Category Archives: Not Birds

Green Birding Southwest Volusia County, April 2017

During April I saw 67 species over 19 checklists for my 2017 Green Birding List. The last time I kept a green list for April was in 2015, when I had 93 species.

I did a bunch of running throughout the month to prepare for participating in all three races during the Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend at Disney World. Some birds were recorded on the run. And as the photos show, I came across more photogenic reptiles than birds, apparently.

Here are some photographic highlights from the month.

On April 4th I did a long 12 mile run along the East Regional Rail Trail in Enterprise and Deltona. I saw a Ringneck Snake in the middle of the trail. I gave it a poke to see if it was still alive and when it wiggled I picked it up and set it off the path.

Ringneck Snake
Ringneck Snake on the East Regional Rail Trail in Deltona, 4 April 2017

Luna Moth Caterpillar
Luna Moth caterpillar on the East Regional Rail Trail, 4 April 2017

Later on the same run, crossing Providence on the way back, I saw a roadkill squirrel in the middle of the road and some Black Vultures loitering around. I picked up the squirrel and tossed it off the road so they wouldn’t get hit by passing cars. Thornby Park was close by so I ran over to wash my hands before continuing the run.

Black Vultures
Black Vultures with roadkill squirrel by the East Regional Rail Trail in Deltona, 4 April 2017

Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler at Gemini Springs, 5 April 2017

The next day at Gemini Springs I had another close encounter with a snake. Again I wondered if the snake was still living before I picked it up and moved it off the path in the park.

Peninsula Ribbon Snake
Peninsula Ribbon Snake at Gemini Springs, 5 April 2017

full moon
Full moon at Gemini Springs, 10 April 2017

American Alligator
American Alligator at Gemini Springs, 12 April 2017

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk at DeBary Hall, 12 April 2017

American Alligator
American Alligator at Gemini Springs, 27 April 2017

Green Birding List for April 2017

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Muscovy Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Swallow-tailed Kite
Cooper’s Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-necked Stilt
Least Tern
Caspian Tern
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Great Crested Flycatcher
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle

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Posted in Gemini Springs, Green Birding, Not Birds, Volusia Birding | 2 Comments

Little Costa Rica Birding Trip Report Part 3

Last year Arthur and I visited Costa Rica for 11 days in May. This is Part 3 of my little 3-part series. Here are Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them. Now I’ll post some highlights from our time traveling from Monteverde to the Los Quetzals National Park area.

May 13 2016
Friday the 13th we had an epic drive from Monteverde to San Gerardo de Dota. We drove along the Pacific Coast and had a few stops before arriving at our lodge well after dark. At Playa Galardonda we added Scarlet Macaw to our life list. We stopped at a ditch along the highway when we thought we saw a kingfisher — we ended up adding both Amazon Kingfisher and Ringed Kingfisher to our list. The best sighting of the day was a brief but clear and diagnostic view of an adult King Vulture flying over the car along a stretch of highway where it was unfortunately impossible to stop.

May 14 2016
Saturday morning we joined a bird walk from a local guide. The target species for this walk was the Resplendent Quetzal and we were not disappointed with great views of at least 5 individuals. We spent the rest of the day birding around the lodge’s property and hiking to a local waterfall. Over several checklists we added 31 lifers: 16 species total; 39 species; 9 species; 13 species.

Resplendent Quetzal
Male Resplendent Quetzal

Exploring Los Quetzals National Park

Rufous-collared Sparrow
Rufous-collared Sparrow at Los Quetzals National Park

May 15 2016
We remained on Savegre property on this gloomy day. In the morning we walked around and looked for birds along a steep and buggy trail. In the afternoon there were torrential rains so we stayed inside. Late in the day we had another short bird outing for the last time on the trip. The following day we picked up huge packed lunches from the lodge to take with us to the airport for our flight back home.

