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Showing posts from October, 2013

Swamp Sparrow at Lower Wekiva River Preserve

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Today I visited the Lower Wekiva River Preserve before work. I walked by a patch of tall grasses there that seemed completely out of place. I remember thinking it would be a good spot for sparrows. On the way back, I caught a glimpse of one; then this one popped out in full view. In the warm morning light it looks very different from the way Swamp Sparrows normally look to my eyes, and I think they're actually a little prettier this way.

Eastern Phoebe Silhouette

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A few days ago I dropped by Marl Bed Flats before work.  As I walked out onto the flats, I saw a flycatcher in the distance--too far away for my binoculars.  Just in case it decided to fly away before I could identify it, I snapped a couple pictures.  Sure enough, it's an Eastern Phoebe.  After I loaded the photos into my computer, I thought these might work as silhouettes.  So, these photos were totally unplanned.  If you like them, nature was the artist, not me. I even decided to break one of my own rules for composition--I normally have the bird facing into the frame, but when I cropped these, I thought the composition was stronger with the bird facing away. Maybe it heightens the solitary mood of the photo; I'm not sure why.

Mead Gardens, 10/26/2013

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Mead Gardens has been exceptionally slow all fall with very few warblers stopping by. But I still like to visit from time to time, especially during the Orange Adubon Society Birdwalks.  So yesterday morning I joined the group that was there and had  a great time.  The biggest highlight was seeing a couple Red-headed Woodpeckers.  These are the first I've seen in the park; they've been here for a couple weeks now--extremely unusual for this species.  At least one of them has excavated a hole in the park, and we watched it actively gathering acorns and caching them away.  Hopefully that means it's planning to stick around for a while.  In all we found six species of woodpecker on the property: Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Pileated Woodpecker.

We also had many House Wrens and a Scarlet Tanager. Warblers were tougher to come by, but we had several Palm Warblers, a Black and White Warbler, Pin…

Grasshopper Sparrows Have Returned

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I love fall migration, don't get me wrong, but I get really excited when sparrows start coming in.  This past Saturday I found my first Savannah Sparrow at Merritt Island, and today I went to my favorite local spot for sparrows on a little street south of Lake Jesup.  It's just a fence line with dense vegetation around it and an open field on both sides.  But it's a great spot for sparrows. Today I found Swamp, Savannah, and Grasshopper Sparrows here.  The Grasshopper Sparrows were unusually cooperative. Shortly after I arrived I saw one perch a distance away on the top of a fence post along with a Savannah Sparrow.  Then a little later a couple flew pretty close to me; one perched on a fence post and another on a plant, and they posed for a few minutes.  Shortly after they left I saw two again in similar places.  Perhaps they're the same two.  They gave me my best photos of the species I have to date. I'm looking forward to what else might come in over the next c…

Golden Silk Orbweaver with Prey

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Golden Silk Orbweavers amaze me. First, they're giant; second, they're gorgeous. And third, they're really good at killing bugs. Over the last couple weeks I've seen a couple of them that had captured dragonflies.  I'm not absolutely certain of the IDs for these dragonflies, but I think I'm pretty close. 

Aging Bald Eagles in Flight

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There comes a time in the life of every bird photography blogger when it becomes necessary to write on the aging of Bald Eagles.  Yesterday morning I photographed two immature Bald Eagles of different ages, and this morning I added one more.  This made me realize that it's time for this rite of passage. I thought it would be fun to concentrate on aging eagles while they're in flight. On average, Bald Eagles take about five and a half years to reach their definitive plumage--you know, the way they look on U.S. postage stamps (though at least one has taken up to 3 years longer). And this is complicated by the fact that eagles take about six months to complete a molt, meaning that you often see them in the process of molting.  But there are some patterns that allow the observant birder to make educated guesses of a bird's age.

When Bald Eagles fledge and leave the nest, they are in juvenile, or first year, plumage.  When perched, juveniles may look much like Golden Eagles. I…

Eastern Towhees at Econ River Wilderness Area

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Yesterday I had a chance to visit Econ River WA for about an hour. As usual, Eastern Towhees were calling all over the park.  But I also had some good up-close looks at  a male and a female associating with each other. The male was a typical Florida "white-eyed" bird (the eyes actually look straw-yellow to me), but the female had eyes so dark that they seemed to blend into the bird's head. I thought this might be migrant--the northern "red-eyed" sub-species. I took a few shots of the bird and then asked my non-colorblind family members to tell me the eye-color.  Apparently, the eyes are neither yellow nor red, but brown. After inquiring about this I learned that younger birds have darker eyes, so this female may well be a first-year "white-eyed" bird. I went back and checked some of my photos of a juvenile that I took back in June of 2012; sure enough, the eyes are dark.

Here are a few photographs of adult Eastern Towhees for comparison.  I suppose…

Merritt Island NWR, 10/19/2013

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Merritt Island is finally open again after the government shut down.  I took the opportunity to go to Oak Hammock area this morning. I've never been there before, and I was told that there may be mosquitoes there, but I did not expect to be swarmed by them.  I will not go there again without bug spray.  I was there for 20 minutes and only found an Ovenbird and Swainson's Thrush, but I spent most of my time swatting mosquitoes.  I cut my losses and went to Blackpoint Drive.  That was pretty slow too.  Water levels were high, and there were few shorebirds.  It was nice to see Pied-billed Grebes returning as well as a Savannah Sparrow.  Then I decided then to go to the Canaveral National Seashore.  I wanted to drive up Bio Lab Rd if it was open.  It was open, but I decided I didn't have enough time to drive it slow enough to make it worth my while.  I drove about a quarter mile up the road and turned around. I did find a Northern Harrier there. Then I drove out to the coast …

Bald Eagle Attacking an Osprey

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It was perhaps the most thrilling second of birding of my life.  Several times over the last couple years I've seen Bald Eagles harass Ospreys when they have a fish.  The Osprey is just minding it's own business eating its fish when an eagle attacks in an attempt to bully the fish away from the Osprey.  Every time I've seen this, I only see part of the chase, and the altercation happens above the trees so I don't get a chance to see the most thrilling part.  This morning I happened to be in the right place at the right time and was able to see it all go down as they were flying low over Lake Jesup.  The whole thing lasted about 10 seconds, I would guess.  But at one point the eagle was able to get extremely close to the Osprey, and it extended its claws in an attempt to bully the Osprey into giving up its fish.  The Osprey banked hard to the left and narrowly escaped, but I don't really know how.  Just after the end of this series of photographs, the Osprey droppe…

Red-tailed Hawk Kiting

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On occasion I get to see a Red-tailed Hawk at Central Winds Park, and for me it's always a treat to see one.  Yesterday this one glided by; it was a pretty windy day, and at one point, he turned toward the wind and started kiting.  He was just about perfectly still and motionless in the air, perfectly balancing gravity and lift from the winds coming off Lake Jesup. After a little while it flew away, and later it I saw it return and glide toward me so I was able to get the above photo. It was like he just wanted me to take a picture of him with his wings and tail spread.  When the hawk was actually kiting, he was not in as good a position for photos, but I included one photo of him kiting below. This bird made my day.