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Showing posts from 2017

Distinguishing Cave and Cliff Swallows

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There's at least one Cave Swallow that has been hanging out at Lake Apopka for at least the past three weeks. It looks like it's trying to build a nest under a bridge, which would be really cool, especially if there's a second around. And not too far away, at a bridge over Rte 50, there have been Cliff Swallows breeding there for at least the past few years. 

These two species look pretty similar, so I thought it would be fun to make a post highlighting how you can tell the two species apart, especially in flight. Now most Cliff Swallows in the U.S. have largely whitish foreheads. However occasionally you can find the "Mexican" race, which has a dark forehead, and It think the "Mexican" race looks a bit more like a Cave Swallow. But if you get a good look at the face, It think it's not too difficult to tell them apart.

Cliff Swallows have much darker cheeks and throats, and so there's a large amount of contrast between the throat and breast. Cav…

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher and Lookalikes

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When I was in Costa Rica, I saw lots of flycatcher. I couldn't believe how many flycatchers I saw. There are three, though, that look very similar--Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, Streaked Flycatchers, and Pirated Flycatchers.  Sulphur-bellied have been seen in Florida on very rare occasions, and I believe Pirated have as well. These three flycatchers seem to be pretty common in Costa Rica, though. I saw Streaked Flycatchers the most. 


Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers have nearly all-black bills and a large black malar area. Streaked Flycatchers have a lot more pink on the bill and not nearly as much black in the malar area. By malar area, I mean basically the sides of the chin area.

Piratic Flycatchers are smaller, and they have proportionately small bills, making them far easier to separate from the other two, but they still look pretty similar.

Bahama Woodstar at Maritime Hammock, 5/16/2017

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So I was planning to spend the next several posts sharing photos from Costa Rica, but a couple days ago, a Bahama Woodstar was found in Maritime Hammock in Brevard Co. So after work I took a drive to see if I could find the bird. When I arrived, there were birders there from all over the state and even some from around the country. I had to wait about 10 minutes before the Woodstar showed up. It gave us wonderful views for about 5 minutes or so, and then it flew off. I waited another hour or so for the bird to show up again, but it never did. Still, those 5 minutes were wonderful!


Great Kiskadee and Lookalikes

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Everytime I go to Mexico I love seeing Great Kiskadees. They're beautiful birds, and they're always calling, it seems, so you always know they're around. But there are other species of flycatchers that look very much like them. The Social Flycatcher has a smaller bill and a slightly different facial pattern. I've seen those in Mexico a lot too. Boat-billed Flycatchers have much larger bills, and I saw my first in Costa Rica this past May (I've been wanting to do a post like this for some time, but I've wanted to wait until I actually saw a Boat-billed Flycatcher. And there's one more I can add here, the Gray-capped Flycatcher. This flycatcher has a grayer head, so it's a bit easier to separate from the others, but still, they look pretty similar.


Interestingly, only the Gray-capped and Social Flycatchers belong to the same genus. The other two are in different genera. And yet Social Flycatchers are far more easy to distinguish from Gray-capped then th…

Slideshow of Costa Rica Wildlife

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During the first week of May my wife and I went to Costa Rica for our 25th wedding anniversary. It was a wonderful time! I spent most of the mornings out in the local parks looking for wildlife. The nice thing is that the sun comes up around 5:30am, which gives me plenty of time to be out in nature before my wife wants to think about getting up. Over the course of the week, I saw 152 species, and 103 of them were completely new to me. I decided to put together a slide show of some of my favorite photos. I hope you enjoy it.  I'll follow up with more photographs in future posts.

Cave Swallow at Lake Apopka, 4/28.2017

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On the morning of April 28th, I drove the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive and found my first Cave Swallow for Orange County. In fact, it appears to be the first Cave Swallow reported on eBird in the county, though I'm quite certain others have seen them here. I almost missed this guy. It flew by me and I noticed the pale rump and squared tale. I thought it was going to be a Cliff Swallow until I got closer looks and saw those pale auriculars and throat. I'm pretty pumped!

White Peacock

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At Wirz Park there were several White Peacock butterflies. I have dozens of dorsal views of these butterflies, so I thought it might be fun to try a different angle on this one. It lighted facing the sun, so I decided to look straight at it and photograph it from the front. I thought the results were somewhat interesting.





Scarlet Skimmer

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On April 26, I found my first Scarlet Skimmer, a beautiful male. I have red-green colorblindness, but even to my eyes, the red in this dragonfly was incredibly vibrant.  He first gave me a couple nice dorsal views, but then I was able to photograph it from the side, and that became one of my absolute favorite dragonfly photos.


Maitland Community Park, 4/25/2017

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On April 25, I returned to Maitland Community Park. One of my friends had seen a male Blackburnian Warbler there the day before. I did not find that bird, but I did see 8 species of warblers, which is pretty good for this Spring. There were a couple species that let me get fairly decent photos. I particularly like the  Black-and-white Warbler photo, but American Redstarts give me fits when it comes to photography. This photo has some room for improvement, but this will do for now.

