Category Archives: Volusia Birding

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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Thanksgiving kayaking @ Blue Spring

Arthur and I had a quiet morning paddle at Blue Spring State Park on Thanksgiving Day. The warm spring is very popular with swimmers, though it’s recently been closed to human-type swimmers for the season because of these guys.

All three manatee photos were taken November 21st

Manatee Party

Rolling with the flow

Walking to the river with our kayaks, the first bird we saw was a Red-shouldered Hawk perched above the dock. A good start to the day.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Our short trip began at the canoe put-in next to the St. Johns River Cruises pier. We paddled against the slow-moving northward flow of the river, and struggled a bit in windy conditions.

St Johns River

There was a big American Alligator across the river from the dock.

American Alligator

We took our first right to stay with the original flow of the St. Johns (going straight would have taken us through a part of the river that was straightened during the riverboat boom).

Another right took us to Snake Creek, a naturally winding path that would have lead us to Hontoon Island, if we had that much paddlin’ in us.

It was quiet, but we were not alone.

Snake Creek

FL Red-bellied Turtle?

Snake Creek

Little Blue Heron

Snake Creek

On the way back, we had a peek at the place where the spring run meets the St. Johns. We were hoping to see manatees. No joy, though there were several Double-crested Cormorants perched at the end of the run.

Double-crested Cormorant

As we headed back to shore, we spied a Black Vulture having a drink.

Black Vulture

Several of his friends were waiting in the trees above us.

Black Vultures

We had a great morning out and just may have started a brand new Thanksgiving tradition. Belated best wishes to my blog readers – I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful!

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Random Red-shouldered Hawk stretches

I stopped along the Spring-to-spring bike path in DeBary to watch a Red-shouldered Hawk perched along the edge of the forest. The path is heavily used and I didn’t think the bird would mind my stopping. I was right. Shortly after I settled in to take some photos, the bird casually stretched its wings and roused. It was still perched when I left a few minutes later.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

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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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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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Wild Turkeys aren’t made of sugar

I first heard the expression that I assumed was a Dutch specialty “Are you made of sugar?” (Je bent toch niet van suiker) in the Netherlands, but apparently the phrase is also used elsewhere in Europe to tease those who rather not go outside in the rain. When I balked at heading out in dismal weather to Blue Spring State Park yesterday for a bird walk with a local club, Arthur teased me into going anyway – I’m not made of sugar, after all. The unexpected lack of rain at the park didn’t prevent the club’s walk from being cancelled, a fact only realized after we called the trip leader to double-check we had the right meeting point. We had a nice walk anyway, the two of us, and though I secretly and uncharitably hoped we’d find a rare bird during our visit to the park, I was very satisfied with our best bird of the morning: a dozen or so Wild Turkeys foraging in the grass near the parking lot.

Wild Turkeys

I’m still not used to having such great views of these big birds. I come across them quite often along the Spring-to-spring Trail on my regular bike rides, and I just love seeing them. The flock at Blue Spring yesterday was our first sighting of the species at that park.

Wild Turkeys

Wild Turkeys

By the way, we did end up seeing a fantastic, somewhat rare bird yesterday, it just wasn’t at Blue Spring. More on that sighting in a future post!

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Confiding Ruddy Turnstone

Birding and blogging have taken a back seat for a couple of weeks as Arthur and I host his family here in central Florida. We are having a blast visiting all the touristy places as well as showing off the natural beauty of our neighborhood and county. Visiting Daytona Beach last week, we watched Brown Pelicans and Laughing Gulls soaring over the ocean. A few Sanderlings scooted about at the shoreline, along with one bold Ruddy Turnstone.

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstones are relatively cosmopolitan, breeding across northern Europe, Russia, Canada, and Alaska. They winter along coastal South America and Africa, as well as parts of Australasia. In Florida, this species may occur all year, though birds that remain during the summer aren’t breeders.

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

eBird tells me I first recorded Ruddy Turnstone on my life list in January 2007 in the Gambia. We often saw this species along the North Sea in the Netherlands, especially when we went birding at Zuidpier in IJmuiden.

Ruddy Turnstone

We haven’t birded the coast very often in Florida since we moved here, and indeed this was the first Ruddy Turnstone I’ve seen since our scouting visit back in April.

Ruddy Turnstone

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, Florida, Volusia Birding | 3 Comments

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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