Monday, June 28, 2010

Monk Parakeets and More

Burrowing Owl family at Cape Coral, Florida

Monk Parakeets building nest at Cape Coral ballfield

Gray Kingbird at Ft Myers Beach

Piping Plover at Bunche Beach - May 2009

Spotted Sandpiper at Bunche Beach - September 2009

Great Blue Heron at Fish Lake Beach, Illinois - May 2009

Tree Swallow at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, Illinois - May 2009

Red-Shouldered Hawk in my back yard - June 2009

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Snowy Plover - Bunche Beach

Snowy Plover -
Bunche Beach, Lee County, Florida
June 26th

   After work I headed over to Bunche Beach with the expectation of arriving on a rising tide. My last couple of visits were during a high tide which is not as productive for birding as a rising tide would have been.  So I was rewarded with much better birding. Including a surprise of a juvenile Snowy Plover.  Unfortunately my camera is awol so I could not get a photo of the bird.  In the past couple of years of birding this beach, this was my first sighting of a snowy here.  They tend to stay over at the beach at Little Estero Lagoon on nearby Ft Myers Beach.
   Also came across three Marbled Godwits, which I had not seen around for a couple of months. I believe that the migration south from the Great North has started for the shore birds. An another example were the sixty-five dowitchers present.  Several still in breeding plumage.  A few had remained behind when they left during the spring migration, but these larger numbers mean that they are returning to Florida. I suspect some were long-billed Dowitchers based on their squeaky calls, but I am not completely sure. Most were probably Short-Billed Dowitchers. Another example of returning shorebirds were a pair of American Avocets, still in breeding plumage,  photographed a week again at Bunche Beach by Charley Ewell. The peeps should be returning soon as well.

My List (26) - Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Magnificent Frigatebird, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Osprey, Black-bellied Plover, Snowy Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Willet, Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Fish Crow, Prairie Warbler, Northern Cardinal

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Purple Martin Roost

June 19th
   Checked out the Bunche Beach ribbon-cutting this morning.  Was going to blow-it-off for some sleep, but I figured that I could run into some fellow birders, like Bob Pelkey. Bob is a local birder and award winning nature photographer. See his blog at Southwest Florida Birder. Also folks like Charlie Ewell from the Lee County Bird Patrol. I arrived about 8:45am and headed to beach, were it was high tide, just like yesterday, and did not have much bird activity. Also already getting very hot.
  Did get to met with Bob and Charlie, plus a few other birders as we waited for the ceremony to begin. The new facilities are very GREEN. Totally solar powered, only catch water available, a special water-free composting toilet system and a special storm-water filtration system located below the parking area. Several demonstrations and tours were on-hand.  Some groceries too. But I was too hot and tired and bailed before the ceremony was over. Maybe if I had stayed, I would have seen the American Avocets Charlie Ewell photographed and reported on locating them later that morning.  Shame to have missed them.
June 20th
  Well it seems that the rainy season has begun and it seems that we have the return of the Barred Owl that visits the water plant where I work. One or more owls will visit fairly regularly till the rains end in October. The individual that I have encountered the past couple of nights is a lighter color than birds from prior seasons. I wonder if they change hues as they age or if we have a new bird on-hand. Probably the later.
  Also at work, prior to day break, could hear the call of the Common Nighthawks as they are moving about looking for breakfast. Later, as I was leaving at about 7:30 am we had a flock of six Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks fly over.  This was the second time in a week to see the and hear the whistling ducks pass overhead. I have noted them more often in other nearby locations as well.  No doubt they are moving into the area.  While fulvous whistling ducks seem to be getting less common.
   Stopped at Domestic Street to check on the Burrowing Owl family.  Was able to see four of the five family members today, but what was really interesting was sighting  six Purple Martins roosting along the high power lines. These are the first of the season that I have seen here. Last year I was able to see this roost grow to about one hundred birds.  But also last year, the roost in down-town Ft Myers, by the river, grew to several hundred purple martins.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bunche Beach - Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers

Eastern Willet

June 19th 2010 is the Ribbon-Cutting at Bunche Beach for the new facilities.

I went over to check out the beach after work this morning and found that the crews were still prepping for tomorrows events. The road access to the beach was closed for some of the work.  So had to park at the new facilities and walk maybe a half-mile to the beach. The tide was high and the birds were not plentifully, but still found a variety of species.

