Cruise Birding: Great Stirrup Cay

The itinerary of our Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Spirit called for a day at sea on December 31, 2015. A group of 12 Brown Boobies followed the ship for a while and we watched them hunt flying fish and loaf on the water between feeding. A lifer for us.

Brown Booby
Brown Booby

The first day of 2016 found us on Norwegian Cruise Line’s private Bahamas island, Great Stirrup Cay. We walked the hiking trail a few times and found some birds and other creatures on the way. We added three lifers here: Bahama Woodstar (hummingbird); Bahama Swallow; and Black-faced Grassquit. There were gulls and terns loafing around the beaches and we even found a few overwintering songbirds: Gray Catbirds; Palm Warblers; Yellow-rumped Warblers; and an American Redstart.

Bahama Woodstar on Great Stirrup Cay
Bahama Woodstar

Black-faced Grassquit on Great Stirrup Cay
Black-faced Grassquit

Bananaquit on Great Stirrup Cay
Bananaquit

Black Witch moth on Great Stirrup Cay
Black Witch moth

on Great Stirrup Cay
unidentified little friend

on Great Stirrup Cay
unidentified little friend

The hiking trail was overgrown in places and became hard to follow a few times. It’s really nice to have a nature trail to follow and we wish NCL would take better care of it.

Hiking Trail on Great Stirrup Cay
Hiking Trail on Great Stirrup Cay

We brought along our own snorkeling gear and did a bit of underwater exploring as well.

snorkeling Great Stirrup Cay
Arthur snorkeling

snorkeling Great Stirrup Cay
fishies

snorkeling Great Stirrup Cay
stingray sp.

The island can be crowded at the main beach but we found lots of places where we could relax in peace. It was a great, relaxing start to 2016.

NCL Spirit from Great Stirrup Cay
NCL Spirit and giant Laughing Gulls

NCL Spirit Cruise eBird Checklists: day at sea & Great Stirrup Cay
Boobies following ship
Great Stirrup Cay

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Cruise Birding: Ocho Rios, Jamaica

On December 30, our Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Spirit stopped at Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Here we booked a private tour with Carolyn Barrett of Barrett Adventures. We asked for a birding tour but got more of a general tour where we stopped at some random somewhat birdy spots with a binocularless guide. She knew a lot about the island and its wildlife but for the most part identifications were left up to us. This was a bit disappointing. I added seven life species here, including Streamertail (hummingbird); Jamaican Tody; Sad Flycatcher; Bananaquit; Smooth-billed Ani; White-chinned Thrush; and Jamaican Oriole.

White River, Ocho Rios Jamaica
White River in Ocho Rios (photo by Arthur)

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Immature Black-crowned Night-Heron along the White River

Loggerhead Kingbird
Loggerhead Kingbird at Walkers Woods

Walkers Wood, Jamaica
Arthur birding at Walkers Woods

Sad Flycatcher
Sad Flycatcher at Walkers Woods

Jamaican Oriole
Jamaican Oriole at Faith’s Pen

Just a couple of days were left on our cruise! First we’d spend the last day of the year at sea, and then New Year’s Day on Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas. Post to follow!

NCL Spirit Cruise eBird Checklists: Ocho Rios, Jamaica
White River between St. Mary’s & St. Ann’s
Walkers Wood
Faith’s Pen
St. Ann’s Bay – Arg Byfield Highway
Ocho Rios port area

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Cruise Birding: Chacchoben Ruins from Costa Maya, Mexico

Arthur and I spent the last days of 2015 and the first of 2016 on a 7-night Norwegian cruise around the Caribbean. We had several ports: Costa Maya, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. Birding was not our primary objective for the most part; I added 16 life species over the holiday.

In Costa Maya we opted for a tour of the ruins at Chacchoben which we booked via The Native Choice. In the port area and walking from the ship to the tour guide offices, we found three lifers: Tropical Kingbird; Tropical Mockingbird; and Great-tailed Grackle. At the ruins we noted 10 bird species, including lifers Brown Jay and Great Kiskadee. A Short-tailed Hawk flew overhead and there were spider monkeys in the trees.

ruins at Chacchoben
One of several pyramids at the ruins of Chacchoben near Costa Maya, Mexico

ruins at Chacchoben
One of several pyramids at the ruins of Chacchoben near Costa Maya, Mexico

Brown Jay at ruins at Chacchoben
Brown Jay at the ruins of Chacchoben (photo by Arthur)

spider monkey at ruins at Chacchoben
Spider monkey sp. at the ruins of Chacchoben (photo by Arthur)

Back in port, Magnificent Frigatebirds flew low overhead; this photo was taken with my iPhone!

