Macro Petals and Leaf

The last hurrah of some flowers I bought over the holiday was after it was spent – just before the stems and petals and greenery went to the compost bin. I experimented with my macro lens clipped to my cell phone – particularly the 60x one.

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After some trial and error, I discovered that putting the specimen (a petal or a leaf) on a window provided good backlight and I could easily stabilize the lens too. I zoomed a little – just enough to take away the vignetting around the edges.

The petals looked almost white to the eye, but subtle colors of the veins and cell walls came out at the higher magnification. The petals were desiccated and fragile. Some cracked as I held them. Fortunately, there were plenty more to try. 

In general, I like the lower magnification macro (15x) better than this lens…but the 60x was great for this project.

Junco in the Bird Bath

On very cold days, our heated bird bath is a popular stop for birds of all kinds – usually one at a time – and usually getting a quick drink of water and leaving. Sometimes there are more…and rarely different species at the same time. In the picture below a titmouse is eying a junco that is not on the edge getting a drink. The bird is sitting in the water.

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The titmouse left the junco in the water…and the junco proceeded to take a thorough bath! I hadn’t seen a bird bathing in very cold weather before. None of the other birds followed this bird’s lead and I wondered what prompted it to decide that such a cold day was bath day. It remained at the bird bath longer than I thought it would…not one to hurry in the bath!

A few minutes observing…Deer in the Snow

I see the deer coming and going from the forest behind our house via my office window. These were coming from the forest into the neighborhood looking for edibles. The managed hunts might have made a dent in the population since I haven’t seen as many this winter as in years past. I like not having all the evergreens and trees in the neighborhood eaten to the height the deer can reach, but also enjoy seeing them around.

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They also seem more likely to pause and thoroughly look around and listen these days before continuing the trek into the neighborhood.  Once they feel secure, they move ahead almost in single file like in this sequence…a minute of ‘action’ in our backyard.

It is a good break from my other office activities to observe something outdoors. Photographing birds or deer or squirrels – or just watching them – for a few minutes is like a mini-vacation!

Icy Trees

Last week, we had some icy weather. It caused schools to close or start late. I was glad I could just stay at home and enjoy the scene through my office window. The zoom on my camera allowed me to get some pictures of the ice coating the vegetation. Many times, it looks like water droplets simply froze before they could fall to the ground. The sycamore had one last-season leaf catching the icy bits. The ice on the stems was coating the buds that looked enlarged…maybe getting ready for spring.

The remnants of a seed head from last summer collected flatter panes of ice.

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The evergreen bushes are sometimes damaged by the ice because their leaves hold so much of it. It seems that ours all came through the ordeal without any breakage.

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The Thundercloud Plum tree is showing its color even in the winter. Once the ice is gone, I’ll have to check to see if there are any split branches; the tree has had problems in previous ice storms. This time we were fortunate that it was relatively calm; ice followed by wind is what causes most breakage.

The next day I noticed that the icicles on the sycamore were quite a bit longer.

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 The red maple had very red buds. Hopefully the ice protected them rather than destroying.

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The shelf fungus on a tulip poplar back in the forest supported a mini ice flow

The trees that had the hardest time were the pines. Each needle became encased in ice. It remined me of art glass. The pines in our neighbors’ yards survived without breakage but I noticed as I drove to my errands the next day that there were some pines that did not fare as well. There were some significant branches that were ripped from trees along my route. Fortunately, there were enough people that had been out before me and all the branches were moved off the roadway.

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Gleanings of the Week Ending February 16, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Mountain Birds – National Geographic Society Newsroom – Starting off the gleanings this week with bird pics!

BBC - Future - The perils of short-termism: Civilization’s greatest threat – It is very difficult for individuals and groups of humans to think strategically. And maybe since we are now quite capable of catastrophically destroying civilization (atomic bombs and climate change are the two most probable) – we need to make strategic thinking a higher priority.

Could Spider Silk Become a Natural Replacement for Plastic? – Cool Green Science – It is still very far from the goal – mass production cheaply. But it is hot material science topic.

Report: Americans Are Now More Likely to Die of An Opioid Overdose Than on The Road: NPR – Gives another take on the magnitude of the opioid deaths.

