Back Bay Birding Boat Trip

Our afternoon session on the second day at the Cape May Spring (birding) Festival, was a pontoon boat trip around Cape May’s back bay (Cape May Harbor and tidal wetlands along the Intracoastal Waterway). I saw more birds than I could photograph…but the boat was steady enough for photography as well. Can you identify the birds in this picture?

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They are easy enough: American Oystercatcher, Black-bellied Plover (2 of them), and a Laughing Gull. I didn’t identify the one facing the water.

There were lots of Laughing Gulls and they were close enough for portraits.

There were a few Brant (geese) that hadn’t left yet. From far away they look a little like a Canada Goose but smaller; taking a closer look…the markings are quite different.

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I took a picture of the Great and Snowy Egrets to provide a comparison of the two birds in the same photo: size, bill color, etc.

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There was an island where there were a lot of nesting Laughing Gulls and Forster’s Terns.

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The terns (different stages of development) were feeding on the mud flat.

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A Least Tern seemed to enjoy the bobbing of a barrel.

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By far the ‘star’ of the nesting birds were the Osprey.  They seemed to be nesting on everything sticking out of the water that could hold a nest!

The Peregrine Falcons were also using a man-made structure for their nesting site: a bridge. The bird was protecting her young as our boat went underneath the bridge. The female was with the chicks. The male was having lunch on the next bridge support over.

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Being on a boat provides a different perspective….and we would not have seen the falcon any other way. Even though many of the birds seemed to be watching our progress…they were not disturbed by the boat as they are by large groups of people moving about on land.

Conowingo – March 2019

My husband and I made the trek up to Conowingo Dam last weekend. The water was high and laden with silt (although not quite as high as the last time we were there).

The trip was a success as soon as we got there: a bald eagle was preening in a tree next to the parking lot. I took some traditional portraits.

Then I zoomed in on the talons.

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At one point the eagle did a little dance on the branch (watch the feet)!

One of the other photographers told me about the nest up in the right tower across the river from the wharf where we were. It is on the narrow platform below the top of the tower. I zoomed in and saw sticks that are probably one side of the nest but no birds coming or going.

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There were cormorants fishing in the rapidly moving water although I didn’t see any successful catches.

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I did manage a sequence of a cormorant flying low over the water.

Overall it was a good spring outing – warm enough that we didn’t need out coats!

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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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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Baltimore Birding – part 1

My husband and I participated in the Baltimore Birding Weekend this past weekend. It’s a new perspective on the city for us. On Saturday morning we participated in a session that started at Swann Park and then walked several segments of the Middle Branch Trail parking convenient to trail access: in the Harbor Hospital parking lot, on Warner Street near the Horseshoe Casino, then at the boathouse at Middle Branch Park on Waterview Ave. It rained for most of the time we were out, but my husband and I stayed dry enough in boots, rain pants and windbreakers (I used an umbrella part of the time because my windbreaker was not as waterproof as I thought it was).

Because it was raining and cloudy…and I was often holding the umbrella….I didn’t get as many pictures as usual although the umbrella enabled me to get more than I would have otherwise because it kept the rain off the camera. There were a lot more birds that I saw but couldn’t photograph. The bird pictures are often good enough for id but not much else. At the first stop (Swann Park) – I managed a double-crested cormorant (way out over the water) and killdeer (on the walkway ahead of us).

The second stop (accessed from the Harbor Hospital parking lot) was cut short by the path being flooded under a bridge. We did see a mallard family (4 ducklings) head out into the water before we turned around and went back to our cars.

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We parked along Warner Street near the Casino next. Our destination was the Gwynn Falls/Middle Branch trail head, but we stopped to note the bird mural on one of the buildings.

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There were a lot of smaller birds in the woods which I didn’t manage to photograph but the rain let up slightly and we stood on a bridge over the water. The trash was depressing (it is everywhere but particularly in the water…some of it probably came from a long way down the Patuxent River). The black-crowned night heron seemed to take it in stride.

