Sunday, February 23, 2014

24 hours of Florida Birds

I have only been in Florida just a little over 24 hours and already I cannot believe all the birds I am seeing! I counted birds as best as I could out the train windows. Then I continued to count them out the windows of the car as we drove south on routes 17/35 from Winter Haven to Cape Coral. It soon became apparent that this is where all the Turkey vultures go in the wintertime! I must have counted hundreds of them since I have been here!

Sometimes it is so hard for me to be with people who are non-birders. Only birders understand the need to stop and identify birds seen alongside the road. I know that some birds are too small or too far away for I.D., but a good birders can usually identify larger species by profile and behavior as well as color. The shaggy crest and horizontal posture of a kingfisher on the utility wires is unmistakable. Still, I was surprised to find THREE of them along a stretch of road just south of a town called Zolfo. What was even more surprising was a vertically perched dark raptor with long orangey-yellow legs. I knew it was something different and I hinted to my brother that I would like to go back and take a photo but he and mom were both tired and intent on getting from point A to point B, so we whizzed on by, but when I looked the bird up I was shocked to discover that the only bird that fit what I saw was a Snail Kite. Then, when I entered it into eBird it was flagged as unusual. Oh great! Now I would have to defend my sighting, and as this was a Life Bird and I had never seen one before and I did not get a photo and I was going about 50 mph in a car, I know that this would seem doubtful, but what other bird has a charcoal gray body and long, bright orange legs? So, I submitted the sighting and was immediately contacted by the eBird Administrator. I did my best to describe once again what I saw and where I saw it. I just hope he or someone else can go out and find the bird. It would be nice to have it confirmed since I learned from the eBird Administrator that one has never been sighted in that county before! Chris Rohrer, where are you when I need you! Then I face a moral dilemma, if it is not confirmed, do I remove it from my eBird record and my Life List?

As we neared the place where my brother lives we started to see egrets and Wood Storks alongside the road. As a result I have already added all three white egrets to my Florida List for this year as well as the Wood Stork. Once settled into my brother's house I took a walk around the block late in the evening. The sun had already set and its soft, gray light settled over the landscape. A cool ocean breeze skipped over the short grass lawns. I set out in flip flops and a sleeveless shirt with my bins around my neck. I did not need my hat since the sun was down, nor did I bring my camera, since the light was low. Mockingbirds and Catbirds called and sang from all around me. On the utility wires behind one house I saw a Loggerhead Shrike. I had never seen this species in Florida before so I knew it would be new to my Florida Life List. I crossed over a canal hoping to find some ducks or gallinules, but no such luck. However, a soft hooting came from nearby and it did not take me long to find a Great Horned Owl perched high in the top of a nearby pine tree! I could see some sort of smaller birds flitting about in the hedgerows along the canal, but the light was too poor for verification of their species. The route I was taking was a 1.6 mile loop but it grew dark before I finished it and my brother showed up in his car to get me. He was getting a bit worried, plus everyone else was ready to go out to eat!

This morning I awoke to the songs of mockingbirds once again. As soon as possible I am out the door with camera and bins. Earlier a thick fog blanketed the neighborhood, but by now the fog has lifted and the thick cloud cover is breaking up. Patches of blue sky are starting to peek out from between the gray tatters of clouds. Turkey Vultures are soaring over the neighborhood in what feels like an aerial attack! In wave after wave they ride in on thermals, circle and glide away. I examine every bird and flock and soon discover first an osprey, then a Bald Eagle, then a pair of Black Vultures, an American White pelican, and a Cooper's Hawk! Eventually a Double-crested Cormorant flies by low over my head in its quick and ponderous flight, beak extended like a dart and long turkey tail streaming behind. I hear a couple of Northern Cardinals calling. I see the shrike once again. I see a small bird in a pine tree and walk across the short spikey grass until I am close enough to both see and photograph a Palm Warbler. After turning the corner I find a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in a bush and farther up the road I spot a small dark bird flying like a swallow. A quick look through the binoculars reveals a Purple Martin in flight darting this way and that! It takes me an hour to go .6 miles and once again my brother shows up in his car to get me. I am thankful because I am getting hungry and hot and very thirsty! once I enter my data via BirdLog into eBird I discover I have seen 20 species of birds in one hour over a distance of .6 miles! Wow! and I have not even left the neighborhood!

I am so frustrated by my inability to post pictures from here. It's mostly my own ignorance of how to make it happen! I have this new notebook, I just need to install a photo processing program on it and start offloading photos! I am also trying to learn how to post photos from my smartphone so at least I can show you the scenery! I know I have many more birding adventures ahead of me while I am here and I am taking lots of pictures. Once I get back to Maine I hope to be able to squeeze some blogging and birding time in-between finally unpacking the rest of my house! My sweet husband has already unpacked some of my books since I left. I can only hope that he doesn't try to do too much more or it could be months before I straighten it all out! he is a good sport to stay at home and watch the pets and let me go and have my fun! I love you sweetheart!

My 2014 Florida Birds:

  1. Turkey Vulture-seen from train, Magnolia Gardens 2-22-14*
  2. Great Egret-seen from train-Orange Park
  3. Anhinga-seen from train, Palatka
  4. Osprey
  5. Black vulture-seen from train, DeLand
  6. Rock Pigeon
  7. Mourning Dove
  8. Great blue heron-driving south on Rt. 17, Kissimmee
  9. American White Pelican-south on Rt. 17, Fort Meade
  10. Sandhill Crane
  11. Common Grackle
  12. Snail Kite- south on Rt 17, Zolfo Springs
  13. Belted Kingfisher
  14. American Kestrel
  15. American Crow
  16. Cattle Egret-south on 17, Arcadia, FL
  17. Wood Stork-Punta Gorda, Tamiami Trail
  18. Snowy Egret
  19. Blue Jay-Cape Coral Neighborhood
  20. Northern Mockingbird
  21. Great Horned Owl
  22. Loggerhead Shrike
  23. Gray Catbird
  24. Double-crested Cormorant-Cape Coral Neighborhood, 2-23-14*
  25. Cooper's Hawk
  26. Bald Eagle
  27. Fish Crow
  28. Purple Martin
  29. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  30. European Starling
  31. Palm warbler
  32. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  33. Northern Cardinal
*birds below date were all seen on that date: all species following location change were seen at that location


My Florida Life List has now surpassed my New Mexico Life List with 78/77 species respectively. It is hot on the heels of my New Jersey Life List which Rick Wright helped me with last summer and which stands at 86 species, but it is my hope that I will surpass the 100 species mark for Florida on this trip! In the past 24 hours I have already added 12 species to the list, which was only at 66 species when I arrived.

7 comments:

  1. I always enjoy your posts Kathie but this one spoke to me as I haven't long returned from Florida and saw some of that marvelous bird life you mentioned. I couldn't believe the wealth of birds there. I look forward to our next trip to Florida and hope it will be in the not too distant future.

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    1. Denise, this is my first time being here as an eBirder and it has changed everything!

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  2. Gosh!!!! I am so excited to see these birds. I know I know. It's frustrating isn't it??!!! Non-birders don't get it. It's hard to shut it off. I know Snail Kites are found in Florida and their range may be expanding. Did it have a hook on the bill with those bright orange legs? Red eyes?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBk3N5c0yJE
    Was it hanging mid to low over water? I wish I were there counting with you! A new world of exploration! Tropics meets North America. I think you'll see another before you time is up. Take lots of pics:)

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    1. Chris, it was on the wires over some flooded fields and near a creek. I could not see the beak at that speed. Just saw this dark gray bird perched upright with bright orange legs. You will go nuts! I cannot turn it off. I am constantly tuned into the birds! It's frustrating to sit here and know there are more birds to go and see but today my sister-in-law took me to the dump and I had a blast! There are so many birds there! You should definitely go to Zemmel Road in Punta Gourda. it's not an eBird Hotspot but it should be!

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  3. PS. It also shows that these birds are found year round as residents.

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  4. Hi Kathie

    Wow you really get around. It sounds like you are having a good time.
    All the best with your birding.

    Guy

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Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.