Monday, July 30, 2012

Fun in the Backyard

Yesterday was chock full of yard work. Today I got to relax a bit so I decided once I heard the Titmice heading our way I would sit in the yard and see what I could see. It got pretty busy for an hour.

On the way out of the house I encountered the Titmice as they hit the feeders. This family lives in our yard a lot and I got photos and posted about the babies when they first arrived. They show little fear. Seems like they know me, even this younger bird hanging out at the peanut station.

Tutfted Titmouse

I soon settled into my chair and watched. The younger Northern Parulas are having fun chasing the young Cardinals all over the yard. So many baby Cardinals this year. One of my favorite shots was of one of the adult Parula searching in the shade.

Northern Parula

Even now and then, the baby Blue Jays would venture in to grab a shelled peanut.

Blue Jay

Round and round they flew and ate and flew. It is always fun when they perch right next to me to see what I am up to. Usually so close I can't get a shot with the zoom, but sometimes...

Tutfted Titmouse

Joining in on the feeding was a male Downy Woodpecker. He was circling the tree trunks so I had to wait for him to find a branch facing me for better views.

Downy Woodpecker

A Red-bellied Woodpecker flew in but too close for a focused shot. I was hoping the Parulas would settle down for me but they were zipping by like crazy. Finally, something slowed one of the younger birds down.

Northern Parula

I still haven't ID'd the species of spider. I don't recognize them when I am out in the yard. I don't think the warbler really cares as it gulps it down. Protein. Yum.

Northern Parula

I rigged the hose to drip out into the cement bird bath to create some inviting splashes. However, the Cardinals and Titmice preferred to sit on the faucet handle and sip from the leaking bits.

Tutfted Titmouse

Speaking of Cardinals, I managed to capture them on the other bird bath as one of the first brood birds flew in (on left) to join the latest brood birds. You can tell the older bird by the more orange bill but it still shows black streaks so it is not yet an adult. When Northern Cardinals are first fledged they have black bills.

Northern Cardinal

As I was trying for those Cardinal shots, I noticed a flicker of movement closer to my seat. I refocused my eyes and was totally surprised. A Black and White Warbler had dropped down to attend the party! It had its back to me and I feared I would be left with some boring pictures. Then I had one last chance before it flew off.

Black and White Warbler

Yes! A great way to end this photo session. Just proves that you don't always have to make a trip to find some good birding. Birds are all around. You just need to look.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Nectar Hungry Northern Parulas

Birds never cease to amaze me. Today I caught a family of Northern Parulas feeding on something I had never seen them feed on before. Flower nectar.

I was drawn to the backdoor by the calls of the Titmouse family arriving at the feeders. I enjoy watching them but this time of year I am on the lookout for warblers. Migration is already underway. I soon spotted some warbler-sized birds joining the Titmice so I had to grab the binoculars. An entire family of Parula was moving through.

Northern Parula

Before I could grab the camera, I noticed that they weren't grabbing bugs much. Instead, they were concentrating on the Fire Spike blooms. Then dipping their beaks inside for sips!

Northern Parula

They were difficult to catch in action as they sipped and then flew down to the bird bath for a quick splash but I did get one tucked inside a flower.

Northern Parula

The Northern Parulas continued this for several minutes before heading back up into the oaks for some more hardy fare.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula are regular breeders in the area so they are not the Fall migrants I was hoping to see. However, it was still a new discovery!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fish Crow and White Ibis

A lazy, hot day out around the neighborhood. Not a whole lot to see. Over at the church, a few Fish Crows were perching on the fence and trying to cool down.

Fish Crow

A small flock of White Ibis were feeding in the grass. I am usually taking shots of the adults but today I grabbed a shot of a juvenile.

White Ibis

Yeah, a lazy, hot day. Most birds are avoiding the heat. Think I will do the same.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Turkey (and Spoonbill) Surprise

Leaving late from work but there was still enough light for a quick check of the ponds and creek around the corner. I was pleasantly surprised! Down in the creek area I noticed some Spoonbills in the creek near the bank.

Roseate Spoonbill

I swung through the parking lot to get a better angle and was met with another surprise. A small flock of Wild Turkey were pulling seeds from the grasses under the power line towers.


