Sunday, December 27, 2015

Tierra Verde Duck Ponds

The previous post was put up first since it had more birds in it but the morning started with my desire to chase down the hundreds of Redhead ducks reported at the Tierra Verde Duck Ponds in the past few days. Dad decided to join me and we stopped there early but the ducks were not there. There was only a Ring-necked Duck and a Red Breasted Merganser.

Red Breasted Merganser

As we scanned the ponds we did start to hear a familiar call. A small flock of Nandy Parakeets. They squawked as they flew past and then disappeared. With no other ducks around we headed to Ft. De Soto as posted previously.

Nandy Parakeet

Once we finished up our survey at the beached, we headed back toward home. On the way, Dad mentioned that he thought there were birds flying off to his right. I glanced over and it seemed like a small set of clouds. Another glance suggested a moving flock but while driving at 55 mph it was hard to discern. But it did start to look like birds. I thought shorebirds.

Suddenly, they grew closer. We could see it was a big flock of larger birds and it seemed for sure it was ducks. They flew right over us and turned toward the ponds. There were all of the Redheads dropping into the ponds right over our heads and into the water! An amazing sight I will never forget. Once we parked and looked over the area all of the ducks were before us.


The raft of Redhead shifted back and forth and there was a moment when a few were undecided on which part of the flock to join. Instead, these few ducks swam toward us and gave a great shot right in front of us.


Most of my objectives were met but I had also heard that there were also a couple of American Wigeon seen the other day. I wanted to add them but could not spot them. I finished taking shots of the Redheads and then said it was time to move on. As we headed back to the car I noticed a pair of ducks with a white patch and froze. It was the American Wigeons joining the other ducks right on queue! Score number two! Finding Wigeon in Florida anywhere is a great find.

I had them at Lake Apopa earlier and now on the other side of the state. Sweet.

American Wigeon

Still missing the gulls I was after but my main birds were found today. Best of all, I got to share them with my Dad. Perfect morning complete.

Yearly Birding Stop at Ft. DeSoto

My father and I left dark and early to get to Fort DeSoto and the Tierra Verde Duck Ponds to try and find anything. I always try to get over here at some point when we visit at Christmastime. We stopped by the ponds first so we got to the Loop a little late but there was still a nice sunrise going on with our 3rd sundog of the weekend.

Sunshine Skyway Sunrise

I was really hoping to find a Franklin's Gull somewhere. We missed the one that was here last year and many are being seen on the Atlantic side of the state. Unfortunately, all we could find were Laughing Gulls.

Laughing Gull

Ospreys are nesting now and thy often fly by in search of a meal.


We enjoyed watching the large flock of Brown Pelicans on the rocks next to the pier.

Brown Pelican

Just after we pulled into the North Beach parking lot I spotted a bird off to the right. It was an American Kestrel that actually stayed put after I got out of the car. That never has happened before!

American Kestrel

Not too long ago (OK, maybe a couple years) I heard that Pinellas County was going to try and get rid of all the non-native Australian Pines. You could the difference right after we parked. The whole wind-break before the beach was gone and once we got to the sand all we found were stumps.

Australian Pines

They cut those larger trees but it looks like they are just poisoning the smaller ones. Sorry, I have a soft spot for Australian Pines. I recall growing up along the shoreline and listening to the wind going through the branches. A wonderful sound to me.

Australian Pines

We continued walking and there was this single Ring-billed Gull out that just wanted to have its picture taken. OK, with me.

Ring-billed Gull

On the way back I decided to test the macro function on the new camera. My first subject was a chunk of Sand Dollar.

Sand Dollar

I spotted this grouping of Mangrove stems sticking out of the sand on the way out and the shadows just pulled me down for a close shot.


Tiny shells sit above ripples caused by the waves.


Suddenly a Forster's Tern got near and was feeding along the edge of the waves. It finally was in a pretty good position to try for a shot.

Forster's Tern

We headed toward the duck ponds again but that will be in another post. When we got back to the house I was trying some more macro shots when this silly Northern Mockingbird popped its head out from a bush.

Northern Mockingbird

Stay tuned for the duck story following soon!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Courtney Campbell Causeway

It's the day after Christmas so time to head out in search of more birds in the Tampa Bay area. I figured I had not been down Courtney Campbell Causeway in years so why not check it out? Wow. Time has surely changed the causeway. Most of the beaches I remember are now rock walls and bike trails! Oh, well. Let's see what is out here in the wind today.

There are a couple of drives that take you off the main road and travel along the water's edge. A lot of the way the view is obscured by mangrove and other plants but there are some openings. One of the first birds I found was an American Oystercatcher up on a rock. One of my favorite birds on the Gulf Coast.

American Oystercatcher

Once the sunlight came through the clouds it was super bright and lit up a Yellow-crowned Night Heron as I rounded a bend. I couldn't believe how many of these herons were out here today.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

There were not a lot of birds on the bay side as the wind was really strong, coming in from the south. A Herring Gull was just standing in the water making weird calls over and over.

