Monday, July 29, 2013

La Costa Wetlands Stroll

I keep trying to give La Costa Wetlands a chance. I was told by some locals that there would be ducks on the water last Winter. Nope. I go by for some sort of influx of anything and just keep getting a few local birds but not much else. Such was the case, again, today.

Sure, there were a few locals. A Mockingbird was fighting with a Cardinal off in the distance. A couple of herons and egrets waded through the grass in the center of the first pond but the rest of the place was pretty quiet. It took me several minutes before I even found a bird to consider photographing. A Blue Jay was searching through the cypress for anything to nibble on.

Blue Jay

I continued most of the way around the area until I saw some sketchy individual huddled under a tree and decided I was done. Especially since there were no birds. In fact, I didn't see another until I got back to where the Jay was. Now, the tree was occupied by a lone juvenile Northern Mockingbird just hanging out.

Northern Mockingbird

I am sure I will return in peak migration or later for yet another check but until I start seeing any real bird activity I don't see the point. Sigh. Such high hopes.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Catching Up: Barred Owl

Fellow birder Gail was back out at Greenwood Wetlands in June when I was holed up at work all month. She asked if this might be one of 'yours'. Most likely.

Barred Owl

I haven't been over thhe try and find the baby owls in a while. I am glad she is finding them and sharing.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

2013 Jay Watch, Part 2.

Time for Day 2 of my Jay Watch volunteering on a new route. Many of our Lake Lotus banders came out and Susan joined me on this trek on new points through the Lake Monroe Conservation Area. Unlike yesterday, however, not many Florida Scrub Jays were to be found. Some of these areas are not prime habitat but we have to check them all the same just in case.

Like any trip out to the area, though, we had plenty of flowers to grab our attention as we called for the birds. One pretty little yellow flower, a member of the St. John's Wort family, was along the roadside.

St. John's Wort

As always, the Loblolly Bay was putting on a beautiful display all over the place.

Loblolly Bay

We saw a few White-tailed Deer as we wound through the back trails from stop to stop. This female was foraging in the high grass.

White-tailed Deer

Many more insects were around today, including this Skipper...


...and a female Eastern Amberwing.

Eastern Amberwing

One of our stops was near another group's checkpoint. As we approached their stop we could see that they had a few Jays to count. We got out to observe and I managed a photo of one of the birds. A juvenile! Excellent. However, these would be the only Scrub Jays we got to see all morning.

Florida Scrub Jay

One of my last spots was on an open area that had a pond-like depression nearby. After I did my calling I wandered over to see what flowers might be there. I was pleased to find a Rhexia blooming among the green grasses.


Our final stop was a walk into the scrub. Eastern Towhees were calling all around us. I was able to get close to one of the males singing on territory.

Eastern Towhee

Heading back up to trail to meet the truck, I spotted a female Towhee trying to hide in the trees.

Eastern Towhee

Our counting spots exhausted, we returned to the parking area to pack up and head out. All in all, not a bad weekend. Several juvenile birds were seen this year which is a very good sign. Hopefully, other locations had the same results. We shall find out at the meeting later in the year. Then, it will be back out here next Summer for another weekend of science and discovery.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

2013 Jay Watch, Part 1.

I think this is year seven. Finally, I think I have the whole gift collection now that I have gotten the Jay Watch water bottle! We volunteer time for free and sometimes receive trinkets and maybe a shirt at the results meetings. This is probably the last remaining item I have missed over the years. Now it is all just for the love of it. Not that it wasn't before.

For those new to this, every year volunteers head out all over the state of Florida to try to find as many Florida Scrub Jays as possible. The count happens in the full heat of Summer because if there are any new fledglings they would be out of the nest by then and easier to count. It is grueling at times but rewarding being out doing Citizen Science and being outdoors soaking in Nature.

We began our route and saw a couple of Jays but they could not be relocated once the counting began. One thing I enjoy while trying to find the Jays is when there are none, I can discover new plants and flowers. For example, I have no idea what this flower is. New to me.

Purple Flower

Nearby, another purple flower caught my attention. This one I did recognize. Pink Spiderwort, or Florida Scrub Roseling, (Callisia ornata) The fly? I couldn't tell you that species.

Purple Flower

Just above the Spiderwort I noticed a gall growth on the oaks. It was everywhere. I have seen them before but they are usually brown. Not this colorful. They are the result of tiny wasps.


Our next stop was a more productive site for Jays. I could hear them as I stepped out of the truck and all I had to do was play the Scrub Jay call for a couple seconds before they headed toward me.

Florida Scrub Jay

I took some shots after I got the band information and tried to get info on the other 2 birds that were flying back and forth. However, they were not as cooperative.

Florida Scrub Jay

The next stop was a wide open vista and held little chance of Jays but we still have to go through the motions. It did afford me more time to grab some more flower data. Loblolly Bay trees are in full bloom and I could get close to one by the side of the road.

Loblolly Bay

Tarflower are also putting on a nice show and often rise above the surrounding vegetation.


