Sunday, March 30, 2014

Canada Geese In Jacksonville

We had to take a trip up to Jacksonville to visit my folks and to tours a few spots. One of the trips had me surprised to see a few Canada Geese flying past us as we headed up the interstate. I was hoping to get a shot of one since the only time I did so was many years ago in Washington State. I wanted to add a shot from my home state of Florida when I could. One of our trips took us to a local university and there were dozens of them all around campus.

Canada Goose

They must be used to people all around them as they were completely undisturbed when approached as they grazed along the lawns.

Canada Goose

I wanted to get a nice shot of one of the birds on the water and this bird obliged.

Canada Goose

Neither me nor my Dad recalled ever seeing this species as we grew up in the area and reports show that they are a fairly new visitor to north Florida.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Looking Along Lake Berry

I had to spend some time in Winter Park today and took the free moments to walk along the shore of Lake Berry. There were not a lot of birds around but I did find some things to shoot over an hour here and there. I could hear warblers in the oaks but they were not in any real good positions for a photo. I had to settle for a Yellow-rumped (Myrtle sub-species)Warbler in the grass before much else was to come.

Myrtle Warbler

I had to work hard to find any other warblers but did get a quick look at a Yellow-throated Warbler feeding through the leaves.

Yellow-throated Warbler

I started hearing Red-winged Blackbirds calling and tried to ease closer in hopes of getting a shot of one. Suddenly, one of the males rose up to take a look at what I was up to.

Red-winged Blackbird

Even in bad light, it is nice to view these birds and hear their calls. I grew up in Florida and Red-winged Blackbird calls are part of my earliest memories.

Red-winged Blackbird

Looking over toward a dock, I found another familiar sound. The call of a Wood Duck. A male was very weary of my approach but I got a couple shots before it joined others of its species soon afterwards.

Wood Duck

At the end of another dock, a male Anhinga in breeding plumage was drying its wings.


I had to go back inside for a bit but when I came back I spotted a Tricolored Heron moving in to feed near the shore. It flew toward me and I tried a bunch of different exposures for a good picture.

Tricolored Heron

This Tricolored Heron was also in breeding plumage and didn't mind me standing next to the water as it searched for minnows.

Tricolored Heron

A female Red-winged Blackbird looked on as I shot the heron and I got as close as I could for a good ID view.

Red-winged Blackbird

I had been monitoring a Green Heron in different positions for quite some time before it decided to get close enough for a better angle. I wasn't even aware of it at the time, but I ended the morning shoot with my favorite shot of the day as it was climbing around the pads.

Green Heron

Green Herons are one of my most liked lake birds. They are often secretive and having them wander around at close range is always a treat.

Not too bad for a lakeside visit.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Swallow-tailed Kites Breeding at Lake Lotus

I have always wanted to get a shot of a Swallow-tailed Kite perching in a tree. They return from South America in early February and breed in the States but are often seen soaring over areas instead of stopping on a tree limb unless you find a roosting site. Today at the banding site we had a very unexpected chance to get some shots of these incredible birds.

We were banding a couple of birds and then preparing to head back out. Ranger Frank was hanging out for a bit and we spotted a Kite flying in and it actually landed just above the banding table.

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kites are so striking in the air and with their black and white feathers they really stand out against the sky. The day was suppose to be clear but we only had a few minutes of blue before the clouds moved back in.

Swallow-tailed Kite

I had to work fast to shift camera settings as three of us snapped photos as fast as we could. Who knew how long she might stick around?.

Swallow-tailed Kite

The female Swallow-tailed Kite spent a while watching us as we move around far below her. I loved the angle I finally got showing the wing and tail feathers crossed behind her.

Swallow-tailed Kite

How do we know this was a female? Well, shortly after that last shot the male flew by with nesting material and headed to a nearby tree. He then surprised us by calling and he swooped in to land behind her.

Swallow-tailed Kite

The Swallow-tailed Kites copulated as we watched, sometimes nuzzling each other during the coupling.

Swallow-tailed Kite

A minute later, the male flew off to look for more material for the nest.

Swallow-tailed Kite

We spotted the nest site and will mark it the next time we return for banding in the first week of April. It might be a very exciting chance to photograph these birds as Spring advances. What a morning, even with a lower capture rate than we would have liked. Can't beat Nature at show us some unexpected wonders.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Day Two of Cedar Waxwing Watching

I headed out a little earlier today to see if I could get some better shots of the Cedar Waxwings in better light. There was still plenty to eat and plenty of Waxwings to watch.

Cedar Waxwing

Instead of Palm Warblers that were also in the tree yesterday there were many Yellow-rumped Warblers joining in on the feast.

Myrtle Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler

I have never eaten a Loquat fruit but if it makes Waxwings lick their 'lips' they must be pretty tasty.

Cedar Waxwing

Yellow-rumped Warblers are primarily insectivores and I was actually surprised to see some eating berries on a Wax Myrtle (where this subspecies, 'Myrtle Warbler, gets its name) last month. Today they were sampling the Loquats.

