Posts Tagged With: carolina wren

Spring On The Wing

Where has Spring gone? Seems like we just started looking for spring migrants and “poof” the entire bird world is having babies! Perhaps it’s a feature of growing older. Someone hit the “fast forward” button and I can’t find it to turn the dang thing off.

The Beautiful Brown-Eyed Woman is obsessed with the season as well. “We simply MUST get going with the spring cleaning!” “Oh, look! A spring sale on linens!” “I love all the fresh produce we’re seeing this spring.”

Truth be told: She DOES put a spring into my step!

Colt Creek State Park. Twenty minutes from the house and some wonderfully diverse habitat. Entrance gates and parking lots. Probably the best birding spots on the planet. Today was no exception. Vireos and wrens sang from the underbrush, fish crows grunted overhead, curious catbirds popped onto a limb to give us the once-over and Holy Moley! It’s a Summer Tanager! Not necessarily rare but seldom seen.

A slow drive along the park roads yielded squeaky little nuthatches, woodpeckers, a gopher tortoise, clear-whistling titmice, deer calmly munching their grassy breakfast and a nice selection of migrants as well as resident birds.

The peaceful setting of the park’s primitive campground was a perfect spot for breakfast. From a nearby large oak tree came the ascending buzzy trill of Northern Parulas, recently arrived from their winter resort in South America. There! Just above the pine trees a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites, also returning from the tropics searching for a suitably tall tree to begin building a nest.

It seems as if Spring no sooner arrived than it’s time for high temperatures and daily thunderstorms to begin the wet season. Summer is not far away. More bird babies to locate!

Hope I finish my spring cleaning chores before the season is over.

 

At the park entrance, we were greeted by a bright red Summer Tanager.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Below the tree where the tanager was perched, a nervous Orange-crowned Warbler probed every twig and leaf for the protein-laden insects he’ll need to finish his northward migration.

Colt Creek State Park

 

This White-eyed Vireo looks like she had a rough night! A little preening and a sip of morning dew should soon set her right.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Songs of more returning breeding birds indicated the park was full of Red-eyed Vireos. We finally found one willing to pose for a moment.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Central Florida only has two species of sparrow which breed locally. The remainder, such as this Swamp Sparrow, will soon disappear until the fall.

Colt Creek State Park

 

One little bird we have an abundance of in summer is the diminutive and active Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Colt Creek State Park

 

In our area, three species of vireo breed: White-eyed, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated (pictured below with a caterpillar(?)).

Colt Creek State Park

 

A pair of Brown-headed Nuthatches were heard before our eyes could locate them. Ever squeezed a child’s toy rubber duck? Then you know what these pugnacious little creatures sound like. They begin breeding as early as mid-February here so this couple may already have chicks, which would account for them coming so near us to see if we might be a threat.

Colt Creek State Park

 

The clear whistle of the Tufted Titmouse can be heard at quite a distance and they’re usually the first to challenge us as we enter their area. During migratory seasons, they are also good indicators that other species may be nearby as they seem to act as gang leaders (okay, maybe tour guides).

Colt Creek State Park

 

Buzzy trills abound and Gini counted over a dozen of these colorful warblers as we drove through the park. Northern Parulas seemed to be everywhere, and that is just fine with us.

Colt Creek State Park

 

The photograph may not be that great but the feeling sure is! I seldom get to see this migrant much less have a chance to take his picture. The Northern Waterthrush has the characteristic stripes of the thrush family but is actually a warbler. Along with its cousin, the Louisiana Waterthrush, it walks along marshy ground constantly bobbing its tail as it pulls tasty morsels from the mud.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Carolina Wrens were calling throughout the park as they prepare to mate and are quick to respond to any intruders (that would be us).

Colt Creek State Park

 

Spring. Annual renewal. Migrants. Flashes of color. Exuberant songs. A fabulous time to explore the outdoors!

Oh. And, as I have just been reminded, a time to clean. Sigh.

 

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

 

Additional Information

Colt Creek State Park

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Oh Dark Thirty

We have all heard the sage advice of experts, professionals, spouses and others who know a lot more than we do. All the good stuff happens early. A photographer is only able to take decent images an hour before sunrise and up to two hours afterward. The remaining hours are left over for amateurs to amuse themselves. Wildlife is only active immediately before and after the sun peeks over the horizon. All of nature apparently lapses into a coma once the sky becomes illuminated. This special time even has been assigned an official designation: “The Golden Hours”. There is probably an International Bureaucracy Of Properly Naming Things somewhere which is responsible for providing us a convenient label for the rare item which does not already have one.

Ahh, “The Golden Hours”! The mere sound of it makes you want to participate in whatever it has to offer. Who doesn’t like gold? And to think, you can enjoy actual hours of it! What you don’t know is that in order to take part in an activity during this anointed time means getting out of your comfortable bed at an early hour. Very early. The further away your objective, the earlier it will be when you must awaken. From a deep, pleasant sleep. One must be truly dedicated. Or a bit nuts.

