Monthly Archives: February 2011
For a number of years I have been pleased to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, an annual four-day event where bird watchers of all ages count birds to create a snapshot of where birds are across the continent.
Beginning on Friday of this year I began submitting my lists. On Sunday morning I set out to make another observation, and I was surprised to see no birds. Upon looking around a bit, I discovered that in fact I had ONE bird:
This handsome and imposing bird had apparently caused all the smaller birds to seek cover.
I usually see Gambel’s Quail, Western Scrub Jays, House Finches, White-Winged Doves, American Goldfinches, Lesser Goldfinches, Spotted Towhees, House Finches, Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-shafted Northern Flickers, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Curve-billed Thrashers, White-crowned Sparrows, Greater Roadrunners and Common Ravens around my house this time of year. Today I saw only a hawk.
I had gradually approached the bird to take some photos, and he took exception to my approaching so near.
The hawk flew from its perch …
… coming quite close to me at one point.
The hawk allowed me one more good look …
… before it turned to fly south …
…showing me a flash of red …
… as it flew away.
Within five minutes all the usual birds were back at their feeders. I resumed my bird count, with the addition of one Red-tailed Hawk.
Inevitably as I come to the end of my Florida photos I have some that did not exactly fit into previous posts. Some did not fit into a particular category, some were marginal photos, some were overlooked. Like a stew made out of leftovers scrounged from the refrigerator, here is my final Florida post.
From Daytona Beach Shores:
And a video of the gulls at Daytona Beach Shores:
From the Lowe’s parking lot in Titusville, Florida:
From Chain of Lakes Park in Titusville, Florida:
From Christmas, Florida: Swampy, the World’s Largest Gator.
From Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge: A view of the Space Shuttle Launch Complex.
And finally, from a roadside in Titusville, Florida:
Which, of course, brings me to the end of my Florida adventures . . . until next time.
Faithful readers may recall my unhappiness at driving by a small neighborhood lake without stopping one morning at the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. (See A New Mexican in Florida-Part III.) I had made a note of the location in a Titusville, Florida neighborhood where the lake was located, and I returned one morning with Donna and Melanie. Dawn and Jeff joined us there. There were over 100 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at the lake.
One of the neighbors saw us and came over to chat with us. He said that a pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks first appeared at the pond several years ago. He started feeding the ducks, and more ducks joined the first pair. He estimated that there were now over 100 ducks staying at the pond. There were occasional Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis, Wood Storks and Anhinga.
A friendly retired minister and his lovely wife strolled up and told us that they had lived in the neighborhood for over 40 years. The ducks often slept in their backyard under a large tree.
Because this was a small lake in a neighborhood, we were able to get quite close to the Roseate Spoonbills.
It was a lovely morning, and we sat on the bank of the lake, enjoying the sun and watching the birds.
The Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are named for the whistling noise that they make, and I made a video of them whistling. Unfortunately the lake is right next to I-95 so you can hear a great deal of traffic noise, but you can still hear the ducks.
If you are wondering what happened to Part V of this Florida series, you will find it over at my Photo Flurries blog.
After my initial too-brief tour of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which I discussed in Part III of my Florida adventure, I was determined to return and enjoy the birds and scenery at a more leisurely pace. Dawn, Donna, Melanie and I decided to make the trip together. There were so many beautiful birds!
We saw a trio of lovely birds, which scattered as we pulled over to photograph them.
On the other side of the road we saw an Anhinga high in the trees.
This handsome Wood Stork looked as if he was only one step removed from a pterodactyl.
He seemed mildly offended by our presence, and he stalked away.
We saw Roseate Spoonbills with their beautiful colors and prehistoric faces …
… and we were delighted to see Tricolored Herons.
We watched a young Osprey catch a fish and come to rest in a tree, where the fish became entangled in the branches.
We watched the Osprey struggle with the fish for quite awhile.
The bird was finally able to free the fish from the tree and it flew away with the fish in one claw, presumably to consume it atop a power pole as the rest of the Ospreys do.
Be sure to look for A New Mexican in Florida-Part V over in my Photo Flurries blog.
One of the morning’s activities at the Space Coast Bird and Wildlife Festival was called Brevard Hot Spots. I assumed that the name referred to good birding spots in Brevard County. Perhaps it should have been called Brevard Cold Spots because the morning was very cold. We loaded ourselves onto a bus at 5:30 am, and we were taken somewhere out in the middle of nowhere and unloaded from the bus. Miserable birders stood around in the cold hoping that the sunrise would bring a bit of warmth and some birds.