Central Winds Park, 4/24/2017

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The last time I went to Central Winds, the birding was really slow, so I had some fun looking for interesting bugs. I found a Rambur's Forktail female down by the lake. This is the first female I've photographed. Right nearby was a moth I haven't yet identified.
The lake shore is also filled with these spiders, and it's very iritating that they don't have a common name. They are Leucauge argyra. They like to spin their webs across the trail just to give me something to do while looking for birds.
 There was a little flower garden with the butterflies I posted earlier. Of course, there were also honeybees here, and one of them posed nicely for a photograph.


Butterflies at Central Winds Park, 4/24/2017

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On April 24, I visited Central Winds Park to look for migrants. It was really slow. So I decided to turn my attention to butterflies.  However, since they removed the butterfly garden, the park was pretty slow for butterflies as well. I did see a couple Red Admirals flying around, and an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, but that was about it. Then I decided to go to the dog park next to see what might be there. I found a couple small butterflies around a little area with flowers, and I photographed both of them. One was a Red-banded Hairstreak; unfortunately, I couldn't quite get to the right angle for this guy, so he's facing a little bit away from me. The other was a Dainty Sulphur, and I got my best photos of this species nectaring on dogfruit.  


Black-throated Blue Warbler

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On April 21, I drove to Maitland Community Park after work. It was pretty slow, but along the boardwalk I found 2 Black-throated Blue Warblers. One of them flew into the bushes right in front of me and started foraging along the leaves. Every once in a while, he would stay put in the sun long enough for me to get photos. I've been trying for years to get presentable photos of this species. Unfortunately, his bill is partially obscured in some of the photos, but I'll take it. I'm amazed at the detail in some of these photos.







Song Sparrow on Canal St.

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Song Sparrows are tough in Central Florida. A little farther north and they're pretty common, but around here, I only see perhaps 1-2 in a winter.  And then they rarely cooperate. They often stay low in their favorite brushy habitat and keep to themselves--they aren't really interested in singing in the winter time. So on Feb 27, I was surprised to see this guy perched up on top of the brush in full view. Finally I have presentable photos of a Song Sparrow in Seminole County.



Marl Bed Flats, 4/17/2017

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On April 17th, I visited Marl Bed Flats, and I did something I haven't done in years. I took my 180 mm macro lens and not my 400 mm telephoto lens. My bet was that I wouldn't see any birds that needed photographing but I would see bugs that needed photographing. Thankfully, I was right. I walked out to Lake Jesup looking for birds, and walked back looking for bugs. There were lots of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies that took a good deal of my attention. I got my first presentable photos of a Southern Skipperling and my first ever photos of a Big Bluet. Here are the dragonflies and damselflies I'd seen.




Here are some more of the butterflies I saw.  Including the Southern Skipperling above, I only saw three species, though there were several of each, especially Little Yellows.


Central Winds Park, 4/18/2017

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On April 18, I walked around Central Winds Park looking for birds and bugs. I didn't see many of either, but I did find a few bugs worth photographing, in particular a Rambur's Forktail and a very cool-looking spider, which I believe is Leucauge argyra.


Little Big Econ WMA (Kilbee Tract), 4/19/2017

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On April 19, I got up early and drove to the Kilbee Tract of the Little Big Econ WMA. I was hoping to find shorebirds, and my biggest hope was to find an Upland Sandpiper, which I've never seen before. There's plenty of dry grass there, and it just seems like the perfect place to find one. I got there before sunrise walked the 1.3 mile road to the flats. The first thing I noticed was a Coyote sitting among the cattle. When it saw me, it stood up, looked at me, and then trotted off. That was my first photo of a Coyote.



Once out there, I was a bit surprised at how few shorebirds there were. There were three Long-billed Dowitchers along the Econ River, as well as a few Least Sandpipers and yellowlegs, but not much else. Then as I walked a little farther south I saw a very small pond that was nearly full of shorebirds--mostly yellowlegs, but a few Black-necked Stilts and a Black-bellied Plover. I was still pretty far away, so I decided to photograph the flock just in case they fl…

Tosohatchee WMA, 4/12/2017 (Part 2)

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About a week ago I shared the fun experience I had with Jeff Cagle at Tosohatchee WMA. We found about 30 butterflies, and more than half of them were new to me. Especially the skippers. I'm finding out that skippers can be extraordinarily difficult to identify. Some of them are like the empids of the butterfly world. Perhaps I'll feel differently once I get to know them more, but right now, that's how I feel.


But skippers are kind of fun as well, and their small size makes them somewhat of a challenge to photograph. But often they don't mind me getting close to them if I move slowly enough, and that left me with some half-way decent photos of these guys. And that makes for some exciting time.



With my colorblind eyes, I think of these skippers in groups of "orange" and "brown." The orange ones can be really hard to tell apart from each other, and the brown ones can be equally hard to tell apart. But with Jeff's help (and the expertise of the goo…