Monday, December 26, 2016

Largo Birding

Where to go the day after Christmas? I couldn't decide so I visited several spots all around Largo. First stop: War Veteran's Memorial Park where I have spent time during Christmas Bird Counts. It was not too birdy, but the Brown Pelicans feeding out in the channel.

Brown Pelican

I was taken aback by the lack of other birds in the park. The only other fun bird of note was a male Black and White Warbler moving at high speed near the point. Very little other activity in all of my hiking this morning.

Black and White Warbler

Since it was pretty quiet at that park I headed over to Largo Central Park Nature Preserve. Things were a bit more interesting here. I walked around the back side of the park and found a number of Black-hooded Parakeets up in the power station.

Black-hooded Parakeet

I started through a recently cut portion leading back to the park and noticed some small birds darting into some brush. It took me a bit to nail it down but was pleasantly surprised to discover it was a House Finch.

House Finch

Down in the freshly cut grass and brush were several Western Palm Warblers hopping around and feeding.

Western Palm Warbler

Halfway along the boardwalk in the woods a Downy Woodpecker dropped next to me and began pounding away on a tree. I took many, many photos just wanting the bird to look my direction at least once but he would not cooperate so I ended up with most of the shots becoming blurry.

Downy Woodpecker

One of my presents was a wide angle lens. It should be fun to play around with from time to time. Have to practice some exposure times, for sure.

Wide angle

Heading back to the parking lot I spotted a Pied-billed Grebe swimming down the creek toward me.

Pied-billed Grebe

Just beyond that was a juvenile Little Blue Heron feeding so intently that it never paid attention to me as I took a couple dozen shots.

Little Blue Heron

Just nearing the restrooms I saw a bird flash out and back to the trees. It was an Eastern Phoebe plucking insects from the air and returning to its perch.

Eastern Phoebe

I turned toward the car and had a Northern Mockingbird pop up out of a bush. Who can resist that shot?

Northern Mockingbird

I then headed over to John S. Taylor Park. It is a park that is hidden in plain sight, almost. It is surrounded by office buildings and homes but is fairly large and holds different birds than the other parks. Like Ring-billed Gulls which were relaxing all along the shoreline and atop signs. Which profile do you prefer? To the right...

Ring-billed Gull

...or to the left?

Ring-billed Gull

I love how this Common Gallinule looks like it was carved out of wax and the color scheme really works for me, too.

Common Gallinule

Up in the pines was a lone Anhinga just relaxing.

Anhinga

There wasn't too much more to look find so I had to take more shots of the gulls on the way out. This one seems a little younger than the others around.

Ring-billed Gull

This one is definitely an older bird

Ring-billed Gull

Not a bad way to spend a long morning of birding. However, it will soon be time to head back to Orlando and home.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Hooded Merganser Joy

I always swing by a local retention pond after my bird banding to check if there are any Hooded Mergansers swimming about. They prefer a certain pond every year and sometimes they make good subjects. Sometimes they want nothing to do with me and retreat to the underside of a parking structure. Today they didn't mind my being there.

Hooded Merganser

In the past, my shots have been rather hit or miss. Could be raining. Could be getting there when the light is too harsh. A lot of times they are just constantly moving and my shots seem too soft for me. For whatever reason today my shots were spot on.

Hooded Merganser

I ended up with a ton of shots I liked and I had to just narrow down choices for this selection. I will probably go back to revisit the gallery again in a while but for now I needed to stop. The males were giving me a lot of nice poses I enjoy.

Hooded Merganser

The female Hooded Mergansers were cruising a little closer to me and would just stare after coming up from a dive for food.

Hooded Merganser

Then the light would strengthen just a bit more and light up their crest.

Hooded Merganser

Such a cute, coy looking lady.

Hooded Merganser

I always think the eyes on these birds ends up a little blurry. Drives me crazy. The rest of the shot is in focus.

Hooded Merganser

Now I wonder if since Hooded Mergansers are divers that perhaps it is a nictitating eyelid like sharks. It is "a transparent (or translucent) third eyelid present in some animals that can be drawn across the eye for protection". Would explain it to me.

Hooded Merganser

A final shot of two females drifting past.

Hooded Merganser

I could sit with the Hooded Mergansers all day but I had other things to do. Like wash bug spray off of me. And bird poop. Happens when banding birds.

