Monday, September 15, 2014

Central Winds Park, 9/15/2014

Blackburnian Warbler
This morning I visited Central Winds Park. I'd seen some pretty nice eBird reports over the weekend, I was not disappointed.  Central Winds has been pretty slow so far this Fall, but this morning I found 11 species of warbler, including my top goal for the morning, a Blackburnian Warbler.

Central Winds Park
Prothonotary Warbler
Central Winds Park
Yellow Warbler
I'm still waiting for thrushes and tanagers to make their appearances here, but they should be coming any day now.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Oak Hammock, 9/13/2014

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Veery
My father and I drove out to Oak Hammock on Merritt Island today.  We'd heard some nice reports about some fun warblers there, so I thought I'd give it a try.  Unfortunately, I left my camera battery in my charger, but my dad let me borrow one his cameras, a Canon EOS 1D mark 4.  It was pretty fun to use--nice and fast, and noise levels were lower than my 7D.  I didn't see a lot of warblers there, but it was nice to find a couple Veery. It was also fun to see many Ovenbirds and a Northern Waterthrush.

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Ovenbird
It was interesting, though.  Noise levels with the 1D mark 4 were better than my 7D, but there was a bit more noise than I anticipated. I took these shots at 2500 ISO, and noise was pretty visible, so I had to work on the backgrounds a little. The Ovenbird above is sharp, but a bit grainy; the waterthrush below is more tightly cropped, and the grain is also affecting the sharpness of the image.  It just goes to show that there's no magic camera,

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Northern Waterthrush
 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dragonflies on BioLab Rd

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Seaside Dragonlet
On Saturday while birding BioLab Rd, I found two dragonflies that I'd never seen before. The first was pointed out to me by a friend, a Seaside Dragonlet.  They are apparently very common along the drive.  The second one was a Marl Pennant.  This is one that I've been looking for for some time.

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Marl Pennant

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I Apologize if this is Gross

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Digger Wasp with Katydid
On Biolab Rd at Merritt Island yesterday, I saw a Digger Wasp carrying a Katydid.  It landed on a branch, I guess to rest for a little bit, and this allowed me to take a few photos. I'm no expert on insects, but according to the good folks at bugguide.net, the Digger Wasp is Sphex jamaicensis (no common name) and the katydid is an Agile Meadow Katydid.  Female Digger Wasps look for Katydids and Grasshoppers, sting them to paralyze them, and then bring them back to one of their tunnels. These photos illustrate how.  They grasp the antennae of their prey in their mandibles and then wrap their legs around the body of the insect.  This one is quite a bit larger than the wasp, which is perhaps the reason why it rested and posed for photos. Once bringing her prey into her tunnel, she will lay her eggs there and  then close up the tunnel.  When her eggs hatch, the larvae will eat the Katydid.  Sorry if that's gross, but I find it quite fascinating.

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Digger Wasp with Katydid
By the way, digger wasps are not aggressive. They don't defend their nests, and they are not likely to sting. They're pretty awesome creatures.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fort De Soto, 7/19/2014

Fort De Soto
Reddish Egret
Last week my wife decided it might be fun to go to the beach on the Gulf coast (calmer waves), and she asked me if there was a good place there go visit.  Fort De Soto, of course!  So yesterday we spent the day there. My father and I got there early to do some birding and photography, and we were not disappointed. We found many terns and wading birds, including 2 Common Terns and a Black Tern, but shorebirds the most fun finds.  It's great to see them returning. Between the east beach turnaround and north beach we found 12 species of shorebirds, and most of them were pretty cooperative.

Fort De Soto
Semipalmated Plover
Fort De Soto
Western Sandpiper
Fort De Soto
Least Sandpiper
Fort De Soto
Willet

Fort De Soto
Short-billed Dowitcher
East Beach was filled with Least Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Semipalmated Plovers. There was also one Western Sandpiper there. Willets were everywhere.

