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. 🙂 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. 🙂

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

Meme Monday: The Most Interesting Man in the World

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.

An Internet meme based on the Dos Equis beer The Most Interesting Man in the World campaign probably began sometime in late 2007. The standard text reads, “I don’t always x, but when I do, I y,” which parodies the ad campaign slogan, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”

The Most Interesting Man in the World: Cooper’s Hawk vs. Sharpie [hat tip Jeff]

The Most Interesting Man in the World: Chum Scrum [hat tip Corey]

Images of others in a sort of laid-back position were used for this meme as well, including Harry Potter, and a relaxed-looking cat – The Most Interesting Cat in the World.

The Most Interesting Cat in the World: Cats Indoors

The following image, which doesn’t follow the standard meme protocol, is the only other bird-related variation on this meme I could find.

The Most Interesting Man in the World: Birds Watch Him

If you know of any other bird- or birder-related variations on this meme, I would love to add them to this post. Please let me know!

Stay thirsty, my friends!

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Peregrine Falcon feeding on a Laughing Gull

Florida birders are probably familiar with Michael Brothers, a Volusia County birder who frequently shares interesting sightings on the local listservs. This week he posted a remarkable story and photos and I asked him if I could share them with my blog audience. Here’s his original post as it appeared on the BRDBRAIN email list:

Today, 2/21, I stopped by to see the gulls at Daytona Beach Shores and witnessed an amazing sight. I saw a large group of gulls take off from along the beach and assumed that some people had chased the birds off.
When I got closer I found an adult Peregrine had killed a Laughing Gull and it was calmly eating it right on the beach. The bird was amazingly tame and allowed me to sit only 20 feet away and photograph it for 15 minutes or more. It did not seem bothered by beach walkers going by only a few feet away from it. A few other birders came up and were also able to sit and watch the spectacle. Meanwhile, folks were driving by just behind us, either staring at the bird or oblivious to the rare event right beside them.

Now check out the photos he captured below. You can click on them to see larger.

Peregrine Falcon feeding on Laughing Gull, photo by Michael Brothers, posted with permission

Peregrine Falcon feeding on Laughing Gull, photo by Michael Brothers, posted with permission

Peregrines are regularly seen hunting around the huge gathering of gulls that occurs near Frank Rendon Park in Daytona Beach Shores. Seeing one feeding right there on the beach, though? Remarkable! Thank you, Michael, for letting me post your story and photos.

UPDATE: It seems I’m not the only blogger sharing Michael’s photos and story! And that’s not all – there are even more photos!

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Posted in Behavior, Florida | 1 Comment

Meme Monday: What I Really Do

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.

Last week a fresh meme started with photos depicting varying perspectives on occupations in shareable six-image graphics. What People Think I Do / What I Really Do grew to include hobbies, locations, medical conditions, and much more. Here’s a birdwatching one that was posted on the ABA Facebook group page. [Facebook original posting]

Birding – What I Really Do (click to see larger)

For most of the occupation-based graphics, the captions indicating different perspectives were roughly the same: Friends; Mom; Society; Boss; Self; and finally “What I Really Do.” Arthur came up with this one for birders. [Facebook original posting]

Black Rail – What I Really Look Like (click to see larger)

In case you don’t know, a Black Rail is a very secretive, hard-to-see bird. And the Richard Crossley caption refers to a rather unique photographic bird guide he published last year. Note that the Black Rail photos in this meme image were taken by photographer David Seibel. You can read about them here: Photographing the Black Rail.

Arthur came up with another one, this time on a very hotbed issue: outdoor cats. He shared this one on the Alley Cat Allies Facebook page, where it received a lot of positive feedback and was shared over 160 260 times. [Facebook original posting]

Cats Outdoors
Cats Outdoors – What I Actually Do (click to see larger – on Flickr)

In preparing the Cats Outdoors graphic, we came across a lot of Flickr photos of cats carrying dead birds. We created a Flickr group, Keep Cats Indoors, and we invite anyone to add appropriate photos to the group. Warning: the group contains graphic photos of dead birds and dead cats.

If you know of any other bird- or birder-related variations on this meme, I would love to know about them. One problem I have with the fast-paced world of Internet memes is finding them after the popularity of the meme has died down. The nature of these graphic memes means that they aren’t necessarily optimized for finding via search engines at a later date.


Birdwatcher | What It’s Really Like [FB link] (click to enlarge)

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Posted in Internet Meme | 2 Comments

Bird-a-Day weeks 6-7

With today’s entry of Tree Swallow in the Bird-a-Day Challenge, I’m up to 49 birds for 2012. Of the 14 birds added since my last update, five were yard birds. One of them was a doozy, though.