Flame-colored Tanager
Flame-colored Tanager at Savegre

Black-faced Solitaire
Black-faced Solitaires at Savegre

Costa Rica Lifers May 13-15 2016

Scarlet Macaw Playa Galardonada 13-May-16
Costa Rican Swift Playa Galardonada 13-May-16
Cherrie’s Tanager Playa Hermosa NWR 13-May-16
Gray-breasted Martin Playa Hermosa NWR 13-May-16
Northern Jacana Playa Hermosa NWR 13-May-16
Pinnated Bittern Playa Hermosa NWR 13-May-16
King Vulture CR-Puntarenas King Vulture stop 13-May-16
Amazon Kingfisher CR-Puntarenas-Aguirre-Highway 34 13-May-16
Ringed Kingfisher CR-Puntarenas-Aguirre-Highway 34 13-May-16
Sooty Thrush San Gerardo de Dota 13-May-16
Sooty-capped Chlorospingus Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Collared Redstart Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Yellow-winged Vireo Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Mountain Elaenia Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Acorn Woodpecker Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Resplendent Quetzal Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Spotted Wood-Quail Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Yellow-thighed Finch Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Chestnut-capped Brushfinch Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Slaty Flowerpiercer Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Spangle-cheeked Tanager Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Black-cheeked Warbler Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Flame-throated Warbler Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Black-faced Solitaire Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Ochraceous Wren Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Brown-capped Vireo Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Dark Pewee Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Paltry Tyrannulet Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Spot-crowned Woodcreeper Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Sulphur-winged Parakeet Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Stripe-tailed Hummingbird Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Volcano Hummingbird Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
White-throated Mountain-gem Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Fiery-throated Hummingbird Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Magnificent Hummingbird Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Ruddy Pigeon Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Band-tailed Pigeon Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Flame-colored Tanager Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Torrent Tyrannulet Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Collared Trogon Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 14-May-16
Barred Becard Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 15-May-16
Ruddy Treerunner Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 15-May-16
Streak-breasted Treehunter Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 15-May-16
Red-headed Barbet Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 15-May-16
White-collared Swift Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve and Spa 15-May-16
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Posted in Costa Rica, Life List, Not Birds, Travel | Leave a comment

Little Costa Rica Birding Trip Report Part 2

Last year Arthur and I visited Costa Rica for 11 days in May. This is Part 2 of my little 3-part series. Here’s Part 1 if you missed it. Read on for some highlights from our time around Monteverde.

May 10 2016
Tuesday morning we had a guided bird walk arranged by the hotel. During the hike we saw 36 species; we ended up with 20 lifers for the day. We had lunch at a nearby well-known birding hotspot, Stella’s, but it was practically devoid of birds during our visit.

Costa Rica walkies
Exploring around our Monteverde hotel

May 11 2016
The Monteverde area is well-known for zip-lining and hanging bridges. On May 11th we visited Selvatura Adventure Park for a self-guided walk around the hanging bridges and a nice long visit to their famous hummingbird garden. We added 14 lifers at Selvatura, including 4 species of hummingbird. Bird lists: hanging bridges walk; hummingbird garden.

Costa Rica hanging bridges
Hanging bridge at Selvatura Adventure Park

hummies everywhere omg
Hummingbird garden at Selvatura Adventure Park

Green-crowned Brilliant
Green-crowned Brilliant iPhone picture taken at Selvatura Adventure Park

May 12 2016
Thursday we took it easy and had a morning walk at a local preserve, Curi Canchi. Here we recorded 24 species, including 5 lifers.