Herring Gull

A few Willet browsed the shore which was littered with too much trash.


Back on the other side a few Horned Grebes dove for food and flew along the boat wakes. Love those red eyes. I couldn't get a shot of the Common Loon I saw on both trips of this side.

Horned Grebe

I had to peek through the mangrove branches to get a final shot of another Yellow-crowned Night Heron before I headed back to the family.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Later in the afternoon my Dad and I stopped over at George C. McGough Nature Park to look for birds. There were only a few warblers around and, oddly, all but one nest box in the woods was full of honey bees! We were just about to get back into the car when I spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk in the distance. Of course, I had to see how close I could get. Pretty close, it turns out.

Red-shouldered Hawk

I took a bunch of shots and ended up with some different exposures. Not sure if I prefer the one above or below better. Whaddaya think?

Red-shouldered Hawk

Back home I stepped outside to start testing the new camera I got for Christmas. A Nikon CoolPix that I will be using primary at the bird banding site as the old Olympus is reaching the end of its days. I was coming around the corner of the house and was happy to see a sundog lighting up in the distance. Better still, I knew I could get a Mourning Dove silhouette in the same frame. Sweet.

Mourning Dove

Even though I was disappointed that the causeway has much less beach now I did get some fun shots for the day. Where to go tomorrow before heading back to Orlando? Hmmm...

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Full Moon

A lot of talk was being made about this latest Full Moon was the first on Christmas Day since 1977. Here ya go.

Full Moon

I have been out of the habit of shooting Moon shots and had to figure it out all over again. Think it came out alright.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

St. Pete CBC

My 9th Christmas Bird Count in St. Pete was windy and chilly and overall counts were down not only on the coast but all over Florida. Warm weather seems to have kept most migrants North but we venture out to count every species we can every year in hopes that the data will give us some insight of bird populations and movements.

Every year is different. Sometimes warm, sometimes freezing, but always interesting and I like getting over to the coast to see birds I don't always see in Central Florida. But, honestly, there were nota lot of birds that I couldn't find anywhere else this year. However, 9 hours walking all over Pinellas County is still fun.

We started our day out at Joe's Creek Preserve and first heard and then discovered a Great-horned Owl nest but never saw the bird.

Great-horned Owl

As the Sun continued to rise I spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk searching for breakfast in the distance and tried to get as close as I could before it flew off.

Red-shouldered Hawk

I didn't realize I had walked right by an Apiary until I turned around. It had not been here in the past few years that I was here. Hmmm.


On the other side of the mound, a few Eastern Phoebes were feeding and perching around and on many trees.

Eastern Phoebe

Birds were beginning to move about and we had a few Roseate Spoonbills flying over.

Roseate Spoonbill

We drove over toward the water treatment plant and were surprised to find a big feeding flock of warblers. Most of them were Pine Warblers.

Pine Warbler

I don't think I have ever seen so many Pine Warblers at one time before this morning. They were everywhere!

Pine Warbler

Taking a pause from trying to get a shot of the warblers (in bad light) I glanced upward and spotted a nice Circumzenithal arc overheard.

Circumzenithal arc

Just before we left that spot we found a Blue-headed Vireo joining in on the feeding frenzy.

Blue-headed Vireo

Brazillian Pepper has been encroaching many areas in the state but I was amazed by how much they are taking over in this county.

Brazillian Pepper

We had to make a stop for gas and I took the chance to walk behind the store to a check of the canal. Good thing I did. A Mottled Duck was drifting by.

Mottled Duck

Heading over to Veteran's War Memorial Park we hoped to find some shorebirds but there were not a lot of them. I had to settle for a couple of Willet feeding near the shore.


How can I resist a shot of a Brown Pelican flying by?

Brown Pelican

One of the birds we always hope to find here is the Great-horned Owl. We thought it might be hard to get since we missed it the past couple of years but as we stepped out of the van...

Great-horned Owl

Another view of the sleepy Great-horned Owl.

Great-horned Owl

Heading back to the shore we were greeted by a few nice birds to add to the list, including a quick moving Yellow-throated Warbler.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Suddenly, a flock of American Goldfinches came in to view and began feeding on

American Goldfinch

As much as I liked watching the Goldfinches, I was also focused on another bird flitting about. A Prairie Warbler.

Prairie Warbler

Then quickly back to an American Goldfinch stuffing his face.

American Goldfinch

Nearby, we stopped at a strip mall to check a pond that usually holds interesting birds. Today we only had a few birds but did have a Mallard hybrid with ducklings.

Mallard Hybrid

Our count ended and I headed out to a spot where a rare bird was sighted a few days before. As I looked for the bird I could not resist taking a shot of a Palm Warbler that posed for me too easily.

Palm Warbler

I thought I had the rare bird in my sights but after looking through the shots and enhancing I discovered it was just an Orange-crowned Warbler. Oh, well.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Another CBC under my belt in St. Pete and a good time with other birders. Next year will be a 10 year anniversary. Until then...more birds back home!