Come visit Floridabirdwatchers

This multi-user blog is for birders to share your birding experiences, to share your photos.  One need not have a camera, take great pics or even share experiences to be here.  Just visit and hopefully, you will want to stay. 

People who bird in Florida and people who are interested in Florida birding are welcome here.  We have so many birds here year round as well as a wide variety of migrants that it is always a fascinating hobby here.  

I got a little lazy about sharing my own experiences here.  A part of it was that  the camera broke, a permanent situation for that camera.  I have to admit I am one of those people who is more comfortable with a camera.  I am just not a person who peers through binoculars too often.  I enjoy taking photos, but frequently use them for to identify the birds.  I need to spend more time also observing the bird at the same time.  I really admire people who can enjoy and ID birds on the fly or by the memory of what they have just seen.

I now have a bridge camera and am learning how to use the settings to the best advantage for birds and other things that interest me.  I never set the previous kind of bridge camera, just used the automatic setting.  I know this will take a lot of time and practice.   Like so many people, I am wondering how I will find the time with my busy schedule.  Maybe it will take longer than I wish it would to get the hang of it; maybe the “click” when it all falls together will come more quickly.  I want to do the happy dance because I am blessed to have a camera for birding now.  Here is one of the practice photos.  -SLB

Below, practicing capturing motion

DSCF0343

DSCF0347

Practicing depth of field

Mallard

Tern around

2013_04_10  Least Terns Fort De Soto County Park Pinellas County, FL

2013_04_10 Least Terns
Fort De Soto County Park
Pinellas County, FL

These two Least Terns who returned to Florida from their wintering grounds in S. America were sighted, with a few other Least Terns, near the East Beach Turnaround in Fort De Soto Park.  These two are in their breeding plumage.  Hopefully, the population will increase more than last year when Tropical Storm Debby destroyed many of the nests and eggs.

Spring has sprung

Baby birds are cute as can be.  This Osprey chick is one of two, old enough for flying around the area and resting on this light pole, but still a nest guest.  Mom was on a nearby light pole.  -SLB

2013_04_17  Osprey chick in Gulfport, FL

2013_04_17 Osprey chick in Gulfport, FL

More winter Bird Watching

This past winter, I had errands in the same part of St. Petersburg over a period of a several weeks.  I returned to the same place, Crescent Lake each time.  In December, I saw Ring-billed Ducks, Pied-billed Grebe, and Lesser Scaup. Come January, the American Coots were there, in full force.  I also looked up, as I do by habit, when I heard unmistakable squawking.  There was a watertower filled with nests and small, noisy birds. 

2013_01_24  Monk Parrots  DSCF0957 0Crescent Lake, St. Petersburg, FL

2013_01_24 Monk Parrots DSCF0957 0
Crescent Lake, St. Petersburg, FL

There is a pair of Nanday Parakeets that appears to have taken up residence down the street from me, colonies in the town next door, probably in the two towns next door.  This is why I look to the skies when I hear squawking;  I habitually count how many Parakeets are in the flock.  If my ear were more finally tuned, I might have been able to distinguish the Nanday squawk from the Monks’ sounds.

This winter, my first Lifer for Crescent lake was an Eastern Phoebe.

2013_01_24  Eastern PhoebeCrescent Lake, St. Petersburg, FL

2013_01_24 Eastern Phoebe
Crescent Lake, St. Petersburg, FL

During my February trip, I looked up at a tree branch and saw a brown bird staring back at me.  He was quite patient while I snapped away, then when we were both done, he with his patience, I with my photos, he flew off.  This little guy was also a Lifer.

2013_02_15  R-w Swallow  DSCF1150Crescent Lake, St. Petersburg, FL

2013_02_15 R-w Swallow DSCF1150
Crescent Lake, St. Petersburg, FL

By March, the Ring-billed Ducks were gone for the season, but the Lesser Scaup were still hanging around.  Either I missed seeing the Northern Shovelers which I saw at Crescent Lake last year, or they were not there this past winter.  I also saw eighteen Cormorants swimming together.  That was interesting. 

My blogging has almost caught up until the point when the spring migrants began arriving in Pinellas County, Florida.  In the spring, it’s location seems to be ideal for some of the migrant birds that pass through the area on their way to their seasonal destination.   – SLB

Pinellas County Map_1

Pinellas County Map_1

Winter Bird Watching

My winter Bird Watching (more about this later) could have been more productive as far as my species count and my Lifers.  Here is one of my few Lifers.  They are Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Since this beach was a bit from me, I liked that this bird was exactly where a local birding site told me it would be.  The bonus was finding a juvenile, as well.   -SLB

2012_03_17 Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull  Reddington Beach, FL

2012_03_17 Juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull
Reddington Beach, FL

2012_03_17  Lesser Black-backed Gull  Reddington Beach, FL

2012_03_17 Lesser Black-backed Gull
Reddington Beach, FL

The Oystercatcher Story

Yesterday, the woman who works for the Park Department in this little town told me about an American Oystercatcher that was nesting near the Bay. Natalie cares for two small parks, both of which border Boca Ciega Bay. The pair of Oystercatchers had bred in the same place for the last several years. When she offered to show me where the bird is nesting, I jumped at the chance. We walked to a building down the street, took the elevator up to the eighth floor, then I pointed my camera directly across the street. I took a photo of the Oystercatcher on her nest which is located on the top of a building. The photo shows what I saw – a dot. Then, Natalie handed me her field glasses and I was able to see the Oystercatcher. “Too bad we can’t see the nest,” I said. Natalie told me that the birds lay their eggs in gravel on the tops of buildings. The female sits on the nest and her mate dives into the Bay, finding her small fish. Since the male had not been seen for a week, Natalie said she was worried that the female would not survive. As I was about to say that the male might have appeared at different times during the day, Natalie said she checked at various times each day and reiterated that she had seen the male regularly until the last several days. I was saddened knowing without him feeding the female, both she and the eggs if she survived long enough for them to hatch, would die.

In the past, my online birdwatching friends and I have discussed how watching one bird devour another is very sad, although we know this is a natural part of nature. Should the male Oystercatcher fail to return and feed his mate, which seems likely, it is probably because he is unable to. In that case, it is reasonable to deduce he has perished although the manner is unknown. Yesterday, seeing the female Oystercatcher sitting on her eggs as she waits for the fish that may never arrive, I learned another way that Nature both runs its course and can be cruel at the same time.   Below, a photo of another pair of Oystercatchers which was taken by the same Bay in February, 2012.

2012_02_06  Oystercatchers

2012_02_06 Oystercatchers

 

 

 

The Birth of a Birdwatcher

I first became interested in birds when I moved to Florida from Ohio. I moved into a house which was on the corner of a street directly across from a park. The small to medium sized run-off pond was about fifty feet from the house’s yard. When I first walked out into the yard, I almost came face to face with a large white bird. That was a frightening experience, but fortunately, the bird immediately flew away. Flocks of smaller white birds with unusual, long pink bills came into the yard to peck the soil while seeking bugs. I’d never lived near water nor spent much time near water, especially since becoming an adult. I had no idea what any of the beautiful birds that showed up at the pond on a daily were. My curiosity was piqued, especially since I was new to the area my social interactions were limited and I walked along the sidewalk around the park and most of the pond each day. It was a dog friendly park so the dog walked with me. As far as I have ever been able to figure out, “dog friendly” means there are receptacles with plastic bags and many trash cans in the area.   I grabbed the point and shoot Fujifilm camera with the 3x zoom and began photographing the birds. I have never taken to using binoculars much for various reasons. I began uploading the photos to the computer and then attempted to identify the birds using the internet or the many books I checked out from the library. It was not an easy chore as I did not know how to use the resources very well. As I developed more experience, I learned. Now, that I usually know where to look in books and the internet and which characteristics to try to photograph and note, the process is easier, though I have learned identification can still be challenging, sometimes impossible. The birds I was able to identify included Great Egrets, the species which had come to face to face with me the first week I was in Florida. I saw them wading in the pond and in yards down the block. Once, I saw a Great Egret with a lizard in its mouth. Of all the birds, they surprised the most. I had never large birds that just stood in front of houses or in the middle of the road. 

2012_03_02 Great Egret.

2012_03_02 Great Egret.

 Groups of White Ibis which often came into the yard to feed. There were Muscovy Ducks. Those that stayed in this pond were not only large ducks, but they were black with beautifully iridescent feathers. The male’s faces were unattractive with their lumpy red bumps. There were ducks that appeared to be Mallards, but, I later discovered, were actually Hybrid Mallards. Mallards migrate to Florida in the winter from northern states; and I suspect it would be very difficult for me to distinguish those true Mallards from Florida’s hybrids, especially since the males have winter plumage. I couldn’t figure out what the beautiful little white bird a neighbor told was a Goose actually was. I certainly didn’t see it in the Goose sections in books or on the ‘Net. After concluding it was not a Goose, the photo was labelled “Unidentified.” With someone else’s help, I discovered why my sources had not included the bird. It is not a wild bird. It was a Pekin Duck, a domestic duck that sometimes escapes from zoos or owners or is let go by owners. They have joined the other ducks in ponds in the area.      

2012_08_04  Chinese-crested Pekin Duck, Gulfport, FL

2012_08_04 Chinese-crested Pekin Duck, Gulfport, FL

The Osprey perched so high in the evergreen, I could barely tell what kind of bird he was. The Black-crowned Night Heron dropped by after darkness enveloped the pond, crouched at the edge watching for its food. It did not stay many days. The Laughing Gulls did get the last laugh with their loud sounds, beating out the Grackles and Crows that covered the power lines. The songs of the Mockingbirds in the are often drowned out by the pond.  I saw a Great Blue Heron that perched in the bushes in the middle of the pond each day. He seemed to be guarding the pond, as he rarely came into the pond to seek food. The Black-crowned Night Heron came in the late evening, under cover of darkness. The Snowy Egrets were interesting to watch. The Wood Storks’ appearance was an oxymoron. The face and neck “only a mother could love,” but the black and white feathers are gorgeous, especially seen when the bird is seen in flight. The Gallinules, called Common Moorhens, Common Gallinules or Florida Gallinules, with red and yellow bills and a red patch on their faces and black bodies with some white feathers were unique in my eyes. They swam like nervous ducks, their necks jerking here and there. On land, their bodies visible, they looked like chickens.   There were beautiful Anhingas and Cormorants. At first, there were difficult to distinguish from one another. 

2012_04_03  AnhingaGulfport, FL

2012_04_03 Anhinga
Gulfport, FL

 Due to my lack of skill and experience as well as the kind of camera, the quality of the photos was very basic.  Nevertheless, my documenting what, when and where was very valuable to me, and not just for identification and documentation.  Even now, when my list of sightings and collection of photographs has significantly increased, I go back and look at the first photos I took and remember the days I spent with the birds, the nights I flipped through the books and searched the internet sites about birds and smile. They are good memories because the birds were beautiful, the walks outside with the dog were both refreshing and relaxing. Having a new hobby while living in a new state helped me both connect and adjust to my new surroundings.  I  researched Bird Guides by deciding how valuable each I’d borrowed from the library had been to me and by reading reviews on the Internet. I bought a few, most on sale when a well known bookstore chain went out of business. I have five or six I consult as well as sites on the Internet. Sibley and the Florida’s Birds, written by Maehr and Kale, have been the most helpful to me. Stokes is good because it has photographs instead of illustrations. Crossley’s Shorebirds has photographs of shorebirds in winter plumage, which is how many of the migrant shorebirds look while in Florida. It is, of course, also helpful in IDing those shorebirds which are in the area year round or overwinter. National Geographic is valuable to me because it compares various birds in its illustrations, but they are very small, and sometimes difficult to see. It goes without saying that guides offer additional information such as descriptions of appearance like size, what the bird eats, ranges where the birds are found and when they are there.  The Ibis was not at the pond when photographed, and the photographs of the Anhinga and Pekin Duck were taken two years later with another camera due to a computer crash and loss of photos taken at the time I first moved to Florida.  -SLB