Sunday, April 28, 2013

Baby Titmice are Here

I have been waiting for a chance to get some shots of our new baby Northern Cardinals this Spring but this batch have been hiding in the shrubs most of the time. They are heard all the time and seen flying briefly for half a second every now and then but they seem to rarely sit out in the open at all. Better for their survival especially since the neighborhood cats do prowl through every now and again. Plus, the parents are very busy flying food in.

They seemed a bit more active today some I decided to sneak around the side of the backyard in hopes of getting a new angle on them and it also gave me a chance to check if the owls were around. It seems the owls have decided on the wetlands this year. Not a sound of them. While I was scanning the branches, the young male Cardinal actually flew up on the fence just 6 feet away from me. Don't think he meant to as he spotted me and quickly flew over to the oak tree to check me out from a safer distance.

Northern Cardinal

A new sound suddenly joined the den as I walked on the side of the house. Seems that a new species have brought their young out to feed. Tufted Titmice were up in the branches and a couple youngsters were loudly calling and begging for food.

Tufted Titmouse

I hurried in the backyard and took a seat and watched for any other birds to come out of hiding. The Titmice seemed to have plenty of food in the trees but they soon began coming to the sunflower seeds right in front of me.

Tufted Titmouse

The female juvenile Northern Cardinal never would come out into the sunshine but I finally got her in an open spot in the shade. A second female made her presents known after a while and it seemed to be even younger than this one in the photo.

Northern Cardinal

The Blue Jays were flying in almost constantly but moving so quickly that I could barely get them in focus.

Blue Jay

The Tufted Titmouse family kept feeding from several sources and the adults always had a young one close behind.

Tufted Titmouse

Later, I headed off to the store and was sidetracked (as usual) by another sighting around the corner. Northern Mockingbirds have been everywhere this Spring and the young are finally coming out of the nests. I tried to get a shot of one of this family the other day but they dashed back to the nest shrub. I stayed in the van and could get a shot of one calling for Mom who was on the wire overhead with bugs ready to deliver.

Northern Mockingbird

While I did this, a dragonfly flew into the van, bounced around the windshield before seemingly sucumming to the heat on the dash. I got a photo before releasing the stunned insect. My friend Paul IDs it as a male Eastern Amberwing.

Eastern Amberwing

Babies all over! Ah, Spring.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lake Davis Walk

Well, the van is in the shop. Again. At least the nice folks we use offer to take me home to wait instead of sitting in their tiny office for too long. I have them drop me off at the lake so I can at least get in a little birding before going all the way home. Today turned out to be well worth it.

I was just speaking to Gail, a fellow local birder, earlier in the morning that I was surprised by how few shorebirds were around this season. I had only seen one Solitary Sandpiper and one Lesser Yellowlegs a month ago. I remembered there were a couple Black-necked Stilts and there are always Killdeer but that was it. As I walked around the lake I finally found a Spotted Sandpiper.

Spotted Sandpiper

There were a couple Spotted Sandpipers last year but this is the only one so far. Unfortunately, it was very twitchy and would just begin flying anytime anyone walked down the sidewalk before finally heading to the far side of the lake. A welcome sight, nonetheless.

Spotted Sandpiper

I continued walking and soon discovered a Mallard and her ducklings.


A few yards away, a male Wood Duck prepared to settle in for a nap in the sunshine.

Wood Duck

Nearby, a remaining Mute Swan preened in the swallow water. What was a few yards away, however, really captured my attention.

Mute Swan

A juvenile American White Pelican was also preening in mostly shade. I was not expecting that! We have had a lot of pelicans this season. Last year we had one briefly and this year has seen as many as 16 at a time. Weird.

American White Pelican

Finally, a female Wood Duck guarded her ducklings down near the reeds. Baby ducks are all over the place right now.

Wood Duck

Despite the stress over the van, I can take a little joy home with me. After all, if the problem was not there I would have missed some awesome birds.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Great-Crested Flycatcher Calling

I am always glad to get shots of birds during lunch breaks. It was a gorgeous day out and I had to reset my brain for the next project so I walked across the street in hopes of finding some migrants. Not too much going on but I did spot a Great-Crested Flycatcher swooping into the branches of a small tree so I headed over for a closer look.

It was calling away and flew out into the open for a few seconds belting out its familiar "WHEEP!" as I snapped away.

