The Lemonade Glass Is Half Full

This time of year in central Florida is hot.  And humid.  And rainy.  There are freshly hatched batches of mosquitoes ready to infect you with a myriad of deadly diseases.  No-see-ums are minuscule insects which attack en masse and you won’t know you encountered them until the next morning when your skin is on fire and covered in small red bumps.  The beaches are covered with lobster-colored creatures visiting from northern climes whose primary purpose is to impede traffic when one wants to travel to the coast.  Did I mention it’s hot?

Given the above facts, the sensible thing for native Floridians to do in mid-summer is remain indoors and sip ice-cold lemonade in air-conditioned coolness.  So you know where I’ve been.

The shore at sunrise is special.  Waves lapping at the edge of the land, the glow of the horizon before the sun actually appears, birds waking to begin the daily chore of survival and my wife and I holding hands while we breathe it all in.  Life is good.

This is an interesting time of year for birds.  Young ones are growing rapidly and demand a lot of attention as they learn to fend for themselves.  Some of our local birds are gathering in flocks in preparation of heading to South and Central America for the winter.  Migrants from as far away as the Arctic will begin arriving soon, some will remain and some will continue southward after resting and refueling.  Shorebird identification can be quite challenging any time and even more so as some birds here will be seen still in their breeding plumage while others have already donned their fall coloration and even others are in transition.

We recently visited a couple of beach areas and enjoyed a nice variety of birds.  We began the day at a small beach within sight of the Tampa downtown skyline.  Within about a hundred yards of shoreline, we counted 120 Least Terns, 75 Black Skimmers, 32 Royal Terns, 18 Dowitchers, 8 Ruddy Turnstones, 12 Laughing Gulls, 4 Brown Pelicans and 3 Black Terns.  Another area featured baby ducks, a young Mockingbird, a hungry Great Egret and dozens of Parakeets.

It was another good day of enjoying Florida’s summer.  Yes, it was hot.  And humid.  And we wouldn’t have it any other way!

It doesn’t take long for salt water to erode a wooden sea wall.  In the distance, a metal and concrete structure withstands the elements a bit longer.  Near this sea wall, we saw a White-winged Scoter, a very unusual visitor for this area and a life bird.

Tampa Bay-Seawall

Tampa Bay-Seawall

A Great Egret prepares to enjoy a seafood breakfast.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Monk Parakeets have established colonies along the west coast of Florida as well as other areas of North America.  The birds are almost certainly descendants of escaped caged birds over the years.

Monk Parakeet

Monk Parakeet

Monk Parakeet

Monk Parakeet

A mother Muscovy Duck is rightfully proud of her new family.

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck

We hope the large numbers of dragonflies we’ve been seeing can help hold down the equally large numbers of mosquitoes we’ve been seeing!  I think this is a Needham’s Skimmer, but would appreciate any correction.

Needham's Skimmer (?)

Needham’s Skimmer (?)

The young Northern Mockingbird has already developed an “attitude” as he challenged us upon approach.  Note the spotted breast and yellow gape indicative of a recently fledged bird.

Northern Mockingbird (immature)

Northern Mockingbird (immature)

Gray Kingbirds are large flycatchers with very stout bills.  They are primarily found along the coast and near mangrove trees.

Gray Kingbird

Gray Kingbird

A small Common Ground Dove perches on a deck overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

Common Ground Dove

Common Ground Dove

Black-crowned Night Herons are common anywhere there may be fish or crustaceans.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

Like parents everywhere, this Ruddy Turnstone rushes in response to the cry of the youngster.  Pretty soon, he’ll have to learn to get food all by himself (you know, like when he turns 25 or so…).

Ruddy Turnstone With Juvenile

Ruddy Turnstone With Juvenile

Mama Royal Tern is also responding to her baby who is “begging” for more food.  I think I know that look…..

Royal Tern With Juvenile

Royal Tern With Juvenile

This Sanderling will soon change to its non-breeding plumage of light gray above and white underneath, the palest of the sandpipers.  In the meantime, it’s nice to enjoy their breeding colors.

Sanderling

Sanderling

The Western Sandpiper is only about 6.5 inches (17 cm) in length.  Arrow-shaped spots underneath, black legs, bill shape and the head plumage help distinguish it from other small sandpipers.

Western Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper

We normally see Black Terns in their non-breeding plumage, so it was nice to find a couple of early arrivals still wearing their dark breeding colors.  The first picture shows these terns are only slightly larger than the smallest Least Tern.  The second picture shows them in relation to one of the largest, the Royal Tern.   In the third photo, you can compare one in breeding and one in non-breeding plumage.

Black Tern, Least Tern

Black Tern, Least Tern

Black Tern, Royal Tern

Black Tern, Royal Tern

Black Tern

Black Tern

A Black Skimmer tries to find a spot to land among 75 of his closest friends.

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

The next time a birding friend complains that it’s too hot to go birding, just smile and offer them a half glass of cool lemonade, pack up your gear and go see what you can find!

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for visit!

 

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Post navigation

36 thoughts on “The Lemonade Glass Is Half Full

  1. A monk parakeet visited us a couple years ago, then disappeared. The sanderling is very pretty. Those youngsters can make a racket when begging for food!

  2. As always I really enjoyed your narrative, Wally – especially the first paragraph. And I certainly identify with what you said about no-see-ums, they are a true scourge on Antelope Island every summer for a while. Nice photos too – I especially like the graphic lines of the Monk Parakeet vertical and the Sanderling in flight.

