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.

South Cape May Meadows – Part 2

Continuing about South Cape May Meadows

There were snowy egrets in many places we went

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As well as osprey

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And shorebirds.

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The cliff swallows were very active as dusk neared. They look very similar to tree swallows in silhouette but are easily distinguished if their color can be seen.

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A red winged blackbird was making its mating calls in some reeds near us….the breeze swaying his perch.

As we neared the end of hike there was oystercatcher on a nest. This one had even less protection than the one at Two Mile Beach. I was zooming in as much as the light would permit so we weren’t close enough to alarm the bird…but it was watching us very carefully.

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The moon was visible about the wetlands as the light shifted to dusk.

The lighthouse at South Point was visible from the trail too.

And then I couldn’t resist some sunset pictures…stopping for a few seconds several times as we continued hiking back to the cars.

It was a great way to end a day that had started with wake up at 3:30 AM and in the field by 5:30. So many habitats (forest, beach, wetlands) and birds…all in one day!

Egrets at Chincoteague

This is the last of the posts about our trip to Blackwater and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. It was a very windy morning that my husband and I photographed two kinds of Egrets along the main drive of the refuge. We used the car as a blind – rolling down the windows on the driver’s side (I was in the back seat) and stopping whenever we spotted something we wanted to photograph. The sequence below is of a Snowy Egret…fishing with the wind ruffling its feathers.

A little further along another Snowy Egret sat still for a portrait (face and yellow feet)!

A Great Egret caught a fish!

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After than action – it continued to search for food. I missed the beginning of the action and the bird must have been frustrated because it didn’t come up with a fish!

This was a very different experience from the Egret Rookery in Dallas (see post here) where the birds were nesting rather than searching for food.

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.

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.

The Inn at Chachalaca Bend

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Our main activity for the last day of the Rio Grande Valley Birding festival was breakfast (sumptuous) as the The Inn at Chachalaca Bend followed my a walk around the grounds looking at birds. We started near the Inn’s deck on the bank of La Resaca de las Antonias. We saw a Belted Kingfisher on the electrical wires crossing the Resaca almost immediately!

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A Great Blue Heron and Great Egret had a little conference in the distance.

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There was a broken tree trunk (or old telephone pole) near the water….a perch for an Altamira Oriole.

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Directly across from the Inn an Anhinga dropped down into the water to capture a fish then walked back up a palm that was slanting over the water.

Nearby on a snag, a Golden Fronted Woodpecker searched for breakfast.

There was a ruckus and then a larger bird flew toward us over the water and sat on the electrical wire nearest us: a Ringed Kingfisher.

There was Great Kiskadee on the wire further away

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And a Black-crowned Night-Heron in the vegetation across from where were standing.

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The kiskadee flew away and we notice a kite (probably white tailed…but hard to tell for sure).

We left the Resaca to hike around some open field areas. We saw an American Kestrel looking at the meadow.

As we headed back almost to the edge of the path through a forested area, we looked up and saw masses of migrating American White Pelicans! There were several groups…maybe as many as 1,000 birds.

The path branched off to the edge of the Resaca again and we saw a Snowy Egret (note the yellow feet which is a distinctive feature for this bird even if the focus is not very good for the picture).

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As we got ready to leave, we gathered back at the Inn and saw a hummingbird at the feeder (probably Ruby-throated).

There were a few plants I took pictures of…but they were secondary to the birds!