Scouting Outing

Header Image: Purple Gallinule

‘Tis the season.

Each year around Christmas, birders across the land scatter to assigned sectors before dawn to listen for nocturnal birds and, once the sky has lightened, continue throughout the day counting species and individual birds until “warbler neck” has disabled them completely and they return to their own nests exhausted, hungry, dirty and mumbling about how horrible this year was compared to past years when flocks of infinite diversity and numbers filled the skies.

“Can’t wait until next year!”

Ah, yes. The annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count is upon us. No shotguns needed, John James.

In the days leading up to count day, Gini and I did a bit of scouting. We wanted to see what was active in our assigned area, find the best times and routes and develop a general plan of action for the big day. Of course, birds have no such “plan of action” and they appear and disappear from one day to the next. Thus, the Painted Buntings we discovered on Wednesday were nowhere to be seen on Saturday. On the other hand, there was no sign of a Wilson’s Snipe on Thursday, but on Saturday 16 showed up. Go figure.

Today’s collection is a pictorial potpourri of our visit to a few different areas as well as observations along the way. We had fun and it was a good warm-up exercise for count day.

Grasshopper. It’s what’s for breakfast if you are a Loggerhead Shrike.

Whether gripping a fish or a tree limb, the talons of an Osprey are quite impressive.

Someone trespassed upon her territory and this American Kestrel was very vocal about being displeased.

The blue eyes of a White Ibis are almost a match for our Florida sky reflected on the lake’s surface.

One of our most abundant winter visitors is the small but very active Palm Warbler. Identification is often easy even at a distance as they constantly pump their tails up and down.

The sub-tropical climate of the Sunshine State provides an extended breeding season for many insects. We found a handsome Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) flitting around the edge of a pasture.

Eastern Bluebirds were plentiful and even showed up for Saturday’s count day.

A Bald Eagle was feeding on something fresh which we couldn’t see, but he frequently looked skyward and screamed a warning to would-be interlopers. (Vultures and an immature Bald Eagle.)

A pale bill and grayish feathers on the head and neck identify an immature Wood Stork. By spring, the head will become bare and the bill will turn dark.

Traveling in gangs of a half-dozen or more, the little Chipping Sparrow likes to forage in the open understory of upland pine woods and oak groves. Cheerful visitors we only get to enjoy during winter.

White-eyed Vireos don’t care what the calendar says. They sang as if it were Spring at almost every stop we made!

We aren’t certain what upset this Red-shouldered Hawk, but he flew around screaming for several minutes.

One more seasonal guest, the Savannah Sparrow. Brown with plenty of stripes and a bit of yellow in front of the bill.

We had a wonderful morning scouting out our territory for the upcoming Christmas Bird Count. Stay tuned for the main event.

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

24 Comments on “Scouting Outing

  1. We have our favorite places to hike and we are always amazed at how different our sightings are from week to week. I keep a journal so I look back to see what we saw at the different places at this time last year. But it’s time and chance for a lot of our sightings. Turning around to see the deer run across the trail behind us and things like that. I love your Shrike and of course your banner is beautiful! I don’t think I’ve seen a Stork with those colors. Something to look forward too. So many bold colors in nature! Enjoy your week! The weather is fabulous right now!

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    • Thank you so much, Diane, for stopping by and providing such gracious comments!

      Your hikes are certainly creating wonderful memories. You live in such a nature-rich area!

      Was just looking at temperatures is other parts of the country and reminded myself how lucky we are to be in Florida!

      Life is good.

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  2. HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and Gini. I hope you enjoyed Christmas and I hope for peace adn good health throughout 2022 and of course GOOD BIRDING ADVEBTURES. This was another great adventure adn you did see a lot of birds and got great photographs. I am glad you saw a young Wood Stork so I can see the difference from the adult. Wishing you all the best for next week and happy birding

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  3. HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and Gini. I hope you enjoyed Christmas and I hope for peace adn good health throughout 2022 and of course GOOD BIRDING ADVEBTURES. This was another great adventure adn you did see a lot of birds and got great photographs. I am glad you saw a young Wood Stork so I can see the difference from the adult. Wishing you all the best for next week and happy birding

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    • Thank you so very much, Margaret!

      Gini and I hope your New Year has begun well. We look forward to future glimpses into your beautiful world.

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  4. Hi Lovebirds. Planning the count and staking out the ground is the usual plan for such jaunts but as you rightly recognise, it’s the 5- 10% unexpected and unpredictable, mostly 0%, that makes birding so wonderful and makes us head back for more.

    I hope your actual count day went well. Looking at the warmup session suggest that it went just great, especially with nailed on Bald Eagles, Ospreys, egrets and Palm Warblers. The delicate Palm Warbler looks a little like it could be a European species, perhaps not in the cold north but certainly in the Med.

    Gini. I’m looking forward to that slice of your ginger and pumpkin bread while hoping it more resembles a gooey cake. And I’m guessing Wally didn’t have a hand in that because he’d be “too busy” sorting his photos and blogging?

    There’s snow around today. We had a few flakes that the wind quickly turned to the predicted rain but inland in them thar hills 15 miles away are getting the white stuff. Soon be spring, it’s already an extra 30 minutes of light.

    PS. The vireo is super. Just got the eye to perfection.

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    • Our actual “count day” was fun. The scouting outing was fun. Come to think of it, today has been fun, and we haven’t even been birding! (I think we may have a pattern here.)

      The bread was, indeed, more like a gooey cake than a crumbly bread. I had both hands in it! Someone has to do quality control.

      If we could get rare birds to pose as nicely as our White-eyed Vireos there would be no need for long lenses.

      Off to find a sunset. Gini has scooped a slice of the bread into an envelope and it’s on the way.

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  5. What a rich collection of wildlife! Loved seeing the young wood stork – they are occasionally reported here, but I have yet to see one.

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  6. I don’t know how many CBCs I have done, but well over thirty and maybe over forty. In all that time, I have never done any advance scouting. I simply count what I see on the day and report my results. With COVID I miss the get- together at somebody’s house (sometimes mine) at the end of the day. Doing it by Zoom is just not the same.

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    • In our area, David, there are some CBC participants who are not avid birders. We scout their areas and try to help guide them to bird concentrations.

      Since we are out and about anyway, we typically take a look at our assigned areas to determine the most effective routes, etc.

      We try to keep the goal of the CBC in mind and incorporate as much fun as possible for all concerned.

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    • Ha! Feel free to fix up that extended link, if you like. I was so excited by your birds, I neglected to scout my comment for errors!

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    • Fishing, hunting, birding – pretty much a similar approach to preparation.

      The Palm Warbler can fool you sometimes as they have different plumage depending on which side of the Mississippi they call home. From very drab looking to fairly bright yellow. That tail pump is pretty distinctive.

      Our main goal, whether it is a designated bird count or just a day out, is to have fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?

      New Year. Still Happy.

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  7. Yep, another fabulous ‘Wallly header image’, closely followed by more of the same calibre. I had to chuckle at the mention of ‘warbler neck’!

    If this was just the recce visit, I’m really looking forward to the main event.

    Wishing you and Gini a happy and healthy New Year, filled with wonderful wildlife.

    Stay safe – – – Richard

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    • Happy New Year Richard and Lindsay!

      After the scouting and participating in a couple of 12+ hour birding days, this old neck was, indeed, a bit sore! Not to mention a bit of strain from lugging the camera with big lens all those hours!

      Birding is good. Our health is good. Life is good!

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    • You are most welcome to travel with us any time, EC!

      Although, this year’s “Christmas” week was about as warm as your current summer!

      Like

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