Clutzy egret loses lunch

It’s cold here in central Florida! Relatively speaking. We should hit record low temperatures in the area tonight, when the thermometer dips below 40F. Brr!

Snowy Egret

On a chilly walk at Gemini Springs this morning, I watched a Snowy Egret working on a fish. The bird already had lunch in its beak when I first saw it, but it let the fish slip away. I slowed down the initial chase at the end of the clip — you can see the fish make its escape!

I watched the egret a bit longer but lunch was not recaptured before I had to move on.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Behavior, Funny, Gemini Springs, Video | Leave a comment

Raptor nest drama

Osprey nests are very common here in central Florida, especially on utility structures. I wanted to monitor a nest or two for the citizen science project Osprey Watch this year, so when I noticed Ospreys visiting an existing nest that I pass by on my bike a few times a week, I took note. Unfortunately the sun is always behind this site from the bike path, so photos are usually lousy.

Osprey
Adult(s) visit nest site early in the season, 29 January 2013

In the following weeks I saw adult birds bringing material to the nest, or visiting the nest or structure, but I didn’t really stop to watch them as it didn’t appear that anyone was sitting on eggs yet.

Then sometime last month I noticed a Red-tailed Hawk perched on the utility structure, not far from the nest. I wondered if the Ospreys had abandoned the nest site. Unfortunately I didn’t document this sighting or any that followed, being distracted with a pending house move among other things.

Finally on March 9th, at the end of a late afternoon ride, I stopped to look at the site again. I saw a Red-tailed Hawk that appeared to be sitting inside the nest.

Red-tailed Hawk on Osprey nest
Red-tailed Hawk on Osprey nest, 9 March 2013

This morning there was a bit of raptor drama at the nest site and nearby. First, as I approached the utility lines I was thrilled to see a pair of Bald Eagles fly over the road in front of me. They flew at a leisurely pace, but were soon followed by a Red-shouldered Hawk who was screaming bloody murder. The eagles continued on their way, but not before showing some aggression towards each other with some flipped-over talon waving.

As I biked by the Osprey nest, less than a block away, I heard a Red-tailed Hawk keering. I stopped to look at the nest and saw a hawk perched on the structure, and an Osprey approaching the nest. Wow! I guess the Ospreys didn’t give up after all? The hawk took flight and then suddenly a second Red-tailed Hawk came out of the woods and gave the Osprey chase! The Osprey banked and went after one of the flying hawks. The raptors chased each other around for about 45 seconds before the Osprey and one of the hawks disappeared over the woods and out of my view. The other Red-tailed Hawk returned to the structure.

Red-tailed Hawk at Osprey nest
Red-tailed Hawk at Osprey nest, 18 March 2013

Both species would be expected to be deep into breeding season now, and either could already be sitting on eggs, so I really wonder what is going on at this nest site. I also think it is a bit unusual for a Red-tailed Hawk to nest in such an open area, in a nest not self-made.

Red-tailed Hawk by Osprey nest
Red-tailed Hawk at Osprey nest, 18 March 2013

I love all the raptors I get to see here on a regular basis. In fact, the above encounters were not even the best raptor sightings I had this morning! How’s that for a teaser for a future blog post?! Anyway, if you love raptors too, you should be following the Crossley ID Blog Tour, a celebration of raptors. The blog tour is for the upcoming publication of The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors. Be sure to check out the post this Wednesday on sister blog MagnificentFrigatebird.com!

Crossley ID Guide Blog Tour

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Behavior, Books, Florida | Leave a comment

Chilly Cooper’s Hawk noms

My parents had a back yard treat last month — a Cooper’s Hawk having lunch in the snow.

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk with prey, 27-FEB-13 | Chicago area, IL | photo by Mary Evenstad

Look at how the Mourning Doves on the left side of the below photo aren’t bothered at all (actually I would guess they are totally oblivious) as the Cooper’s Hawk eats away on the other side of the yard.

Cooper's Hawk and Morning Doves have lunch
Cooper’s Hawk and Mourning Doves, 27-FEB-13 | Chicago area, IL | photo by Mary Evenstad

I think the prey item is a Hairy or Downy Woodpecker based on the striping on the plucked feathers. It’s not a Mourning Dove… maybe that’s why the other doves didn’t head for the hills? Here’s a short video of the Cooper’s Hawk with its lunch.


Cooper’s Hawk with lunch, 27-FEB-13 | Chicago area, IL | video by Mary Evenstad

Thanks, Mom!!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Illinois, Yard Birds | Leave a comment

Halfway B-A-D

Today is the 72nd day of the year. Last year I made it through 144 days in the Bird-a-Day Challenge, so I’m just shy of halfway to making my goal (to beat last year’s total). The halfway point seems like a good time for me to share some more awful photos and a little progress update.

