even these shots in the near dark.

Wilson's Snipe

I can't recall seeing Snipe here in town. They are usually in more marshy areas and remain out of sight. When this bird did finally fly across the pond, another flew up to join it! So, two Wilson's Snipe in O-Town tonight. Sweet!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Eastern Wood-Pewee

The last post dealt with the Star-of-the-Day, the female Rufus Hummingbird. There were other things out there that I found before I got to the Rufus. One of the first things I found as I got out of the van were several Western Palm Warblers. I made my way over to the Camilla garden and discovered a pair of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. They would not give me a profile view but they were 2 of 3 I had today and the first of the season.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Work is progressing on the amphitheater next to the butterfly garden.


On the opposite side of the amphitheater there is a Mulberry tree we check for migrating birds. There were a few Eastern Phoebes calling there and then an Eastern Wood Pewee flew in view.

Eastern Wood Pewee

That bird was soon chased by another Pewee which took the first bird's place. I got some shots but didn't really think too hard about it until I got home. Looking at the photos on the computer I could see that this second bird was actually a juvenile Pewee.

Eastern Wood Pewee

You can tell mostly by the yellow gape flesh at the base of the bill. Nice.

Now, time to head over to that hummingbird.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rufus Hummingbird

The last time I was at Mead Garden I had a brief encounter with a Hummingbird. It flew into view and I tried to get a shot but it zoomed away just as I got focused. Dang. A few days later, a report came through saying there was a Rufus Hummingbird in the butterfly garden. May have been the same critter.

I got a chance to stop back by to check out the find and discovered several of the usual suspect birders hanging out in the garden. It didn't take too long for our bird to start feeding nearby.

Rufus Hummingbird

Hummingbirds are always a challenge to shot, especially when we were all fixated on trying to get shots of the tail feathers, which are a more certain way to tell if this was a Rufus as opposed to an Allen's. I was happy to get this view, even though the shot does not reveal any tail details.

Rufus Hummingbird

The bird took off for a while and then returned to rest in the Crepe Myrtle tree for us to watch for a while.

Rufus Hummingbird

It took its time to relax and then began scratching and preening for a bit. Cute little thing. This had to be a female Rufus and later shots from our friend, Marcus, confirmed it not long after these shots.

Rufus Hummingbird

My friend Paul has had Rufus Hummingbirds in his yard over the years and I have been trying to get over to see one. This is my Lifer.

Rufus Hummingbird

I will try to get back for better pictures in the future but, for now, I am happy enough to get this particular species under my belt after a few years. Now we settle in for the approaching Winter ducks and the remaining warblers. Can't wait!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Banded Palm Warbler

Our banding station group headed out to Ferndale Preserve to do a banding demo for a friend. That entry will have to go on my other blog once I get the rest of the photos edited. I will post an update to this blog when that is ready. This post is about a find on our way to take the net poles back to Lake Lotus.

We stopped at Ranch Road to look for the Say's Phoebe I have posted about in the past. This marks the 6th year this bird has come to stay the Winter far from its normal range. I have come by to see it every year. Today, however, it was hiding from us. Itis still there somewhere just not always easy to spot.

In its absence, I tried to find anything else that might be interesting. Hiding behind some structure I noticed a bird peeking out at us before flying off. It was a Eurasian Collared-Dove. I can't recall seeing any here before. Then another flew out, and another, until at least 8 birds took flight from their hiding place.

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Odd. The only other birds around were an American Kestrel way out on the fences and a small flock of Palm Warblers foraging in front of us. I figured I might as well take some shots. Nothing else to see.

Western Palm Warbler

As I processed the photos when I got home something caught my eye. Can you see it? Here, let me circle it.

Western Palm Warbler

Could that be what I think it is? I checked a few more photos. Here is the bird in a profile view.

Western Palm Warbler

Just to make extra sure, I enlarged this image and concentrated on the bird's leg. Yep. There is a band on this Palm Warbler!

Western Palm Warbler

In all my years banding birds, I can't recall ever seeing a small land bird with a band outside of my banding areas. So, was this bird banded far up North where they band a lot of Palm Warblers or could it be one we banded at Wekiva or Lake Lotus? I will never know for sure. But, I do know I always band the right leg when I band so it is possible it is one of ours.

Here I was taking pictures just at random and I find I got a photo of a bird of much note. I might have paid attention in the field if it would have let me know while we were there.

Western Palm Warbler

Oh, wait. Maybe it was trying to get my attention...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ranch Road

I took a trip out to Ranch Road after our banding session (which was full of interesting birds if you are interested) to see if I could say hello to the Say's Phoebe that has now made its 6th Winter stop-over. I was out of luck. All I could locate were a couple of Eastern Phoebes

Eastern Phoebe

Not a lot of other birds moving. While I was scanning the west fields I noticed someone peeking over the top of the small utility pole.

Downy Woodpecker

This female Downy Woodpecker went round and round on the pole until she decided on a specific spot to peck away, occasionally providing a profile view.

Downy Woodpecker

I was trying to get better shots of the Downy when I suddenly heard a strange series of calls. I looked around but could not locate the bird. Then it began directly overhead. Looking up, I found a Loggerhead Shrike nearly silhouetted against the blue sky.

Loggerhead Shrike

Love those little white tail feathers! It has been awhile since I have seen a Loggerhead Shrike that close. Might as well leave on that note.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fairly Quiet

One would think that with the fronts clearing that we would see a lot more birds around this place. Instead, the winds are so favorable that most migrants seem to making a mad dash straight past us and toward their Winter hangouts.

So, I took a couple lunch breaks to walk around the area. Not much outside except for the locals. I did find a few Catbirds On Thursday, but other than that... At least I could chat with a Northern Mockingbird for a few minutes. It was in the invasive Brazilian Pepper in the spoil area. I will be interested to see if the other birds swarm in after the berries mature.

