Posts Tagged With: dowitcher

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.

Sunrise

Sunrise

 

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.

Epiphyte

Epiphyte

 

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

Beach Bird Bonanza

My Sweetheart and I had to update some paperwork at our local military base the other day and took the opportunity to explore a bit.  It has been four years since our last visit and there have been several changes to the area.

MacDill Air Force Base is located near Tampa, Florida and is on a peninsula jutting into Tampa Bay.  This base has been a vital part of the U.S. Air Force mission since officially opening in 1939.  Military bases are like small cities and must be able to support the large number of people living and working there.  Part of this full range of amenities at MacDill includes a very nice recreation area.  There are a marina, boat launch, beach, camping area, fresh-water lake and several miles of shoreline along Tampa Bay.

—Before going any further, we acknowledge and appreciate the service of all the military personnel of America.  As a veteran, I understand the dedication and sacrifice each of you makes every day.  We salute you and your families.—

For more than a week, a low pressure system has been sitting to our west in the Gulf of Mexico and sending waves of rain eastward.  Many areas of the state have experienced flooding as the ground has become saturated.  Some of these rain events have been accompanied by strong winds and migrating birds have been “grounded” until a break occurs.  On the day we visited the air base, the day dawned without rain but dark clouds were moving rapidly from west to east and the skies remained “threatening”.  We completed our paperwork mission and drove to the marina and beach area to enjoy a brunch of granola bars and colas.  (It’s all the marina store had available!)

There was a break in the clouds and we had a bit of actual blue sky for awhile.  I popped over a sand dune to see if anything interesting might be on the beach.  The entire length of the small beach was covered with birds!  As I slowly moved up the shoreline, the birds seemed to pay little attention to me and were busy preening and resting.  I only had 20 minutes before another rain shower moved in but during that period saw 25 species of birds and took over 200 photographs (okay, so many were multiple shots of the same birds).  Highlights included:  140 Black Skimmer, 60 Marbled Godwit, 50 Sandwich Tern, 35 Royal Tern, 35 Semipalmated Plover, 30 Laughing Gull, 20 Forster’s Tern, 15 Dowitcher, 15 Brown Pelican, 10 Willet, 10 Western Sandpiper, 4 American Oystercatcher and 2 Roseate Spoonbill.  What a nice brunch that turned out to be!

I think we won’t let four more years pass before we visit the air base again!

Hope you enjoy a few of the sights we found.

A Roseate Spoonbill cruises just off of the beach on his way to a lagoon for a little fishing.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Just a couple of weeks ago, these Marbled Godwits were likely munching bugs in grasslands a couple of thousand miles northwest of here.

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

The next three images provide perspective on the Marbled Godwit’s size.

A Semipalmated Plover looks pretty small and has to take a lot of little steps to keep up with his larger cousin.

Marbled Godwit, Semipalmated Plover

Marbled Godwit, Semipalmated Plover

Dowitchers might appear large next to a Least Sandpiper, but seem miniature next to the Godwit.

Dowitcher, Marbled Godwit

Dowitcher, Marbled Godwit

With the larger Godwit in the background, Royal and Sandwich Terns preen.

Marbled Godwit, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern

Marbled Godwit, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern

Small “peeps”, Western Sandpipers, gather on the lee side of a small dune as more foul weather approaches.

Western Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper

The American Oystercatcher is quite striking with its relatively large size and coloration.

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover

American Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

These Black Terns probably should be further south by now but have been delayed by the weather.  It’s interesting to see them feed by “plucking” prey from the water as opposed to the headlong dives of other terns.

Black Tern

Black Tern

Black Tern

Black Tern

A Common Tern rests on  the beach.  Despite their name, I don’t see very many of them.

Common Tern

Common Tern

A pair of Black Skimmers dwarf the Black Tern flying along with them.

Black Skimmer, Black Tern

Black Skimmer, Black Tern

The Black Skimmer often lays his large bill on the sand when resting, giving the appearance of a bird in distress.

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

The normally drab-looking Willet is stunning when it displays the black and white of its wings.

Willet

Willet

Birds take refuge on the protected side of a tree on an inlet as the next storm approaches.  I took refuge in the truck!

Shelter From The Storm

Shelter From The Storm

If one must take care of administrative errands, including a romp on the beach helps make the task more enjoyable.  If the romp includes an unexpected gathering of a couple hundred birds, so much the better!

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: , , , , , , , , , , , | 51 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: