Author Archives: Amy

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.

sign
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.

ambulances
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.

motel
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.

education
Life-size models of sea turtles

education
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.

hospital
The hospital used to be a nightclub!

classroom
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!

operation
Turtle hospital operation room

biggie
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.

recovery
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
Map of the turtle rehabilitation tanks

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.

Jack
Jack

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.

Xiomy
Xiomy

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!).

Zippy
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.

hatchlings
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.

pool
Sea water pool

rehab
Rehab patients nearly ready for release

rehab
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.

residents
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.

Posted in Endangered, Florida, Herps, Nature Center, Not Birds | Leave a comment

2013 BirdLife success stories

BirdLife International Logo

BirdLife International had some great conservation success stories in 2013. They are asking supporters, birders and conservation-minded fans to vote on their favorite success story of the year.

Last year was an important year for the BirdLife Partnership. Our network grew to cover nearly two thirds of the world’s countries and territories – totalling 120 organisations and growing. Together, we’ve done some amazing things towards creating a world where nature and people live in greater harmony, more equitably and sustainably.

The highlighted success stories are: Stopping the slaughter of falcons in India; Northern Bald Ibis fledge 148 chicks in the wild; Protecting 60,000 ha of Hooded Grebe habitat in Patagonia; Removing a killer power line in Sudan; Saving Panama Bay from destruction; and Helping one of the rarest birds on the planet. Wow, what a bunch of great news for birds and habitat in so many different places! It is hard to pick a ‘favorite’ story because they are all so uplifting. I voted on the successful breeding season for the Northern Bald Ibis — I think birds that are not traditionally considered to be beautiful or majestic sometimes get looked over. I was happy to give my vote to these bald beauties. 🙂

Visit BirdLife International’s website to learn about the highlights and vote on your favorite: Highlights from the world’s biggest conservation partnership. Voting ends February 14th.

Posted in Aside, Conservation | Leave a comment

Birding Gemini Springs, January 2014

Last month I birded at Gemini Springs six times, finding 70 different species. That’s two more species than my January 2013 list — in about half the visits. King Rail, Mallard, and Mottled Duck were new additions to my patch list. The complete list for this month is at the end of this post. Now, here are some photographic highlights from birding at Gemini Springs in January 2014.

Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow | 10 Jan 2014

Anhinga
Anhinga | 13 Jan 2014

Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker | 13 Jan 2014

reflection
reflection | 13 Jan 2014

Yellow-throated Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler | 13 Jan 2014

Northern Mockingbird
ready for my close-up | 18 Jan 2014

Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler | 18 Jan 2014

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe | 19 Jan 2014

red sunrise
sunrise colors and moon | 19 Jan 2014

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler | 19 Jan 2014

misty morning
misty morning | 20 Jan 2014

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk | 20 Jan 2014

Gemini Springs, January 2013 month list
Wood Duck – Aix sponsa
Mallard (Domestic type) – Anas platyrhynchos (Domestic type)
Mottled Duck – Anas fulvigula
Hooded Merganser – Lophodytes cucullatus
Pied-billed Grebe – Podilymbus podiceps
Wood Stork – Mycteria americana
Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus
Anhinga – Anhinga anhinga
American Bittern – Botaurus lentiginosus
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
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
King Rail – Rallus elegans
Sora – Porzana carolina
Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata
American Coot – Fulica americana
Sandhill Crane – Grus canadensis
Caspian Tern – Hydroprogne caspia
Forster’s Tern – Sterna forsteri
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens
Northern Flicker – Colaptes auratus
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike – Lanius ludovicianus
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Tree Swallow – Tachycineta bicolor
Carolina Chickadee – Poecile carolinensis
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
House Wren – Troglodytes aedon
Marsh Wren – Cistothorus palustris
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula
American Robin – Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Brown Thrasher – Toxostoma rufum
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Cedar Waxwing – Bombycilla cedrorum
Black-and-white Warbler – Mniotilta varia
Orange-crowned Warbler – Oreothlypis celata
Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Pine Warbler – Setophaga pinus
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
Yellow-throated Warbler – Setophaga dominica
Prairie Warbler – Setophaga discolor
Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerina
Savannah Sparrow – Passerculus sandwichensis
Swamp Sparrow – Melospiza georgiana
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Painted Bunting – Passerina ciris
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major
American Goldfinch – Spinus tristis

Posted in Gemini Springs | Leave a comment

Birding Gemini Springs, December 2013

Yikes, I’m so far behind where I want to be with my blogging! What happened to January, that’s what I want to know?!

In December 2013 I birded at Gemini Springs five times, where I saw a total of 67 species (4 more than my 2012 December total). New for my all-time Gemini Springs list was Great Horned Owl on Christmas Day. My total bird list is at the end of this post. Here are some photographic highlights from a month of birding my local patch.

