Monday, April 28, 2014

Swallow-tailed Kite

We had a very pleasant surprise at the banding site today. If you aren't checking that site for our weekly discoveries I will sum up.

Every year there are several Swallow-tailed Kites seen soaring overhead at Lake Lotus. They are more and more common in the area now and we know of breeding sites as close as Wekiwa Springs. Not long ago we had a few fly in and then got some shots of them landing over our banding table to copulate and then fly off to a pine tree nearby. We were hoping they would nest here and it appears that they did build a nest just 50 yards behind us. Problem is, you can't really get a good look at them from that angle.

Then, as we were walking the net lanes, we spotted a nice bright black and white male sitting just across the river against a beautiful blue sky. Best views of this bird at rest for me. Ever.

Swallow-tailed Kite

He sat and preened a while as many of us got supreme photos before he headed back out to gather food and nest material for his girl up at the nest. If they are successful, we should be seeing some young birds sometime before Summer. Nice!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Papa Barred Owl

I was headed out back to get the grill fired up when I noticed a figure in the Cherry Laurel just beyond the deck. The baby Barred Owls relocated to the wetlands not long ago so I was surprised when I saw Papa Owl sitting in our backyard staring intently at...something. Not sure what, exactly, but he was so focused that I could have grabbed his tail feathers if I had wanted to. I don't agree with harassment of that sort, though. I get to hold owls and other birds often enough.

I had to go inside and get the camera and then I had to back off a lot to even get the owl in focus. Seriously, I was able to walk up to and around this guy without it caring at all.

Barred Owl

The Barred Owl continued to stare into the opposite yard and then began clucking as it thought it found something of interest. The Sun was setting and it was more difficult to get any good lighting spots than anything else.

Barred Owl

As I moved around in tight circles, the sound of my feet crunching the leaves below caused the Barred Owl to look down in search of what might be making the sound. Fortunately, they don't eat toes. That I know of...

Barred Owl

Before it flew off, it gave up a big yawn. I will admit that I had to work really hard in post-processing to get anything of use from this shot. The harsh backlighting nearly killed it since my flash was not happy with me today. But I felt I had to share the moment.

Barred Owl

Time to try and track down the young ones when I can but having a cooperative owl for a while was amazing. Since they have breed here for three years now I guess they are totally used to me.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hike at UCF

The wife had committed to helping at the Scouting event at UCF today and talked me into tagging along with the caveat that I could go, literally, "take a hike" while she worked. I planned on just walking the campus but ended up finding the nature trail and quickly realized I was wearing the wrong footwear. Flip-flops and scrub trails are not the best mix, BTW.

It took quiet a while to find any birds so I was taking photos of flowers to ID for a long time. I might do a post about the flowers all on their own at some point as I found a ton of good plants and flowers. However, I finally heard a long-missed sound erupting from the scrub and soon found a female Eastern Towhee that I had to get closer to despite the fear of stepping on any snakes as I headed off-trail.

Eastern Towhee

As I got closer to the neighborhood near the edge of the trail I began to hear the familiar sound of Chimney Swifts sweeping overhead. There was enough of a breeze to slow them a bit for a shot as they cruised over the pines.

Chimney Swift

The farther along I walked, I started finding more birds but was surprised as an Eastern Bluebird flew in to perch for a few seconds ahead of me.

Eastern Bluebird

High overhead, a flock of Double-crested Cormorants flew past quickly.

Double-crested Cormorant

Besides the Bluebird, I was even more surprised to start hearing Brown-headed Nuthatches. I had to look hard but finally got a view of a juvenile calling to the adults as they gathered food to feed them.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

It waits patiently...

Brown-headed Nuthatch

...while an adult Brown-headed Nuthatch plucks a pine seed to work into the lunch menu.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Nearby, a Common Ground Dove dropped in to preen and take a break from foraging near the Nuthatches.

Common Ground Dove

I continued to walk the trail and walked out into the open to get around the ponds and make my way back to the stadium. A police helicopter was flying in and it seemed that they were curious as to why I was there. It circled many times and I noticed volunteer staff walking toward me to see what I was up to.


I began to make gestures that I thought would signal that I was just a bird watcher and not some threat and, eventually, the helicopter landed near the ball field and the volunteers backed off. Don't know who was in it, but they did take their time to get settled in as if it might have been some VIP. My complaint is that is scared off most of the birds I was tracking.


Once the noise subsided, the Eastern Bluebirds dropped back down before heading off into the woods.

