Saturday, January 3, 2015

The little birds of winter in south Florida

Winter has arrived in south Florida. The sun will continue to rise after 7:00 AM for a few more days, making it easy for us to beat the sun as we look for deer and Bobcats in the wetlands next to our south Florida home. 

Clear and cool weather promised to persist until Christmas. Sunrise on a cloudless sky is less than spectacular. This view from our back patio, on December 19, showed a bank of low clouds over the ocean, reminding me of the mountains we could see from our front windows when we lived in New Mexico.

Sunrise HDR COREL 20141219

The waning crescent moon can be seen in the upper right corner of the above photo. In winter it is lit from the bottom, pointing up, a "wet moon" that traps the rain in its cup, heralding the dry season.

Crescent wet moon 20141219

In a recent post I lamented the lack of little birds, the "dicky-birds" the few species present when the days are long, warm and wet. I define "winter" as that period between fall and spring migration, loosely from October through February. During winter we can see more of the little tykes, sparrow-sized or smaller.

Although Florida's big birds are relatively easy to find and photograph, I enjoy the challenge of capturing these evasive creatures. Some northern sparrows have now arrived, including this Savannah Sparrow, first seen on November 4:

Savannah Sparrow 3-20141104

Savannah Sparrow 2-20141104

When just learning to use my first DSLR camera (the first Canon EOS Digital Rebel) I took my favorite photo of a local Savannah Sparrow back on October 31, 2008: 

Savannah Sparrow 2008_10_31

About a week later after the first Savannah Sparrow, I caught this quick glimpse of a Swamp Sparrow through the brush, on November 13:

Swamp Sparrow 2-20141113

After a few near misses, this one came out into the open on December 19:

Swamp Sparrow 20141219

I hope to find other winter sparrows that have appeared rather irregularly over the years, Among them, the Grasshopper Sparrow, photographed here on February 1, 2011. Loss of grassland habitat in our patch makes this species less likely to appear locally in the future:

Grasshopper Sparrow 2-20110201

A Lincoln's Sparrow showed up only once, on October 16, 2013:

Lincoln's Sparrow 20131016

I sighted my first local White-crowned Sparrow on October 18, 2012:

White-crowned_Sparrow Zonotrichia_leucophrys 3-20121018

At least two White-crowned Sparrows were present the next year in the same tree, first on October 23,... 

White-crowned Sparrow 4-20131023

...and again on October 26, 2013:

White-crowned Sparrow 20131026

Two visiting species of bunting qualify as "dicky-birds, less than 6 inches long. The Indigo Bunting is seen irregularly all winter. The males show very little of their summer blue plumage (November 7, 2014):

Indigo Bunting 7-20141107

While male Painted Buntings retain their colorful plumage all year around, we see mostly green immature and female birds (this one also on November 7):

Painted Bunting female 20141107

Other non-breeding migratory "dicky-birds" (sparrow-size or smaller) that stay here all winter and are relatively common include the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (November 11, 2014).

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 20141111 

Tiny House Wrens breed widely over the northern part of the US and are fairly abundant all winter long (November 7, 2014):

House Wren 20141107

A few warblers are seen only during the winter-- the Palm Warbler (December 10, 2014),...

Palm Warbler 20141210
...and Yellow-rumped Warbler, giving me an inquiring look,...

Yellow-rumped Warbler 2-20141130

...and suspended in mid-air on November 30, 2014:

Yellow-rumped Warbler 6-20141130

Although I have not photographed one this winter, Black-and White Warblers are fairly reliably present (October 17, 2013):

Black-and-white Warbler 2-20131017

Their plumage is striking and they are amusing acrobats:

Black-and-white Warbler 6-20131017
Orange-crowned Warblers, though reclusive and hard to find, are also here all winter (November 20, 2014):

Orange-crowned Warbler 2-20141130

Many other warbler species spend the winter nearer the coast and in richer habitats than our wounded and deteriorating local wetlands, but so far I have not found them locally except during migration.

1 comment:

  1. Kenneth, that is quite a collection of birds! I love the Black and white warbler! I hope you get to see a grasshopper sparrow again. I found a couple around my brother's neighborhood in Cape coral when I was there last February!