Red hot sun

Boy oh boy is it hot out there. Here in central Florida we’ve been running just a degree or two above normal temperatures, into the mid-90s, but the “feels like” temperature has climbed over 100 for the past few days. And even though its the rainy season, until late this afternoon we hadn’t had any rain for several days.

I went out early this afternoon to look for birds at Gemini Springs and was not surprised to find little action. I did see my first of fall American Redstart, and a couple of lingering Swallow-tailed Kites, but for the most part it seemed to be too hot even for butterflies to be on the wing. It was certainly too hot for reasonably intelligent humans to be out. ๐Ÿ˜‰

As I was walking along the bike path on my way back to the park proper, I saw a small red mass at the forest edge. When I made out the red blob to be a Northern Cardinal, my first thought was that I had found a dead bird. But I quickly realized that the little dude was just sunning himself, positioning his feathers to expose just the right ones to the hot sun. Unfortunately my appearance startled the red hot fellow so he flew off with a surprised chirp.

Sunning Northern Cardinal

I took the photos in this post back in May. He’s just standing at an odd angle, no weird wing contortions here. I wonder if its the same sun-worshipping cardinal I came upon this afternoon?

Sunning Northern Cardinal

Sunning Northern Cardinal

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Birding Gemini Springs, July 2013

I only birded at Gemini Springs twice during July. In my defense, Arthur and I spent much of the month up in Illinois visiting family and friends. Also, it’s crazy hot here in July. Anyway, on those two outings I saw 25 species of bird. Nothing new for my all-time list but Barn Swallow was new for me at the park for the year. The complete list is at the end of this post.

Last July I didn’t publish a summary post like this one. I only birded at Gemini Springs once that month (!!), with a total species list of 23 birds. Since I have so few photos to share from this year, here is a photo of a baby Barred Owl I took at the park last year. I had much better luck with baby owls last year.

Barred Owl
Young Barred Owl | 02 July 2012

On July 7th Arthur and I took a late morning walk at the park. We were treated to a loose group of seven Swallow-tailed Kites soaring over the fishing pier.

shadows
Shadow of Arthur and your blogger | 07 July 2013

STKI
Swallow-tailed Kites | 07 July 2013

Anhinga
Even Anhingas get hot in Florida in July | 07 July 2013

My other visit was on July 13th, when butterflies dominated the landscape. The number of Gulf Fritillaries especially was remarkable. They were everywhere!

White Peacock
White Peacock | 13 July 2013

6 Gulf Fritillaries
6 Gulf Fritillaries | 13 July 2013

Gulf Fritillary
Gulf Fritillary | 13 July 2013

July 2013 bird list, Gemini Springs

Anhinga – Anhinga anhinga
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias
Great Egret – Ardea alba
Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
Tricolored Heron – Egretta tricolor
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Swallow-tailed Kite – Elanoides forficatus
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata
American Coot – Fulica americana
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Great Crested Flycatcher – Myiarchus crinitus
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Barn Swallow – Hirundo rustica
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Northern Parula – Setophaga americana
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major

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Zee

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.

Zee
Beached Loggerhead ๐Ÿ™

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.

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

Zee

Zee
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.

Zee

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

Zee

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

Zee

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.

Zee
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.

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

MSC
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
Zee on May 11th, photo by Arthur de Wolf

Zee
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
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.

Parker

Parker

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

Zee

Zee

Zee

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.

Zee
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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My visitors came from *where* in July 2013?!?!

Here are some highs and lows I found in my statcounter logs for July.

For some reason I found a lot of loon activity last month. Common Loons pass through Illinois in spring and fall migration, with numbers peaking around the first week of April and mid-November. They winter off of Florida, with birds recorded in most months from November through April. Since those two states feature almost exclusively on this blog, I’m pretty sure the person searching for where is the best place to hear loon during july and august didn’t find their answer here. This eBird map shows Common Loon sightings globally during those months. Again, eBird has the answer. ๐Ÿ™‚ Though I’m not sure how much calling the birds do outside of courting. Someone else wondered are there loons in chain o lakes illinois? To which I answer YES, get out there in April and your chances will be very good. You could even join a group specifically out looking for loons! Finally, someone was looking for a loon like birds in illinois. Since there are loons in Illinois, that loon-like bird may have been a LOON. However, if the bird was seen in July, my suggestion would be to look at the Double-crested Cormorant.

Owls dominated once again, with lots of searches for owls in Illinois ending up on my post (My) Owls of Illinois. Folks were also looking for information on the lake county illinois audobon owl boxes (voilร ) and other specific searches for barn owl endangered illinois and related. I like that someone wondered how many babies does a barred owl have at once. My guess would be two. I checked BNA, which indicates that clutch size ranges from 1 to 5 with the average being 2-3. Someone wanted to know Is there an owl in Illinois that has yellow claws. Some have yellow feet, but a very quick check leads me to believe they all have black talons. Finally, someone needed some more personal advice when searching for what kind of owl in my backyard? I’m not a psychic, yo.

