Posts Tagged With: orange-crowned warbler

Day Or Night – Birding Is Great!

It’s dark in a cemetery at night. Okay, I know, it’s dark at night – duh. But it seems darker in a cemetery. The mosquitoes didn’t care. They bite when and where they find you.

Dawn was still over an hour away. We had actually hoped to hear the call of the Eastern Whip-poor-will. Happily, we heard the soft trilling call of an Eastern Screech Owl. They are usually closer than I think. Perhaps the darkness does something to my sense of distance.

We were at the Tenoroc Fish Management Area just before Christmas scouting for the upcoming annual bird count. An old cemetery provided a clearing surrounded on three sides by woods and two lakes were nearby. A perfect hunting patch for an owl.

Scanning the tree line with a flashlight, I hoped to spot the reflecting eyes of the Screech Owl, when a movement caught my attention. There he was! Right behind the car on a mid-level branch. I had pre-set the camera to its highest ISO, widest aperture and lowest shutter speed I thought would work with my shaky hands. Not wanting to shine the light in the bird’s eyes, I kept it pointed at the lower tree trunk and clicked a few images. We walked down the road to give the owl time to leave the area so as not to traumatize him any further.

Twenty minutes later, we found another Screech Owl and heard two Barred Owls calling to each other some distance away. The day was off to a nice beginning!

The rest of the morning was filled with small birds, hammering woodpeckers, soaring raptors and busy flycatchers. Our final tally bode well for the volunteers who would be searching this area in a few days.

All aspects of birding are exciting for us! But there seems to be something a little extra special about standing in the darkness, deprived of sight, and hearing an owl call from a few yards away. In a cemetery. With a mosquito on the end of your nose.

 

Eastern Screech Owl. Not a great technical photograph, but was pleased with the results considering how dark it was.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Gang leader. When we find a Tufted Titmouse in the fall and winter, it seems there are usually other small birds in the area. The titmice seem to act as “lookouts” and determine threat levels before the rest of the group show themselves.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Two white wing bars, a broken eye-ring and yellow breast with white belly identify the Pine Warbler.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Not a resident in Florida, the migratory Eastern Phoebe is constantly on the hunt for insects. Even from a distance, the pumping tail and posture help in identification.

Tenoroc FMA

 

The perch used by the Phoebe above was apparently popular. Another winter visitor, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, chased the smaller flycatcher away so she could enjoy the view for herself.

Tenoroc FMA

 

There are not many field marks to help identify the Orange-crowned Warbler, which actually helps to identify it, by process of elimination. Not many warblers are this “indistinct”. Overall plain yellow/yellow-green, grayish head and always with yellow undertail coverts.

Tenoroc FMA

 

From fall through spring, one of our most numerous migratory visitors is the Yellow-rumped Warlber. Groups of these industrious bug eaters swarm tree branches throughout the state.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Sometimes, a picturesque setting can enhance the photogenic qualities of a subject. The jury may still be out on whether this works for the Black Vulture.

Tenoroc FMA

 

A curious Prairie Warbler checked us out. Yellow underneath with black streaks along its flanks, white eye arc and grayish head indicate this is a female or immature bird.

Tenoroc FMA

 

What? A dragonfly in December? We love Florida. I chased this dragon a couple hundred yards (well, maybe 20 feet) to snap a photo. This was only my second sighting of a Band-winged Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax umbrata).

Tenoroc FMA

 

Diminutive and agitated. The tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet seems to be a non-stop bundle of energy, flashing its wings and scouring every leaf on a branch for an insect morsel.

Tenoroc FMA

 

From the dense brush along almost every path, the bubbling song of a White-eyed Vireo serenaded as we wandered. Although, once we got too close, the serenading turned into scolding until we were out of sight.

Tenoroc FMA

 

 

Beginning in darkness, ending with chasing a dragon. What a wonderful morning! If you have a chance to stand in the dark and listen for an owl, do it! Even if it is in a cemetery. With bugs biting you. You won’t soon forget it!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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!

 

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Colt Creek State Park

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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