Category Archives: Gemini Springs

Gemini Springs, December 2011

In December I added another 12 species to my Gemini Springs list, including Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork, American Bittern, Tree Swallow, and my favorite, Barred Owl. I hope to get photos of Barred Owls in the coming months, but I’ve had such bad luck with this species I won’t hold my breath. My total species count for the year (July to December) was 76 species. Here are some of my favorite photos from December.

I like to bird my patch on the first day of the month if possible, and on December 1st I birded a new part of the park I hadn’t visited before (“warbler alley”). This corridor along the DeBary Bayou was so busy with warblers and other passerines that I went back on December 2nd with Arthur. I added most of the 12 new birds in those two days.

steamy morning; December 1 2011

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in “warbler alley”; December 1 2011

Tricolored Heron
Tricolored Heron; December 1 2011

Wood Stork
Wood Stork; December 1 2011

Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis; December 2 2011

Viceroy; December 2 2011

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk; December 8 2011

Later in the month I noticed resident birds showing more flocking behavior. I saw large groups of White Ibis instead of the usual pair or single bird. Boat-tailed Grackles were acting even more gregarious than usual. And an enormous flock of Tree Swallows arrived to strip the bayou of all insects – they have their work cut out for them. On December 19th I was getting into position to photograph a Tricolored Heron and accidentally flushed the second-best bird of the month, an American Bittern. It landed across a small stretch of the bayou and Arthur and I got very good looks at this great patch bird.

Gemini Springs
calm morning; December 19 2011

Tree Swallows
Tree Swallows; December 19 2011

American Bittern
American Bittern; December 19 2011

Boat-tailed Grackles
Boat-tailed Grackle – 5 girls for every boy; December 19 2011

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird; December 19 2011

Towards the end of the month a marshy area at the end of “warbler alley” dried out and I could explore the path further, where I was delighted to find a beautiful old Live Oak with lots of character. The path leads out to a spot on the Spring-to-spring Trail where one of the adult Bald Eagles is nearly always hanging out.

American Coot
American Coot; December 23 2011

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker; December 23 2011

Marsh Rabbit
Marsh Rabbit; December 23 2011

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle; December 28 2011

colors; December 28 2011

Live Oak
Live Oak; December 30 2011

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Too big to inhale*

A fat frog or toad must surely be a prized meal for a wader like a White Ibis. Unless, of course, it’s too big to eat.

The other day at Gemini Springs I noticed an ibis being pursued by others in a flock of about 20 birds. The ibis had something large in its bill.

The bird managed to get away from its hungry friends and began manipulating the prey, but it was a struggle. At first I thought the ibis had a large crab, but it looks like the prey was some type of frog or toad, puffed up as a defense mechanism. The puffing process may have saved it. I watched the hapless ibis work on the amphibian for a few minutes, but the ibis eventually gave up and dropped its prey.

Ibis v frog

Ibis v frog

Ibis v frog

Later the flock of ibis moved to a shallow part of the spring run to feed and preen. Hopefully the hungry ibis was able to find more suitable prey here.

White Ibises

*Naturally the ibis did not intent to literally inhale its prey. But inhale rhymes with fail… get it?

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My local patch(es)

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

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

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

click to embiggen

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

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

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

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

click to embiggen

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

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

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Birding Highlights 2011

When I sat down to reflect upon the ups and downs of 2010 about a year ago I had no idea what was in store for me in 2011. Moving out of Illinois wasn’t on my radar at all. Now I sit here in my Florida home just one year later, looking back on twelve months that saw a lot of personal ups and downs, and one huge change – the move to DeBary.

But what about the birding? Here are my 2011 bird-type highlights.

Moving from northern Illinois to central Florida was a major highlight, bird-wise, even though it meant I’d be missing a lot. The below photo shows your blogger at Gemini Springs, the new local patch.


I managed to pick up a whopping 35 life birds in 2011! With just 285 ABA lifers, it’s still not too tough to pick up new birds. 15 of the birds were found in Illinois (including the Ogle County Snowy Owl), and the remaining 20 were all found in Florida.

Six of those life birds were picked up on my first-ever pelagic birding experience on a voyage out of Ponce Inlet in September.

One of those lifers was a rather out-of-range western treat in our own Florida back yard: a Western Tanager.

