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.
A Great Egret prepares to enjoy a seafood breakfast.
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.
A mother Muscovy Duck is rightfully proud of her new family.
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.
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.
Gray Kingbirds are large flycatchers with very stout bills. They are primarily found along the coast and near mangrove trees.
A small Common Ground Dove perches on a deck overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
Black-crowned Night Herons are common anywhere there may be fish or crustaceans.
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…).
Mama Royal Tern is also responding to her baby who is “begging” for more food. I think I know that look…..
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.
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.
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.
A Black Skimmer tries to find a spot to land among 75 of his closest friends.
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.)