Wednesday, January 30, 2013

2013 Sparrow Drive, Part 1

Before we head out to our next Sparrow round-up I guess I should get the post up about the first one! Every year, we try to assist our friend Marianne Korosy in her sparrow project over a Weeki Wachee Preserve on the Gulf coast. The first one this year was held on January 19th. Maria and I arrived at dawn and helped set nets across the vast grassy areas in what was once a limestone quarry.

Once nets are set and instructions are given to the volunteers (mainly fellow birders, many of which are new to the project and wanting to see specific sparrows for the first time)some of us stand near the nets while the rest of the group moves toward sections of the nets making as much noise as possible hoping to flush any birds hiding in the grass into the nets. Recent volunteers to the Lake Lotus banding site, Greg and Becki, joined us by 'go time'.


Our first bird of the day was a Le Conte's Sparrow. Birds are placed in cloth bags and taken to Marianne as quickly as possible where she processes the data as we continue to work the grasses.

Le Conte's Sparrow

Next up, we began catching Henslow's Sparrows. We caught 4 of them today.

Henslow's Sparrow

A Swamp Sparrow was a dded to the list but birds were few and far between today. Making things worse, the wind started blowing stronger. Nets toppled and we tried to keep them all standing but eventually gave up and concentrated on sections at a time. Soon, we captured a Sedge Wren.

Sedge Wren

One bird veered away from the nets and circled behind the group as they advanced. Clay and I decided to give chase as the day was coming to a close. We flushed the bird a few more times in different directions and we finally steered it into a net where I grabbed it before it escaped again. It was our only Grasshopper Sparrow of the day.

Grasshopper Sparrow

I took the Grasshopper Sparrow over to the group for photos. Greg and Becki added 4 Life Birds to their lists today.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Marianne and Meret Wilson, another fellow bird bander, discuss our final bird of the day, a Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler. Our day was over here at the preserve so we packed up and prepared to head home.

Marianne Korosy and Meret Wilson

There were reports of several rare birds in different areas on our path home. We didn't find the Red-breasted Nuthatches other had heard on the preserve other the past few days. We headed on toward target #2 which happened to be just across the main road in a little botanical garden.

We did search for the Rufus Hummingbird but it was a no-show, too. It was fun to walk around for a bit and find some interesting things. It seemed too early for Camillias to be in bloom but they sure were.


There were a few Sulphur Butterflies visiting the butterfly garden where the hummingbird was suppose to be.

Sulphur Butterfly

A chrysalis hung in a shrub looked about ready to spring forth a new butterfly into the world.


Teough a small garden, it seems to have a large varieties of themes. One of them was a fantasy theme where we found this castle.


Continuing our trek towards home, we stopped by Ranch Road to look for the Say's Phoebe. It did not show itself but we did find Eastern Bluebirds, American Goldfinches, and miniature horse that Maria bore a strong resemblance to a certain rock star. I just call him Jon Bon Poni...


Off to Lust Road where I hear there has n=been an Ash-throated Flycatcher. Not today. We had to settle for some other species such as an Eastern Phoebe...

Eastern Phoebe

...and a Vesper Sparrow which seems to be going bald. We were quickly loosing light and still had another stop to make over at Magnolia Park.

Vesper Sparrow

We have been invited to do a banding demonstration in March so I wanted to get a lay of the land and see if there were any good spots for nets. I headed down one trail and Maria found a Bald Eagle up in the tree tops.

Bald Eagle

Along the trial I was exploring I found a opening Moon Glory responding to the darkening day.

Moon Glory

I think I know where I want to put the nets. Now I just have to get permission. As we head back to the car we glance back towards the lake and snap one last shot.

Lake Magnolia Park

Long day. Missed on every new bird I was after but it was fun to round up the sparrows. We will be back there on February 9th for the final event.

The Great Backyard Bird Count for 2013 is February 15-18th.
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Great Backyard Bird Count

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lake Davis Scores Redhead Again

I was heading home from a long day after banding (see previous post) and wanted to just go home. Right. I had to swing around Lake Davis this afternoon to see if anything was around. It has been very quiet there lately but you never know. I turned onto the drive and in about 3 seconds said aloud, "Redhead!". The light was right and, even at a distance, one could not miss that glowing sheen. He brought his lady friend along with him, too.


