Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gulf coast Peeps

I'm always surprised by how common Western Sandpiper is in Florida when it's a decidedly uncommon bird in Michigan.

 I suppose I could have titled this post The Early Sandpiper Gets the Worm...

The Westerns were kind enough to be most of the way to breeding plumage, complete with the arrow chevrons going down their flanks.

Here's a different individual.
 They honestly were smaller billed than I remembered them.  I'm not sure if that's a regional difference or if the bills grow over the course of the summer season, or if the birds we've had in Berrien happened to be longer billed because as I look back both the Tiscornia Western Sandpipers of Oct 2013 and of Sept 2012 had longer bills.

This one was still in winter plumage.
I can't tell if it's just the angle making the bill look less tapered and drooped or if this is actually a semi-palmated.
Leasts on the other hand certainly had thin tapered bills.

I think my memory of Western Sandpiper gets influenced by the much heavier curved bills of Dunlins as well.
Most of the dunlins weren't even this far along in their moult and I didn't take a ton of pics of them.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Corkscrew passerines

We took the kids on a walk at the Corkscrew Audubon boardwalk through the largest remaining stand of mature cypress.  It was during the dry season and after guaranteeing the kids they'd see alligators I was starting to sweat it a little.  Finally at the end of the 1.5 mile loop we came to an area with water that had a few gators.

The feeders at the visitor center drew my eye as we walked in; a female Painted Bunting was sitting on one.  After our hike we waited 15-20 minutes for a male.  It was the first one I've seen over 20 years.

A female popped up a few minutes later.

Even at midday there were other passerines about.  An Ovenbird of all things was walking around under the feeders.

I was happy to see a Common Ground-dove.  A lot of people say they're the size of a sparrow.  It looked bigger though.  I'd forgotten how strong the violet flecks in the wings are.

Finally a Mourning Dove doing, well, I'm not sure what.
It seemed unlikely to be sunbathing given 80 degree temps.  It didn't really seem to be dust-bathing.  I've heard of birds anting, that is to allow ants to crawl on them and presumably pick off parasites.  If it was doing that I didn't see the ants.

And oh yeah, the gator...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Re-learning the dowitchers

I'm used to seeing the dowitchers in near breeding plumage in the spring and then the still-bright adults and fresh juveniles in the fall.  It took a little getting used to the late winter birds along the Florida coast.  Almost all were just starting to get some breeding plumage.

Most of the birds (and I believe all of the birds in flight in the next 2 pics) are Short-billed, as would be expected on the salty beach.

This second flight shot is one of my favorite pics from the trip, but it loses a lot at the smaller file size used on the blog.

Some however were Long-billed's, I think this bird's tail is certainly predominantly black enough to for the less common species (though per the orange O'Brien shorebird book the Atlantic subspecies of Short-billed has a darker tail on average than the central Hendersoni that I'm more used to).

The round body and flattish eye stripe of this next bird definitely gave me a Long-billed sense in the field though I don't know that this single frame is definitive.

I'm pretty sure this next one is Long-billed as well, but its tail is not as dark as the earlier bird's.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Awkward teenage herons

... assuming that about 9 months is a teenager in the heron world.

They're almost more tri-colored as a young birds than they are as adults.

I'm not sure what it went for here, I don't remember if it caught it or not.

The drops of water around the snapped shut bill are fun.

Nearby was a young Little Blue just as the sun hit the beach.  It was nabbing some sort of short fat minnow.

In the early morning light the gray base of the bill gets some pinkish tones.

Speaking of pinkish tones...

the next one is montaged from a few minutes later in the morning.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Osprey vs Eagles

A pair of eagles settled on the beach one of the mornings.  One of the local ospreys took exception and made repeated passes at the eagles who would jump up and extend their talons to ward off the smaller bird.

I thought about titling this post "Because I was inverted," but didn't know how many people would get the 30 year old movie reference.

Another gif...

The eagles flushed eventually, to the consternation of the long-legged waders.

They needn't have worried, the osprey kept the eagles well occupied.

The osprey went right past after driving off the eagles.

Its mate looked on with pride.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Plover don't fly

I wasn't the only one attracted to the concentrations of birds following the tides.  There were good numbers of eagles slowly cruising along (more on them later) as well as a merlin that would strafe the shorebirds.  The merlin would push the sandpipers up to a quarter mile up or down the beach as prey tried to keep their distance from predator.  I accidentally walked right up to a couple Wilson's Plovers after this happened moving at normal speed thinking the beach was empty.

 Instead of flying the Wilson's had hunkered down on the drying mats of seaweed and blended in amazingly well.

This is presumably a first spring bird.

I heard this one calling the day before and tracked it down since I wasn't familiar with the call.

There were also a few Piping Plovers around.  I haven't yet tried to track down the bands on these two birds.

This first spring bird had escaped detection in the nest.

Finally a Black-bellied still in full winter plumage.  They were definitely a bird to be aware given their hair-trigger proclivities for alarm calls.

I saw a few Semi-palmateds around but made very little effort to photograph them.  Almost 13 years ago I found my lifer Snowy Plover across the bay on Sanibel (yes, on my honeymoon), I didn't see a Snowy at all on this trip.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Florida like a tourist

No bird says Florida like the long-legged waders.  I spent some time with them.  I took relatively few pics of White Ibis, but couldn't resist this first year bird as the sun just came over the horizon.

The birds at the beach near the hotel were quite tame and ignored me as I worked my around them to get the sun in the right place in the morning light.

The Little Blue and the Snowy seemed to be trying to nab whatever the ibis displaced.  The birds squabbled a lot less than I expected them to.

They eventually went their separate ways.

The Snowy was a lot harder to meter than the Little Blue

In retrospect I probably should have tried some different white balance settings rather than just sticking with the one I typically use for morning light given the whiteness of the bird.