Sunday, July 20, 2014

Baby Anhingas

I was going to get some weeding done at the banding site today but figured I was too tired after a few days of heading upstate to check in on the happenings at Brass Camp where our youngest was attending his second year. Fun thing for them and always amazing how much progress all the kids make in just a few days.

Instead, I headed down to the site to at least take inventory of things we might have to deal with next week. I got there at 8:30 AM and it got hot. Fast. No breeze and high humidity. Good thing I skipped harder work today. Once I made all of my mental notes in an hour I was soaked from head to toe from sweat.

One the way home I got a second wind thanks to the car's AC and decided to check in on Kraft Azalea Park. I figured all the Great Egret and Double-crested Cormorant chicks would all be fledged and gone but who knows. Might be something there. It was very quiet. Couldn't even find a Wood Duck. As I was completing the last part of the lakeside property I finally heard some chatter up in the trees.


Baby Anhingas! That one was up in the branches by itself taking a stretch. Then I spotted another nest full of Anhinga chicks.


Then another, and another. They were all in a few oaks all here by the road. This pair just relaxed on a branch. Adults would sometimes fly in and out during food runs.


This bird actually flew in and chased off a Great Egret.


The Egret settled in some lower branches. Probably waiting to steal some food from the clumsy chicks.

Great Egret

While I was walking around for better angles I was definitely smelling some critter in a state of decay. I couldn't find it anywhere, though. Eventually, however, I spotted it. It appeared that an adult male had slipped of the branch and got its head caught in the limbs. You can barely make it out in the photos. Probably for the best. I still don't know how that chick is going to be, mentally, after fledging while its Dad hangs dead just beneath the nest. Ew.


Life in the big, bad, jungle. Nice to know that the Anhingas do nest here after the other species. Extends the photography season a bit more.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

2014 Jay Watch, Part 2

This was the second and finally day of the Jay Watch activities for this year and today was back where I began years ago at the Lake Monroe Conservation Area. Our first stop yielded the only Florida Scrub Jays on our route. Actually, it was kind of just off of our points but the birds flew over to investigate once we were getting ready to head to the next point. Still, I needed to try for some shots.

Florida Scrub Jay

Following that first Jay back into the scrub I realized that I was back where I found many juveniles last year but the vegetation had really gown since last year. I only found a few Jays this time, all adults.

Florida Scrub Jay

Knowing that the remaining points would be clear of Jays (but we still have to look) I spent more time focused on the surrounding landscape for flowers and other critters. Just before the next point check was completed I stepped back onto the road and noticed something scurrying away from me. I could tell it was some sort of Funnel Spider so I waited until it emerged from the hole to get a shot.

Funnel Spider

When I got home I looked at the shots and was surprised by something I could not see in the field. A tiny spider on the back of the larger one! Perhaps it is a baby or a male. In the spider world the females are often many times larger than the males. If I can pinpoint the species at some point I can make a decision.

Funnel Spider

The next stop put me in front of a field that at times is flooded. Flowers spring up in between the wet periods and I got some species shots before completing the 10 minute stay. Again, when I got home I found another surprise. Sitting on a wort flower was a Yellow Crab Spider. I get so busy trying to focus that I never notice these other tiny details.

Yellow Crab Spider

Our next stop was in an open scrub plain and I knew there would be no chance for a Scrub Jay here. Eastern Towhees were calling all over and I walked toward a pine to try for a shot. As I got close to the Towhees a Ruby-throated Hummingbird flew straight toward me. I hoped it would stop closer to me but it flew over to a distant bush to rest.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

The hummingbird seemed to be flying to where the Eastern Towhee was moving. Suddenly, the Towhee flew back to my right and landed in another pine where I could get a better view.

Eastern Towhee

Another point to check and this time was a tandem job with one of the other volunteers. Once we began to play the Jay calls I noticed a butterfly speeding past us. A Zebra Swallowtail! I only see them when I am out at these remote locations.

Zebra Swallowtail

One of my other favorites to find are the Six-lined Racers.

Six-lined Racer

I always try to get a shot of the Tarflower when I am out at these events. Can't miss them as you drive around. Hummingbirds feed on them and capture other bugs that linger too close.


Around the Tarflowers and palmetto, dragonflies hunt and rest. This one seemed to just stare at me and say, "What?".


Nearby, another species of dragonfly tried to take over the territory.


We finished all of our points and headed home. Another year, another few Jays in the record books. The final count results will be delivered by the end of the year. Can't wait to hear if we have some good results.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

2014 Jay Watch, Part 1

I headed out for the next Florida Scrub Jay count called Jay Watch for the 7th year? Loosing count by now. I have been there since the beginning. I was split between two sites this year and the first was at Buck Lake near Mims just North of Titusville, Florida. This area has had over 8 inches of rain in the past month and was wetter than any previous counts I have helped with.