Not One, Not Two, But Three Fungi Present in Lichen | The Scientist Magazine® - For a long time the textbooks used lichen to exemplify symbiosis of a lichen and a fungus. It’s more complicated than that….and it’s a good example of how science is refined over time to improve our understanding.

BBC - Future - Why it pays to declutter your digital life – Getting rid of stuff needs to be about more than the physical junk we accumulate…we now have email and photos…all kinds of digital media stored and rarely – or never – used. It’s clutter. And it might need different strategies to declutter.

Central Texas salamanders, including newly identified species, at risk of extinction -- ScienceDaily – It seems like I’m seeing several stories like this recently – a newly identified species that is already almost gone. Depressing.

Elevated Nitrate Levels Found in Millions of Americans’ Drinking Water - Yale E360 – I don’t like articles like this because they point to a situation that has negative consequences…then doesn’t have anything that individuals can do to reduce the risk. It’s very frustrating.

Flowers Sweeten Up When They Sense Bees Buzzing | Smart News | Smithsonian – Flowers increase sugar content by 12-20% within 3 minutes of hearing a bee’s buzz.

Food is medicine: How US policy is shifting toward nutrition for better health – Glad this idea is getting more attention. We’ve been way to gullible to think that medications can overcome poor day-to-day dietary habits. I hope the 2018 Farm Bill and the “Food is Medicine” working group in the House are good ‘first steps’ to change the way we think about what we eat.  

Rainy Morning at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

The last morning of the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival was rainy. We’d signed up for a field trip about birding by ear and habitat at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. It was one of the few field trips that was not cancelled entirely but it was changed considerably by the weather. We talked through the topic of using other than markings for bird identification – songs, habitat, silhouettes, behavior…and then did the best we could to observe some birds. We didn’t do any hiking…just observed what we could from the visitor center and from within the car along the wildlife loop. Still – it wasn’t a bad morning for seeing birds. The visitor center has feeders that attract Painted Buntings this time of year. What a treat to see these brightly colored small birds!

Then it was out to the wildlife loop to look at water birds. The first one we saw was a smallish white bird at the edge of the water. In was in the right habitat for a heron or egret…about the size of a cattle egret but in the wrong habitat since they are usually in fields. It was a juvenile Little Blue Heron with green legs and a washed out looking face….definitely not a Snowy Egret.

There was a group of Northern Shovelers feeding – living up to the ‘shoveler’ name.

Glossy Ibis were feeding in the shallows and mud.

There were some Roseate Spoonbills feeding almost out of range of my camera. Watch the one in the center in this sequence.

There were was a mixed group of birds: Roseate SpoonBills, American Avocets, and a Great Egret. That area near that shore must have been rich pickings.

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A little further along the shower there was a group of American White Pelicans in the water. The group might have been working together to herd fish into the shallows – easy feeding.

Last but not least - a Tricolored Heron made an appearance. It too was looking for breakfast in the shallows.

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Overall – it was not a bad ending for the festival. It would have been better had it not be raining…and even better if the sun had come out. We picked up some snacks intended for some trips that were cancelled and headed back to the hotel to pack for the trek home the next day. Both my husband and I enjoyed the festival and I’m sure we’ll do it again – leaving more time between field trips (and before/after the festival) to do some photography at our own pace. It’s a rich area for birding and more comfortable in the winter than it is in the summer.

Another Florida Beach

After lunch at Dixie Crossroads, we headed over to a beach close to Titusville: Cherie Down Park in Cape Canaveral. It was a breezy cloudy day….a little cold. There were people fishing from the beach. At first it didn’t seem like there were very many birds. In some ways that made it easier to photograph the ones that were there.

The Sanderling at the water’s edge was the first bird I noticed.

The Ruddy Turnstone kept moving about. I’m not sure whether I photographed the same bird twice or it was two birds.

A Ring-billed Gull surveyed the beach from a pile of sand in the beach replenishment project area.

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Further away a Lesser Black-Backed Gull and Herring Gull were doing the same.

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A Pigeon posed with fluffed feathers…protection against the cold wind.

Lots of Brown Pelicans flew by.

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I managed to catch a sequence of a group as it went by. The ones with white heads are the mature birds…the brown heads are juveniles.

A Willet walked along the water’s edge.

Just before we left a group of Black Skimmer’s flew by…a good high point for the last of the field trip.

