Posts Tagged With: northern flicker

In Search of Birds

This spring, I volunteered to participate in Florida’s second Breeding Bird Atlas.  The Atlas is a five year project aimed at defining the state’s breeding bird population.  Birders from around the state visit specifically designated geographic areas and observe what species are in that location.  Emphasis is placed on whether any breeding activity can be confirmed (e.g., nests, young birds, pairs, territorial disputes, adult birds carrying food, etc.).  This is very different from “normal” birding where the concentration is on total number of birds of each species seen without regard to specific location or breeding activity.  The data gathered will be analyzed and compared with the first Breeding Bird Atlas which was conducted 25 years ago.  Hopefully, scientists will be able to use this information to guide resource managers in planning for a better future for our birds.

The breeding season for most birds in North America is almost at an end and many birds will be migrating south to take advantage of greater food supplies.  Accordingly, we’ll soon be seeing bird species in central Florida that were not here during the summer.  Some birds begin their southward journey earlier than others (usually, those that were not successful at breeding) and we’ve made a few forays lately trying to catch some of these “early birds”.

One place is becoming a favorite spot for us to visit:  Hardee Lakes Park (see Additional Resources, below, for a link to more information).  It’s a pleasant drive from the house and the trip itself offers a lot of birding opportunities.  This county park consists of about 1200 acres (485.63 ha.) and includes four lakes, lots of picnic areas, restrooms, camping, hiking/horseback/biking trails and a boardwalk through a wet hardwood area.  Within the park, in addition to the lakes, one can find open fields, stands of hardwood, pine and swamp.  As the seasons progress into fall and winter, the four lakes will provide refuge to a large number of waterfowl.

During our visit, we tallied 47 species.  Not bad for the end of August during some pretty oppressive heat and humidity.  Some of the highlights included large numbers of Barn Swallows gliding over the open grassy areas just inches above the ground.  Separating themselves from the Barn Swallows, a small group of about a dozen Northern Rough-winged Swallows perched on nearby utility lines.  We saw a total of six Northern Flickers, which likely included some juvenile birds from this year’s breeding.  Two of the males were engaged in an extensive display of head bobbing/weaving, probably a territorial challenge.  It was a morning filled with woodpecker sightings, five different species in all.  A Yellow-billed Cuckoo silently stalked bugs in the top of a pine tree.  We only found one migratory warbler, a Black and White, but the trees were dotted with yellow here and there as resident Pine and Yellow-throated Warblers scooped up insects non-stop.  White-eyed Vireos entertained us with song from the damp understory of the swampy woods.  We were treated to expert fishing tutorials by a Bald Eagle, an Osprey and a Forster’s Tern.

Here are a few pictures from our excursion.

Morning dew sparkles like jewels, surrounding an Eastern Cottontail rabbit.

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Cottontail

Three Northern Flickers on one utility pole.  The two at the top spent a lot of time bobbing up and down and moving from side to side at each other, probably a territorial challenge.  The bird at the bottom is immature, based on its overall lighter plumage and the non-descript malar stripe (“moustache”).  Interestingly, adult males have this malar stripe, females do not, but immature birds of both sexes display it.  Northern Flickers in eastern North America have yellow under their wings and tails whereas western species have reddish-orange (“Yellow-Shafted” and “Red-Shafted” Flickers).  Western Northern Flicker males also have red malar stripes instead of black.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Typical habitat for Hardee Lakes Park.  The lakes will soon offer refuge for hundreds of migrating waterfowl.

Moonset

Moonset

A female Red-winged Blackbird foraging along the lake shore.  The females can sometimes be a challenge to identify as they don’t resemble the shiny black males.  This bird was among a flock of about four dozen noisy male and female Red-wings.

Red-winged Blackbird (female)

Red-winged Blackbird (female)

Most spiders spin their webs vertically in order to effectively catch flying insects during the night.  This one was built horizontally.  For hopping insects?  Bugs falling out of trees?  A spider trampoline?

Spider Web

Spider Web

A Northern Rough-winged Swallow rests between bug-catching sorties.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

This Common Buckeye exemplifies the expression “worn”.

