Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Birding Central Florida's Pine Forests

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Lower Wekiva River Preserve
I love pine forests. I'm not sure why, but I enjoy them all.  Florida's pine forests, though, at least the ones I visit here in Central Florida, are sometimes very different from the ones I used to enjoy in Maryland.  Many of our pine forests are scrub and sandhill habitats. In scrub habitats, you'll find sand pines with scrub oaks and palmetto bushes.  Sandhill habitats often occur near scrub and contain Longleaf Pines and wiregrass. Even though pine scrub forests receive a lot of rain, they are found in sandy soils, so they actually quite arid. When I go birding after a good rain, I often go to one of these pine forests, because I'm likely to stay dry on the sandy trails. But Florida scrub is threatend by development and, oddly enough, fire prevention, since the habitat is maintained in part by fires. I won't even try to cover all the birds you can find in these forests, but I'll touch on the highlights.

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Eastern Bluebird
Chuluota Wilderness Area
First, I love the passerines that inhabit these pine forests.  Of course, most of these are not limited to Florida pine forests, but they are my favorite places to find them. I suppose I should start with the Pine Warbler; over the last couple weeks I've begun to hear them singing, which I find truly enjoyable.

Econ River WA
Pine Warbler
Econ River Wilderness Area
Along with Pine Warblers, I enjoy finding Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and Brown-headed Nuthatches,which make a lovely racket all year long.

Lower Wekiva River Preserve
Carolina Chickadee
Lower Wekiva River Preserve
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Tufted Titmouse
Geneva Wilderness Area
Econ River WA
Brown-headed Nuthatch at Cavity
Econ River Wilderness Area
Then of course, there are the sparrows.  Eastern Towhee are frequently heard and seen, and we get to enjoy a subspecies with straw-colored eyes.  In some pine forests, you might also find Bachman's Sparrows--a plain but handsome sparrow of southeastern open pine forests.

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Eastern Towhee
Econ River Wilderness Area
Hal Scot Preserve
Bachman's Sparrow
Hal Scot Preserve
And of course, I should mention the Florida Scrub Jay, endemic to Florida scrub habitat.

Merritt Island NWR
Florida Scrub Jay
Merritt Island NWR Scrub Ridge Trail
Second, what would a pine forest be without woodpeckers?  Central Florida's pine forests are great places to find the very common Red-bellied Woodpecker, but you can also find two threatened or near-threatened species of woodpeckers: the Red-headed Woodpecker and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. And during the winter time, you may also see a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker or two.

Three Lakes WMA
Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Three Lakes WMA
Lower Wekiva River Preserve
Red-headed Woodpecker
Lower Wekiva River Preserve
Econ River WA
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Econ River Wilderness Area
Third, I always enjoy finding birds of prey, especially hawks and falcons. O course, most raptors cover large areas, so they are not limited to Pine forests, but I consider it a special treat to see them here.

Econ River WA
Cooper's Hawk
Econ River Wilderness Area
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Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area
River Lakes CA, Moccasin Island Tract
American Kestrel
River Lakes Conservation Area, Moccasin Island Tract

Friday, January 24, 2014

Birding is fun in Florida

 This week I am thinking warm and reliving my Florida trip. A warm and sunny place compared to the extreme cold we are having this next to last week of January.

I am sharing my birding fun in Florida back in April 2013.  We started out in Tampa drove down the gulf coast stopping in various places along the way to Key West and then back to Tampa. We saw awesome birds, beaches, preserves, wildlife refuges and gorgeous sunsets.  I will show some of the highlights of the trip and my Florida lifers.

 We started out in Tampa with a quick visit at my SIL’s place. It was neat to see the Sandhill Cranes walking around her development. This Sandhill Crane should watch out for the golf balls. BTW, no birds were hurt with golf balls at least at the time of my visit.

 Driving south we made a quick detour to see the Burrowing Owls in Cape Corals.  The Burrowing Owls were easy to find and a lifer for me. Another lifer seen with the Burrowing Owls was a Loggerhead Shrike.

Our next stop was to see the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. At the Corkscrew Swamp we saw the Wood Stork which was a lifer. The Roseate Spoonbills and the Painted Buntings are always a treat to see.

 Next we headed to Sanibel Island and Ding Darling NWR. It is a beautiful spot to see Egrets, Little Blue Herons were plentiful, many White Ibis and my first sighting of the Swallow-tailed Kite.

Our next stop was Key West, just the drive to the Keys is a treat. The scenery and birds are awesome along the way. 

 Leaving Key West we stopped for a couple of days to explore the Everglades Nat’l Park. We rode the tram at Shark Valley and also walked the boardwalk trail.

 We drove west to the Flamingo Visitor Center, stopping along the way for some trails and birding.  There were many Wood Stork, Heron and Anhinga rookeries in the Everglades National Park.

Leaving the Everglades behind we headed north up the gulf coast again. Stopping at Marco Island for another quickie sighting of the Burrowing Owls.

 Continuing our drive north we made another stop at the Myakko River State Park. It was at Myakko, I saw my lifer the Limpkin.

 Leaving Myakko and as we headed back to highway to Tampa we came across this family of Sandhill Cranes. A very cool sighting for me to see the crane chicks.

 The Venice Audubon Rookery was another stop on our way north to Tampa. Here we saw my favorite the Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron Rookeries and some Glossy Ibis.

