Posts Tagged With: double-crested cormorant

Open To The Public

Not too long ago, a friend asked about a visit to a local area where I reported observing American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts and over 3,000 American White Pelicans. I confirmed those species and proudly talked about other unique birds I had seen during the same outing. He was quite excited as there were three species he had been striving to find in Florida and had been unsuccessful. I felt like a cad. Now I had to break it to him that this was a trip on land not open to the public. At the time, I felt  privileged to be asked to assist in a survey of bird life within this newly developed wetland. Little did I realize how bad I would later feel telling people they couldn’t visit the area.

Karma.

About a month after the above trip, I noted a report of several Burrowing Owls not too far away. My inquiry was met with, “Sorry, they were all on private land.”

Gini and I have been very fortunate to have traveled a modest amount during our time together. The nice thing about having a partner who is happy and positive all the time (yes, she wakes up smiling), is you just know something good is close by almost all the time. When we moved to a new area, we learned to explore close to home first and gradually expand our adventures. What a happy surprise to discover there are usually wonderful things within a stone’s throw of your front door.

Birding has been like that. It’s really exciting to visit a well-known “hotspot” and it’s not hard to figure out why these places are so popular. Plenty of birds! Also, plenty of birders! So we have tried to remember our early experiences and we seek out local parks to see what they have to offer. What we have found is that there are many birding “warmspots” that are all too easy to drive by as one speeds to the well-advertised “hotspots”! These local parks have something else that is missing from the more popular venues. A slower pace. I’m not worried about rushing to the “third tree on the left under the boat dock crouched under a lily pad” bird and getting in a line of sort-of birders who are more akin to contact sport athletes. Instead, I can leisurely walk around on a nicely constructed pathway, say “Good Morning” to a Mom pushing a stroller, admire the fortitude of runners perspiring profusely, take in the aroma of a grilled picnic lunch and still compile a respectable list of birds and perhaps even take a photograph or two.

Two days last month were spent visiting three such public parks. Relaxing, exciting and fun. What more could a very casual bird-watcher want?

 

Athletic fields have very tall poles atop which are mounted lights atop which are often found raptors searching for a meal. This American Kestrel has a great view from up there!

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

 

A large oak tree branch displayed the remains of what I think was a White Ibis. The lunch buffet was very fresh and a look around revealed a Bald Eagle skulking within the framework of tall utility line support structure. I’m not saying he was guilty, but he WAS near the scene of the dine……..

Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area

 

Anhingas are common in our area and they use any available perch that’s open to the sun and wind to dry their feathers. Unlike other waterfowl, they secrete no oils to help them remain water-proof and could drown if unable to keep their feathers dry.

Patterson Park

 

A Double-crested Cormorant and Peninsula Cooter appear to be exchanging opinions as they share a convenient log.

Patterson Park

 

An important pollinator in our ecosystem, the Sweat Bee is so named for its attraction to the salt in human perspiration. Only the females sting and it hurts less than a Honeybee. There are over 49 species of Sweat Bee, including the one below, a Green Sweat Bee.

Patterson Park

 

For some reason, city planners feel the need to “enhance” local park lakes with exotic waterfowl, often with unfortunate results for native species. Some common city critters encountered are swans of all types. I guess, to a bureaucrat, bigger is better. This is a Black Swan, a native of Australia. The male Black Swan’s red eyes turn white during breeding season.

Lake Morton

 

Mute Swans originated in Europe and Asia and are the most common captive swans in North America.

Lake Morton

 

The Black-necked Swan is from South America and cannot survive very cold weather. They are more likely than other swan species to carry young on their backs.

Lake Morton

 

Widely held to be the ancestor of all domestic geese in North America, the Graylag Goose (Anser anser) is a large bulky bird and it is common to encounter a variety of plumages from all white to mostly gray. Hybrids are frequent. In many areas of the United States it is simply referred to as a “Barnyard Goose”.

Lake Morton

 

Ruddy Ducks visit our area only during migration but can sometimes be seen in fair numbers on larger bodies of water. Occasionally, we’ll see the male still in his breeding plumage of chestnut, white face and blue bill. (Below is a female.)

Lake Morton

 

Larger than the small Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Ducks also appear in the fall and many remain through the winter. In good light, the male’s head and neck appear iridescent.

Lake Morton

 

For sheer gaudiness, nothing compares to our native Wood Duck! Looks like an artist’s palette gone wild. Okay, gaudy but beautiful.

Lake Morton

 

At the other extreme of the color spectrum is the plain brown Limpkin. Plenty of apple snails in most public lakes attract these ancient-looking waders into the city.

Lake Morton

 

Good looking in its own right, the Common Gallinule is still confused as to why the “experts” changed his name (again) from Moorhen. Me, too.

Lake Morton

 

If you get a chance to look for rare birds on private land, go for it! Visit a popular birding “hotspot” whenever you can. For a relaxing day walking among familiar birds in a comfortable setting, check out the city park. You might be surprised at what you can find.

