Monday, March 30, 2015

Travel Birding

South Hamilton, MA
White-breasted Nuthach
Here in Florida we have 67 counties.  One day I'd love to visit every one of those counties to do some birding. Right now in my stage of life, I do not have many opportunities to do much about that, though. My job and family keep me pretty close to home.  When I go places on a Saturday, I can rarely drive more than 2 hours away, and with a state as large as Florida, that's a pretty small percentage of the state.

Wekiwa Springs SP
Yellow-throated Vireo
This past weekend I had to travel to Dothan, AL for a conference.  It's almost a 400 mile drive, and most of it is in the State of Florida.  So I decided to do some travel birding.  I stopped in most every county where I had no eBird checklists, mostly at rest areas along I-75 and I-10.  I only stayed each for an average of 15-20 minutes, but it was enough for me to log a few species for each county I traveled through.  I also visited three State Parks.  I visited Suwannee River State Park (Suwannee County) on the way up, and I visited Florida Caverns State Park (Jackson County) and Alfred B. Maclay Gardens SP (Leon County) on the way home.  I spent most of my time along I-10 hoping to get some lingering birds that winter in northern Florida but not in Central Florida.

Econ River WA
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
I found this quite enjoyable. Not only did this break up the monotony of driving and give me little bits of rest, but I totaled 66 species (including both the drive up and back) in the State of Florida, and I found two birds I've never seen in Florida before (Broad-winged Hawk and White-breasted Nuthatch), and I added two more to my Florida year list (Hooded Warbler and Canada Goose).

Lori Wilson Park
Black-and-white Warbler
It was also fun to add checklists for 9 Florida Counties, and in 6 of these counties (Jackson, Gadston, Jefferson, Madison, Columbia, Marion) I had never submitted a checklist. What I found most surprising is how productive rest areas can be.  I guess that makes sense, though, since most of those I stopped at were somewhat natural looking with a lot of trees.  My favorite rest area stop was along I-10 in Jefferson County.  I stepped out of my car to hear two Yellow-throated Vireos singing.  Then came the chatter of Ruby-crowned Kinglets.  Then I began to notice 6 species of warbler: Black-and-white, Orange-crowned, Northern Parula, Palm, Yellow-throated and Prairie Warbler. These were all in about 3-4 trees between my car and the restrooms.  A little ways away there were also several Chipping Sparrows about.  Not a bad rest area, if you ask me.

Central Winds Park
Orange-crowned Warbler
Full Disclosure: I was hoping to take pictures along the way up and back, but I was unable to do so. My car was broken into and all my camera equipment was stolen.  So I made the trip without a camera. Hopefully that will be resolved soon.  The photos I have included here are of birds I've photographed at other times and places.

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Prairie Warbler

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Birds of Celery Fields

Celery Fields is a 400 acre site located in Sarasota, Florida. This county-owned birding hotspot hosts a large number of diverse bird species. The area consists of a variety of habitats; deep and shallow ponds, open marshlands and wetlands, mudflats, canals and grassy fields. The eastern and southern boundaries are edged by pine, willow and oak trees. Two boardwalks can be found on the site and there are plans to build a nature center in the near future.

To date, 217 bird species have been recorded at Celery Fields. Depending on what time of year one visits, Swallow-tailed Kites and Bald Eagles can be spotted soaring aloft. If you look closely along the reed edges, Least Bitterns, King Rails and Soras might be found skulking about. Foraging beauties like Roseate Spoonbills, Limpkins, Tricolored Herons and Glossy Ibis are a common presence observed from the boardwalks. The brushy areas attract a variety of sparrows such as vesper, savannah and grasshopper. Northern Harriers and Red-shouldered Hawks scan the open fields for prey. Be sure to take a look at the ponds and canals for Purple Gallinules, Short-billed Dowitchers and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. Celery Fields is indeed a glorious spot for birding!

A stunning Little Blue Heron shows off its midnight blue feathers

A long-legged beauty ~ Black-necked Stilt

Two Red-shouldered Hawks look out over the open fields

Exploring the grassy berm ~ Limpkins

A Green Heron swallows a tiny food morsel

A Crested Caracara soaks in the bright morning sun

Pretty in pink ~ Roseate Spoonbill

Flipping its prey ~ Anhinga

A prehistoric looking Wood Stork glides in for a landing

An elusive American Bittern forages in the marsh

Soaring aloft ~ Northern Harrier

A group of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks edge closer to the pond

A beautiful Tricolored Heron takes wing

Seeking nourishment ~ White Ibis

A pretty Greater Yellowlegs wades in the shallow pond

A very common sight at Celery Fields ~ Osprey

Posted by Julie Gidwitz

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

2015 Backyard Big Year--February Update

Squirrels and birds at sparrow slick during snowy February
There was just one word for Backyard Big Year birding in February--COLD!  OK, two words--cold and slow.  Very few days got above freezing, and the ground was snow covered the entire month.  Out of 25 days birding in the yard, I was only able to see 40 species, and get only 2 new birds for the year--Common Grackle and Brown Creeper.  Brown Creeper was great to see, as it was actually a new yard bird for me and the last of what I consider to be Code 2 birds (ones that are expected but may take effort) for me to see in my yard.

On the photo big year front, I was able to add photos of Common Grackle, American Tree Sparrow, and Pine Siskin--taking that total to 37 species photographed so far.

For the audio big year, I added recordings of American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Brown Creeper, and Hairy Woodpecker--bringing that total up to 26 species.