My list - Mottled Duck, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, Semipalmated Plover, Willet, Sanderling, Short-billed Dowitcher, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Common Ground-Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Fish Crow, Prairie Warbler, Northern Cardinal

Semipalmated Plover in Breeding Plumage

Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers

Tropical Audubon Society links

I will often, usually daily check the Tropical Audubon Society message board for current news on birds and birding in South Florida. Please check the  following links I have found to be very interesting and thought you might as well.

Currently following the Daily Reports on John Boyd's Great Lakes to Prairie Potholes 2010 birding expedition. It originated from Michigan with hits on Kirtland Warblers and will end out on the Dakota plains. Had seen the the ads for the trip and seriously considered going, but it was not in the budget. Maybe next year.

Also another good posting is Jun 16th Pelagic - with Bill and Toe which has great photos from their recent pelagic trip. I especially like to owls. Photos by Roberto Torres, Trey Mitchell and Bill Boeringer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Least Bittern

Least Bittern
Babcock-Webb WMA - Charlotte County
June 15th

I try to get to Babcock-Webb about every month and today seemed to be a good day for a visit. To increase the likelihood of locating a Red-Cockaded woodpecker, I try to be on site at the colony on Oilwell Road as they exit their nest holes at dawn. But today I found that I was a bit late, arriving at 6:35am, as I came across a single Red-Cockaded  Woodpecker actively feeding along the roadside before arriving at the colony site. So my timing was a bit late but it all worked out as I had the subject bird within five minutes upon arrival, but I also had Common Nighthawks, Northern Bobwhites, Wood Storks, Great Egrets, Eastern Meadowlarks, Brown Thrashers, Eastern Towhee, Doves and Mockingbirds before even finding the woodpecker. A pretty good start.

The next three hours I spent looking for bachman's sparrow, which I failed to locate today, but I did locate several Brown-Headed Nuthatches, including a noisy juvenile, a roosting Great Horned Owl being harassed by a Northern Mockingbird, twice came across Yellow-Shafted Northern Flickers and a trio of Least Terns that were flitting about the boat ramp at Webb Lake.

The best sighting was my third ever look at a Least Bittern. As I was stopped on a section of road I had not traveled before, the least bittern fly right in front of me. Cool!  The most unusual sighting occurred as I was trying to photograph the least terns at the boat ramp. I heard a commotion at the open passenger-side window were a pair of cardinals had landed.  They seemed agitated and were easily encouraged to move along. Very strange.

Also encounterd a lone deer, three rabbits, plus a Florida Garter Snake and a Black Racer.

Eastern Bluebird

My List (36) - Northern Bobwhite, Least Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Green Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Turkey Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Killdeer, Least Tern, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Great Horned Owl, Common Nighthawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Pine Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Boat-tailed Grackle

Least Tern at Webb Lake

Monday, June 14, 2010

Common Nighthawks

 Had not done much birding these first couple of weeks of June, but today I opted a drive out to Gladys County and then over to Clewiston. Started from home about 7am and noted the usual yardbirds such as Blue Jays, Grackles, House Sparrows, Starlings, Fish Crows, Rock Pigeons etc. Also stopped at Domestic Street to check on the Burrowing Owl family.  All five members were present this mourning.  Also found a Mottled Duck just standing in a field, plus the usual Mourning and Ground Doves, Eastern Meadowlark and Loggerhead Shrikes. Cattle Egrets were busy in there search for breakfast. Did not hear the bobwhite today.
   Next was to head north on I-75 and then east on state route 80. Stopped in Alva to check for Red-Headed Woodpeckers. Did locate a cooperative woodpecker and could hear more meadowlarks. More Loggerhead Shrikes and Northern Mockingbirds were present.  Swallow-Tailed Kites were also located several times throughout the trip.

Red-Shouldered Hawk in Gladys County

Florida Scrub Jay
   Continued east on SR80 till reaching the town of LaBelle were we catch route 29 north to Gladys County and Route 74. The telecomunication tower outside LaBelle was crowded with vultures waiting for the sun to heat up the air. Usually route 29 can be reliable in locating sandhill cranes and sometimes crested caracara.  But not today. Route 74 was also absent the cranes and caracaras while I was there today, but did get a couple of looks at Florida Scrub Jays sunning themselvies atop a bare tree. Also found a few more meadowlarks and American Crows.
  Red-Headed Woodpecker in Alva

Took SR 27 east from SR29 to Clewiston, were I searched around the McDonalds for the common mynas that have been reported there at times. But not today and so I headed over the the Lake Okachobee dike were I had found bronzed cowbirds before. No cowbirds today, but did find a fearless Creasted Caracara and a couple of Eastern Kingbirds. Heading for home from here I took a side trip to another lookout location on the dike.  Not much to be seen from the dike but did find a couple Common Nighthawks resting on the telepone lines in the middle of the sugar cane fields.  Another nighthawk was soaring above the cane.