I love that someone searched for green caterpillar with horn missouri because that’s pretty much what I do when I want to ID a caterpillar or moth or butterfly or snake or bug I don’t know – start with a Google search of the unknown creature’s physical characteristics and where it was found. I usually have pretty good luck. I hope this seeker did as well.

The person looking for bird- themed movies landed on this old post. I hope they found two upcoming titles: A Birder’s Guide to Everything and The Birder.

Someone wanted to know names & photos of the birds that preen. Um, all of them?

And last, here’s my favorite typo of the month: paragon falcon eating pigeon.

Happy August!

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Back home

In May I paid a short visit to my parents and spent some time relaxing in their suburban Chicagoland back yard, observing their winged visitors.

American Robin
American Robin post bath | 20-MAY-13

Blue Jay
Blue Jay | 18-MAY-13

Common Grackle
Common Grackle | 20-MAY-13

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird | 18-MAY-13

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker | 18-MAY-13

I was delighted to see a Gray Catbird visiting the grape jelly feeders. I think this was my first sighting of this species in their yard.

Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird | 19-MAY-13

The number of orioles visiting the grape jelly and oranges on offer was ridiculous. An embarrassment of orioles. Also, really good plumage study opportunities.

Baltimore Oriole 5
Baltimore Oriole | 18-MAY-13

Baltimore Oriole 2
Baltimore Oriole | 18-MAY-13

Baltimore Oriole 1
Baltimore Oriole | 18-MAY-13

Baltimore Oriole 3
Baltimore Oriole | 18-MAY-13

Baltimore Oriole 6
Baltimore Oriole | 19-MAY-13

Baltimore Oriole 7
Baltimore Oriole | 20-MAY-13

My dad made the grape jelly feeders from rejected Sweet Tomatoes ice cream bowls. He noted that some of the orioles would perch on the bowl, while others would stand next to it and stretch their neck to reach the jelly. Maybe the bird’s position depended on the volume of jelly in the bowl? This individual had a half-half wide stance.

Baltimore Oriole 4
Baltimore Oriole | 18-MAY-13

One afternoon I watched an Orchard Oriole poking its head into probably hundreds of blossoms on a very large apple tree. I observed the bird on and off over the course of about six hours. That’s one busy oriole. He left no blossom left unsucked!

Orchard Oriole
Orchard Oriole | 18-MAY-13

A while back Arthur and I gave my dad a peek-a-boo birdhouse that has a plexiglass-protected hinged side for nest vieiwing. The idea is that observers can lift open up the wooden outside panel and quickly view the inside with minimal disturbance to the birds. My dad isn’t interested in disturbing the birds at all. I appreciate that, but I just couldn’t resist taking a peek during my visit. I looked once early on my week-long visit, and once more just before I left. Both times I found a Black-capped Chickadee sitting on eggs. In this very quickly-snapped photo you can see the tail feathers of the incubating adult pressed against the plexiglass wall. To the right you can see her beak as she turns her head to the side. Look at the soft moss bed that makes up the base of the nest.

Black-capped Chickadee nest
Black-capped Chickadee on nest | 16-MAY-13

During all of this bird-watching I had to contend with the overpowering odor emanating from a blooming lilac bush. It was tough, let me tell you.

stinky lilac
FRAGRANT | 18-MAY-13

Soon Arthur and I will head north to visit my parents once more. I think I’ll see many of the same birds this summer as I saw during late spring, but believe it or not, migration is underway (it kind of always is, actually).

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Banded Sandhill Crane

after

On May 10, 2012, I took a hike at my old patch, Rollins Savanna, while visiting my parents in Lake County, Illinois. During my walk I saw a trio of Sandhill Cranes.

apulets

The birds were remarkable for two reasons: 1) they were being harassed by a determined Red-winged Blackbird, and 2) one of the cranes was banded. I dutifully reported the sighting.

Banded Sandhill Crane

Two weeks ago, I received this certificate of appreciation. Click the certificate to see full size.

cert_small

The bird I saw was about three years old at the time and was banded not too far away at Chain O Lakes State Park as a pre-fledgling. How cool is that? This was the first time I reported a banded bird (though since then I reported another and heard back from the bander shortly thereafter). This is the first green certificate I’ve received. ๐Ÿ˜€

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Birding Gemini Springs, June 2013

I birded Gemini Springs 5 times in June, finding just 39 different species. This is a huge improvement over the measly 27 species I found there last June (in just two outings). I was deep into my first June Challenge in 2012, which is why I kind of neglected my local patch last year. This year I kind of neglected birding altogether and just succumbed to the heat. BAD BIRDER!! Anyway, my total June 2013 list is at the end of this post. And I was able to add a new species to my Gemini Springs list. Early in the month I heard an Eastern Towhee calling close to the bike trail access parking lot.

