Friday, November 30, 2012

A Few Recent Scenes from the Wetlands

Excerpts from a short conversation I recently overheard at the wetlands...."It looks dead!" exclaimed the Turkey Vulture.

"It smells dead," replied a Crested Caracara from a neighboring fence post.

"I'll take it from here, Vulture!"

"No, you're not getting any either lady with the camera!"

A beautiful Tricolored Heron.

A very plump American Bittern.

A camouflaged Savannah Sparrow.

 A few Ring-necked ladies were hanging out.

This Red-shouldered Hawk was enjoying something gross.

A beautiful sunset to end the night!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Butterflies, Bees, & Moths, Oh My!

Passing through the local ponds to check out the birds has been a regular activity of mine for quite some time. Only recently though, have I started to take a closer look at some of the other creatures that dwell there. The perimeter of the ponds is lined with trees and fencing that is heavily blanketed with an assortment of vines and weeds.

Long-tailed Skipper

The variety of blossoms attract many different species of moths and butterflies that can be seen here year round.

Long-tailed Skipper

 When I was there over the weekend, I noted several small areas that had dozens of Zebra Longwings sipping nectar from the available flowers.This butterfly, which is one of the most abundant species found here, is Florida's official state butterfly.

Zebra Longwing

Gulf Fritillary butterflies are also popular here. This was one of the most vibrant ones I encountered on my visit.

Gulf Fritillary

As I was kneeling in grass, this worn looking Gulf Fritillary land nearby.

Gulf Fritillary

The butterfly sat motionless for a few moments, then began to curl its body into a strange position. It took me a moment to realize what I was observing.   I then realized that this butterfly, as it curled up its abdomen, was laying a tiny egg on a barren stick. I've never actually watched a butterfly lay an egg, but it was pretty fascinating to see this unexpected occurrence happen right next to me.

Gulf Fritillary

After she flew off, my son and I examined this tiny egg.

The stick seems like an unusual place for an egg to be laid as Gulf Fritillary usually lay their eggs on the leaves of the plentiful Purple Passionflowers that are here.

Have you hugged a tree lately?

Hope you have a great week!!!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Huguenot Memorial Park

I've wanted to check out Huguenot Memorial Park, near Jacksonville, for quite some time, so I was happy to see it was only a few miles from where we were camping last week. The park is known to be a popular destination for Gulls, Terns, Skimmers, and a variety of shorebirds. Since I hadn't been to the park before, I didn't know that high tide wasn't a very good time for a visit. Beach volleyball anyone?

This is the same net at low tide. Is it just me or is that quite a tide?

This park has an interesting layout. It is actually shaped a bit like a horseshoe and is surrounded by three different bodies of water. The top photo was taken from the Ft. George River inlet side. The below photo was taken from the St. Johns River side, near the inlet. The Atlantic Ocean can be found on the east side of the park.

Since it was high tide, we spent most of the time observing the birds in the St.Johns River.

There was a large group of young Pelicans near the shore. The rest of the birds seemed a little preoccupied.

There was quite a crowd of birds escorting this fishing vessel in.

From a distance, I saw this enormous group of Black Skimmers heading towards me. The photo shows only about half of the group.

We came back for another brief visit later in the day at low tide. The beach is open to traffic at this time. The only other people out on this day were kite surfers due to the weather. Tall dunes outline the "horseshoe" shape of the park. The off limits center between the dunes is a critical wildlife nesting area where hundreds of shorebirds and terns nest each year.

We saw another large group of Skimmers, lots of Herring Gulls, as well as Laughing & Ring-billed Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Royal, Caspian, & Forster's Terns resting on the beach. There were Plovers and Sanderlings foraging in the surf.

 At the end of the beach on the Atlantic side, there is a large rock jetty with a beach area that also a popular resting place for the birds. I briefly peeked over the wall  and it appeared to be most of the same species as the other the group.

I look forward to coming back here soon!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

"For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food, For love and friends,

For everything thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy Thanksgiving to you!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Little Talbot Island State Park

We spent this past weekend camping at Little Talbot Island State Park in northeast Florida. It was my first visit to the park and it surely won't be my last. Little Talbot Island is one of seven parks that make up the Talbot Island State Parks.

The campground is on the west side of the park on Myrtle Creek, nestled among large Live Oaks and Palms. Here is a picture of the marsh at low tide. The Park Rangers notified us when we arrived that there had been some flooding  the past few days at high tide. It was quite a sight to see the tide come in, right on in to our site.

Luckily the water receded nearly as quickly as it came in.

Little Talbot Island is one of the few remaining uninhabited barrier islands in this part of Florida. The park has  nearly 5 miles of beaches, were are about a quarter mile from the campground. I observed an abundance of shorebirds, mostly Black Skimmers, from the boardwalk. There weren't any people on the beach this blustery day and I didn't want to disturb the birds that were trying to get some rest in the 25+ knot winds.

Two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, a female and a juvenile, spend the afternoon foraging in the trees in our campsite.

I saw a few Carolina Chickadees around.

The campground wasn't overly birdy. A few others I saw were Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and a Barred Owl. We look forward to coming back and checking out some of the other parks in the area. We did stop at Huguenot Memorial Park, which is really close by. I'll share some photos from there later in the week.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge 11/12/12

Its been a while since I've spent a morning birding solo, without my mini-birder, as I did Monday morning. I spent the morning exploring Merritt Island NWR, starting with a drive along Blackpoint Drive. Around the area of the second observation stop, I came across a very large mixed group of ducks. Most have made their way to the area to spend the winter here. I saw the first Northern Pintails, American Wigeons, Gadwalls, and Green-winged Teals of the season. I also saw Blue-winged Teals, Northern Shovelers, and Mottled Ducks.

American Avocet

I saw this solo American Avocet foraging near a small group of Teals. I'm always delighted to see these elegant shorebirds! There were several large groups of waders around. I saw 2 Northern Harriers patrolling the area. There were numerous Belted Kingfishers along the way.Yellow-rumped Warblers, Palm Warblers, Gray Catbirds, Savannah Sparrows, and Common Yellow Throats were abundant. I saw Caspian, Forster's, and Royal Terns. There have been a few recent Gull-billed Tern sightings, but I didn't come across one.  Maybe next time!

Least Sandpiper

I also checked out Biolab Road. Dunlin and Least Sandpipers were plentiful along the shallow shore lines.


This Osprey had just caught its lunch.

American Kestrel

Great Blue Heron

The highlight of my day was near the end of Biolab Rd. where I encountered an area populated with over 500 birds. They were mostly waders, Spoonbills, Ibises, Egrets, and Herons, but seeing the mass in action was cool. There was also a large group of White Pelicans that were foraging cooperatively in the shallow waters.

I ended up with a species count of 64 for the morning. I'm looking forward to getting back there soon!