Backyard dinner – Skywatch Friday

DSC_0655

I saw the above eastern phoebe sitting on my neighbor’s fence and went out the side door to see if I could get a shot from the side of the house. They are usually pretty skittish but this one let me get the above shot.

DSC_0672

I walked out on the dock and a laughing gull flew over my head.

DSC_0664

I was about to go back in the house when I saw the above standing in my neighbor’s yard.

DSC_0699

All of a sudden the cooper’s hawk flew into a low branch with a squirrel in his foot.

DSC_0687

A crow flew close by and hawk was yelling at him to stay away.

DSC_0702

Then he started to chow down. Poor squirrel.

DSC_0706

He would take a bite and then look around. He started staring at me so I went inside. I didn’t want to watch him finish off that poor squirrel.

DSC_0966

Later that night the sky had beautiful pink and orange clouds so I went outside and took the above in the backyard.

This was the first time I have seen a cooper’s hawk in our neighborhood. We have a lot of red shoulder hawks flying around. I probably wouldn’t have seen him if I hadn’t gone out to take a picture of the phoebe.

Check out more sky pictures at Skywatch Friday

A few more from spring migration

DSC_8374

I was told this is a Tennessee Warbler. It looks like it from my Stokes Birding Guide.

DSC_8377

If so, it’s a lifer for me.

DSC_8382

White eyed vireo singing in the morning.

DSC_8385

He was chirping away.

DSC_8427

This was my last indigo bunting sighting of the season. These were taken in mid-April.

DSC_8447

I saw this guy for a flash of a second so this was all I got. It was the only time I saw a hummingbird at the feeder during all of those trips to the park this spring.

DSC_8439

Swallowtail on the flowers.

DSC_8393

This guy was jumping around while we were trying to take pictures of the bunting.

This has been a long drawn out migration season. Last spring there were tons of birds in two weekends and then nothing.  This spring it’s been a small handful of birds each weekend starting at the end of March and fizzling out near the end of April. I saw a few new birds this spring and met a ton of new people. It’s amazing the bird traffic at Fort Desoto. People come from all over the country during April for a “bird vacation”. Most of the travelers I spoke with were hitting parks all around Florida. At least at Fort Desoto, when you walk out of the woods, you’re on the beach and your “bird vacation” can become a few hours of a “beach vacation”.

Check out more pictures at Our World Tuesday Our World Tuesday Graphic

Also, check out more birds at Paying Ready Attention  for

My first sora rail

DSC_7219

As I walked around the small lake, I saw nothing unusual. A cormorant swimming by.

DSC_7197

A female anhinga posed for me with her funny face. Anhingas are common at this lake. They sit on the boardwalk rail and don’t even move when someone jogs by.

DSC_7362

The grackle was picking the fuzz off of the cattails.

DSC_7318

It was getting late, I had about half an hour before I lost the light. I was beginning to think I wouldn’t see the Sora rail that had been spotted here a week earlier. I was on the last section of the lake when I saw something moving in the reeds along the edge.

DSC_7313

I found him! My first sora rail. Soras aren’t that rare here but I keep missing them at the parks in the area. I finally found one and was able to get a shot. It was after 7pm at this point so I snapped a couple of pictures and then headed back to my car.

DSC_7297

He was busy feeding. There were two soras there but they stayed pretty far apart. They camouflage into the reeds pretty well so I was excited that I found him. This park is only 5 minutes from my office. There usually isn’t too much to see because there are so many joggers and dog walkers after work but it’s a nice way to spend an hour and wait for traffic to ease up.

DSC_7380

Of course, I had to take a picture of the local pond gator. He was a tiny one.

DSC_7224

Last shot before getting in my car and heading home.

Birds of prey at Fort Desoto – Skywatch Friday

DSC_6663

I was in the woods looking for little yellow birds and looked up and saw this kestrel watching me.

DSC_6733

Walking down the east beach trail, I interrupted this osprey eating his breakfast.

DSC_6737

I said “Relax, I’m not going to steal your stinky fish.”

DSC_6741

He still yelled at me. I don’t know why he picked a low branch on a busy trail during a busy spring migration weekend.

DSC_6747

He took off and flew around in a circle with his half eaten fish and landed on a higher up branch.

DSC_6865

Later that morning I was standing at the north beach roped area and was talking to some other photogs about the shorebirds all flying off and someone yelled “Look over your heads.” Duh, the shorebirds had flushed because the above juvenile bald eagle had just circled the area.

