Showing posts from February, 2015

White-crowned Sparrow (Gambel's)

This morning I drove out to one of my favorite sparrow spots and found a White-crowned Sparrow. This spot seems to be good at attracting them, but for some reason, we get our fair share of the "Gambel's" subspecies of this bird.  In fact, I think every bird I've seen here, whether immature or adult, has been this subspecies.  Gambel's are rare this far east, so it's kind of nice to see them.

Gambel's (or Western Taiga) White-crowned Sparrows can be identified by the pale lores and bright orange bill. Below I decided to include a picture of our more typical White-crowned Sparrow with darker lores. There's a black line in front of the eye that connects to the black in the crown.

A Fun Day for Sparrows and Buntings

Yesterday I went to my favorite little sparrow spot in Seminole County.  It has been fantastic to us this winter, since we've been able to see Grasshopper Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, and even a Lark Sparrow, not to mention our more commons species: Savannah, Swamp and Chipping Sparrows.  However, since early January, it seems that the two places I check had all but dried up.  I haven't seen anything but Savannah and Swamp Sparrows in over a month, which is strange because they shouldn't have left us yet.

But this morning, on my way to one of my spots, I saw about a dozen Savannah Sparrows along the canal beside the road. I decided to pull over and see what I could find.  Among the Savannah Sparrows were 2 Grasshopper Sparrows and 1 Song Sparrow.  Then in the distance I saw my first Field Sparrow in Seminole County.  Field Sparrows are not too common here.  For some reason, they don't seem to like coming farther …

Chipping Sparrow at Central Winds Park

When I moved to Florida I was very new to birding, and I knew next to nothing about sparrows.  I remember going to take our dog Ella to a dog park. I didn't know at the time that right next to this dog park was the best place to find warblers in Seminole County, Central Winds Park.  Anyway, I remember walking from the dog park to Lake Jesup and seeing sparrows.  I had no idea what they were, but I took a couple photos (terrible ones with a point and shoot camera), and later determined they were Chipping Sparrows.

The odd thing is that since that first visit I've been to Central Winds (including the dog park area) 250 times and seen 152 speices in the park.  However, I haven't seen single sparrow since that first visit--no Savannah Sparrows, no Swamp Sparrows, nothing.

However, this week I've started seeing Chipping Sparrows here again.  And a couple have even been pretty cooperative.  Now it would be great to see some other sparrows here too--Clay-colored would be nic…

House Wren

House Wrens are extremely common during our winters here in Central Florida.  They're great at making a racket too, so you usually know they're there.  I'd love to find out if they outnumber Carolina Wrens during the winter.  I suspect not, but I wouldn't be surprise.  This is another bird I haven't concentrated on photographically.  I hope to remedy this soon.

Red Knot at Daytona Beach Shores

Daytona Beach Shores is a great place to go to see gulls in the winter time in Florida.  About an hour before sundown, they fly in and land along the coastline by the tens of thousands.  My father and I went to see Thayer and Iceland Gulls that have been seen there frequently.  We picked the wrong day, though. I'm not sure if it was the wind or something else, but we were stuck with scanning about 2000 gulls, and none of them were the ones we wanted to find. The consolation prize was a Red Knot along the shore.  I think they're wonderful birds, even in their winter plumage, so I had fun taking a few photographs of it.

By the way, I changed my site design.  My new computer has a full HD screen, and now every time I look at my blog I think my photos are way too small.  Unfortunately, blogger doesn't seem to let you automatically size your blog width relative to the size of your screen, so I have to try to find a happy middle ground that will accommodate both large and small…

I Hope I Never Get Bored with Common Birds

This past Saturday I had a fun time looking for rarities at Orlando Wetlands Park--Vermilion Flycatcher (found) and Groove-billed Ani (missed).  Along the way, I heard the familiar sounds of Common Yellowthroats grunting at me.  I decided to stop for a few minutes, and one in particular was being rather photogenic, so I took a few photos.  They're one of our most common warblers, especially in winter near water, but they can be found all year round.  Sometimes I just ignore them and walk by, but why? This is a beautiful bird.  It deserves some love despite being common, don't you think?