Northern Mockingbird

There is one dead pine along my path and a Red-bellied Woodpecker was busy gathering acorns for the Winter and trying to find a spot to store them. Always interesting to watch.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Sigh. Back to work. Almost as slow in there as it is out here...

Monday, October 08, 2012

Something is Veery Interesting

A great day was had at the banding site. We captured a lot of birds and even one we never had banded before. You can check out that report here.

On the way home, I decided to run through Mead Garden again. The usuals were there but it was fairly quiet. On the way back to the van I noticed some folks I know sitting on the ground taking photos. I couldn't see what they were shooting at yet so I took the next best shot.


Just what were they so focused on? A young Veery, judging by the tanned edges of the feathers.


This bird was very tame. It allowed my friends to scoot in really close and they took photos for along while as it picked at berries from the ground before heading back into the shade of the Beauty Berry bush. Must have had a long flight last night or it is not feeling that well. Most thrushes bolt when approached.

That was all the energy I had after a long banding session so I headed out. Of course, I swung around the local lakes on the way home. Waiting for me at Lake Emerald was another nice Wood Duck on the Cypress limbs.

Wood Duck

Time for a shower. Nice enough shots for a 15 minute stop.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

In Between Cub Scout Nature Walks...

I was volunteered to give Nature Walks for groups of Cub Scouts and their parents through parts of Mead Garden all day today. Despite having my camera slung over my shoulder for over 8 hours, I barely took any shots. I was too busy pointing things out to take many photos.

However, I did have a few minutes during lunch and a few minutes once the walks were over and actually got more things on the card than I thought I did. In fact, I almost forgot that my fellow Mead birder friends pointed out a bird to me as I was making my way back for the next group. The first Eastern Wood Pewee of the season. Not the best shot but it counts!

Tricolored Heron

During my lunch break I found my sandwich in the cooler beset by ants. Sigh. Off to circle the lake. More walking instead of relaxing but I can't resist the urge to find something while I am out. At the amphitheater I saw a bird dart into the Virgina Creeper berries. Turned out to be a female Summer Tanager. From below...

Summer Tanager

It didn't take long, though, for a bunch of Red-eyed Vireos to fly in and chased the Tanager away. Then they stood watch for a bit.

Red-eyed Vireo

Down by the lake, a few Ibis, Titmice and herons rested along the shoreline and in the shrubs. I liked this pose of a Tricolored Heron up on the old dead tree over the water.

Tricolored Heron

I headed around the shore and was surprised by a movement at my feet. It was a frog. More surprising was that it did not hop directly into the water as most frogs do. I had to do a little research and discovered this is a Florida Leopard Frog. Neat. I love the way the skin looks painted.

Florida Leopard Frog

This little fella even let me get up close and personal for a more interesting view. It never even tried to move any further.

Florida Leopard Frog

On the far side of the lake (OK, so it is really a large pond...) a number of Red-eared Sliders were sunning on the logs. Most jumped back into the water as kids ran by but the largest paused to look me over.

Red-eared Slider

On the way back to get some more checklists for the next group of Cubs I saw the only raptor we would see all day. A Red-tailed Hawk circled high above and then off into the distance. Didn't even hear a Red-shouldered Hawk today. Weird.

Red-tailed Hawk

I was being distracted most of the day by some birds that were enjoying the Beauty Berry shrubs on the first part of the Nature Walk. Just inside the shade where the shrubs were growing, warblers and thrushes scattered every time we walked through. It was driving me crazy because I knew I could get some shots if it weren't for all the humans in tow.

So, at the end of the day I packed up and made a quiet walk back to the spot. The light had changed so it was all shade but who can complain when you can hangout with Black-throated Blue Warblers enjoying an afternoon snack?

Black-throated Blue Warbler

My feet were killing me by the end of the day but a bunch of warbler shots certainly give me enough lift to make it back home.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Chimney Swift Party

During my nightly round of the neighborhood I stopped by the church to count ducks. Instead, I was distracted by another species of birds. Chimney Swifts were massing overhead and calling. Always tough to get a clear shot of these birds but I singled one out as dusk was closing in.

Chimney Swift

While I was tracking the birds I couldn't help but notice the nice cloud formations off to the East. I waited a few moments to let the plane move into a spot for scale.


The view to the south revealed pileus cloud caps being formed and destroyed by the towering clouds below.


Oh, yeah. Swifts! So, I had to move out into the parking lot to get a full view of the swifts circling and calling. I took a few frames trying to get as many birds as I could in the shot. I counted later and, like this shot, the highest number I could get in the frame was 45 birds. There were many more with them.

Chimney Swift

Most Chimney Swifts have already migrated out of Central Florida and headed to the south. All I can figure is that this is a large migrating flock gathering together for a joint journey. Fly well, little Swifts!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

A Different Bald Eagle

Just another run through the cemetery to check on the Bald Eagle. I was actually surprised to see an eagle at the nest. Usually at this time of year they stay off to the side in the pines where I took the photo the other day. When I got home at looked at the photos I had a bit of a surprise.

It is not one of the adult eagles. It is a 3rd-year bird! Notice the coloration of the head feathers. Bald Eagles do not get their full white heads until the 4th year.

Bald Eagle

I do recall one of the fledged birds hanging with the parents an extra long time a couple years ago. Wonder if this one continues to follow the parents around all year or if this some new bird checking out the area. I prefer to think the former.

Over at one of the retention ponds, a long Blue-winged Teal was resting along the waterside.

Blue-winged Teal

I have counted from 1 to 33 teal at a time over the days. Strange how they move around. Soon, this pond and a few others will host dozens of teal and Ring-necked Ducks for the Winter.