Myrtle Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler

Another insect eater, a Downy Woodpecker, was also spied eating the fruit.

Downy Woodpecker

A group of ladies out for a walk stopped after they noticed the birds and asked about them. I explained the species and that they will be going back North soon, all the while snapping photos. Good thing I kept trying for the photo I wanted. One of the ladies suddenly made a move that frightened all the Cedar Waxwings back high into the surrounding Oak trees. That last shot was my best of the morning.

Cedar Waxwing

Sometimes the Waxwings are here into mid-April. Might still be a chance for more fun viewings.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Day One of Cedar Waxwing Watching

The time has finally arrived for the Cedar Waxwings to start feasting on the ripe Loquats in the neighborhood. I can hardly wait for this time of year to roll around. The hungry birds are so numerous during these events and can easily be watched up close with a stealthy approach.

Cedar Waxwing

Today there were also many warblers joining in like this Eastern Palm Warbler now transitioning into its Spring plumage.

Eastern Palm Warbler

The Cedar Waxwings pluck bit after bit from the orange fruit one by one.

Cedar Waxwing

It was getting late in the day so the light was not the best and the birds were staying in the shadows for most of the time but every now and then one would strike a nice pose.

Cedar Waxwing

Another Eastern Palm Warbler sticks to the sidewalk to sift through the leftovers.

Eastern Palm Warbler

Sometimes the Cedar Waxwings grab for a mouthful instead of just picking.

Cedar Waxwing

Suddenly, a pair of male Northern Parula got into a squabble and dropped to the ground about 5 feet from where I was standing. One bird flew off and the other hopped up onto a branch just to my left and so close that I could barely get it in focus. These beautiful small birds returned a few weeks ago and are singing like crazy all over the neighborhood.

Northern Parula

The majority of Cedar Waxwings have bright yellow tail tips. Every now and then their diet shifts and changes the color of the tips to orange. It makes for a nice surprise when going through the photos later on to discover that I got a shot of one of these 'different' types.

Cedar Waxwing

There are several Loquats in this yard all bursting with fruit so it should keep the bird here for a while. Tomorrow I will try in earlier light.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Birding While Waiting For Music

My son and a few other band members were selected for State Solo and Ensemble being help up in Sanford and I had to take him and hang out before they performed.

Seminole High Sign

It was a nice day but I wasn't hearing much bird activity. In fact, the only thing that caught my attention for the first 30 minutes was a cloud with a pileus-type skirt.


A small flock of Cedar Waxwings flew by at one point but I couldn't get a bird photo until I circled around the back of the school and found some Yellow-rumped Warblers on the edge of the woods.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

I made my way to the opposite side of campus and was hoping to get some views out on the lake. However, the vegetation was too thick. Then I spotted a flock of White Ibis feeding in a retention pond. Many of them were males in full breeding colors.

White Ibis

On the other end of the pond was a younger male and a juvenile White Ibis feeding by themselves.

White Ibis

Back near the lake, a male Boat-tailed Grackle called and played with twigs.

Boat-tailed Grackle

The school is in the flight path of a major airport not far away and large planes would head in for a landing every few minutes.


A female Boat-tailed Grackle flew into the retention pond to try its luck for a meal.

Boat-tailed Grackle

Then, several of the male White Ibis began bathing in the shallow water.

White Ibis

Splish, splash!

White Ibis

Soon, it was time to go in for the performance. The kids did great on some intricate pieces. The Quintet earned scores of 'Excellent' and I coaxed them into letting me get a group shot. Great job, gang!


There are a lot of very talented kids in the band, as always. My son is in his senior year and still has a Wind Ensemble competition and a Jazz concert to come before the end of the year. Then off to college. My, how time flies...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Preening Bald Eagle

I drove through Greenwood Cemetery hoping against hope that there might be a baby Bald Eagle sighting. I thought it was good that one of the adults was preening above the nest today. I haven't seen them regularly in quite awhile although I did hear one calling as it flew past the house the other day.

Bald Eagle

I scanned the rest of the area but I did not see any sign of other birds.

Bald Eagle

I think I can conclude that this pair was unsuccessful for the first time in many, many years. Maybe they will have better luck next year.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Barber Park While Waiting

Our oldest had a practice session near Barber Park and instead of driving back and forth too much I decided to search any close water ways. However, there is not much in the way of lakes to cruise in this area. I did spot some Shrikes up along the road so I tried to get some shots there but they flew off before I could get in position. I had to settle for a Western Palm Warbler in bad light.

Western Palm Warbler

I circled the small pond in the park looking for birds. A Gray Squirrel was playing hide and seek. I won.

Gray Squirrel

In the pond, a Slider kept a careful lookout for trouble.


The only birds besides the resident Mallards was a flock of Ring-billed Gulls.

Ring-billed Gull

I searched the entire group hoping there might be a different gull in there. Nope. All Ring-bills.

Ring-billed Gull

Time to go. Better than nothing, I guess.