MAFR over Costa Maya
Magnificent Frigatebirds at the port of Costa Maya

NCL Spirit from Costa Maya
The NCL Spirit at the port of Costa Maya (photo by Arthur)

The next day our ship docked off of George Town in Grand Cayman. Here we booked a snorkeling excursion via the cruise ship. It was a mediocre experience — the snorkel boat left behind a pair of our fellow tourists at the first location and the two spots where we stopped didn’t have much going on sealife-wise. I entered one small checklist here to note the frigatebirds flying around port and House Sparrows that were busy around a church garden. I was surprised when the sparrows got flagged by eBird as rare. Huh?

The following day we planned on birding in Jamaica — see next post!

NCL Spirit Cruise eBird Checklists: Costa Maya & Grand Cayman
Costa Maya port area
Ruinas Chacchoben
Grand Cayman port area

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Green Birding in Southwest Volusia County, First Half 2016

I began the year on a New Year’s cruise with Arthur and did my first birding of 2016 on Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas. I decided against participating in the Bird-a-Day challenge this year and just haven’t been birding (locally or otherwise) much. Still, I’m keeping a Green Birding List for the year. Here’s a short update on the list for the first part of 2016.

In January I visited Gemini Springs 3 times, Konomac Lake 1 time, and checked off several birds at home. I started off with 65 Green Birding List species in January.

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe, Gemini Springs | 05-JAN-16

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron, Gemini Springs | 11-JAN-16

Painted Bunting female
Painted Bunting blending in, Gemini Springs | 11-JAN-16

Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow, Gemini Springs | 11-JAN-16

February brought the total number of species to 83, with 3 visits to Audubon Park and several stops at other regular sites.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Audubon Park | 01-FEB-16

Belted Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher, Lake Monroe Boat Ramp | 15-FEB-16

Osprey & Boat-tailed Grackles
Osprey & Boat-tailed Grackles, Gemini Springs | 16-FEB-16

White-tailed Deer
White-tailed Deer, Audubon Park | 21-FEB-16

In March and April I was pretty deep into training for my first half marathon and didn’t go birding too often; at the end of April I had a total of 92 Green Birding List species. I added a handful more during the following two months and ended the first half of the year with 95 species.

Scarlet Kingsnake
Scarlet Kingsnake (seen during run), Gemini Springs | 06-APR-16

American Alligator
American Alligator, Gemini Springs | 12-APR-16

Florida Red-bellied Cooter
Florida Red-bellied Cooter, Gemini Springs | 12-APR-16

Wild Turkey family
Earth Day Wild Turkey family visit at home! Look at the babies! | 22-APR-16

I’ve had a look at where I’m at now compared to previous years and I should be able to get 10 more species with very little effort if I just head to a couple of spots I haven’t been to this year so far. With more regular birding I would still have a good shot at around 140 species… let’s see what happens in the second half of the year! I’ve already added 8 species in July, including one brand new to my all-time Green Birding List!

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Cruise Birding: A Day in Madeira

Back in May 2014, Arthur and I took a transatlantic cruise from Miami to Barcelona on the Norwegian Epic. Along the way we had one stop — one day in Madeira. We hired a private bird guide, Catarina from Madeira Wind Birds for the day; we had a great time.

We didn’t have high expectations for the outing, especially since the ship arrived in Funchal port late in the morning, past prime birding time. Our first checklist started at 11AM! In the end we ended up seeing 26 species over 8 checklists, with 8 lifers. Our bird list is at the end of this post.

Madeira first look
Approaching Madeira

We watched as our ship approached the island. It was covered in clouds and hard to see — our first impression was that we would have a dreary day, but this misty, cloudy start is typical of Madeira. By the time we could disembark the skies had cleared. We walked off the pier and met our guide.

Madeira Zebra
Wide pedestrian path adjacent to Funchal cruise port

Our first stop, Ponta de São Lourenço, was at the far eastern side of the island. Here we successfully searched for Berthelot’s Pipit. In the windswept fields we also found a lark which we had trouble identifying in the field. Using photos and our guidebooks we were able to ID this bird as a Greater Short-toed Lark with the help of our guide Catarina. This bird is considered a rare vagrant on the island.

