Friday, January 2, 2015

2014: A Year in Review


You Tube Slide Show of My Favorite Bird Photos from 2014
(a work in progress)

It's been a pretty great year for birding for me.  I'm especially happy with my results for Seminole County (details for this will be in a future post), but I had my best birding year yet.  And I also had a few trips up north (Boston, Philly), one to California, and one to Mexico. These were not birding trips, but they still allowed me to get several more lifers than I would have had otherwise.

Daytona Beach Shores
Glaucous Guill
Lifers are harder to come by now that I have well over 300 species in the state of Florida, but that's okay, I'm not complaining.  It makes the challenge all the more fun.  Here's my list of lifers from 2014:
  1. Western Tanager:  Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area, FL (01 Jan 2014)
  2.  Common Eider: Jetty Park, FL (04 Jan 2014)
  3. Western Gull: San Diego, CA (17 Mar 2014)
  4. California Towhee: San Diego, CA (17 Mar 2014)
  5. Lesser Goldfinch: San Diego, CA (17 Mar 2014)
  6.  Elegant Tern: Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, CA (18 Mar 2014)
  7. Egyptian Goose: Huntington Central Park, CA (19 Mar 2014)
  8. Allen's Hummingbird: Huntington Central Park, CA (19 Mar 2014)
  9. Nuttall's Woodpecker: Huntington Central Park, CA (19 Mar 2014)
  10. Rusty Blackbird: Lake Henrietta, FL (23 Mar 2014)
  11. White-faced Ibis: Audubon Park, FL (04 Apr 2014)
  12. Glaucous Gull: Frank Rendon Park, FL(05 Apr 2014)
  13. Kentucky Warbler: Fort De Soto Park, FL (23 Apr 2014)
  14. Mangrove Cuckoo: Pinellas Co, FL (30 May 2014)
  15. Snowy Plover: Siesta Key, FL (30 May 2014)
  16.  Ruff: Merritt Island NWR, FL (31 May 2014)
  17. Inca Dove: Acapulco, MX (03 Aug 2014)
  18. Neotropic Cormorant: Acapulco, MX (07 Aug 2014)
  19. Mangrove Swallow: Acapulco, MX (07 Aug 2014)
  20.  Nashville Warbler: Central Winds Park, FL (26 Sep 2014)
  21. Parasitic Jaeger: Pelegic Trip, FL (28 Sep 2014)
  22. Great Cormorant: Port Orange Causeway Park, FL (08 Nov 2014)
  23.  Franklin's Gull: Ft. Matanzas Peninsula, FL (15 Nov 2014)
  24. Dickcissel: Canal St., FL (17 Nov 2014)
  25. Pine Siskin: Home (24 Dec 2014)
  26. Groove-billed Ani: Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area, FL (30 Dec 2014)
These birds brought my life list up to 394, my U.S. life list up to 373 and my Florida Life list up to 325.  For the year of 2014, I had 320 species total, 305 in the United States, and 284 in Florida.  I had a hope of getting 300 species in Florida this year--a very doable goal, if you're willing to travel. But beginning in October, I wasn't able to travel much, and I did almost all my birding in my home county, little bits at a time.
Lake Apopka
Groove-billed Ani
I spent most of my time in Seminole Co, so I had far more species there than in any other county, but here are the totals I had for my top Florida Counties:


2014Life
Florida284325
Seminole Co.218236
Orange Co.177222
Brevard Co.170220

Next year, I'd love to get to 400 lifers, 350 Florida birds, and it's a tall order, but 250 Seminole County birds.  We'll see!

Audubon Park
White-faced Ibis
Siesta Key
Snowy Plover
Lake Apopka, Lust Rd.
Western Tanager
Huntington Central Park
Allen's Hummingbird
Huntington Central Park
Nuttall's Woodpecker

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Osprey with Gar

Overlook Park
Osprey
Last month at Overlook Park I saw an Osprey fly by.  This happens so frequently that I usually don't bother to take a photo. However, this time looked a little different.  I put my binoculars on the bird and noticed that it was carrying a gar.  I can't imagine that this is good eating, but I suppose when you're an Osprey, you eat what you catch.  The fishermen at the park weren't catching anything, so the Osprey was certainly having a better day.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Common Goldeneye

Sanford Mall, FL
Common Goldeneye
A friend of mine found a Canvasback in a little retention pond in Sanford, so I drove up this morning to see it, but I struck out.  I went to work dejected, but then a little after lunch I received an eBird alert that a Common Goldeneye was seen in a retention pond at a nearby mall. I drove up there and sure enough, there it was! It's the first sighting recorded on eBird for Seminole Co. So it was a pretty good day afterall.

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Common Goldeneye

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bald Eagle Thief

Lake Monroe Marina
Bald Eagle
Flying Away with a  Stolen Rock Pigeon
I walking around  the marina  in Sanford a  little while ago, and I  had a pretty memorable experience. As I walked by a tree, a young Cooper's Hawk with a Rock Pigeon flushed and flew up into a different tree. That was surprising and cool enough, but a Bald Eagle must have seen all that happened, and it  flew over to investigate the tree with the Cooper's Hawk.

Lake Monroe Marina
Bald Eagle
It was so close to me that this is a full frame image.
With its eyes on the Cooper's Hawk it didn't seem to care about me one bit.
It then descended into the tree, and the Cooper's Hawk freaked out, flew into another tree, and dropped its prey. This photo is not as sharp as I would like, but I believe this is a full frame image, or nearly so. The action took place so close to me, I didn't even have  time to back up.

