Sunday, December 28, 2014

Common Goldeneye

Birding forums were blasting the fact that an uncommon bird was being seen up in Seminole County but I was still in St, Pete. Hopefully it would stick around a bit for me to take a look. I have seen Common Goldeneyes before but maybe I could get a better photo than than the few I got years ago.

Fortunately, the bird did stick around. Unfortunately, the day was really foggy. Just my luck. When I first got out to the pond the bird was quickly found but way out in the middle of the water.

Common Goldeneye

I checked the other ponds in the area but didn't see too much. I almost headed home but changed my mind and went back to the first pond. This time the Goldeneye was close to shore feeding with the other ducks like Lesser Scaup.

Lesser Scaup

I got a few more shots but was cursing the fog.

Common Goldeneye

Still, they were better shots and that was my main reason to go out so I can't complain too much. As soon as I got home the fog clear. Of course.

Almost back home and the full Sun gave me a good view of a pair of Red-tailed Hawks that were wondering if they could get the last remains of a squirrel without getting hit by a car themselves.

Red-tailed Hawk

One more quick lake check and then I am done.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

St. Pete Birds

Our oldest is in the marching band at UCF and since the football team was in the Bitcoin Bowl this year we had to get him over to St. Pete. One of the events the day before the game was a Battle of the Bands which was held on the beach at the hotel. I took a ton of photos of the event but also noted the birds in the area, of course. Before we headed down to the beach, a few Black-hooded Parakeets noisily passed overhead.

Black-hooded Parakeet

In the slow rolling surf, a Laughing Gull stayed out of the way of the passing crowds.

Laughing Gull

I have never had one give me the stare down before.

Laughing Gull

Off to the right, a Herring Gull picked along the rack line.

Herring Gull

Finally, a Ring-billed Gull joined in for a few minutes as the music got louder and louder.

Ring-billed Gull

The UCF Marching Knights won the battle and the band then enjoyed some activities and then rested before the game. A fun event. I might have a chance to find more birds before we head home on Saturday in between Christmas time.

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 CBC in St. Pete, Part 2

Part Two. Still at the duck pond and among the Mottled Ducks and all of their hybrids we found a male Blue-winged Teal trying to blend in.

Blue-winged Teal

Over on a culvert, a Tricolored Heron was soaking in the morning light.

Tricolored Heron

As we passed the Tricolored we spooked an unseen Green Heron which flew off to the side of the waterway across from Maximo Park. It perched in a mangrove in harsh backlight but I will take it for now.

Green Heron

We circled around the boat slips and passed through the gates but not before noticing another new species for the morning. A few Eurasian Collared-Doves were busy trying to stay unseen but I managed a few shots just the same.

Eurasian Collared-Dove

How can you miss the call of Parakeets? Once we got to the edge of the road around the ball park we found a flock of Monk Parakeets on the grass foraging so Becki and I had to make our way over for a chance of getting a photo or two. We don't get these in large numbers in Orlando as they do her around St. Pete.

Monk Parakeet

The Monk Parakeets here are nesting under the numerous Osprey nests in the stadium lights and make themselves known quite loudly. I love this shot of this one from the lawn.

Monk Parakeet

Nearby, European Starlings were feasting on things on another part of the lawns but soon turned to drink form a puddle along the road.

European Starling

On the way out of Eckerd College we had a great view of a Wood Stork in a retention pond near the parking lots.

Wood Stork

Our last stop of the day was at Dolphin Cay. We all had high hopes on this spot. It is a gated community but we had access and all maps seemed to be promising. Boardwalks through a mangrove marsh. A beach on the water. A few ponds. Sadly, the boardwalk only offered up a few birds and the beach held less. Only a pond in the center of the development added to our list. It was full of Lesser Scaup.

Lesser Scaup

The males reflected in purple and greens while the females flashed their whites and browns.

Lesser Scaup

Resting along the edge of the pond was a very accommodating Double-crested Cormorant.

Double-crested Cormorant

All we found down at the beach was a ghost. A lone Gull footprint along the shore.

