Category Archives: North America

Target Acquired

Before our first programs at the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival last Wednesday, Arthur and I stopped at Riverbreeze Park, which lies on the Indian River in Oak Hill. This was a new spot for us; I found it by browsing recent eBird sightings for Common Loon in Volusia County. We spent some time birding from the fishing pier.

We saw a couple of loons swimming in the water as soon as we arrived. Target acquired!

Common Loon

I also added American White Pelican, Spotted Sandpiper, and Black Skimmer to my Volusia list.

As we left the park, we saw lots of Great Blue Herons moving around their roosting trees. They were getting ready to start their day. Just like us! Next stop: Titusville and the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival!

Great Blue Heron roost

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Posted in Festivals & Events, Florida, Space Coast Fest, Volusia Birding | Leave a comment

Bird-a-Day breakthrough

Sedge Wren
January 19th: Sedge Wren at Lake Woodruff NWR

Last year on January 24th I failed to find a new bird in the Bird-a-Day Challenge, and the game was over for the year. Yesterday I didn’t go out birding, so I had to pick something from the day’s yard list. My bird of the day was the American Robin; and so the game continues today with my first day birding at the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival.

Strategy dictates that the “best” bird of the day is chosen for the challenge, and that typically means the rarest bird that hasn’t been used for the challenge so far. Very often, it’s difficult to pick which bird to add to the list – and remove from the taking as the game progresses. I picked American Robin yesterday because I had already used up some of the “better” birds previously in the game: Gray Catbird and Cedar Waxwing are much more hit-or-miss than the robin of late. But American Robins don’t spend the summer here (as if I’ll get that far in the game!) and they typically leave earlier in the spring than other winter birds seen yesterday (Yellow-rumped Warbler, Tree Swallow, etc) – so they were the best choice to check off in the challenge.

Black-and-white Warbler
January 4th: Black-and-white Warbler in our yard

So far this game has been messing with my birder mind.

When I found a Limpkin at Lake Monroe Park on January 8th, I knew it was the bird of the day, even though it was early in the morning. I don’t find Limpkins on local outings very often, and I was sure I wouldn’t find anything better later while peeking at yard birds throughout the day. But I had to bike home from Lake Monroe Park first. I found myself half-hoping the Wild Turkeys and Northern Bobwhites would keep out of my view. Those birds were one- or two-hit wonders last year, and though I am ALWAYS on the lookout for them to cross my path, I kinda sorta did NOT want to see them after I got Limpkin in my mind for the day. A birder who doesn’t want to see seldom-found patch birds? Crazy.

January 8th: Limpkin at Lake Monroe Park

Regrets? I’ve had a few. Well, maybe just one.

When I saw a Gray Catbird on the Spring-to-spring Trail back on January 5th, it was my first catbird of the year, and only my third one since moving to Florida. Since recording the Gray Catbird as my bird for that day, I have seen Gray Catbirds six more times; it seems I’m seeing them every third day or so. We even had one in the yard – two different days! A better choice for that day might have been Eastern Bluebird (recorded just 3 times; used later), or maybe Killdeer (also 3). But it’s too late for that!

Eastern Bluebird
January 12th: Eastern Bluebird at Gemini Springs

I’m relieved to get further in the game this year than 2011, even though I didn’t really think it would be too hard. Onward to February!

Baltimore Oriole
January 20th: Baltimore Oriole in our back yard

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Posted in Bird-a-Day Challenge, Florida, Gemini Springs, Yard Birds | Leave a comment

Snowy on the beach

I see Snowy Egrets at my local patch all the time, but until earlier this month, I’d never seen one at the beach. Arthur and I were relaxing on New Smyrna Beach on a cool afternoon when we noticed a large white bird heading our way along the waterline. It was hunting, successfully, small fish as it proceeded down the beach. I took a few photos from where we sat; later Arthur got a bit closer for some action shots and a short video. Its hunting style looked a bit frantic, but it was very successful!

Snowy Egret | posing

Snowy Egret | caught!

Snowy Egret | wavy
photo by Arthur de Wolf

Snowy Egret | action

Snowy Egret | intent
photo by Arthur de Wolf

Snowy Egret | spread
photo by Arthur de Wolf

video by Arthur de Wolf

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 Behavior, Bird Photography Weekly, Florida, Volusia Birding | 1 Comment


Arthur and I went kayaking at Gemini Springs this morning. It was probably the birdiest kayak route we’ve ever had, with herons, egrets, ibises, coots, gallinules and others lurking at every bend. We even saw several relatively scarce species: Green Heron; Limpkin; and American Bittern – three of them! Tree Swallows, Belted Kingfishers and Osprey hunted from above. In the four-mile round trip paddle I was surprised to see more Tricolored Herons (over a dozen) and Glossy Ibis (a flock of about 50) than I’ve ever seen before. Numbers of Wood Storks, White Ibis and Snowy Egret were also surprisingly high.

Despite all this abundance I think the most interesting thing I saw all morning was this Great Blue Heron, a very common bird.

Bathing Great Blue Heron

It was standing up to its lower body in the water. Hmm, I never saw a GBHE hunting from this depth before. Interesting.

Bathing Great Blue Heron

After a moment it was clear the bird was not hunting at all. It was bathing! What an operation! Unfortunately I am useless when it comes to taking photos from the kayak. As soon as I reach for my camera, the kayak starts spinning, or moving directly towards the creature I want to photograph. So I only managed this splash action picture before stabilizing my kayak and watching this big beauty proceed with a very active bath.

