Census Stimulates Senses

Knocking on doors to gather information about individuals and families can be a challenging and sometimes thankless task. Especially if the residents have no doors. And can’t speak. And try to peck your eyes out. The second Florida Breeding Bird Atlas project continues apace and is producing some interesting results. Effects of the expansion of human habitation have, predictably, altered avian habitation. Some species appear to be adapting to the changes, others not so much. The Atlas will attempt to catalogue bird species breeding within Florida from 2011-2016. The first Atlas was conducted 25 years ago and the update will hopefully provide scientists with important data which might be used to enhance resource management for future bird populations.

Happily, I am not a scientist. (Surprise!) Therefore, the heavy thinking is left to those qualified and I am free to saunter about the countryside watching birds and making a note if I happen to see a nest, courtship (between birds!) or maybe a baby bird. Pretty much what Gini and I do anyhow.

I am quite fortunate to occasionally team up with a pair of Florida’s better birders and I always learn volumes from these two gentlemen. Recently, we covered portions of three counties (Hardee, Highlands and Polk) and by the end of the day had sighted over 90 species of birds and added significant breeding information to the current Atlas.

For me, birding is about so much more than just birds. Nature always seems to have something special to show us. All we have to do is show up. This day began in the dark, on a dirt road bordering an orange grove and small wooded area. The soft trill of an Eastern Screech Owl a few yards away is far more stimulating than any cup of coffee to start one’s day. From the grove came the sharp, clear announcement that Chuck-Will’s-Widow was looking for love. An hour later, the eastern sky displayed colors impossible to duplicate by any artist and it seemed the whole world was suddenly awake. The day was filled with sights, sounds and scents only Nature could produce and I am better for the experience.

A small sample of what we encountered follows but my poor images cannot provide anything close to the real thing. If you get a chance, step outside for awhile soon. Drink it all in. Life is good.


Nature has a way of giving spectacular notice when a day begins and ends. A simple field and a few trees are transformed into an ethereal artistic masterpiece with the addition of a multicolored sky and a bit of fog.




A Crested Caracara made several low passes overhead. No doubt he was curious what these strange-looking creatures were doing in his neighborhood.

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara


Roseate Spoonbills preen in the morning mist, using the water’s surface as a mirror to ensure they look their best to greet the day.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill


Mud can be very attractive to a large variety of insect life. A large variety of insect life can be very attractive to Dowitchers and Yellowlegs looking for breakfast.

Dowitchers and Yellowlegs

Dowitchers and Yellowlegs


Raucous calls from above directed our attention to a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers attempting to evict a Red-bellied Woodpecker from her nest cavity in a utility pole. Mrs. Woodpecker objected. Loudly. Mr. Woodpecker showed up and convinced the interlopers they should look elsewhere for lodging.

Great Crested Flycatcher, Red-bellied Woodpecker

Great Crested Flycatcher, Red-bellied Woodpecker


This critter may be a bee belonging to the Megachilidae family (leafcutters and mason bees). I think it’s of the Osmia species but if anyone knows, please chime in!

Osmia spp. (Mason Bee?)

Osmia spp. (Mason Bee?)


Ebony Jewelwing is a damselfly and is incredibly beautiful. One day, I’ll have a macro lens and go insect hunting.

Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)

Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)


Florida’s tropical climate is conducive to a proliferation of air plants, epiphytes. These special plants are not parasites so don’t harm their host trees.




I’m trying to not include too many photographs of poor quality, but will continue to make exceptions for stuff I like. This is my first sighting this year of a Prothonotary Warbler and it’s high on my list of stuff I like.

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler


Given Florida’s tropical environment, it seems a bit surprising that a cactus would grow well here. The Prickly Pear is quite prolific and produces outstanding yellow flowers. The fruit is delicious, too!

Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear


The colors of the Ornate Pennant blend well with the habitat and allow it to ambush unsuspecting prey.

Ornate Pennant (Celithemis ornata)

Ornate Pennant (Celithemis ornata)


Red-headed Woodpeckers are one species which has not adapted well to man’s destruction of their preferred habitat. When I was young, they seemed to be everywhere and I took them for granted. Now, I get very excited about spotting one at all.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker


Sandhill Crane families are showing up everywhere right now. This “colt” (young crane) appears to have reached “teenager” size and is busy talking back to Mom. Dad’s looking the other way pretending not to hear.

Sandhill Cranes With Colt

Sandhill Cranes With Colt


Two juvenile Killdeer blend in with the surrounding landscape and we could have easily missed them if they hadn’t been so noisy. Mom and Dad were nearby and kept telling them to “shush”! Which, of course, they didn’t.