Early in the year I helped out with the Raptor Internship at FCWR. I had a lot of fun helping the new volunteers learn about handling raptors and I made a lot of friends (who I still miss every day). Of course spending time with some amazing birds is always special. This is Darwin puffed up on a particularly cold day.

My very best bird experience of the year also came courtesy of Flint Creek, and I’ll share that with you tomorrow (though regular readers will surely have no problem guessing my #1 for 2011!). Stay tuned!

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Posted in FCWR, Florida, Gemini Springs, Illinois, Life List, Yard Birds | 1 Comment

Gemini Springs, November 2011

In November I added 12 new species to my modest Gemini Springs list over six different complete checklists, including Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, and American Robin. I also added 8 species to my 2011 BIGBY list, reaching my goal of 75 species with Killdeer on November 28. I missed visiting the park for over a week mid-month (I was out of town) and I could notice there were quite a few new arrivals that flew in during my absence. It’s fun to follow the changes in the park (and to fill in those blanks on the Gemini Springs eBird list). 🙂

tiny mushrooms
tiny mushrooms; November 1 2011

Harvest Festival pumpkins
Harvest Festival decor; November 5 2011

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker and Spanish Moss; November 5 2011

Eastern Gray Squirrel
Eastern Gray Squirrel; November 5 2011

Cormorants in the fog
Cormorants in the fog; November 7 2011

White Ibis
White Ibis; November 7 2011

Florida Mound (?) flowers; November 7 2011

Eastern Box Turtle; November 7 2011

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird; November 7 2011

American Coots
American Coots; November 23 2011

American Coots
American Coots; November 23 2011

Beautyberry sp; November 23 2011

Red-tailed Hawk juvenile
Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk; November 23 2011

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler; November 23 2011

Gemini Springs
Perching place; November 23 2011

Pied-billed Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe; November 23 2011

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler watches the blogger; November 23 2011

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Grebe pellets & submarines

The other day at Gemini Springs I watched a pair of Pied-billed Grebes swimming around the fishing pier. During a period in which they were swimming on the surface for a long period, I took a video of the little water birds, setting my camera on the pier railing. After I started recording, an Osprey flew close over where I was standing, and I lifted up my binoculars to watch it hunting.

It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the camera captured two interesting moments with the grebes. First, right at the start of the video, one of the grebes cast a pellet!

Birds cast pellets which consist of undigested materials. I bet a lot of birders are familiar with owls regurgitating pellets; dissecting pellets is a popular educational activity for school kids and anyone can actually purchase owl pellets online for this purpose. But owls are not the only birds that cast pellets after meals. Kingfishers, corvids, herons, swallows, shorebirds and others all cast pellets of varying sizes. The pellet cast by the grebe seems quite large in proportion to the bird when I think about the size of pellets cast by Barn, Great Horned, and Barred Owls, American Kestrels, and Red-tailed Hawks (the species pellets with which I am somewhat familiar).

The other behavior I caught on video was the second grebe doing a submarine move – appearing to submerge in place, rather than a more typical flamboyant diving movement. I’ve never seen this behavior before, but it’s apparently quite normal, judging from the Google results when searching grebe submarine.

Since I was watching the Osprey while my camera shot the grebes, I didn’t get to see either of these interesting moments with my own eyes. Thank you, camera! I will pay extra attention to the grebes who seem to be settling in at Gemini Springs for the winter, and hopefully I’ll see some interesting behavior like this. Who knows?!

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Posted in Behavior, Florida, Funny, Gemini Springs, Video, Volusia Birding | Leave a comment

Testing a new camera with a Pileated Woodpecker

Arthur and I went to Gemini Springs yesterday so I could take some test shots with my new camera, a Canon SX40 HS. As we began walking one of the nature paths, I asked Arthur to find me a Pileated Woodpecker. He did.

Pileated Woodpecker

I think the pictures are acceptable, especially considering the distance I was from the bird and the less-than-ideal lighting conditions.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

It takes HD video, too.

This is the fifth (!!) super-zoom point-and-shoot camera I’ve tried since April 2010 (to replace a Canon S3IS). This may finally be THE ONE. (These were not: Canon SX20IS [APR 2010]; Nikon Coolpix P100 [MAY 2010]; Fuji Finepix S200EXR [MAY 2011]; Nikon Coolpix P500 [MAY 2011]).

