Posts Tagged With: blue-headed vireo

Migration Fascination (A Love Story)

“Propelled by an ancient faith deep within their genes, billions of birds hurdle the globe each season, a grand passage across the heavens that we can only dimly comprehend and are just coming to fully appreciate.”  Living On The Wind – Scott Weidensaul

 

Florida. Sub-tropical, humid. Economical for raising children. Toss ’em outdoors. Tell ’em to come back when they get hungry. Minimum investment in clothing, no shoes required, Mother Nature provides the toys. (If you are under 40 years old and, by accident, have stumbled upon this article, the above will make no sense to you and may even cause you to question whether you should alert authorities. I don’t blame you. Proceed as your conscience guides you. But – call your Mother first and see what she thinks.)

Thus, two products of such an upbringing met in middle school, discovered sea shells, caught fish, swam, tossed rotten oranges (okay, I was the only tosser), held hands, kissed over the fence (yes, Gini was the girl next door), married and immediately moved 1200 miles from home. My Uncle Sam insisted I attend Syracuse (New York) University before sending me around the world for the next 20 years. That girl next door has remained as beautiful as when I first saw her in the band room those many years ago. (We shall not speak of what happened to yours truly in those ensuing years.)

“Wow!” My lady has a knack for understatement. Autumn. This was something new for us. Florida has two seasons:  green and brown. Upstate New York puts on a show around the middle of October that simply has to be seen to be appreciated, as mere words or photographs are totally inadequate. The colors, the crispness of the air, the crunchiness of the forest floor littered with confetti from the trees – overwhelming for a couple of flatlanders!

The Air Force allowed us to reside in Europe for almost ten years and autumnal scenes reminiscent of  New York were replayed for our enjoyment. Eventually, we returned home. Two seasons. Which we thoroughly enjoy! However, images of “fall color” on calendars, magazine covers or television screens  elicit heavy sighs at this time of year from each of us.

Ma Nature has compensated us, somewhat, by sending little balls of colorful feathers our way every year so that we may enjoy our memories of yellow, red and orange leaves drifting on the breeze. If we worked at it, we could catalogue a lengthy list of migratory birds as they travel through Florida on their annual journey to the southern hemisphere. Key word, “work”. So, we are content to make shortish trips and scan the tippy-tops of impossibly high trees in the hope of spotting impossibly small birds. Fun!

Here, for your enjoyment, are a few of the world travelers we have met this fall. We wish them a safe journey and hope to see them again next year.

 

The Tufted Titmouse is a gang leader. Their clear whistle is usually the first sound to be heard in the woods and they will soon appear above our heads with a quizzical look as they try to figure out what sort of danger we pose. The good news is, they are usually accompanied by an assortment of fellow gang members. Safety in numbers.

Colt Creek State Park

 

With plenty of water in our area, it doesn’t take long to hear the chattering from a low twig of a bush near a pond or stream indicating a Common Yellowthroat is in the area. They are quick to jump out of their hiding spot to see who’s there, but just as quick to dart back into the shadows, chattering all the time.

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

 

Mr. and Mrs. American Redstart are quite a handsome couple! Insects are frightened from hiding places as these warblers flare their wings and tails with bright patches of color.

Tenoroc FMA-Bridgewater Tract

Colt Creek State Park

 

Looking more like a thrush than a warbler, the Ovenbird even acts like a thrush as she scours the forest floor, scratching up leaves and twigs hunting for a meal. Raising her crest, she lets me know I intruded a bit too close to her dinner table.

Tenoroc FMA-Bridgewater Tract

 

Pine Warblers can be quite variable in plumage. Some individuals are very bright yellow with crisp markings while others may be quite drab (and easy to overlook!).

Tenoroc FMA-Bridgewater Tract

Bereah Road East

Bereah Road East

 

Speaking of bright, this Prairie Warbler was very curious about what I was up to. He followed me for quite awhile before losing interest.

Tenoroc FMA-Bridgewater Tract

 

With behavior more like a nuthatch, Black and White Warblers really stand out with their striped plumage. Running “down” a tree trunk or clinging to the underside of a tree limb is just “un-warbler” like!

Colt Creek State Park

 

Most of the waterfowl have not yet arrived on the scene. With the exception of the advanced guard. The Pied-billed Grebe. These little water warriors live here all year, but in the fall they are joined by fair numbers of their northern cousins. Have you ever seen a Pied-billed Grebe fly? Me either. I have a theory they migrate by bus.

Hardee Lakes Park

 

Florida has a diverse population of resident woodpecker species. One we only see in migration is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. In the photo, you can see the characteristic drill pattern around the tree trunk which may be designed to expose sap which in turn will attract insects for the bird to scoop up.