DSC_6874

Upclose. We think this is the new baby that was born earlier this year at the park. The eagles nest high up in a utility tower in the park. He circled around the roped off area a few times and then flew over the trees and was gone. I guess he figured those shorebirds were harder to get than he originally thought.

Just a few birds I saw on my morning walk at Fort Desoto in early April.

Check out more sky pictures at Skywatch Friday

And then there were 3

DSC_7084

“Stop tickling me.” “Don’t move, I’m picking the bugs off you.”

DSC_6977

“Hey, big sis, what is that lady doing?”

DSC_7026

“Don’t look, I gotta pee.”

DSC_7013

“What is that big silver thing flying up there? That is one big bird.”

DSC_7009

“I need a stretch and a yawn.”

DSC_7116

” I need to climb over this branch.”

DSC_7117

“Who put this branch here?”

DSC_7127

“Almost!”

DSC_7135

“Bye, bye, lady.”

It was a sad sight when I got the spoonbill nest at the Lowry Park Zoo. There were only 3 babies and last weekend there were 4. I knew it was going to be tough with 4 babies growing up on that small nest. One step too far and it’s into the gator exhibit for a little baby bird.  At least the remaining three seemed to be doing well. They are growing up so fast. A week after I took these I had a friend who stopped by and the three were still there. It’s still going to be risky as they start flapping their wings and branching out. They still have a long way to go. The babies are so cute though. I’m going to try to get back there at least once more before they fly the coup.

Rainbow of birds for spring migration

DSC_7597

I think the indigo bunting was my favorite bird of the day. Last spring I could not get a decent picture of him. When I first got the woods I saw a flash of blue and didn’t see him again for a while. Later, while standing in front of the fountain talking to some other birders, he landed right on the base of the fountain. He bounced around for at least 10 minutes from branch to fountain.

DSC_7434

I totally blew this shot out. I had been taking pictures of birds deep in the bushes early in the morning and had my ISO too high. When I drove over to the other section of woods, as soon as I got out of the car I saw the scarlet tanager in the tree and immediately started snapping. Then I realized he was in full sun and I hadn’t lowered my ISO. A second later he flew off.  So the shot overall is too bright but I’m just glad I got him.

DSC_7559

This one I took right into the sun and then had to blow out to get the details. I think this is another scarlet tanager but we had heard there were summers around and I was hoping it was a summer instead. I can’t really see his wings in this picture to tell. Any experts have an opinion?

DSC_7523

Later in the morning, when I came back to the mulberry bushes, they were full of orchard orioles. I only saw males while I was there. They were all busy eating the berries.

DSC_7659

Another one with berries pieces in his beak.

DSC_7548

Not a good picture but it was the only one I got of an american redstart.

DSC_7648

Is this a gray kingbird or an eastern kingbird? People were calling it both. All About Birds does not even show a gray kingbird in their list, only the eastern. He was flying back and forth between the mulberry bushes with some lunch left on his beak.

DSC_7628

My first red eyed vireo.

DSC_7514

I thought this was a red eyed vireo at first. I’m thinking it’s the same bird as the picture before it and that I just couldn’t see it’s red eye. It also looks like a female redstart.

DSC_7677

The very common gray catbird. The mulberry bushes were full of them. This one had red all over his face from eating the berries. What a feast.

The mulberry bushes at the trails have signs posted saying “Do not pick the fruit.” Just in case a tourist wanted to have a snack and wipe out an entire bush. The birds migrating through in spring count on these bushes for fuel to get them home up north. They are exhausted and hungry when they stop by Fort Desoto for a rest. The bushes were full of birds in early April. They were all busy eating and most birds had a little berry juice stained on their beaks and faces. Most of these pictures were taken standing in front of the big mulberry bushes or at the water fountain so I didn’t have to travel far. Just stand in one place and have patience (which I don’t have a lot of).

Check out more birds at Paying Ready Attention for

Little yellow birds invade Fort Desoto

DSC_7495

Hooded warblers were everywhere. They were walking around in the grass and posing for everyone. I saw this bird last year but never got a shot so this is my first official hooded warbler shot.

DSC_7480

Prairie warblers aren’t too common. There were many of these on the east beach trails.

DSC_7485

After I cropped this up I realized there were tiny white bugs all over the leaves. I think that’s what he was eating.

DSC_7469

White eyed vireos are common during spring migration.

DSC_7473

This one was trying to hide in the fir trees.

DSC_7415

Yellow throated warblers were common around the ranger’s house this weekend.

DSC_7406

My very first prothonotary warbler.

DSC_7403

He was posing for me right when I hit the trail that morning.

