Meme Monday: Sh*t Birders Say

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” [Merriam Webster]. 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.

Sh*t Girls Say debuted as a short video series in December 2011. The clips of guys dressed up as girls saying extremely stereotypical (and sometimes offensive) things were very popular. Ever since this meme started spawning parodies, I was hoping someone would make a Birder version. But first, there was a Sh*t Birds Say.

And finally, this was posted on YouTube yesterday. Yay! “You brought a Crossley’s?!”

Hat tip to Laura Erickson and Birdchick

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BirdsEye BirdLog

While it did take me a bit longer to enter my list on the phone compared to jotting down notes in a notepad in the field, it only takes one click at the end, “submit,” to get my list onto eBird, which is my ultimate goal, anyway. This app is a huge time-saver and pretty slick besides. I can’t wait to use it again! Moar birding, yeah!

Read my 5/5 review of this new app for iPhone here: App Review: BirdsEye BirdLog.

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Posted in Aside, Magnificent Frigatebird | 2 Comments

Raising Baby Brown Pelicans

One of the most remarkable stories of the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary is the success they have had in breeding captive Brown Pelicans. In 1974 a captive pair of Brown Pelicans successfully raised a chick, named Pax, to fledge and leave the Sanctuary. This was the very first time a Brown Pelican had ever hatched in captivity.

At the time, in the mid-1970’s, the Brown Pelican was an endangered species. Between 1975 and 1982, over 130 baby Brown Pelicans successfully fledged into the wild after being reared by captive, permanently injured parents. Many more have followed since then. It was obvious during our visit that the Brown Pelicans continue to breed very successfully at the Sanctuary. The baby birds we saw will one day be freed, too. When the babies are ready, the top of the Brown Pelican enclosures will be removed and the healthy birds will be able to leave.

Baby Brown Pelicans
A parent sits with three babies

Baby Brown Pelicans
Though they are in an artificial environment, the birds are comfortable enough to breed successfully

Baby Brown Pelicans
Another nest, more sweet babies

Baby Brown Pelicans

Baby Brown Pelican
Look at that little pouch!

Baby Brown Pelican
Two adults sleep near their young chick

Baby Brown Pelican
Baby pelican skin

The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary is located at 18328 Gulf Boulevard in Indian Shores on the west coast of Florida. The Sanctuary is open 365 days per year, from 9AM until sunset. Admission is free. The nonprofit relies on donations to care for up to 8,000 injured birds each year. Visit their website to learn more.

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A lifer I need to get THIS YEAR

Today the American Birding Association (ABA) announced their Bird of the Year for 2012: the Evening Grosbeak. If you need a laugh please check out the wonderfully goofy video in the ABA blog post announcing the reign of the Evening Grosbeak.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this choice, as I do not have this species on my life list and I don’t have much of a chance of getting it here in my home state! This might call for a road trip… Meanwhile my bins will be sporting the spiffy new ABA BoY sticker. I’m gonna spread the word while enjoying the birds! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Sanctuary Residents & Loafers

The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores, Florida, is the largest wild bird hospital in the United States. They treat up to 8,000 injured wild birds per year, in addition to caring for around 600 permanent resident birds. Permanently injured seabirds, plus others including raptors, songbirds, waders, and seabirds, are given a home at the sanctuary.

90% of the birds cared for by the Sanctuary become injured as a result of accidental or intentional human action.

During our visit to the Sanctuary last month, we saw many of the permanent resident birds.

American White Pelican
American White Pelicans gather together in a corner of their roomy enclosure

American White Pelican
Later, the American White Pelicans spread out for some serious snoozing

Northern Gannets
Permanent resident Northern Gannets

A Sandhill Crane and Great Blue Heron shared an enclosure with other large wading birds

The Sanctuary also attracts wild birds, who know that it might be a spot for getting an easy meal. Black-crowned Night Herons were nesting in nearly all of the trees on the Sanctuary grounds. Other species of heron, along with Brown Pelicans and other seabirds, were also visiting the Sanctuary while we were there.