I’ve submitted this post to this week’s Bird Photography Weekly. BPW is a regular collection of user-submitted bird photos from all over the world. The new edition comes out every Sunday. Go have a look at this week’s submissions!

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Posted in Bird Photography Weekly, Gemini Springs, Volusia Birding | 2 Comments

Gemini Springs, October 2011

I didn’t get to Gemini Springs too much last month. Early on I was sick for a few days, and then I spent much of my time preparing for and enjoying a two-week visit from my dear in-laws. That said, over three visits I did manage to add 14 new species to my modest Gemini Springs list during October, including Palm Warbler and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. I also picked up seven new BIGBY birds, all on a long walk on October 1st with Arthur.

I also visited Gemini Springs twice during the afternoon on two different weekends, and I was shocked by how crowded it was at the park. I usually walk the trails close to sunrise, mainly during the week, where I have the park almost entirely to myself. I’m glad the park is well-used, but seeing cars parked in the fields I count among my favorite birding spots and watching big boisterous barbecue bashes in spots I’d previously only seen unused was just a bit strange!

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher; October 1, 2011

Your blogger; October 1, 2011

good snags
Good snags; October 1, 2011

Palamedes Swallowtail (I think)
Palamedes Swallowtail (?); October 1, 2011

Beautiful mushroom; October 1, 2011

Sign + Mocker
Obey the mockingbird; October 1, 2011

Table Conference
Table conference; October 1, 2011

Boat-tailed Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle; October 2, 2011

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker; October 2, 2011

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron; October 30, 2011

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler; October 30, 2011

Tree with belly button; October 30, 2011

Gemini Springs
My favorite birding spot in the park; October 30, 2011

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Gemini Springs, September 2011

In September I added eleven species to my modest Gemini Springs list, including Little Blue Heron and Pine Warbler. I also picked up three BIGBY species. These were observed during four visits and many other passes through the park during my frequent bike rides.

Kettling vultures
Black and Turkey Vultures kettling on a perfect day; September 12, 2011

Gulf Fritillary
Gulf Fritillary; September 12, 2011

American Alligator with turtle
American Alligator with (Eastern Chicken?) Turtle; September 12, 2011

Danger; September 25, 2011

Tricolored Heron
Tricolored Heron detail; September 25, 2011

The Tricolored Heron in the above photo posed on the railing for a good 15 minutes, during which I took dozens of photos. They didn’t really turn out very well but I did like this feather detail. While I stood still taking photos, I felt something crawl up my leg and was startled. My sudden movement flushed off the heron, unfortunately. I couldn’t be mad at my little distractor, though – the lizard shown below.

leg lizard
Friendly lizard; September 25, 2011

Flowering vine
Flowering vine; September 25, 2011

White Ibis
The obligatory White Ibis photo; September 25, 2011

Spanish Moss
Spanish Moss; September 30, 2011

A squirrel chowing down on a mushroom; September 30, 2011

I stood for a while on one of the nature paths, looking around and listening for birds. I looked at the lovely snag in the below photo, and thought what a nice perch it would be for a raptor. I took a photo of the snag and then noticed part of it moved. There was a raptor using it – a Red-shouldered Hawk. Can you see it?

Snag with Red-shouldered Hawk
Nice snag; September 30, 2011

Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron; September 30, 2011

No Swimming
No swimming; September 30, 2011

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal; September 30, 2011

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Gemini Springs, August 2011

In August I added five species to my modest Gemini Springs list, including Limpkin and my first fall migrant warbler, a Northern Waterthrush. I also saw my first BIGBY American Alligator at the Springs. I finally picked up a bike at the end of July, and on my semi-regular bike rides to Lake Monroe Park and back, I was passing through the Gemini Springs a lot in August. I only stopped and birded a handful of times.

Gemini Springs
Nature path; August 4, 2011

Gemini Springs
Gemini Springs; August 4, 2011

Marsh Rabbit
Marsh Rabbit; August 17, 2011

Gemini Springs
Gemini Springs; August 17, 2011

Green Anole
Green Anole; August 17, 2011

Gemini Springs
Gemini Springs; August 17, 2011

Gemini Springs friend
One of/in a million; August 17, 2011

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron, August 17, 2011

Gemini Springs
Gemini Springs; August 17, 2011

White Ibis
White Ibis; August 28, 2011

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