Lesson's Motmot
Lesson’s Motmot at our hotel

Costa Rica Lifers May 10-12 2016

Yellow-crowned Euphonia Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
White-eared Ground-Sparrow Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Grayish Saltator Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Rufous-capped Warbler Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Rufous-and-white Wren Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Blue-and-white Swallow Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Three-wattled Bellbird Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Yellow-bellied Elaenia Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Ruddy Woodcreeper Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
White-fronted Parrot Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Brown-hooded Parrot Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Emerald Toucanet Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Orange-bellied Trogon Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Steely-vented Hummingbird Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Violet Sabrewing Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Canivet’s Emerald Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Masked Tityra Hotel El Bosque 10-May-16
Common Chlorospingus Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Black-and-yellow Tanager Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Silver-throated Tanager Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Slate-throated Redstart Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Costa Rican Warbler Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Tufted Flycatcher Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Black Guan Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Purple-throated Mountain-gem Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Green-crowned Brilliant Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Lesser Violetear Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Green Hermit Monteverde–Selvatura Park 11-May-16
Elegant Euphonia Curi-Cancha Refugio de Vida Silvestre 12-May-16
White-naped Brushfinch Curi-Cancha Refugio de Vida Silvestre 12-May-16
Golden-crowned Warbler Curi-Cancha Refugio de Vida Silvestre 12-May-16
Olivaceous Woodcreeper Curi-Cancha Refugio de Vida Silvestre 12-May-16
Black-crested Coquette Curi-Cancha Refugio de Vida Silvestre 12-May-16
Black-breasted Wood-Quail Hotel El Bosque 12-May-16
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Little Costa Rica Birding Trip Report Part 1

Last year Arthur and I visited Costa Rica for 11 days in May. We flew into San Jose on May 6th and rented a car for our trip. We stayed in three different locations for casual birding and exploring on our own: Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge in the shadow of the Arenal Volcano in Fortuna; Hotel El Bosque in Monteverde; and Savegre Hotel Natural Reserve & Spa inside the Los Quetzales National Park. Here I’ll post some highlights from our time around Fortuna.

May 7 2016
In the morning of our first full day we had a guided birding walk arranged by the lodge. We hiked around the lodge’s property and picked up a modest list of 25 species, 22 (!!) of which were lifers. That afternoon we went to a local park, Ecocentro Danaus, where we had a guided walk and explored on our own. Here we picked up 24 species, 15 of which were lifers. Besides birds we saw a 2-toed Sloth with baby, Spectacled Caimans, and an Agouti with a baby. Later in the afternoon we walked to La Fortuna Waterfall and had a dip in the cool fresh water. That evening we took a night hike on the lodge’s grounds and saw lots of interesting snakes, frogs, and insects. I recorded highlights on an eBird list with no birds, including Fer-de-lance, Loquacious Tree Frog, and a baby Hognose Pit Viper.

Collared Aracari
Collared Aracari at Ecocentro Danaus

May 8 2016
Sunday morning we birded a bit at our lodge and then headed to a famous local birding site, Arenal Observatory Lodge. I tried to book this hotel for our trip but they were full. Luckily day visitors can explore the grounds for birding. Here we walked the trails and picked up 14 lifers over several hours and checklists: 16+1 species total; 10 species; 17 species; 3 species; 4 species.

Arenal volcano
View of Arenal volcano from the Observatory Lodge

Passerini's Tanager
Passerini’s Tanager at Arenal Observatory Lodge

Blue-throated Goldentail
Blue-throated Goldentail at Arenal Observatory Lodge

May 9 2016
We started the morning with a little bit of birding around the lodge before packing up and heading to Monteverde. On the way we stopped at a big cat wildlife rescue center, Centro de Rescate Las Pumas, where we saw 5 species, including 3 lifers. On the drive we picked up several other lifers, including our first Keel-billed Toucan. We arrived at our hotel late in the afternoon and signed up for that evening’s night hike. This time we did manage to find a few birds.

on the road in Costa Rica
On the road to Monteverde

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron at Las Pumas

Costa Rica Lifers May 7-9 2016

Black-cowled Oriole Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Melodious Blackbird Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Red-throated Ant-Tanager Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Rufous-collared Sparrow Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Buff-throated Saltator Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
White-collared Seedeater Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Thick-billed Seed-Finch Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Palm Tanager Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Blue-gray Tanager Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Passerini’s Tanager Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Clay-colored Thrush Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
White-collared Manakin Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Social Flycatcher Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Long-tailed Tyrant Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Red-lored Parrot Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Laughing Falcon Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Black-cheeked Woodpecker Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Yellow-throated Toucan Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Red-billed Pigeon Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Gray Hawk Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Gray-headed Chachalaca Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 7-May-16
Yellow-throated Euphonia Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Variable Seedeater Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Common Tody-Flycatcher Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Golden-olive Woodpecker Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Collared Aracari Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Broad-billed Motmot Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Scaly-breasted Hummingbird Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Stripe-throated Hermit Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Long-billed Hermit Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
White-tipped Dove Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Ruddy Ground-Dove Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Russet-naped Wood-Rail Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Boat-billed Heron Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Great Curassow Eco Centro Danaus 7-May-16
Bronzed Cowbird Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 8-May-16
Yellow-faced Grassquit Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge 8-May-16
Montezuma Oropendola Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Buff-rumped Warbler Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Streaked Flycatcher Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Barred Parakeet Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Crested Guan Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Cabanis’s Wren Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Blue-throated Goldentail Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Brown Violetear Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
White-necked Jacobin Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Boat-billed Flycatcher Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Black-striped Sparrow Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
Red-legged Honeycreeper Arenal Observatory Lodge 8-May-16
White-throated Magpie-Jay Highway from Fortuna to Cañas 9-May-16
Hoffmann’s Woodpecker Centro de Rescate Las Pumas 9-May-16
Groove-billed Ani Centro de Rescate Las Pumas 9-May-16
Bare-throated Tiger-Heron Centro de Rescate Las Pumas 9-May-16
Rufous-naped Wren Highway from Cañas to Monteverde 9-May-16
Keel-billed Toucan Highway from Cañas to Monteverde 9-May-16
Turquoise-browed Motmot Highway from Cañas to Monteverde 9-May-16
Cinnamon Hummingbird Highway from Cañas to Monteverde 9-May-16
Inca Dove Highway from Cañas to Monteverde 9-May-16
Lesson’s Motmot Hotel El Bosque 9-May-16
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Knowing, handling, caring: A Turtle Encounter

Last month, a couple of things that had been passing through my bird-type social media circles came together in real life for me at Gemini Springs.

A May 2014 article from The Slate was being passed around on Facebook. Let Kids Run Wild in the Woods is subtitled “Let Kids Run Wild, Build Forts, and Pick Flowers. Nature Can Take It.” The major theme is about how knowing about a thing (broadly speaking, the environment) leads to caring about that thing.

Around the time this was being passed around my birding circles, the Wandering Herpetologist posted an article about the differences between birders and herpers. Herpers are people who are interested in amphibians and reptiles. The post points out that herpers are likely to handle herps in the wild, while birders tend to have a different attitude (for the most part, birders can’t really handle wild birds).

Also around this time, Arthur and I encountered a misguided good Samaritan who wanted to help a Gopher Tortoise. The man rescued the tortoise from the middle of the road, but his plan for release left much to be desired.

With these things planted in the back of my mind, I went birding at Gemini Springs on June 9th. As usual, I started my outing at the fishing pier. While looking for waders and other birds starting their day, a young man, maybe 12 years old, approached me. He got my attention because he wanted to show me something — a young Florida Softshell Turtle.

I had only recently seen my first ever softshell at Gemini Springs. That animal was about the size of the one in the young man’s hand, perhaps the same turtle, or one from the same nest.

Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone ferox)

At first I was mildly alarmed that he intended to drop the animal into the water right from the pier, a good ten-foot drop. I was quickly reassured. The young fisherman had inadvertently caught the turtle on his line. The hook safely removed, he was about to release the turtle. For some reason he decided to take a detour to show the animal to the stranger with binoculars, me, standing at the other end of the fishing pier. I was grateful. He told me about how fast these slippery animals can run, and he invited me to feel the turtle’s backside, to see why these turtles have the name they do. He obliged when I asked for a photo. I thanked the young man for the turtle lesson, truly appreciated, and watched him carefully walk around to a safe spot and gently release the turtle at the water’s edge.

Whatever this young man will grow up to be, he’s already a fine naturalist and budding environmental educator. It’s pretty obvious he was allowed to actively engage his environment as he’s played in the woods. And he’s clearly on the “handle the herps” side of that fence. I am certain that as an adult he will continue to care for the natural world, and isn’t that wonderful?

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Post-Christmas walk at Lake Apopka

Santa brought me a new camera for Christmas. Arthur and I headed to Lake Apopka on the 26th to give it a spin. The weather was fairly drearly and we missed seeing the Groove-billed Anis that have been hanging out there for a few weeks, but we had a nice walk and enjoyed our first visit to this local birding mecca.

We saw a couple of American Kestrels. One was quite distant and gave me a chance to check out the zoom on the camera. The bird is perched on the middle tree in the first photo below.

kestrel on center tree

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)

This Bobcat was also really far away. It disappeared into the reeds as we approached.

Bobcat [Lynx rufus]

We also spotted no less than four North American River Otters crossing the path or bounding alongside it.

North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis)

Along the trail we saw this pile of feathers. I think it might be an ex-American Bittern.

pile of feathers

detail of feather pile

We weren’t the only birders out looking for the anis.


Even though we missed the anis, we did manage to get some good birds, including a flyover Fulvous Whistling Duck, which was a lifer. That one goes on my Better View Desired list, for sure. I’m happy with the camera so far — looking forward to giving it a good workout in 2015 and beyond. 🙂


Here are my eBird checklists from the walk: out and back.

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Release contrasts

Marine Science Center release sign

Sometimes a rehabilitated bird needs some encouragement at the time of release. He or she might seem to not realize s/he is free. Such was the case with three juvenile Brown Pelicans that were released back in November in Ponce Inlet. The birds were rehabbed by the Mary Keller Seabird Rehabilitation Sanctuary at the Marine Science Center. The public was invited to the release. And the public showed up!

crowd gathered for bird release

Arthur and I were there to witness the somewhat confused birds eventually make their way to freedom.

Just a couple of weeks later, I had the extreme honor to release a juvenile Bald Eagle that had been rehabilitated by the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. It was not the first Bald Eagle release I had seen, but the first one I was able to release personally. It was awesome!

Bald Eagle release
Almost ready to go!

Bald Eagle talons
Killer talons, under control AT ALL TIMES!

The procedure here it to gently toss the eagle after it has had a moment to adjust to the situation. It wears a hood during transport to the release site, which helps the bird relax (I think this bird fell asleep in my lap on the drive over).

sleepy Bald Eagle
Sleeping Bald Eagle selfie

Bald Eagle release
Matt demonstrates tossing motion

The hood is removed and after a beat the bird is released with a gentle upward-motion toss. This doesn’t really leave any room for hesitation!

Bald Eagle release
No more hood!

Bald Eagle release

released Bald Eagle
Good luck, eagle!!

And then there are the rehabilitated sea turtles that may also be a bit confused at first when they are released. Here’s Benjamin, a sub-adult Loggerhead, who needed a little course correction after he was set free at water’s edge.

You just never know with wild animals, rehabilitation, and release — and that’s how it should be. Releases are pretty much always magical, even when the releasee causes gasps with unexpected flight patterns, unforeseen hesitation and surprising directional choices! Apparently November 2013 was a big month for releases — all three in this blog post occurred in that month!

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Posted in ACBOP, Florida, Not Birds, Rehabilitation | Leave a comment

The Turtle Hospital

Back in September, Arthur and I spent a few days camping at Bahia Honda State Park in the Middle Keys. One afternoon we took a break from snorkeling to visit the remarkable Turtle Hospital on Marathon.

Welcome to The Turtle Hospital

The Turtle Hospital has an interesting history. Here is a brief overview (related from signage at the hospital; any factual errors are mine).

It started when a man named Richie Moretti purchased Marathon’s Hidden Harbor Motel in 1981. The hotel had a 100,000 gallon saltwater pool, which was converted to display fish starting in 1984. The following year, local schools started visiting the hotel pool for marine education programs. Students asked, “where are the turtles?” Good question!

