Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lesser Scaup Feasting

The Lesser Scaup on Lake Terrace tend to stay out near the center of the water or mixed in with the Ring-necked Ducks. This evening, a few over them were right near the road feeding. I could not believe the size of the clams they were surfacing with and swallowing whole. Who knew there were so many of those things in the mud in this relatively small lake?

Lesser Scaup

The female Scaup positioned the clam for a few seconds and then...gulp!

Lesser Scaup

All of the birds were diving and surfacing with clams quickly. I was at the right place at the right time with great light. I took all of these shots out of the opened passenger-side window and never left the van. A rare treat.

Lesser Scaup

This male was busy mouthing the clam trying to get it in the proper position. Check out that tongue and fierce look!

Lesser Scaup

With a clam in its gullet, a male turns sideways to let the Sun light up its head revealing a green glow.

Lesser Scaup

A very interesting stop and learning experience. Scaup eating clams whole and right by the shore. Nice. That top image will be on the wall at work very shortly!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tree Swallows: A Flight Study

Tree Swallows are taunting me all over the place this year. Today they were swarming over the trees next to the parking lot where I work. It was overcast but I headed out to try and get some shots. The shots aren't stellar but they did provide a variety of displays of them in flight. Thought I would share. First up, a strong downbeat.

Tree Swallow

The most frequently seen pose, the birds flap their wings very rapidly and then glide for a bit.

Tree Swallow

That is quickly followed by a banking move to either grab an insect of just to change direction for the next run.

Tree Swallow

Sometimes they tuck in their wings a bit to increase speed.

Tree Swallow

To gain height, they spread the wings wide and flap harder before the next dive.

Tree Swallow

The speed is amazing and getting the bird in focus is a chore but always fun to watch as they navigate buildings and tree branches. I decided to focus on the tree here and snap away, hoping for a bird to fly into the frame.

Tree Swallow

A Tree Swallow in a hard banking move.

Tree Swallow

I blew up this shot to show how the bird's body is turning but its head is still level and focused on its intended destination.

Tree Swallow

Here, a pair displays two different wing shapes as they zoom overhead.

Tree Swallow

Two more Swallows gather insects over the palm trees. The one on the left appears to be in breaking mode.

Tree Swallow

A final bird soars past the trees before I head back inside.

Tree Swallow

I was only out there a few minutes and discovered I had taken over 200 shots. Most were blurry but I love the challenge of taking photos of these remarkable birds. They will be moving on in the next month or so and I will soak up every opportunity I can get to watch them feed and fly.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Before I Forget

I had a few observations I wanted to post but they keep getting lost in the mix. So busy these days. Plus, they are not bird sightings but fun, nonetheless.

I had to check on the banding site the other day after dropping off poles after our Orlando Wetlands Festival gig. When I got to the end of the net lanes I was greeted by this thing at the last bridge.

Common Snapping Turtle

A very impressive Common Snapping Turtle! I was so taken by those spikes on the head that I didn't even notice that they retract until I processed all the photos. Pretty cool that it can raise and lower them.

Common Snapping Turtle

My first thought was that this was an Alligator Snapping Turtle but folks have helped me track it down as a Common. Still a new addition to my Lake Lotus checklist. I made sure to get a shot of the tail as it moved back into the marsh. At 3-feet-long, it was an amazing site to behold.

Common Snapping Turtle

On the mammal side, many of us were concerned about our local Coyote. We were used to seeing for a year or so and then someone saw a group of men apparently hunting for it after an article in the local paper concerning the increase of Coyote in the region. It had been weeks since a sighting but I found her again the other day.


She was still there the next day, panting in the sunshine, as I made my way home.


We miss the foxes that were breeding here, and possibly killed or displaced by the Coyote, but several of us are adjusting to, and enjoying, our new resident. Would be a shame to see some vigilante hunters kill her off 'just 'cause'. I will watch and record.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Barred Owl Out Back

Time to start watching the backyard.