Once the sunlight broke through the clouds the humidity was nearly overwhelming. Luckily, we found our first, and only, group of Scrub Jays at our first point. At least three birds were in this group and we began to try to get band colors as the sweat began to soak our clothes.

Florida Scrub Jay

The Florida Scrub Jays were not too cooperative and flew into and out of the oak nearby. Getting the birds in any good lighting was a chalenge.

Florida Scrub Jay

Finally, one of the Florida Scrub Jays came out to the edge of the branches and provided a good look for us to get a verify Green/Green/Dark Green/Silver on this adult bird.

Florida Scrub Jay

One more quick look before they all headed back into the branches and then we were off again to our next stops.

Florida Scrub Jay

We found no other Scrub Jays on our route today but that is how it goes from time to time. Other groups had some birds in their areas. On one of our last points I walked deeper into the scrub to try to locate other birds. Instead, I nearly stepped on baby Gopher Tortoise wandering through the landscape.

Gopher Tortoise

I was drawn even deeper into the scrub in hopes of getting a shot of the calling Bob White Quail I was hearing when a Loggerhead Shrike also honed in on the calls to investigate. Appears to me it was a juvenile checking out the noise.

Loggerhead Shrike

One of the members of today's watch managed to get a group shot of the bunch before we all left for the day. That's me in the green shirt with binoculars. I had been wearing my Jay Watch shirt for the past two years but I wore that one totally out. Back to my banding outfit.

Florida Scrub Jay Group

I couldn't resist the chance to get over to Black Point Drive in Titusville on the way home. I hadn't been there in ages. I had forgotten that they now charge a fee to get in there now. Had to dig around for the five dollars left on me. Not the best time of day or year to visit, but... Without many birds in view, I had to settle for a shot of flowers like the Gallardia blooming all along the Drive.


Midway along the drive I found a pair of Reddish Egrets bickering over feeding spots. Nice to see them again.

Reddish Egret

Trying to hide among the mangroves, a female Anhinga watches as I cruise by in the backstretch of the area.


The most seen species at Black Point today was the Red-winged Blackbirds. Females were flying here and there but the males were up and calling from spots all along the property.

Red-winged Blackbird

Tomorrow I head back to the other Jay Watch area, Lake Monroe Conservation Area and hope to find more Florida Scrub Jays to add to the count. I also find other interesting discoveries there from year to year. We shall see.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mute Swans Half-way There

The Mute Swan family finally came out into the open and on the easier side of the lake so I could get some pictures.

Mute Swans

They drifted toward me and Dad quickly took the point between me and the young brood which is quickly getting near full size.

Mute Swans

Hard to believe that back in May this bird looked like this...

Mute Swans

...and is already grown to this.

Mute Swans

I was checking on the facts about Mute Swans and it appears that there are often different colors in the young, either gray or white. Doesn't seem to be any reason. They all turn out pure white when grown.

Mute Swans

Nice to see then looking big and healthy. I will be continuing to follow their progress when I can.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Surprising Swallow-tailed Kite Find

It has been a pretty bird-less couple of weeks for me. Just not much out there this time of year but I have been checking the local lakes everyday. Today I had to head over to the banding site for one of our Summertime weeding chores before we begin banding birds again in August. As we headed out toward the middle of the net lanes I could hear a strange kind of chirping that I could not identify right away.

Once we got more out in the open we could see them. Ten Swallow-tailed Kites roosting in the snags above us!

Swallow-tailed Kite

A pair of Swallow-tailed Kites nested here earlier in the year and we knew the two chicks had hatched. At that time there was only one additional Kite hanging around that we could tell.

Swallow-tailed Kite

A couple of weeks ago, Richard and Christine reported that they found seven in this same spot.

Swallow-tailed Kite

I am thinking that this is one of the chicks as it is so fluffy.

Swallow-tailed Kite

I consider this another candidate since it has a bunch of tan on the feathers instead of this solid white of the adults. But I am no Kite specialist...

Swallow-tailed Kite

As I carried on with my hacking and weeding I heard the calls again. Upon looking up, I noticed all of the Swallow-tailed Kites soaring above me. Seven were riding the thermals in a spiral while three others circled closer to my head.

Swallow-tailed Kite

I haven't had a good opportunity to photograph Kites in flight in a long time so I was thrilled to get a few shots in today.

Swallow-tailed Kite

This bird was even preening as it flew!

Swallow-tailed Kite

A minute later and the Kites gave out a series of calls and joined together before zipping off to the East to forage. Another day in paradise.