Friday, January 8, 2016

Five-lined Skink

Five-lined Skink
Back in August of 2014 I was at my parents' house, and I saw a skink on a tree in their backyard.  I ran and got my camera to take these photos.  These are very common lizards in the Eastern United States, but for some reason, I very rarely see them.  These are the first photographs I've ever captured of the species.  I love their blue tails.

Five-lined Skink

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2015: A Year in Review

Shiny Cowbird
Shiny Cowbird
For me, 2015 was a fantastic year of birding.  I've been doing this a while now, so gone are the days when I get 70+ lifers per year.  New birds are fewer and farther between for me, but that adds to the challenge.  And I've begun focusing more on county listing, which helps to keep things fresh.  This year, though, I benefited tremendously by one trip out west and two trips out of the country. These were not birding trips, but I had a little bit of time to at least check my surroundings to see what was available.

Smooth-billed Ani
Smooth-billed Ani
I found 16 lifers on my visit to Antalya, Turkey
  1. White Stork 
  2. Eurasian Sparrowhawk 
  3. Laughing Dove 
  4. Eurasian Siskin 
  5. Common Buzzard 
  6. Eurasian Jay 
  7. Great Tit 
  8. White-spectacled Bulbul 
  9. Common Redstart 
  10. Black Redstart 
  11. Gray Wagtail 
  12. Common Chaffinch 
  13. European Greenfinch 
  14. European Goldfinch 
  15. Hooded Crow 
  16. White Wagtail
Great Tit
Great Tit
White Wagtail
White Wagtail
I found another 4 lifers in Acapulco, Mexico
  1. Bare-throated Tiger-Heron
  2. Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  3. Audubon's Oriole
  4. Rufous-naped Wren
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Cliff Swallow
Cliff Swallow
My trips to California and Alabama yielded 4 lifers
  1. Black Phoebe (CA)
  2. Wrentit (CA)
  3. California Quail (CA)
  4. Wilson's Warbler (AL)
Black Phoebe
Black Phoebe
Purple Swamphen
Gray-headed Swamphen
Within the State of Florida, I added 13 lifers:
  1. Broad-winged Hawk
  2. Curlew Sandpiper
  3. Spot-breasted Oriole
  4. Shiny Cowbird
  5. Smooth-billed Ani
  6. Gray-headed Swamphen
  7. Alder Flycatcher
  8. White-crowned Pigeon
  9. Long-tailed Jaeger
  10. Bell's Vireo
  11. Brewer's Blackbird
  12. Western Spindalis
  13. Red-whiskered Bulbul
  14. Scaly-breasted Munia (not countable)
  15. Yellow-chevroned Parakeet (not countable)
Neotropic Cormorant
The lists I care most about have to do with Florida, Seminole and Orange Counties. I decided to concentrate on Orange Co. more this year than I have in previous years. I wanted to see if I could get 200 species in both counties. I succeeded on both counts

County Year Life
Florida
290 346 (added 21)
Seminole Co.
218 244 (added 8)
Orange Co.
215 243 (added 22)

Bronzed Cowbird
Bronzed  Cowbird

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wakodahatchee Wetlands, 1/2/2016

Neotropic Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorant
Jan 2, 2016
On New Year's Day our family drove down to Palm Beach County to visit my brother-in-law.  The following morning I decided to visit Wakodahatchee Wetlands. It's a wonderful place with a beautifully maintained board walk that takes you through the wetlands.  My primary hope was to see the Neotropic Cormorant that has been hanging out here.  It took a while, but eventually it showed itself--a nice, bright white line surrounding its gular pouch. My father and I also visited the park on Dec. 27th, so I thought I'd share photos from both of my visits.  My December visit was the first day I'd seen a Neotropic Cormorant in the U.S.

Neotropic Cormorant
December 27, 2015
I also saw another cormorant that looks like it might be a hybrid Neotropic x Double-crested Cormorant, but I'm no expert on these things.  It seems to have the white outline to the yellow gular pouch, but it's more faint than it should be.

Neotropic Cormorant X Double-crested Cormorant Hybrid
Neotropic x Double-crested Cormorant Hybrid
January 2, 2016
The wetlands area is a wonderful place for ducks, wading birds and other marshy birds. All kinds of herons and egrets can be seen here.

Tricolored Heron
December 27, 2015
Black-crowned Night Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
January 2, 2016
And some even breed here

Great Blue Herons
Great Blue Herons
January 2, 2016
It's even home to some birds that don't really belong here, like Gray-headed Swamphens, which escaped a few years ago and now have established themselves throughout southern Florida.
Gray-headed Swamphen
Gray-headed Swamphen
January 2, 2016
There were also two species of invasive reptiles.  There were several bright orange iguanas, oddly named Common Green Iguana, and a Brown Basilisk.