Common Buckeye

Common Buckeye

One of the smarter individuals in his group, this Black Vulture enjoys the shade while his compatriots were soaring in the heat of the day.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

The Turkey Vulture gets it half right.  He rests on an appropriately dead snag but hasn’t figured out the trees with all those leaves across the way would be much cooler.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

A boardwalk provides a nice walk through a wet area of hardwood trees, low shrubs, a creek and connects with trails to take one further afield.  Lots of bird activity along this relatively short excursion.

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

A species of Holly tree (I think it’s a Dahoon Holly, Ilex cassine) offers bright red berries which are very effective at attracting birds to the area.

Red Berries

Red Berries

Bright yellow and black offer a startling burst of color among the green pine needles.  The Yellow-throated Warbler, however, can almost disappear when all you see is his gray back.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

Pine Warblers are fairly common here, chasing insects along the branches of their namesake trees and staring through the needles at the funny-looking guy stumbling through the ground cover.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

It was another great day afield made special by seeing and hearing a few birds while accompanied by my Best Friend Forever.  She really is, too.  I have a signed contract that says so.

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

Additional Resources:

Hardee Lakes Park

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

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

Taken For Granted

As we travel through this journey of life, we sometimes become so accustomed to our routine tasks of the day that we don’t give a thought to some of the essential things around us.  Air.  We use it every second of our existence and can’t live without it, but when do we express thanks for it?  Water.  Not much is as satisfying as a long drink of cool water, but we just assume it’s clean and won’t do us any harm.  Love.  A look, a touch, a word from someone you love and who loves you in return – how marvelous!  How often do we enjoy this precious commodity and how often do we acknowledge it?  (When is the last time you unexpectedly told someone:  “I love you.”? — Now is a good time!)

It’s easy to take things for granted.  Sometimes, we do so out of complete ignorance.  That’s the way it is with woodpeckers.

Growing up in Florida, living in other states, visiting Europe – there were always woodpeckers.

The flash of black and white and a bright scarlet head always commanded attention when a Red-headed Woodpecker dashed between trees.  Locally, they’re in real trouble due to their special habitat requirements and our disregard for providing it.

An older home had a chimney which had been “bird-proofed” with a metal cover.  A Pileated Woodpecker found the cover to be an ideal transmitter during mating season and we awoke during  spring mornings to the amplified drumming echoing throughout the house, the fireplace acting as an effective loudspeaker.

The dainty-looking Downy Woodpecker has a bill that looks like it couldn’t punch a hole in paper, much less excavate a nesting cavity in a tree.  We were privileged one year to observe a pair from the living room window as they raised a family in a maple tree in the yard.

Adaptation is a key to survival and the Red-bellied Woodpecker has learned this lesson quite well.  They are common visitors to back yard feeding stations and are abundant in almost any environment in the area.

A ring of small holes completely around a branch identifies the hunting territory for the handsome Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  It really does consume some of the tree sap during its search for insects.

A Northern Flicker always looks like it just stepped out of a salon with its neat appearance.  Although it’s a woodpecker, it spends most of its time on the ground slurping up ants with a long, sticky tongue.

We were just recently fortunate to find our first Red-cockaded Woodpeckers.  These birds breed cooperatively, the sons of prior generations helping to raise the families of current birds.  Holes are drilled in living pine trees and the sap allowed to run down the trunk.  It’s believed this deters snakes from approaching the nest cavity.  Not that long ago, they inhabited Florida’s old-growth pine forests by the tens of thousands.  Sadly, loss of habitat to lumbering and development has reduced their number so drastically they are now a federal and state endangered species.

So, I was stunned to discover there are parts of the world where no woodpeckers exist.  Folks in Australia, New Zealand and Madagascar don’t get to enjoy these lords of the woods.  This post is dedicated to anyone who has never seen these colorful winged loggers with the chiseled beaks, never climbed a tree to peer into a round cavity for a chance to see if there are eggs or chicks in there or never marveled at a bird clinging vertically to a tree trunk as it scoots up and pries off a piece of bark to reveal its prize.

Please enjoy a few of our Florida woodpeckers.

Red-Headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Sapsucker Holes

Sapsucker Holes

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

Northern Flicker (female)

Northern Flicker (female)

Northern Flicker (female)

Northern Flicker (female)

Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis)

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Pine Tree With Sap (Red-cockaded Woodpecker nest in progress.)

Pine Tree With Sap (Red-cockaded Woodpecker nest in progress.)

For the rest of us, let’s try not to take for granted these particular treasures Nature has provided.

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: , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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