Monday, March 29, 2010

Rainy Day Excitement

Trumpeter Swans!

That's about all there is to say. Rumor has it that these birds are not listed (yet, there is a 2007 record as well) as having a record in CT before. Originally spotted by Brian, the ID was confirmed by many other birders. What's better than Trumpeter Swans in CT but Trumpeter Swans in Stratford!!!

With Sue joining, we hopped in the car at lunchtime and rushed over to see them. And for sure it was worth the time!! We found a place to park and walked back over to the easiest viewing spot. First impression was: this is not a Mute Swan! These beautiful swans were large and graceful looking. They were moving slowly across the pond, feeding along the way. Hopefully, they will hang around a few more days, until the rain stops and I can get some nicer shots!

Also, the Killdeer have made an appearance at work. I'm hoping that they decide to nest on campus, last year we had 2 that were hanging around most of the summer. On Friday I had three running around the guard station, here are 2 of the 3.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The final day

Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area is a location you might never hear of just because those who know about it want to keep it a secret. Today was my first visit and I'm sure it will be repeated. If super heroes are known to travel in fours, the super heros of this park would surely be Sandhill Crane, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and Swallow-tail Kite. This was definitely a great way to finish off my vacation.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Most of the park is drivable on dirt roads where you may need to wait for a clearing to pass the cars coming in the opposite direction. The visitable section of this 79,013 acre park is mostly slash pine with some flooded meadows mixed in. Rather than telling you about it. Here are some pictures and the list.


Loggerhead Shrike

List: Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird, Bluejay, Boat-tailed Grackle, Common Yellow-throat, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, Osprey, Swallow-tailed Kite, American Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Logger-head Shrike, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Limpkin, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, White-eyed Vireo, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird, Sandhill Crane, and other Warblers, I'll have to use some sleuthing to ID.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Baby Sandhill Crane

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Not a Birdy Day

Putting away the telephoto lens, the focus of today was to enjoy the scenery that makes up some of the most beautiful in Florida. Lovers Key State Park is one of my new favorite stops when in the Fort Myers area. Parking in the first main lot, you can either take the tram or the walk to the beach about 1/3 of a mile away over Inner Key to Lovers Key and some beautiful shoreline. This area is definitely more geared to the sunbather but still an Osprey nest near the parking lot and these Laughing Gulls lining up to watch the view were around.

Following the main road in a little further you get to the Black Island parking lot and trail. This morning I took the looking more and walking less approach. The birds around this area included, Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird, Palm Warbler, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

The one thing I reallllly wanted to see was the Gopher Tortoise. But I didn't even though I did a pretty good job looking.

At home there was a pretty exciting new bird at the feeder. The male only showed up yesterday and left me with some guesses as to what it was. But with the female showing up today and the male showing more of it's breeding plummage, the ID of Indigo Bunting was straight forward. Here they are!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Shorebird Galore

Black Skimmers settling back down

Yesterday I headed back over to Bunche Beach first thing in the morning to see if I could get a few more shore birds under my belt. Luck was on my side, when I stepped onto the beach I was greeted with low tide and at least one thousand shore birds spread out as far as the eye could see. Another piece of luck, not another birder on the beach so I headed straight out over the sand to get close to the birds.

Western Sandpiper headed to breeding plummage

I will preface this entry (in the middle of it) by saying that I am horrible at shore bird identification. This is all new territory to me and I'm sure I'll mess up a bunch before getting it right. With that said I will attempt to describe what I was seeing. The first group of birds I walked up on were a mix of Sanderlings and Sandpipers. I wasn't sure about which they were and before I got more involved with trying to ID what they were I wanted to get some pictures as a record. I continued to walk a little bit and found a few Dunlin mixed in with the group as well.

Sanderling (who looks scared of his shadow)

A nice couple from Miami out doing some birding walked up at this point and pointed out the Piping Plovers that I hadn't gotten up to yet. I pointed out the Short-billed Dowitchers which were hanging out right at the waters edge. The husband informed me that the sandpipers were mostly Least Sandpipers. Looking back at my pictures though, they mostly seem to have dark legs and a few have reddish tinges on the heads and cheeks, indicating they are probably Western Sandpipers. Take a look above.

Piping Plover

Of the three Piping Plovers I saw, one of them was tagged with at least 4 leg bands. Also in the same area were Willet, Black-bellied Plover, and Killdeer. Brown Pelican flew over, Black Skimmers were huddled down further out, and Laughing Gulls were mixed in between.


Other birds around included: Red-shouldered Hawk, Bald Eagle (immature), Red-bellied Woodpecker, White Pelican, Least Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Plover, Tri-colored Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Little Blue Heron, and White Ibis. I found a nice gentleman who was willing to look at some birds I had spotted out with the Skimmers and ID'ed them as Marbled Godwit! They were too far out for a picture but still an exciting spot!

Short-billed Dowitcher

All in all it was a nice way to start learning the shore birds. There was certainly LOTS of practice in identification.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pecking of the Wood

Six-mile Cypress Slough was the target for yesterday mornings excursion and it once again came through with a plethora of species and all within easy viewing distance. This park is still relatively quiet on the human side of things although, with an addition of a nature center/museum last year this is quickly changing. In the past the 9:30 am guided tours would have maybe 5 people on them, yesterday when I passed the tour there were easily 15 people.

The Slough path itself is approximately 1.2 miles located off of.... Six-mile Cypress Blvd. Plenty of parking is available for $1 an hour. I didn't venture into the center itself so I'm not sure if there is a cost to look around inside. The trail starts right off the parking lot and immediately drops you into a young cypress stand. But I didn't even need to get that far before having some great birds. Looking around the parking lot I found 3 Swallow-tailed Kites perching in the treetops. I never saw them again once they left for the day. Also, in the parking lot was Tufted Titmouse and Red-bellied Woodpecker along with a few Warblers that flew over.

Swallow-tailed Kite

I did get a chance to see 4 woodpecker species total at this park. Pileated, Downy, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. This trip has also been a chance for me to start to learn the Warblers. I have never gotten into Warbler identification at all and it's proving a detriment this trip. I am however learning quickly especially with the more brightly feathered members of this group. The flush of warblers that were working the Slough this morning included: Common Yellow-throat, Palm Warbler, Northern Parula, Black and White Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatchatcher, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Yellow-throated Warbler. There were a few other non-descript warblers that I may try to get ID's on if I have pictures with distinguishable features.

Crappy picture of a Yellow-throated Warbler

Here are the rest of the species... American Coot, Common Moorhen, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron (including immature white forms), White Ibis, Anhinga, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Bluejay, Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird, and Green Heron.

American Coot

In the afternoon I took a quick trip over to Cape Coral to check out another boardwalk trail, 4-mile Cove Park. The part of the trail that I walked was not good for birds, the cove itself yielded a single Anhinga. The trail pulled in a small flush of maybe 4 warblers, the only one I got a look at was a Black and White Warbler.

However since I was in Cape Coral and I knew of a couple of Burrowing Owl Spots, I decided to go take a peak and I was not disappointed. The nests are all within about 20 feet from the road side.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Today was sunny finally, although the breeze still kept temperatures rather tepid for Florida. I headed out to Corkscrew Swap Sanctuary, known for it's unique opportunity to get close to wildlife found along the boardwalk. Once again there is plenty of information available online for this park located in Naples. Here is what I came across while at the park

Gray Catbird on the trail at Corkscrew

Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Little Blue Heron, Gray Catbird, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black and White Warbler, Palm Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal, and Eastern Phoebe.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher catching Gnats?

Once again I saw many of the same birds along the way as I have already stated for the past few days. One species of interest I saw again were the Swallow-tailed Kites, flying above the road. I also, spied 2 Kestrels sitting on power lines, one male and one female about half a mile apart. I may have neglected to mention before but I've seen many Loggerhead Shrike on the side of the road as well. Hopefully I'll have an opportunity to pull off and take a picture of these species.

What I ID'ed at a Blackpoll Warbler

Black and White Warbler

One lesson I have taken from today is that Warblers are difficult to take photographs of. No set plans for tomorrow but there are a couple of places I still want to hit.

White Ibis gnawing on a crayfish of some kind

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cool and Breezy

As much as I plan, nothing can really prepare you for what nature will throw your way. I was up and at Lakes Park in Fort Myers this morning only 20 minutes later than I had meant to be. I pulled into the lot and went to pay to park, then decided to toss on my sweatshirt before hitting the trail. The sweatshirt was definitely a necessity. Within a few moments the cool air circled around me playing second fiddle only to the 1000 Tree Swallows that were doing the same.

I admit that my motivation is slightly waning (or is it waxing?) today and all I will do is make a list of the species I came across and a few details. I described Lakes Park in yesterdays blog so I'll add my list: Tree Swallow (at least 1000), Common Moorhen, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Osprey, Brown Pelican, White Ibis, Boat-tailed Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Fish Crow, Cedar Waxwings, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Mottled Duck, Spotted Sandpiper, Palm Warbler, and Yellow-rumped Warbler (about 50 at least). There was a hybrid duck that I assume was a Mallard x Mottled hybrid (male) since it was with the Mottled Ducks. I tried to digibin the bird but with poor results.

Little Blue Heron (at Ding Darling)

The next spot was Bunche Beach, no pictures from here, parking is at the end of the road and is free. Read the signs on the history of the place as it's of interest. This spot is pretty much just a beach about a mile long. Take off up or down the beach to view a decent number of shorebirds. Today was: Semipalmated Plover, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Sanderling, Dunlin, Willet, Black-bellied Plover, Laughing Gull, and Black Skimmer. I may try to stop by this spot again to get some pictures.

Laughing Gull (Sannibel Causeway)

The last birding spot of the day was a quick trip over to J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. I wont talk about this too much as a plethora of information is available online about this park. Suffice it that this is a definite must stop spot for birders. Some days are better than others, today was interesting but with hightide, not as bountiful as I would expect. The one big bonus for the day was the abundance of shorebirds, that I can only assume were seeking refuge from the strong winds on the beaches. From today: Turkey Vultures, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, Reddish Egret, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, White Ibis, Brown Pelican, White Pelican, Roseate Spoonbill, Dunlin (hundreds), Short-billed Dowitcher (hundreds), Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant, Pied-billed Grebe, and Red-breasted Merganser.

White Ibis seen somewhere along the way

Strangest bird story of the day: in front of the house a Turkey Vulture landed in the road, a few second later a Red-shouldered Hawk came swooping down on the back of the Vulture and both took off. The hawk landed on the awning and the vulture to somewhere else. A few minutes later the vulture returns to investigate and taste a couple mouthfulls of bird seed scattered on the road. Apparently it was not to his tastes because the bird flew away shortly there after.

Royal Terns hanging out on the causeway to Sannibel Island

Total new species today: I'll have to get back to you. LOL But about 3 life birds.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rainy Day, Sunny Day

This morning started out pretty bad, pouring rain and thunderstorms predominated this morning putting a damper on my plans. But in anticipation I filled the feeder to at least try to get a lifer that I knew had been visiting my parents feeder. After a few doves came in, I got what I was looking for a Painted Bunting, in fact a male and female came in! Unfortunately, the light levels were too low to get anything but a colorful blur of a picture. Here are the other places I stopped.

In the Walmart parking lot, is a small pond that has a resident group of Muscovy Ducks. Other visitors today included: Wood Stork, Great Egret, Rock Pigeon, Osprey, Double-crested Cormorant, Common Grackle, Ring-billed Gulls, and Boat-railed Grackle. Here is a good place to mention the other birds I saw on the side of the road, flying by, or without a designated location. European Starling, Loggerhead Shrike, White Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Cattle Egret, Snowy Egret, and Coopers Hawk.

The sun did come out after awhile and I brought my parents for a quick lunch outside to Lake Park as a quick preview to see if it was worth spending more time at. This is a public park, the fee is only for parking at $1/ hour or $5 a day. I am planning on checking out the trails more tomorrow but it appears there are about 3 miles of trails, that can be biked or walked. Here is the quick list from lunchtime: Great Blue Heron, Bloat-tailed Grackle, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Turkey Vulture, Tricolored Heron, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown Pelican, and Pied-billed Grebe.

At Lakes Park there was another life bird for me. The Mottled Duck, very similar to female Mallards, and American Black Duck, but the key feature is a black mark at the base of the bill. There was also an immature Mottled Duck with an almost black bill.

The final stop was a quick jaunt over the bridge to Fort Meyers beach and then to the north to Bodwich Beach. On the way there and around the point were the following species: Eurasian Collared Dove, Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Brown Pelican, Ring-billed Gull, and Osprey.

Additionally, there were the birds that were running around the 'park' where my parents live from a quick drive around this morning: Mourning Dove, Common Ground Dove, Bluejay, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Fish Crow, both Vultures, Glossy Ibis, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, a Warblers species, Anhinga, and Killdeer.

Todays total species: 39 (ish) and that was without really birding.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fading light on the way from the airport

The plane touched down a little before 6pm and I had my eyes out the windows as soon as I felt the ground. Taxiing from the runway the only thing easily ID'ed were the Common Grackles. The quick drive from the airport to where I am staying pulled up more. Once again without binoculars but there were an abundance of swallows everywhere getting a last meal before settling in for the night. Great Egrets flying overhead. White Ibis and Black Vultures seen flying along the road. 2 Red-shouldered Hawk hanging out by the road in the airport. Boat-tailed Grackle, Woodstork, Mallard Ducks, and domestic Muscovy Ducks were also seen around small ponds along the way. A number of other Egrets/ Herons flew by but not enough light to ID. Can't wait for tomorrow and more than 15 minutes to bird. Of course I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the Painted Buntings will be at the feeder tomorrow.