  3. A beautiful story, I could imagine being with you on the beach, picture the scene, even without the beautiful pictures, which where also very educating.
    Thank you and all the best Gordon.

  4. That is a beautiful shot of the Tampa Bay sea wall; perfect reflection and lighting:) Nice shots of the Black Terns; I’ve only seen them once, in the pouring rain. The juvi Ruddy is a great sight as well! Keep cool!

    • Thanks, Tammy! Over 300 Black Terns were recently seen on an island near Tarpon Springs recently (Anclote Key). That must have been a sight!

  5. In the UK we had tiny biting insects called “Midges” – they sound very similar to you no-see-ums. Hideous!

    Great set of pictures – loved the terns and skimmers.

    Cheers – and thanks for linking to WBW – Stewart M

    • Hideous is a good description! Thanks for your nice comments, Stewart, and for continuing to host WBW where we’re all learning a lot about this diverse world of birds!

  6. Loving this Wally..it would be wonderful to see all those birds especially 75 (76?) black skimmers all at once. What a thrill ….that’d be worth the summer conditions to me. It’s not the heat that drives us back to Oregon in the summer, but instead seeing my kids and grands which is worth missing the Florida summer birds (I think, so most of the time anyway ;>). I’ve seen a few parakeets in Cape Coral at one of the Parks, but had no idea they were this prolific. Thanks for the great pictures and keep Florida safe for us.

    • Thank you, Sallie! Don’t worry. When you return to the Sunshine State, I suspect there will be a little heat left for you to enjoy! 🙂

  7. Exceptional images in your share and I particularly enjoyed the Parakeet~

  8. I love all of these photos Wally and the reminder of how hot and humid August can be in Florida! I get wistful at times and miss Florida so I love seeing your posts.

    About the Turnstones, I think the bird on the right is an adult going into nonbreeding plumage, juveniles are paler than the birds shown and don’t have as much black on the face.

    • Thank you so much, Mia! You might be correct about the Turnstone, however, I didn’t think the “bib” was complete as it would be on an adult bird and the bird on the left was actively feeding the one on the right (I know, not fair, you didn’t have that information!). The desk references and internet images all portray young turnstones as quite variable in appearance and several images seemed quite similar to the bird we saw. Could be like around my house though – my wife still feeds me on demand – oh, wait, I think that was in my dreams…….

  9. Florice

    Are the monk parakeets related to the peach face lovebirds. Of all places, our neighborhood is full of the peach faced. Escapees I imagine. Great photos as usual.

    • TWO Sisters commenting at the same time! That’s pretty neat, y’all!

      Flo, the Peach-faced Lovebird, as I understand, is native to Africa. Your local population has expanded from birds escaped from pet stores and owners and they like the Phoenix climate as it’s similar to their land of origin. The Monk Parakeets are also descendants of escapes around the country and like our Florida climate as it’s similar to their native South America. I don’t think these two species are closely related except as members of the general parrot family.

      Talk to you soon! Love you!

  10. Now I am really jealous of your shorebirds, especially the hundreds of mixed terns and skimmers, not to mention sifting through all the waders in their various plumages. The shot of the parakeet ladder is quite something even though as you say thre birds are not native, just original escapees. Great heron shot!

    We have terns coming through now ( Sandwich, Common and Arctic) but no chance of getting any decent pictures as they are so wary. Good to see the comparison size of Black and Least too – our Little Tern is now very uncommon on this coast and Black an autumn vagrant.

    Go easy on the lemonade Wally, but I were you I’d take a glass or two of cold beer too so as to minimise the insect problem.

    • Thanks for the generous comments, Phil! It will become more challenging in the coming weeks as the mix of shorebirds becomes more diverse. But that’s what makes it fun!

  11. Sorry I’ve been so scarce lately. There’s this writer guy who’s been keeping me pretty busy! (And I wouldn’t have it any other way.) Your seawall photo is fantastic. Do suppose all those Monk Parakeet’s are named “Peetie”? I’ll be back tomorrow morning to see what all I’ve been missing. Love your words, and you, too.

  12. Beautiful photos and birds. Sounds like it is HOT there! I would love to see the Black Tern! Have a happy weekend and stay cool!

  13. Beautiful shots of the flying critters, but I really love the photo of the sea wall.

  14. Lovely post, and nice photos! I like your Needham’s Skimmer too. I don’t have a photo of a male like that–so wonderfully red!

  15. Great photos and a very interesting post. Your Florida summer weather sound very similar to ours here in SE Queensland – complete with biting insects! – and I can’t wait for summer to start down here. The early morning lighting you have captured is very beautiful – and its definitely the best time of day to be out. I see a few Sanderlings down here but have never been lucky enough to see one with any breeding plumage – and the same for the Ruddy Turnstones. Some of the Terns look similar – but I don’t think they are identical.

    • Thanks so much, Mick! We have to be quick to catch some of these migrants in their breeding plumage as they’ll transition to those “drab” winter colors quickly.
      Loved the scenery on your latest post. Wow!

  16. Beautiful shots! Glad you got to see the scoter. I’ve only seen him in the rain. I keep meaning to stop over there after work but it rains every day on the way home. I work 5 minutes away. On a beach is the best place to be right now for sure.

    • The beach is nice but yesterday we discovered a pine forest can be amazingly comfortable, too! And when it’s full of woodpeckers – instant entertainment!

  17. sweet bunch of photos! like the muscovy crew. 🙂 stay cool! stay safe!

We value your Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: