Trip to Smith Island – Part II

Continuing the post about our trip to Smith Island, MD last weekend….

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Brown Pelicans were the big bird show of the trip. I managed to get some birds in flight as herring and mackerel were thrown off the back of the boat and the birds flew in to get the fish before it sank below the water’s surface.

I took a series of pictures of a pelican flying away after getting a fish…and landing on the water…feet spread out.

There was another bird – close to the boat that took off from the water – a strong stroke of its wings as it raised the legs and then the big wings fully extended as it gained altitude over the water.

The pelicans use the man-made structures in or near the water like pilings,

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Or partially collapsed buildings,

Or jetties. Other birds like cormorants and gulls also enjoy the same structures. But the pelicans were the numerous and the biggest. There were lots of juveniles…the pelican rookery had a good year.

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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.

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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Zooming – January 2019

I have a bigger than usual group of images for the zooming post this month – primarily from a trip from Florida last week. They’ll be more details in posts coming out over the next few weeks. So sit back and enjoy the slide show. It only includes one snow picture!

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Our third day at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival did not start out well: our bus has a mechanical problem and our departure was delayed by about 3 hours. Fortunately, the replan included a lengthening of the trip by three hours and provisions (picnic lunch). On the plus side – we avoided some rain showers that moved through while we were waiting; on the negative side – we could have slept later (getting up at 4 AM is common at birding festivals!).  Our destination was the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. We didn’t seen any ocelots that the refuge is trying to protect…but we did see plenty of birds. The days was very cloudy and misty – not good for photographing. I picked a few that were good enjoy enough for identification.

There were snow geese coming and going. I liked this line because of the different morphs visible.

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There was a Little Blue Heron fishing in the shallows

And a Great Blue Heron standing on one leg surveying the shore.

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A group of Forster’s terns, with the black feathers around and back from their eyes) were grouped along the shore (looks like the birds behind them were snoozing).

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The Forster’s tern is in the middle of this image. The largest bird is a Caspian Tern and the one in front is a Royal Tern. The Royal Terns I’d seen in Maryland always looked like they were wearing a black cap but that is only during the breeding season…not this time of year in South Texas.

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A brown pelican flew above – following the shoreline.

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White Ibis wandered through the other shore birds.

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The Crested Caracara were new to me. Since the ones I saw on the field trip were a little far away – I took a picture of a captive bird as the Expo.

I took a close up of a prickly pear tuna (fruit)…note the spines.

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Side by side – a Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs.

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We were all on the bus when a male Northern Harrier swooped down into the field beside the road and hovered over prey. I did pretty well taking this series through the bus window since there was no time to do anything better.

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There is a platform where aplomado falcons are nesting. This is an exciting recovery story since this bird was gone from the area for years and has only recently been reintroduced and is breeding again in south Texas. I took a picture of the captive falcon at the Expo just as I had the Crested Caracara.

We stopped at the visitor’s center and walked around the cards there. Red-winged blackbirds are all over North America!

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The white winged doves are summer birds in south Texas according to allaboutbirds but there were still a lot of them around in mid-November; I wonder if they are really year round in the Rio Grande Valley.

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 It was a longer day that we’d anticipated but better than we thought might happen in the hour or so after we initially learned of the bus problem. In the end we decided that the Laguna Atascosa trip was well worth it.