Friday, September 27, 2013

Death After the Rain

A little dramatic? Yes. Yet true. First...

I started out around the azaleas to look for thrushes. There were many of them but they move so fast and often so high that it is difficult to get shots. In fact, the only bird that would come out to the edge of the branches were the Northern Cardinals.

Northern Cardinal

By the time I wandered over to Warbler Corner I was actually surprised that it started to rain. I am usually on top of that sort of thing. I was a long way from shelter. I stuffed my camera under my shirt and began the hike back to the amphitheater.

While the rain ebbed and flowed in waves, I continued to scan for birds. Soon, I noticed movement down the path. I guessed what it was before it made itself visible. An Ovenbird was foraging in the rain and it came a little toward me before vanishing back into the bushes.


Larry and Cleber joined me under the roof and once the rain let up we headed toward the boardwalk. I was scanning a moving branch but couldn't see the bird. Then Larry mentioned a hawk. It was off to the left of where I was staring. Indeed, a young Cooper's Hawk was behind some branches. It was also holding onto a small bird. Hard to tell from a distance but it was a male Common Yellowthroat.

Cooper's Hawk

For some reason the hawk dropped its kill into the water below. It then spent a while looking for it.

Cooper's Hawk

Soon, it relocated the warbler and hauled it out of the swampy water and flew off to the boardwalk. We slowly made our way around the walk to get a closer look. It pulled out a good amount of vegetation along with the bird but quickly picked through it to get to breakfast.

Cooper's Hawk

We watched for a little while and got some shots before it decided to head off to another location to finish its meal.

Cooper's Hawk

Circle of Life. These juvenile Cooper's Hawks are finally getting good at capturing food on their own. I have been watching them miss for weeks now.

Searching the 'Neighborhood'.

A little bit of time on my hands this morning so where to begin? A stop by Lake Lancaster is always on the list and I was hoping for some remaining warblers in better light but didn't have much luck. Instead, I saw a Limpkin fly from across the lake to my side so I wandered in that direction as it headed to the lawns across the street from the water. Not a typical place for a Limpkin but who am I to judge?


Didn't feel like LaCosta Wetlands would be too productive so I stayed a bit closer and went to Demetree Park for a quick look. Only a few warblers in the oaks but I was pleased to see a good number of Swainson's Thrushes foraging in the shaded areas along the small boardwalk.

Swainson's Thrush

These thrushes were right on schedule, migration-wise and were busy grabbing some sort of berries about 50 yards out from my position.

Swainson's Thrush

Back to Lancaster for one more try. I could only get a very orange looking Prairie Warbler in focus for a brief moment. It was feeding at a crazy fast pace.

Prairie Warbler

I keep meaning to stop and walk Lake Davis to get a better look at our young Mute Swan but I kind of liked this view from the van as it floated behind a parent. Feathers are starting to turn white.

Mute Swan

Time's up. Back to business and coding. More migrants are on the way.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Evening Warblers

I had a very few minutes to scan the trees before our youngest's Open House up the road. Not a good thing since the trees were full of warblers. Dang!

Once I noticed a number of birds right away I stepped out and tried to get some shots when I could. It was still overcast and getting late in the day some the lighting was not the best. Still, you can't really miss a bright patch of color like you find on a Yellow-throated Warbler darting through the branches.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Behind me was another bright yellow bird. An aptly named Yellow Warbler was busily feeding, too.

Yellow Warbler

Harder to see in the gloom were the few Black and White Warblers inching their way around the trees.

Black and White Warbler

There were a few Black and White Warblers. I always forget how frustrating it is to get shots of warblers through all the branches.

Black and White Warbler

There were many other warbler species but I was out of time to try for photos. I used my remaining few minutes to make sure I at least got IDs. Other warblers above me were Common Yellowthroat, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Parula, and Prairie Warbler. Whew! Hopefully they will stick around for when there is better light and more time.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Lots of Locals

Stopped by Mead Garden. Again. Still hoping for a lot of bird activity. I actually got! However, they were all local birds.

