Posts Tagged With: yellow-bellied sapsucker

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

Scouting For The Count

“I’ll be happy to help you do some scouting”, said Gini The Naive.

This year will mark the 118th year of the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. (Yes, as a matter of fact I WAS at the first count over a hundred years ago. Smart alecks.) At that time, a genius birder (okay, that’s redundant) had a novel idea. “Hey, how about we just COUNT the birds instead of seeing who can shoot the most?” A movement and a tradition were born. The data from each year’s count is compiled by Cornell University in New York and makes available a treasure trove of research material for scientists as they attempt to understand the status of our avian friends.

In order to help our team operate as efficiently as possible on the actual count day, I spent the prior week searching out known bird haunts and seeking new ones. Knowing which birds are present helps us concentrate on locating less common species. Part of this process involves listening for owls. They call when it’s dark outside. Therefore, we must be outdoors in potential owl habitat when it’s dark outside. Sunrise is about 7:00. The sky begins to lighten about 6:00. Yep, Gini The Naive deduced we needed to set the alarm clock really early! No complaints from her. Not even a whimper. That’s a good thing. She’s the one with the keen hearing.

After all was said and done, we had a very good official count day of birding and tallied a few more species than last year. The weather was great with a cool morning, warm day and gentle breeze. For me, highlights of this year’s efforts include:  a single Bufflehead (not common in our area), a flock of 18 Wild Turkey (unusual in our dense suburban environment), a relatively high number of Blue-headed Vireo and an immature Sharp-shinned Hawk (a winter visitor in small numbers).

Gini The Naive was, as expected, simply fantastic during scouting week as I took her to all the great birding locales:  the aforementioned pre-dawn owling forays, a cemetery, muddy marshes, dusty dirt roads and the ever-popular city dump. Once again, she proved she is, and shall ever be, Gini My Beloved!

Since you asked, I did take a couple of snapshots.

 

As the morning fog began to lift from the marsh it revealed one of the local fishermen already on the job. The Great Blue Heron paid no attention to my clumsy efforts.

Itchepackesassa Creek Wetland

 

A pair of Anhinga patiently wait for a bit of sunshine before they begin diving in the chilly water.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

Another hunter of the wetlands, a Great Egret, has his eye on a frog and doesn’t acknowledge my presence.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

Morning commute. A River Otter pushed up a wake under his chin as he headed for his office across the lake.

Banana Lake Park

 

I wasn’t sure if this Osprey was curious, territorial or ticked off.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

After watching a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker chase a Red-bellied Woodpecker around a clearing and in and out of the trees, the pair landed briefly on an oak before taking off on their game of tag again.

Crooked Lake WEA

 

A dapper looking Black-and-White Warbler probes a hole in a branch for breakfast.

Crooked Lake WEA

 

Golden Silk Orb Weavers craft very strong webs across paths to catch all manner of prey during the night – and occasional birders during the day who are constantly looking up instead of where they’re going!

Crooked Lake WEA

 

I don’t know if the feathers under the talons of this Red-shouldered Hawk are from preening or left over from a morning snack.

Lake Gwyn Park

 

This year I seem to have found more Blue-headed Vireos than in the past. That’s okay with me!

Crooked Lake WEA

 

Pine Warblers can vary from very drab to very bright. This is one of the brighter variety and I chased after him quite awhile before he sat still for a picture.

Crooked Lake WEA

 

Another bright yellow fellow, this Yellow-throated Warbler has found a hairy white caterpillar for brunch. Yum!

Crooked Lake WEA

 

North America’s smallest falcon, the American Kestrel, is quite colorful. I was lucky to find one that remained on a perch while I was less than a mile away.

Lake Streety Road

 

There I was, head up searching for warblers in the tree-tops, when I had the feeling I was being watched. One picture and this White-tailed buck sprang across the path in one leap and disappeared into the forest.

Gator Creek Reserve

 

A cold morning and a fluffed up Yellow-rumped Warbler. We don’t often get to see the bit of yellow in their crown.

Mount Olive Primitive Cemetery

 

Speaking of beautiful. The majestic Turkey Vulture. The other birds are beside themselves with envy.

Mount Olive Primitive Cemetery

 

During the winter, a few sparrows hang around and challenge us to identify them. Head pattern, diffuse streaks on the breast and a nice rufous wing patch tell us this is a Swamp Sparrow.Banana Lake Park

 

Soft mud is a magnet for shorebirds. This Killdeer characteristically ran a few steps, probed the mud, ran a few steps, probed. Fun to watch!Bartow Medical Center

 

A small stream in the middle of a pasture is not where I expected to spot a Bufflehead!

Rolling Woods Lane

 

The back of an Eastern Meadowlark blends perfectly with the dried grasses where they live. That bright yellow front and loud, clear song, however, make it impossible for it to hide!Rolling Woods Lane

 

One of those little brown birds again. This Savannah Sparrow walked (quickly) from one clump of grass to another in a field before I caught him in the open long enough for a photograph.

Rolling Woods Lane

 

Reaching for the latch to a corral gate, I spotted a Monarch Butterfly chrysalis. Every bit as beautiful as its contents.

Rolling Woods Lane

 

Winter migration brings us an influx of Eastern Phoebes.  These small flycatchers stay busy all day sallying forth from an exposed perch to capture any insect foolish enough to be out in the open.

Lake Hancock Tract

 

Not to be outdone by his Blue-headed cousin, this White-eyed Vireo sang and posed for several minutes.

Banana Lake Park

 

This is the closest I’ve been to a Sharp-shinned Hawk. They only visit during the winter and I normally see them as a brown blur as they speed after a little songbird in the woods.

Lake Hancock Tract

 

 

This year’s Christmas Bird Count was a success for our entire 50+ person effort, my own 5 member team and was immeasurably enhanced by the participation of the one and only Gini My Beloved. She and I wish each and every one of you the best Holiday Season ever!

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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