Central west Florida had a small fall-out this past weekend. A big storm came through the Tampa Bay area on Thursday and by Friday afternoon, people were posting great migrating birds all over the area. The most populated seemed to be at Fort Desoto so I headed down there early Saturday morning. I skipped the beach and went straight to the woods. I spent over 4 hours looking for little birds in the bushes and trees.  Of course, everyone else had the same idea so it was pretty crowded on trails. Everyone was so nice pointing out things they had seen. I do not know my little birds very well and usually shoot first and look up species later. Saturday I left knowing all but one bird that I had taken pictures of. It was a lot of fun and I met a lot of new people and ran into a few old friends I haven’t seen in a long time.  I also saw a few red and blue birds that aren’t cardinals or blue jays so I’ll post those later.

Check out more birds at Paying Ready Attention  for

Birds aren’t the one ones eating fish for breakfast.

DSC_5257

Otters are not quiet when they eat. We heard this guy munching on the fish before we saw him. We knew there were otters running around on the trail and kept our eyes open. We followed this guy down the trail for a while and saw him eat 3 different fish.

DSC_5267

His mom never told him to chew with his mouth closed.

DSC_5303

Taking a breather, he stopped for a few seconds and then took off again.

DSC_5274

Yum, another one.

DSC_5334

It was as if he was saying “See what you’re missing?”

DSC_5329

“Last bite.”

There  was a group of us following three otters along the trail. Two took off farther into the marsh and this one stayed right against the trail. He moved fast. He would dive into the water (which seemed shallow to us) and then several hundred feet down we’d see his head pop up with another fish. He sat up right in front of us to eat but the reeds along the edge of the trail made it a challenge to get a clear shot. It’s not often the otters are out in the open on a busy Saturday morning with so many people on the trails. I guess because the weather was perfect, sunny and cool, they were more playful.  At one point there about 10 people standing on the trail talking and one of the otters zipped across the trail right in front of them. It was about 30 minutes of “who cares about the birds.” time.

Camera Critters

Pink baby cotton candy balls

DSC_6487

“Brother, you are wrong. This is not food.”

DSC_6635

“Everybody wake up. Time for our morning stretch.”

DSC_6497

“Look at my face! Isn’t it the cutest?!!”

DSC_6541

“Too many mouths to feed. I gotta shake it off.”

DSC_6543

“What are doing Junior? Showing off again?”

DSC_6548

“Mom, when are we gonna eat?”

DSC_6569

“I’m the oldest.” “Stop shaking the nest.” says the ones sleeping.

DSC_6579

“How is this going to work?”

Four baby spoonbills at the alligator exhibit at Lowry Park zoo! Two years ago there were three babies in the same spot, although they are a couple of trees back this year. None last year so I guess they are making up for lost time.  I had posted about seeing the mating here back in early February. I finally got a chance to get back to the zoo to check on the nest and there were four babies! At this point they were getting big fast. All four looked pretty healthy. These parents are busy. I was only able to spend a little over an hour there and the other parent did not come back with food while I was there. I’m going to try to get back in the next two weeks to see how big they get and if all four make it. There’s not much room on that nest and big alligators are waiting below. 

The babies stayed busy stretching and preening but they weren’t all awake at the same time. One would stand up and stretch and lay back down. Then a few minutes later another would stand up. I don’t think this parent is getting much rest. It looks just like a big pile of pink cotton candy up there.

Check out more birds at Paying Ready Attention  for

Baby owls and some ibis on a sunny morning – Skywatch Friday

DSC_3485

One baby was facing me and the other one (on the right) was turned around.

DSC_3473

The older baby (on the left) was stretching her wings.

DSC_3460

This nest is so tiny. They were up against each other the whole morning. Mom was close by on an upper branch.

DSC_3572

Out on the beach, ibis were digging for breakfast.

DSC_3576

Double dipping. An ibis and a great egret were feeding together.

DSC_3567

I found the above birds at the north beach marsh. The tide was really low this morning.

DSC_3509

It was another perfect morning in late February.

DSC_3500

The beach was quiet. The water was calm.

DSC_3540

Lots of shells on the beach.

By now the baby owls at Fort Desoto are flying around from branch to branch. I heard that the park ranger has taken down the orange fencing that went around the area where the nest was which means they have fledged. They grow up so fast. I think they’ll still stay in the area for a couple of months so I’ll look for them next time I’m at the park. There weren’t many other birds at the park. It was cool and windy so the north beach was lacking in shorebirds. I could only find a few ibis and great egrets that morning. Spring break has begun and the beach will become a different place, full of loud kids chasing birds. Can’t wait.

Check out more sky pictures at Skywatch Friday