Thursday, January 23, 2014

Week 4

23 Jan 2014

What do you think of when you see this image? (Click to enlarge)

Snoopy!!!  Me too.  It's a dead ringer for Snoopy.

Here, Snoopy is sticking his nose up in the air.  Lucy taught him this display of acting "eletist".

Still trying to figure this out?

With a head this cute, who needs a body?

It was the male Bufflehead doing all those contortions.  Here, male and female together in Titusville, FL near Merritt Island NWR.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Week 51

20 Dec 2013

Now this was funny.

Our team on the Zellwood-Mount Dora Christmas Bird Count noticed some commotion in the canal to our left inside the Lake Apopka area.  It turns out there were two River Otters that proceeded to swim away behind us.

Then, about 50 meters later, the two--one larger, one smaller--got out of the water, ran up the bank then ran across the road we were on, ran down the bank to the canal on the opposite side which was on our original right.

The larger one, however was not done.  He must have said something like, "Look, son, stay here and just watch me.  I'll show you how we entertain these humans."

Then, the larger otter ran up the bank onto an impoundment road and .....

..... and proceeded to act like it was in an Olympic trial for the 100 meter dash.  Without stopping, this otter .....

..... ran what had to be 100 meters from 50 meters away to 50 meters in front of us, then without pause, ran down from the dike road into the canal on our right.

For those of you familiar with Lake Apopka, at its closest point, the otter was only the distance away of the width of the canal then up the bank so it was quite close.

Why it did this, who knows, but all of us who saw it would like to think it simply wanted to show off and provide some entertainment for the humans.

A female Vermilion Flycatcher was seen also, but try as we did, we couldn't find the Ash-throated Flycatcher, although five of them were seen in an area nearby but not in our zone.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Week 48

28 Nov 2013, Lust Road near Lake Apopka

This good looking bird isn't so solitary and isn't so secretive, two words often used to describe this species by the authors of bird guides.  Looking on eBird to see what other birders are reporting, a number of them have seen 10 or more this season at a given spot--that is not too solitary or secretive, is it.   Maybe they just like to party while in Florida and do the ghost act up north in breeding areas.

My telephoto lens could not get all the Grasshopper Sparrows in one image but in addition to these three, there were six others (two directly above these three) nearby along with five Vesper Sparrows.

Close-up of Grasshopper Sparrow

Eastern X Krider's Red-tailed Hawk

Talk about a look-a-like, if you have the book Hawks in Flight, 2nd edition, (Dunne, Sibley and Clayton) and look at the photo at the bottom of page 36, that adult Fuertes's Red-tailed Hawk looks exactly like the image below taken today on Lust Road near Lake Apopka:

There is no belly band and no dark markings that normally appear on the underwings; the patagium marks and the comma are weaker than typical for an Eastern.  Two more photos are below.

But ......... as it turns out, it is not a Fuertes's Red-tailed Hawk, despite the look-a-like, but according to two prominent experts, it is an Eastern X Krider's Red-tailed Hawk.  The Red-tailed Hawk has 12 subspecies; some experts accept 16 subspecies.  When you combine the not so uncommon leucism that appears in Red-tails along with subspecies that also vary, you get a grab bag of possibilities with some Red-tails. 

Just recently, a Red-tailed Hawk with Krider's features has appeared both at Lake Apopka (Bob Sander's group; not sure if it is this same hawk) and in Brevard County, reported by Mitchell Harris. 

Here is another look, and below, a topside view.

Shadows hide some of the tail detail and the head, but there is some white areas in the head (better seen in the top two images), and the tail here is white at the base and pinkish at the distal end.  Red-tailed Hawks vary so much and have so many subspecies that could migrate into our area that it always pays to look closely when you see this species--you just might find an atypical Red-tail.

Compare the above images to the typical Eastern Red-tailed Hawk below:

This is the typical looking Eastern Red-tailed Hawk, a juvenile.  Compare the markings here to the hawk images above.

My first Eastern Palm Warbler of the season also appeared on Lust Road.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Week 43

23 Oct 2013

Good birding tomorrow?


At 1100pm, this Jacksonville radar is an example of what the Melbourne radar also is showing--the yellows and orange/reddish are birds in the air.  The wind speed is 5mph in Jax from the WNW so the colors are showing objects moving with a southerly component at 15-30 mph.  That ain't dust and smoke, folks (that moves at the same speed as the wind)--that means powered flight.


This is a reflectivity image showing birds in the air--the light, medium and dark blue.  The green is moisture and the browns are likely smog and dust.