Back near the creek, I took a few more Spoonbill shots. I have plenty these days but I love to get documentations of any birds, especially ones that are seldom seen here.

Roseate Spoonbill

Just past the creek on the way out I noticed yet another Turkey heading toward the other parking lot. Brings the total to four for tonight. Nice!


Glad I took the long way towards home. Again.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Quick Trip Home

Took the extra loop home tonight. Mainly, I wanted to see if the Pied-billed Grebe was still over by the church. Yep. Even heard it calling again yesterday.

Pied-billed Grebe

Then I swung through the cemetery just in case anything was stirring. Not to much, but I was surprised to see a hawk up in the pine tree that the Bald Eagles perch in when they are here to breed in the Fall/Winter. A Red-tailed Hawk, in fact. Red-shouldered Hawks are much more common around this area.

Red-tailed Hawk

Pretty quiet, otherwise. We shall see what pops up next.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sandhill Cranes Still Around

On the way home I spotted the Sandhill Crane family I had seen a few days ago. For some reason it appears that something happened to Dad. He now has four legs! Are we experiencing some sort of radioactive contamination in the water!?!

Sandhill Crane

Nope. Just baby hiding behind Dad.

Sandhill Crane

It is interesting to note how rusty these normally grey birds are. It is quite common, though and is attributed to diet.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Heat Back On

We had a bunch of rain, and more forecast soon, but today was nice and warm. Just a couple of birds out in the heat but worth sharing. Especially this Pied-billed Grebe which I discovered near home.

These birds are usually only Winter visitors for us. I did see a brood with a female many years ago but having them in Central Florida in July is a treat. Finally get to see them in full breeding plumage. This one was even calling which I had never heard before.

Pied-billed Grebe

Over at Lake Lancaster, an Anhinga rested on the side of the water near the road. It was getting warmer as the day wore on and this bird gave out a tremendous yawn as I watched.


Maybe I should take a nap, too...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Backyard Birding

I have been missing the BirdCam since it was beat up a bunch in the Spring. I blame the owls. It kept being knocked over so I just gave up. I decided to be the cam myself. Birds were feeding in numbers so I sat on the back steps and waited.

The Gray Squirrel leaning back against the tree trunk just snacked on a peanut and ignored me.

Gray Squirrel

I was mainly trying to get shots of the Red-bellied Woodpeckers that have been busy feeding hungry youngsters. So much so that they are hitting every feeder at will and even chasing off the doves to get what they want.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

It is often difficult to see the 'red-belly' unless they are hanging with that belly exposed. Both the male and the female seem to focus on peanuts or the fruit bits that only Gray Catbirds seem to also enjoy. Of course, the Catbirds have been gone for months.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Blue Jays also are busy with their kids. But the young Jays are big enough now to feed themselves.

Blue Jay

The entire family swarms around the feeders once I get shelled peanuts placed out there. Otherwise, they will grab a few sunflower seeds or forage elsewhere.

Blue Jay

They will also pick out the shelled nuts from the tray feeder or pry them from the peanut cage-like feeder.

Blue Jay

At the back of the yard, one of the many juvenile Cardinals take a sip from the bird bath. We currently have a 2nd Cardinal brood in the yard which fly around with their earlier fledged siblings.

Northern Cardinal

The next day I peered out the backdoor window to see a White-winged Dove waiting to sneak in for a bite.

White-winged Dove

Just a normal Summer day around the feeders.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Good Morning, Barred Owl

Finally got myself out of bed in time to get over to the wetlands just after sunrise. Look who was already there. Gail. She said she saw one of the Barred Owl right near the bridge but we couldn't relocate it quickly. She showed me where a Red-bellied Woodpecker nest hole was before heading off. I could hear the chicks but none came up far enough for a shot. I have to remember to check back soon.

On my way back to the parking lot, the Jays began to alert. Blue Jays are great at finding predators and once they find one they alert the whole neighborhood. I followed their calls to the cypress trees and soon found one of the Barred Owls on a limb over the lakeside creek entrance.

Barred Owl

It was busy hunting and only looked at me twice. That first flashed version is OK. The light was low. I held steady and shot without it. My youngest prefers this shot, though I keep noticing the missing foot as he was adjusting his weight.