There I was, standing on a dirt road in the middle of a VERY DARK forest a full three hours before the sun was scheduled to make an appearance. Wait a minute. Why so far ahead of those “Golden Hours”? I could have had more sleep! The awful truth is, if you want to discover what night birds are active in an area, you must be in that area, well, at night. On this occasion, we made three such stops in the space of a half-hour and were rewarded with hearing the calls of Barred Owls, Eastern Screech Owls and Chuck-will’s-widows. For me, the angst of setting the alarm for such an unheard of time faded completely and reminded me why I do this over and over again. The booming hoot of the large owl dwelling in the swamp, the soft gurgle of the diminutive Screech Owl, the piercingly clear whistled name of our largest Nightjar – each now a wonderful memory.

Satisfied for the moment, we headed down the road to explore a few new places to see what they might offer. As the day progressed, we once again were amazed at the amount of life we discovered active outside the “Golden Hours”! Critters were everywhere! It was obviously Spring and we enjoyed blooming flowers, greening trees, beautiful butterflies, birds building nests, creatures of all types going about the daily business of surviving another day. We didn’t see all there was to see nor did yours truly take any spectacular photographs. We decided to leave such things to the experts.

Check out Additional Information below for some really neat places to explore if you’re in the area . Visiting during the “Golden Hours” is not required.

 

Grab a cuppa and come along to see what’s happening during the “Other Hours”!

 

Swallow-tailed Kites have returned to our area to begin the breeding cycle. They will be in Florida (and a few other scattered areas in the southeastern U.S.) until mid-August when they’ll migrate to South America for the winter. These striking birds grab a weed or branch for nest construction and during flight will transfer the item from talons to beak, probably to make landing easier.

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

 

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

 

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

 

At Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, this Carolina Wren used an overhanging eave at the rear of a building to shelter her nest. Her mate was busy bringing her insects to eat. We backed away quietly so they wouldn’t be disturbed.

Carolina Wren and Nest

Carolina Wren and Nest

 

Speaking of nests, we saw a White-eyed Vireo flying with nesting material and managed to discover the nest. Males are singing loudly just about everywhere right now. (Full disclosure. The photo of the bird is from a different time and location. Just wanted to show what the species looks like in case there are those who aren’t familiar with them.)

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

Nest - White-eyed Vireo

Nest – White-eyed Vireo

 

Migratory Sandhill Cranes which enjoyed our relatively warm winter have departed for their breeding grounds. Local Florida Sandhill Cranes (a sub-species of Grus canadensis, G.c. pratensis) are typically monogamous and begin laying eggs in late winter through early spring. These two either haven’t started a family yet or are “just friends”.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

 

Most “birders” tend to give short shrift to domestic fowl. The Muscovy Duck is usually ignored but once in awhile they can be intriguing to watch. This one kept dipping its head underwater, shaking vigorously and kept repeating the process. It may have been trying to rid itself of mites or perhaps was just having fun.

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck

 

The Yellow-throated Vireo is pretty solitary. They sing their “conversational” song from atop a tree for all to hear. Once breeding is complete, they return to being loners.

Yellow-throated Vireo

Yellow-throated Vireo

 

Black-and-White Warblers have the feeding habits of a Nuthatch, running down a tree trunk head first and dangling upside-down from a branch in pursuit of insects. This female lacks the black cheeks of the male.

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

 

Another songster that seems to be heard all over the place in Spring, the Northern Parula is a beautiful mix of blue-gray and yellow.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

 

A Burrowing Owl stands next to the entrance of a burrow and contemplates a Bumble Bee passing by. He didn’t go after the big insect, maybe due to a past unpleasant experience?

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

 

This pair of Burrowing Owls fixed their large yellow eyes on me as soon as the camera clicked. They didn’t seem to be agitated and probably felt they were sufficiently hidden in the grass. If it weren’t for those eyes, I probably never would have spotted them.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

 

Back near home, we’ve been keeping an eye on a Great Horned Owl who made a nest in an old Osprey nesting platform. This platform is about 20 yards from the local fire department training tower. Sirens, fire, smoke, spraying water. No problem. She raised two healthy owlets who recently left the nest. This is what the family looked like two weeks ago.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

 

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

 

 

 

If you’re able to take advantage of those “Golden Hours”, by all means, do so! However, it seems there is an awful lot going on out in Nature at all hours of the day and night. So, don’t worry about getting out of that warm bed at Oh-Dark-Thirty. Just get up when you’re ready. Seriously, get up! Now!

 

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

 

Additional Information

Dade Battlefield State Park

Flying Eagle Preserve

Withlapopka Community Park

Withlacoochee State Forest – Croom Tract

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

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