 

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

 

(Hah! You thought you were rid of me, didn’t you? Not yet.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

A Sidewalk On The Wild Side

In some humans, there is a perception that greater efforts will yield greater rewards. Many of us teach our children that to attain “success” requires hard work. When I was attending a management school, we were advised to seek out employees who were ambitious, full of energy and always volunteering for projects and to assign these vigorous souls our most important tasks in order to assure completion of organizational objectives. Okay. I tried that. I soon realized this was effective in identifying future bureaucrats, but was not very good at getting things done. Instead, I gave the most vital jobs to the laziest individuals I could find. I discovered their main interest was to invent shortcuts so they could return to being lazy as soon as possible. My unit’s production consistently ranked high in the area of timely goal fulfillment.

As the alarm sounded, I felt guilty about sleeping in so late. Official sunrise would occur in an hour and the eastern sky was just beginning to become “less dark”. I ate some fruit, checked my camera settings, looked out the window one more time and as the dawn was 15 minutes away from breaking, I jumped in the truck, scrambled down the road and finally reached my destination – five minutes later.

My usual “patch”, Lake Parker Park, is only two miles from the house and that’s where I parked this morning. However, today I would follow a different plan. From the park entrance, there is a convenient sidewalk along the shore of the lake which ends about 1.5 mile (2.4 km) to the south. This southern terminus is an intersection with a very busy highway in a highly developed commercial business district. At the northern end, where I began my walk, is the entrance to the city park. As one travels south along the lake, the adjacent road is usually full of traffic. There is a city fire department training facility here, complete with a tower that is occasionally set afire for very brave folks to practice dealing with flames and smoke. The view across the tranquil lake’s surface is abruptly disturbed by two massive coal-fired electric plants belching dark smoke toward the heavens. Continuing southward, the neighborhood gradually changes from a nursing home, to some quite nice fairly new residences, to older bungalow style houses which have been renovated, to some older bungalow style houses which have not been renovated, to a large former motel now used as public assistance housing and ending in the aforementioned business district. Not your typical “Wow! I want to go birding THERE!” sort of spot.

At least there was no fire department training today. As I followed the concrete path along the lake, there was a strange mix of birds, blooming water plants, discarded beer cans, plastic bags, cars, dog-walkers, joggers, alligators – it was quite surreal. Also, I found 48 species of birds, including a small rookery full of herons and egrets building nests and incubating eggs, fishing Bald Eagles, a house full of breeding Purple Martins and a host of colorful feathered urban residents. And I still feel guilty about not working hard for such a huge personal reward. Well, not that guilty.

Come on! Look at what I found!

An old boat lift wheel makes a nice morning perch for an Anhinga to greet the day.

Anhinga

Anhinga

I counted eleven Limpkins along the shore this morning but couldn’t manage a decent photo of even one! The shore was littered with empty shells of Apple Snails which explains the high number of Limpkins. A Double-crested Cormorant and a Boat-tailed Grackle have discovered why the Limpkins enjoy escargot.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle

The unique calls of White-winged Dove filled the air and this one remained on her perch long enough for a portrait. (White-winged Dove Call)

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove

Purple Gallinules are extremely colorful and along this stretch of urban shore are extremely aggressive. They have learned to associate humans with a handout. Sad on several levels. I found one who seems to have not yet had his morning coffee and another who agreed to pose but when I asked her to powder her nose, she left a feather from the puff on her nose.

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

This Pied-billed Grebe contorted itself into a question mark as if to say “You lookin’ at ME?”.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

It was just a little too early for this Ring-billed Gull to begin its day of fishing. I know that feeling.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

The residential nature of much of the area contains many old, large hardwood trees as well as tall palms. Perfect for a Pileated Woodpecker to make a home. This one flew along the street for a moment before diving into an oak in a nearby yard.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

When the sunlight is at just the correct angle, it appears to be shining through a prism onto the feathers of a Glossy Ibis.

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

One of our most common birds is the Cattle Egret. So common, they are routinely ignored by birders and photographers. During breeding season, they are much harder to ignore as their heads display some pretty intense colors. During nest construction, one bird (presumed male) kept offering a stick to another (presumed female), a typical courtship ritual with many egrets and herons.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Speaking of hard to ignore. A Snowy Egret displays the reason this species was almost wiped out by hunters seeking the breeding plumes (aigrettes) for ladies’ hats in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Purple Martins have raised little ones in this condo for at least the past four years. It was fascinating to watch the adults arrive with a bug as the noise level and wing fluttering increased enormously from the kids inside.

Purple Martin - Female

Purple Martin – Female

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

The domestic Mallard. The root cause of many of duckdom’s problems. Indiscriminate. Prolific. Superior genes. And yet, still not bad to look at. Who doesn’t think ducklings are downright adorable?

Mallard - Male

Mallard – Male

Mallard - Female

Mallard – Female

Mallard - Juvenile

Mallard – Juvenile

Mallard - Juvenile

Mallard – Juvenile

Continue to work hard toward your own goals. Continue to feel good about crawling out of a warm bed three hours before sunrise, driving two hours, trekking through ankle-deep muck, swatting insects, avoiding the path with the alligator guarding it. I’ll continue to do that, too. But I won’t feel guilty about the occasional lazy morning stroll along a wild sidewalk either.

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

See more birds from around the world at Paying ReadyAttention for

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: