Monthly Archives: January 2015

January 25, 2015

Recently I’ve been yearning to see a Roseate Spoonbill.  Friends have been regaling me with gorgeous photographs.  See, for example, here and here.

So after reading on jaxbirding.com that Roseate Spoonbills were overwintering at the Theodore Roosevelt marsh area, of course I had to go.  I reached out to Thomas, who runs jaxbirding.com, and he kindly told me where to look:  the mudflats.

I arrived at the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve not too long after sunrise.  I had planned to hike directly and briskly (it was 40 degrees) to the observation tower, my camera backpack and tripod strapped to my back.  But I had hardly got out of the car when I saw three Black Vultures, a Turkey Vulture, a Red-shouldered Hawk, and a Pileated Woodpecker at Spanish Pond.  So I unloaded the camera and began shooting right away.

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Red-shouldered Hawk

Heading down the boardwalk, I was surrounded by American Robins, Northern Cardinals, and a particularly raucous Gray Catbird.

Just as I arrived at the mudflats, two Roseate Spoonbills–the very bird I’d come to see!–flew in and landed on the other side of the water from me.

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Roseate Spoonbills

I followed them on the opposite shore as they worked north, straining the water with their spoonbills, but they were fairly far away.  Eventually I turned back and climbed up the observation tower.

I had thought I would set up the tripod, but as it turned out I held the camera the entire time.  I was constantly scanning the marsh, the sky, the treeline–360 degrees–and birds would appear unpredictably anywhere.   The tripod stayed strapped to the backpack.

Many birds flew overhead on their way to other parts, including Red-breasted Mergansers, Wood Storks, a Ring-billed Gull, a Laughing Gull, a Great Blue Heron, and a Brown Pelican.  Other birds, including Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, Little Bue Herons, Killdeer, Belted Kingfishers, and a Greater Yellowlegs were patrolling the marsh for food and would suddenly take flight and land elsewhere on the marsh.

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Tricolored Heron

The Osprey below eventually alighted on a branch with a view of the salt marsh.  It landed on its right leg, the talons of its left leg firmly grasping the fish.

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Osprey on Wing with Fish

Can you spot the Killdeer below?

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Oyster Shells with Killdeer

There were maddening, smallish birds–Red-winged Blackbirds, I think–in the marsh grasses that would raise a cry from time to time, but remain largely unseen.  Occasionally a Yellow-rumped Warbler or a Palm Warbler would land on the bare branches of a tree near the observation tower.

Speaking of which, a couple of birds very familiar to me showed themselves in a new light in this setting.  For instance, for the first time I saw a Palm Warbler in breeding colors:

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Palm Warbler

But the real revelation was the hovering behavior of a Belted Kingfisher.  I’ve been watching a Belted Kingfisher at Nathan Krestul Park for weeks now, and I’m familiar with how and where it perches and how it dives, but I have never seen it hover.  (As it should be, with so many good places to perch there, the boat winch being one of its favorites.) Yet at the marsh I kept catching sight of a bird hovering out in the distance, in the perfectly round part of the treeless marsh (a gentleman I met out there told me he’d read in the newspaper a few years back that scientists speculate that a meteorite had struck there).  It wasn’t easy to focus in on this bird, and it wasn’t until I downloaded the pictures that I could tell it was a Belted Kingfisher:

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Hovering Belted Kingfisher

 

On my way out, the Red-shouldered Hawk was keeping watch on Spanish Pond from a low perch.

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Red-shouldered Hawk

Then I went to Reddie Point, another site often mentioned at jaxbirding.com.  There, at the pond by the entrance I saw a Great Blue Heron, perched in a tree, surrounded by several juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons.  Yellow-rumped Warblers were flitting around in the trees at the water’s edge.

I couldn’t go back home without stopping by Nathan Krestul Park to see what was going on.  The Belted Kingfisher was diving for fish and doing no hovering at all:

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Belted Kingfisher with Fish

An Anhinga, some sort of white junk on its beak, was sunning itself:

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Anhinga

Far into the interior a Little Blue Heron, a Tricolored Heron, and a Snowy Egret were looking for food, all within about ten square feet of each other.

In the afternoon, I picked up Mom and went to Westminster Woods to visit Gram.  The first two birds we saw were Wood Storks.  In the picture below you can see the glint of the sun in its eye.

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Wood Stork

Here’s an Anhinga with Double-crested Cormorants.  The Anhinga is a year-round resident; the Double-crested Cormorants show up only in winter.

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Anhinga with Double-crested Cormorants

Also at Westminster Woods we saw several Great Egrets, a Great Blue Heron,  a pair of Wood Ducks, a pair of Hooded Mergansers, and a pair of Mallards.

 

January 22, 2015

When I arrived at Nathan Krestul Park after work, an Osprey was high up in a tree, picking away at a fish.  A quartet of Mallards paddled in formation.  In the “Mallard Quartet” picture below, there’s a hint of the iridescent purple-blue of the speculum feathers.  Several Hooded Mergansers were also on the water, but were far more skittish than the Mallards.  No sign of the Pied-billed Grebes.  The Palm Warblers stayed low in the field and in the brush.  The Eastern Bluebirds stayed high in the trees.  I heard a Red-bellied Woodpecker and a Belted Kingfisher, but spotted neither.  Overhead were Turkey Vultures and Navy jets.  As I was heading home, a Great Egret flew in, looking for a meal at low tide.

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Mallards

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Hooded Mergansers

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Mallard Quartet

 

 

January 19, 2015

Today at Nathan Krestul Park no large birds were present.  It was all small birds:  Yellow-rumped Warblers, Palm Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds, Carolina Chickadees, and a Pine Warbler.  Plus a Red-bellied Woodpecker barking its head off.

Yesterday I ran across a gentleman named Joe Heaney, who was photographing birds in the neighborhood where I grew up.  He has a gallery here:  http://jahphotos.zenfolio.com

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Eastern Bluebird

 

January 4, 2015

Today I took Mom down to see Gram at Westminster Woods.  It was a still, warm afternoon, and other than three Hooded Mergansers on the lake and an occasional flock of robins flying high overhead, there were no birds were around.

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Gram

 

January 3, 2015

This morning in the back yard a Ruby-crowned Kinglet was flitting around in the oleander at warp speed, completely foiling any chance to get a decent photograph of it.

Then back to Hanna Park with a new set of hand-built wheels (thank you, Chris!):  Velocity “Blunt” rims and DT Swiss 350 hubs.  The trails were in excellent shape.  My better half and I rode the South Loop, Z Trail, and E Trail non-stop, and then I bailed out to see what birds were around.  The usual suspects were lurking about, including the Brown Pelican below, which was eventually chased off by a Double-crested Cormorant.

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Brown Pelican

At the dock I met Michael, a photographer and bird enthusiast.  We talked about what we’d seen at Hanna and elsewhere.  After a bit, a Brown Pelican alighted on a pole in front of the dock.  And as before, eventually a Double-crested Cormorant unseated it.

Back home this afternoon, a Hermit Thrush did its patented seven-second bath in the bubbler, thwarting any opportunity to photograph it.  Twice.  Then for good measure, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet did its usual flitting business in the oleander.  Until I set up my camera on a tripod inside a blind in my back yard and wait for a few hours, this might be as good as it gets:

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Ruby-crowned Kinglet