If two years makes a tradition, we headed south after (a snow-delayed*) town meeting for our “traditional” trip south. Our destination this year was the Florida panhandle.
We spent a week camped at the Wright Lake campground in the Apalachicola National Forest. Each day we headed out to explore from this base. We ranged from the Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in the east to the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in the west. In addition, we hit a number of Florida Birding Trail sites within the National Forest, the Saint George Island State Park and the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (their Unit 4 tract on St. George Island was particularly productive photographically).
Since we had such a good time last year at the Okefenokee NWR/ Foster State Park in SE Georgia, we stopped there for a day on the way back home. This time we were able to kayak some of the swamp on our own. It was quite an experience sitting low to the water with dozens of alligators all around.
Birds (many IDs needed but in the interest of a timely post, they will be added later)
* Two feet of snow will do that… even in NH! We arrived back home on the evening of 3 April to find a knee high pile of snow at the end of the drive way (the result of another foot of snow dumped a few days previously). It took about 45 minutes of work with snow blower before we could get the car and camper into the driveway.
Around noon today Joan’s cousin Liz called to say that there was a barred owl sitting, clearly visible from the dining room window, in a tree at the back of her house.
I did what any self-respecting wildlife photographer would do. I headed out the door headed to Liz’s house as soon as I gathered up my gear! Joan came along too.
These two photos were taken from Liz’s bathroom window with my 300 mm lens. The first was made through the storm window and the second after I raised the storm window. The owl was completely unperturbed by my raising either the regular window or the storm window even though it was maybe twenty five feet away.
Yesterday, I finally made it up to the Pack Monadnock Hawk Watch… on day 22. And what a day it was, perfect weather and lots of hawks.
I arrived just before noon, the the show started shortly there after and continued until around three. I left about 4:30.
The total was about 2,800 birds, about 2,700 of which were broad-wings. Katrina’s official report can be found here.
The 10,000 birds for the season mark was reached and the traditional group photo around the tally board was made (with Katrina’s camera, but I am sure that it will appear at some point.)
While the bird watching was great, the conditions for photography were not ideal. The raptors were kettling pretty far away; only a few appeared close to the summit. The resident turkey vultures made fairly close approaches at times and I was able to make a few mediocre photos.
Today was a glorious day weather-wise. The temperature was in the high 70s F, the humidity was low and the skies mostly clear.
While we ate lunch on the deck, we were entertained by the birds at the feeder and by a couple of male autumn meadowhawks perching on the dead flowers nearby. After watching the odes for some time, I finally gave in and got the camera.
Later in the afternoon, Joan headed out for a kayak ride. She called from the beach parking lot to say that there were “brown headed ducks” down by the bridge but that she did not have her binoculars with her so that she did not get a good look at them. I stashed Big Bertha in the passenger seat, threw the tripod in the bed of the truck and headed down the road the mile to the bridge.
Those “brown-headed”ducks turned out to be a family of mallards. I watched and photographed them for about an hour.
Yesterday (i.e Thursday, 25 August), I spent a few hours watching the birds in our backyard. Along with the usual suspects* for this time of year, a few rarer (at least in our yard) birds made their appearances.
At least one red-breasted nuthatch has been making regular visits to the feeders, usually to the sunflower seeds, but occasionally to the suet. Because of the frequency of the visits and the fact that it seems to fly off in the same direction after each brief visit, I suspect that there might actually be a pair of adults attending to young birds in a nest.
I also watched a black and white warbler hunting for insects in the trees near the feeders; it never approached the feeders. This is the third time in recent days that I have seen this species in our yard and this is the first summer that we have observed them here.
Additionally, a sparrow (of some sort other than a chipping sparrow) made a short appearance near the sunflower seed feeder but it did not approach it.
The hummingbirds have provided some great entertainment over the past week or so, there are four or five individuals (a family consisting of an adult pair and two or three juveniles, I think), they frequent both the feeder and a nearby butterfly bush. Their incredible speed and agility in flight as they chase each other around the yard, makes them great fun to watch. I only try to photograph them when they stop to perch nearby.
* Two types of woodpeckers (downy and hairy; we’ve seen only one red-bellied in the past few weeks), titmice, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, goldfinches, mourning doves, chipping sparrows and hummingbirds.
Although I spent the majority of my time today with the camera pointed at the humming bird feeder, I did, occasionally, point it elsewhere.
Goldfinches and tufted titmice are the most common birds around the feeders these days. Woodpeckers (both downy and hairy) were also common; I did not see a red-bellied woodpecker today. A variety of other birds appeared in small numbers. In addition to the phoebe and the mourning dove I made photographs of, I also observed a couple of blue jays and a number of chickadees.
I think that the chickadees are a sign that autumn is coming. We have lots of chickadees at the feeder all winter and early spring. However, at some point in the spring, they disappear. I am guessing that they must not breed nearby the house. Over the past few weeks small numbers of chickadees are reappearing at the feeder. Maybe because their breeding season is over?
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Joan’s cousin Suzy arrived at her summer place to find an olive-sided flycatcher nest on the beams that support her deck.
I took the opportunity to make a few photos of the adults as they came and went from the nest.
I only spent ten minutes on this “stakeout” since the adults seemed to delay going to the nest even though I was twenty-five or thirty feet away from the nest and the adults.
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Yesterday was cool (it never reached 60 deg. F), cloudy and damp (there were sporadic showers in the morning)… in other words the odes were not flying. Thus, I turned my attention (and lens) to birds and I staked out the feeders for a few hours in the afternoon.
The damp weather brings out the red efts and yesterday was no exception. There were half a dozen in the small patch of lawn behind the house. As usual there were chipmunks and squirrels scavenging what they could from the bird feeders.
The usual feeder birds were present, among them were a female rose-breasted grosbeak, a male goldfinch and a number of tufted titmice. None of which presented themselves well for photography.
Also present (and photographed) were what seem to be a pair of downy woodpeckers, a hairy woodpecker, at least one male ruby-throated hummingbird and a lone turkey.
The turkey has been a regular visitor to our yard for the past few weeks. I’m no expert, but I would hazard a guess that it is either a female that did not nest or a immature male looking for a territory.
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Spring birds continue to arrive.
Along with the year-round residents (chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, etc.) and the early arrivals (goldfinches and purple finches), we have had rose-breasted grosbeaks at the feeders for roughly ten days. The males seemed to appear about four or five days before the females.
On Saturday (14 May) we observed our first hummingbird of the season (a male; we’ve seen no females yet).
We also saw a single Baltimore oriole on each day of the weekend. We’ve not had orioles around the house before. Hopefully the feeder I bought and hung out this morning will entice them to stay.
Other folks in the “neighborhood” (the closest about a mile and a half away) have said that they have had indigo buntings at their feeders. Alas, we have not seen any in our yard.
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Monday (18 Apr) afternoon was warm and sunny. I spent a few hours watching (and photographing) the backyard birds.
In addition to the year-rounders (nuthatches, chickadees, titmice and woodpeckers) a number of returning migrants have appeared. There were good numbers of American goldfinches, sometimes as many as a dozen or so at one time. I am always amazed at the brilliance of the yellow coloring of the males at this time of year. Smaller numbers of purple finches were also present.
Small flocks of juncos (eight or ten) came and went all afternoon. I am unable to get a sense of what stimulates the entire flock to make an exodus. When they leave en mass they seem to startle everyone else (including me!) and often cause all of the finches to flee as well.
Lastly, I saw two singletons… a red-breasted nuthatch (which I did not photograph) and a chipping sparrow.