Great-Crested Flycatcher

It quickly headed to another tree across the wall of the community next door but I could hear it as it continued to call for several minutes. Despite no other birds, my brain was rejuvenated enough to carry out the rest of my tasks for the day.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Dearth Of Warblers

This Spring has really been slow for warblers in my neck of the woods. Some have been reported at Mead Garden and over on the west coast but very few have been moving through where I usually check. I did find a Blackpoll Warbler at Lake Lancaster first thing in the morning so I swung back around on the way home.

The only things really making a fuss were the Great Blue Herons across the lake on there annual roost trees where many large chicks pester the parents for food.

Great Blue Heron

One adult finally says, "I'm outta here!".

Great Blue Heron

An Osprey glided past as I scanned the trees and shoreline.


Below the heron rookery, a Muscovy Duck tended to her newly hatched ducklings.

Muscovy Duck

Finally, I found a pair of male American Redstarts. They were very fast and hard to get shots of but at least there was something.

American Redstart

But that was it. Hopefully, the Yellow Warblers will arrive soon and I can get some great shots to go along with last years photos.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Least Terns Return

Last Friday, under cloudy and windy skies, my first Least Tern of the season swept through outside the office. By the end of the day there was another. On the way home yesterday I decided to swing up the road and check the ponds and spied another feeding between the creek and the larger pond it empties into. I swung back around to try for a shot. Easier than it seems. They are so fast.

Least Tern

Makign things worse is that the skies were still cloudy confusing the heck out of the camera while it tries to focus on a streak of gray against a wall of gray.

Least Tern

Last year I spotted them drinking and plucking fish from this pond and then heading off. By the end of Summer I am pretty sure I found the rooftop they were nesting on.

Least Tern

They are a little easier to take photos of when they hover to zero in on a fish.

Least Tern

But you have to be quick because before you know it they tilt and dive right out of the frame.

Least Tern

Then they zip along the water and make a big circle to try for the next snack. I hope to get more information this year since I know the right rooftop now. If only I can get permission to go up to verify the nests. Working on my spiel for the guard.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day at Lake Lotus

We had our annual Earth Day at Lake Lotus which was book-ended with rain but still provided a fun mix of birds. Click the image below to go to my other site that follows all of the banding sessions we do at Lake Lotus.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

We need the rain but it really holding back the last push for Spring Migration. Sigh.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Limpkin and Red-shouldered Hawk

Not much time to bird today. I had a full schedule. THe main task was to get over to Lake Lotus and haul gear from one side of the river to the other in preparation for Earth Day. It was fairly quite but I grabbed a shot of one of the Limpkins before I headed home.


On the way, I swung back through the church and found one of the Red-shouldered Hawks back up on the fence.

Red-shouldered Hawk

It was looking all around for any movement and ignored me as usual. It seemed to eventually spot something out over the retention pond and took off.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Time to help the school band pack up there rummage sale leftovers and get a bit of sleep before the Earth Day fun. Hopefully, the rain will clear out before then.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Better Baby Barred Owl Shot

Sometimes running a little late is a good thing. Gave me a little more light and Maggie decided to sit in the oak over the back deck.

Barred Owl

Is that not one of the cutest things?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Clearing Brush

TIme for another lunchtime walk in the woods. I also wanted to trim back some vegetation that has grown into my path I made last year. Not very birdy this afternoon. Only a few Northern Cardinals. This female seems to have a bit of a mite problem on her back.

Northern Cardinal

I know I have taken photos of this species before but I cannot nail down this purple flower. Pretty, though.

Purple Flower

I was removing some palmetto fronds along the path when something suddenly jumped at me. It missed but hit a frond I was holding. I placed the Cuban Tree Frog on another frond so I could get a shot. I like it.

Cuban Treefrog

Most folks, however, would rather I kill it. They are an invasive species. Killing frogs was just not on my list today.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dawn Barred Owls

See, here is my problem. I have a very short time to look for the Barred Owls in the morning and it is always right before and at dawn right now. I can easily locate them by ear and then my eyes have adjusted to see them. The camera struggles a bit more as they usually are in the oaks with the first light just shining behind them from my angles. Photos look like this.

Barred Owl

So, I have to jump into Photoshop and process the heck out of them so you can a least see a bit better that Momma is tearing apart a rodent to feed to baby.