In 1986, Moretti obtained a permit to rehab sea turtles. The first patient arrived at the facility, now named the Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project, that same year. More patients arrived. Surgeries would be performed in re-purposed motel rooms.

The facility expanded in 1991 when the nightclub next door to the motel was purchased. The nightclub became The Turtle Hospital in 1992.

Turtle ambulances

In 2005, Hurricane Wilma hit the motel and hospital hard. Flooding to the property was extensive and the motel ceased operation. The entire facility registered as a non-profit organization and continued as a rehabilitation center and turtle hospital. Today, the motel rooms are used (in part) for storage, and to house interns, visitors, and staff.

There’s no doubt the facility used to be a motel!

In 2010 a brand new education facility, funded by the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate, opened at the hospital.

Life-size models of sea turtles

Lots of turtle information in the education center

turtle anatomy
Turtle insides!

Educational tours are offered several times daily. Our tour began with a presentation on the different types of turtles that come to the hospital.

The hospital used to be a nightclub!

Turtle classroom

Next we got to see where injured turtles are admitted and where operations and procedures occur. We could see that the patients can be quite large!

Turtle hospital operation room

The biggest patient ever admitted to the hospital

A turtle was recovering from a procedure when our tour came through. A member of the staff must stay with any turtle as it comes out of anesthesia to help it breathe — unconscious turtles don’t breathe on their own.

A patient recovers from anesthesia

We learned about the rehabilitation pools. The original sea water pool houses permanent residents as well as turtles at the last stage of rehab before release. Today the facility also has additional smaller tanks that can house turtles at various stages in their rehabilitation.

Map of the turtle rehabilitation tanks

Rehabilitation tanks

We learned about some of the patients. Jack was a Green Sea Turtle with the condition Fibropapilloma Virus. This may manifest as large growths, which can be seen on Jack’s front left flipper in this photo.


Xiomy was a Loggerhead Sea Turtle that was found in Islamorada as the victim of a boat strike. She had been admitted on July 29th, 2013. Xiomy was released in October.


We were surprised to learn that the hospital had an education turtle in residence. Zippy the Educational Ambassador is a Loggerhead Sea Turtle that came to the Hospital from Gumbo Limbo on July 28th, 2013. Florida Atlantic University has a research facility at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center; hatchling turtles are studied and then released. Zippy was kept to be an education ambassador; if I understood correctly, Zippy will eventually also be released back into the wild (with a very big head start!).

Hi Zippy!

Zippy with enrichment
Zippy’s tank includes interesting objects for enrichment

A few little hatchlings were in one of the tanks. These healthy little turtles would soon be released.

Loggerhead on the left, Green on the right

Finally we spent some time looking at the large pool, where we could see healthy turtles nearly ready for release as well as the hospital’s permanent residents.

Sea water pool

Rehab patients nearly ready for release

A patient in the final stages of rehab before release

The hospital has capacity to care for adult sea turtles that are no longer able to survive in the wild due to their injuries. Note the three round masses on the back of turtle in the lower right of the below photo. Those are weights; the turtle is unable to properly regulate its buoyancy on its own. Another turtle in the photo has one weight on its back.

Permanent resident sea turtles

We had a great time visiting The Turtle Hospital, and seeing the great work they do there. They have released over 1000 rehabilitated sea turtles back into the wild since 1986. Sometimes they invite the public to release events — they just released two turtles on February 14th. Keep an eye on The Turtle Hospital Facebook page to keep up with the latest news.

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Crane Point Museum and Nature Center

Crane Point
Panoramic view from Crane Point

During the weekend of December 7, Arthur attended a sea turtle rehabilitation conference in Marathon. Lucky me, I got to tag along and amuse myself for a day and a half in the Middle Keys. On Saturday, I spent nearly the entire day at beautiful and historic Crane Point, a rare wild space.