As in my last update, 10 birds of the most recent bunch came from Gemini Springs: Blue-winged Teal; Fox Sparrow; Tree Swallow; Pine Warbler; Glossy Ibis; Northern Harrier; Bald Eagle; Marsh Wren; White-eyed Vireo; and today’s Double-crested Cormorant.

Northern Harrier
06-MAR: Northern Harrier showing white rump very nicely! | Gemini Springs, Volusia Co. FL

Two birds were found at Epcot: Ring-billed Gull and Green Heron. Two birds came from Trout Lake, a rather dry wetland along I4 in Orange City: Wood Stork and Least Sandpiper.

I only went to the coast with Arthur twice in this last bunch, where I used Dunlin on February 20th, and a famous Lesser Black-backed Gull on February 27th (more on this bird in a future post).

Lesser Black-backed Gull
27-FEB: Lesser Black-backed Gull | Frank Rendon Park, Daytona Beach Shores, Volusia Co. FL

On a really nice six-mile walk at Lake Woodruff NWR on March 10th I used one of the first birds I saw as I began my walk: Sedge Wren.

Sedge Wren
10-MAR: Sedge Wren | Lake Woodruff NWR, Volusia Co. FL

I only used one yard bird: Common Grackle; the rest of the birds came from various locations during routine errands or making stops between errands or other outings. In this way I used a surprise inland Brown Pelican on a volunteer day at Audubon Center for Birds of Prey; a Cattle Egret between house viewings in DeBary; one of the many abundant Savannah Sparrows at Audubon Park during a pit stop on the way home on February 28th; and a Bonaparte’s Gull at Merritt Island NWR before viewing the SpaceX launch from nearby Playalinda Beach.

Bonaparte's Gull
01-MAR: Bonaparte’s Gull | Peacock’s Pocket, Merritt Island NWR, Brevard Co. FL

The next couple of weeks should be fine, but I’m expecting some major (but very welcome! and very good!) disruptions to my normal routine coming up in April, including some highly anticipated visits from a good friend and my in-laws. Eek! For now though, I’m halfway there! Onward to the next 72!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Bird-a-Day Challenge | Leave a comment

Scraps

A few weeks ago I took a short walk on the beach at Daytona Beach Shores. I noticed some gulls scrambling over pieces of fish, maybe scraps left behind by anglers who were done fishing for the day.

Great Black-backed Gull with fish scraps

Fight!!

Gulls fighting over fish scraps

Great Black-backed Gull with fish scraps

Great Black-backed Gull with fish scraps

Great Black-backed Gull with fish scraps

Great Black-backed Gull with fishing line

Isn’t that last picture cute? I thought I was capturing a whimsical photo of an “unlikely friendship” but I didn’t notice until looking at the photos later at home that the gull has fishing line trailing from it. You can click on the photo to view it larger on Flickr.com. I feel terrible I didn’t notice it at the time, though if the bird was flighted I don’t think I could have done anything. Fish scraps aren’t the only things left behind by fisherfolk. Please please please pick up and properly discard loose fishing line whenever and wherever you see it.

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Behavior, Florida | 2 Comments

The Tower Ravens

Ravens at the Tower of London

I can’t believe it’s been so long but this past January marked 10 years since my visit to see the Tower of London and the famous ravens that live there. Arthur and I visited London several times during our years in Europe, but we only went to the Tower once. Here are some photos from our trip to the famous monument and its well-known residents.

Ravens at the Tower of London

Ravens at the Tower of London

Ravens at the Tower of London

Raven at the Tower of London

Ravens smooching at the Tower of London

Ravens at the Tower of London

Raven Memorial at the Tower of London

The reason for my nostalgia is that I recently had the pleasure to read Boria Sax’s book about the birds: City of Ravens. Skip on over to MagnificentFrigatebird.com to read my 3.5-star review of City of Ravens.

Tower of London

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Books, Europe, Magnificent Frigatebird | Leave a comment

Meme Monday: Harlem Shake

If you’re not active on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Google+, you may be missing out on the joy of Internet memes. A meme (rhymes with cream) is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” An Internet meme can be as short as a catch-phrase or as complex as a video clip. A lot of memes are simple graphics which are altered to suit different topics. When a meme is hot, you can be sure there will be variants related to birds or birding.