Eastern Bluebird

I got closer to the stadium where I had started and noticed a flock of Fish Crows exploring something on an island in a retention pond. They were not alone. A pair a Loggerhead Shrikes were defending territory from the crows and gave me some good looks as they chased the crows out of the area.

Loggerhead Shrike

Just before I finished my walk I could hear another familiar sound in Central Florida. Sandhill Cranes were squawking in the distance and they took flight as I rounded the curve.

Sandhill Crane

Back to base and we finished the day with a lunch provided by the Scouts before heading out. An unplanned hike that provided some nice birds that I had no idea were in that spot. Can't complain.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My First Good Look at New Baby Bald Eagle

As you may know, I swing through the cemetery nearly every day to at least take a peek at the Bald Eagle nest to see what is happening. This year they were so late in hatching young we thought is wasn't going to happen at all. How late? Here is Momma trying to stay cool as the days warm when, in the past, they would have headed back North by now after getting kids out of the nest. This year, they hatched young later and have to deal with the rising heat.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles and many other birds take this pose to regulate their body temperatures when things get hotter.

Bald Eagle

All of my stops finally paid off today as I got my first good look at one of the chicks down in the nest and popping its head above the nest. Still not convinced that there are two but I will keep checking.

Bald Eagle

Glad they finally had a successful year once again. I have been watching this pair for so many years and it is always amazing to see and hear them as they breed here in Central Florida.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Purple Martins and Spotted Sandpiper

The oldest had to attend a luncheon at church some I hauled him out and since I was waiting I remembered that the Purple Martins should be back at Baldwin Park nearby. When I first arrived there were no birds to be seen.

Purple Martin

I wandered around a bit until I spotted a bird circling overhead. A Purple Martin for sure. She flew in quickly and I approached quietly as she went inside the apartment. As soon as I focused on the hole she bolted out straight toward me.

Purple Martin

Not too much later, Papa flew in and surveyed his territory.

Purple Martin

Once the lunch was finished, we headed home and I finally found a shorebird at Lake Emerald. A Solitary Sandpiper was feeding, as its name implies, alone.

Solitary Sandpiper

In the middle of the quickly evaporating lake, a Tricolored Heron pants to regulate its temperature in the warming afternoon.

Tricolored Heron

Nice to have a couple of new birds for the year.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Treetop Baby Barred Owl

Oh, shadows. How you vex me. With the waving branches in the breeze it was hard to get a good bit of light of baby Barred Owl high in the treetop.

Barred Owl

Where is number 2? Somewhere, but not visible today.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Momma and Baby Barred Owl

I could hear the baby Barred Owls calling. Time to search them out. Luckily, I got a good shot of one of the chicks a little lower for once.

Barred Owl

Almost missed by me (I get distracted by the young ones) I noticed movements to my right and saw Momma Barred Owl not too far away.

Barred Owl

Just another morning in the yard.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Some Activity at the Eagle Nest

Despite the cloudy day I still have to make my usual rounds, right. I found Momma Bald Eagle out of the nest and down in the nest there was some movement so I have to try to get a shot of the kids. Took a bit, but one of the chicks was beginning to test its wings. If you look hard you can see the arch of the wings just above the nest

Bald Eagle

Once I got to the other side of the tree I got a better view of Momma now staring intently for signs of either a foe or seeing if Dad was on the way back with lunch.

Bald Eagle

Frustrating to get any good angles but it shouldn't be long before I can see the eaglets face to face.

New Red-headed Woodpecker!

Made another check on the Bald Eagle nest but still can't get any views of the chicks yet. Just Momma sitting there as tiny heads moved back and forth.

Bald Eagle

Trying for a new angle, I drove to the other side of the tree when a flash of black and white flew past me. I have seen that flight pattern and coloration before but never here. I pulled closer and the bird flew to a farther pine tree but my guess was now confirmed. It was a Red-headed Woodpecker!

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpeckers do breed out at Wekiwa Springs and we started seeing them at Mead Garden and now here. Seem to be spreading South.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Which is fine by me! Red-headed Woodpeckers fun birds to watch.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Lurking below was a Yellow-shafted Flicker, another woodpecker that has been breeding here for years.

Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker

I hope this isn't the last time I see our new bird species in the cemetery.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nest Building Red-bellied Woodpecker

There should be some other babies in the yards soon. Besides the Northern Cardinals and Barred Owls which have already left the nest, Red-bellied Woodpecker chicks could be here soon as Papa digs out a hole in the branch of a tree next to our house.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

He was so busy that he paid me no attention. Red-bellied Woodpecker get their name from the reddish patch on their belly which is seldom seen. You can see a bit of it in the image above.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

They also love peanuts that I put out from time to time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Barred Owl Pair

Time to check on the baby Barred Owls again while the Sun is shining. Still a lot of shadows and the photos, like the owls themselves, are a tad bit 'fuzzy' but I found them both.