Hardee Lakes Park

 

Downy Woodpeckers breed in our area but we also see many non-resident birds during migration. I really don’t know if this male and female are residents or tourists. I just like the picture.

Saddle Creek Park

 

Our wetlands are “abuzz” this time of year. Lots of insects, as usual, but new voices come from the noisy wren family. The diminutive Marsh Wren has that “attitude” which all the wrens seem to possess. Daring you to come out in the marsh and say that to his face.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

Just as pugnacious as his relatives, the House Wren is easy to identify by having virtually no identifying features. A “plain brown wrapper.”

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

Most of the year, Florida is devoid of sparrows, except for the old world House Sparrow and endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. Fall is, for me, a time when I get to re-learn which sparrow is which! They all look the same for awhile. Okay, more than awhile. This Swamp Sparrow remained in the open long enough to see the nice bright brown wing patches and distinct facial pattern.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

In a ball of moss, among the fronds of a palm tree or on a twig, the bright black and white and yellow of the Yellow-throated Warbler is hard to miss.

Coleman Landing

 

As with many warblers, Magnolia Warblers in fall plumage are much different than in breeding season. The subtle colors and striping makes me think twice about what I’m seeing.

McIntosh Tract

 

Palm Warblers are one of our most numerous fall migrants. Arriving earlier than most, little mobs of the tail-waggers can show an amazing difference in plumage range. Two races (eastern, western) can be seen in our area with the eastern being brighter overall.

Bereah Road East

Lake Parker Park

 

Not much later than the Palm Warblers are the invading hordes of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Just as numerous as their Palm cousins, these bright birds usually prefer trees while the Palm is equally happy foraging on the ground. A hint of yellow on the shoulder, dark streaking, two wing bars and the namesake yellow rump all help to identify this enthusiastic bug hunter.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

Lake Gwyn Park

 

For the past couple of weeks, every path taken has resulted in cat-calls. The Gray Catbird has arrived! Dozens of these handsome birds have been seen (but especially heard!) on each trip.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

For a bit of relief from so much yellow, we found a half-dozen Eastern Bluebirds hanging out with a flock of Palm, Pine and Prairie Warblers on the edge of an orange grove last week. Not sure if these are residents or not?

Bereah Road East

 

It’s not all warblers. The White-eyed Vireo sings almost constantly to ensure we don’t overlook him.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Although the White-eyed Vireo above might be a resident, we only see the Blue-headed Vireo during migration. It’s song is very vireo-like, but quite different than the White-eyed.

Saddle Creek Park

 

Fall means Phoebe is here! And she CONSTANTLY reminds us her name is:  “FEE – bee!!” The Eastern Phoebe, with its wagging tail, is very common at the moment, but numbers will subside a bit as many birds will continue on further south.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Once in awhile, a rare bird shows up. A resident of the western United States, the Yellow-headed Blackbird is noted passing through Florida once every two or three years. Luckily, this was one of those years! (Remind me to tell you about crawling through blackberry brambles to get this shot.)

McIntosh Tract

 

 

Gini and I are thankful we experienced fall foliage and it’s one of the things we do miss by living in central Florida. (Snow is very pretty. Miss it? That’s another story …) If you live in an area which provides a riot of color each autumn, get out and relish it. Don’t take it for granted. If, like us, you are season-limited, check out the little fluffs of color in your trees. You will be amazed.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Trap

“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” ~Aldous Huxley

 

I turned the pillow over again. Have I been in bed for an hour? Two? Is the room becoming a bit brighter? If I go through the woods first, I might find some migrant warblers. But it will be too dark under the canopy for good photographs. The trail by the windmill was where I saw that bobcat last year, but lately one has been reported by the lake shore. The open marsh is where the early action will probably be best. It seems it always takes me forever to get there, though, because there’s so much to see along the way. A Sora is a good possibility on that path, as well as an American Bittern. Not to mention Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks with babies. The Barred Owl should be along the canal and nests are being built in that area by eagles and herons. It’s cool enough maybe the mosquitoes won’t be horrible. I turned the pillow over one more time.

The drive to Circle B Bar Reserve is less than 30 minutes. Long enough to finish a cup of coffee. Stumbling out of the truck in the almost-darkness of pre-dawn, even MY poor hearing is assaulted by the shrieks of Limpkins announcing the new day. (Limpkin Call) As I stood on the asphalt of the parking lot, a Barred Owl added a bit of tenor to the soprano of the Limpkins. The clear whistle of a Northern Cardinal reminded the world it’s Spring! Shuffling along the path to the marsh I marveled at the beauty of an almost full moon, still bright even as the sun approached the horizon behind me. Sandhill Cranes trumpeted in the distance. Ouch! Mosquitoes. Not horrible, but awake. And hungry. I am easily impressed by Nature and this place is pretty special. Birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, flora – it’s all here in abundance.

