Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Birds

Time for our Memorial Day get together. Time to remember those that fight for our freedom and spend some family activities. Flags were flying all over the neighborhood.

Memorial Day Flag

Most of the boys wanted to hit the local swimming pool and I was asked tag along.

The Boys

Of course, I was going along to check out the local birds. A Great Blue Heron was first spotted at the water's edge.

Great Blue Heron

Just before the pool, a male Anhinga dried out just beyond the reeds.


I could hear baby Downy Woodpeckers in a tree nearby. The adults were out gathering food so I couldn't get a shot of them. Soon, I discovered a Red-bellied Woodpecker using another nest hole near the Downy nest.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Back under the oaks, a juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker called to an adult that quickly flew in and delivered a meal.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Out at the dock, a Four-spotted Pennant rested just over the water.

Four-spotted Pennant

Not too far away, I attempted a shot of Pickerel Weed and a Bee.

Pickerel and Bee

I staked out a spot to sit and try for a Downy Woodpecker shot. Instead, a Great Egret flew in and began the hunt. Eventually, it nabbed a snack.

Great Egret

I walked closer to get a better view of the Egret but it flew off. I was left with a view of a Two-striped Forceptail.

Two-striped Forceptail

Back near the dock, a Sulpher Butterfly sampled the muddy areas.

Sulpher Butterfly

A single stalk of Water Hyacinth was in bloom in the full sunlight.

Water Hyacinth

I was getting shots of a Needham's Skimmer when I heard a familiar sound. A Barred Owl adult was calling back past the dock. Had to abandon my dragonflies. Had too...

Needham's Skimmer

While searching the branches for the owl, a Great-crested Flycatcher flew by in hot pursuit of some tasty insects and then flew off.

Great-crested Flycatcher

I knew I was in the right spot for the owl but it was difficult to find. I soon heard the raspy call of a young Barred Owl. I changed my path and just then the adult flew out past me and landed in a nearby tree.

Barred Owl

It only took a couple more minutes to find the baby. It was deeper in the trees.

Barred Owl

The kids were done swimming and we had to get back to fire up the grill. Not a bad tally for a fairly short time of birding.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

This Year's Conjunction

When not chasing the birds I do stare at the sky. Right now, the attention is to the conjunction. of 3 planets. Jupiter, Mercury, and Venus. Problem with sky watching in Florida, especially as Summer approaches, is clouds. Makes it difficult to even see the night sky at times.

I headed to the local store parking garage and hoped for a break in the clouds and was rewarded with a brief view just after sunset.


The following night was to be the closest the three planets would be during this conjunction. Again, I had to wait out the clouds and shoot through the gaps.


There is a rock and gravel processing plant just down the street and the large lights stay on all night. You can see a series of pillars from the light on the right of this shot.


The planets will continue to dance together for a while and appear as a pretty straight line by the end of the week. More clouds are in the forecast but I will try again then.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Back at Baldwin Park

I had to hit the bank on this Saturday. Darn. That means I will need to stop by the Purple Martins. Darn.

When I got there the birds were out feeding but I did get a visit by the Northern Mockingbirds one by one.

Northern Mockingbird

I walked over to where I saw a White-winged Dove last time but could not find it again. Instead, a few Common Grackles flew down to the grass and I tried to get closer for some shots. I love getting shots of Grackles when they are lit up in the sunlight. Usually it is blues and purples but today I got a more golden sheen.

Common Grackle

I saw a few more Common Grackles along the edge of the shrubs and palms. Suddenly, I realized these were babies! A minute later, the adult hopped over and fed one of the fledglings.

Common Grackle

Closer to me, the other youngster kept in the shade before catching up to the family. I can't recall seeing juvenile Common Grackles before. Fun.

Common Grackle

Back at the apartments, a few male Purple Martins flew in and were soon joined by a female. They preened and headed back out to feed.

Purple Martin

I still don't see any babies yet. I had to wait for the Sun to break through the clouds to get another shot of one of the males.

Purple Martin

Guess since there were no babies in the apartments I will have to return to check for young birds next chance I get. Fine by me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Walking Baldwin Park

I keep trying to remember to get over to Baldwin Park. It was this time last year that I found young birds all around the neighborhood. It seems that nesting might have started later this year. Or earlier. Whatever. I found no babies today. I did find some interesting adult birds, though.

A pair of Northern Mockingbirds were making weird movements above the shrubs. They would hop up and down and then do their foraging wing postures giving them a "bring it on!" pose.

Northern Mockingbird

The main attraction for me was trying to find any Purple Martins. It took a while but one of the feeding adults came into view, twittering away. One of those fast moving subjects that take many tries to get a shot of in flight.

Purple Martin

For the first time ever, for me, one of the Purple Martins landed on top of a pine tree. I have shots of them flying and on Martin houses but until now I had none in a more natural setting. This bird preened up there for 20 minutes and let me walk pretty close to the tree.

Purple Martin

Closer to the pond on my right, a female Red-winged Blackbird popped up and was making sure I was not a threat and kindly posed on a Canna.