Gemini Springs
Dam viewed from the fishing pier | 03 December 2013

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk | 03 December 2013

eBird record shot
Very late American Redstart | 11 December 2013

ex-armadillo
ex-armadillo | 16 December 2013

Bobcat
Bobcat | 16 December 2013

Common Ground-Doves
Common Ground-Doves | 16 December 2013

Common Snapping Turtle
Common Snapping Turtle | 16 December 2013

pre dawn
Before sunrise | 20 December 2013

Anhinga sunrise
Anhinga sunrise | 20 December 2013

easy rider
easy rider | 20 December 2013

American Kestrel
American Kestrel | 20 December 2013

Loggerhead Shrike
Loggerhead Shrike | 20 December 2013

memorial
memorial | 20 December 2013

Eastern Phoebes
Eastern Phoebes | 25 December 2013

Late in the afternoon on Christmas Day, Arthur and I biked the Spring-to-spring bike trail to Lake Monroe Park. It was getting dark on our way back when a softly hooting Great Horned Owl stopped us in our tracks. Soon we heard a second bird and did our best to locate them visually. Arthur spotted one bird and we tracked it as it flew to its mate. A new bird for the park and a nice Christmas gift for us. 🙂

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl | 25 December 2013

Gemini Springs bird list, December 2013

Wood Duck – Aix sponsa
Pied-billed Grebe – Podilymbus podiceps
Wood Stork – Mycteria americana
Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus
Anhinga – Anhinga anhinga
American Bittern – Botaurus lentiginosus
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
Sora – Porzana carolina
Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata
American Coot – Fulica americana
Ring-billed Gull – Larus delawarensis
Forster’s Tern – Sterna forsteri
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Common Ground-Dove – Columbina passerina
Great Horned Owl – Bubo virginianus
Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
American Kestrel – Falco sparverius
Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike – Lanius ludovicianus
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Blue-headed Vireo – Vireo solitarius
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Tree Swallow – Tachycineta bicolor
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
American Robin – Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Brown Thrasher – Toxostoma rufum
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Cedar Waxwing – Bombycilla cedrorum
Black-and-white Warbler – Mniotilta varia
Orange-crowned Warbler – Oreothlypis celata
Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
American Redstart – Setophaga ruticilla
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Pine Warbler – Setophaga pinus
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
Yellow-throated Warbler – Setophaga dominica
Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerina
Swamp Sparrow – Melospiza georgiana
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major
American Goldfinch – Spinus tristis

Posted in Gemini Springs | Leave a comment

#SCBWF Pelagic January 27, 2014

On Monday my friend Kim and I boarded the Pastime Princess for the annual Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival (SCBWF) pelagic trip out of Ponce Inlet. I used the same method as last time to track our trip. The light gray dotted line along the bottom of the map on the left side shows the Volusia County border; we were within Volusia waters for the entire trip.

pelagic map
Click here for full view of map

Seas were extremely calm, which unfortunately meant that few birds were on the wing. The easygoing, relaxed ride made it simple for me to check our location every half hour or so. The dock (start/end point) is somewhere northwest of point A in the inlet. When calculating distance between points, I used a straight line. At our farthest we were just about 50 miles offshore and we traveled a total of somewhere around 150 miles. I added a table to the end of this post showing where we were at what time.

placid
placid water

From about 8:45 to about 11:30 we saw zero birds. Two Audubon’s Shearwaters in the early afternoon and a pair of jaegers (one Pomarine and one Parasitic) as we approached land on the way back were the most exciting birds. Northern Gannets were in relative abundance closer to shore and we could study their plumage cycles. In total I recorded 28 species, most of which were found in the inlet at the start and end of the day. I entered six eBird checklists; see the links at the end of this post.

Northern Gannet immature
Northern Gannet, 1st cycle

Four washback sea turtles were released near beds of Sargassum. Two of the youngsters were from the Marine Science Center and two were from Sea World. There were three Greens and one Loggerhead.

sea turtle release
Michael Brothers holds baby sea turtles prior to release. Green on the left; Loggerhead on the right

We did see 6 to 8 adult Loggerhead Sea Turtles throughout the day. We also came across pods of Common Bottlenose (in the inlet) and Atlantic Spotted Dolphins during the journey. Twice we were lucky to have some spotteds join us as we clipped along at speed. They were a ton of fun to watch. Look for the baby in the below video.

