Category Archives: North America

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

Willets in the mist

Arthur and I spent Christmas afternoon at Canaveral National Seashore, where we shared the beach with Willets (and little else).







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 weekโ€™s submissions!

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Posted in Bird Photography Weekly, Florida | 1 Comment

Best Bird of the Year 2011

It should come as no surprise to anyone with any familiarity with this blog that my best bird of 2011 is actually a pair of birds: the Mooseheart Bald Eaglets.

The first baby Bald Eagle flies free!

The adventure began back at the end of May, when FCWR became aware of a downed Bald Eagle nest in Mooseheart, Illinois. The race was on to keep the parent Bald Eagles on site and replace the fallen nest, reuniting the baby eagles with their parents.

Eaglet On Ground
One of the eaglets on the ground

When the parents unfortunately failed to care for the babies in the new, human-made nest, the eaglets were brought back to FCWR for care. Arthur and I helped with their initial enclosure – complete with a new “nest” – but this was only a very tiny part of their time in the care of FCWR. The eaglets were eventually transferred to a new, large flight chamber, where they learned to fly and all of the other skills they would need to be released back into the wild.

The release at Starved Rock State Park was magical, and I feel so lucky to have been able to attend as a FCWR volunteer. Both babies flew strong from their release site on Plum Island.

In case you missed the release videos, here they are:

If you click through to the older blog posts, you’ll see more photos and video of these beautiful birds. The Mooseheart Eaglets were easily the highlight of my 2011!

Mooseheart eaglet rescue 1

Mooseheart eaglet rescue part 2

Mooseheart Bald Eaglets to be released next week!

Starved Rock Eaglet Release

Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation is a non-profit, federally licensed rehab organization with locations in Chicago and Barrington, Illinois. You can follow their blog here, follow them on Facebook here, and make donations online here. This post reflects my own experiences as a volunteer with FCWR. Any errors are purely my own, and opinions here do not necessarily reflect those of FCWR.

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Posted in FCWR, Festivals & Events, Illinois, Rehabilitation | 1 Comment

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

Highlights from our first CBC

On Saturday Arthur and I participated in our first Christmas Bird Count. We counted in the southwest sector of the West Volusia County circle with six other birders. The weather was perfect for being outdoors, but a string of pleasant weather days kept many birds generally quiet.

We started out at the home of our sector’s leader, where the count cars were outfitted with official signage. Here’s our minivan ready for the day. We counted some feeder birds before heading out.


We listened for birds from the car, driving slowly on some low-traffic roads. At an early stop we spotted an adult Osprey bringing major branches and other material to a dilapidated-looking nest.

Osprey nest

Along Cummer Road, a popular birding-by-car spot here in Volusia County, we found 130 Sandhill Cranes.

Sandhill Cranes

We also counted 15 Wild Turkeys here, plus a Red-shouldered Hawk, several hunting American Kestrels, our first Eastern Bluebird of the day, and our only Eastern Meadowlarks. Our leader knew about a Bald Eagle nest in the area, and we were able to see one adult already on the nest. While scoping other birds, we heard a Bald Eagle vocalizing. Shortly the the other adult appeared, soaring over the nest.

Bald Eagle nest

While we really enjoyed the entire day, one of the best parts was finding out about local birding hotspots that were previously unknown to us. We stopped at many private marinas where special access for the count was granted, but other public spots were visited as well.


One cute discovery was the Hummingbird Garden at the Hontoon Landing Resort & Marina. While we didn’t have any hummingbirds on count day, we learned that hummingbirds frequent the feeders especially during spring migration, so this is a spot we’ll have to hit again in the new year.

Hummingbird Garden

At the north end of Lake Beresford, we found a large flock of White Ibis feeding. At this little hotspot we also found our only Blue-gray Gnatcatchers of the day, another Eastern Bluebird, and the only Orange-crowned Warbler of the CBC circle.

Flock of Ibis

Another roadside stop, at a hunter’s access point to Lake Woodruff NWR, we searched for Brown-headed Nuthatches but came up empty. We did pick up our only Eastern Towhees of the day, our only Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, plus a few additional birds.

