Posts Tagged With: yellowlegs

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

I, The Beholder

A recent reviewer of a newly opened golf course in central Florida gushed about the wonderful rolling landscape and said it was something you wouldn’t expect to see in “featureless, flat Florida”.  The reviewer might need to expand his horizons a bit.  In fairness, I suppose it depends upon one’s definition of “featureless”.  As to “flat”, many areas of the state do appear to be flat, especially to a visitor from hilly or mountainous landscapes.  The center of the state has a nice ridge running north-south which is likely the ancient beginnings of the Appalachian mountains.  North-central Florida has some quite hilly countryside.  The bottom line is that beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.  The golf course reviewer obviously has a job to describe the beauty of a golf course.  For me, no golf course could ever compare to a vista of a cypress dome in the center of a sea of scrub palmetto at dawn.

Last week, I had an opportunity to explore an area that was originally scheduled to become a golf course residential development.  Fortunately, research proved that the area could be turned into a wetlands which would significantly filter water flowing into a nearby river which eventually feeds into the Gulf of Mexico.  Instead of fertilizer being dumped into the ground and already scarce water resources being used to produce bright putting greens and lawns, the “new” wetlands is performing as advertised.  Water is held in “cells”, dug out areas about 1.5 miles square, which were planted with vegetation known to have positive filtering properties as well as trees which will grow to provide shelter for all manner of wildlife.

The bird species count for the morning was almost 70 and there were some impressive numbers of individuals, such as:  100+ Snowy Egret, 125+ Glossy Ibis, 100+ Black-necked Stilt, 350+ Blue-winged Teal, 40 American White Pelican, 50+ Great Egret.  Some surprising birds for the area made an appearance:  15 Black Tern, 25+ Caspian Tern, 20+ Sandwich Tern, 25 Pectoral Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe and a Willet.

I’m sure a golf course reviewer would not be impressed but I was.

There are no photographs of fairways, greens, bunkers or clubhouses below.  You have been warned.

 

Wetlands At Dawn

Wetlands At Dawn

 

Creek Feeding Into/Out Of Wetlands

Creek Feeding Into/Out Of Wetlands

 

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

 

Osprey

Osprey

 

Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina)

Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina)

 

Double-crested Cormorant (Immature); Black-necked Stilt

Double-crested Cormorant (Immature); Black-necked Stilt

 

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

 

Egrets, Ibises, Pelican, Vultures

Egrets, Ibises, Pelican, Vultures

 

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

 

 

It was a wonderful day of exploring and incredibly satisfying to know all the water moving through this area for the future will be cleaned and purified naturally as it makes its way to the coast.  I can even relate to our golfing friends:  got two Eagles and a whole lotta birdies!

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

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