NATIONAL REFLECTIVITY at 1100pm 23 Oct 2013

Taken together, and the fact there are cold fronts moving through north of us, means we could have some good birding Thursday and Friday, and there is a chance of some western vagrants arriving.

Mariel and Angel Abreu and their Badbirdz Reloaded website (link below) are much more experienced reading the radar, as are some of the listserv birders, but by the looks of things, we could have some interesting birding in the next few days.

Badbirdz Reloaded

UPDATE ... On Thursday, October 24, 2013 1:21 PM, Bob Richter wrote:
(excerpt) "Over the past hour approximately 10,000 Turkey Vultures have passed over my location several miles southwest of downtown Jacksonville."  This was posted on the Florida-L listserv.

I responded to this post:

"At 300pm on Lust Road near LANSRA, I saw a kettle of 140 Turkey Vultures with a few Anhingas mixed in.
As soon as the birds at the top of the kettle started peeling off for the next thermal, I glanced back and there was an equally large kettle to the north.  I then started scanning the skies and saw at least two other kettles further north, each spaced about 1/4 mile apart.
I had to leave but wish I could have stayed to see how extensive these kettles stretched out.  It wasn't anywhere near the number Bob saw but still impressive.  Based on Bob's number, I'll be looking tomorrow in hopes of seeing this huge movement."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Week 41 Florida Keys Hawkwatch

7 Oct 2013 to 12 Oct 2013

The first part of my annual trek to the Florida Keys Hawkwatch was very exciting, as is usual for this fabulous venue.  I'll be going back in a short time for round two.

On 8 October, we had a fallout occur after some weather moved through.  Between 200 to 300pm, the weather system also brought a very large number of songbirds.  114 Peregrine Falcons were counted after 200pm and in the sky with them were thousands of songbirds.

I witnessed numerous songbirds being attacked in the air, including a Peregrine Falcon that stooped on a songbird, did a complete loop head on in relation to me, then stooped a gain after completing the loop.

When the day's counting was over, Rafael, Colleen and I did a short walk around the site, and in a small plot of land no bigger than the average suburban homesite, we had 16 warbler species, a flycatcher, a Baltimore Oriole, two grosbeak species, vireos, et al.

One of the many birds we saw after the fallout, a Baltimore Oriole.

Hey, where's my chestnut?  This Chestnut-sided Warbler is a hatch year female, lacking the chestnut stripe on its side that males and adults have.  This is one of the 16 warbler species we saw in a small area, most of them in one tree.

Green Iguana in the green.

No easy feeding for this guy.  He just loved hovering while eating.

Spectacular air show put on by a Short-tailed Hawk

For three days during this week at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch, a Short-tailed Hawk put on an incredible display of kiting, parachuting and stooping.  We were fortunate to have one remain close and it rewarded us with an air show for the ages.
In this image, it is soaring.  When kiting, this raptor is near motionless in the sky.  We watched it kite then we thrilled to see it "parachute" -- descending in a slow fall.
Here, the hawk is parachuting,  legs hanging down with talons ready to go to work, and falling slowly toward its prey.  In an instant, it will then fold its wings back like a Peregrine Falcon and stoop on its prey. 

Week 40

5 October, 2013  Lake Apopka

Off in the distance, I give myself the "what the heck" ... what is it?  Then, for a second, I thought I was looking at a cobra. 

It turned out to be a Florida Cottonmouth.  From a distance, its wide head, and because it had its head raised into the air, gave the impression of a cobra.  I have gotten close to rattlesnakes to take images.  This is a species you don't mess with.

2 October, 2013  Wekiwa Springs State Park

A Gray Catbird deserves a special treat now and then, just like people do ...

I sometimes put some berries on top my vanilla ice cream.  This Catbird decided to put a dab of vanilla ice cream on top its berry.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Week 39

25 Sep 2013, Wekiwa Springs State Park

Birds are supposed to fly!!!

Tell that to this Short-tailed Hawk that hung motionless in the air.  This hawk went into a "kiting" position with wings in a soaring profile, tail slightly down and head down looking for its prey.  It stayed in this position for 60-75 seconds, then stooped ... diving on its prey at a very fast speed straight down.

This image and the image below were taken after its kiting and stoop.  It is too bad the sky was so gray and bright because these two images could have looked really good with a normal sky.

This is a rare species in the USA, somewhere around 200 breeding pairs.  Except for an outlier in AZ, this species only breeds in the USA in Florida.