Killdeer (Juvenile)

Killdeer (Juvenile)


The mottled shades of brown show why the Wilson’s Snipe is so easy to walk right past. They’re confident in their camouflage, too, and will often wait until the last second to burst into the air to make an escape.

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe


If you look carefully, you can spot the beak and eye of a second Great Blue Heron chick in this nest. She’s to the left and below her sibling.

Great Blue Heron Chicks

Great Blue Heron Chicks


On the campus of a local university, we found non-native Egyptian Geese with a new family. Several of this species have bred in the wild around the state over the past few years. Native to North Africa, they were introduced into local parks and zoos. I’m not so sure about the grown-ups, but babies of most species sure are cute!

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose



The day was almost an overload of my senses, but I’ll take that overdose any time! If you happen to be out and about in our Sunshine State and observe birds engaged in the process of creating or raising a family, let your local Breeding Bird Atlas coordinator know about it. Some bird’s future may be counting on you! (To find your area’s coordinator, send an email to the state coordinator, Rick West at: RickLWest@aol.com.)


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.)



Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

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38 thoughts on “Census Stimulates Senses

  1. Wally, The Atlas project seems like a wonderful and much-needed effort. Good work! As always I enjoyed seeing the variety of birds you get down there (I’ve heard how hot it’s been down there lately so what you’re doing can’t be easy…). That sunrise shot is simply spectacular!

    • Ron, the atlas work is a lot of fun, educational (for me) and doesn’t really seem like work. Florida + May = Hot. I wouldn’t have it any other way! 🙂

  2. Beautiful narrative and a great job capturing nature’s beauty

  3. Great post and as always here I learned so much! Not the least that baby cranes are called colts. I just love knowing that. Love the snipe and kildeer … that you sighted them at all and that you got those good pictures. Thanks for keeping me updated on Florida birds while we’re away for the summer.

    • Sallie, thank you very much! Hope you’re cool (I assume you’re in the northwest?) and having fun. We’re having a great time searching for baby birds and will try to keep you up on the latest here in humidity-land!

  4. Beautiful! I love the colours in the first photo. There’s so much beauty all around us if we just take the time to see it.

  5. I finally caught up with you.

    You gave us a great read today Wally. However, do you underestimate your own considerable knowledge, experience and understanding when you go out with “better“ rather than “other” birders?

    I think those Caracaras have a special relationship with your camera, partly related to the fact that I and most Brits would love to spend an hour or two taking their portraits.

    And I remember those huge, very vocal and temperamental flycatchers. I bet they gave the pecker a hard time? It must be difficult even finding a Prothonatary Warbler in that green and yellow background, never mind getting photos as it moves quickly through cover, so don’t worry about a less than perfect shot -I have lots of those, just see my blog.

    That Wilson’s is so like our Common Snipe that I really must swot up a bit; you never know.

    As you suggest, there is an interesting contrast between the Red-headed Woodpecker and Egyptian Goose and their respective abilities to cope with the human race.

    Have fun in your ongoing surveys. You surely will.

    • Caught up with ME?? I believe YOU are the gadabout, Senor! 🙂

      Thanks for the very kind remarks, Phil. We’re blessed with a healthy Caracara population nearby so I take advantage as often as possible. All Spring, I’ve encountered belligerent Great Crested Flycatchers attempting to appropriate woodpecker cavities. Colorful bullies! The surveying continues to be great fun so I’ll keep it up. “Birding with a purpose” the literature says.

      Enjoy your weekend, no matter what continent you may be visiting!

  6. Carole M/Australia

    you’re so right Wally about ‘just showing up’ and then of course we often get-lucky don’t we? The sky colour is amazing; I’m wondering is it a morning or evening sky.. suspect it’s how your wonderful day started out ‘with a bang’. Those Roseate Spoonbills are really very special; their colouring is really a teaser.The Ebony Jewelwing is brilliant too. Another delightful post from you Wally. Thanks always for your enthusiastic comments on my posts too. Cyber-birders do offer much encouragement to others this way also.

    • G’day, Carole! That sky was a wonderful sunrise. And thank you so much for your “cyber encouragement”! Loved seeing your Tawny Frogmouths!

  7. HI Wally It is always a delight and privilege to read and see your wonderful photographs( don’t sell yourself short!) Now starting your day with that sunrise is really special and the sunrise light on the Spoonbills is fantastic. I love the way you write and your sense of humour shines through. The close up of the dragonflies are marvelous. well really all the shots are brilliant. The babies are so cute. All in all you had a great day with plenty of bird and nature opportunities. Nature is where it is all happening and it comes over in your post that you revel in it, as I do also.