The Barred Owls returned to the nesting spot that they used last year a while ago but I have been so busy, I haven't been out to check on them in a while. They call just before dawn and sometimes at night, sounding rather amorous. I got home from banding and suddenly heard the owl call out back and then the Blue Jay got all fired up. Time to grab the camera and bolt outside.

There she was, perched right over the backyard with a dozen bird scolding away. Not like she should be a stranger to the locals.

Barred Owl

She managed to give me a glance for a couple of seconds before continuing to ignore the rabble.

Barred Owl

I will try to monitor the nest more often now. We are approaching the time when I first spotted the chicks last year and can't wait to hear those hisses from the fledglings.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Random Observations

Work is ramping up more and more so all I can do is sit, get books made and watch out of the window every now and then to see what is flying by. Vultures were taking to skies early and I tallied them up on my ever-present notepad along the way. At one point, I glanced out and spied a few Turkey Vultures rising and then noticed that one shape looked a tad different. I almost ignored it but decided to raise my binoculars anyway. Glad I did. My first Swallow-tailed Kite of the season was in the mix!

I fumbled for my camera, nearly tripping over my chair, and ran out the back door of the office. Unfortunately, the bird had found a thermal and began gliding off to the South. I could only grab one distant shot. Very early for this species, which breeds in the area. Glad to have them returning.

Swallow-tailed Kite

I settled back into my chair but soon, a Yellow-rumped Warbler landed in the small oak outside in the parking lot. I would have ignored it but it is a good example that illustrates its name. Shot through the window.

Myrtle Warbler

On the drive home, I noticed a Bald Eagle sitting on the edge of Lake Lancaster. I tried to sneak up on it for a nice shot but it saw me first and bolted. Sigh.

Bald Eagle

Warning: graphic Vulture eating! I did my usual rounds the rest of the way home in search of some interesting ducks. Instead, I found Black and Turkey Vultures working over a dead Soft-shelled Turtle carcass on the lake shore.

Black and Turkey Vultures

More and more vultures were streaming in and this poor turtle would be surely gone by morning.

Black and Turkey Vultures

A great score with the Kite and few interesting finds by days end. Time to start searching for shorebirds in migration.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Around the Neighborhood

Took a quick walk through a couple parks as the skies began o turn grey and occasionally threatened rain. We have been without rain for so long I actually was hoping it would pour down on me a several points but it was not to be.

I began at La Costa Wetlands. I was told last year that this area has a lot of Winter ducks. I have yet to find a single one. There are other birds there but not a lot of migrants. Shame. I did refind a bird I took a photo of on a previous visit. The Northern Mockingbird with the deformed bill. It was deep inside a tree and you can see a better shot I took last November here.

Northern Mockingbird

Nearby, a Great-blue Heron patrols the pond alone. A few Myrtle Warblers were flying by but there really weren't a lot of birds out here. Go figure.

Great-blue Heron

So, off to Demetree Park. Stepping out of the van revealed that there were a lot of bird noise around so that was a good sign. I made my way to the small boardwalk and didn't have to go much farther. All the birds calling were right in that small area. Over in the pond was a Pied-billed Grebe.

Pied-billed Grebe

Just off to the left, an Anhinga watches on wearily. These birds always think you are going to do them some harm. Just relax, already!.


Just across the sidewalk from the pond was where the action was. The trees were providing shelter and insects and seeds for wave after wave of small birds. Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warblers were the most numerous and they even took to the ground to sweep up and bugs from the leaf litter.

Myrtle Warbler

They would even pause at eye level to rest a bit before heading either up or down for more food.

Myrtle Warbler

American Goldfinches were flying in to grab seeds from all kinds of trees but the light was so bad for them I didn't even try. It was all I could do to get a shot of the Cedar Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwing

Robins were blanketing the ground over by the playgound so I slowly moved in that direction. This Red-bellied Woodpecker decided to land right in front of me soI had to stop and take its photo. Thank you, Red.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I was trying to decide which group of Robins to photograph when a couple of Blue Jay burst through the area and squawked loudly, scaring the Robins up into the surrounding tree. I was left with only a single Robin up on a branch. Thanks, Blue Jays. Not.

