Category Archives: Green Birding

Mini Big Green Day

Listing has become part of my enjoyment of birding, and BIGBY listing is a major component. BIGBY birding is “green” birding – getting around without the use of fossil fuels. I spent a great deal of today birding and covered about 35 miles on foot (9) and bike (26). Covering that ground I found 61 species. The Volusia Big Day high count is 95 species, so my total is nowhere near the record, but I’m still well pleased – especially considering my inland location.

I had some big misses, including birds I have seen in recent days at locations I visited today: Belted Kingfisher; American Kestrel; and Loggerhead Shrike. I’m also skunked for the year on some relatively common birds that I had hoped to pick up today, but didn’t: Black-and-white Warbler; Limpkin; Barred Owl; Green Heron; ugh, the list goes on. And if I had been thinking, Rock Dove and House Sparrow would’ve been gimmes at the grocery store parking lot, but I forgot to make that little detour on the way home.

I biked to Gemini Springs in the morning, and walked a much longer route than I normally do, including the entire stretch of the Spring-to-spring trail. I came home at lunchtime with 50 species.

Ospreys at Gemini
Ospreys, Gemini Springs

In the back yard I added Chipping Sparrow and Downy Woodpecker.

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker, our back yard

In the afternoon I biked to the East Regional Rail Trail, which winds through Enterprise and Deltona. I stopped at Audubon Park where I added 7 species to the day’s list. Biking home I heard American Crows flying overhead and then I had bike around a Wild Turkey in the path — my last bird of the day.

Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser, Audubon Park

My pace was quite leisurely; my impressive-to-me total leaves me with a target to beat on a future outing! Here’s my list for today:

Blue-winged Teal – Anas discors
Green-winged Teal – Anas crecca
Hooded Merganser – Lophodytes cucullatus
Wild Turkey – Meleagris gallopavo
Pied-billed Grebe – Podilymbus podiceps
Wood Stork – Mycteria americana
Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus
Anhinga – Anhinga anhinga
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias
Great Egret – Ardea alba
Snowy Egret – Egretta thula
Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
Tricolored Heron – Egretta tricolor
Cattle Egret – Bubulcus ibis
White Ibis – Eudocimus albus
Glossy Ibis – Plegadis falcinellus
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis
Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata
American Coot – Fulica americana
Sandhill Crane – Grus canadensis
Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus
Greater Yellowlegs – Tringa melanoleuca
Lesser Yellowlegs – Tringa flavipes
Wilson’s Snipe – Gallinago delicata
Ring-billed Gull – Larus delawarensis
Forster’s Tern – Sterna forsteri
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Blue-headed Vireo – Vireo solitarius
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Carolina Chickadee – Poecile carolinensis
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
House Wren – Troglodytes aedon
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula
Hermit Thrush – Catharus guttatus
American Robin – Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Orange-crowned Warbler – Oreothlypis celata
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Pine Warbler – Setophaga pinus
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerina
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Common Grackle – Quiscalus quiscula
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major
American Goldfinch – Spinus tristis

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Goals for 2013

It’s that time of year! Here’s what I hope to accomplish, bird-wise, in 2013.

  • I’ll be keeping a BIGBY list again. With 115 birds last year, I surpassed my goal. That total will be hard to beat; I will be happy to get 100+ again in 2013.
  • I will be participating in the Bird-a-Day Challenge once again. My target is to beat last year’s total of 144 birds. I also strive to not stress about it too much. It’s a lot of fun but it messed with my head a bit last year. šŸ˜‰
  • I would like to crack 200 birds in Volusia for the year. My Volusia life list is at 180, my 2012 list was 167 (#1 on eBird), and the eBird total for Volusia in 2012 was 249 (all as of December 30). The Big Year record for Volusia is 278 birds set by Michael Brothers in 2007.
  • I will try really, really hard to review at least 20 books this year. I post my reviews on and last year I was a huge slacker.
  • I’d like to fill in the missing weeks for Gemini Springs on eBird. Right now there are three eBird hotspots for Gemini Springs (I have suggested these be merged, but I am not sure how this process works). I use Gemini Springs and there are just two greyed-out weeks: the second in February and the second in May (from my own checklists, there are 7 weeks missing). The hotspot Gemini Springs County Park has more checklists over fewer months; between May and November there are only two weeks of data. This location appears to be used heavily by a snowbirder! šŸ™‚ Combining all of the Gemini hotspots leaves just the second week of May missing.
  • I would like to improve my raptor handling skills at my new volunteer place, but I feel moving forward here isn’t in my hands as much as I would like. So I would consider it a “nice-to-have” if I could handle 4 more birds in 2013.