Gull Print

We tried a couple more ponds along the golf zones and then settled down to take a full count before our day was over. A nice Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud formation (thanks, Peg!) ended our day before we all headed home.


The final St. Pete count was 157. OK for what the year has been. It has been higher but there really are not a lot of birds around this season. Another CBC down. I always look forward to the next one!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014 CBC in St. Pete, Part 1

That time of year again. Christmas Bird count in St. Petersburg, FL for another year. This time it would be at a new location for me and I was put on a team with Professor Elizabeth Forys from Eckerd College and Becki Smith, one of my volunteers from the Wekiva Basin Banding site. We started before dawn trying to locate some owls or Rails but were unsuccessful.

So, we headed to the water for a search for shorebirds at sunrise. We parked and hit the small beach right at dawn.


Even in low light we could quickly make out birds such as Short-billed Dowitchers, Black-bellied Plovers, and American Oystercatchers. It was the first time I have seen a juvenile (left) foraging with an adult.

American Oystercatcher

Out in the open water we could see nearly a dozen Red-breasted Mergansers searching for breakfast by dipping their heads just under water to look for prey and then paddling off to a new spot.

Red-breasted Merganser

Back near the bridge, a Herring Gull stood on the sea wall and was lit up by the rising Sun.

Herring Gull

Soon, a pair of Ruddy Turnstones inched their way toward me until the first was right below my camera before scooting past to examine the beach again.

Ruddy Turnstone

Before we left, I took note of the view to the South. The Sunshine Skyway bridge was jutting up in the morning glow

Sunshine Skyway

Making our way to Isla Del Sol, we parked along the road and searched the area for anything we could add to our growing list of birds. Monk Parakeets flocked by and landed on wires while an Osprey flew past with a morning meal.


Not far behind, a Wood Stork traversed to wires over the intersection for a feeding spot across the road.

Wood Stork

I noted aloud the ever increasing stands of Brazilian Pepper everywhere we traveled today. Getting worse all the time.

Brazilian Pepper

We added a few more species before we moved along. House Wrens and Catbirds were playing hide-and-seek while a Northern Mockingbird proved to be not so shy.

Northern Mockingbird

Our next stop was Eckerd college. Becki and I ticked Northern Cardinals and another Catbird while Beth searched for Muscovy Ducks. I had to duck under several Spiny Orb Weaver webs along the way.

Spiny Orb Weaver

Near Beth's office, Myrtle Warblers were flocking in large numbers but I was drawn more to a spot that sounded like a larger bird thumping on tree trunks. It turned out to be a smaller bird tapping palm fonds. A Yellow-throated Warbler. It posed for a few seconds before disappearing into the gloom again. Nearby, we added a Black and White Warbler.

Yellow-throated Warbler

As we rounded the corner of a building we could hear a soft call from one of the palm trees. A Red-shouldered Hawk bolted out on approach and flew over to a nearby pine.

Red-shouldered Hawk

A couple of minutes later the Red-shouldered Hawk swooped to the ground to examine something int he grass. I was sure it had captured something but all it did was tap the ground a few times before flying off to another lot.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Immediately to my left, a Brown Pelican dove into the water and was followed by two more quickly afterward. The latter two flew off but the first drifted by to give me a once over.

Brown Pelican

We were about to leave this spot when we started hearing a strange call out in the pines. A short detour took us to a stand of trees where we finally found the source of the calls. A pair of Loggerhead Shrike. Don't usually hear that noise as Shrikes tend to be more solitary.

Loggerhead Shrike

Beth said we should start finding more ducks in the next set of ponds and as we got to the next section of the campus we did find our first Winter ducks of the day. A trio of Ring-necked Ducks.


We then spent a while counting Mottled Ducks and a variety of hybrids in this pond. Seems they come in so many varieties. I need to delve into the full range of mixes soon but we don't get that many Mottled Ducks in Orlando proper.

Mottled Duck

In the next post I will conclude our discoveries. It was a faily short day but full of photos. Too many for one comfortable blog post. Part Two to follow soon!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Male Hooded Merganser

Another Sunday, another stop on the way home to check on the Hooded Mergansers. The light wasn't great but I got a least one shot of a male heading toward the center of the pond.