Species list, January 27 2014 pelagic:

Black Scoter – Melanitta americana
Common Loon – Gavia immer
Audubon’s Shearwater – Puffinus lherminieri
Northern Gannet – Morus bassanus
Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus
Brown Pelican – Pelecanus occidentalis
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias
Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
Green Heron – Butorides virescens
Black-crowned Night-Heron – Nycticorax nycticorax
White Ibis – Eudocimus albus
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
American Oystercatcher – Haematopus palliatus
Ruddy Turnstone – Arenaria interpres
Purple Sandpiper – Calidris maritima
Pomarine Jaeger – Stercorarius pomarinus
Parasitic Jaeger – Stercorarius parasiticus
Bonaparte’s Gull – Chroicocephalus philadelphia
Laughing Gull – Leucophaeus atricilla
Ring-billed Gull – Larus delawarensis
Herring Gull – Larus argentatus
Lesser Black-backed Gull – Larus fuscus
Great Black-backed Gull – Larus marinus
Royal Tern – Thalasseus maximus
Sandwich Tern – Thalasseus sandvicensis
Black Skimmer – Rynchops niger
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major

Here are my eBird checklists from the day:

eBird checklist: 6:45AM, 45 minutes, 5.35 miles
eBird checklist: 7:30AM, 1 hour 15 minutes, 15.98 miles
eBird checklist: 11:30AM, 2 hours, 25.85 miles
eBird checklist: 3:00PM, 30 minutes, 5.87 miles
eBird checklist: 3:30PM, 1 hour 10 minutes, 14.06 miles
eBird checklist: 4:40PM, 1 hour 50 minutes, 22.67 miles

Here’s where we were, when:

Marker Time Latitude, Longitude Distance
A 6:47AM 29 1.38N, 80 54.53W
B 7:32AM 29 4.47N, 80 54.18W 5.35 miles
C 7:50AM 29 4.25N, 80 52.27W 1.92 miles
D 8:19AM 29 1.28N, 80 45.57W 7.56 miles
E 8:45AM 28 59.36N, 80 39.47W 6.50 miles
F 9:43AM 28 52.57N, 80 26.58W 15.07 miles
G 10:23AM 28 48.7N, 80 17.58W 10.17 miles
H 11:04AM 28 48.26N, 80 6.48W 11.25 miles
I 11:36AM 28 49.17N, 80 0.22W 6.38 miles
J 12:25PM 28 51.43N, 79 48.48W 12.15 miles
K 1:00PM 28 53.49N, 79 54.12W 6.21 miles
L 1:30PM 28 55.5N, 80 1.18W 7.49 miles
M 2:01PM 28 55.58N, 80 6.17W 5.03 miles
N 2:31PM 28 57.12N, 80 13.30W 7.40 miles
O 3:01PM 28 58.36N, 80 18.28W 5.23 miles
P 3:32PM 29 0.44N, 80 23.6W 5.87 miles
Q 3:39PM 29 1.56N, 80 27.54W 4.14 miles
R 4:40PM 29 3.39N, 80 37.14W 9.92 miles
S 5:03PM 29 3.58N, 80 43.51W 6.41 miles
T 5.31PM 29 4.52N, 80 51.45W 8.08 miles
return A approx 6:30PM 8.18 miles
Posted in Pelagic, Space Coast Fest, Volusia Birding | Leave a comment

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.

trail
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
Oliver is a permanent resident at the Center

GRHE
This Green Heron is also a permanent resident at the Center

mangroves
Mangroves

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

trail
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

MAFR
Immature Magnificent Frigatebird

monster
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!

Posted in Florida, Museum, Nature Center, Not Birds | Leave a comment

2013 Year in Rearview

A new year begins! In the final months of 2013 I fell quite behind going through my photos and posting regular blog updates. The last four months were an amazing blur and I still have things I want to share, hopefully in due time!! Arthur and I visited the Keys (twice!!), we traveled to the Bahamas on a minicruise, we saw a Snowy Owl in Florida, and more. I even got to release a Bald Eagle.

Thank you, dear readers, for following my blog. With the demise of Google Reader back in July, I lost track of a lot of my favorite blogs. I just couldn’t manage to find a substitute application I liked as much as Google’s product. I think that kind of put a damper on my motivation to keep up my own blog, unfortunately. I have since found a solution that works for me, and I started following a lot of my old favorite birding blogs once more, though a lot of my fellow bloggers are also posting less as time marches on. I’m not sure if I’ll manage to keep up this blog going forward, but I aim to try. I at least have to tell you all about the Keys, the Bahamas, the Snowy Owl, and the Bald Eagle release! And when those posts are done, maybe I’ll post a proper “year in review”. 🙂

Happy 2014 and good birding to all!

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

Below are a few notable search terms that brought visitors to this site during December 2013. You can see previous editions of this monthly post here. With this entry, the third year-long installment (prior years being 2009 and 2011) of this blog series concludes. The following search terms are listed without comment.

pictures of baby barred owls

can squirrels have oranges

SNAKES IN VOLUSIA COUNTY FL

snowy owl sightings 2013 illinois

types of wild birds found in Volusia county

funny google auto vomplete

Happy 2014 and GOOD BIRDING to all!