One of the rules to birding: Follow the sound of the Tufted Titmice. Many other birds tend to hang with them, probably for safety reasons. Titmice are good at spotting danger. One of the reliable species that is in those feeding flocks this time of year is the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Some folks I know don't like Blue-gray Gnatcatchers simply because they are not the warblers they seek. I think they are a lot of fun to watch and hear.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

The Tufted Titmice I mentioned were here in the Southern Elderberry behind the pump house but it seems like they are taking a break. Time to preen.

Tufted Titmouse

I just missed the shot of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird that flew in for a quick moment. Up in the dead snag on the edge of the vegetation, a Red-bellied Woodpecker explored for food.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I didn't find anything the the 'Waterthrush Zone' but I spotted a dove slipping quietly into the shrubs behind the bird feeders. Hmmmm. The wings didn't whistle like a Mourning Dove... I waited quietly and soon a White-winged Dove emerged to land on the feeder and size me up. Can't recall seeing them here before.

White-winged Dove

I will take a morning full of local birds rather than no birds at all.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Latest LaCosta Wetlands Sightings

Back to check out LaCosta with fingers crossed. Has to be something out there. Right? Well, a little. Just across the first bridge I spotted a Prairie Warbler bouncing from branch to branch.

Prairie Warbler

While I was trying to get a good angle on the Prairie Warbler I noticed another warbler deeper in the shadows. A male American Redstart was moving faster, but lower than the Prairie Warbler, after bugs.

American Redstart

That was the end of the migrants, though. The rest of the trek around the place was filled with local birds as usual. Still, it is always fun to see juvenile Northern Mockingbirds hanging around in the shrubs.

Northern Mockingbird

Back in the parking lot I was greeted by an adult Northern Mockingbird singing loudly on the wires.

Northern Mockingbird

Nearby, a Loggerhead Shrike flew in to scan the area for its next meal.

Loggerhead Shrike

A little excitement. I could stand a little more.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Common Yellowthroat and Box Turtle

We have to stop coming out to Mead Garden. We keep hoping for something special but we know there is not going to be any real birding fun until the end of the month. Masochists. Optimists.

Today was another example. All I could find were a couple of Common Yellowthroats, both feeding in the same area by the boardwalk.

Common Yellowthroat

This juvenile male was doing a fine job plucking bugs out of the air. Common Yellowthroats are becoming the most seen warbler in the gardens but that is typical this time of year.

Common Yellowthroat

Marcus and I headed back through the butterfly garden and nearly tripped over the Box Turtle just sitting next to the archway.

Box Turtle

At least it was something new. I took a few more shots of the turtle and then continued toward home. Maybe I will try another park tomorrow.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Near Misses

Busy, busy, busy. Life keeps on rolling while the photos pile up. Not a lot this week but a few near misses worth mentioning before they fall through the cracks.

First off, my last walk through Mead Garden didn't reveal too much bird activity. In fact, if I hadn't glanced up after crossing the bridge I would have totally missed the White Ibis framed in blue.

White Ibis

Two days later found me returning home after taking my oldest to school. If I had not paid attention I would have missed another bird. A Belted Kingfisher was resting on the fallen tree in Lake Emerald. Glad to have them back for the Winter.

Belted Kingfisher

Today, I took a swing through Palm Cemetery after our morning of banding at Lake Lotus. It was also very quiet there. Well, it is a cemetery. My last near miss was a new bird species for me this season. If it wouldn't have darted out for a bug I would have totally not seen this Eastern Wood-Pewee.

Eastern Wood-Pewee

My first thought was that it was an early Eastern Phoebe. I think an Eastern Wood-Pewee is better for now. I watched it for a while before heading home.

Eastern Wood-Pewee

It pays to be attentive to all of your surroundings even during simple routines in the day. Makes me wonder how much more is actually around me that I never see.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

At Least One Eagle is Back

One of the Bald Eagles has returned to the Greenwood Cemetery. The other of the pair should arrive soon and they will attempt to raise another brood this Winter as they have for many years in the past.

Bald Eagle

Not much else to say. Just wanted to get the news out and show off one of our seasonal visitors. We are fortunate to have them in our presence.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Anhinga Stabs Breakfast

It began as the usual search for warblers but I would have to settle for only one bird this morning. While I was scanning the upper branches along the shoreline, an Anhinga popped up from the lake with breakfast in tow.