Hooded Merganser

See you next week, my friend.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday Morning Wood Ducks

I awoke with my sinuses threatening to spoil the morning so I headed our for a drive around the local lakes and some fresh air. There was not a lot of bird action but on the way back home I spotted a pair of Wood Ducks at Lake Emerald. The Sun was just about in the right position to stop and try for a photo or two.

Wood Duck

The female Wood Duck was on top of one of the nest boxes at the water's edge.

Wood Duck

Several times, she would peer inside the box opening and then right herself again. Made me start wondering if they are looking for a nest, which would seem kind of odd for this time of year. However, I see new Muscovy ducklings on another lake so maybe in these warm climates they nest most of the year.

Wood Duck

The entire time the female was exploring the box, the male Wood Duck kept watch from below on the water. Sunlight highlighted the colors on one of my favorite birds.

Wood Duck

Better yet, my sinuses had cleared. On with the day!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

More Hooded Mergansers Returning

I stopped by the retention pond after banding again. Surprise. I do it almost every week in the Winter. More Hooded Mergansers are in the pond now but it was a little overcast. At least I had one small flock near the car bridge.

Hooded Merganser

Most of them retreated to the opposite side of the pond but one stopped in front of me and seemed to just stare.

Hooded Merganser

A short time later I figured out why he was sticking to the spot. A female emerged from under the bridge to join him. They glided side by side to mingle with the rest of the birds.

Hooded Merganser

Up on the parking level was a collection of waders. I couldn't get the Great Egret in the photo but the Little Blue Heron and White Ibis were strolling the wall as friends.

Hooded Merganser

I will be back to check again next week. Maybe the light will be better.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

New Life Bird and a New Park

I had another brief window to run back to the coast to check for the Great Cormorant before we headed back home to Orlando. I got up a bit earlier so I could be at the spot at sunrise. I started my search across from the boat ramp and watched a as Willet, a couple Black-bellied Plovers and a few Least Sandpipers (below) began breakfast just after dawn.

Least Sandpiper

I scanned the boat ramp from the other side of Bunches Pass and checked all of the pilings I could see but nothing was sitting in the open at the moment. Just as I was about to get back in the car a bird rose from the water and began flying toward the bridge. It was the Great Cormorant, no question. It slowed its course and swooped up to rest on a channel marker. Farther away than I would have liked but I at least got some kind of photo.

I thought I could head over to the boat ramp for a closer look but by the time I got up on the bridge it had flown off.

Great Cormorant

Nothing else held my interest so I headed to a new park I was finding out about nearby. Boyd Hill Preserve. Interesting place but I didn't have much time. I started on the Swamp Trail and soon found a Pied-billed Grebe just off shore.

Pied-billed Grebe

The next trail led to a small island with a great view of downtown St. Petersburg. In one spot, a metal statue of a heron gleams in the water.


Across the lake I could make out a large raft of American Coots. Soon I noticed something else. A boater decided it would be a great idea to speed straight through the flock to get to his fishing spot. Jerk.


There are many trails in the park and the path overlap one another going from several different habitats. Some day I will have to spend hours going through them all. This morning I had the place virtually to myself


I decided it was time to head back and found a small field that was swarming with Palm Warblers. Both sub-species were here feeding on the small insects flying about the grasses. Usually Florida gets mostly Western Palms so it was nice to also see the Eastern variety in full sunlight.

Palm Warbler

I was wondering why I didn't see any sparrows here. A perfect spot for them. On queue, a Chipping Sparrow flew up from the ground and landed right in front of me.

Chipping Sparrow

I found another metal sculpture near the small pond in the center of the park. A giant Armadillo!


Another feeding flock was trying to get me to stay but I had to go. One more shot, though. A Northern Mockingbird kept a close watch on me as I advanced toward the exit and the car.

Northern Mockingbird

One Life Bird added to the list as well as a new park. Not a bad couple of hours of wandering.