 Eastern Kingbird in Clewiston

Crested Caracara at Clewiston

My List - (31)
Mottled Duck, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, White Ibis
Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Swallow-tailed Kite, Red-shouldered Hawk, Crested Caracara, Laughing Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Burrowing Owl, Common Nighthawk, Red-headed Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Blue Jay, Florida Scrub-Jay, American Crow, European Starling, Northern Parula, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, House Sparrow

Northern Parula - Harn’s Marsh

June 13th

Checked out Harn’s Marsh in Lehigh Acres this morning looking for Limpkins and Snail Kites. I was also interested in locating any bitterns or rails plus any whistling ducks.

Arrived at the school side entrance about 8 am. This side of the marsh had been posted for no trespassing recently as construction of new flood control devices were being built. Seem that the project is now complete and the signage has been removed.

Plan was to keep it a short visit to avoid the hotter weather later in the day. Walked the west side of the canal and quickly located a couple of Snail Kites, several Limpkins, Little Blue Herons, Grackles and Red-Shouldered Hawks. Had walked the length of the canal and back again and was preparing to head over to the other entrance when I heard a Northern Parula. Headed around to the other side of the canal were a singing Parula was active in a cypress stand. Got a brief sighting and as I was, again, heading back to my car, I could hear a second Parula calling from another nearby cypress stand.

Did check out the marsh from the other entrance, were I found a small Pied-Billed Grebe swimming across the lake. Located several more limpkins and another pair of Snail Kites. But not a whole lot more. Could see that the water level is falling fast and parts of the marsh are already drying out. Just this winter the water was too deep for the apple snails that the limpkins and kites need, but now it is getting too shallow. The summer rains should be starting any day now, which should help to stabilize the water level and assure a food supply for these Florida specialities.

Snail Kite

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Corn Snake & Gopher Tortise

Corn SnakeWaiting for dinner

Gopher Tortoise

What Are You Looking At?

Some interesting local reptiles

Friday, June 4, 2010

Roseate Tern & Antillean Nighthawk

Birding the Florida Keys
Memorial Day - May 31st

  With the winter seasonal birds having headed north and having reached the  end of the migration season, birding in southwest Florida really slows down.  But, there are still have birds to find. Two very localized birds we usually only find in the Florida Keys are Roseate Terns and Antillean Nighthawks.
The roseate terns, is uncommon and are a very pelagic bird. Usually can best be found as they nest in late spring and early summer. A location often mentioned as an accessible nesting site is on the roof of the Marathon Government Center building in Marathon Key. Dozens of roseate and least terns nest on the rooftop and can be observed as they flew about.

  The Antillean Nighthawk is a close relative to the common nighthawk, are mostly native to the Bahamas.  They are very similar in appearance, but they can be separated by their vocalizations. The Antillean nighthawk is uncommon here, but can be found in the Florida Keys. The most mentioned location for finding any is to be at the Marathon Airport at dusk and listen for their vocalizations.

   So for Memorial Day I elected to drive round trip from Ft Myers to the Keys for these Florida specialities that I have yet to add to my life list. But I also have a trio of nemesis birds, all Florida specialities, that are targets for this day as well. The Red-Whiskered Bulbul and Spot-Breasted Oriole in Kendell and the Smooth-Billed Ani in the Everglades. I have dipped on these three many, many times. Maybe today.

   Took off from Ft Myers about 5:30 am to head across the peninsula along the Tamiami Trail (US41), to Krone Street and then south to US1, scheduling stops in Kendell, The Everglades National Park, Key Largo, and Marathon Key.

   Stopped at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, just east of Collier-Seminole State Park in Collier County at about 7am. Just a quick stop to check out the new facilities here. The stop was quick mostly because the deer flies were terrible. Did find a calling limpkin, moorhens, and a king rail that I only heard. I would have waited for it to come out in the open but the flies eliminated that option.


Got to the Kendell Baptist Hospital campus around 8:30am and spent about a half hour scouting the neighborhood north of the hospital in search of the bulbul and the oriole. Both of these birds are ABA countable exotics that have become established in the Miami-Dade area, centering on Kendell. Even with very recent reports, noting the exact blocks to check out, I came up empty. Monk Parakeets were easily located though.  Crossed back over to the hospital campus were a noisy, active flock of Mitred Parakeets were in the parking area.