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Birding Near Titusville

After the long field trip to Central Florida, the next day we had a shorter one to hot spots around Titusville. It felt a lot easier getting to a 6:30 AM bus than the 5 AM bus the previous day. The first stop was Hatbill Park…just as the sun was coming up.

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The Grackles were the first birds we noticed…because they were noisily welcoming the day.

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As the light got better there were other birds to notice: a Little Blue Heron fishing in the shallows.

A Red-shouldered Hawk almost too far away to photograph but showing its very distinctive tail as it flew away.

There was an Eastern Phoebe and

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Savannah Sparrow to represent smaller birds.

Some Brown Pelicans flew over the lake.

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We headed off to or next stop – a walk back into the woods. There were very large Live Oaks with Spanish moss, resurrection fern, and ghost orchids and

Quite a few American Robins. Some robins stick around in Maryland but some push southward and accumulate in Florida.

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There was a Red-Bellied Woodpecker that showed himself at just about every angle. They do have a little red on their bellies!

Florida has red maples just as we do in Maryland although the ones in Florida had formed their samaras months in advance of our trees.

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Ball Moss – a relative of Spanish moss (both Bromeliads rather than mosses) – was growing in some of the trees. It looks tidy rather than raggedy like the Spanish Moss.

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The Sabal Palmettos had ferns growing in their boots (the stubs of branches along the trunk). One of the other field trip participants identified it as a gold foot fern.

An Eastern Phoebe sat around long enough to be photographed here too.

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One stop was a neighborhood pond that has a population of resident Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks. They were noisy. Hopefully they quiet down at dusk.

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There were White Ibis in the pond as well. They seemed even more acclimated to people.

The next stop was a neighborhood park where there was a resident pair of Sandhill Cranes.

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Then we headed off to Dixie Crossroads (restaurant) for lunch. I took a picture of the mural as I came out of the restaurant – it featured a lot of the birds we had been seeing.

The post tomorrow will be about what we saw after lunch.

Whopping Crane and the rest from a Central Florida Field Trip

Continuing the third day of the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival….this is the last post about our field trip into Central Florida. The high point of the day was seeing a Whooping Crane. This is one that started out life at the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge (program now ended) and doesn’t migrate. It generally stays on a cattle ranch and enjoys cattle feed! We stopped at the ranch’s entrance, so the pictures are a little blurry with the max zoom required to take the picture.  There were some sandhill cranes around as well and it was obvious this bird was different – bigger and very white. Our guides told us that the dwindling numbers of whooping cranes in Florida will be captured and relocated to join a non-migrating group in Louisiana.

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Even though it was chilly while we were in Florida, it was still much warmer than in Maryland. There were flowers blooming and going to seed.

The deciduous trees had lost their leaves. The guides pointed out bald cypress domes…the tallest and oldest trees being in the center.

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I was pleasantly surprised by the paint job in the rest room of the place we stopped for our picnic lunch. Very artfully done!

A cow escaped the pasture and was in tall grass heaven near one lake. Fortunately, the grass held the cow’s attention and it didn’t wonder up into the picnic area.

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We stopped when we spotted a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on a fence post. It moved to the fence wire and I got another angle.

We were just getting ready to retreat to the bus when a Crested Caracara flew in with some prey followed by an entourage of Turkey Vultures. The big lenses and binoculars were trained on the caracara trying to figure out what the prey was. Maybe a snake.

They stayed around long enough for me to take a portraits. The crest of the caracara reminds me of a bad toupee.

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The vultures kept a respectful distance but would move in as soon as the caracara left.

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We made a last stop before the end of the day at the Helen and Allan Cruikshank Sanctuary where we had spent a very rainy morning a few days before. This time we saw an Osprey before the scrub jays.

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But the Florida Scrub Jays showed up soon enough. One alighted on the hand of one of our guides – probably thinking there would be a peanut for it…no peanut appeared.

Another bird stomped on the hat of our other guide. The bird obligingly turned around for him to get a selfie. That was the last event of the day. Note that all the jays we saw were banded…sometimes multiple times.

Our day in the field (5AM to 4PM) was probably the best of the festival…so much seen in a relatively short period of time!

Water Birds of Central Florida

Continuing the third day of the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival…today’s post is still based in the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area…observing birds around the lakes rather than woodpeckers.

