Monday, May 27, 2013

Week 22

30 May 2013, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Four-spotted Pennant immature female

It is great to see the dragonflies become more numerous.  The numbers were down two months ago for our Lake Apopka survey.  Saturday, we do another survey and we should have much bigger numbers to report.  These two dragonflies were two of many on East and West Gator Creek at Merritt Island NWR.

Marl Pennant female
I originally ID'd this incorrectly as a Common Baskettail female but Paul Hueber IDs it as a Marl Pennant.

On Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, it was a very slow day for birds.  Out on the mudflats to the left, I finally found one lonely bird laying down and it looked dark.  I thought maybe a breeding plumage Black-bellied Plover.  Get the bins up and there is a bird I have never seen in these mudflats in all the years I have been going here ...

... a Common Nighthawk.  It is supposedly common in the spring inside the refuge but this was a first for me.

I was hoping for an Antillean Nighthawk, but then again, I hope to win the lottery each drawing also.  With very little action on Peacocks Pocket, Gator Creek and Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, it was time to take a look at Biolab Road.

Finally .... there were huge numbers of Semipalmated Sandpipers.  Also, there were Rudy Turnstones in breeding plumage, quite a few Semipalmated Plovers, young glossy Ibis and your common refuge residents.  At Canaveral National Seashore, even though the wind was blowing in strong from the east, there were no pelagic birds to be seen.

27 May 2013, Hernando and Pasco County

Last year, there was an area on the Pasco/Hernando County border where Mississippi Kites were being seen.  This is considered rare in this part of Florida, although many believe the Mississippi Kite--a north Florida raptor--is expanding its range southward. 

After reading reports about Mississippi Kites being seen in this same spot over the weekend,  and the report also saying larger numbers of Swallow-tailed Kites than normal were there, I headed out there this morning.  It was nice to see 11 cars of other birders who had the same thing on their mind.

Before the first Mississippi Kite showed up, Swallow-tailed Kites started gathering.  10, 20, then quickly it grew to 40 or so.  Within 90 minutes, there were 100 Swallow-tailed Kites foraging in the pasture.

Is this any way to greet a guest?  With 100 Swallow-tailed Kites in the air, this Swallow-tailed Kite picked out the Mississippi Kite entering the party and started diving on it and just kept harassing it until they both went out of sight.  Note that the larger Swallow-tailed Kite is molting its feathers and looked pretty ragged.  There was no loss of confidence by this Swallow-tailed Kite due to its molting.  It was flying like a fighter pilot ace, even though many feathers are only partially grown in.

The Mississippi Kite looked faster in its dives and seemed to be more agile than the Swallow-tailed Kite.  However, in the "fight"  between these two, the Swallow-tailed Kite had its way and was on the offensive the entire time and the smaller kite was never able to get out of its defensive mode.

What a great sight to see--a Burrowing Owl.  Not just one, a pair in Pasco County.  But wait .... not just two but four with pair in Hernando County about 2 miles away. 

What are you doing here?  The guide book says this Carolina Saddlebags (female) likes ponds, marshes, lakes.  There was no water in sight here but dry pasture everywhere.  Oh well, I guess this girl said, "if the Mississippi Kite can be out of range, so too can I."

Update ... Paul Hueber IDs this as a Red Saddlebags.  Thank you, Paul.  Odonata Central show this species in Orange County but does not show it on the list for Pasco County where the image was taken.  I have submitted this to Odonata Central and I am hoping that once they vet it, they come back and say it is a Red Saddlebags; that would be a Pasco County first.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Week 21

24 May 2013, Mullet Lake Park

There were a good many dragonflies at this location.  This is a female Needham's Skimmer.

22-23 May 2013, Wekiwa Springs State Park

So why is this young deer sticking its tongue out at me?  I think it is cute.  I sent good vibes as I really love deer.  I really wish it could tell me why.

After seeing so many yellow female and red male Summer Tanagers at Wekiwa Springs State Park, when I came upon this orange bird I instantly thought Baltimore Oriole.  Then, I saw it following a male Summer Tanager and realized it was a recently fledged youngster, once I got my binoculars on it.  You can even see the swollen gape near its beak, if you enlarge the image.  Some red and yellow splotching also gives the appearance of orange, especially when it was in flight.

Momma Summer Tanager wanted to know why I was so keenly interested in her youngster.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Week 20

17 May 2013, Rock Springs Run State Reserve

It was an exciting morning as Greg and I met to see if we could verify again an Indigo Bunting and a Blue Grosbeak.  For Breeding Bird Atlas purposes, if we could do this 7 days apart with the bird in the same spot, that would indicate probable breeding, and for this part of Florida, it is rare for either of these species to breed in this general area.