Lake Woodruff NWR hunter's access

It was a great day out with some new friends. In all we counted 1243 individual birds of 56 species. The initial tally at the CBC dinner came up with 108 species for the circle. Not a record, but not a bad number, either. And a very good count day for these two newbies.

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Posted in Citizen Science, Florida, Volusia Birding | 1 Comment

One kingfisher, three looks

Last week Arthur and I spent a few hours checking out the action at Merritt Island NWR’s Black Point Wildlife Drive. Bird-wise, there were a lot of new arrivals, including over a dozen Belted Kingfishers. Florida has kingfishers all year, and we invariably see them on Black Point, but during the winter the residents are joined by migratory birds from the north. I’ll never forget the many, many Belted Kingfishers we saw a few years back during a drive on U.S. 1 from Key Largo to Key West. It seemed every stretch of telephone wire had a kingfisher or two on it, every one of them looking down into the water. We saw the handsome fellow pictured here on December 10th.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

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Posted in Florida, MINWR | 2 Comments

Preening White Ibis

White Ibises are extremely common here in central Florida. We see them in parking lots and in our neighborhood, foraging in suburban front yards, almost as often as we see them in more natural areas.

While I see these white birds quite often, I hadn’t really noticed one preening before I stopped to watch a particular bird in a small flock along the World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot last week. I must have seen them preening before, I just never stopped to pay attention until that moment.

Preening White Ibis

According to the Birds of North America Online, White Ibises “spend much of the day preening, […] usually at day roosts. […] Back preened directly by turning head, lower belly by placing head between legs.” BNA goes on to explain in detail how they preen other body parts (what a resource!), but I only was able to witness this bird getting busy with its backside. ๐Ÿ™‚

Preening White Ibis

Watching birds do what they do is always interesting, and I was especially interested watching this individual taking care of feather maintenance with its unusual bill. The back didn’t seem too tough a spot to preen. I would love to see that belly move though – it sounds like quite a move!

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Posted in Behavior, Disney, Florida | Leave a comment

Domain surveying (with preen break)

There are Red-shouldered Hawks everywhere you turn here in our central Florida neighborhood. They’re perching in our front tree, they’re frightening feeder birds in our back yard, and they’re calling from treetops on every sleepy street each time we go out. I snapped some photos of this youngster who happened to be perched on the wire across from our house the other day. So far, I can’t get enough of them. I hope you like them, too! ๐Ÿ™‚







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Posted in Florida, Volusia Birding, Yard Birds | Leave a comment

A Gopher Tortoise “rescue”

Back in October, I visited Big Tree Park in Longwood, along with Arthur’s family. It was a short visit; we went to see The Senator, a cypress tree estimated to be around 3,500 years old, and its younger compatriot, Lady Liberty.

In between viewing the trees and being eaten alive by mosquitoes, I spied a Gopher Tortoise walking beside the boardwalk among the rich, wet vegetation. It seemed a strange place to find a tortoise. I then noticed a man and his daughter talking to the animal, wishing it well. I asked them about the tortoise and the man told me that they had just rescued it from a busy highway. They always brought rescue ‘turtles’ to Big Tree Park, and set them free by the little pool of water where I first saw the tortoise.

The Gopher Tortoise, before it scooted out of sight (photo by Ineke de Wolf)

I don’t know enough about Gopher Tortoises, but I know a little. The main thing I know is that they live in dry habitats, not swampy forests, not in the kind of wet place where cypress trees thrive. About turtles I know this bit of conventional wisdom regarding rescue – if you help one that’s crossing a road, bring it to the side it was heading towards. By all means, if possible, leave it be, or leave it close to where you found it.

I don’t know exactly where this family found their tortoise, only that it was by a very busy road or highway. Big Tree Park has some standing water and marshy habitat. In my ignorance it does seem like a fair place to release land turtles that are not tortoises (so Eastern Box Turtles) that have been found in unsafe places.

I watched the tortoise truck away from the boardwalk and disappear, and I wished it well. I hope it found a suitable place to be what it is. Then I went and had a talk with the father and his daughter and their turtle rescue habits. I explained that all turtles are not the same, except that they should all be left alone as much as possible. I told them that they had brought a tortoise to unsuitable habitat… for future reference. I don’t know if I made a difference, but I had to try.

The Senator

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