As it got a bit lighter, a couple of birds flew out of the reeds in the cold, dim, morning light.
But mostly we saw this:
Birders stood around with binoculars looking at distant sparrows, cardinals, woodpeckers and a catbird. I felt my toes going numb as I looked without success for something to photograph.
We went to several more unproductive spots. Birders were desperately looking for bird-like forms.
Finally the bus drove by a small lake in a neighborhood that had many Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, some Roseate Spoonbills and a Wood Stork. Did we stop? No. I took a bad photo through the window of the moving bus.
I believed that things could not possibly get worse, but I was wrong. Our tour leader, who seemed intent on ticking off as many species as possible for the day, decided to take all 40 of us to his very small house. We tried to cram ourselves into his enclosed porch to see birds at his feeders. We were cautioned not to touch the blinds, which were almost closed. Perhaps 3 or 4 people could actually see birds. I was able to sort of see a male and female Painted Bunting through a screen door. Even in this spectacularly bad photo taken through a screen door you can see how beautiful the birds are.
I was feeling pretty disheartened at this point, but I perked up a bit when I learned that our next stop would be Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Our first stop was at this pond to look at ducks. Birders got out their spotting scopes and began to exclaim over the tiny dots, which they assured me were ducks.
I wandered away and began to look for birds to photograph.
After the birders had their fill of happily viewing duck dots through scopes, we got back on the bus and continued to Canaveral National Seashore. It is a truly beautiful, unspoiled place. In the parking lot I saw this handsome fellow sitting on a sign.
He was obliging enough to sit for his portrait.sa
We walked over the dune and onto the beach. I watched an Osprey hunting above the waves.
By the time we returned to our starting point, our group had seen 93 species of birds. I saw perhaps half that many. I learned that the type of birding where you go for big numbers is not my kind of birding. I like to stop and enjoy the birds. I would return to many of the places that I visited that day, and I would do it my way.
One of the activities that I enjoyed at the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival was a trip to Daytona Beach Shores, which has a large concentration of gulls during the winter months. I saw Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls as well as a Bonaparte’s Gull, a Thayer’s Gull and an Iceland Gull. Being from New Mexico I had a very difficult time differentiating between the various gulls, but it was a real treat to see so many of them in one place. It was also a treat to be warm after the cold of the morning’s activities.
The gulls were at the water’s edge …
… and flying over the beach …
… and over the water. Note the splashes where the gulls are diving in the surf.
As the gulls flew in, there was competition for space at the water’s edge.
I enjoyed seeing the different species of gulls.
The experienced birders showed me other gulls in their spotting scopes: Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a Bonaparte’s Gull, a Thayer’s Gull and an Iceland Gull, but I was not able to get photographs of them.
There were other lovely birds on this beach too. Brown Pelicans flew overhead.
This Royal Tern bathed happily in the waves.
I loved watching the tiny Sanderlings feeding busily at the surf’s edge.
I had never seen sunset colors over the Atlantic before.
It was a wonderful day at Daytona Beach Shores.
It is entirely possible, likely even, that I have mis-identified any number of gulls in this post. Please feel free to point out errors.
I am 62 years old, and until I attended the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival this year I had never been to Florida. I was beside myself with anticipation as I boarded my plane for the Sunshine State. After flight delays, flying through a storm, renting a car in the middle of the night and driving through the remnants of the storm, I finally made it to Titusville in my Nissan Cube at 1:30 a.m. I was a New Mexican in Florida, and I was ready for a birding festival.
The first thing that I signed up for was a tour of the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera, more commonly known as the Viera Wetlands. When I arrived at 5:30 a.m. I was barely conscious. I did not remember to adjust my camera at all, so most of my photographs are not very good. I did, however, manage to take a few photos that are recognizable as birds.
It was a cold, sunny morning at Viera. A busload of birders shivered in the early morning cold.
As the day got warmer, I was able to enjoy the beautiful scenery, which is quite exotic to someone from New Mexico.
I saw birds that I had never seen before. My favorite was the Limpkin.
And there were other new birds as well.
I also saw White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, American Bittern, Palm Warblers, Eastern Phoebe, Common Yellowthroat, and a Red-shouldered Hawk, all of which are not found in New Mexico. My photos of these are not good enough to share.
I was pleased to see old friends in a new location.
And a first for this New Mexican: an alligator in the wild. Can you see him in the vegetation?
By the afternoon I had returned to semi-consciousness, and I had remembered to adjust my camera. I was in Florida, and I was ready to see more birds! Stay tuned.