American Robin

More rain threatened so I head home to see if the owls might be around. Should be a new addition soon.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Shaded Birds

Time for a stretch. Wind is blowing but I was just wondering if any birds were about outside the office. Took the short walk around the woods and hardly saw a thing. I finally found a few birds feeding...right where I had started, at the office door. A few birds were in this small feeding flock but they were all in the shade. That's where the wind was keeping all the bugs!

The most noisy species, as is almost always the case, was the Tufted Titmouse. There were several of them about and they darted from low in the hedges to back into the lower branches. They were moving so quickly that I was happy to even get a kind of blurry shot.

Tufted Titmouse

Slipping silently between the leaves were a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Bouncing around near the Kinglets I almost missed a White-eyed Vireo. They tend to look similar as they glean insects with one another.

White-eyed Vireo

The other species in tow as a Black and White Warbler. Seems like you can almost always count on one of these birds if you look hard enough.

Black and White Warbler

On the way home I checked out the retention pond behind a church and was pleased to find three Wilson's Snipe probing the mud. Sadly, the pond drying up fast as we are lacking inches of rain this year. There were still a few Hooded Mergansers at the far end of the pond but not much else.

Wilson's Snipe

Not a bang-up day but plenty to keep me happy for the few minutes I got to spend outside.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Green-winged Teal in the Shade

My ride home has become so predictable that even when it is getting dark I still wiggle my way through the neighborhoods to check for anything special on any of the lakes and retention ponds. This evening I did find a good one but it was pretty deep in the shade. A female Green-winged Teal.

Green-winged Teal

Still waiting for a male to show up. This shot shows a little flash of green which gives the species its name.

Green-winged Teal

On to the next pond!

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Couple of Birds Near Work

Just a couple of fun shots taken on the way home. First up, a White Ibis in breeding colors balances on the rail over the creek as the Sun begins to set.

White Ibis

The Sandhill Crane family wanders by in search of an end of day snack or two. There were actually 3 birds (one I think is the colt from last year) but this composition pleased me the best.

Sandhill Crane

Time for some sleep before the Orlando Wetlands Festival in the morning. I will post a link to my other blog after that event as the whole banding station does that event.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

American Kestrel

Getting shots of American Kestrels is a real challenge for me. They always fly away when ever I get a bit close. Even when they are way up on a telephone pole. I was checking the trees for others birds when this Kestrel flew in in front of the van.

American Kestrel

The bird didn't hang around long so I was happy to get at least an ID shots before I headed home.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

2013 Sparrow Drive, Pt. 2

Time for the second and final sparrow drive of the Winter out at Weekiwachee Preserve. This is the second location out at the old limestone quarry. The day was beautiful and there were increasing winds all morning, as usual.


There was a great turn out with over 50 volunteers including almost every registered bird bander in the state. The nets were set and the volunteers headed out for the first run of the day.

Sparrow Drivers

First bird of the morning was a LeConte's Sparrow.

LeConte's Sparrow

The volunteers worked hard but the sparrows were not around in large numbers this year. Probably partially due to the lower rainfall this season.

Sparrow Drivers

I was really proud to see my son participating throughout the morning.

Sparrow Drivers

Oddly, we captured several sparrows just while checking the nets in between runs. As I headed to the far end of the net array, I managed to flush a Grasshopper Sparrow and was able to out-flank it into the net.

Grasshopper Sparrow

A view from above shows off their lovely patterns on the back.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Not the Florida sub-species but we did get some recaptures which is good data.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Back at the car, Marianne bands the Grasshopper Sparrow.

Grasshopper Sparrow

The crowd gathers around for photos. Most volunteers come out to see different species of birds they have never seen before.

Sparrow Drivers

Marianne holds up a sparrow for the volunteers to get photos.


LeConte's Sparrow and Grasshopper Sparrow are held side by side for comparison. A nice view to end the morning.

LeConte's Sparrow and Grasshopper Sparrow

Another great day out in the field. Literally. Can't wait until next year's attempt.