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!