Common Loon

Common Loons are not too hard to find along the coastlines of Florida in the winter, but for some reason, I almost never see them up close.  They seem always to be far off, so my photos usually amount to being little more than an ID shot for eBird.  But when I was at Fort De Soto on Feb. 1, this particular Loon gave me a very good photo opportunity.  What I love about this particular bird is that is was swimming along the shoreline, and as it crested the wave, you could see its feet under the clear water.  This made my day.
As I was enjoying this loon, a flock of Black Skimmers flew by too. Icing on the cake!

"Krider's" Red-Tailed Hawk at Marl Bed Flats

On Friday I went to Marl Bed Flats, which is my favorite place to look for shorebirds and ducks in Seminole County--well, let's be honest. Marl Bed Flats and Central Winds are my two favorite places to bird in Seminole County.  Marl Bed Flats has been pretty much flooded since October, and it's it's only become passable in the past month or so.  Even now it's wet--you need wading boots to get anywhere good.

But the upper slough (where it's more shallow) is just filled with birds--hundreds of birds: ibises, herons and egrets, ducks (mostly Blue-winged Teal and Shovelers), and shorebirds (mostly yellowlegs, snipe and killdeer).

The biggest surprise came when I heard a Red-tailed Hawk behind me. I went to look at it, and it was flying relatively low over the trees and towards me. It was all white on its undersides.  So I decided to focus on getting good pictures and then study the details of the bird in my photos.  Sure enough, it was a Krider's Hawk, or at leas…

Herring Gull with Food

At Fort De Soto this past Saturday I had a very fun time watching a Herring Gull with its prey.  It would fly up about 30 ft in the air, drop its prey and then come down and inspect it. I saw it do this about 5-7 times before I had to move one. He was working pretty hard at getting his morsel out, but I suspect it will take him a long time, since all he had to drop his prize on was compacted sand.

I've read that crows and gulls both exhibit this behavior, but I've never  been able to photograph it before.  If I had more time, it would have been fun to  watch this for a while longer to see if he was able to extract his prize.

Reddish Egret at Fort De Soto

I told myself when I arrived at Fort De Soto that I wasn't going to do it. When I realized I'd forgotten to charge my camera batteries, and I had one battery dead and another one blinking "I'm going to die soon," I strengthened my resolve not to do it.  
But I did.
I photographed a Reddish Egret.  It was begging me, honestly. It was standing in pretty water in pretty light, and I tried walking by, I really did.  But it must have used it's jedi mind trick on me--"this is the bird you're looking for."  I knelt down, turned on my camera fired off about 10 shots, turned my camera back off to save my battery, and walked away.
It seems like there's always a couple of these beautiful herons at North Beach. You're pretty likely to see both the light and dark morphs, and I have a billion photographs of them, along with other photos taken on my coast. I didn't need this photo at all, but I confess I kinda like it.  And the Reddish Egrets of F…

American Oystercatcher at Fort De Soto

The first time I saw one of these birds I thought I was going a little crazy.  I mean, it's hard to see how there's a need for a bird to look like this.  But I'm really glad they do.  I visited Fort De Soto last weekend, and you're almost guaranteed to see them at North Beach there, and on Saturday I saw 6--four at North Beach and two at the boat ramp.  The birds at the boat ramp were far more cooperative, so that's where these photos came from.

Unfortunately, these birds were standing on solid concrete.  That was almost enough for me to skip photographing them. However, I normally crouch down as low as I can, and I thought if I did, I might be able to minimize the how man-made the ground looked. There was some debris near the birds as well, and I thought that might add to a more natural feel.

One of these birds has an eye issue. It looks to have a blown out eye. I don't know to what extent oystercatchers are affected by this condition--perhaps none at all, bu…