Three hours later I came through the front door and after the mushy stuff (that’s guy talk for “romantic greeting involving hugging and kissing”), Gini asked: “So how was the birding?” A pause. “The dragonflies are really showing up now with the warmer weather.” Uh-oh. “Not many birds today?” She doesn’t miss much. “It was good. There seemed to be a lot of activity but I could only come up with 48 species.”

I know. I feel so ashamed.

It’s difficult to visit the Circle B and not have tallied over 50 species, even if you’re only having a picnic. With one eye closed. But that’s not why I felt guilty. I recently chatted with a birder visiting Florida from one of our far northwestern states. His highest single day list was 21 species. Most trips result in single digits. Of course, he was thrilled to be enjoying our birding paradise, but you knew he simply loved birding. As do we all. I have no problem at all being similarly thrilled with each trip, no matter how many birds I “list”. If I should fall into the trap of becoming complacent and bemoaning that I saw “only” 48 species within a couple of hours – I’ll recall that young birder who becomes ecstatic with a dozen!

Highlights of the morning’s stroll about the marsh include: a young Black-crowned Night Heron, a Bald Eagle guarding a nest, a curious Swamp Sparrow who followed me along the trail, a sun-lit Purple Galllinule, the Double-crested Cormorant with the turquoise eyes and a hungry armadillo oblivious to my presence.

 

The Circle B Bar Reserve is on the north shore of Lake Hancock which in some winters hosts up to 4,000 American White Pelicans. This pair was checking out some of the open water areas within the marsh.

American White Pelican

American White Pelican

 

Blue-winged Teal don’t mind including a Common Gallinule in their breakfast club. They do have a little different feeding style than the Gallinule.

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal, Common Gallinule

Blue-winged Teal, Common Gallinule

 

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

 

When it’s time to eat, the Tricolored and Little Blue Herons are all serious business.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

 

This Swamp Sparrow couldn’t figure out what I was and kept flitting in and out of low shrubs along the path almost right beside me. He finally got bored and flew back to where I first saw him.

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

 

I keep trying to find a better word than “handsome” to describe the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, but no luck so far.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

 

When viewed in this sitting position, one might never suspect how long the Green Heron’s neck can stretch!

Green Heron

Green Heron

 

The morning sun really enhanced the vibrant colors of the Purple Gallinule. He may have been checking himself out in the reflection.

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

 

An immature Black-crowned Night Heron was busy stalking a frog and I could only get a partial view of her. She’ll soon become the more familiar black and gray color of an adult.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

 

With a prehistoric look, settlers used to call the Wood Stork “Old Flinthead” due to the gray, stone-like appearance of his head.

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

 

(Obligatory alligator image required by state tourism board.) Yes, this American Alligator is sound asleep so you can pet him with no worries. Pay no attention to the smile on his face.

American Alligator

American Alligator

 

At least two pairs of Bald Eagles are nesting within the reserve. This adult was vigorously driving away any bird flying too close to his nest. A pretty good sign there are eggs or young birds in the nest.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

 

I waited patiently for this Blue-headed Vireo to turn around for a pleasant portrait. Never happened. Sigh. Well, we need to be able to identify birds from the rear, too, don’t we?

Blue-headed Vireo

Blue-headed Vireo

 

The Double-crested Cormorant may not be the first bird one thinks of as “beautiful”, but those turquoise eyes are stunning! This one was perched in a red maple tree and gave me one chance for a quick shot.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

 

A couple of migrants put in an appearance just before I returned to the parking lot. The Black-and-White Warbler usually feeds like a nuthatch, running down a tree trunk or walking along the underside of a branch. A Pine Warbler can vary from a dull yellow-green to bright yellow and can be distinguished by its face pattern, broken eye-ring, wing bars and white belly and undertail coverts.

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

 

Florida’s Nine-banded Armadillo has very poor eyesight but an extremely keen sense of smell. They’re often seen standing on their hind legs sniffing the air. Their powerful claws can dig a substantial hole in short order. This one heard the camera shutter click, gave me a quick glance and returned to his search for brunch. Ho-hum. Paparazzi.

Nine-banded Armadillo

Nine-banded Armadillo

 

It was a great day in a wonderful location. I am truly thankful for having been able to identify 48 species of birds within a couple of hours. Please don’t fall into the trap of taking whatever you have for granted!

 

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

 

Additional Information

Circle B Bar Reserve

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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