Employees Only
Employees only, present company excluded

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Just one of many Black-crowned Night-Herons loafing around the Sanctuary

Non-releasable birds of prey, songbirds, woodpeckers and rails also live at the sanctuary. We got to see a couple of raptors as they were taken out onto the glove during our visit.

Red-shouldered Hawk
Non-releasable Red-shouldered Hawk on the glove

Short-tailed Hawk
Non-releasable Short-tailed Hawk on the glove

Among the many, many permanently injured Brown Pelicans at the Sanctuary, some birds tending to baby pelicans. Stay tuned – I’ll have more about the Sanctuary’s success with Brown Pelicans in a future post!

Brown Pelican
A Brown Pelican and a Double-crested Cormorant, both probably former patients, visit the Sanctuary

The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary is located at 18328 Gulf Boulevard in Indian Shores on the west coast of Florida. The Sanctuary is open 365 days per year, from 9AM until sunset. Admission is free. The nonprofit relies on donations to care for up to 8,000 injured birds each year. Visit their website to learn more.

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Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary Structures

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Welcome to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary

Following our slow chase for the Possum Branch Green-tailed Towhee last month, Arthur and I headed to the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores, Florida. I first heard about the sanctuary from my friend Karen, who volunteered there last year after wanting to do so for several years.

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Brown Pelicans and Black-crowned Night-Herons form part of the welcome committee at the Sanctuary

The Sanctuary was founded in 1971 by Ralph Heath, on the Heath homestead. The Sanctuary grew rapidly into on of the world’s largest wild bird hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Today the Sanctuary is comprised of several re-purposed buildings, plus many bird enclosures, cages, and mews.

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Injured birds are cared for immediately upon arrival

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Huge aviaries for permanently injured, non-releasable seabirds

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Mews for resident raptors and songbirds

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Owl mews

We had a lovely long visit at the Sanctuary, where we got to see a bit of the work involved in caring for up to 8,000 birds per year, plus a large contingent of permanent residents.

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Arthur watches a video in the (temporary) educational center; founder Ralph Heath is on screen

Of course we were there to see the good work done at the Sanctuary, and to visit the resident birds. I will have more about both in the next post. I think you could guess from that photo of the entrance at the top of this post — not all of the birds we saw were inside enclosures…

Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary
Shall we visit the gift shop, or take photos of Black-crowned Night-Herons?

The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary is located at 18328 Gulf Boulevard in Indian Shores on the west coast of Florida. The Sanctuary is open 365 days per year, from 9AM until sunset. Admission is free. The nonprofit relies on donations to care for up to 8,000 injured birds each year. Visit their website to learn more.

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A slow chase

I wanted to do something special for my birthday last month, so I started planning a little getaway to the west side of the state. I was looking to chase a few birds, see a different part of Florida, and just bum around a bit. My original itinerary had Arthur and me hitting 3 or 4 hotspots a day over a long weekend, racking up life birds like Burrowing Owl, Snail Kite, and Red-cockaded Woodpecker. In the end I decided to scale down our adventure to just two days centered around the Tampa Bay area, and our first stop after an early morning wake up call on Sunday, February 26th was Possum Branch Preserve in Safety Harbor, Pinellas County. We were there to look for a western sparrow that had been seen regularly since December 10, 2011.

The bird, first thought to be only the 5th or 6th* Green-tailed Towhee ever recorded in Florida, must have been seen by hundreds of state birders. Thanks to regular mailing list posts by those who went out to see the bird before us, we had extremely detailed directions to follow when we went twitching over two months after the initial sighting (is it still considered twitching after so much time has passed?).

Green-tailed Towhee

We arrived in cool, rainy conditions, but were lucky to find the bird immediately upon arriving at its favorite haunt. It scratched, foraged and fed nearly continuously for the half hour we were there.

