Posts Tagged With: ebony jewelwing

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

High Times In Highlands County

A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people– Will Rogers

I truly enjoy watching my wife tackle an artistic endeavor.  She analyzes what needs to be done, develops a plan of attack, gathers the necessary materials and then performs magic.  At least, it’s magic to me.  I possess no such talent for producing something beautiful from, literally, nothing but an idea.  Whether she’s drawing or making a gift box decorated with paper flowers and doves, observing her while she’s creating is awe-inspiring.

That’s the way it is with someone who has knowledge or skills we may not.  We envy that person, we wish we could do what they do, we are amazed at the results they achieve and we want to be around them in the hope some of that talent will transfer to us.  Guess what?  Sometimes it does.  We may not reach their level of expertise, but just by hanging around such folks we almost can’t avoid learning something!

Sunday morning coffee was in a paper cup which imparted a unique flavor to my daily dose of caffeine.  The truck zigzagged through the dark along a series of back roads en route to a pre-dawn rendezvous with two of Florida’s top birders.  They would be characteristically too modest to agree with that description, but, hey, it’s my blog!  One of them can hear a Scrub Jay whisper in a hurricane a half mile away.  The other personally knows the address of every bird in the county and requires migrants to file a flight plan with him.

Today we intended to explore likely birding locales in Highlands County (we are all residents of Polk County, to the immediate north).  As the sun broke the horizon, we squinted eastward across the surface of Lake Jackson in Sebring.  About a dozen migrating Black Terns were actively feeding near the public boat ramp and picnic area.  They have lost their black plumage and transitioned to non-breeding colors as they prepare to continue on to the Caribbean.  A Belted Kingfisher was there and is also a migrant, but may stay in the area all winter.

Highlands Hammock State Park on the south side of Sebring consists of over 9,000 acres of oak and cypress hammock, swamp, black water creeks, pine forest and scrub.  Hikes along a couple of different paths produced 9 warbler species, including a singing Louisiana Waterthrush, 4 woodpecker species, White-eyed and Red-eyed vireos, a Brown-headed Nuthatch and a Summer Tanager.  Competing with the bird life were myriad insects, amphibians and reptiles.

After lunch (I can’t believe these guys stopped to eat), we explored a small park on the north side of Lake Istokpoga.  We were greeted at the parking area by a half dozen calling Sandhill Cranes and another half dozen Black Vultures (who were just finishing lunch themselves-armadillo, I think).  We found a colorful American Redstart, Tufted Titmice, a Great Crested Flycatcher and an adult and juvenile Purple Gallinule.

A short drive to the north and our noses alerted us we were nearing our objective, Bishop’s Dairy.  The continually wet mud which cows seem to enjoy is home to millions of insects.  Migratory shorebirds love this smorgasbord and we found a few Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers attending the banquet.  In an isolated mud puddle, a Solitary Sandpiper bathed and chased his own meal around the water.  Three dozen European Starlings, a couple dozen Cattle Egret, four dozen Brown-headed Cowbirds, Mourning and Eurasian Collared Dove, White Ibises and a Loggerhead Shrike rounded out the attendees at the dairy buffet.

Just around the corner from the dairy is an area of extensive pasture land, low lying fields and scattered ponds.  The abundant rain this summer has inundated most of this area and has attracted quite a variety of bird life.  We counted over 100 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, many of which were juveniles.  Wood Storks, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, 80 Cattle Egret, two dozen White Ibis, 50 Glossy Ibis, over a dozen Sandhill Cranes, almost two dozen Yellowlegs, 7 Black-necked Stilts, 5 Loggerhead Shrikes and an American Kestrel, among others, were enjoying the abundance of food in these fields.  We found a recently plowed field which hosted a couple of dozen Kildeer, Least Sandpipers and a half dozen Semipalmated Plovers.  One of the highlights in this area was a “kettle” of vultures spiraling up into the blue sky.

As afternoon thunderstorms built up, we headed home, happy to have tallied over 80 species of birds for the day.  My thanks to two companions who were generous with their knowledge and patient with an old dog still trying to learn a new trick or two.  These guys aren’t just good birders, they are true gentlemen.

 

I managed a few snapshots during the day and have included a sampling in the hope you might share a bit of the experience we had.

Lake Jackson Area

Black Tern

Black Tern

Black Tern

Black Tern

Red-shouldered Hawk (Juvenile)

Red-shouldered Hawk (Juvenile)

Highlands Hammock State Park

Path

Path

Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)

Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)

The smaller spider is the male.  Keeping his distance from his spouse!

Golden Silk Orbweaver (Nephila clavipes)

Golden Silk Orbweaver (Nephila clavipes)

Southeastern Lubber Grasshopper

Southeastern Lubber Grasshopper

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Yellow Rat Snake

Yellow Rat Snake

Carolina Satyr

Carolina Satyr

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

Florida Leaf-footed Bug (?) (Family Coreidae??) - Possibly Acanthocephala terminalis females.

Florida Leaf-footed Bug (?) (Family Coreidae??) – Possibly Acanthocephala terminalis females.

Brazilian Skipper (Calpodes ethlius )

Brazilian Skipper (Calpodes ethlius )

Handsome Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum pulchellum) - (?)

Handsome Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum pulchellum) – (?)

 

This is the smallest toad species in North America with an average length of 1.5 inches (3.8 cm).

Oak Toad (Anaxyrus quercicus)

Oak Toad (Anaxyrus quercicus)

Lake Istokpoga Park

Purple Gallinule (Juvenile)

Purple Gallinule (Juvenile)

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) - Male

Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) – Male

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) - Male

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) – Male

Bishop’s Dairy

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

Scrubpens Road

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Note how the parents station themselves at either end of the ducklings to stand watch.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

Kettle of Vultures

Kettle of Vultures

Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

 

As late afternoon thunderstorms build, Cattle Egret seek shelter, and so did we as we headed home.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

 

I may not be any smarter just for hanging around smart people, but I do enjoy being around anyone who can lead me to over 80 species of birds in one day.  And I do have my occasional strokes of genius.  After all, I was smart enough to marry Gini over 45 years ago!

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, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

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