Monthly Archives: February 2011

Wordless Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

Spotted Towhee, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Spotted Towhee, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Spotted Towhee, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Spotted Towhee, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Spotted Towhee, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

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Filed under Bosque del Apache, New Mexico birds

My Great Backyard Bird Count

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:

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk on a power pole at the corner of my acre.

This handsome and imposing bird had apparently caused all the smaller birds to seek cover.

Red-tailed Hawk looking for prey.

Red-tailed Hawk looking for prey.

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.

This Red-Tailed Hawk has sent the other birds into hiding!

This Red-Tailed Hawk has sent the other birds into hiding!

I had gradually approached the bird to take some photos, and he took exception to my approaching so near.

The hawk spots a photographer.

The hawk spots a photographer.

The hawk flew from its perch …

Red-tailed Hawk in flight.

Red-tailed Hawk in flight.

… coming quite close to me at one point.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

The hawk allowed me one more good look …

A beautiful hawk.

A beautiful hawk.

… before it turned to fly south …

Red-tailed Hawk turns south.

Red-tailed Hawk turns south.

…showing me a flash of red …

Red-tailed Hawk.

A flash of red.

… as it flew away.

Red-tailed Hawk

Adios.

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.

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A New Mexican in Florida-Part VII, Miscellany

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:

A US Army Bi-Plane.

A US Army Bi-Plane.

Pontoon plane.

Pontoon plane.

Sailboat

Sailboat

And a video of the gulls at Daytona Beach Shores:

From the Lowe’s parking lot in Titusville, Florida:

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

From Chain of Lakes Park in Titusville, Florida:

A Great Egret in golden afternoon light.

A Great Egret in golden afternoon light.

White Ibis feeding in shallow water.

White Ibis feeding in shallow water.

White Ibis fly at sunset.

White Ibis fly at sunset.

From Christmas, Florida: Swampy, the World’s Largest Gator.

Swampy, the World's Largest Gator.

Swampy

This claim is true, I believe.

This claim is true, I believe.

Donna in Swampy's Jaws.

Donna in Swampy's Jaws.

Now Swampy has Melanie.

Now Swampy has Melanie.

From Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge: A view of the Space Shuttle Launch Complex.

Space Shuttle launch complex at Merritt Island.

Space Shuttle Launch Complex at Merritt Island.

And finally, from a roadside in Titusville, Florida:

Armadillo

Armadillo

Which, of course, brings me to the end of my Florida adventures . . . until next time.

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Wordless Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

Osprey with fish, Merritt Island National Wildlife Reserve.

Osprey with fish, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Osprey


Osprey with fish, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Osprey, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

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A New Mexican in Florida-Part VI

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.

Raft of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Raft of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

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.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and friends.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and friends.

A Juvenile White Ibis bathes in the lake.

A Juvenile White Ibis bathes in the lake.

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.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks sleeping under a tree in a neighborhood yard.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks sleeping under a tree in a neighborhood yard.

Because this was a small lake in a neighborhood, we were able to get quite close to the Roseate Spoonbills.

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

Roseate Spoonbill prepares for flight.

Roseate Spoonbill prepares for flight.

It was a lovely morning, and we sat on the bank of the lake, enjoying the sun and watching the birds.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck flies toward the island in the middle of the lake.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck flies toward the island in the middle of the lake.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks march up onto the island in the middle of the lake.

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.

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A New Mexican in Florida-Part IV

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!

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egret, another view.

Great Egret, another view.

We saw a trio of lovely birds, which scattered as we pulled over to photograph them.

White Ibis, Great Egret and Great Blue Heron.

White Ibis, Great Egret and Great Blue Heron.

On the other side of the road we saw an Anhinga high in the trees.

Anhinga

Anhinga

This handsome Wood Stork looked as if he was only one step removed from a pterodactyl.

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

He seemed mildly offended by our presence, and he stalked away.

Wood Stork stalking away.

Wood Stork stalking away.

We saw Roseate Spoonbills with their beautiful colors and prehistoric faces …

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbill at rest

Roseate Spoonbill at rest.

… and we were delighted to see Tricolored Herons.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Another Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

We watched a young Osprey catch a fish and come to rest in a tree, where the fish became entangled in the branches.

Osprey with fish.

Osprey with fish.

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.

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A New Mexican in Florida-Part III

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.

Cold sunrise somewhere in Brevard County, Florida.

Cold sunrise somewhere in Brevard County, Florida.

As it got a bit lighter, a couple of birds flew out of the reeds in the cold, dim, morning light.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

But mostly we saw this:

Pond, no birds.

Pond, no birds.

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.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Roseate Spoonbills and a Wood Stork.

Bad photo through moving window of 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.

Male and Female Painted Bunting

Male and Female Painted Bunting

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.

Ducks, I think.

Ducks, I think.

I wandered away and began to look for birds to photograph.

Brown Pelican flying overhead.

Brown Pelican flying overhead.

Belted Kingfisher flying by.

Belted Kingfisher flying by.

Great Egret landing.

Great Egret landing.

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.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

He was obliging enough to sit for his portrait.

Black Vulture close-up.

Black Vulture close-up.

sa

We walked over the dune and onto the beach. I watched an Osprey hunting above the waves.

Osprey hunting above the waves.

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.

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A New Mexican in Florida-Part II

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.

Gaggle of birders at Daytona Beach Shores.

Gaggle of birders at Daytona Beach Shores.

The gulls were at the water’s edge …

Gulls at Daytona Beach Shores.

Gulls and a Brown Pelican at the water's edge.

… and flying over the beach …

Laughing Gulls at Daytona Beach Shores.

Laughing Gulls

… and over the water. Note the splashes where the gulls are diving in the surf.

Gulls at Daytona Beach Shores.

Gulls flying over the ocean and diving.

As the gulls flew in, there was competition for space at the water’s edge.

Laughing Gull landing on the shore.

Laughing Gull landing on the shore.

Juvenile Herring Gull finds a spot.

Juvenile Herring Gull finds a spot.

I enjoyed seeing the different species of gulls.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Laughing Gulls

Laughing Gulls

Laughing Gull in breeding plumage.

Laughing Gull in breeding plumage.

Juvenile Herring Gull with a tasty morsel.

Juvenile Herring Gull with a tasty morsel.


2nd winter Herring Gull

2nd winter Herring Gull

Adult Herring Gull and friend.

Adult Herring Gull and friend.

1st winter Great Black-backed Gull.

1st winter Great Black-backed Gull.

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.

Brown Pelicans.

Brown Pelicans.

This Royal Tern bathed happily in the waves.

Royal Tern bathing in the waves.

Royal Tern bathing in the waves.


Royal Tern

Royal Tern

I loved watching the tiny Sanderlings feeding busily at the surf’s edge.

Sanderling

Sanderling

I had never seen sunset colors over the Atlantic before.

Atlantic sunset colors.

Atlantic sunset colors.

It was a wonderful day at Daytona Beach Shores.

Gull tracks

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.

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Wordless Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk.

Harris Hawk.

Harris Hawk.

Harris Hawks.

Harris Hawk.

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Filed under Bosque del Apache, New Mexico birds

A New Mexican in Florida-Part I

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.

Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands.

A cold morning at Viera Wetlands.

As the day got warmer, I was able to enjoy the beautiful scenery, which is quite exotic to someone from New Mexico.

Viera Wetlands.

Beautiful Florida sunshine.

I saw birds that I had never seen before. My favorite was the Limpkin.

Limpkin at Viera Wetlands.

Limpkin

Limpkin, Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands.

Limpkin, another view.

And there were other new birds as well.

An Anhinga sunning on a cabbage palm stump

An Anhinga sunning on a cabbage palm stump

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.

Great Egret at Viera Wetlands.

Great Egret

Great Egret at Viera Wetlands.

Great Egret, another view

Double-crested Cormorants, Viera Wetlands.

Double-crested Cormorants

Sandhill Crane, Viera Wetlands.

Sandhill Crane

Green Heron, Viera Wetlands.

Green Heron

And a first for this New Mexican: an alligator in the wild. Can you see him in the vegetation?

American Alligator, Viera Wetlands.

American Alligator

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.

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