Common Green Iguana
Common Green Iguana
January 2, 2016
Brown Basilisk
January 2, 2016

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Sprague's Pipit at the Little Big Econ WMA (Kilbee Tract), 1/4/2015

Sprague's Pipit
Sprague's Pipit
Yesterday I met up in the early morning with a couple of my friends to explore the Little Big Econ WMA. Our biggest hope was to find the Vermilion Flycatcher that has been hanging out along the Econ River. We found that bird without much trouble, though it was very early in the morning, and we had terrible light (so I'm not sharing a photo).  From there we decided to walk northeast to see if we might pick up some nice sparrows. We didn't have high hopes, since it was rather windy, but we did pick up a Grasshopper Sparrow and a Le Conte's Sparrow.  The Le Conte's Sparrow was pretty amazing.  It flushed and flew into a clump of grass right in front of us. Then it crawled out of its hiding place and sat exposed for about 10 seconds while we fired off as many photographs as we could, then ducked under cover.  It did the same thing again, allowing us to get even more shots. Unfortunately it was always facing away from me, but at one point it turned its head to the side, giving me my best photo of the species yet.

Le Conte's Sparrow
Le Conte's Sparrow
But the highlight of our morning was when a strange-sounding pipit landed in front of us. All of us thought its flight call was very unusual. It was raspier than any we'd heard before.  I played a Sprague's Pipit call, and it certainly seemed closer to that than an American Pipit. So I walked around and took as many photos as I could before it flew off.  My photos confirmed that it is indeed a Sprague's Pipit.  I found out yesterday afternoon that this is a county record, and there are very few if any confirmed sightings of this species south of Gainesville. From what I've been told, it's the farthest south this species is currently verified in Florida.

Sprague's Pipit
Sprague's Pipit
Sprague's Pipit
Sprague's Pipit
Here's my eBird checklist from the morning; we saw a total of 61 species.  Not a terribly high total, but still probably my favorite morning of birding in Seminole County.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Matheson Hammock Park, 12/28/2015

Mangrove Forest
Beautiful Hammock
While on my trip to South Florida, my father and I visited Matheson Hammock Park in Miami-Dade County.  It's a beautiful park.  We visited once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  One of our target birds was a White-crowned Pigeon, and this seemed to be the best place to find one, but we struck out.  However, we did see our first Yellow-chevroned Parakeets (perhaps soon to be countable) in the morning, and in the afternoon, I was able to get some of my best photos of Least Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers.

Least Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Plover
The shorebirds were in an asphalt parking lot in a shallow pool of water, but when I got down low enough the reflections on the water made the setting look more natural.

Matheson Hammock Park
Matheson Hammock Park
Matheson Hammock Park
Matheson Hammock Park
It's a very pretty park, though, and I'd love to return again.  I spent a little time exercising my Canon Powershot G7X and took a few scenic shots. I'm still impressed with the quality of the photos you can now get with a point and shoot camera.

Yellow-chevroned Parakeet
Yellow-chevroned Parakeets
Magnificent Frigatebird

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Vermilion Flycatcher at Little Big Econ WMA, 12/31/2015

Vermillion Flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher
A few days ago, a Vermilion Flycatcher was found along the Little Big Econ River, very close to where it meets with the St. Johns River. This morning I decided to walk the Kilbee Tract of the Little Big Econ WMA to see if I could find it. It was a pretty easy walk to get to the spot.  This particular individual is a female, and I have no photos of females. This bird was also my first for Seminole County. It's such a fantastic bird.

Vermillion Flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher
After finding the flycatcher I decided to walk the shore of the Little Big Econ to look at the St. Johns. Unfortunately, there's a fence prohibiting you from doing that. However, just walking the grassy and muddy areas next to the Econ was pretty wonderful. There were 23 Black-bellied Plovers, 4 Long-billed Dowitchers and an assortment of both species of yellowlegs.  Other highlights were about 30 American Pipits and a "Krider's" Red-tailed Hawk.

Vermillion Flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher
You can see my full eBird checklist here. I had 71 species on the morning. Here's the path I took with the location of the flycatcher.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bronzed Cowbirds in La Carreta Parking Lot, 12/27/2015

Bronzed Cowbird
After finding our Burrowing Owls, we drove down to Miami-Dade County and stopped at a La Carreta Cuban Restaurant.  We didn't go for the food, though I would have loved to have tried the food there (I love Cuban food). We went to find cowbirds in the parking lot.  It wasn't long before we started finding them everywhere, usually hiding under the cars behind the restaurant.  At one point, two perched up on top of a car. Those were probably my best pictures, even if their setting is anything but natural. The sun captured the purple iridescence of one pretty well.

Bronzed Cowbird
Bronzed Cowbird
Bronzed Cowbird
Bronzed Cowbird 
Here's my eBird checklist for the the La Carreta parking lot. The only other bird of any interest we saw here was a Monk Parakeet.

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