On bird that was new-to-me was the Limpkin. It’s a crane relative and lives in the Americas. Their diet is mollusks – dominated by apple snails.

Here’s a sequence of one walking.

Another bird that I had not seen before and that also eats apple snails is the Snail Kite. I was hunting on the same lake as the limpkin and it found a snail – took the snail to a post in the water to eat.

There were empty snail shells in the water so both birds were probably getting enough to eat. Most of the shells were the larger apple snail which is invasive to Florida but both birds can apparently eat them as easily as they do the native species.

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There were three kinds of white birds around: the juvenile Little Blue Herons,

(which grow up to have gray-blue adult plumage with some red on their neck and heads),

The Snowy Egret with its black legs and yellow feet,

And a Great Egret which was the largest of the three.

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There was a Great Egret in a tree near where we had a picnic lunch. Evidently he gets fed nearby and is named Pete.

There were two other herons beside the Little Blue: Tricolored Heron and

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A Great Blue Heron in the tall grass.

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Nearby there was a Sandhill Crane barely visible in the grass and its mate standing nearby. I took a picture of the one that was standing. Evidently sandhill cranes seen as pairs in Florida are resident;  they don’t migrate. There are cranes that come for the winter but don’t breed in Florida and they generally stay in larger groups.

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There were Anhinga around sunning themselves or preening. They are easier to photograph out of the water.

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The Common Gallinule has very large feet. To make it easier for them to walk on vegetation in the water.

There were a lot of insects that the bird was finding on the grasses near the water.

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A near relative – the Purple Gallinule – was doing the same thing.

There was a juvenile nearby. I liked the way the light changes the colors of the bird. It was like the color of peacocks and morpho butterflies…changing color with every slight variation in light. They too have big feet.

I saw a Pied-billed Grebe just as it turned away…got one picture.

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A Glossy Ibis was also enjoying the lakeshore…finding food.

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It was a good day for water birds. There were even more (white pelicans, some ducks) but they were too far out on the lakes to get reasonable pictures. I was pleased to see three new-to-me birds: snail kite, limpkin, and purple gallinule.

Gleanings of the Week Ending February 09, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Neandertal slaughters · john hawks weblog – Analysis of 5 sites indicates that Neandertals were excellent tacticians, casual executioners, and discerning diners.

Rare Gemstone Hidden in Ancient Teeth Reveals a Surprising Truth About Medieval Women – Lapis Lazuli found in the remains of a middle aged woman’s teeth and jaw. She was buried in an all-female monastery in Germany sometime around 1000-1200 CE. The researchers concluded that she most likely was painting with the pigment (licking the end of the brush while painting) creating manuscripts.

More solutions needed for campus hunger – A new report states that 9-50% of America’s college students face food insecurity…and that does not include graduate students. There are some programs that could help but often the students are not aware of them…and there may be enough stigma attached to them that students shy away. These are young adults that need adequate nutrition to continue their schooling and growth into adulthood.

Image of the Day: What We've Dumped | The Scientist Magazine® - Yuck! Stuff that washed up on 12 shoreline sites on barrier island along the US Gulf Coast…and it’s all stuff that people put in the water.

Two billion birds migrate over Gulf Coast -- ScienceDaily – Combining eBird observational data helps translate radar data into estimates of bird numbers. The peak time was April 18-May 7. The highest activity is over the west Texas Gulf Coast (Corpus Christi to Brownsville).

US Cancer Death Rate Dropped for 25 Years Starting in 1991 | The Scientist Magazine® - Down 25% over 27 years…a positive trend.  But there are still issues of race and socioeconomic inequality when it comes to prevention and treatment. The trend is not good for obesity related cancers; they are on the rise.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: December – National Geographic Society Newsroom – I always like bird pictures.

Natural Disasters Caused $160 Billion in Damage in 2018 - Yale E360 – It did seem like there were a lot of disasters last year: fires in California, Hurricanes Michael and Florence…and that’s just the ones in the US.

Medical marketing has skyrocketed in the past two decades, while oversight remains limited -- ScienceDaily – I have been suspicious of medical marketing (particularly ads on television) for some time. The study seems to show that state and federal regulators are overwhelmed.