Anhinga
Anhinga | 02-JUN-13

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker at nest cavity | 02-JUN-13

On June 2nd I stopped at one of the bridges to chat with a couple that was walking a pair of dogs. The friendly woman pointed out a basking Red-eared Slider to me and mentioned that she never saw turtles at the park — and that she was there several times a week. This was really surprising to me as I would estimate that I see turtles 95% of the time I visit Gemini Springs. I don’t often see them basking like this one and I hardly ever photograph them.

Red-eared Slider
Red-eared Slider | 02-JUN-13

The most interesting find for the month was a pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks I was surprised to find standing on the fishing pier early in the month. This was the third time I’ve seen this species at the park; the previous sightings were in August 2011 and August 2012.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Black-bellied Whistling Duck | 04-JUN-13

gator
American Alligator | 04-JUN-13

Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron | 04-JUN-13

Spicebush Swallowtail
Spicebush Swallowtail | 04-JUN-13

Boat-tailed Grackle female
Boat-tailed Grackle relaxing on the fishing pier | 16-JUN-13

Common Gallinule
Preening Common Gallinule | 16-JUN-13

Fish Crows
Begging baby Fish Crows | 16-JUN-13

Summer is a traditional time for birders to start paying attention to local odes. Odes is short for odonates, which is the taxonomical order of dragonflies and damselflies. It’s true, the odes (and leps) were calling in June.

Eastern Pondhawk male
Eastern Pondhawk male | 28-JUN-13

Golden-winged-Skimmer
Golden-winged Skimmer | 28-JUN-13

Gulf Fritillary
Gulf Fritillary | 28-JUN-13

rushing water
Muscovy Duck in rushing spring water | 28-JUN-13

Mourning Dove in morning light
Mourning Dove & Carolina Wren in tree | 28-JUN-13

June 2013 bird list, Gemini Springs

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck – Dendrocygna autumnalis
Muscovy Duck – Cairina moschata
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
Green Heron – Butorides virescens
White Ibis – Eudocimus albus
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
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Common Ground-Dove – Columbina passerina
Barred Owl – Strix varia
Chimney Swift – Chaetura pelagica
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
Great Crested Flycatcher – Myiarchus crinitus
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Northern Parula – Setophaga americana
Eastern Towhee – Pipilo erythrophthalmus
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major

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Tricolored Heron fish snatch dance

Tricolored Heron

For the longest time I would misspell Tricolored Heron as Tri-colored Heron. In fact, I just searched this blog and found three instances in older posts. Le sigh. I think I’ve finally got it through my thick skull. I hope so, anyway.

Tricolored Heron

Lucky me, Tricolored Herons are regulars at my local patch. They can be a bit frenetic in their hunting behavior. This sequence shows one individual snatching a little snack.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

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My visitors came from *where* in June 2013?!?!

Here are the highlights and lowlights from my little corner of the interwebs during the last month.

Statcounter, GO!

I hope the person who searched for a list of birds at flights of wonder found what s/he was looking for… but if not, another search in a week or so might be helpful. ๐Ÿ™‚

eBird bait came in the form of the search what kinds of birds are native to volusia county? The answer can be found by using eBird’s great Bar Charts feature.

Sometimes I wish there was an eSnake, as may the persons who searched for florida snakes volusia county and florida snakes identification. The Florida Museum of Natural History has a handy List of Florida Snakes which is a good place to start. I get visitors looking for snakes and other herps coming in on my Herpetology Life List.

I was interested to see someone searching for the birds of prey maitland fl live web cam. Last month a site sharing feeds from the large flight chamber at ACBOP went live. It can be found here: Eagle Eyes on the Environment Disney Flight Barn Cams. If you tune in Thursday mornings, you just might catch a glimpse of ME! ๐Ÿ™‚

The search man made great horned owl nest made me giggle because it reminded me of this photo. And the cute typo oreo bird nest was good for a chuckle, too.

Happy July!!

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Gallinule War!

It’s been hot. High-in-the-mid-90s-F-every-day hot. The humidity has been hovering at about 100% at dawn, so it feels just a wee bit oppressive. Maybe the heat wave was behind the aggressive behavior I saw among a few Common Gallinules at Gemini Springs last week? An overcast sky really kept the air saturated. It was sticky and uncomfortable. And everybody was kung-fu fighting, basically.

One pair was already going at it when a second pair started to mix it up. You can see the bird in the center of the photo spewing forth a murderous war cry. A millisecond later – BATTLE!

Gallinule War!

Gallinule War!

Scuffles were sometimes initiated by aggressive wing-waving and sunken body position.

Gallinule War!

Gallinule War!

After the flapping, the big guns came out – those crazy gallinule feet.

Gallinule War!

Gallinule War!

Gallinule War!

You can see posturing, grabbing, flapping and finally what I would call sailboating in this video, which was taken after all of the above photos were snapped.

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