As a bonus, we found another lifer at Possum Branch Preserve: American Oystercatcher. This species was a target we had for our Tampa trip, but we didn’t expect to see it at Possum Branch. After two fly-by oystercatchers took us by surprise we had to do a second life bird boogie. ๐Ÿ™‚

*This has been an exceptional season for Green-tailed Towhees in Florida. There may have been up to 8 different birds in the state in the past 12 months.

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Posted in Florida, Life List, Rare / Vagrant | Leave a comment

A new volunteer gig

I started volunteering at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey at the beginning of February. One morning a week I help with regular maintenance tasks like cleaning up after rehab birds, cleaning up after education birds, and cleaning up after display birds. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, there is a lot of cleaning. But I also get to spend some time with some gorgeous birds of prey. The people there are pretty nice, too, but so far I’ve only taken photos of the birds. All of the pictures/video in this post were taken with my iPhone.

This beautiful male Barred Owl was in a rehab mew one day when I was cleaning.

Barred Owl

On my first day I was invited by a fellow volunteer to “water the Ospreys.” Ospreys are typically high-strung, and the three birds on display were very vocal while we were in their space – until they were being watered. These fish-specialists love the water and remained calm as I gently sprayed them with water from the hose. Here are a couple of wet, happy Ospreys.


On my first day I also got to meet Uffda, a Black Vulture who seems to have a chronic sneezing problem. She got her name from the funny nasal noises she makes. In this photo she is scratching her neck on the rough gravel.

Black Vulture

This beautiful adult Bald Eagle has permanent injuries that leave him non-releasable. He is suffering through repeated issues with his wing which need to resolve before he can be placed with an education facility. He has a very sweet demeanor for an adult wild Bald Eagle; I couldn’t take my eyes off of him while I cleaned up his small rehab mew.

Bald Eagle

On my second day of volunteering I got to meet a rascal Black Vulture called Jeff. Jeff was presumed male until she laid an egg years after being placed at the Center. While I was cleaning up in her building I left a plastic bag with discarded food items in the hallway. Somehow Jeff managed to reach outside of her mew and snatch the bag. You can see how close together the slats are – I don’t know how she did it! Later I gave her a squeaky dog toy to play with.

Black Vulture

After I was done with my duties on my second volunteer day, I took a little walk around the grounds of the Center, where I found one of those water-lovin’ Osprey having a bath.

On February 23rd the Center released their 441st Bald Eagle. I was lucky enough to be invited to watch the eagle get caught up in the flight chamber. Once the bird was secure I got to place the hood over the eagle’s eyes. The bird was brought inside where it was weighed and later (in a separate building) a federal band was placed around one of its legs.

Banding a Bald Eagle

Last Thursday I got to clean up the display mews. The birds on permanent display in these mews have injuries that prevent their release back into the wild. As far as I understand, none of the display birds are glove-trained, but they are certainly used to having their enclosures cleaned out each day. There are thirteen separate mews holding sixteen different species (if I am remembering everyone!).

Red-tailed Hawks
Luke and Lynn, Red-tailed Hawks

Turkey Vulture
Charlemagne the Turkey Vulture gives me the stink eye

Mississippi Kite
Dancer (I think), Mississippi Kite

The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, located in Maitland, Florida, treats up to 700 birds of prey each year. You can follow them on Facebook here. This post reflects my own experiences as a volunteer; any errors regarding the Center and their patients or permanent residents are purely my own – and I do expect there might be some errors as I am still learning my way around the center and getting to know all of the birds. Further, any opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ACBOP.