Do you have any goals (bird-related or otherwise!) for the coming year? Let me know in the comments! And best wishes for a fantastic and successful 2013!

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Results: Birding Goals for 2012

At the end of last year I came up with some bird-type goals for 2012. How did I do?

1. I wanted to keep a BIGBY list for the year, with a target of 100 species. This was a huge success as I was able to find 115 species for my BIGBY list in 2012. W00t! I want to try this again next year, but I’m not sure I can do much better than this year’s total. There are 5 birds on my 2011 list that I didn’t find in 2012, but they were all hit-or-miss migrants.

2. I looked to add a few Florida specialties to my life list. Of the four species I mentioned, I added two of them: Red-cockaded Woodpecker and American Oystercatcher. I also added Bachmann’s Sparrow and White-crowned Pigeon… so I am calling this one a success too. Snail Kite and Burrowing Owl can wait.

3. I had hoped to review 20 books. Unfortunately this was year two of epic failure, with only FOUR (!) books reviewed (on I think I will set a goal again for next year, but if I fail again, that’s it. :\

4. My fourth goal was a free choice of three different activities. I wanted to volunteer with a rehab center and handle birds of prey again, or volunteer at a bird banding station, or get involved with a local bird club. Well, I’m well on my way with the first option. I started volunteering at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland back in February. So far I have been able to handle a pair of new little friends.

Newton & Amy
Newton the American Kestrel; photo by Susie Warren

Buzz & Amy
Buzz the Eastern Screech Owl; photo by Robert Stalnaker

I’ve also been able to help out with birds in rehab a lot more than I expected. I’ve been able to catch up a few birds, weigh them and hand feed, and do a couple of releases. I hadn’t included this in my goal but these are activities I very much enjoy at my volunteer position.

Local banding stations are welcoming of volunteers, but none are as close to our home as I’d like. I’ve also been on a couple of bird walks and attended some club programs, but I haven’t joined a birding club yet. I really miss my old club (Lake-Cook Audubon) — but they may have spoiled me for any other bird clubs. Anyway, the objective here was to do one of these things, so I’m calling this goal a success.

5. Finally, I set an extremely modest goal of 23 birds for the Bird-a-Day Challenge. This was another huge success as I made it all the way to May 24th, reaching 144 birds.

Coming up: my bird-type goals for 2013. Did you have any goals for 2012? How did you do?

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Challenge changeover

On May 23rd I counted one of the most abundant birds in my neighborhood for the Bird-a-Day Challenge. With Osprey as my 144th bird, I’m finished in the game for 2012.

It was already getting tough at the beginning of May, but I was relieved to reach May 8th, so I could count some non-Florida birds on my list. Though I did a fair amount of birding, I didn’t manage to take one photo of any of my game birds during my visit to family and friends in Illinois May 8-15. They were all new birds for the year (May 10th’s Black-throated Green Warbler was my 200th bird of 2012).