A trail at Crane Point

The first settler on the current Crane Point property was George Adderley, who came to the Keys from his home in the Bahamas in 1902. He built a traditional Bahamian stone home where he lived with his wife, Olivia, and their adopted daughter. Adderley made his living by sponging and making charcoal from wood. Adderley’s restored home still sits on the property, in the area where a small settlement known as Adderley village once stood.

Adderly House
Restored interior of George Adderley House

The Adderleys lived on their property until 1949, when they sold the mostly untouched land to Francis and Mary Crane, a wealthy couple from Massachusetts. The Cranes built a modern Art Deco-style home on the property, and added a few exotic trees and shrubs. For the most part, though, they left the hardwood hammock and other native habitats untouched. The Cranes lived on the property they renamed Crane Point until 1979.

Crane House
The Art Deco style Crane House

Today the 63-acre property is owned and managed by the Florida Keys Land and Sea Trust. Along with Adderley’s home, the site is also host to a history and nature museum, the Marathon Wild Bird Center (a bird hospital), the original Crane house, a replica Florida Cracker home which holds a collection of natural artifacts, and more. There are interpretive nature trails leading from the museum and gift shop to the end of the property as it reaches into Florida Bay. Visitors can explore the trails and attractions at their own pace. It’s a good idea to start any visit with a viewing of a short documentary on the history of Crane Point.

Cracker House
Natural artifacts in the Florida Cracker house

This Way
Follow the pelican to the Marathon Wild Bird Center

Oliver is a permanent resident at the Center

This Green Heron is also a permanent resident at the Center


I really enjoyed my visit to Crane Point. While not particularly birdy, I had a good time walking along the trails and reading the interpretive signs about the unique trees and plants found there. From the Point I saw a small Nurse Shark swimming in the shallow water. As I scrambled up the rocks to get a better look at the shark, I was extremely surprised to see an octopus working along the rocky edge of the island. I sat on the rocks for a good half hour waiting for the octopus to emerge; they have such amazing camouflage and are so clever I realized the creature may have slinked past my view out in the open and I may have missed it!

Wyland Mural
Detail of a Wyland mural on the Crane Point museum building

Boardwalk trail

I wasn’t done exploring by the time noon came around. I left to have a quick lunch at a nearby deli and returned in the afternoon to have a proper look at the museum and to walk the trails again. I saw even fewer birds than I had in the morning. I did get to see a pair of young raccoons slinking along the mangroves and further down the trail an agitated squirrel conveniently pointed out a corn snake slithering around a mangrove tree at about eye level. I spent more time at the Point, sitting at a picnic table in the Crane House gardens. There I had my best looks ever (but no photos) of a Magnificent Frigatebird, an adult with a bright red throat patch. It had a fish in its beak and was being chased by a couple of gulls. As I relaxed in the garden, Green Iguanas roamed around the Crane House grounds. I had a chance to photograph them as they sunned.

corn snake
No friend to the squirrels

Immature Magnificent Frigatebird

Green Iguana

Crane Point is a wonderful piece of wild Florida in the Middle Keys and well worth a visit. I’m sure I’ll be back again!

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While Arthur’s parents visited us earlier this year, Arthur went to one of his regular volunteer days at the Marine Science Center (MSC) in Ponce Inlet. All four of us drove to the sea and while Arthur did turtle work, I went to Lighthouse Point Park with my in-laws. It was May 1st.

We had lunch and then we walked out on the jetty and had a look around. Here’s a look back at the beach patrol tower from the jetty.

Lighthouse Point Park
Lighthouse Point Park, photo by Ineke de Wolf

About 40 minutes later, we were walking back and I saw a large mass on the beach, about halfway between the tower and the waterline in the above photo. I started running, because I thought it might be a sea turtle. It was a beached Loggerhead. It had beached during the short time we were on the jetty.

Beached Loggerhead 🙁

I immediately called the Marine Science Center to let them know there was a turtle that needed to be rescued. Meanwhile, a beach patrol officer pulled up on a buggy and carried the turtle out of the waterline so it would not be washed back to sea. A beached turtle is always in trouble and should not be put back to sea without being examined first. We waited for turtle experts from MSC to arrive.