Image of the Day: Geckos on the Run | The Scientist Magazine® - It must take a lot of energy for the gecko…but it can indeed run across the surface of the water.

Three Kinds of Woodpeckers

The third day of the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival got off to an early start – on a bus at 5 AM heading to the rural area in central Florida for a day of birding (about 50 miles south of Orland). We arrived at our first stop in Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area just before sunrise and hiked into the longleaf pine forest.

Our guides took us off the trail and through the palmettos and other vegetation growing between the pines – and pointed out the woodpecker holes in the pines. We stood and watched the holes.

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Sure enough just as the day brightened a little – a red-cockaded woodpecker appeared in one of the longleaf pines (the only tree they use for nesting).

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The bird flew out to neighboring pines in search of breakfast. I never saw a red-cockade…but read that they are difficult to see in the field.

The long leaf pines are not as numerous as they once were. They don’t grow in dense stands so are not as commercially viable as other pines in the south. But they are a boon to wildlife and are resistant to wildfire.

As we walked back toward the bus we saw a brown-headed nuthatch – another bird of the longleaf pine forest (which I didn’t manage to get a picture of) and our second woodpecker of the day. I saw the typical holes first – the work of a yellow-bellied sapsucker.

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Soon we saw the birds themselves. They too were after breakfast.

Further down the country road we stopped at a stand of trees with some snags…and saw red-headed woodpeckers almost immediately. A lot of woodpeckers have red on their heads – but the name is reserved for this one. The head is red all over!

What a thrill to see three kinds of woodpeckers in one day of birding!

Cannonball Jellyfish

One of the surprises of the gull fly-in (previously posted about) was cannonball jellyfish on the beach. They must have washed up during the morning storms since they didn’t look decayed yet. I had never seen them before.

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They are more substantial looking than most jellyfish and evidently have become a commercially important in Georgia as an export to Japan, China and Thailand as food. They are not as harmful to humans as other jellyfish.

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One of our guides picked one up….providing a good scale for the organism.

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Feathers and Shells at the Beach

It was so rainy during our time in Florida for the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival that we only got to the beach twice and we were time limited because both were with a field trip group. I took pictures of birds but also feathers and shells. Most of the feathers were bedraggled because of the rain even though some were probably relatively fresh.

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White was the most common color. I like the windswept curves.

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Sometimes the shadow caught my eye and the relative difference between the end feather versus the part closest to the bird’s body that is more down-like.

This feather looked to be in good condition. I wondered if the thinner part of the feather was from wear.

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This feather was almost buried in the sand. How long does it take for a feather to decompose?

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What an odd feather! The strands of white were very long.

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The swirls of strands and fluffiness of the down…a dance of filaments.

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In one area that has been roped off for a bit there were a lot of shells…and a bit of sea weed. In other places, the shells were not as numerous because so many people pick up shells.

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Most of the shells are broken or polished by the tumbling in the sea.

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Some are almost buried in the sand. I didn’t pick up any shells on this trip. Maybe I will next time.

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Gull Fly-in

The rain was over by mid-day and by midafternoon we headed out to our second activity of our day at the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival: a gull fly-in at Daytona Beach Shores. We met at the Frank Reardon Park and headed down the wooden steps to the beach. There were already a lot of gulls collecting on the wetter part of the beach.

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There were primarily three kinds: Ring-Billed gulls (white head with the black band on their short/slim yellow bills, yellow legs, juveniles are motley brown and gray with a pink bill and legs),

Laughing gulls (head in winter is a blurry gray rather than black as it is in summer, legs are reddish black or black). In the picture below there is a juvenile ring-billed gull behind the laughing gulls. Note that the ring billed gull is larger.

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Herring gulls (white head, yellow eyes, dull pink legs, juveniles are mottled brown). The herring gull is toward the back in the picture below with laughing gulls in the foreground. Note that the Herring Gull is larger than then laughing gulls (and the ring-billed gulls).

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All the birds were preening after spending the day feeding at the landfill. They gather at the beach in large numbers late in the day to rest and clean up before heading out to sea for the night.  There was a peregrine falcon that swooped down from one of the high-rise resorts on the beach periodically – causing the gulls to fly up in a cloud. I got a sequence of shots of one such event.