In February 2013, the music track “Harlem Shake” by artist Baauer spawned a series of funny, short dance videos. The typical Harlem Shake clip is usually about a half minute long. The standard video format is to begin with a single person dancing to the song, surrounded by others who are ignoring the dancing person. This is followed by a rough cut to lots of people dancing to the song, often wearing funny or strange costumes and brandishing odd props. An early parody video went viral in the first week of February, earning over 7 million hits on YouTube in a week’s time. By the middle of February, there were about 12K Harlem Shake videos posted on YouTube.

With this level of virality, of course there are Harlem Shake clips featuring birds. There are a good number of videos featuring parrots. Many bird clips don’t follow the standard format — a single bird is shown dancing, as in this clip featuring a Black-crowned Night-Heron, or the venue changes completely from one scene to the next, as in this European Starling murmuration video (which is pretty funny, anyway). Another clip, called Harlem shake (duck edition) uses this original video set to the music. I had seen the original clip before so I knew what was going to happen but it still made me giggle — especially since I knew the birds would all end up alright (and upright!).

I thought the following Harlem Shake video was just about the only bird-type one worth sharing here. The timing is pretty good in this clip, which begins with a single pigeon feasting on some seed. As the bass is about to drop, more pigeons arrive and a feeding frenzy takes the place of crazy dancing. The video runs too long as the meme goes, but if you watch to the end you’ll see how fast a flock of pigeons can devout a big pile of seed. Impressive!

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Funny, Internet Meme, Pigeons!, Video | Leave a comment

Birding Gemini Springs, February 2013

In February I submitted 9 eBird checklists from Gemini Springs. I saw 74 species total; see the complete list at the end of this post.

Two birds were new for my all-time Gemini Springs list. I was a bit dismayed to find a pair of Muscovy Ducks by the fishing pier on February 3rd. These large fowl aren’t native and are known to be aggressive to resident species. However, a few days later there was just one Muscovy Duck. I have seen the single bird each visit since, and that this individual bird lost its companion makes me even more sad. The other new bird for the month was a doozy! I found a Fox Sparrow on February 25th. The following morning Arthur and I found the bird again, and I know from eBird and the Florida birding listserv that it was seen again on the 27th and the 28th. It may not have been seen since.

One bird I’ve had on my mind is the Limpkin — because I haven’t seen one AT ALL this year so far! By this time last year, I had seen a Limpkin at least 5 times at Gemini Springs, plus a few other sightings at other birding spots. So far this year, I’m skunked! Hopefully this disturbing trend will change in March. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here are some photo highlights from February birding at Gemini Springs.

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird | 03-FEB-13

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk | 03-FEB-13

Gemini Springs
Great Blue Heron & Double-crested Cormorants | 11-FEB-13

Eastern Gray Squirrel
Eastern Gray Squirrel | 11-FEB-13

pink
looking rosy | 11-FEB-13

Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird | 17-FEB-13

Swamp Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow | 17-FEB-13

view from the pier
blue & bright | 17-FEB-13

Muscovy Duck
Muscovy Duck, solo | 17-FEB-13

Double-crested Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant | 19-FEB-13

coots in the mist
American Coots | 22-FEB-13

Yellow Jacket nest
Yellow Jacket sp. nest entrance | 22-FEB-13

Pied-billed Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe | 25-FEB-13

Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret | 25-FEB-13

female Boat-tailed Grackles
Boat-tailed Grackles | 26-FEB-13

Thanks for checking out this post! If you are a fan of Gemini Springs, please become a Fan of Gemini Springs on Facebook!

Gemini Springs logo
Gemini Springs logo

Gemini Springs, February 2013 month bird list
Muscovy Duck (Domestic type) – Cairina moschata
Blue-winged Teal – Anas discors
Green-winged Teal – Anas crecca
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
Green Heron – Butorides virescens
White Ibis – Eudocimus albus
Glossy Ibis – Plegadis falcinellus
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Sharp-shinned Hawk – Accipiter striatus
Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata
American Coot – Fulica americana
Sandhill Crane – Grus canadensis
Ring-billed Gull – Larus delawarensis
Caspian Tern – Hydroprogne caspia
Forster’s Tern – Sterna forsteri
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Common Ground-Dove – Columbina passerina
Barred Owl – Strix varia
Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
Red-headed Woodpecker – Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens
Northern Flicker – Colaptes auratus
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
American Kestrel – Falco sparverius
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
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Black-and-white Warbler – Mniotilta varia
Orange-crowned Warbler – Oreothlypis celata
Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
Northern Parula – Setophaga americana
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Pine Warbler – Setophaga pinus
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerina
Savannah Sparrow – Passerculus sandwichensis
Fox Sparrow – Passerella iliaca
Swamp Sparrow – Melospiza georgiana
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Common Grackle – Quiscalus quiscula
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major
American Goldfinch – Spinus tristis

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Gemini Springs | Leave a comment

Birding Volusia: Audubon Park

Audubon Park
Audubon Park in Deltona, Florida

While heading down Doyle Road in Deltona in early January, I noticed a sign off of a side road that read “Audubon Park.” I couldn’t stop then, but later at home I looked online for information about the park. I couldn’t find much besides a short mention in a meeting minutes from the Deltona Parks & Recreation Advisory Board. A large part of the text involved the fact that no one on the board seemed to know where the park was located.

