perch – And be counted!

(First of a two-part photographic extravaganza!)

 (Header Image: A Central Florida lake at sunset.)

We’re tired.

For the last couple of weeks, Gini and I have been participating in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Counts held around our local area. Several days of scouting, actual count days (+12 hour days in the field), processing data and photographs – whew!

Not content with giving 100% during this time, Gini also conducted Christmas ornament making sessions with family members, baked over 22 dozen cookies, made several loaves of banana and mango bread, prepared an incredible holiday feast of standing rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, greens, rice and black-eyed peas (Hoppin’ John for you American southerners) and delivered gifts to family and friends. (Now I’m even more exhausted just describing my over-achieving mate!)

The annual bird census has its roots at the turn of the 20th century in the recently formed Audubon Society. Ornithologist Frank M. Chapman proposed the idea on Christmas day in 1900 and 27 birders around North America counted birds instead of shooting them, as had been a tradition before then.

Now, between December 14 and January 5 each year, thousands of birders of all degree of experience sign up with local Audubon chapters to help add data for scientists to use in gaining a better understanding of birds. A pretty good idea for which Mr. Chapman would rightly be very proud!

We counted many birds and found a couple of “firsts” to be observed within our area of responsibility (Brown-headed Nuthatch —> thanks to Gini’s good ears – and Crested Caracara). On our first day we found 72 different species and the second trip (in a different area) netted 55 species. We look forward to being tired again about this time next year!

Here are a few of the cooperative birds we spotted during this year’s effort. Once again, we appreciate how blessed we are to live where observing so many diverse birds within a relatively small area is a common occurrence. I hope we never take it for granted!

(For your viewing convenience, we’ll split the image collection into two parts. I mean, who wants to sit and look through almost three dozen pictures of pretty birds? Okay, besides you. And you. The rest of the group is grateful.)

Pretty in pink and with a distinctive bill, a Roseate Spoonbill glides toward a lake shore for a dinner buffet.

When the light is right, the plumage of the Glossy Ibis is downright iridescent.

It looks a bit like a heron or an ibis. It is more closely related to rails and cranes. But the Limpkin is the only member of its taxonomic family, Aramidae. It really is one-of-a-kind!

A Belted Kingfisher patiently watches for breakfast. We normally only see these sleek fishermen (“fisherbirds”?) during migration and many remain here throughout the winter.

Our first morning outing was cold! A Great Blue Heron has his feathers fluffed to the maximum trying to catch the warming rays of the rising sun.

Black-and-white Warblers behave like nuthatches as they scurry down a tree trunk head first. This first one shows us his brunch worm while number two is a bit camera shy.

Although its range is expanding slightly, the Snail Kite remains on Florida’s and the federal endangered species list. The handsome gray male cruised in front of me just at sunset, grabbed an apple snail from a reed and took it to a wall and enjoyed his dinner.

Looking like some huge cargo airplane, the Brown Pelican seems to cruise effortlessly above the lake’s surface as he searches for a school of fish with which to fill his pouch.

During migration, we see two versions of the Palm Warbler. The Western, which is rather drab gray/brown and the Eastern, which displays more yellow in its plumage. The two versions mix together, sometimes in large flocks, characteristically pumping their tails as they feed.

The wind-blown look. An Eastern Phoebe is alert for any movement which could be its next buggy meal.

Another bird we only see in Florida during migration is the American Robin. This largest member of North American thrushes can be encountered in huge  flocks during their flight south. We found a couple dozen enjoying the fruit of Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), an invasive shrub which is quite detrimental to other flora and fauna.

Pine Warblers, similar to the Palm Warbler above, can vary from quite drab to extremely bright. Their bills seem almost too big for a warbler. When they feed, they are somewhat deliberate as they move among the tree tops or walk along the ground. Most other warblers appear “jumpy” as they are always moving at top speed.

The noon-day sun glistened off the beak of a Bald Eagle brooding eggs while its mate stood watch on an adjacent utility pole. That is one serious-looking expectant parent!

Join us next time for more Christmas Bird Count excitement and fun! We’ll bring the cookies.

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

25 Comments on “perch – And be counted!

  1. Wonderful photos! I hope the Crested Caracara is in the next batch. It’s one of my favorite birds — quite common here, and great fun to watch. It was interesting to find robins here, too. They’ve been around here for three or four weeks in varying numbers, but I saw the largest flock last Sunday. They were feeding on one of our invasives: the Chinese tallow tree. I was glad to see them feeding so enthusiastically, and then I remembered how efficient birds can be in spreading plants. Good news, bad news, I suppose. In any event, it’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen so many, and it was a treat.