When I returned home to Florida, I knew my days in the game were seriously numbered. My first day back, I had to use a neighborhood regular, the Northern Mockingbird. A lucky, rare flyover of Roseate Spoonbill at Gemini Springs gave me an extra day, as did the Common Nighthawk Arthur and I spotted at Epcot at the end of our visit on May 18th (I literally jumped up and down for that one – it saved me Rock Pigeon for another day). An eBird alert sent me to a previously-unknown-by-me wetlands in a neighboring town to find Semipalmated Plovers on May 19th. Everything else was entirely expected and a misery to check off each day. Now at least I have a nice goal for 2013.

And I am ready for the next game for this year: the June Challenge! I first learned about this by following the Florida birding listservs last year, and from this great post by favorite Florida blogger Limeybirder: June Challenge. We moved here late in the month so I didn’t participate.

Here is a brief description of the challenge that I swiped / paraphrased from a post on BirdForum:

In 2004 Becky Enneis proposed a contest. She was scandalized that most birders spent the summer indoors, and she thought that competition might motivate some of them to get out in the field during the warm months. And so The June Challenge was born.

There are some rules for this friendly competition:

– Birds must be seen. No heard-only birds.
– Keep county lists.
– Keep track of ABA and non-ABA species are on your list. Report them in this format:
Total (ABA countable / non-countable), e.g., 115 (112 / 3)

Last year, there were two participants for Volusia, coming up with totals of 120 (119 / 1) and 73 (73 / 0). I’m going to try to get at least 75, but that sounds very ambitious for an inland Volusia girl. We’ll see! I’m looking forward to trying out this new challenge. Good luck to all that continue with Bird-a-Day!

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Bird-a-Day weeks 6-7

With today’s entry of Tree Swallow in the Bird-a-Day Challenge, I’m up to 49 birds for 2012. Of the 14 birds added since my last update, five were yard birds. One of them was a doozy, though.

18-FEB-12 Tree Swallow Gemini Springs
17-FEB-12 Loggerhead Shrike OCCC
16-FEB-12 Black Skimmer Merritt Island NWR
15-FEB-12 Western Tanager yard
14-FEB-12 Mallard Epcot
13-FEB-12 American Goldfinch yard
12-FEB-12 Wild Turkey Lake Winona Road
11-FEB-12 Chipping Sparrow yard
10-FEB-12 Yellow-rumped Warbler yard
09-FEB-12 Wood Duck Audubon Center for BOP
08-FEB-12 Eurasian Collared-Dove Disney’s Animal Kingdom
07-FEB-12 Green-winged Teal Gemini Springs
06-FEB-12 Red-winged Blackbird yard
05-FEB-12 Red Phalarope Mayport pelagic

Yard Birds

Red-winged Blackbirds are present here in central Florida all year, but we’ve only seen them in our yard since last month. I suspect when they start breeding activities we won’t see them in the neighborhood too much. Yellow-rumped Warblers, Chipping Sparrows, and American Goldfinches are winter visitors here, and will all be gone by May or June, returning again in September or October. Goldfinches are pretty rare in our yard so I was happy to see one having a drink in our bird bath last Monday. But it was the Western Tanager that visited our yard for a brief moment last Wednesday that was a real shocker. We spotted a Western Tanager in our yard last October. Could this be the same bird?

Further Afield

Several visits outside of the usual haunts over the last weeks provided some great birds. It was hard to pick the bird of the day after the Mayport pelagic trip on the 5th – I’m as likely to see a Manx Shearwater in the coming months as a Red Phalarope, I think. The Wood Ducks I saw while volunteering at the ACBOP on the 9th were my first for Florida, believe it or not. A last-minute trip to Merritt Island to see an Atlas 5 launch (which ended up scrubbed) plus two days at Disney yielded birds I don’t expect to see at home or at my local patch. A Loggerhead Shrike working the parking lot at the Orange County Convention Center was a nice surprise yesterday.

Local Finds

On the 12th I drove to a dairy farm near DeLeon Springs to look for some reported Brewer’s Blackbirds. I struck out on the blackbirds but was pleased to find a nice group of Wild Turkeys, my first for Volusia for 2012. Another first for Volusia and a new BIGBY species was Green-winged Teal, a flock of which Arthur found during a morning walk at Gemini Springs on the 7th.