Fort De Soto
Spotted Sandpiper
Fort De Soto
Marbled Godwit
Fort De Soto
Piping Plover
Fort De Soto
Wilson's Plover
North Beach is great for finding Wilson's Plovers and Piping Plovers, but we also had a chance to see a couple American Oystercatchers, a Spotted Sandpiper, and several Marbled Godwits.  By around 10:30 the rest of my family arrived, and we spent the day enjoying the warm sun and calm waters.  Not a bad way to spend the day.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Initial Review: E-Butterfly

Central Winds Park
Spicebush Swallowtail
Central Winds Park
I just discovered a new website that I think is pretty wonderful.  It's the butterfly equivalent of eBird, called e-butterfly.org (don't forget the dash). This site lets you enter your butterfly sightings, keep track of your life list, and see what else has been seen near you.  The site seems self-consciously patterned after eBird, so if you use eBird, learning this site should be pretty easy.  This site is brand new, so there's still a few kinks to be worked out, and there appear to be very few users of the site, especially in Florida.  I'm a novice at butterflies, and for the most part I only record butterflies I photograph while birding.  I'm still currently ranked third in the State of Florida for sightings in 2014 out of nine others.  You get the picture. However, my guess is that this site will take off just like eBird has, and when it does, it will be an even more valuable resource for birders and butterfliers.

Central Winds Park
Hackberry Emperor
Central Winds Park
Compared to eBird, there are a few differences in the way they organized the site, and most of them I like. You can upload photos from your hard drive (though you can't link to them on your photo-hosting site, a real downer), and your photos nicely show up with your sighting.  You can see a list of sightings independent of your checklists (nice!), and you can also tell e-butterfly your confidence level in your ID.  This is great for me, since I'm a novice at butterflies.  Duskywing Skippers, for instance, give me real trouble. Editing your checklists seems cumbersome at first.  I'm used to clicking on a checklist to edit it, and then be able to add and delete sightings.  With e-butterfly, you can view your checklist and delete sightings, and you can edit your checklist to add photos, change confidence level, etc. But to add a species to your checklist, you have have to click a different link.  This seems odd, but once you get used to it, it's no big deal.

Central Winds Park
Horace's Duskiwing Skipper
Central Winds Park
I like a lot of the features in e-butterfly, but I still think overall it takes longer for me complete a checklist than it does in ebird.  That might be because I've probably entered 1000 checklists into eBird, so the differences in e-butterfly seem awkward to me.  However, there is one real problem in e-butterfly.  When you type in a species name, the site will show you a list of species that match what you type, but you can't just click on a matching species. You have to hit the search button (sometimes twice) before it will take you to the species you typed in.  This seems unnecessary and odd, and I bet in the future this will change.

Marl Bed Flats
Ceraunus Blue
Marl Bed Flats
All in all, I'm really happy with it.  I even went out to Central Winds Park yesterday and walked directly to the butterfly garden and spent most of my time there; I only spent 15 minutes birding!  I just wanted to work on a checklist for e-butterfly and see if I could find a few new ones.

Marl Bed Flats
Carolina Satyr
Marl Bed Flats
I still dream of a day when there will be a site that will let you log all your sightings of all species on one site (birds, reptiles, mammals, insects, etc).  Maybe that day will come.  We can hope.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Marl Bed Flats, 6/30/2014

Marl Bed Flats
Tricolored Heron
On Monday I went to Marl Bed Flats in an effort to score some last minute birds for my June Challenge. A friend of mine had seen a Bobolink there, so I wanted to find that, but I also was hoping a couple new shorebirds might have flown into the area.  My favorite photo from this last ditch effort is the one above, a pretty, young Tricolored Heron out at the shore of Lake Jesup.  But I also wanted to try an app from Google called My Tracks.  It's a simple GPS tracking software. You press "Record" at the beginning of your trip and "Stop" at the end.  Then it gives you a map of where you went and some some nice stats about your journey. On this particular trip I walked 2.69 miles over 2 hours and 25 minutes and burned 485 calories. While you're walking you can put down markers for things that interest you, like a Boboloink or Tricolored Heron (though I didn't notice this feature until today).  After you're done, you can sync your tracks to Google Drive (to view on Google Earth) or to Google Maps Engine.  In Google Maps Engine you can add markers with photos and edit the look of the path you walked, etc. Once you get the map the way you like it, you can copy code to embed it to your blog (or wherever else you want to show it (unfortunately, the map doesn't show up if you paste it into your eBird checklist).  It's a much faster process than what I tried earlier at the Lower Wekiva River Preserve. So it's something I may do more often.



In short, I really like this app.  I have to be careful that my phone is charged when begin a hike, since GPS can really drain your battery, but other than that, I can't think of any good criticisms yet for this app, especially since it's free.


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