Madeira scenery
Madeira’s eastern coast

Madeira birding
Looking for pipits

Madeira Berthelot's Pipit
Berthelot’s Pipit

Madeira Greater Short-toed Lark
Greater Short-toed Lark

On the way to our next stop we picked up Spanish Sparrows nesting in urban palm trees. Along the water at Porto de Recreio de Machico we added 8 species.

Madeira Spanish Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow

Madeira
Porto de Recreio de Machico

Maderia Gray Wagtail
Gray Wagtail

Madeira Eurasian Blackcap
Eurasian Blackcap

Madeira Island Canary
Island Canary

Madeira European Goldfinch
European Goldfinch

At our final stop, Santo António da Serra, we successfully searched for Madeira Firefinch. This is a local subspecies that we didn’t think we would find, considering the time of day. It was a lucky tick, though I was not so fortunate with my camera.

Driving back to Monte, we spotted a Eurasian Kestrel hovering over the airport.

Arthur and I had lunch in Monte and looked around a bit before taking the scenic Teleférico do Funchal aerial tram back down to the port. The other fun way to descend from the town of Monte back down to the port is via toboggan. We watched the drivers for a bit before we got on the tram.

Madeira tile
Tile work in an abandoned building

Madeira sleds
Toboggans

Madeira sled
Toboggan driver

Madeira air tram
Arthur with NCL Epic in the background

Madeira bridge
View from the tram

Madeira
View from the tram

The Madeira Flower Festival was winding down during our visit, so we saw lots of flower displays throughout Funchal as we walked back to the Epic for the continuation of our journey from Miami to Barcelona.

Madeira flower festival
Flowers in Funchal

Madeira flower festival
Flowers in Funchal frame the Epic

Madeira port murals
Funchal port murals

Madeira Bird List May 5, 2014; lifers bold

Muscovy Duck – Cairina moschata
Cory’s Shearwater – Calonectris diomedea
Manx Shearwater – Puffinus puffinus
Little Egret – Egretta garzetta
Eurasian Sparrowhawk – Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard – Buteo buteo
Eurasian Moorhen – Gallinula chloropus
Ruddy Turnstone – Arenaria interpres
Yellow-legged Gull – Larus michahellis
Lesser Black-backed Gull – Larus fuscus
Roseate Tern – Sterna dougallii
Common Tern – Sterna hirundo
Rock Pigeon – Columba livia
Eurasian Kestrel – Falco tinnunculus
Greater Short-toed Lark – Calandrella brachydactyla
Firecrest – Regulus ignicapilla
Eurasian Blackcap – Sylvia atricapilla
European Robin – Erithacus rubecula
Eurasian Blackbird – Turdus merula
Gray Wagtail – Motacilla cinerea
Berthelot’s Pipit – Anthus berthelotii
Common Chaffinch – Fringilla coelebs
European Greenfinch – Chloris chloris
European Goldfinch – Carduelis carduelis
Island Canary – Serinus canaria
Spanish Sparrow – Passer hispaniolensis

eBird checklists:
Ponta de São Lourenço
Caniçal Spanish Sparrow location
Porto de recreio de Machico
Santo António da Serra
Madeira Airport drive-by
Monte
Marina do Funchal
Funchal at sea

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A Walk at Bahia Honda

I’m finally going through some old photos. Here are some snapshots from a walk I had at Bahia Honda State Park back on December 8, 2013.

At first I was looking down.

washed up
Sea vegetation washed up on the beach

Northern Gannet
Detail of dead Northern Gannet on the beach

Horseshoe Crab exoskeleton
Atlantic Horseshoe Crab exoskeleton

cowfish sp
Dead cowfish sp. on the beach

beach
Bahia Honda shoreline

Sanderling
Sanderling

Then I started to look up.

American Kestrel
American Kestrel

Higher.

Magnificent Frigatebirds
Magnificent Frigatebirds!

Magnificent Frigatebirds
My favorites!

Magnificent Frigatebirds
Awesome!


Ooh, aah!

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FWRA 2015 Symposium

At the end of September I attended the Florida Wildlife Rehabilitators Association annual symposium in Haines City. I was fortunate enough to be granted a partial scholarship and I was happy to be able to attend the full three days of the event.

The days were packed with lectures and lessons about rehabilitating all kinds of creatures, with a focus on Florida natives. A group of veterinarians from Canada came to speak as well, so attendees got to hear about some of their special patients as well.

