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Osprey with Needlefish

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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 Needlefish.  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.

Common Goldeneye

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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.

Bald Eagle Thief

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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.

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.

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.

Rhythm

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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.

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.

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 r…

Dark-eyed Junco

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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.


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

Great Cormorant at Port Orange

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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.

White-crowned Sparrow on Canal St.

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Fun Sparrows are continuing to arrive here in Central Florida; the latest I've seen is this young White-crowned Sparrow.  This one appeared in one of my favorite sparrow spots in Seminole County; they seem to come here every year. Last Fall, I saw one here a couple times, but the area was disturbed when the road was paved early this year, and I couldn't find any here since then.  I was hoping I'd get the chance to see one this Fall here, and thankfully one showed up.  I also found my first Vesper Sparrow of the Fall, but it was too far away for photos.

Two Subspecies of Yellow-throated Warbler

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Yellow-throated Warblers are one of my favorite warblers. They are one of our more common warblers here in Florida during Spring and Fall migration, but some can be found all winter long, and a few even breed here in the summer. We have two subspecies of Yellow-throated Warbler that occur here in Florida.

Dominica Subspecies (Yellow-lored)
Most of our Yellow-throated Warblers have a little bit of yellow on front of their eyebrows or supercilium and long bills. Up north they prefer Loblolly Pines on their northern breeding grounds, though when I see them here, I frequently see them in palm trees.

Albilora Subspecies (White-lored)
But on rare occasions we see some with all white on their supercilium and shorter bills. They prefer breeding grounds among sycamore trees, but I haven't seen enough of them here in Florida to guess what they prefer as they pass through.

It can be tempting to dismiss Yellow-throated Warblers in search of rarer birds.  But I still like to take an interest in…

Lark Sparrow on Canal St.

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This morning before work I decided to drive around some road-side sparrow habitat to see what I could find. I checked the Black Hammock area south of Lake Jesup, and I wasn't finding anything. I was hoping for Grasshopper Sparrows and White-crowned Sparrows, but I was having a hard time finding any sparrow at all--not even a Savannah Sparrow. But the last place I checked turned out to make out for a slow morning. I was checking some bushes next to the road on Canal Street, and there were several birds on the back side of the bush that I couldn't make out. As I was waiting for better looks, a Lark Sparrow popped out into full view and sat on a perch for several minutes. Then it disappeared for a minute or two, but then I saw it fly across Canal Street to perch on a palm tree for me. It was one of the most cooperative sparrows I've ever photographed. This bird made my week.

Florida's Ammodramus Sparrows

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There are six Ammodramus sparrows that occur in Florida, and now I have presentable photos of all of them. This may be my favorite group of birds in the world. I know the Henslow's Sparrow photo below is terrible, but I'm not complaining. I suspect I won't get a better photo unless I see one up north in the summer.  Full disclosure, though: my Seaside Sparrow Photo was not taken in Florida; it's from South Carolina.  But I have seen them here in FL too--just too far away for photos.  Would someone please send a Baird's Sparrow here please?

Saltmarsh Sparrow

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Ammodramus Sparrows are beautiful sparrows.  It's my favorite genus of sparrows, and perhaps my favorite of any group of birds.  I think they're absolutely gorgeous birds, and many of them are tough to find.  Saltmarsh Sparrows are the last Ammodramus sparrow that occurs in Florida that I've photographed. Such beautiful birds!
The easiest place I know of to find this species is at Shiloh Marsh, which is the northern part of Merritt Island NWR in Volusia County.  They occur here along with Nelson's Sparrows. Two of the most beautiful sparrows I've ever seen in the same spot.

Painted Bunting

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It's not uncommon to see Painted Buntings during migration, and even throughout the winter, but for some reason I almost always see females. I see adult males around feeders pretty frequently too, but they don't seem to want to pose for photos away from feeders.  But this particular individual was very cooperative, and there were no feeders around.