Barred Owl

I could never find a shot around those darned branches today but it is nice to have them stick around. I have seen Momma bring in food 3 days straight.

Barred Owl

Now if I could be home in the daylight to capture it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gray Catbird

Just take a moment to enjoy the beauty of a Gray Catbird. Usually they are a shadow in the shrubs giving out a soft mew that gives them their name. Other times they are a streak of gray from bush to bush. Even more fun is when they are hiding and rolling out their quiet whispered song for minutes at a time. Almost always in the shade.

Today, while I was checking on the owls, this bird that has been Wintering in our backyard flew up into the sunlight for a brief time. How can I resist?

Gray Catbird

I have banded thousands of Gray Catbirds over the years so you think I would be 'over' them but they do have a charm about them. This shot reminded me of the first one I ever saw. It was at Split Oak Mitigation near the Orlando Airport. I was hiking and up popped this new bird to me. Right on a stump in the sunlight. I never forgot that rufus undertail.

Meanwhile, out at Lake Lancaster, a mother Wood Duck stands with her new ducklings. I hope she is watchful of all the raptors that are around.

Wood Duck

Still waiting for more warblers.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mead Garden Owls and Black-and-White Warblers

I have been hearing about the owlets at Mead Garden for a while but who needed to go there when I have them in my backyard? But, I do tend to stop by after our banding sessions and I had hoped for some warblers to be around. There were not many but we found the owls out near the old entrance to the garden. The youngest was very curious as I approached.

Barred Owl

The slightly older bird was more intent on following what ever was making any noise in the bushes.

Barred Owl

I met up with a few birders I had not seen in a while which was nice. They had to move on, though, and after we said our goodbyes I headed back toward the gardens. Before I could make it, I began hearing some soft singing in the hedges. I approached cautiously and found an opening in the leaves. A Black-and-White Warbler was sitting in the shade just making little calls.

Black-and-White Warbler

I heard some other warblers calling but I could never get a good look as the trees have all regained their leaves by now. Once I reached the van I heard a very loud bird call. I looked around and found another Black-and-White Warbler not far above me.

Black-and-White Warbler

Still amazes me how pretty those simple shades can be. Other warblers may be getting their rainbows of color but when you see a fresh Black-and-White

Black-and-White Warbler

So, no other warblers. Maybe the flood arrives next weekend. I can wait.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Neighborhood Birds

Finally, a little time to hit all my local lakes in one loop again. First stop, Lake Davis. Water levels have dropped a lot over these past few dry months. Now, the once submerged lake bottom along the shore are covered in ground cover with some pretty little yellow flowers.

Yellow Flower

The Cypress trees are green again and the inner branches are still hosting many Palm Warblers.

Palm Warbler

One would think that with as much foot traffic there is around Lake Davis that Wood Ducks would stop being so nervous. Maybe that is why there are plenty of them, though. Maybe the dogs are their problem.

Wood Duck

Off to the church and to check the vanishing retention pond. I have been driving straight passed this spot for a while. Mergansers were gone and other ducks left a couple months ago to hang out in real lakes so I didn't think it warrented my time but I felt a need to check it today. As soon as I got out of the van I noticed a Red-shouldered Hawk up on the fence.

Red-shouldered Hawk

The bird flew off to the retention pond just as another juvenile flew to the fence. I walked around to the left and the bird flew farther down looking for something but posed for a few moments. Must have been looking through the mud judging by the dirty feet.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Finally scanning the muck of the retention pond I was pleasantly surprised to see a new bird. A Black-necked Stilt.

Black-necked Stilt

There were a pair of Black-necked Stilts here last year so perhaps it was the same pair. I was about to leave but I heard a Yellowlegs fly in. Why? The hawks were chasing it. They made 3 shots but missed every time.

Black-necked Stilt

Over at Greenwood Wetlands I was looking for any other young birds. While I was looking about someone asked if I had seen the gator? Wha? I have not seen an American Alligator in the wetlands in my 20 years going through there. But up on the far shore...

American Alligator

A gorgeous Great Blue Heron was standing not far from the gator.

Great Blue Heron

Off to the right, a Tricolored Heron swooped in and hunted under the Cypress trees.

Tricolored Heron

Up in the other Cypress trees, more Palm Warblers. I found no other warblers other than Palms today. Weird.

Palm Warbler

Not a bad hour all within a few miles of home. Could use some more migrants, though.