Thursday, May 31, 2018

May Gallery Pics

Wednesday May 30th

Swallow-tailed Kite
Purple Martin seen at the Franklin Locks

A Chucks-wills-Widow see at Babcock-Webb WMA in early May

 The flowers were blooming at Hickey Creek Mitigation Park in Alva.  Still working on my flower identification.

Newly hatched Purple Martin chicks
at the Celery Fields Nature Center
Florida Red-bellied Cooter seen at the Franklin Locks

Wilson's Plovers seen at Bowditch Point

American Oystercatcher seen at Bowditch Point

Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones 
seen at Bowditch Point

A very young Water Moccasin 
seen at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Peninsula Ribbon Snake 
seen at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Red shouldered Hawk s
seen at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
Button Bush Blossom

It maybe a Green Darner

Cuban Brown Anole flashing his dewlap

A Relic seen at the Shell Mound Trail at Ding Darling NWR

Fruiting Shrub at the Bailey Tract

Black Racer seen at the Bailey Tract

Fish Crow Examining a Horseshoe Crab shell
Mangrove Blossom

Cape May Warbler seen at Bowditch Point

Eastern Screech Owl at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
House Crow seen at Nokomis Beach

Boat-tailed Grackle

Milkweed seen at Hickey Creek

Clover at Hickey Creek

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Pelagic Weekend

Monday  May 21st

Brown Pelican at Cape Canaveral

It's been several years since I had participated  in one of Michael  Brothers' pelagic birding trips out on the Atlantic Ocean. On Saturday we joined with some 52 birders aboard the Carnival Princess out of Cape Canaveral

In the days and weeks  leading up to this trip the weather  was looking like it was  going to be a wet, rough voyage. Recent weather conditions were contributing much needed rainfall, but these same conditions were not letting up for the weekend. But this didn't deter the Carnival Princess from heading some fifty miles into the Gulf Stream.

House Crow

I met up with Dave and Tammy McQuade on Friday, who were generous enough to offer me a ride, as we all were heading out for the pelagic trip. Expectations were high for getting to see many of the off-shore species. Shearwaters, Storm-petrels, Jaegers, Terns, Black-capped Petrels and maybe even a Tropicbird.

We made a quick stop at Nokomis Beach to check-out the House Crow, then continued on to Cape Canaveral. We caught dinner with our event host - Michael Brothers, trip leader - Bob Wallace and last year's Big Year Adventurer - Yve Morrell. Yve had counted some 813 species in North America and Hawaii in 2017.

The Canaveral Princess left port on time early Saturday morning and took us out into some choppy surf and overcast skies. It was nice to see a lot of faces for familiar names on board. Met Hugh Whelan from Ft Myers and Dave & Tammy unexceptionally ran into a business acquaintance.

Common Eider seen at Cape Canaveral
Luckily the seas became somewhat tolerable and we missed the rain for the most part and the birding was a mixed bag. The number of species was a bit low but had some awesome looks at Wilson's Storm-Petrels and Audubon's Shearwaters. Thought we were going to dip in spotting any Black-capped Petrels, but a lone individual was seen late in the day.  Sooty, Royal, Sandwich, Black and Bridled Terns turned-up. Missed on seeing any Arctic Terns or Jaegers. Some folks added Banded-rumped and Leach's Storm-Petrels. I didn't take very many pictures on the day, but the following ebird LIST for our group has some nice examples.

About the biggest surprise was that the entire crowd on board were greeted by a pair of Common Eiders as the Canaveral Princess docked back in port. We don't expect this species in Florida in May.

Usually on these pelagic trips, which are an event sponsored for the support of the Marine Science Center at Ponce Inlet,  young sea turtles will be released when we reach the weed line in the Gulf Stream.  Today we had a pair of 'endangered' young Hawksbill Sea Turtles. 
Jessie Stein from the Marine Science Center brought the Hawksbill sea turtle wash backs that were released in the Sargassum weed.
Wash back turtles are young sea turtles that wash ashore due to heavy winds and surf

Sea birds aren't the only draw on these trips.  Usually large sea turtles or pods of Spotted Dolphins come along side the boat. Today a few of us noticed a pair of cetaceans. They were probably Pilot Whales which are actually in the dolphin family.  Kinda cool.

