Saturday, July 23, 2016


A little break from the birds.

I do a tour of the local lakes most Saturday mornings and today I got a little hungry when I was done and drove over to Wendy's for some nuggets. This Wendy's is directly across the street from the Pule nightclub just a couple miles from the house and less than a mile from where our kids went to school. Heck, most of the victims brought to the hospital is right next to where both our boys were born. So, I have been driving past this location for most of nearly 25 years.

Pulse was originally an Italian restaurant we visited at least once. After that closed it eventually became a nightclub catering to a primarily gay clientele. The place was fairly unassuming and had a packed parking lot after hours. Again, I drove past this spot all the time heading to the stores or coming home. After the shootings the roads were closed for weeks as the investigations went on so I didn't have a reason to go near it.

Now, the spot is a memorial and people still file through all day. Some leave items, many more take photos and read what was left at the front entrance. When you leave the Wendy's parking lot to the main road you are facing Pulse. I decided to take a photo nearly two months after the event.


Two days before the Pulse shooting, Christina Grimme, a singer who was on 'The Voice', was shot and killed 2 1/2 miles in the other direction from our house. Senseless violence so close to home. But remember, this is not a violent city. This was just two crazy events in one weekend carried out by two lunatics. I still feel safe here but deeply saddened. I, and many countless others, love Orlando. All the signs say it. 'Orlando Strong', 'Orlando United', 'Orlando Love'.

We are a wildly diverse city and we are better for it. Glad our kids were brought up tolerant of others and they really don't get why people hate others for little reason. Generations are getting smarter all the time. I was born in Gainesville and lived in several cities in Florida but Orlando will always be my home.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Jaywatch, 2016, Pt. 2

My 2nd day at Buck Lake for the Jay Watch this year. Many known faces and a few new ones as we gathered for the group photo before heading out to our check points.


Once I settled in to my first point I took a bit of time to move up the trail during one of the in between call playing sessions. I was mainly looking at the trees but as I headed back to my starting point I gazed down and noticed a Black Bear paw print in the road! They looked fairly fresh. It rained last night so these prints were probably from not too long ago. They lead directly check point flag and disappeared into the scrub. Gulp!

Black Bear Paw Print

Along the road were a few flowers including a native pink spiderwort also called Roseling (Cuthbertia ornate).


At my next check point was was positioned to look back toward the rising Sun and to where I was not long ago. I began to play the call files and noticed several silhouettes approaching me. Could they be a family of Scrub Jays? No. A family of Eastern Towhee with two adults and several newly fledged young.

Eastern Towhee

We passed this stalk of flowering Palmetto on the way back to our initial check points and I was glad we had a chance to come back by it again so I could get a photo.


I even got to walk past it as we headed toward the truck and get an even closer view. Never saw such a stalk before.


Our driver, Pete, did find our one Jay of the morning.

Florida Scrub Jay

My next two stops were in areas not that common for the Jays so I always look for more flowers like the Loblolly Bay.

Loblolly Bay

My final point had a good number of Asters blooming at the edge of the roadway.


A pretty scene for the end of the day. These areas are burned periodically to clear the way for a Jay friendly environment. Snags still stand above the lush new growth and tower into the sky.


Only one Scrub Jay in our transect. I recall many more in this area years ago so it is kind of sad. We will see how the data compiles later in the year. Hopefully, the birds are gaining ground in different areas.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Jaywatch 2016, Pt. 1

Oh, how I was dreading this year's Jay Watch. We are doing it a bit later than in past years and we have been under very humid and hot weather for a week. Fortunately, the morning was not too bad and we even had a bit of a breeze to keep things a little cooler. Plus, we ended fairly early. Not too bad. We gathered for a group photo just before heading out to the survey areas.

Always easy to spot me in my beard and banding uniform.


My group began at Site 41 in the area well known for a reliable group of Jays. The first one jumped up to check us out right away.

Florida Scrub Jay

Another bird (unbanned, we determined after a lot of looks and scoping) stayed high in a snag and was joined by another bird as we surveyed the area.

Florida Scrub Jay

The most curious Florida Scrub Jay came down to check us out. It only has a single Federal aluminum band. I decided to call it Silver. I didn't notice until later (we are really focused on band colors) that this bird was molting in tail feathers.

Florida Scrub Jay

One of the first Florida Scrub Jays I remember at Buck Lake was a bird with mostly green bands. I was wondering where it was when she finally popped into view. Two Kelly Green bands plus the metal band leaves me calling her Kelly.

Florida Scrub Jay

We went to our next site points and Kelly and Silver, here atop a pine, followed us down the road.

Florida Scrub Jay

We headed farther down the check points to gather Susan from her spot and I noticed a Jay coming up behind here. Turned out it was Silver once again, following us even farther along the way. Those molting tail feathers give it away, too.

Florida Scrub Jay

I was hoping to get a good shot in the open and Silver complied.

Florida Scrub Jay

Kelly soon joined us, too. These were the only Jays we had on our transect but it was nice to get some good clear shots to share with the group.

Florida Scrub Jay

The next spot found me beginning to play the taped calls to attract more jays. Soon, I saw a Swallow-tailed Kite circling overhead. We have to stop playing calls so any juveniles bring themselves into view as any predators are around. Kites will take a young bird when they can.

Swallow-tailed Kite

No trip out to the scrub is complete without me getting a shot of Tar Flower blooming. They are waning right now but still beautiful.

Tar Flower

I finished my point a bit ahead of others and started toward the truck for pickup. Susan (one of our banding volunteers) was winding up her spot at that point.


We found a few Gopher Tortoises along the side of the roads and Maria, head of the Jay Watch here, moved it to the scrub. I didn't realize it but I heard rustling and had to investigate. There it was, plowing through the underbrush.

Gopher Tortoise

Only one family to record but I was happy to get some shots along the way. Tomorrow, I will be in another transect at Buck Lake and hope to find more Jays.