Saturday, June 27, 2015

Jay Watch 2015, Part 1

It's that time again! Back out into the Summer heat to count Florida Scrub Jays. This weekend I was stationed at Buck Lake Conservation Area near Mims, Florida. Always nice to meet up with old and new friends and hopefully get some shots of the Jays and other discoveries in the scrub.

While the instructions for our procedures were given to the new volunteers I spied something more interesting. Up on one of the powerless I spotted a Great-Crested Flycatcher. A few minutes later it actually stuck its head into on end of the large pipes and then flew back to perch. Another flycatcher arrived and then the two seemed to have a bit of a quarrel leaving the original bird sitting on the wire. I can only surmise they have a nest in that pipe. Cool.

Great-Crested Flycatcher

The group leaders seem to have finally nailed down how to get group photos of the daily volunteers. Used to be they would wait until the end of the morning but by then either half the group has gone home or is just too exhausted by the heat. Now we get the shot before heading out for the counts.


I had the closest count points with Jane and Maria (who runs the event on this side of the state). Approaching our first count point I spotted a pair of jays on a dead tree snag. We had to walk past the birds to get on the best side of the morning sunlight. Shortly after we settled in with our binoculars to get the leg band data. Soon, one of the Florida Scrub Jays flew among us, grabbed something from the ground and found a spot to cache it in the sand.

Florida Scrub Jay

It then hopped up into small tree right in front of me allowing me some nice shots.

Florida Scrub Jay

Maria had been looking for a photo that showed the pattern on the back of adult Florida Scrub Jays and our bird was happy to oblige me as I moved behind it and I got some excellent shots. Turns out that this shot serves a duel purpose as it is also a good example shot of tail molt.

Florida Scrub Jay

That bird flew back to the tree but the second one soon replaced it, again, right in front of me. This is a good shot of the leg bands on this bird which would be recorded Silver/Black/Mauve.

Florida Scrub Jay

We moved off to survey some other points before returning to this general area. I played my jay tapes and a pair of Florida Scrub Jays flew in from a quarter mile away. Took a few minutes to confirm but it was the same pair we hung with earlier.

Florida Scrub Jay

While I was positioning myself in the oaks for the best angle I could get of the Jay above me a juvenile Northern Mockingbird flew in to see what all the fuss was.

Northern Mockingbird

The next set of points was near the large ditch that cuts across the property. It stays a bit more damp and typically have some interesting flowers blooming like one of our species of St. John's Wort.

St. John's Wort

Tucked down in the grasses, a few Rhexia swayed in the gentle breeze.


A yellow flower I have yet to identify caught my eye as I headed back to the roadside to meet my ride.


Once I got settled a flash caught my eye up in the blue. First the sky was totally blue but suddenly an area of white would appear like a rotating advertising sign an disappear again. Wood Stork flock I figured but I took a shot just to document it. I thought that the Anhinga following at the bottom of the flock was interesting, too.

American White Pelican

Once I got the image on the home computer I was a bit more than surprised. Those weren't Storks. They were American White Pelicans! I am use to seeing them only in the Winter but I guess some do stick around sometimes according to records. Just a pretty rare sight for June.

American White Pelican

I play my first round of Jay calls per instructions then have to stop before the full minute was up. A Swallow-tailed Kite was flying right toward me. Kites have been known to prey upon young birds so we try not to attract any jays when raptors of any kind are in sight. The Kite eventually headed out over the tree line and I played the tape for one more round before my time was up.

Swallow-tailed Kite

Grasshoppers were constantly flying out of the way of my step at every stop. This one posed for a nice morning shot in the road.


It was taking a while for Maria to get me for the next round. Maybe she had a bird or two at her stop. As I waited I spotted a small dot on the horizon, high in the sky. Didn't seem like a Red-tailed Hawk to me so I snapped a few shot to take home and analyze. Turned out to be a Short-tailed Hawk, another excellent bird for this time of year. I have only seen a few of theses birds ever and never got a shot as clear.

Short-tailed Hawk

Maria finally headed down to get me reporting that she did, indeed have a bird at her area. It seemed to be unbanded so we hurried back with my camera to try for documentation. Sure enough, an unbanded Florida Scrub Jay panting in the warming morning.

Florida Scrub Jay

The scope was brought out for a closer view and to verify there were no bands on this bird.


No more birds for us on our remaining spot but I am sure some of the other teams had some. Tomorrow is Part Two at Lake Monroe. Hopefully, we can keep the nice breeze around. It wasn't as hot as I had feared it was going to be today

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