One of the programs I attended was about invasive species, where a few animals were brought for show and tell. The proper capture and handling of Burmese Pythons was presented, with some fun photo opportunities afterwards.

Tegu
Young Tegu lizard. These invasives are a big problem in Miami-Dade, Collier, and Hillsborough counties.

Burmese Python
Burmese Python bite

Burmese Python
Holding a Burmese Python

Before the conference, I was a bit concerned that much of the symposium would be over my head, but that wasn’t really the case. The organizers did a great job of presenting different topics that would interest all kinds of skill and experience levels in wildlife rehab.

Besides the formal presentations, I really enjoyed getting to know other attendees who work in rehabilitation across the state and beyond. Meal times, plus evening activities like workshops and crafts, left attendees plenty of time to mingle while having creative fun. I made a hawk t-shirt with bleach. The perch-making workshop was very popular. Being such a newbie when it comes to rehab means that I was able to learn a lot from my fellow symposium participants as well.

perch-making workshop
Perch workshop: make and take

During the symposium I also managed to finally see my most-wanted Florida species in the wild — a Coral Snake! During the before-dinner break on Thursday night I was walking back to my room to freshen up. There were always people walking around the grounds, except for when I stumbled up on this beautiful snake. There was NO ONE to share it with! I was smiling like a total goofball, taking photo after photo of the snake (and maybe talking to it too, maybe). Coral Snakes are one of our venomous species, known to be docile and own-business-minders. So awesome!

Coral Snake
Lifer Coral Snake!!

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Green Birding in Southwest Volusia County, December 2015

December was a blur of holiday fun times with family intermingled with a nasty head cold and followed by an awesome Caribbean cruise between Christmas and the New Year. I guess that’s why I only went “green” birding ONCE in the entire month! I visited Gemini Springs on December 7th, where I recorded 36 species. Here are a couple of shots from that outing:

new sign at Gemini Springs
A new interpretive sign!

White-eyed Vireo
White-eyed Vireo!

Loggerhead Shrike
Distant Loggerhead Shrike!

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Green Birding in Southwest Volusia County, November 2015

Note: this post is back-dated.

In November I recorded 69 species over 6 checklists for my green birding list. Last year just birding Gemini Springs I had 67 species in 7 trips. There were no new year birds for the green list during the month. Here are some photographic highlights from my green birding trips in November 2015:

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe at Gemini Springs | 09 NOV 2015

Walking back into the park from the bike path on November 9th, I caught site of a huge snakeskin hanging from a large oak tree. I took a few photos but nothing shows the scale of this thing — I guess it was two inches wide and maybe five feet long. And it was at least 30 feet up in the tree! What kind of big monster snake left this thing?!

snakeskin
Unidentified snakeskin at Gemini Springs | 09 NOV 2015

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler at Gemini Springs | 23 NOV 2015

On November 23rd I was really surprised to see a pair of Bald Eagles perched on power structure near a well-used Osprey nest. I’m not sure if this is the Gemini Springs pair or other birds.

Bald Eagles
Bald Eagles outside of Gemini Springs | 23 NOV 2015

White Ibises
White Ibises at Gemini Springs | 30 NOV 2015

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal at Gemini Springs | 30 NOV 2015

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Green Birding in Southwest Volusia County, October 2015

Note: this post is back-dated.

In October I recorded 70 species over 8 checklists for my green birding list. I added three birds for the year: Blackburnian and Magnolia Warblers at Audubon Park and Northern Waterthrush at Gemini Springs. Last year I recorded 71 species in 10 trips to Gemini Springs.

During the month, Arthur and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary during a long weekend in Savannah, Georgia. We also got Disney passes about a month earlier and started to use them in earnest in October. And I ran my first 5K race on the 25th. It was already starting to happen (hello abandoned blog), but birding started to take a backseat in my life, unfortunately. Anyway, here are some photographic highlights from the month.

Barred Owl
Wet Barred Owl at Audubon Park | 04 OCT 2015

Blackburnian Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler record shot at Audubon Park | 04 OCT 2015

White Peacock
White Peacock at Audubon Park | 04 OCT 2015

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron at Gemini Springs | 06 OCT 2015

White Ibises
White Ibises at Gemini Springs | 06 OCT 2015

tiny frog sp?
tiny frog, species unknown, at Audubon Park | 16 OCT 2015

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