Barred Owl

But I probably like it better, anyway. Off to work!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Breakfast for a Red-shouldered Hawk

I had some checking up to do at the banding site but on the way home I stopped by the local church to see if anything was in the big pond. Before I could get to the pond, a Red-shouldered Hawk flew up and onto the fence around the smaller pond by the parking lot.

Red-shouldered Hawk

It didn't seem to mind my presence as I walked a little closer. It was more interested in something in the grass. It hopped down and plucked a juicy little caterpillar and had a breakfast snack.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Soon after swallowing the critter, it flew off to the trees but quickly flew back into the shade on the fence. It still didn't care about me as it looked around for more prey.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Not much else in the pond. The Pied-billed Grebe is still way out there and calling but the heat is on. A nice treat before housework.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sandhill Crane Family

I knew they had to be here somewhere.

I used to work about a mile from my current office beginning in 1994 and over the years there I would occasionally see Sandhill Cranes wandering through the parking lot, usually with chicks in tow. Seems they are still making a living here after all this time. On the way home today, I found another family group in the same area I have found Turkey earlier in the year.

I spotted the family as I made the turn but couldn't get any focus through the windshield so I tried to get the windows down and slow to a crawl. With the zoom lens on, all I could manage were some tight close-ups by then. I was trying to focus on the colt, what you call young cranes, but Dad was very weary of me. He gave me the warning eye.

Sandhill Crane

Then Mom strode by shielding the colt.

Sandhill Crane

Being so close, it was all I could do to try and get a full body shot in the frame but this one will do. A very healthy looking youngster.

Sandhill Crane

I quickly drove up to the next open spot and turned around in hopes of a full view. The cranes worked their way around the small pond and past me again. The light was from the side but it still makes for a pretty picture.

Sandhill Crane

Still amazes me that these birds find a place to breed in this area full of development. There are still a few remaining marshy areas here next to Shingle Creek and it seems to suit them just fine. For now.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Rediscovering Monks

More than 5 years ago I was given directions to a Monk Parakeet nest not too far from home. Right after I got my new lens at Christmas I wanted to find them again, if I could, for better photos. Problem was, I could not remember the place I saw them.

Some days, during my rounds of bird counts, I would take a quick detour in the direction I thought they were but I never found any familiar landmarks so I had to give up and think harder. It never worked. I was beginning to think I was going crazy, though I had photos to prove I was there before! I just never wrote down the spot.

The other day, I wanted to explore the boundaries of my assigned area for the Breeding Bird Atlas. I printed out a map and drove the edges as best I could. Then it appeared! There on the southeast corner of my area I found the substation and convenience store etched in my mind from years ago. Better yet, I heard Monk Parakeets! Not (completely) crazy after all!!

That first rediscovery was during a rainy evening so photos were not so good. Today was full of sunshine. I returned and heard a lot of squawking. I pulled in and bought a soda (I find purchasing something helps if I plan on taking up a parking space for a few minutes) and scanned the wires. The first bird came out into the open.

Monk Parakeet

Another soon joined it. The light was harsh at midday but I needed to get some positive IDs for the record.

Monk Parakeet

A short time later, I heard squawking from the oaks across the street from the power station. A quick walk down the sidewalk lead me to a spot in the shade where it was the noisiest. It took me a couple minutes to pick out the shapes among the branches but there were a few birds moving trough.

Monk Parakeet

The Monks were picking at the moss and leaves and were never out in the open as much as I would have liked but it was a relief to finally know where I could find them on future visits.

Monk Parakeet

Up in the communications tower over the substation I could see a nest. This colony has survived here for quite some time. Now they can be added to confirmed breeders in my block!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Closer Swallow-tailed Kite

A couple new Swallow-tailed Kite observations today. The first bird in the morning was swooping low as I grabbed the camera and was fading into the distance as I walked outside. I can still tell that it is carrying a chick for breakfast.

Swallow-tailed Kite

A short time later, a second Swallow-tailed Kite glided in and was making dives on the other side of the building. Looked like it was trying for some prey just out of my sight. It came away empty but provided a nice close shot.

Swallow-tailed Kite

A few minutes later the bird took me by surprise by appearing over the building in an arc and flew right overhead! All I could do was aim and shoot as it buzzed past and out of sight.

Swallow-tailed Kite

These Kites begin preparations for their journey South soon. I will miss them. Though, warblers will be on the way to take their place.