    • You are so very kind, Margaret! We all must find something to revel in, and Gini and I long ago discovered as long as we’re together, the rest is icing on the cake. Nature offers us quite a nice venue for reveling!

  8. Don’t sell yourself short – your images highlighted your day beautifully! That sunrise drew me in right away. Thanks so much for letting me tag along. Always a pleasant visit here. 🙂

  9. Wow what a great set of pictures. I love the Egyptian Goose family, I have the first pics I’ve ever taken of an Egyptian Goose on my blog too!!

    • Kristi, thank you for such nice comments! I really enjoyed your wonderful pictures of your California visit. Especially the Swallows!

  10. Wonderful captures of so many beautiful birds, dragonflies, and the bee. It was such an interesting post to read. Most enjoyable.

    • It was actually quite selfish as I actually was able to experience all of Nature’s offerings up close and personal! Thank you for saying you enjoyed seeing the results! We appreciate it very much.

  11. The jewelwing is a gem and the goslings are gorgeous!

    • How kind you are! I just returned from a virtual trip to your Paris street full of flowers. What a stunning array of colors so beautifully portrayed! Hope you come back to visit us!

  12. Hello Wally,
    If you loves birds, you love nature too!
    I couldn’t imagine one without the other!!
    Brilliant pics with species I discover, especially your dragonflies… The pennant is really stunning with those colored patches at the base of the wings.
    I truly wish one day to go back to Florida and concentrate on your dragons and birds! 🙂
    Snipes here are terribly difficult to photograph, our area is sooo hunted unfortunately.
    Cheers, keep well!

    • Bonjour, Noushka! It is sometimes difficult to decide whether to chase a bird, a butterfly or other interesting insect for a photograph! For Snipe and most other birds, you must use my secret weapon – LUCK! 🙂

  13. I love your writing style, Wally, and your images are great – I’ve really enjoyed reading this! Thank you.

    Look out for those Egyptians! Once they get a toe-hold, they’re a real nuisance. Ten years ago they were not very common in these parts and now they’re everywhere that there’s a decent area of water or a suitable river. They always seem to be the first birds to breed and we have to take measures to stop them taking over the Osprey nests at Rutland Water before the Ospreys return.

    • Richard, how good of you to drop by and make such nice remarks! Was thinking of you yesterday in the woods before sunup as a small Eastern Screech Owl was calling less than 50 feet away! Yes, introduced species can be disastrous! Hopefully, we’ll keep these in check.

  14. Looks like lots of Egyptian Geese coming along. I had to laugh at the thought of the young killdeer being told to shush. Young birds do not use their inside voices when they’re ready for lunch!

    • How right your are, Patti! Almost every trip in the woods and marsh lately is filled with squawling youngsters!

  15. My, that certainly was a lot to see! The variety of your shots is really wonderful. Is that a sweat bee perhaps? Oh, and what a gorgeous, fiery sunrise!

    On Saturday we were fortunate enough to witness two prothonotary parents feeding their chicks who were in a hollowed out cypress log right off the boardwalk. If only the light had cooperated! It was so fun to see all the different critters mom and dad presented as meals. My birding experiences just keep getting better each year. Love it!

  16. What a beautiful photo story beginning with that spectacular sunrise, ending with the lovely Egyptian Goose family and having all so much of nature’s beauty in between.

    • Plenty of beauty seems to be Nature’s strong point! Pat, thank you so much for the nice remarks! We appreciate your visit.

  17. Beautiful photos in the morning light. I especially liked the photo of the Sandhill Cranes. btw Prickly Pear was introduced out here too and it took over good farm land until a pest was also introduced to keep it in check.

    • Hi, Mick. Actually, this cactus is a native plant to Florida. So far, the only pests keeping it in check are guys like me who like to make preserves from the sweet fruit! 🙂

  18. The Egyptian Geese are absolutely GORGEOUS! What an amazing group of photos you shared with us. You must be having a wonderful experience!

  19. loved it all. great photos, throughout. enjoyed the caracara in flight, the egyptian geese family. got to see a red-headed woodpecker here – my first in texas after 30 yrs of being here! smiled as broad as can be at the killdeer peeps. 🙂

    • It was great fun watching the Killdeer chicks, four in all, run in all directions with mom and dad trying to herd them toward a single point. Didn’t happen! I loved your Red-headed visitor!

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