Red-winged Blackbird

I had seen Mourning and Eurasian Collared-Doves in may spots around the neighborhood but on the tree behind the Martin was a larger dove. A White-winged Dove was walking back and forth along the branches but did not fly off like they normally do. I bet there is a nest nearby but I didn't want to stress the bird if that was the case so I got my shot and moved away to wait for Martins at the house.

White-winged Dove

10 minutes later a pair of Purple Martins circled and then both came down to the shaded side of the house. They have one compartment for themselves but I could not see any babies in any of the apartments.

Purple Martin

I had seen the male that was on the pine tree come down and land of the sunny side so after the pair flew off to feed I made my way around the shrubs to view the bird in better light. he was sitting in the sunshine but had emerged from an apartment he has picked out.

Purple Martin

He must have been sleepy. He yawned several times.

Purple Martin

He would then survey the area in all directions and I left him still sitting there and headed home.

Purple Martin

I will have to check back a little later to see if any new young are around. Maybe on Memorial Day.

Monday, May 20, 2013

I Get to Visit Maggie the Barred Owl

I stopped by Greenwood in a light rain and wondered if I would find any of the Barred Owls. Two seconds after I stepped out of the van I heard the familiar hiss of a young owl. I had to walk around a bit to pinpoint the spot but I found Maggie, the youngest of two Barred Owls born next to our house this year, high up in an oak tree. Too far for any good shots so all I could do was say 'hi'.

I decided to walk the sidewalk around the lake and see if anything else was out in the drizzle. Not much. I got half-way around the lake was was about to turn back when I made out a silhouette of a hunched figure under the Cypress trees. I knew it was a Black-crowned Night Heron. The first adult I have seen this year. It was deep in the gloom but I had to try anyway.

Black-crowned Night Heron

I headed back to get out of the sprinkles and heard an adult Barred Owl calling back by the bridge. I could not locate that bird but right after I crossed the bridge, Maggie soared down from her original perch, flew right toward me, and landed in a tree along the sidewalk. She wasn't alone. Several Blue Jays and Red-winged Blackbirds began mobbing her as she tried to find a tight grip on the branch.

Barred Owl

The smaller birds soon gave up on their harassment and went back to their business and Maggie kept looking around for that parent that was calling. I left her to the task and headed off in search of other birds for the morning.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Least Terns Cooling Off

I was leaving work last Saturday and figured I might as well swing by the pond at the end of the industrial park where I had seen the Killdeer first thing in the morning. The Killdeer had moved on but I heard another sound. Least Terns were streaking past me along the water. Fast. When you first try to get a shot it just might look like this.

Least Tern

The Least Terns were coming in and using the water to cool their bellies. I saw this last year a few times. They come through in pairs or a dozen and, one by one, they quickly splashdown and rise again.

Least Tern

Then they turn and head back to the south side of the pond and wheel back to do it again. They are definitely not feeding during these activities.

Least Tern

Just like living skipping stones the Terns throw themselves along the surface of the water.

Least Tern

Occasionally, one of the birds will do more of a cannonball and take an extra second to get air-bound again.

Least Tern

Once their bellies are soaked with water, the Least Terns make a quick retreat to the building I am sure they are nesting on.

Least Tern

My theory is that since the roof is so hot, they come down to cool off and to cool down the eggs or chicks sitting on the bright rooftop. I just need to find a way to get them to let me have a look to verify it for good. Hmmmmm.

Fledgling Killdeer

Two days of jury duty. At least I didn't make the cut. However, I did have to go into the work to see what I could get caught up on. First, I always need to check the water for anything of interest. The alligator is back. Not much else.

I turned around in the parking lot to head back to work when something caught my attention. Killdeer were down in the creek that delivers water to the pond. Even better, one of them was a recently fledged chick!


The adults were only a short distance away and keeping watch.


The young Killdeer is growing quickly and I have found some even younger in the past but it is always nice to find data for the BBA.


Time to clock in. Maybe I will check back if I am not working into the night.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

LaCosta Wetlands

I ran out to LaCosta Wetlands for a quick check this morning. I am usually greeted by a bunch of Northern Mockingbirds in the parking area but there were none when I arrived. Instead, I heard a quick call from the fenced field and a pair of Brown Thrashers emerged from the grass and perched on the fallen tree nearby.

Brown Thrasher

These two were very actively moving about and I would not doubt that there are babies being fed or about to hatch.

Brown Thrasher

Down around the ponds Red-winged Blackbirds are calling on territory on all sides. By the first bridge a male leans back for a full-on call.

Red-winged Blackbird

I love watching them pose and sing this time of year. This angle gives the bird a more cloaked appearance. Dig those bright red shoulders.

Red-winged Blackbird

Around the corner, a female Red-winged Blackbird searches the grasses for food before heading back to the reeds.

Red-winged Blackbird

I was looking for Green Herons out here earlier but I noticed a lager shape skulking in the cypress tree. A juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron watched me warily. The second young one I have found in the past month.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Back to the grind. Today that includes jury duty. Oh, boy.