Bathing Great Blue Heron

Afterwards it stepped up on some nearby reeds to complete its preening duties. I couldn’t find any information about Great Blue Heron bathing habits on BNA Online, bummer. I did find a nice photo series of a Great Blue bathing on Flickr, though. Check it out: Great Blue Heron Bathing.

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Birds at the Central Florida Zoo

For a while I was considering the docent program at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens. The zoo, in Sanford, is just about 10 minutes away from where we live. Arthur and I paid our first visit to the zoo earlier this month, to see what the park is like and to see some of the raptors and other birds in the zoo’s programming.

Every Saturday and Sunday there are two scheduled bird programs.

At 11:30AM we saw the “Bird Show” on the Magpie Jay Stage. Here we learned about several different species which were either brought out on the glove or flown. Both Florida native species and birds found elsewhere were included in this program.

Two birds flew. A Harris’s Hawk flew between perches around the audience, and a Red-shouldered Hawk flew between handlers across the spectators.

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk

Other birds in this program were the Guira Cuckoo, found throughout South America, and the Black-throated Magpie-jay, found in Mexico.

Black-throated Magpie-jay
Black-throated Magpie-jay

Black-throated Magpie-jay
The incredibly long tail feathers of the Black-throated Magpie-jay

Guira Cuckoo
Guira Cuckoo

Three birds native to Florida were presented: an Eastern Screech Owl; a Red-tailed Hawk, and the previously-mentioned Red-shouldered Hawk. These three were all permanently non-releasable birds with injuries; the Red-tailed Hawk was originally found in our new hometown of DeBary. I was interested to learn that in our part of Florida, grey phase Eastern Screech Owls are more common than red phase, which is the type in their program. This bird was originally found in the eastern part of Volusia County.

Eastern Screech Owl
Eastern Screech Owl

At 1:00PM we went to the “Raptor Encounter” program, which was a short informal program featuring Ray, a Florida Bald Eagle with a permanent wing injury. The handler was joined by a fellow zookeeper who told us about Bald Eagles in general and about Ray specifically.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle & handler
Bald Eagle and handler

The zoo has a number of other birds on display, though I’ll admit my focus during this visit was mainly on the birds in the educational programs.

Two Bald Eagles were on display in a completely open exhibit; both are non-flighted but we watched them move around with ease among their open-air perching.

Bald Eagles

We also saw three macaws in a different open-air display, including a snoozing Green-winged Macaw.

Green-winged Macaw

The Central Florida Zoo is involved in 11 Species Survival Plans, working on captive breeding critically endangered species, an impressive number for a small institution. Though the zoo is relatively small, we enjoyed our visit. The docent program looks like a good one; unfortunately the timing of the training this winter/spring doesn’t really work out for me / us right now. The training usually takes place twice a year; we may think about it again in the fall!

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Posted in Conservation, Endangered, Florida, Zoo | Leave a comment

Great Blue Heron shapes

Great Blue Herons are year-round residents here in central Florida, and they are extremely common at my local patch, Gemini Springs Park. When I see them they are typically alone, and rather still. Usually they seem to be stoic hunters, watching and waiting. This bird I saw last week, however, was rather active. It was hunting in the streaming water running through the dam.





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 Behavior, Bird Photography Weekly, Florida, Gemini Springs, Volusia Birding | 1 Comment

Snowy amputee


Snowy Egrets are usually easily identified in flight. They fly with their long black legs and yellow feet fully extended behind their bodies.


Last week I saw this Snowy Egret flying across the spring run at De Leon Springs State Park. It was immediately clear that this bird had just one foot, his right; the left leg appeared to be just as long as the other, but it was footless. In the photo below you can see the bird’s joints are not level; the amputated leg is resting lower on the ground.


I wasn’t quick enough to take a photo of the egret in flight. After it landed on a small floating island, I took some photos of this handicapped bird. It moved around little, and in the few minutes I watched, it didn’t catch any prey. It had strong flight though, and seemed to move around on the island with ease.

Good luck, Snowy Egret.


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Posted in Florida, Florida State Park, Volusia Birding | Leave a comment

Red-shouldered Hawk nest-building

I stopped to watch a Red-shouldered Hawk working on her* nest late last month. The nest was just above the Spring-to-spring Trail at Lake Monroe Park.

Found a good stick

Another good stick for her nest

Red-shouldered Hawks are very protective parents. While I watched this bird prepare for her family, I thought about a couple of Florida Red-shouldered Hawks that made the news last spring for dive-bombing people who ventured into their territory during nesting season in Melbourne and Sarasota.

Fresh stick

The nest in the middle of the picture

Like the bird I was watching, these other birds made their nests in relatively high-traffic areas. I wonder if this bird and her mate will attack bikers, walkers and joggers on the Spring-to-spring Trail in the coming months? I hope not. I’ll be on their side, though, if it happens.

Off to get more sticks!

*Both male and female Red-shouldered Hawks participate in nest-building and -refurbishing. I am not nearly familiar enough with these birds to know if I was watching the male or the female of the pair; I could not judge its size. I just used “she” for convenience.

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Posted in Behavior, Florida, Volusia Birding | 1 Comment

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