I could tell he spotted me as I parked and got out of the van. I moved slowly and only moved closer when he dove under water. Once he was submerged, I walked a few feet closer and waited for a better shot. Weird thing was that an American Coot began to walk straight toward me. Dig those feet!

American Coot

Coots don't usually do this. They are rather skittish even in large numbers in the local lakes. I have no idea why these couple of birds walked toward me unless they are becoming acclimated to being fed along with the local ducks. Again, I love those feet. So weird to see them on land.

American Coot

I got closer to the Redhead pair and the female was not sure what to make of me.


Another nice surprise, a Common Gallinule decided I was no threat and walked right over to me just like the Coots. Both of those birds are hard to get exposed correctly with their blacks, whites, and reds. Today was a nice score of both species.

Common Gallinule

The male Redhead surfaced agan fairly close and I got one more decent shot before he decided to head back to the center of the lake. Later in the evening, I headed home and saw both birds still feeding in the same area of the lake.


I wanted a shower more than anything after a 12-hour day, but who cannot stop for an encounter like that?

The Great Backyard Bird Count for 2013 is February 15-18th.
Click the icon to learn more!

Great Backyard Bird Count

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Searching for Flycatchers, Finding Kingbirds

Have been hearing an Ash-throated Flycatcher was haging out at Lust Road for a while. The last time I was there a couple of weeks ago it was getting near dark and I didn't not find it. I had a short window to head back there after banding so off I went. Again, no flycatcher. I did easily locate the reported Western Kingbird, though.

Western Kingbird

The Kingbird flew off every time I got too close in the van so I parked at the gate and walked the road. A Sharp-shinned Hawk bolted out in front of me along the way and flushed any birds at that end. Halfway down the road, the Kingbird flew over near me and landed on another wire.

Western Kingbird

Out over the fields I noticed my first Northern Harrier of the year.

Northern Harrier

A few sparrows, like this Savannah Sparrow, flew around in the low grass and through the chain-link fences.

Savannah Sparrow

I completed a full walk up and back but still could not find the Ash-throated Flycatcher. Gray Catbirds were getting loud and feeding on the trees just beyond the gate.

Gray Catbird

I was about to leave when I saw the Kingbird land nearby again so I decided to take one more shot. Oddly, when I was on foot, the bird was a lot more approachable. Even when I had to make my way through some noisy grasses it stayed and watched.

Western Kingbird

I got nice and close, in fact. After a few more shots I left the bird to continue its hunting.

Western Kingbird

On the way out of the area, a Northern Mockingbird said goodbye.

Northern Mockingbird

Flycatchers remain a nemesis species for me. Sigh.

The Great Backyard Bird Count for 2013 is February 15-18th.
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Great Backyard Bird Count

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Unexpected Spoonbill

A busy work week and then some van trouble led to a pretty dry spell for birding. Throw in that I now have to work a Saturday and that streak looked to continue. Since I had to head in to the office, I decided to take the short detour a few blocks up the way to see what I could see. Never know what might be out on that little pond. Good thing I did.

Down in the pond was a juvenile Roseate Spoonbill! I swung back by before dark to get a photo and it was on the other side of the road feeding with some White Ibis.

Roseate Spoonbill

This is the earliest in the year I have seen one this far inland. Fairly easy to find on the coasts but a nice surprise on a busy day. Last year we had several Spoonbills scattered around Central Florida. This makes the first for 2013.

The Great Backyard Bird Count for 2013 is February 15-18th.
Click the icon to learn more!

Great Backyard Bird Count

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Quick Trip Through Mead

We closed up our nets at the end of our weekly banding session and, as I often do, I swung by Mead Garden for quick look around. I was hoping to relocate the Rufus Hummingbird that has been there but it was not to be. There was a large Jewish wedding gearing up and the music and foot traffic was increasing every minute. Not the best hummingbird environment. So, I decided to do a quick scan for anything else. The biggest surprise was a female Merganser hanging out in the Clay Pit retention pond. First time I have ever seen a pond bird in there.

Hooded Merganser

I headed through the butterfly garden and stepped onto the boardwalk and was quickly met by several Western Palm Warblers

Western Palm Warbler

I could hear American Goldfinches out in the marshy areas but they were way up in the Maple trees.