2016 St. Pete CBC, Part 2

Part 2 of the CBC post is going to be a bit more lengthy. I took so many more photos as the day went on and didn't expect to get many birds at the golf course. Settle in...

We headed back to Crescent Lake to look for our main target, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. We missed it the first two time. We were told where to look for the bird and as we got out of the car the first thing we found was a Red-bellied Woodpecker peeking out of a tree branch.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Gathered around the woodpecker were several European Starlings. They were all fussing at the woodpecker. Perhaps it use to be their nest site? Every now and then, one of the males would wave its wings about in protest.

European Starling

It took a little while but Jim finally spotted our bird in the Sweet Gum tree between the parking lot and the lake. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is very well camouflaged against the tree bark. If you aren't looking at the right moment it is easy to miss them.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Now that it was later in the day we got a chance to get a better view of the Lesser Scaups and Ring-necked Ducks. The Scuap is in the center.

Lesser Scaup Ring-necked Duck

Among the Ring-necked Ducks was a leucistic female.

Ring-necked Duck

I love how grumpy this Lesser Scaup looks. Hur-umph!

Lesser Scaup

One of the domestic duck present was a Graylag Goose who took some time to bathe as we were walking past.

Graylag Goose

Double-crested Cormorants were gathered along the shore. Great to have a chance to get a close look at those amazing eyes.

Double-crested Cormorant

What I didn't know about Double-crested Cormorants is that the insides of their mouth can get that Robin-egg blue. Thanks for the yawn!

Double-crested Cormorant

Not a lot of American Coots around but a few. Simply stunning in black and white.

American Coot

Couldn't resist a shot of a feather resting on the lawn.

Feather

Laughing Gulls were gathered at the North end of the lake.

Laughing Gull

We were told that WHite-winged Doves could be found at the Dairy Inn. Nope. Just wanted to prove that we did check.

Sign

We did find another dove on the way back to the lake. A Eurasian Collared Dove.

Eurasian Collared Dove

Just past the tennis courts were a pair of Yellow-shafted Flickers.

Yellow-shafted Flicker

We came back to the water tower and could here Monk Parakeets everywhere. Closer inspection revealed many nest wedged in the stairs and railings.

Monk Parakeet

A lot of the Monk Parakeets would fly down to the oaks and chew on some acorns.

Monk Parakeet

We stopped along a creek in search of more birds. Our leader, Jim McGinity, was trying to get a shot of the only ouse Wren we found today.

Jim McGinity

We were not thrilled to head to the golf course. We just figured there would not be that many species to be found out there. It was our final stop of the day. We loaded into cats and began our tour. If I hadn't have turned toward the practice range I would have missed our only raptor hiding in the shade. A Red-shouldered Hawk.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Jim and Killian were just ahead of me and seemed excited as they climbed out of their cart by a small pond. It was full of a couple dozen Northern Shovelers. I got my best shots of these birds ever today.

Northern Shoveler

They were enthralled with the ducks but I spied something else across to pond. A Spotted Sandpiper!

Spotted Sandpiper

The soon setting Sun lit up a female Northern Shoveler resting on shore.

Northern Shoveler

Just in front of her were our only Mottled Ducks of the day.

Mottled Duck

Feeling a bit more bouyed by these unexpected finds, we made the turn toward the next fairway and came upon a small flock of Blue-winged Teal.

Blue-winged Teal

Behind them was a pair of Mallard. This is the best I could get of the green feathers.

Mallard

Lurking along the shoreline was a feeding Roseate Spoonbill trying to stay hidden.

Roseate Spoonbill

You can try to hide, Roseate Spoonbill. You can try...

Roseate Spoonbill

Ospreys were busy diving for fish in all of the ponds. Just couldn't get those houses out of the way.

Osprey

My final shot of the day was a Loggerhead Shrike perched as we were exiting the course. We then turned in the carts and totaled our bird before heading home.

Loggerhead Shrike

Ten news species were gathered at the golf course. Who would have thunk it? Not bad day but I was hoping for more species in total. But, we were in very urban environments so I guess we did alright. The final total for the St. Pete CBC ended up being 163 species which was a tie for the 3rd best count ever. I was there for all the top counts. Can't wait for next year.