Barred Owl

They are able to move from branch to branch pretty easily now but they are staying high and making good shots difficult. For now.

Barred Owl

Last year, one of the babies headed to the wetlands earlier than the other. Wonder what will happen this year? I will get as many shots as possible before they 'leave the nest'.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lunar Eclipse

I was this close to just ignoring the alarm at 3 AM. Seen them before. Who knew if it would be cloudy are not? Oh, alright...

Now I was trying to find a spot with the least amount of street lights. I wasn't happy with my shots near the lake so I eventually went over by the cemetery. Much better, but I only ended up with one shot I really liked.

Lunar Eclipse

The blueish dot at the bottom of the photos is the star Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.

There are still 3 more to follow in the next year. I am sure I will still drag myself outside in the middle of the night. It's one of those things I do.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Flying Things

Time for another launch from the Cape. First, I had to take a few minutes to search for the baby Barred Owls. I almost didn't see the second owl peeking out from behind the branches.

Barred Owl

The morning was clear enough, but by launch time the clouds were beginning to form over Orlando. I was about to give up when the Atlas V raced up in the one clear patch of sky.

Atlas V

The Red-shouldered Hawk behind me seemed unimpressed.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Though the Shuttle program is over, we still get to see some amazing launches from time to time.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Baby Barred Owls

I had been checking the Barred Owl nest tree for the past week without success. I was beginning to worry if there were any babies this year or if I missed them leaving. As I was loading the van in the morning I heard a familiar sound. The call of a baby Barred Owl! I tracked it down and was able to get a view of one of the fledgling owls.

Seems I was looking in the wrong place for several days.

Barred Owl

A little later in the day I was able to get a shot in better light.

Barred Owl

I did track down two fledglings so that is par for the past few years. How long will these kids hang around? Stay tuned.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Black-necked Stilts

Quick spin around Lake Weldona. I have been scanning for shorebirds for a couple weeks without luck. Finally, a pair of Black-necked Stilts came into view. Usually, they settle into a retention pond a mile away behind a church but the water seems to be too high right now. Eventually, I found a total of 4 before they moved on.

Black-necked Stilt

A bit down the shoreline I found a Wood Stork relaxing. Should be seeing more of them as the waters draw down and make it easier to grab the smaller fish.

Wood Stork

My search for other shorebirds will continue as April moves along...

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Bald Eagles ARE Nesting

I was earlier mourning the fact that the Bald Eagles would not breed this year. Young birds should be ready to fly by now but no one has seen any in the past couple of months. Suddenly, a post online suggests that the birds are breeding late. What you can't see in this shot is the little head that was waving below the nest line

Bald Eagle

There is definitely at least one young bird in there and I keep trying to get a shot. Stay tuned, but this is way late for there babies!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Birding While Doing Yardwork

Spring is here and finally time to do a little yard work We are fortunate enough to be a bit of a more native plant people so we don't have to waste water on lawns and we can often make it for about 6 month before doing real maintenance. Once the rains return, however, everything erupts before your eyes. Most of these shots are not great but just observations as I was busy out back and watching the birds flow in as I cleared the front and back yards.

I took down the growth in the front yard first as that is the first to get strong sunlight and then moved to the back. Once I mowed down the random weeds, I filled the bird baths and filled the feeders for the first time in quiet a while. I also tossed out a few raw peanuts for our Blue Jays and it didn't take long for them to take advantage of the spoils.

Blue Jay

So ya know, I have the camera out there in the back just in case I can capture something as I work after the dust settles. Comes in handy when a secretive Carolina Wren sneaks out to grab some new food from a feeder.

Carolina Wren

As I took a break to down some water, a Mourning Dove hurried in for a bite.

Mourning Dove

When I first filled the ground bird bath, a Brown Thrashers quickly flew in to take a bath. I missed that photo op but soon a Gray Catbird decided to take its place and then spend some time picking at things from the newly mowed yard.

Gray Catbird

One of the other birds that take advantage of when I fill the peanut feeder is the Red-bellied Woodpecker that is, for the second year, nesting just outside our bedroom window. There are several holes now in the tree but it was quite busy with one particular one.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

It was taking peanuts from the feeders a flying back to deposit them one at a time. Again, not a great shot, but I love seeing the Red-bellied Woodpeckers dropping in throughout the days.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Still trying to see if the Barred Owls are successful in raising a new brood this year but I have yet to see them. Always checking.