Looking Ahead

Now for a little prognostication. Between our yard and Gemini Springs, as of today there are about 40 species not already used in the game that I am 95% sure to see on any given day. Most of these are year-round residents, but some will start to leave around the end of March. Meanwhile a few new birds should start to show up, like Great Crested Flycatchers and Swallow-tailed Kites, both of which might arrive as early as late February. I hope I’m not jinxing myself in forecasting at least another six weeks of play in this game. And hopefully for the next update I can round up a photo or two. šŸ™‚

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Goals for 2012

I didn’t manage to accomplish all of my goals for 2011. So what? Here’s what I’m going to go for in 2012.

1. I plan on keeping another BIGBY list in 2012. My target for the year is 100 species.

2. I’d like to add some Florida specialties to my life list: Snail Kite, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, and Burrowing Owl. And I’ve just got to finally see an American Oystercatcher in 2012!

3. Even though I failed to meet my goal to read / review / cycle out 20 books in 2011, I’d like to get back on track. I’m setting my goal here at 20 book reviews again, but I’m not going to worry too much about the “cycling out” part this year.

There are three big things I’ve been missing since moving to Florida, and I’d really like to get back into at least one of them:

4a. Handling birds of prey and volunteering with a wildlife rehabber.

4b. Volunteering at a bird banding station.

4c. Getting involved with a local bird club (Audubon).

5. I’ll be trying the Bird-a-Day challenge again, with a very modest goal: beat last year’s pathetic total of 23 birds.

Do you have birding goals for 2012? I know birders are going to be taking the eBird Challenge or the One-a-Day eBird Challenge, and others will work on getting their minimum 20 Bird RDA of each and every day. How about you? Let me know in the comments below.

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My local patch(es)

I found a lot of the birds on my 2011 BIGBY list at my new local patch, Gemini Springs Park, and along the Spring-to-Spring Trail.

Gemini Springs covers 210 acres and is bordered on the south end by DeBary Bayou, which meets up with the St. Johns River. My regular walks there bring me along the spring run and bayou, through a mature wooded scrub area, and across a recreational / mowed field bordered by various types of wooded habitat.

This map shows the park and some of my favorite hot spots. I usually walk just over a mile and a half.

click to embiggen

1. Bike rack 7. Dam
2. Playground 8. Fishing pier
3. Bridges over spring runs 9. Mature woods
4. Mature woods 10. Woods / lawn transition habitat
5. “Warbler Alley” 11. Stand of snags
6. DeBary Bayou

The park isn’t too big, but I still haven’t explored all of the paths just yet. I only discovered the path along the bayou last month. It’s so busy with birds each morning that I refer to it as “warbler alley” – I have high hopes for this habitat come spring migration. šŸ™‚

The Spring-to-Spring trail is a Volusia County project. The path will run from Lake Monroe Park, at the south end of the county, up through DeLeon Springs State Park and beyond. Today the path exists in completed but unconnected segments; the south Segment 1 runs from DeBary Hall to Lake Monroe Park.

This map shows the bike path. We live in the neighborhood of DeBary Hall, so the path is very convenient for everyday biking and birding. šŸ˜‰

click to embiggen

It’s about five miles from our home to the end of the path at Lake Monroe Park. I ride this trail 2-3 mornings per week. A pair of Bald Eagles has a nest somewhere in the middle of the path, but I’ve been unable to locate it so far. Starting in October I saw one or two adult Bald Eagles each time I biked the path. In the last month I’ve only seen one bird; the other is at the undisclosed nest site.

I realize this type of local patch post has limited interest; thank you for reading this far! If you’re going to be visiting the area and / or if you have any questions, please feel free to send me an email. If you’ve blogged about your own local patch, please leave a comment below!

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