I just missed a great shot of a Northern Flicker as we surprised each other as I approached a tree. Had to settle for a distant shot.

Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker

Many Myrtle Warblers were feeding in the grasses and willows. The flocks were very active and on the move.

Myrtle Warbler

Not too bad for a few minutes but I still want to see that hummingbird again. Maybe next week.

The Great Backyard Bird Count for 2013 is February 15-18th.
Click the icon to learn more!

Great Backyard Bird Count

Friday, January 18, 2013

Turkey are Coming Back Out

As I headed out of work today I rounded the back curves of the area and nearly ran into a few Sandhill Cranes. Guess they are back in breeding mode. Not to much father up the road was another flock. Turkey. A small flock of females.


Now I will have to wait a short while for the males to join the flock.

The Great Backyard Bird Count for 2013 is February 15-18th.
Click the icon to learn more!

Great Backyard Bird Count

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

American White Pelicans

I am always amazed by how many birds I see just sitting in this industrial park and occasionally glancing out of the window. Today I could easily spot some large birds soaring in my direction. I grabbed the camera and stepped outside.

American White Pelican

I guessed correctly. They were American White Pelicans. Only seven but still hard to miss. However, even larger flocks are hard to notice as they routinely travel very high in the sky. This group was nice and low.

American White Pelican

Right at New Year's there were a few of these birds in downtown Orlando and I posted about the one that visited the lake near our house about a year ago but they are fairly rare this far inland. I got one more shot as they quickly passed overhead.

American White Pelican

Back to work!

The Great Backyard Bird Count for 2013 is February 15-18th.
Click the icon to learn more!

Great Backyard Bird Count

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jay Watch Results at Blue Springs

Time for the next Jay Watch results event. This year we were back at Blue Springs as we were two years ago. I always like to get there right when the park opens to get some good parking and to do a little hiking before the presentation begins. Awaiting us just out of the van were a couple of Black Vultures.

Black Vulture

The weather has been very warm this year so unfortunately there were not a lot of manatee in the springs. We saw a few signs but no clear views. The only thing we could make out under water was a large gator resting on the bottom.

American Alligator

Heavy fog plagued the drive all the way. Walking to the landing, we could make out a Fog Bow. I used my son's camera to try and grab a few frames to get it all in and later got a chance to combine the shots into a full view. My first actually nice fog bow.

Fog Bow

Heading back up the boardwalk, a stop at the first overlook had a Ruby-crowned Kinglet land so close I couldn't get a shot. A White-eyed Vireo zipped past for an OK shot.

White-eyed Vireo

I noticed a statue at the next overlook and tried to get a shot but these kids kept getting in the way. Oh, well.

The Boys

The Sun was rising quickly behind the oaks. I didn't care if the Thursby House was obscured in shadow.

Thursby House

Things were very quiet all the way up to the end of the boardwalk where Blue Spring reaches the surface.

Blue Spring

I've always enjoyed the view from the top of the cliff over the spring head. Sometimes you get steam mixed in but it is great view whenever you are there.

Blue Spring

Heading back down the walk, we find a number of Alligator Gar hanging in the current.

Alligator Gar

Back near the river, the Alligator had surfaced for a closer look.

American Alligator

Hanging out at the mouth of the spring run were several Double-crested Cormorant coming into breeding plumage.

Double-crested Cormorant

We headed up a trail in search of...something. No real activity there so we had to settle for another type of bow for the day. A Web Bow. Next time you are near different spider webs, try to position yourself in the light and you might just find a nice spectrum display.

Spider Web

Back near the river and we find another Cormorant flying ahead of the many crew teams slicing up the waters.

Double-crested Cormorant

Some find Black Vultures ugly. I think they are pretty in their own way.

Black Vulture

Especially up close. Devoid of carrion and poop.

Black Vulture

There were scores of Black Vultures but I did find a couple Turkey Vultures hiding among the Black Vulture flock.

Turkey Vulture

It was finally time to head over for Scrub Jay results (some good, some not so good). As we sat and listened to the speakers, a family of Carolina Wrens would not be ignored. They often flew right next to us and called and called loudly.

Carolina Wren

Now for the trip home. Next search for new Scrub Jays begins in the Summer.