Not only did this male appear again in the same spot, but this time a female was with him.  Our fortunes swelled as we also saw the male Indigo Bunting at the same location he was in last week.  A Yellow-billed Cuckoo flew across the path in front of us.

We had two excellent guides in front of us showing us the great spots so we tipped these Sandhill Cranes well.

At Wilson's Landing Park next to the Wekiva River, ...

A Swallow-tailed Kite looked like it grabbed a nestling out of a tree.  It made one stop and grab attempt then reset and made a second attempt and came out clutching its meal.  Some people eat and run, this kite species eats and flies.

If a popularity contest were run here in Florida, I know a lot of votes would go to the Swallow-tailed Kite. 

16 May 2013, Wiregrass Prairie Preserve

I arrived early at this fabulous preserve and was surrounded by the singing of Bachman's Sparrows.   The low-angled sun and the chorus of Bachman's songs made for one heck of a great morning.  This is the most dense concentration of Bachman's Sparrows I have seen, and with their really cool songs and variations, "heard" is more appropriate.

The Bachman's Sparrow may be secretive and like to forage on the ground, but when it comes springtime, they often belt out the vocals from an exposed perch.

As I walked the trail, I had been thinking how cool it would be to see an Indigo Snake, thinking the Bachman's Sparrow and the Indigo Snake like a similar habitat.  Later, I saw a snake but not on the ground but in the air ...

A Great Horned Owl grabbed a very long breakfast.

I'm not certain what the snake species is but with a tapered tail like that, it likely will be narrowed down to just a couple species.  Perhaps it is an Eastern Hognose Snake.   Update --had a good number of people say it is definitely a Southern Black Racer.

An in-flight Common Nighthawk, Northern Bobwhite and a family of Eastern Bluebirds with recently fledged juveniles rounded out the morning.

15 May 2013, Wekiwa Springs State Park

After dinner, I went across the street to Wekiwa Springs State Park for a late afternoon stroll.  I had no idea it would turn into a good nature outing.

As soon as I got out of my car, a male and female Summer Tanager greeted me and seemed to want to check me out.  About 200 yards down the trail, what did I run into?  ...

... a second pair of Summer Tanagers.  She preferred to be on top.

While this male was singing and she was calling, a Red-headed Woodpecker appeared. 

After checking out the roof, ...

and the balcony, ...

the woodpecker started working its way down, and over, then proceeded to do some construction work.  Its mate was nearby.

With the tanagers to my left and the woodpeckers to my right, an American Kestrel flew in and landed about 30 yards away.  I could hear Northern Bobwhite calling from this same spot and also watched as two Great Crested Flycatchers hawked some insects.   Eastern Bluebirds were here also along with the abundant Pine Warblers.  Not a bad spot at all to pull up a chair and watch the sun set.  A Long-tailed Skipper kept darting around me while all this was going on.

As I left this great spot, a White-tailed Deer ahead of me looked like it was checking traffic before crossing the trail.

13 May 2013, Buck Lake Conservation Area

Mary and Eli Schaperow and I visited the west section of Buck Lake Conservation Area.  What a great day to bike and bird as the weather was cool and clouds kept the heat down.  The trails can be biked without too much trouble, even for a hybrid bike with thin tires like mine.

If you go here, be aware of typical Water Management District signs--they have trails marked "Road 1", "Road 3", etc. yet on the map from the website, the trails are named red, white, yellow, etc.  Download the map from the web and take it with you. 

This time of May is historically a heavy time for American Redstarts migrating in this area and we saw 14.  I'm certain there were quite a few more as songbirds that darted from one side of the trail to the other in and out of vegetation were left unidentified.

Pine Warblers were very curious (and numerous), getting up close to us on the trail.

I heard an Eastern Towhee singing vocals that I have not heard previously, although Eli said he had.

Dragonflies are starting to become more numerous after a slow April.  Saw Eastern Pondhawks, Carolina Saddlebags, Slaty Skimmers and ...

Adult Male Halloween Pennant
The April showers we had brought May wildflowers.

Not sure what this flower is.  Once I master butterfly ID, time to move on to learning wildflowers, sedges and grasses.  I'll leave it to Mary to tell us what this is . . .

and what this is ...  update May 14, Andrew Boyle ID'd the flower above as a rhexia species.  There are a number of variations and same goes for their common names; one of them is Meadow Beauty.

and what this is.  (Andrew later said it was a milkweed.  After going through a new guide book, it looks like a Few-flowered Milkweed).

A cool looking mushroom was spotted by Eli ...

We will have to go back out here and check out the east section that has some scrub and see what species it has.