Posted in Search Terms | Leave a comment

CBC highs & lows

If you ever want to feel really good about your skills as a birder, I highly recommend spending a day working a suburban Christmas Bird Count (CBC) route with two non-birders. That’s what I did last Saturday and I had a blast with two neat ladies who volunteered after reading about the Christmas Bird Count in the local newspaper.

Prior to last week I had only participated in one CBC. A couple of weeks ago I looked at the map of CBC circles and was surprised to see that our house is within the circle of the Wekiva River CBC, and so is Gemini Springs. Score! Or so I thought. I contacted the compiler and hoped hard for assignment at my local patch. Instead, I was asked to help in area 14, a segment that had two volunteers lined up but could use a third pair of eyes, hopefully with some birding experience. So that’s where I went.

Area 14, mostly in the cities of Lake Mary and Longwood, is almost completely developed with suburban homes and shopping centers. It is an area with which I was (and still am) basically not familiar, but that didn’t matter. My partners in crime, Laurie and Anne, were driver and navigator and came equipped with intimate knowledge of the area. I came with my scope and my modest birding skills. We hit retention ponds, city parks, and store parking lots, looking for birds at every stop. It’s kind of neat how pointing up in the sky at a bunch of tiny dots and shouting out “30 Cedar Waxwings flying overhead!” seems a bit like magic to non-birders. I found specks across ponds in my scope and ID’d them, sharing the view with Laurie and Anne. Laurie kept tally. They both got us access to several ponds that were completely surrounded by homes — by visiting their friends or by boldly making new ones, on the spot. We stepped into a lot of backyards during our day.

At one of our first stops we came across more Black-bellied Whistling Ducks than I had ever seen in one place before. Our final count there was 87 birds. They were flying around, making their adorable chirping calls, sparring, foraging, and loafing around. I am pretty sure they were lifers for Laurie and Anne. We stayed here for while, because new birds kept coming into view every time I scanned the water. Wood Ducks multiplied before our eyes. My first of fall American White Pelican flew over. A Belted Kingfisher rattled. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers buzzed in the trees around us.

At each small body of water we tallied a few birds and then moved on. We stopped briefly at Big Tree Park, where last year many tears were shed over the death-by-arson of The Senator. How can you not cry over the destruction of a living thing that has stood on our planet for at least 3,400 years? It was awful to see the remains. We picked up a heard-only American Kestrel here, and not much else.

We ended up with around 52 species (I don’t have the final tally) for our part. In the evening we met at compiler Jay’s house for dinner and an informal tally of species for the circle.

Now, if you ever want to feel crappy about your skills as a birder, all you have to do is receive an eBird county needs alert for your local patch. Containing several birds that you’ve never observed at said patch. Ugh.

The group that covered Gemini Springs for the CBC found 60+ species, including Virginia Rail, King Rail, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Eastern Meadowlark. I know others have seen EAME at Gemini Springs. In fact, every time I visit a certain area of the park I think to myself, there should be meadowlarks here. But I’ve never seen one or heard one, and I’ve certainly been listening. Ugh. The rails aren’t a huge surprise to me but I’ve never heard them either. But the Grasshopper Sparrow… All I can say is &#%!@?!

Fortunately, as we all know, birders are AWESOME people as a general rule. So when I sheepishly emailed the eBird offender in a hopefully not-too-stalker-like-fashion (since we don’t actually know each other), he kindly gave me detailed intel on the location of all desired species. The search is on. And I’m looking forward to the Daytona Beach CBC on December 28th. Hopefully I’ll get to stay in Volusia County this time. 😀

Laurie, Amy, Anne
Laurie, me and Anne after a day of CBCing

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

November was cloudy and drab here in Florida. Even my blog stats weren’t all that interesting. Sigh. Here are some statcounter finds from the month that was.

I love it when searches like gemini springs birding debary and bird watching gemini springs debary bring people here. I just hope they bring birders to the park itself! Gemini Springs is an eBird hotspot so a good place to look for information on birdlife in the park would be the eBird Hotspot Details.

Speaking of Gemini Springs, the search gemni springs alligator attack got my heart racing just a little bit. However, my own search revealed nothing of note.

The search my dog catches birds translate in mandarin is somewhat distubring, and it seems strange they’d end up on my blog rather than here.

I hope the person searching for songbird that act like bird of prey found their quarry, likely the “butcherbird” or species of shrike.

Finally, here’s one silly spelling “variation” that made me giggle this month: when do balled eagles migrate to Starved Rock, IL.

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