In the distance – close to the horizon – a parasitic jaeger was making dives and swoops going after gulls in the water. There were also pelicans that flew by. I stayed focused on the gulls as the light began to fade. I got a portrait of a laughing gull in the water.

The sky began to reflect the sunset colors and it was time to call it a day.

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Florida Scrub Jays at Cruickshank Sanctuary

The second morning of the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, it was raining when we got up. When we headed out at about 8 AM, it was thunderstorming …complete with nearby lightning. By the time we arrived at the Helen and Allan Cruikshank Sanctuary, there were puddles everywhere but was the lightning was gone and the rain was slowing. We headed out walking around the larger mud puddles.

The sanctuary is managed to stay scrub – which requires periodic burning. There are occasional live oaks, but most vegetation is low…and the Florida scrub jays love it.

They were everywhere and acclimated to people being around. Even with the light rain and thick clouds, I managed to take some pictures. The blue color changes in different light but I discovered that once I zoomed in enough, the birds were colorful even in the low light (from afar they looked like dark gray birds!). The birds bury acorns in sand and remember where buried food is better than squirrels. It was obvious that people had left peanuts for the jays because we saw a bird dig up a peanut still in its shell!

The sanctuary is an island surrounded by housing development…and the invasive Brazilian pepper is growing among the native vegetation. I learned that some people have skin sensitivity to the plant – like poison ivy.

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There were mounds of lichen on the ground. It looked like reindeer moss (maybe the same genus: Cladonia). I went back to take a close up picture with my smart phone and macro lens….even though the next line of rain was coming through and the hiking group was dispersing a bit early.

Port Canaveral Boat Tour

After we picked up our registration material for the Space Coast Birding Festival, we went out for lunch then headed to the Kelly Park dock for a boat tour of Port Canaveral. It was a pontoon boat with bench seats. Shortly after we sat down – it started sprinkling then raining harder. We got off the boat to stand in the drier picnic pavilion in the park. The wind was blowing enough that we had to stand well under the pavilion roof.

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I took a picture of a little blue heron that did not seem bothered by the rain and wind at all.

Then the rain stopped, the seats were dried off and we headed out only about 15 minutes late. I took some pictures of barnacles around the dock area.

We saw evidence of manatee in the water….the flat circles of water as they swim along…and then the tips of their noses when they come up for air. The ‘slow speed’ signs did indeed mark areas where there were manatee in the water.

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We saw birds along the canal before we got to the locks: anhinga,

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Great blue heron (looking scruffy from the recent rain),

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Osprey,

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And double crested cormorants.

We entered the lock and tied up.  I took some brown pelican portraits while we waited.

Then the gates started to open.

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The pelicans road the little water wave as the water leveled…and one took flight.

There was an immature brown pelican outside the lock area. The light on the water was perfect.

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The high point of the trip was a frigate bird soaring overhead. I just watched it. My husband got the picture.

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There was a cruise ship and the SpaceX barge (used for rocket recovery) in Port Canaveral itself. I was more interested in bird pictures…so didn’t document those sights.

We headed back through the lock. I turned back to take a picture of the white pelicans grouped on the bank and

The horseshoe crab shells that accumulated to the side of the lock.

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I managed to take a picture of a bald eagle just before it flew way…a good ‘last picture’ before we docked back at Kelly Park.

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Gleanings of the Week Ending February 02, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Camouflage – Lots of birds can hide in plain sight! Owls are the ones I think of first in this category.

When 'alien' insects attack Antarctica: Terrestrial ecosystems are vulnerable to single introduced insect species -- ScienceDaily – A threat from a tiny flightless midge

Anak Krakatau: Planet Labs imagery of the aftermath of the landslide - The Landslide Blog - AGU Blogosphere – Imagery of the landslide that caused the deadly tsunami just before last Christmas.

What is the most commonly found ocean litter? – Yuck! Another reason that cigarettes are a bad thing.

