Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Visit to the Conch Republic and Vicinities

Friday, May 22nd
Day One

Today is day one of a long weekend to do some birding in the company of wildlife photographer Bob Pelkey. Didn't start out as a Memorial Day holiday. As it was originally scheduled for the first week of May, to take advantage of the ebbing Spring Migration. But logistics forced this unfortunate change. Home base was in Florida City were room rates were far more realistic than in the Keys.
American Crocodile in Everglades National Park

It has become an annual event to head to the Florida Keys in the Spring to find several of the specialties that are usually only seen there. It started by chasing Antillean Nighthawks and Rosette Terns that are usually found in town of Marathon. But it has now expanded to a four day search for specialties from Dry Tortugas National Park west of Key West up to the urban environments of Miami. 

Leaving Ft Myers, we crossed the state along Alligator Alley watching the birds and especially Black-crowned Night-herons and Swallow-tailed Kites. First stop was on Sherman Road just off Krone near Pembroke Pines to look for Purple Swamphens at Chapel Trails park. Upon arrival I found that my memory card was missing for my camera so I missed getting shots of a Brown Basilisk lizard seen at the start of the board walk or of the swamphens.
Black-necked Stilt near Everglades National Park
 After a stop to replace the missing memory card we made the next stop to neighborhood just north of the Kendall Baptist Hospital for a search for Red-whisked Bulbuls. This is one of the best places to search for these exotic birds and in my dozens of attempts I usually dip on seeing any. Today we sighted three.  Looks like it could be a good start for the weekend.
Green Heron at the Kendall baptist Hospital campus

Red-whiskered Bulbuls in Kendall
 At the Baptist Hospital campus the expected flock of Mitred Parakeets were noisily moving around the property. The ponds also had the usual waders and waterfowl. Didn't see any Egyptian geese but the Muscovy ducks had lots of ducklings.

Next was a stop at Mathesson Park in Coral Gables. Looking for exotics or any lingering migrants. Probably arrived too late in the day as the place was very quite. Best birds here were a pair of Yellow-Chevroned Parakeets and hearing a calling Peafowl
We ended the day visiting Everglades National Park. The goal here was to look for white-tailed kite along Research Road.
We only found American Crows and Eastern Meadowlarks, dipping on the kites.

We headed directly to the end of the road to its terminus at Flamingo. Not very birdy but find Prairie Warbler, Spotted Sandpiper, a Willet, Osprey Brown Pelicans and raucous bottle-nosed dolphins thrashing about as they fish for their supper.

At the marina, an American crocodile came out almost on cue for photographs and a Shiny Cowbird briefly showed with a flock of Brown-headed Cowbirds.
Mitred Parakeet are commonly found at Kendall baptist Hospital campus

Ended the day in Florida City were we watched Gray Kingbirds and Common Mynas

Birds for  Day One
Great Egret at Kendall Baptist Hospital

Swan Goose (Domestic type)
Graylag Goose (Domestic type)

Muscovy Duck
Mallard (Domestic type)
Mottled Duck
Northern Bobwhite
Wood Stork
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron

White Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Swallow-tailed Kite
Red-shouldered Hawk
King Rail
Purple Swamphen
Black-necked Stilt
Spotted Sandpiper
Laughing Gull
Rock Pigeon
White-crowned Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Mourning Dove
Common Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Mitred Parakeet
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Purple Martin
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Prairie Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Shiny Cowbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow
Black-crowned Night-heron

Common Myna

Gray Kingbird

Yellow-chevroned Parakeets


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Few Exotics in Miami

Tuesday May 26th

The semi-tropical climate in South Florida lends itself well as a new home for exotic plants and animals. A great many are considered to be pests and the most successful can be quite harmful to our local ecology. The rise of the Burmese Python population in the Everglades is a prime example. Ornamental plants and trees have also overtaken local flora like the expansion of the Melaleuca and Brazilian Pepper. Their is a bounty on the Lionfish, which has rapidly prospered on our Florida reefs, upsetting the ecological balance by becoming an aggressive top predator, prolific breeder with no known predators in the Atlantic Ocean. Iguanas have become established in most of South Florida with some getting  to be over four feet long.
 Not all invasives cause great ecological harm. Just a few minutes ago I spotted the House Gecko that has moved into my apartment. I don't mind its presence at all as he'll consume most any insect pests.  Many of the exotic bird species have not become major issues. The Monk Parakeet though builds huge nests artificial structures and have created damage such as electrical outages. But most of the many parrot species in south Florida aren't as disruptive the ecology as originally feared.

This past week-end Bob Pelkey and spent four days birding the Miami and Florida Keys area for exotics and came up with several.