18-FEB-12 Tree Swallow Gemini Springs
17-FEB-12 Loggerhead Shrike OCCC
16-FEB-12 Black Skimmer Merritt Island NWR
15-FEB-12 Western Tanager yard
14-FEB-12 Mallard Epcot
13-FEB-12 American Goldfinch yard
12-FEB-12 Wild Turkey Lake Winona Road
11-FEB-12 Chipping Sparrow yard
10-FEB-12 Yellow-rumped Warbler yard
09-FEB-12 Wood Duck Audubon Center for BOP
08-FEB-12 Eurasian Collared-Dove Disney’s Animal Kingdom
07-FEB-12 Green-winged Teal Gemini Springs
06-FEB-12 Red-winged Blackbird yard
05-FEB-12 Red Phalarope Mayport pelagic

Yard Birds

Red-winged Blackbirds are present here in central Florida all year, but we’ve only seen them in our yard since last month. I suspect when they start breeding activities we won’t see them in the neighborhood too much. Yellow-rumped Warblers, Chipping Sparrows, and American Goldfinches are winter visitors here, and will all be gone by May or June, returning again in September or October. Goldfinches are pretty rare in our yard so I was happy to see one having a drink in our bird bath last Monday. But it was the Western Tanager that visited our yard for a brief moment last Wednesday that was a real shocker. We spotted a Western Tanager in our yard last October. Could this be the same bird?

Further Afield

Several visits outside of the usual haunts over the last weeks provided some great birds. It was hard to pick the bird of the day after the Mayport pelagic trip on the 5th – I’m as likely to see a Manx Shearwater in the coming months as a Red Phalarope, I think. The Wood Ducks I saw while volunteering at the ACBOP on the 9th were my first for Florida, believe it or not. A last-minute trip to Merritt Island to see an Atlas 5 launch (which ended up scrubbed) plus two days at Disney yielded birds I don’t expect to see at home or at my local patch. A Loggerhead Shrike working the parking lot at the Orange County Convention Center was a nice surprise yesterday.

Local Finds

On the 12th I drove to a dairy farm near DeLeon Springs to look for some reported Brewer’s Blackbirds. I struck out on the blackbirds but was pleased to find a nice group of Wild Turkeys, my first for Volusia for 2012. Another first for Volusia and a new BIGBY species was Green-winged Teal, a flock of which Arthur found during a morning walk at Gemini Springs on the 7th.

Looking Ahead

Now for a little prognostication. Between our yard and Gemini Springs, as of today there are about 40 species not already used in the game that I am 95% sure to see on any given day. Most of these are year-round residents, but some will start to leave around the end of March. Meanwhile a few new birds should start to show up, like Great Crested Flycatchers and Swallow-tailed Kites, both of which might arrive as early as late February. I hope I’m not jinxing myself in forecasting at least another six weeks of play in this game. And hopefully for the next update I can round up a photo or two. 🙂

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Posted in Bird-a-Day Challenge, Disney, Gemini Springs, Green Birding, Yard Birds | Leave a comment

Sunbathing Nicobar Pigeons

The Nicobar Pigeon is one of the most beautiful species in the family Columbidae. They average 1.5 to 3 inches larger than the average Rock Pigeon. And they are colorful!

Nicobar Pigeon

Besides their beautiful metallic green, blue and copper feathers, Nicobar Pigeons have long hackles (long feathers) around their necks.

Nicobar Pigeons are named for the Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean. During a recent visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I saw a group of these gorgeous pigeons sunning themselves. They were in a large walk-through aviary in the Maharajah Jungle Trek attraction.

Nicobar Pigeons sunning

Nicobar Pigeons sunning

Throughout the park that day I noticed many new cast members being trained or following orientation from more experienced Disney employees. As I stopped to watch the sunbathing pigeons, I overheard one cast member explaining to another that the sunbathing area was a hotspot for questions from visitors who express concern for the birds. A sunbathing bird may contort into an odd-looking position, or appear to be injured, while exposing various body parts to the sun. If you want to learn about avian sunbathing, this article on about.com is a good place to start: Birds Sunning.

Nicobar Pigeon sunning

Nicobar Pigeon sunning

Unfortunately, the Nicobar Pigeon is considered a Near Threatened species in the wild. Threats to the species include hunting, the pet trade, non-native predators, and habitat destruction.

Their beautiful plumage makes Nicobar Pigeons popular birds in zoo aviaries. Because they do breed easily in captivity, breeding programs are able to stock overseas zoos.

Nicobar Pigeons

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Two missed targets, two lifers

Brown Pelican
Brown Pelicans in the harbor at Mayport

On Sunday, February 5th, Arthur and I joined 25 other birders on a last-minute pelagic trip put together by Michael Brothers of the Marine Science Center. The trip was arranged after a Georgia whale survey reported seeing large numbers of Razorbills and other seabirds, along with impressive numbers of Right Whales, the week prior.

The trip left out of Mayport, near Jacksonville, at about 8AM, which meant that we had to leave our home in DeBary at o’dark thirty for the 2+ hour drive north.

Mayport Princess
Our boat was the Mayport Princess, a fishing charter

The seas were relatively calm, the skies overcast. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to see any Razorbills or Right Whales at all. We did find some good birds, though. We had good looks at Red Phalaropes, and saw tons of Bonaparte’s Gulls, up to 17 Manx Shearwaters (an impressive number for a Florida pelagic), and many Common Loons, some in loose flocks on the water. Manx Shearwater and Red Phalarope were both lifers for me.

Bonaparte's Gulls
Tons of Bonaparte’s Gulls

Bonaparte's Gull
A Bonaparte’s Gull in flight

Red Phalarope
Red Phalarope

Common Loon
Common Loon

The trip was a short one; we arrived back in Mayport before 3PM. Some birders surely headed straight home to watch the Superbowl, but Arthur and I stopped at Lake Woodruff NWR for a short walk, where I was happy to hear a new year / Florida / Volusia County bird: Eastern Screech Owl.

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