Beach Patrol carries the sea turtle to safe location, photo by Ineke de Wolf


My father-in-law, Ben, waits for MSC staff to arrive

When MSC staff arrived, they evaluated the turtle. They realized they needed a larger vehicle to transport the turtle, which weighed in at over 100 pounds. We waited some more. A small crowd gathered.


My mother-in-law, Ineke, speaking with MSC staff


With the right vehicle, the turtle was carried off and brought to MSC for examination and rehabilitation.


The Loggerhead was examined and given care. It was underweight and weak but had no major injuries. The cause of its beaching and ill health was unknown. The size of the turtle made sexing difficult, though I will now refer to it as she. She was given the name Zee, the Dutch word for sea and a shortened form of Zeeschildpad, the Dutch word for sea turtle, in honor of Arthur’s Dutch family.

Info sign about Zee for MSC guests, photo by Arthur de Wolf

Rehabilitating turtles at MSC are kept in large saltwater tanks like the ones pictured below. These were taken earlier and do not show Zee.

Rehab tanks at MSC (prior to Zee’s arrival)

Arthur volunteering at MSC sea turtle rehab (prior to Zee’s arrival)

Arthur took photos of Zee during her rehab. She was cleaned up and given care and nutritious food. She ate like a champ from the beginning, which was a very good sign.

Zee on May 11th, photo by Arthur de Wolf

Zee on May 29th, photo by Arthur de Wolf

We last saw her on July 10th. Arthur volunteered that day and I came along to visit the Marine Science Center.

Zee on July 10th

Zee on July 10th

After some months in rehab, Zee was determined healthy enough for release. She gained 18 pounds and was ready to go, along with two other smaller Loggerheads. MSC announced the August 6 release to the public. And the public showed up!

Sea Turtle Release crowd

Sea Turtle Release crowd

Sea Turtle Release

Just after 1PM, the guests of honor arrived in two vehicles. Seymour and Parker, 55 pounds and 85 pounds, respectively, came together. Big Zee got her own ride.

Sea Turtle Release

The releases were awesome. It was so great to hear the crowd cheer when the turtles came out and made their way back to the ocean. People were especially impressed with Zee, as she was so much larger than the others. I have a few photos and a video to share, but I was mostly watching, so I don’t have great footage of everything. At the end of this post I will share some links to media sites with their coverage of the event.

Seymour was up first; you’ll see him in the video at the end of this post. Seymour was found by Beach Patrol, so he was carried out by four Beach Patrol volunteers.

Next came Parker, who was carried out by MSC volunteers. Like Seymour, Parker was carried out in a sling. He was set down close to the waterline and the sling was removed.



Finally, it was Zee’s turn. Staff and volunteers, including Arthur, carried her to sea.




After she entered the water, the crowd began to disperse. Those who kept watching were treated to several great looks at Zee surfacing for a breath.

Good luck, beautiful Zee!

Here is a video compilation of the releases.

Here is a video of Zee’s release posted to YouTube by spectator “OsloShag”:

“Zee” Loggerhead Sea Turtle Release 08-06-13 copyright YouTube user OsloShag

It was awesome to be able to see Zee return to where she belongs. She is a sub-adult, meaning she is not yet sexually mature. When she is ready, she will come back to the ocean close to where she was hatched and find a mate. Good luck, Zee, Parker, and Seymour!

Links to coverage of the release:
Ormond Beach Observer (pre-release)
Daytona Beach News-Journal (pre-)
NSB Observer (pre-)
WNDB (pre-)
WESH (post-release)
Daytona Beach News-Journal (post-)
Florida Family Nature [blog] (post-)
MSC Facebook album (post-)
Ocean Advocate [blog] (post-)
Marine Science Center press release with photos
Sea Turtle Release Facebook album
Video segment on Volusia Magazine TV show

If I find more coverage I will add links here.

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Posted in Florida, Not Birds | 2 Comments