Red-whiskered Bulbul in Kendall
Red-Whiskered Bulbul -  A native of eastern India,

Purple Swamphens - A common native in Africa, southern Europe, much of Asia including Indonesia, and Australia.
Purple Swamphen at Chapel Trail in Broward Count

Common Hill Myna - The Common Hill Mynas are a species of starlings and a very popular cage bird coming from the hill regions of southern Asia. 
Common Hill Mynas seen on the campus of the University of Miami

Egyptian Goose - These geese were once considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians, but are currently a popular ornamental waterfowl. Escapees and there offspring have become more common in southeast Florida's parks and golf courses.
Egyptian Goose seen at Baptist Hospital campus in Kendall

Muscovy Ducks - The Muscovy Ducks we find all over south Florida are actually feral specimens of domesticated Muscovy ducks. 
Muscovy ducklings seen at Baptist Hospital in Kendall

Mitred Parakeet - Mitred Parakeets come from Peru, Bolivia and northern Argentina. A large number of these birds can usually be found around the Baptist Hospital in Kendall.

Red-masked Parakeet - Red-masked Parakeets come from the western area of Peru.
Red-masked Parakeet seen at the University of Miami campus

Scaly-headed Parrot - Scaly-headed Parrots range from Brazil through Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. 
Scaly-headed Parrot seen on the University of Miami campus
White-winged Parakeet - Once a very common species in Miami, but its numbers have been falling as the Yellow-chevroned Parakeets.have been increasing.  Both species were once known as canary-winged Parakeets. White-winged Parakeets came from the northern Amazon River Basin.
White-winged Parakeet at the University of Miami campus.

Iguanas - Both Green and both species of Spiny-tailed Iguanas are found in south Florida. Theses populations have there start when iguana pet owners either loose or release the big lizards.

A spiny-tailed Iguana seen at the Snapper Creek Canal

Green Iguana seen on Key West

Other exotics seen included Common Mynas and a Brown Basilisk lizard

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Visit to Carlos Pointe

Monday, May 18th

Least Tern
Black Skimmer
Mid-morning, I visited Carlos Pointe to see the Least Tern nesting colony and find any Snowy Plovers. Parked at the Lovers Key State Park entrance at the north end of the park and is at the south end the pass bridge. This is the closed legal parking to access Carlos Pointe which is located at the other side of the pass, which is the most southern point on Estero Island.  

Black Skimmer
The nesting colony was very active with hundreds of Least Terns, Black Skimmers and a few Snowy Plovers. The Sanderlings (many in breeding plumage), Ruddy Turnstones, Laughing Gulls, Brown Pelicans, Royal Terns and Sandwich Terns were also seen here today.

Snowy Plover
Snowy Plover
Dozens of snowies call Lee County beaches as their home

Fledgling Snowy Plover

Least Terns are very defensive in the nesting colony 
and will dive at any intruders. 
They are the smallest tern species and 
will nest in scrapes on sandy beaches and flat roof tops

Least Tern

Sandwich Terns

Royal Tern

Osprey perched atop neighboring condo building

Gray Kingbirds are seen perched on the wires along Estero Boulevard

Looking for Owls

Saturday May 16th

Today as I was heading home from work, I elected to make a stop on Lee Road that sometimes yields Burrowing Owls. The site is a property along Alico Road in San Carlos Park in Lee County being developed as the Alico Road Business Park. 

Just before the financial crisis several years ago, this property was was prepped by felling trees, clearing brush and removing a railroad spur. However as the the economy continued to crashed, the land just sat as is awaiting better times. But the cleared property attracted grassland birds including Meadowlarks, Sandhill Cranes, Northern Harriers, Bobwhite, Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows.

It also attracted a small population of Burrowing Owls.

The owls were best located along the Lee and Domestic Street parcels, Especially as they were brooding their young.

Today I was able to see three of the owls along Lee Street, but they will become more difficult to find after the babies have fledged.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Visit to Bunche Beach Preserve

Tuesday May 5th

A Short-billed Dowitcher with several Red Knots

Early this morning I found time to spend enjoying the bird life feeding in the shallows and mud at Bunche Beach Preserve. 

American Oystercatcher

Found hundreds of shorebirds beginning to sport there breeding colors including Red Knots, Short-billed Dowitchers, Marbled Godwits, Willets, Dunlins, Black-bellied Plovers, Sanderlings, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, and a pair of American Oystercatchers

Marbled Godwit

A White-morphed Reddish Egrets.
The white-morphed are not as common here as we find further south in the Keys
One species I was interested in locating were White-rumped Sandpipers and I was lucky to see one as it flew off. Another migrant spotted were a couple of noisy Bobolinks passing over head. 

A Short-billed Dowitcher in his breeding colors
Breed in sub-arctic regions of Alaska and central Canada

A Male Black-bellied Plover.
A very common species that breeds in the high arctic
from Siberia east to Baffin Island in Canada

Wilson's Plover
A local breeder on the salt flats in this preserve

A female Black-bellied Plover

This species is very abundant and breeds in sub-arctic
and arctic regions of  Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia

Least Sandpiper.
Will be heading off to their breeding grounds in sub-arctic tundra
 and northern boreal forests in Alaska and Canada

Male Red Knot and Short-billed Dowitcher

Male Red Knot

Male Red Knot

Red-shouldered Hawk


Ruddy Turnstone

Semipalmated Sandpiper
A very abundant species that breeds in sub-arctic regions
 from Siberia to Newfoundland

Red Knots
Are very long distance travelers. They fly to the high Arctic
 for breeding from  their wintering locations spread across the planet.
Some from as far away as
New Zealand, Argentina, Africa and even Florida