Many of us did not set out to become “birders”. We typically absorbed the avocation gradually, often following an encounter with a friend or relative who seemed enthusiastic about their experiences. Sometimes there is an epiphany. Such was the case with my wonderful wife, Gini. She became an addict….ummm, avid observer….while we were driving along a highway in west Texas. She abruptly screamed: “Stop! Turn around!”. Assuming I had just run over a small child, I slammed on the brakes and executed a quick U-turn. She pointed breathlessly to a Mesquite tree in the median of the road and whispered: “Look!”. The sighting of her first male Bullock’s Oriole shall remain one of birding history’s most dramatic moments.
Once “hooked”, birding becomes as natural a process as breathing. You go to the grocery and scan the parking lot and light poles for gulls. A stop at the gas station involves inspecting the eaves of the roof for Sparrows and the utility lines for Grackles or Starlings. Visits to a relative’s house mean dawdling in the driveway to check the front yard trees for passerines. There are no more picnics, only birding trips with food involved.
Although we usually have a specific destination when we go on an “actual” birding trip, we just naturally observe our surroundings as we travel to and from such places. Sometimes we even see a few birds along the way.
The following images are of “incidental” sightings we made while heading somewhere else. Some of these were taken during scouting trips made in preparation for the recent Audubon annual Christmas Bird Count. Others were taken during one of those “non-picnics” mentioned above. Still others were made for such reasons as: “I wonder what might be in that retention pond behind the church/factory/store/mall?”.
You get the idea.
The Osprey is abundant in Florida and I certainly seem to take a lot of pictures of them. This one was just finishing a snack near the coast as we were on the way to dinner. I think I like them so much because we’re so much alike. We both love seafood and are incredibly good-looking.
A Florida Red-bellied Turtle was still shimmering with water as he crossed a path in front of me. He was about 24 inches (610 mm) long and simply beautiful.
Purple Gallinules brighten up the marsh with their iridescent plumage.
During breeding season, the adult Ring-billed Gull’s head will become pure white.
We found a stream flowing from a marsh into a larger creek which provided a nice feeding area for a group of Least Sandpiper and Greater Yellowlegs. The small sandpipers blended in very well with the rocks. The Yellowlegs flew a short distance upstream when we first approached and the calls helped confirm them as Greater.
Hooded Mergansers winter in our area and often seem to prefer small retention ponds for feeding during the day.
A Forster’s Tern dives headlong into a local lake to snag a small fish. Seems like they need helmets!
This Great Egret has captured an Armored Catfish for lunch. This species of catfish may be the Vermiculated Sailfin Catfish (Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus), a non-native species probably introduced accidentally during the past several decades by aquarium owners and/or the pet trade. I could find no evidence this fish is harmful except for possibly causing erosion of banks due to their habit of digging out holes for nesting.
Strong morning light made a detailed photograph of this Eastern Bluebird impossible but I liked the way he was looking back at us. He was up early in a local cemetery we were scouting for the Christmas Bird Count.
Also in the cemetery was a female Downy Woodpecker cleaning out an old nest cavity. She was hauling out sawdust and expelling it. I think she intended to use the hole as a warm resting spot as the weather had turned quite cold.
A Blue-headed Vireo posed very briefly and took off when the camera clicked.
Yes, I know, a face only a mother could love. But there’s a beauty in the vulture that just can’t be ignored. To see this creature up close is to marvel at its flight feathers and unique head design, knowing how effective it is for its intended purpose.
The event was a water-side supper while enjoying the sunset. The reality was another one of those birding trips involving food. I just “had” to peek down the shoreline and this is what I saw. Mostly Least Sandpipers. The more you look, the more you’ll see. It resembled “moving rocks”.
The Ring-billed Gull towers over a group of feeding Dunlin.
A Dunlin in non-breeding plumage.
Comparing sizes of Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher and Black-bellied Plover. Shhh!
A meeting of the local Storks Club. This was during another pre-Christmas Bird Count scouting foray. A small cattle pond hosted over 80 Wood Storks.
Again while scouting a potential spot for Sparrows a few days ahead of the Christmas count, a pair of Red-tailed Hawks appeared directly overhead doing a little scouting of their own. I think this is a juvenile as it lacks a strong dark trailing edge to the wings which is characteristic in adults.
If you have any interest in observing birds, you will understand the process of continually being in “birding” mode. If you do not yet consider yourself a birding enthusiast, beware! Just by looking at this blog you are in danger of becoming one of us! Then you, too, will be committing random acts of bird watching – just because you can.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!
See more birds at: Paying Ready Attention (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)