perch – And be counted!
(First of a two-part photographic extravaganza!)
(Header Image: A Central Florida lake at sunset.)
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!