Barn Swallows at Lake Apopka
But our weekend wasn't over.  Even with rainy conditions continuing on Sunday Dave, Tammy, Yve and I drove Wildlife Drive at Lake Apopka.  Our targets were Mississippi Kites and Fulvous whistling Ducks. The kites were a no show. The rains were probably not helpful.  We did find both whistling Duck species, Plus lots of Purple and Common Gallinules, Coots, Barns, Bank and Cliff Swallows, Purple Martins, Least Bitterns, Ospreys and Bobolinks. We also added a Pectoral Sandpiper, a Solitary Sandpiper Killdeer and Least Sandpipers.
Purple Gallinules at Lake Apopka

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sanibel Island - Whats Happening at the Bailey Tract?

Thursday May 10th

Seems that some of our local birding friends are very unhappy with plans to re-engineer how water is stored on Ding Darlings  Bailey Tract. Many years ago this property was a wetlands and home for animals and birds who thrive in marshy environments.  But as the Sanibel Island was being developed dirt was excavated from  here creating the water-filled borrow pits we see there today.

But today a plan is being managed to convert some of these acres back to its former wetlands habitat to support the rare Sanibel Island Rice Rat.  This rodent is a protected sub-species of Marsh Rice Rat totally endemic to Sanibel Island. 

Ani Pond - scheduled to be  filled-in as part of the conversion
to a wetlands habitat for the Sanibel Island Rice Rat

The filling-in of the Ani Pond, to convert it back into marsh, has stirred up several local birders who have enjoyed the pond, as is, for a great many years. We'll see how this develops.

This morning I stopped in at the Bailey Tract. It had been reported that the property was to be closed to the public by now for the re-construction. But it's still open.  No doubt due to the presence of nesting Black-necked Stilts raising a family here.

Black-necked Stilt Family at Ani Pond

Monday, May 7, 2018

Looking for Interesting Birds

Sunday May 6th

Last Thursday I traveled around Sarasota County in search of a few interesting birds.

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly seen at Pinecraft Park

The recent reporting of a House Crow at Nokomis Beach was intriguing.   I had been aware of reports from years ago of a pair of House Crows that were living at Nokomis Beach. This is an exotic species from South Asia that has been spreading out globally, some believe with the ability to stow away on freighters to visit new territories.

House Crow seen at Nokomis Beach
Easily located the House Crow when I arrived at the park about 7:45 am.

Moved onto Pinecraft Park ,which can be a very active migration magnet, where I
encountered several American Redstarts, Northern Parulas and Blackpool Warblers. Other encounters included Cape May Warblers, a  Worm eating Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Chimney Swifts, Nanday Parakeets, Black-throated Blue Warblers, Black-and-White Warblers, an Ovenbird  A Common Yellowthroat, Purple Martins and Tufted

Then over to The Celery Fields. When I arrived the Purple Martin Houses were being opened to check on the nests. Lots of babies. Out on the marsh Stilt Sandpipers and least Sandpipers were present on the exposed mud.

A Purple Gallinule was actively feeding along with Common Gallinules. A Least Tern dipped the water and an assortment of waders were present. Limpkins were also active, a Bobwhite could be heard and an Eastern Kingbird was hawking for its lunch.

An Eastern Kingbird

Gallery of Pics from the Purple Martin Houses 

One last stop was to look for the Tropical Kingbird that has, once again, returned to St Armonds Circle. The location was busy with traffic and shoppers, and then I found the parking lot that the bird has called home is now under construction. I guess they're building a parking garage.

Gray Kingbird

The tropical kingbird is around, but I didn't see today. Just Gray Kingbirds and Eurasian Collared Doves.

Ended the trip with a count of sixty birds seen today in Sarasota County.