Posts Tagged With: american oystercatcher

Second Honeymoon

(This is a continuation of our last article, Honeymoon.)

 

Same day, same place, same sense of wonder at the diversity of birds!

I used too many words in the first part of this post so let’s just look at some pictures.

 

Just off the beach we found a freshwater pond containing a few Common Gallinules and four Black-crowned Night Herons.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

 

The Herring Gull is one of the largest gulls we see in our area and typically only in the winter.

Herring Gull

Herring Gull

 

American Oystercatchers breed along our Gulf Coast although they are not numerous. They have large flat bills which they use to pry open mollusks. Equal opportunity feeders, they won’t pass up much of anything that looks like food.

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

 

An immature Bald Eagle cruised just off the beach searching for a seafood breakfast. They will readily take birds and mammals but seem to prefer fish. They are also notorious thieves, harassing other birds and stealing their food.

Bald Eagle (Immature)

Bald Eagle (Immature)

 

This Osprey has his Speckled Trout meal secured and is heading for a perch away from the Eagle’s prying eyes.

Osprey

Osprey

 

We were surprised on the mudflats adjacent to the beach by an uncommon winter White-crowned Sparrow. He posed for a few candid shots and disappeared into the mangroves.

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

 

While we were admiring the above sparrow, a Clapper Rail emerged from the dense reeds searching for crabs and shrimp. These birds are very secretive and are normally heard but not often seen. This is only the second one I’ve observed.

Clapper Rail

Clapper Rail

 

The path from the parking area to the beach yielded a Monarch Butterfly, a Sedge Wren and a House Wren.

Monarch  (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Sedge Wren

Sedge Wren

 

House Wren

House Wren

 

We took a short hike along Osprey Trail, one of the few remaining virgin slash pine stands in south Florida. Guess what we found?

Osprey

Osprey

 

Also along Osprey Trail we encountered a living fossil, the Gopher Tortoise munching his morning salad.

Gopher Tortoise

Gopher Tortoise

 

Returning to the trailhead along a different route we remained under the watchful eyes of an American Kestrel.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

 

 

It was a terrific day. We saw a lot of birds and wildlife and best of all I was able to recall many fond memories. The honeymoon continues …

 

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

 

Additional Information

Honeymoon Island State Park

Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail

 

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

A Little Beach Music

Standing in the wet sand gazing westward over the Gulf of Mexico as the light of the rising sun streamed over my shoulders, I could not discern any horizon at all. I was at the edge of the universe. Within my gaze was a vast nothingness. Within my imagination was everything. Waves washed over my feet in a rhythm as old as time. To the inexorable beat of this geologic drum the soprano screeches of gulls, terns and myriad shorebirds added a chaotic cacophony which reached into my reverie and jerked me back to the reality of a new day.

Gini and I have often talked about this land of our birth, the “Sunshine State”, being “in our blood”. We feel fortunate to have lived in several states within America as well as in Europe. After a time in each of those marvelous spots we found ourselves longing to return to the warmth, humidity, sand, salty air, evening breezes saturated with the sticky sweet scent of orange blossoms, Cuban sandwiches, deviled crabs, mullet jumping in the bay and, perhaps most of all, the irresistible pull of the music of the beach.

Today I was with a good friend and outstanding birder and we were visiting Anna Maria Island on Florida’s west coast in Manatee County. Just north of Sarasota and south of Tampa-St. Petersburg, the island caters to vacationers and offers many rentals near some really beautiful white sand beaches. We specifically paid an early morning visit to the southern end of the island at Holmes Beach. If we hoped to see any shorebirds it would have to be early before the folks with jogging shoes, beach chairs, metal detectors, fishing poles, BBQ grills and tanker trucks filled with tanning lotion began their daily duties.

We found a group of roosting terns, gulls, skimmers and smaller shorebirds and were challenged to identify and count all the individuals amongst the feathers, flapping and yapping. About the time we had a count on one species, the whole group shifted on the beach and we had to start over. As the sun rose over the condominiums, we headed for the parking lot and were satisfied to have found over 100 Black Skimmer, 90 Laughing Gull, 50 Sanderling, 45 Royal Tern, Ringed-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Red Knot and even three Barn Swallows swooping low over the surf. Although our final species tally was only 19, it was fun trying to get accurate counts on what we did find. (Side note: When walking in deep beach sand, one must multiply the distance traveled by five for the sake of accuracy. For example, I only walked one-half actual miles but with the “sand factor” I logged the mileage as “2.5 miles”. We birders DO like to be accurate. No, really.)

 

To paraphrase an old television commercial: “A birding blog without photographs is like a day without sunshine.” Herewith, your daily dose of Sol’s rays.

 

The first sunlight of the day illuminated a Sandwich Tern as she scoured the shallow water for a school of breakfast fish.

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

 

Larger than the Sandwich Tern, this Royal Tern with its bright orange bill displays impressive wingspread while making an abrupt turn to get a better look at something in the water.

Royal Tern

Royal Tern

 

Great Blue Herons seem equally at home on the beach, lake, river or swamp. A true “generalist” when it comes to locating food.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

 

Willets always seem to be late for an appointment. Probably with a hermit crab.

Willet

Willet

 

Red Knots are not that common in our area so it’s always good to see one scooting along the surf line.

Red Knot

Red Knot

 

True to its name, a Ruddy Turnstone picks up a stone (okay, maybe it’s a shell) to see if anything good to eat is underneath.

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

 

The Knot and the Turnstone seemed to like each other’s company. (More likely, one was hoping the other would locate a seafood bonanza.)

Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone

Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone

 

Bright orange fungus on a piece of driftwood offered a bit of color on the stark white beach.

Fungus

Fungus

 

American Oystercatchers are fairly large creatures and have pretty impressive bills for capturing all manner of prey. This one materialized along the beach and found a likely fishing spot where he chased small crabs.

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

 

 

Appearing quite stately among the scurrying Sanderlings, a Ring-billed Gull staked out his own spot in the morning sun among shells broken by the pounding waves.

 

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

 

The bill of the adult Black Skimmer looks quite substantial from the side but when viewed head-on has the appearance of a razor. A young Skimmer will soon obtain the handsome black plumage of his parents.

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

 

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer (immature)

Black Skimmer (immature)

 

Typical of most kids, a juvenile begs his mom for food. She says, “I just fed you!”. Then yells at him to go clean his room. Poor kid finds a spot in the sand, flops down and heaves a big sigh as he’s pretty sure no one cares at all about him, especially those pesky Sanderlings in the background, preening all the time. (It’s quite common for Black Skimmers, adults as well as juveniles, to rest their large bills on the ground.)

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

 

 

No matter where you live, we hope you all have your own version of “beach music” which, no matter how hard you try, simply cannot be resisted.

 

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

Additional Information

Holmes Beach

Anna Maria Island

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

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