The bird soon spotted me spotting it and could not immediately figure on which way to go. Deeper into the lake or toward the shallows where the scary human is standing?


Hard to imagine that these Anhinga can eat these larger fish but they have little problem. As soon as they can figure out how to get them off their bills.


Right after I took this shot I tried to reposition myself to get a better angle as it prepared to swallow the fish. Wouldn't you know that would be the moment it flipped the fish in the air and gulped it down.


With a full belly the Anhinga climbed up to its usual drying spot to relax.


Life at the lake. Now, to find those warblers...

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Warblers Now Arriving

There was a nice front sweeping through last night and it finally brought in some new warblers to Mead Garden. I was looking for the Northern Waterthrush when I noticed something else way back in the underbrush. It is hard to see but it is a Worm-eating Warbler. It never would come out from that spot. Must have had plenty of food back there. It was hanging out with an American Redstart and a Common Yellowthroat.

Worm-eating Warbler

An Ovenbird was trying to hide in the shadows and only allowed me a rear-view before it vanished across the paths.


As we were about to wind things down, several folks found a Black-throated Blue Warbler. Just then, the maintenance crew decided to start mowing, again, and scared off the birds in the tree. I was able to relocate it a few minutes later.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Finally some new species flowing South. Of course, the real fun is still a couple weeks away.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Signs of More Migration

What would we find a Mead Garden today? Well, on my first loop out around the pond I discovered a fairly friendly Anhinga up on one of the snags.


Down at the water's surface, a turtle does a little yoga on a log.


On the other snag, a White Ibis relaxes and preened.

White Ibis

A slow walk around the boardwalk produced the Northern Waterthrush that has been hanging out for a while.

Northern Waterthrush

Just as the Waterthrush flew off, a female Common Yellowthroat emerged from the opposite side and hunted around in front of us. This is the first sighting of a Yellowthroat here for the season. Migration continues to pick up.

Common Yellowthroat

Back in the butterfly garden we finally heard the flock of Titmice. Not much else was traveling with them today.

Tufted Titmouse

I headed back to the van and when we rounded the corner behind the amphitheater the pond-side White Ibis was now perched over the stream. Love those baby blue eyes.

White Ibis

Nice to see a few more warblers this morning. Shouldn't be long before the next wave of migrants arrives.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Flocks of Common Nighthawks

I took my oldest son to a practice at the church in Winter Park. The rain was just ending and as they began to get practice underway I decided to step outside to see if any birds would come out for a last snack of the evening.

I heard a couple of Blue Jays calling and then movement higher in the sky caught my attention. Flocks of birds were beginning to stream by. Crows? No, the wings were too streamlined. Gulls? I raised my binoculars to get a closer view. Even though night was fast approaching I could make out the bands on the undersides of the wings. These were Common Nighthawks! Dozens of them. More than that. I began counting.

Nearly 15 minutes and several groups later I counted over 400 birds. All were moving due South. I have never seen so many Nighthawks in my life. It was pretty amazing. I didn't have my camera with me and the pictures would have been poor, anyway. The only shots I have of Nighthawks was from a small flock that came out in the middle of the day.

Common Nighthawk

That will give you an idea of the bands on the underside of the wing that gave away the species despite the darkening skies. Looking back, I find it interesting that none of the birds made a sound as they passed overhead. Usually Nighthawks call in flight.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Man, It Is Hot!

How hot? So hot that I did not want to even be out there in direct sunlight. I got a later start to the morning and the shade is just about non-existant where I was headed.

I stopped at LaCosta Wetlands first. I walked about 100 yards down the sidewalk and turned around for fear of combusting. At least there was a Loggerhead Shrike just outside the van.

Loggerhead Shrike

I knew there would be some shade at Demetree Park and it is on the way home. Maybe there could be warblers. Nope. Too hot for birds, too. The best I could do was watch a male Downy Woodpecker forage up and down some branches by the path.

Downy Woodpecker

Back to the AC. I will try to get out earlier next time.