Fort Desoto was our final birding stop before heading to the Tampa Airport hotel. Florida is an awesome place to visit, especially for the birding.  Many of the places we stopped at were on the Florida Birding Trail. I love that various states have these birding trail map, beside Florida I have loved using the Delaware Birding Trail. Does you state have a birding trail? They come in handy while traveling.  I hope you enjoyed the birds and my post.

Florida lifers: Wood Stork, Burrowing Owl, Loggerhead Shrike, Swallowtail Kite, Sora, Eurasian-collared Dove and Limpkin. Linking up with my Saturday's Critters


Monday, January 13, 2014

Cold (not Angry) Birds

After wrestling with last week's "polar vortex," I'm pretty much sold on the idea of migration. I'm 200 pounds of poorly adapted flesh that would be much happier in the tropics every January. That makes it something of a blow to my ego that many of my feathered friends tipping the scales at somewhere between four nickels (Dark-eyed Junco) and two tennis balls (Mourning Dove) choose to stick around and tough it out.

We all know about all the adaptations birds have to survive the frigid cold: circulatory adaptations for the feet, torpor, communal roosting, good old-fashioned shivering.

I ventured out on a day with the temperature lingering around -18°C (0°F) and snapped some photos of birds employing my favorite cold-weather strategy: layering and fluffing!

I present to you: The Fluffy Birds of the Polar Vortex!

Dark-eyed Junco doing the spherical thing.

The rare neck-less Mourning Dove

Fluffy Mourning Doves are the best

Northern Cardinal displaying Mr. Olympia pecs

Blue Jay and Northern Cardinal chillin'...literally

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fun with the Great Horned Owl!

Owls have always been a big draw for me, likely because they are mostly nocturnal and getting in position to be able to photograph them is often difficult to do. With the help of newer, digital cameras that allow you to shoot at a much higher ISO, and without creating too much noise, it is becoming easier to do.

Today's post features a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) early one morning on a nearby state conservation area lake.

The Great Horned Owl is one of Missouri's most common owls.  As I paddled towards the back of the lake, and just around sunrise, I had a wonderful experience with this Great Horned Owl. As I approached, he was sitting in a treetop that extended over the lake, preening:

When I stopped paddling, he decided to move to a downed tree limb, on the lake surface. Fortunately for me, the wind was gentle and at my back, allowing me to just sit and float towards him, requiring no paddling or threatening movements on my part. After landing, he began stretching his wings:

taking a long drink of water:

then, just fluffing his feathers and seemingly having a good time on the lake:

I was able to photograph this guy for about 10 minutes. Then he decided it bedtime, so off he flew into the woods.

This post was prepared by Jim Braswell of Show-Me Nature Photography.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Saying Good-bye to Arizona Birds

In a little less than a month I will be on my way back to the Northeastern United States. When I moved back to Tucson 18 months ago I thought we were here for good, but life is like that. It throws you curve-balls and keeps you on your toes! Living in Maine again will be quite different from Arizona in so many ways, but there will be even more excitement for me this time as we are actually moving to the coast of Maine! I have never lived on the coast, so this will be my first time. I am so looking forward to setting up my feeders and going for walks to see what I can see. It will be a new adventure in birding for me, and a challenging one as well as I set out to learn more shore birds and gulls! Perhaps I will finally get my chance to see an Atlantic Puffin! But for now, I am saying Good-bye to my Arizona birds. I am trying to get around to see as many of them as possible before I go. I feel so blessed to have lived here and to have had the opportunity to bird here. These are just a few of the species I have seen in the few years I have lived here and I will miss them all. Since I still have family and friends here, I know I will be back to visit and perhaps see some of these wonderful birds once again. 

All of the birds pictured below I will NOT be able to see in Maine!

Gambel's Quail in my Sycamore Canyon Yard 3-2-2009

Mexican Jay in Madera Canyon 1-9-2009

Vermilion Flycatcher, the symbol of Tucson Audubon in Reid Park 1-13-13

Yellow-eyed Junco in Madera Canyon 3-6-2013

Rufous-winged Sparrow at Tumacacori Mission 1-13-2013

Orange-crowned warbler at Tumacacori Mission 1-13-2013

Canyon Towhee in Saguaro National Park 3-10-2013

Canyon Wren in Christmas, AZ 8-2-2013

Bendire's Thrasher on the Santa Cruz Flats 1-19-2013

Black-throated Sparrow, Saguaro National Park 3-10-2013

An out-of-season Cassin's Kingbird at Reid Park in Tucson 1-1-2013

Gila Woodpecker in Saguaro National Park-Rincon Mountain Unit 3-10-2013

Neotropic Cormorant at Boyce Thompson Arboretum 3-18-2013

Botteri's Sparrow on the road to Madera Canyon 5-30-2013

Common Blackhawk in Tubac, AZ 3-12-2013

Phainopepla at Michael Perry Park in Tucson 2-15-2013

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher in Michael Perry Park 2-25-2013

Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet at Agua Caliente Park in Tucson 9-4-2013

Rock Wren in Saguaro National Park-Rincon Mountain Unit 1-31-2013

Broad-billed Hummingbird in the Catalina Foothills 4-23-2013

Least Grebe in Pena Blanca Lake 7-7-2013

Mexican Spotted Owls in Miller Canyon 3-23-13 

Western Bluebird in Sedona, AZ 11-11-2013

Band-tailed pigeon in my Tucson backyard, 9-29-13

Kathiesbirds in Madera Canyon 1-13-2008. I was a fledgling eBirder then!

So, Good-bye my fine feathered friends, 
I've had a fine time watching you!

So, come visit me at Kathie's Birds where my birding adventures will continue!