This area was mainly scrub palmetto but scattered among them were a bunch of White-topped Asters.

White-topped Aster

Our group was running ahead of schedule so we had to wait at the next stop before officially counting. This actually gave us an advantage since we could see Jays in the distance but could not get data from where we had to count. With the extra time afforded us, I decided to walk over and see what I could see in better light.

The area was recently burned and I had to climb through charred palmetto to get closer but the sentry was a very photogenic bird. The routine was repeated over and over: "Look to my right..."

Florida Scrub Jay

"...and look to my left."

Florida Scrub Jay

Another Scrub Jay hopped into view to my left and began calling. The females make an unmistakable sound.

Florida Scrub Jay

My fellow counters, Dan and Tiffany Tommasini followed me and managed to capture more than Jays in their photo. I got caught in my Jay Watch gear! You can tell I was not too close to the Jays.

Drew Jay Watching

The female continued to call as I snapped a few more shots.

Florida Scrub Jay

Suddenly, she turned and jumped back into the brush. I noticed that the sentry had, as well. None of us were moving. Nothing making noise. Wonder what...?

Florida Scrub Jay

Ah! Behind us, and very high in the sky was a circling Cooper's Hawk! We could barely make it out until it got closer but the Jays saw it easily.

Cooper's Hawk

It was time to head back to the count site but I couldn't resist checking out the blooms down in the watery pool along the trail.

Drew Taking a Photo

Not totally sure what the yellow flowers are but I am looking.


Sabatias are a lot easier to ID and they easily pop out in the middle of the field of green and yellow.


The last bit of yellow was a stand of St. Johns Wort.

St_Johns Wort

The hawk soared off and soon the Jays began to resume their posts.

Florida Scrub Jay

We ended the day with several juveniles before we left. Great news! Last year I didn't see any.

Florida Scrub Jay

A nice end to the day. Tomorrow, I come back to count along a different route. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Catching Up: Baby Mute Swan

So, I said I did no birding in June. I had posted this to Facebook but not here. My boys were walking around Lake Davis in mid-June and the oldest reported a signet was out there with the Mute Swan pair. I had to run out the next day to try for a shot.

Cute little thing.

Mute Swan

It was still very young and had trouble standing completely upright, wobbling back and forth when not walking to grab some scattered seed. A woman nearby raised a bunch of Mute Swans not to far away over the years and decided to release them into the area. Some stop by our lakes and others can be seen flying from spot to spot at times. This is the first time I know of where they actually have successfully bred.

Though not a native species, I am kind of happy to see this new signet that has joined our community.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What? Peacocks!?!

I was just heading out to get some shopping done before dinner. I was putting my camera bag in the car and something caught my attention from the corner of my eye. Three Peacocks were casually walking across the end of our street. Wha? I followed them for a quick shot.


Peacocks were introduced into certain nearby neighborhoods over the years. Heck, a whole development area was named after a specific flock in Winter Park. I also know there were some a couple miles to the north of us and we have seen them with young birds in the past. Just never saw them in our neighborhood. There are many very busy roads between us and where they used to be.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Northern Mockingbird in the Chimney

Where did June go? I got next to zero birding in. Mainly just what I saw from the office window. Sigh. Today, though, I got a bit more excitement than I was expecting.

I was sitting at the computer at home and started to hear a bird calling. I thought it was outside. It was loud enough to get my attention. I got up to look out and saw nothing and set back to work. A few minutes later, I heard it again. Still nothing. Then I started to get a memory returning from an incident that happened a while ago. I turned my focus to the wall where the chimney comes down.

The sound came again and this time there was also the unmistakable sounds of fluttering wings. Yep. A bird had found its way down the chimney and was unable to get out. Long ago, the chimney was closed off and a gas heating unit was put in that vented into it. When we added a new AC system, we placed a cover over the vent hole. Good thing about that is that I can remove it and check inside.

First, I grabbed the kids butterfly net and was ready as I removed the cover (after closing all doors to limit a birds flight path). I quickly placed the net over the opening. It fit perfectly and I could see a bird shadow settle into the opening where it sat still. For 15 minutes. I couldn't tell the species yet but it appeared to be a larger bird. My arm was getting tired so I thought I might try to coax it out for a dish of water.

It didn't want to come out but once the net was removed I could tell it was a young Northern Mockingbird. I figured I might have a chance to simply reach in (spiders be damned!) and grab it. Two attempts later and I had the bird in hand. I was also prepared for another activity. I had previously gotten out my bird banding gear and a bag to put the bird into. I banded the Mockingbird and brought it outside for a photo before releasing it.

Northern Mockingbird

You can tell that this is a young Northern Mockingbird by the visible yellow gape on the bill and the cloudy greyish-brown eye.

Last year I blogged about the first time I had to rescue a Carolina Wren from the chimney. Another young bird that found its way in. I was not prepared to band that bird and I regretted not having the foresight that time. I do like to track the birds that come and go. One year I banded a male Carolina Wren when it was young and he has raised a family here in the ensuing years.

Now, lets see what other adventures I can find this Summer!