Lake Monroe Marina
Cooper's  Hawk
Freaking out and heading into another tree with a Rock Pigeon
Lake Monroe Marina
Bald  Eagle with Rock Pigeon
You can  make out a little bit of the bird at the bottom of the rame, but unfortunately,
I didn't have much choice but to cut off the eagle's tail.
The eagle lost no time in thieving the Rock Pigeon. I tried to backup to give it more space, but once I moved it flew off.

Lake Monroe Marina
Bald Eagle in Flight

Friday, November 28, 2014

Rhythm

Central Winds Park
Painted Bunting
One of my favorite migrants, though we get to see these all winter long as well.
Lately I've been considering why it is I find birding so continuously fascinating, and even addicting. Of course there's the beauty of the birds, the thrill of finding them (especially rarities), and the challenge of learning to identify them.  I also have great interest in learning about their behavior--why they act the way they do.  It's a fascinating endeavor.  But recently I've become more aware of another reason why I'm fascinated by birding--the rhythms of nature.

Lake Monroe Marina
Bald Eagle
Bald Eagles are residents here in Florida, and they breed here, but thin out in the summer time.
This one stole a Rock Pigeon from a Cooper's Hawk and flew off with it.
I'm growing in my appreciation and understanding of this aspect of birding--I certainly have not arrived.  But year after year, I'm starting to at least appreciate the rhythms of nature in Florida and how it affects my birding.

Central Winds Park.
Northern Parula
These warblers breed here, but they are also one of our earliest migrants, and a few actually winter here
Peninsular Florida has a rainy and a dry season.  We talk about the four seasons, and I suppose you could say we experience them to some degree, but  October to May is our dry season and June to September is rainy.  So our summers as hot and wet and our winters are relatively cool and dry. As you might imagine, our dry season is my favorite time for birding.

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Louisiana Waterthrush
One of our early migrants in both Spring and Fall
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Bay-breasted Warbler
It seems like the third week of October is the prime time to find this  bird.
Interestingly, I'm learning that at least some birds are migrating to or through Florida throughout most of the year.  Warblers begin to arrive here in February and continue through May, with a few staying to breed.  Then as early as July, Fall migration begins. Shorebirds start coming through in July, and warblers begin to trickle through.  By September, migration is in full swing. Here on the eastern side of the state, there's almost a predictable order for when you can expect to see certain species.  Some come over a wide range of dates, like American Redstarts, and others seem to come through very quickly, like Bay-breasted Warblers; if you blink, you might miss them. Flycatchers, tanagers, thrushes and other songbirds also come through during this time.

Merritt Island NWR, Shiloh Marsh
Saltmarsh Sparrow
In the right habitat, it seems like the first half hour after sunrise is the best time to find these guys

Canal St.
Grasshopper Sparrow
On cool, crisp, sunny and windless mornings, you might just find one of these perched out in the open
As October draws to a close, we see far fewer warblers, but then we have the fun of seeing more and more sparrows coming through. And then in November and December we can look forward to ducks and finally gulls coming through to spend the winter here. This is also the time that we can look forward to vagrants coming here to spend the winter with us.

Merritt Island NWR
Northern Pintail
Many winter here
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Black-legged Kittiwake
From mid-May through July, I can devote a great deal of my birding time to searching for breeding birds.  June is probably the quietest month of the year, and one of the hottest, but it's still fun to see what may have decided to breed in the area.

Econ River WA
Brown-headed Nuthatch
These wonderful birds breed in pine forests near my home
Lower Wekiva River Preserve
Carolina Chickadee

The winter months though are also a great deal of fun.  It's dry, and you can walk around without sweating.  And it seems like there are always vagrants to be found. Sometimes the same bird comes back to the same general area every year.

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Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
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Vermilion Flycatcher
This one has come back to the same park (and almost the same tree) and spent the winter here four years running.
The rhythms of nature now fill and inform my birding calendar.  They tell me the places to visit and the species I should look for.  These rhythms also give me a greater a greater appreciation for the place I live. It's a beautiful world we live in, and birding helps me see that more and more.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dark-eyed Junco

St. Louis, MO
Dark-eyed Junco
This past week I was in St.Louis, and I had no time for any birding, but I did walk around the campus where I was working looking to see what may be lurking around.  I didn't see anything unusual, but it was nice to see many White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos, which we don't get to see much in Central Florida. So these are my first photos of the "slate-colored" subspecies of Dark-eyed Juncos.

St. Louis, MO
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)
St. Louis, MO
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)

Last November I visited my sister in Seattle, and there I photographed my first "Oregon" subspecies as well.

Seattle, WA
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Great Cormorant at Port Orange

Port Orange Causeway Park
Great Cormorant
Yesterday I saw my first Great Cormorant, a lifer for me. Aside from the fact it was having a bad feather day, it's a beautiful bird.  This bird was found over  a week ago about a half mile south of where I saw it yesterday.  We spent about an hour looking for it there; then we gave up and decided to cross the Halifax River and head over to the beach. As we got onto the bridge, I saw some cormorants north of it; we pulled over at the Port Orange Causeway Park, and sure enough, one was the Great Cormorant.  We watched it on its perch for a while, but then an Osprey knocked it off its perch, and it began to work its way south. At one point it caught a large fish, though it dropped it.  I'm thankful for that Osprey. Were it not for that bird, the cormorant would not have given us any better photos than the last photo below.

Port Orange Causeway Park
Great Cormorant
Port Orange Causeway Park
Great Cormorant
Port Orange Causeway Park
Great Cormorant
Port Orange Causeway Park
Great Cormorant
 
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