With most water in the county frozen, there weren't many gulls or waterfowl moving that I could see from my yard, and even goose flocks were mostly elsewhere.  Most action was at my feeders, or the sparrow slick I maintained excavated and seeded by my compost bin.  In the afternoons, I would look for soaring Red-tailed Hawks and vultures, and it was fun to have a few Cooper's Hawks buzz the yard--here's a recording of the birds going crazy and taking off as one attacked!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Spring Birds in Maine

Ring-billed Gulls at Wharton Point in Brunswick, ME 3-23-2014
When I first moved to Maine last February I knew I was in for some new and fun birding. While I had lived in Maine twice before, I had never lived here since starting my blog or becoming an eBirder. Now was my chance to add to my species list in Maine, and possibly add some Life Birds to my Life List! Either way, I knew I would have fun Birding in Maine! Last month I posted photos of some of the birds I have seen in Winter. With spring just around the corner, I figured it was time to take a look at some of the birds I saw here last spring. If you read the captions beneath each photo you will see the name of the species and the date and place they were seen. I especially love this photo of the Ring-billed Gulls above. They look so sleek and handsome perched on this utility pole near Wharton's Point in Brunswick, which is just about 6 miles form where I live.

Mallard Drake in the Androscoggin River, Brunswick, ME 3-29-2014

Red-breasted Mergansers at Simpson Point, ME 4-2-2014

Brown Creeper, Reid State Park, Georgetown, ME 4-11-14

Sanderlings, Reid State Park, Georgetown, ME 4-11-2014

Savannah Sparrow, my backyard, Brunswick, ME 4-14-14

Common Loon, Reid State Park, Georgetown, ME 4-25-14

Piping Plover, Reid State Park 4-25-14

Double-creasted Cormorant, Evergreen Cemetery, Portland, ME 5-9-14

Indigo Bunting, my yard in Brunswick, ME 5-21-14

Broad-winged Hawk, my yard 6-2-14

Yellow Warbler, Mere Point Boat Launch, Brunswick, ME 6-2-14

Gray Catbird, Mere Point Boat Launch 6-2-14

Common Eider drake, Mere Point Boat Launch, Brunswick, ME 6-3-14
With three feet of snow on the ground and Maquoit Bay and Mere Point Bay still frozen, it may be awhile before I see some of these ducks nearby anytime soon, but I am looking forward to their return, along with all the other spring birds as this snow slowly melts and spring returns once again. Click on the links below to visit me at my own blog, or to see the bird lists for any of the eBird Hotspots I birded in Maine.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Crops & Clips: Bluebirds

My weekly potpourri gathered from the archives features bluebirds and more bluebirds! This time I am sharing it on Birding is Fun as well as attempting to tie together several interesting memes, about critters, fences, skyscapes and reflections, all of which I hope you will visit.


North American bluebirds come in three "flavors." Each one is a sweet as the others

Western Bluebird digiscoped in our front yard, Cedar Crest, New Mexico in November, 2003 

Western Bluebird Male

Note the all-blue head and throat of the Western Bluebird, in Grand Canyon, Arizona, June 17, 2013

Western Bluebird 20130617

The Mountain Bluebird is an unforgettable shade of blue, seen at YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, Colorado on June 17, 2010

Mountain Bluebird 20100617

Mountain Bluebird, Estes Park, Colorado on June 14, 2010

Mountain Bluebird 20100614

The third species of bluebird ranges in the eastern US and is appropriately known as the Eastern Bluebird, this one photographed in Batavia, Illinois on April 19, 2010

Eastern Bluebird 20100419
"Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" may be a discredited theory, but the spotted breast of a fledgling Western Bluebird bears evidence of its relationship to other members of the thrush family, in Grand Canyon, Arizona, June 19, 2013

Western Bluebird feeding sequence 2-20130619

This particular Eastern Bluebird has a story to tell, aside from the fact that she is bringing dinner to a fledgling hidden in the bushes under this wire, in Saint Charles, Illinois, June 22, 2012.

Eastern Bluebird 20120622

Although she symbolizes the bluebird of happiness and the freedom of flight, her perch overlooks a fence that is particularly good or bad, depending upon whether you are looking in or out. Those inside can only dream of flight. 

The Illinois Youth Center is a medium security correctional facility. On the "good" side is the beautiful Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, a nature center and preserve full of old growth hardwoods.

Correctional Facility 20130825

Mountain Bluebird, female on a "Good Fence," 
Buffalo Lake NWR, Canyon, Texas on November 12, 2008

MountainBluebird2 Female20081112




GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 


SKYWATCH: Blue on blue

I just realized that all my bluebirds enjoyed blue skies with nary a cloud, so forgive me for showing such a boring sky.

Mountain Bluebirds in Canyon, Texas, November 12, 2008

Mountain Bluebirds Two In Tree 20081112

Eastern Bluebird male, Nelson Lake, Batavia Illinois October 1, 2014

Eastern Bluebird male 2-20141001




In adherence to our theme, I tried to find some bluebird reflections in my archives. The running water of our backyard fountain in New Mexico distorted them, but also produced some of my favorite bluebird photos.

Like the first picture on this post, they were taken from inside the windows of our home with a tiny Canon PowerShot A-40 with a 2 MP sensor (yes, you have that right, only TWO megapixels!) shooting at 3x optical zoom through the eyepiece of a Kowa 70mm scope zoomed down to 20x. Note that this technique causes natural vignetting of the edges of the photos. See my primitive digiscoping rig at this link.

Western Bluebirds, Cedar Crest, New Mexico, February, 2003

Western Bluebird female FEB03

Western Bluebird male FEB03