Boardwalk
The boardwalk goes over a marshy area

Anyway, Arthur and I went back to the park a day or two later to see what it was like. The park consists of about 60 acres and includes four small water bodies that serve to filter waste water naturally. There is also a long boardwalk over an open marsh (now dry) and a chipped wood path through a small patch of woods. On my first visit on January 6th I was happy to see that the small water ponds had attracted a pair of Hooded Mergansers, my first in Volusia for the year. Arthur found some Eastern Bluebirds, also FOY birds for me.

Audubon Park
Water treatment ponds

trail sign
The loop trail goes into the woods

The next time I visited the park was on my mini big green day on January 19th. One great thing about Audubon Park is that it is adjacent to the new East Regional Rail Trial, which now runs through Deltona to SR415 in Osteen and will eventually extend all the way to Edgewater and Titusville (!!). However, there is currently no access from the park to the bike trail, which should really, really, be easy to facilitate. There is already a dirt road connecting the two, but it is gated. The photo above shows the dirt road heading to the bike path.

parkblocked!
Access to the park from the trail would be through this gate

Hopefully access from the bike path to the park will eventually be opened up. Anyway, without proper access I biked to the park by going around and cycling shortly on busy Doyle Rd, something I don’t really want to do again. Of course, it was definitely worth it, because I picked up some great new BIGBY species (Green-winged Teal and both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs). ๐Ÿ™‚

I felt I had discovered an under-used, unloved and virtually unknown park, but on my visit on January 31st I was surprised to find brand new signs, signs, and more signs. There are now tree ID signs all along the path, and a pair of informational signs declaring the intent of the Ledford Regional Surface Water Treatment Facility (I can’t find anything about the park using this name in a Google search, by the way). So maybe it’s not so unloved and unknown, anyway.

Slash Pine
Many, many trees have these big, bold ID signs

Ledford Regional Surface Water Treatment Facility
LRSWTF

I’ve visited a few more times in the last couple of weeks. The small park continues to be productive, though not overwhelmingly birdy. In and around the ponds I’ve seen Cattle Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Wilson’s Snipes, a lone Spotted Sandpiper just this week, Sandhill Cranes, lots of Killdeer, and a pair of Mallards. The woods and transition habitat hold the usual suspects, including Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Carolina Wrens, White-eyed Vireos, Northern Mockingbirds, and others. I have also seen some interesting fungus there including Column Stinkhorn (very stinky when it was in bloom in January) and a pretty metallic mushroom.

Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron

Hooded Merganser
Hooded Merganser

Column Stinkhorn
Column Stinkhorn

Audubon Park is located off of Lush Lane in Deltona. Lush Lane is off Doyle Road between Saxon and Courtland. Here’s a map. The green arrow points to the parking area; you can see the water treatment ponds to the west. On the map, Ledford Road appears to run through the property, but this dirt road is blocked to public access. Ledford would be the access from the East Regional Rail Trail to the park. The Rail Trail is the line running south of the park, roughly parallel to Doyle.

Have you ever birded at Audubon Park? Do you have your own “unknown” birding spot? Let me know in the comments! Especially if it’s in Volusia County! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Audubon Park bird species list so far (through March 1st, 2013)

Mallard (Domestic type) – Anas platyrhynchos
Green-winged Teal – Anas crecca
Hooded Merganser – Lophodytes cucullatus
Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
Cattle Egret – Bubulcus ibis
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Swallow-tailed Kite – Elanoides forficatus
Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis
Sandhill Crane – Grus canadensis
Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus
Spotted Sandpiper – Actitis macularius
Greater Yellowlegs – Tringa melanoleuca
Lesser Yellowlegs – Tringa flavipes
Wilson’s Snipe – Gallinago delicata
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
American Kestrel – Falco sparverius
Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Tree Swallow – Tachycineta bicolor
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula
Eastern Bluebird – Sialia sialis
American Robin – Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Northern Parula – Setophaga americana
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerina
Savannah Sparrow – Passerculus sandwichensis
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
American Goldfinch – Spinus tristis

Share the birds, share the love!
Posted in Volusia Birding | 4 Comments