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There was a green heron nearby as well.

But the highpoint of being on the bridge was a belted kingfisher that flew toward us, under the bridge and then settled onto a branch. I took some pictures. It had a fish but made no move to swallow it….and then it flew on.

I’ll continue our adventure in Baltimore Birding in tomorrow’s post.

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in Spring

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I visited Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge earlier this week. The day was too cold and too windy….but was the only one that fit it the schedule. I remembered to take pictures of the metal work near the visitor center.

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In the garden near the front of the visitor center, I didn’t see any butterflies…but there were dried blooms from last season left on the trumpet vine growing on the arbor and a clump of bluebonnets (we’d seen larger patches as we drove to the refuge along the highway).

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We decided to use our car and a moving blind and protection from the wind….making our way slowly around the wildlife drive of the refuge. There were not many birds but enough to make some photography attempts. The most unusual was a Eared Grebe in breeding plumage. Someone in the visitor center had commented about seeing a pair but we only saw one.

There were some American avocets a little too far away for a good picture on a cloudy day. They can be identified with the picture I took….and there is a Great Egret in the foreground.

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There were also Snowy Egrets (black bill and legs, yellow feet).

Very far out in the water on snags were American White Pelicans and Double Crested Cormorants.

The Greater Yellowlegs was closer and intent on finding some lunch.

The Great Blue Herons were numerous and seemed to all have the blue topknot of mature birds.

We saw one turtle positioned for maximum sun (warmth) but there were probably more.

There were still some Northern Shovelers on the water; most of them have left for their breeding grounds in the north. A pair of Blue Winged Teals were hiding in the plants beside the road as we were leaving; they are close to their breeding grounds based on the allaboutbirds map…so might have just been making a last stop over.

I took a few shots of wild flowers as we drove out of refuge….just rolled down the window and used the zoom!

Not bad for a cold, cloudy day!

Posts from my visit in November 2017: part 1, part 2.

Cormorant at Conowingo

We didn’t see as many cormorants as eagles last weekend at Conowingo – but we saw one just as it caught a fish and then focus on swallowing it over the next 3-4 minutes. The fish was probably the maximize size the bird could swallow! But it finally did…letting the river move it downstream as it got the meal down. The last picture shows it moving upstream. Surely it wasn’t ready for another fish!

We didn’t see any Great Blue Herons last weekend. They are probably around but very focused on keeping their eggs warm. This is the time of year that both herons and eagles would be laying eggs and incubating them. I saw an article about one of the eaglets in a nest near Washington DC had already hatched.

I almost always take a picture of the Paulownia tree near the parking lot. The velvety buds have not opened yet. I noticed a larger tree near the water than I had not noticed before. It’s harder to photograph but I might try next time.

South Padre Island and Bay Cruise – Part 3

The last part of the field trip was a cruise on the bay. The first ‘sight’ was a lighthouse with scaffolding around it as we neared the dock on our bus.

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Then we were off and looking for Peregrine Falcons under the bridge. We spotted several but there was only one that was positioned for pictures.

There were mud flats with Laughing Gulls,

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An Osprey surveying the scene, and

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A Great Blue Heron walking awkwardly in the mud.

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There was an island that provide roosting sites for Great Blue Herons (7 of them in the foreground) and Roseate Spoonbills (8-10 of them in the background).

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This is the best picture I got of the Roseate Spoonbills as we cam around their side of the island.

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Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, and laughing gulls were groups on the sandy beach.

What birds to you see in these two pictures? So you see the Green-winged teals (2 males and a female), Black-Necked Stilt (2), Great Egret, Laughing gulls.

As we headed back to the dock, there were Double-Crested cormorants on pilings we were passing

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And a Laughing Gull settled on the highest point of our boat.

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There were so many Brown Pelicans. It’s thrilling that their numbers have recovered from the brink of extinction caused by pesticide pollution!