    If I’d glimpsed your limpkin, I might have thought it was an immature white ibis. It’s not quite the same, of course, but close enough to confuse a novice. Your Kingfisher’s gorgeous. I see them quite often, but only perched on wires, and I still don’t have a good photo.

    I’m anxious for Part Two!

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    • We were blessed with large numbers of birds and a pretty decent variety of species. The robins are definitely little “Johnny Appleseeds” when it comes to spreading around seeds of plants of all types. But they sure are nice to look at!

      If you visit one of our local marshes about an hour before dawn, the Limpkins calling to each other is one of the eeriest sounds in nature.

      I’m afraid you will have to wait a bit longer for a photo of the Caracara. The only ones I could manage help with identification but are not suitable for publication. 😦

      And since you asked so nicely, Part Two coming up …..

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great set of pictures – here in Australia, I did a number of backyard bird counts before Christmas (which requires less walking and preparation that your counts by the sound of it!)

    Hope all is well.

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

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  3. Yorkshire Pudding? Impossibe. Even I as a Lancashire Red Rose I am disallowed from making Yorkshire Pudding without first clearing it with Geoffrey Boycott the greatest living Englishman. (He plays cricket – bit like baseball but requires more brains). As for 264 cookies and not one on its way to me? Gini is now in my bad books as are lots of your fellow countrymen

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    • Gini assures me that if someone named Julia Child could prepare Yorkshire Pudding on television then it certainly must have been approved by the highest of authorities.

      We would have contacted Mr. Boycott for his permission, but I don’t follow baseball and am not intelligent enough to grasp a sport named after an insect which makes music by rubbing its forewings together. Perhaps we could seek his wife’s advice.

      You presume too much. A baker’s dozen of the most perfect sugar cookies ever to grace the planet were shipped two weeks before Christmas. If you have not yet received said shipment, well, there have been nasty rumors concerning postal employees of all nations succumbing to temptation at this time of year.

      Gini does not know what a “bad book” is but is quite certain it is not favorable. She is distraught. As are many of our fellow countrymen.

      In spite of our apparent violation of international epicurean law and the potential lawlessness of British and/or American mail carriers — happy new year.

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  4. Again you have blown my socks off with your header image, Wally. I hope, however, that we’re not in danger of losing you to landscape photography in preference to wildlife photography – the current balance is perfect as far as I’m concerned!

    I admire your dedication with +12 hours in the field. In our current negative temperatures, a couple of hours is plenty for me, mainly due to working with a cold camera. However, I am currently enjoying the warmth that is radiating from your lovely images of amazing birds.

    Take great care and stay safe, particulalrly as it looks as if there might be some ugly turmoil going on over there in the next few days. Best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

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    • Thank you so much, Richard!

      Landscape, bird, critter – we hope to share all parts of our fantastic “naturescape”!

      The weather cooperated nicely for our annual census days. Typical Florida winter – chilly in the morning, warm by noon.

      No worries at this point about our safety. We take necessary precautions and the only “ugly turmoil” is really generated by media. Over-dramatization sells, truth – not so much. Reports from folks we know in attendance on 1/6 in Washington tell a very different story than the world is hearing.

      Tomorrow – early start to explore new territory!

      Gini and I hope you and Lindsay stay well and have a chance to enjoy your garden!

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  5. You saw some great birds! Love your Christmas meal. My grandmother was English and we grew up eating standing rib roast and yorkshire pudding. One of my favorite meals.

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  6. Gorgeous shots, Wally, your Glossy Ibis is fabulous!! I am still looking for the Snail Kite down here, keeping my eyes out for one. Looking forward to Part 2! 😊

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  7. Great photos! You were busy!
    Congrats on the “firsts”. I’ve heard about the Christmas bird count, but haven’t ever participated.

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  8. Hello,

    Birding and eating cookies, sounds like a fun time to me. The Brown-headed Nuthatch is one of my many favorite birds. I love the Spoonbill and the Snail Kite. Great collection of birds. Take care, enjoy your day! Have a happy week ahead.

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    • We really appreciate your wonderful comments, Eileen!
      We enjoyed our day immensely today and are looking forward to happiness all week.

      Like

  9. Thanks for taking us counting Wally, looking forward to part 2.
    The Snail Kite is a handsome bird. That second shot is excellent, you can see how that beak is designed to un-house it’s dinner.

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