A series of posts from NOAA’s 2018 Arctic Report Card: Visual highlights , Multi-year stretch of record and near-record warmth unlike any period on record, Reindeer and caribou populations continue to decline, Less than 1 percent of Arctic ice has survived four or more summers, Red tides and other toxic species expanding across the Arctic, increasing risks to marine mammals and humans – Quantifying the changes occurring in the arctic

Image of the Day: In Sync | The Scientist Magazine® - Infants playing with their parents…syncing of brain activity

New Ultima Thule discoveries from NASA's New Horizons -- ScienceDaily – A space mission to something we’ve never seen before….the aptly named ‘New Horizons’

Why are biology classes ignoring insects? · john hawks weblog – When I was in high school, insects were a big deal for biology classes; many students created an insect collect the summer prior to the biology year. I don’t remember too much about insects in my first courses as an undergraduate in biology I the 1970s…but there was probably more coverage than in the more recent textbooks.

Keeping fit: how to do the right exercise for your age – A good summary…although the key message is to keep moving…sustained exercise is the best strategy.

Our bodies may cure themselves of diabetes in the future -- ScienceDaily – It’s at the basic research level…but could be an approach to ‘diseases’ caused by cell death in the future (diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cells damaged by heart attacks, etc.)

Road Trip to Florida

Last week we drove down to Florida for the annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in Titusville. I’ll be posting about the trip for the next week or so…but today the post is focused on the drive itself. We left the house at 5:30 AM to beat the worst of the commuter traffic around Washington DC. Venus and Jupiter were visible in the darkness to the east. We made a very cold rest stop at 6:30 AM south of DC and on I95…the interstate we would take all the way to Florida. The temperature was in the low teens. Leaving early had achieved its purpose; no stop and go or slow traffic! We listened to Planetary Society podcasts that my husband had on his phone.

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It was getting light by our next rest stop at about 7:30 still in Virginia. It was a newer rest stop with a compass in the entry floor, an area to charge/use laptops (we never spend that much time at a rest stop), and a toddler toilet (I’ve only seen these in the newer Virginia rest stops….what a wonderful feature for young families).

We took I295 around Richmond and stopped at a McDonalds for a second breakfast. The sun was shining in our eyes. Turkey vultures were soaring. By 9:40 AM we were in North Carolina. I remembered the rest stop from a previous trip: red tile strips and glass brick.

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There was a bird’s nest in the tree just outside the building – easy to see in the winter.

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The next stop was a large truck stop in Kenly, North Carolina- with a large tile mosaic in the entry.

We stopped for lunch at Arby’s in Lumberton, North Carolina that did not take long and then were back on the road – crossing into South Carolina and seeing a Honda plant with its own exit from the highway and water tower.

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The next rest stop did not have any structural distinction, but I did notice a large river birch in the picnic area.

I saw a hawk fly low across the road in front of us and began to see black vultures along with turkey vultures. Our last rest stop for the day had green tile and a skylight in the facilities. The picnic area had sabal palmettos – matching the South Carolina license plates.

We stopped for the night in Savannah – just off I95.

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We didn’t start out as early the next morning. It was already beginning to get light. We made a stop, still in Georgia, where the roses were blooming.

As we drove into Florida a line of clouds moved in.

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I took pictures of the Dames Point Bridge going around Jacksonville (some morning commuter traffic).

At the next rest stop there was a pond with a fence around it (with signs warning of snakes)…but I braved the short walk up to the fence (didn’t see any snakes). I took pictures of the birds around the pond…the first for the trip: hooded mergansers,

White Ibis (mature and juvenile), and

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Not bad birding at a rest stop along I95.

We arrived at the registration desk for the festival a little after 11.

January Sunrises

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I used the Sun Alarm app on my phone to remind me a bit before sunrise each day this month. My plan was to photograph sunrises. It worked great on the 1st. There were a few clouds to reflect the color near the beginning of the sunrise then they thickened, and the rest of the sunrise blinked out.

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There were a lot of very cloudy days with no color. On the 3rd, it was cloudy, but the clouds had an interesting texture so a took a picture anyway.

The 7th was probably the best overall sunrise of the month. The clouds and color were good for the whole sunrise

And the sun on the trees to the west of our house was rosy too.

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On the 9th, the clouds appeared to be too thick in the east for any sunrise color but a little after sunrise there was a break in the clouds and the color was very red on trees behind (to the west) of our house. The tulip poplar pods looked surreal!

There were some scattered clouds on the 10th that preceded a sunny morning.

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The sunrise on the 14th and 17th were so cloudy the color could barely be seen.

Overall – I am planning to keep the Sun Alarm going in February…and recording the best sunrises of the month.