   Had a good look at Loggerhead Shrike, and Muscovy Ducks were everywhere.  As I was about to leave, a bit disappointed with only finding a single species of parrot here, I noticed my first Gray Kingbird of the season. It was sitting on a wire, occasionally hopping off to chase a bug and then back to its post.  As I was trying to get close enough for a photo, saw a trio of swallows actively flying about. Seems to me that they were Cave Swallows, probably from the nearby colony at Cutler Ridge. The cave swallows were a nice surprise.
   A Juvenile Green Heron

Next stop was at Everglades National Park and the Anhinga Trail located at Royal Hammock. Was looking for the smooth-billed ani and spent an hour in the search. The ani was not present during my stay.  Had lots of nesting Anhingas, but all of the black vultures are now gone.  The most numerous wading bird were Green Herons. 

Common Myna

   Before reaching the Everglades National Park I was able to spot a couple of White-Winged Doves and a trio of juvenile Purple Martins in the Florida City area. Later while stopping in Homestead had a few Common Mynas.

Nature Trail at Dagny Johnson

By 2pm had made it to Key Largo.  So far the holiday traffic is fine while heading south.  North bound traffic is another story.  Stopped at Key Largo at the Dagny Johnson State Park, which is home to Florida's largest remaining stand of West Indian hardwood forest. Target birds here include the mangrove cuckoo, black-whiskered vireo, white-crowned pigeons and more gray kingbirds. Last time I was here, we had lots of mosquitoes. But today was hot but free from the pests. The woods carried the calls from Northern Cardinals and Black-Whiskered Vireos, and were the only birds seen today.
   Heading south from the state park, the north bound traffic was extremely heavy and slow, saw a few of my first White-Crowned Pigeons of the day and several more Gray Kingbirds.  Magnificent Frigatebirds could be seen too. Also commonly seen were Eurasian Collared Doves and Mourning Doves. Even saw a couple of common mynas in flight.
Reached mile-marker 48 about 3pm, which is also on Marathon Key and the location for seeing the Roseate Terns. Here on the roof of the Marathon Government Center are the nesting Roseate and Least Terns. They could be seen flying about many bringing food back to the nest. Was able to see several of each bird from the parking lot and on pilings on the water behind the building.The Roseate Terns can be seen here, but too far for my camera to get a better shot.
Because it was too early for siting the Antillean Nighthawk at the Marathon Airport, I elected to extend the trip to Key West with a stop at Key Deer National Refuge. Saw three of the miniature deer as they cross the road in front of me. They are only found here and are federally protected species. The buck (his growing antlers in velvet) was larger than the pair of does seen here.

Key West was very congested and I was too hot and tired to do much exploring.  Took a short break and started heading back to Marathon. Missed on seeing any of the Key West chickens, but did find more White-Crowned Pigeons, Laughing Gulls, Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds.

  It was fifty-miles back to the Marathon Airport and even with stopping to eat I was still early. Gave a jump to a fella with a dead battery at the airport location while waiting there for sun down and the nighthawks. This guy informed me that an owl came out every night to sit atop the electric pole just a few feet away. Which was intriguing. But by now I was also anxious to head for home. A long four drive was ahead of me. I felt so lucky when the Antillean Nighthawk made its appearance at 7:30pm. A good half-hour to fourty-five minutes yet till dark. First because I nailed another LIFER and because I don't have to wait anymore. I didn't wait for the appearance of the owl.  I took off for home.

   The trip home amplified the negative aspects of day tripping the Keys on a holiday.  That north-bound road congestion had not abated. It took some three hours just to travel the 70 miles back to Homestead and I did not get home till about 1:30 am. Was it worth it? I got a couple of lifers, but I would prefer in the future to travel with patrner, rent a car ( the trip was 600 miles), get a room and use two days.  And mostly avoid the holidays.

Memorial Day List - (44) Muscovy Duck, Brown Pelican, Double-Crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Magnificent Frigatebird, Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Egret, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, King Rail, Common Moorhen, Limpkin, Killdeer, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, ROSEATE TERN, Royal Tern, Rock Pigeon, White-Crowned Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, White-Winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Monk Parakeet, Mitred Parakeet, ANTILLEAN NIGHTHAWK, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Gray Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Black-Whiskered Vireo, American Crow, Fish Crow, Blue Jay, Purple Martin, Cave Swallow, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Red-Winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Boat-Tailed Grackle, House Sparrow, Common Myna