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Posted in ACBOP, Rehabilitation | 2 Comments

Wildlife Festival at Lake Woodruff NWR

Lake Woodruff NWR lookout

On February 25th we attended the first Lake Woodruff NWR Wildlife Festival. The free event included eco-buggy tours of the refuge, guided bird walks, live music, and more. At the visitor center there was a nature fair with stands from Halifax Audubon and West Volusia Audubon, bat experts and rehabbers Fly by Night, Lyonia Preserve, plus other wildlife experts, local artists, and other vendors. FWC and the US Army Corps of Engineers had impressive stands with loads of information about prescribed burns and invasive species, respectively. It was a nice little nature fair with a good amount of stands, plus a food truck and plenty of picnic space. Thumbs up to the crew that put together the festival!

We started our visit with an early morning walk around the refuge, where we spotted 36 species of bird through the various habitat types in the refuge. Lake Woodruff NWR is a gem here in Volusia County and I am looking forward to getting to know it better.

Lake Woodruff NWR

Flock of White Ibis and Glossy Ibis

Blue-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal drakes

Lake Woodruff NWR

Dragonfly with larva
Dr. Terry Farrell shows off a dragonfly and dragonfly larvae and other creatures found in and around the waters of Lake Woodruff NWR

Pied-billed Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

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Posted in Festivals & Events, Florida, Volusia Birding | 1 Comment

Gemini Springs, February 2012

I didn’t get to bird my local patch as much as I wanted to last month. I had a long-lasting head cold that kept me away for a while and then I was just really busy with work and other stuff (like a little birding getaway in the last week of February). In the end I tallied 7 complete checklists, but on two mornings I kept two lists so I only visited for birding a total of five times (plus a couple of quick bike-throughs on Spring-to-spring trail runs to Lake Monroe Park).

I tallied a total of 60 species for the month, with 10 new year birds (bold were new to my all-time Gemini Springs list) Green-winged Teal, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Caspian Tern, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Painted Bunting. The complete list of 60 species is at the end of this post.

Tricolored Heron
Tricolored Heron; February 4 2012

Double-crested Cormorants
Double-crested Cormorants; February 4 2012

White Ibis
White Ibis; February 4 2012

Arthur and I joined Seminole Audubon on their club walk at Gemini Springs on February 18th. They seemed like a fun group so I hope we’ll be able to bird with them again some time. Since they started after 8:30AM this was one of the days I kept two lists – Arthur and I birded the park a bit before the official walk began.

Birders @ Gemini Springs
Birders from Seminole Audubon looking at one of the springs; February 18 2012

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron; February 18 2012

Limkpin; February 18 2012

Apple snail shells
Limkpin leavings (apple snail shells); February 18 2012

I had been asked to lead a home school group on a birding walk on February 21st. Our walk was to begin at 9AM so this was the other day where I recorded two lists. Unfortunately our group was not as large as expected, but Arthur and I enjoyed birding Gemini Springs with a young mother and her two boys. The youngsters blew us away with their bird (and fish!) knowledge. It was a pleasure to bird Gemini Springs with kids. ๐Ÿ™‚

Gemini Springs
Gemini Springs; February 21 2012

Painted Bunting
Female Painted Bunting; February 21 2012

February bird list, Gemini Springs
Blue-winged Teal – Anas discors
Green-winged Teal – Anas crecca
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
White Ibis – Eudocimus albus
Glossy Ibis – Plegadis falcinellus
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Northern Harrier – Circus cyaneus
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis
Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata
American Coot – Fulica americana
Limpkin – Aramus guarauna
Sandhill Crane – Grus canadensis
Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus
Caspian Tern – Hydroprogne caspia
Forster’s Tern – Sterna forsteri
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
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
American Robin – Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Cedar Waxwing – Bombycilla cedrorum
Orange-crowned Warbler – Oreothlypis celata
Northern Parula – Setophaga americana
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Pine Warbler – Setophaga pinus
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
Yellow-throated Warbler – Setophaga dominica
Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerina
Savannah Sparrow – Passerculus sandwichensis
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Painted Bunting – Passerina ciris
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major

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Posted in Gemini Springs, Volusia Birding | Leave a comment