We Came To Our Census – Finale

Header Image: Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Apparently, we did not exhaust ourselves enough during the Lakeland Christmas Bird Count so we volunteered to participate in the Green Swamp count. Twenty people. Over 500,000 acres of swamp. Challenging! Gini and I were assigned to the East Tract of the Green Swamp Wildlife Management Area which consisted of a mere 51,000 acres.

The vast majority of this area is inaccessible. The Christmas census is designed to present a “snapshot” of bird populations in a particular area on a specific day. We hope our little snapshot contributes a bit.

The day was, logistically, a repeat of our day in Lakeland. We found a few spots a couple of hours before sunrise to listen for birds which thrive in darkness. Luck was with us again as we heard Barred Owls, Eastern Screech Owls and Eastern Whip-poor-wills. As the light level slowly increased, we realized something was missing. Where was the sky?

The fog hung around in varying degrees for a couple of hours and I think it hindered some bird activity. Clear blue skies signaled “time to eat”! For the birds, too.

Even though we were in and around swampy habitat, we found very few water birds. There are virtually no areas of open water and much of the standing water is too shallow to support fish. We did, however, come across a large number of other birds!

A couple of highlights include nearly 20 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, over a dozen Brown-headed Nuthatches, several Carolina Chickadees and a pair of Wilson’s Snipe. The Snipe were special as it was the first time Gini spotted this species before I did. Nice job!

Back roads through swamp and pastures, logging roads within the wildlife management area, old iron bridges built in the 1930’s, clear weather and another 12+ hours with my favorite person by my side.

Life is good.

Swamp sentinel. A Red-shouldered Hawk waits in the mist for her breakfast to make a move.

Fog is no hindrance for a pugnacious House Wren. We only get to enjoy them during migration.

A Pine Warbler contributes some color to the gray morning. We counted nearly 100 of these by day’s end.

Over a hundred Palm Warblers flitted onto the leaves of our report before the sun went down.

Carolina Chickadees appear sporadically throughout the Green Swamp. Some are resident birds and are joined each winter by small flocks of northern migrants.

One of these things is not like the others … “

This trip was on January 2, 2023 and American Robins were just beginning to show up in large numbers in the region. We eventually saw 36 of the big colorful thrushes.

She spotted something different. “Never mind. Wait! It IS a bird! It’s a Snipe!” Two Wilson’s Snipe in the grass by an irrigation canal for an adjacent pasture. Their cryptic plumage makes finding them pretty tough. I guess that’s the idea!

Another very abundant species at this time of year is the Yellow-rumped Warbler. At day’s end, over 90 had been counted.

One of our favorites, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, put in a good showing with 18 counted. At one point, a trio entertained us as they fed, fought and flitted almost within arm’s reach. (Yes, she tried to get one to perch on her finger. No joy.)

Rubber ducky. That’s the description some field guides provide for the call of the Brown-headed Nuthatch. They are not wrong. Gini-with-the-sonar-ears heard them long before I saw one. These birds are among the earliest nesting passerines in Florida with nest-building usually completed by mid-February.

It was a terrific day. We were tired, but we did what we loved from before dawn to dusk. Tomorrow we can rest.

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

24 Comments on “We Came To Our Census – Finale

  1. You answered my previous question on the abundance of YR Warblers ha (a little behind on your posts, sorry about that). Sounds like Gini is going to be giving you a run for your money on bird spotting now.. guessing Gini and Linda would get along great.. per your other post, Linda would also be hanging out in the warm car during those colder than normal bird outings (I have funny pictures of her waving out the car window at me while I’m standing out in a Minnesota blizzard trying to find one Cackling Goose among a flock of 800 Canada Geese). Excellent shot of the Ruby .. not often they are impressed a photographer enough to reveal their namesake mohawk. I laughed at Gini’s interpretation of that Nuthatch … matches my impression perfectly.


    • Gini has always been the better birder, but don’t tell her I said that. Although I gave the impression she may not embrace the elements, nothing could be further from the truth.

      Upstate New York. November. Fishing for small-mouth bass. Sleet, 28 F. She’s on anchor duty in the bow. Later than night after we thawed out: “When can we go again?” Yeah, she has always been like that.

      We love hearing the “rubber ducky” in the pine forest!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t seen the Kinglet but how pretty he is! And I’m glad the fog lifted and you saw lots of birds. We met a couple that was doing the count at Halpata Tastanaki Preserve and enjoyed talking to them. How amazing at the variety of birds we can see on any given day here in Florida…well, if you get out in the wild!


    • They’re pretty adorable little things! Getting them to hold still, that’s another story.

      Yep, getting out there is the important thing. Camera, binoculars or just a love of nature is all we need.


  3. I like all your bird portraits, but the ones of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet really made me smile. It’s always special when one gets to see–and photograph–the rest crest.


  4. That’s an impressive effort, Wally – counting birds all day and still managing to get great photos too! So the Ruby-crowned Kinglet really DOES have a ruby crown. Congratulations to Gini on spotting that snipe. With my very best wishes to you both – – – Richard


    • Thank you, Richard.

      We went. We counted. We had fun.
      (I’m too old to remember the Latin for that.)

      We seldom get treated to that splash of red on the fast-moving Kinglets and we enjoyed it thoroughly. Gini now refers to that as “HER” Snipe! Well-deserved, too.

      I just realized how far behind I am in posting blogs. So many places to explore, so little time!

      Gini and I truly hope you and Lindsay are doing well today.


  5. I enjoyed seeing photos of both the Pine Warbler and the Yellow-Rumped here. Now I’m sure that both have stopped by my feeders, but it’s the Yellow-Rumped that’s been the most frequent visitor. We’re a little short on pine trees here, but the Pine Warbler seemed to find something appealing about the bald cypress that are close by.

    That ruby ‘crown’ on the Kinglet is far more obvious — and beautiful — than I realized. I’ve often seen photos of the bird posted, but this is one of the best I’ve seen for showing off the reason for the bird’s name. That said, my favorite photo is the Chickadee working over the sweetgum ball. Smile-producing photos always are welcome!


    • Even when you don’t see it’s trademark “butter butt”, Yellow-rumped Warblers have a bit of yellow at the shoulder that helps with i.d. The Pine Warblers, on the other hand, can appear very light grayish overall or very bright yellow and many plumages in-between. Look for the subtle face pattern, two wing bars and a broken eye ring.

      The Ruby-crowned (and Golden-crowned) Kinglet typically does not display that bit of color unless alarmed or excited. The one in the photo was busy chasing away others so he could have some bugs all to himself.

      I waited patiently for that Chickadee to come out from behind that sweegum ball. She would peek at me but eventually (seemed like hours) she flew away in the opposite direction. Sigh.

      The pictures don’t always show it, but I smile a lot when taking most of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ha! I made it a point to comment while the header image was still current. 🙂

    Ruby Crowned KInglets are pretty little birds. It was another very successful day, I’d say. Birding by ear, at one time, was not considered a good practice, I don’t think. Many years ago when I aspired to be a nature writer I queried National Wildlife about profiling a UMass professor who was doing research into bird song for identification and was soundly rebuffed for something that was frowned upon. Apparently at the time only our eyes counted. Years later Peterson Guides put out a 33 and cassette tape for identifying birds by ear. Guess I picked the wrong art form.
    You got several nice shots but the Snipe is my favorite since I’ve never seen one and it’s a treat to do so vicariously. The Kinglet pictures are sweet too.


    • Still trying to figure out how to have a header image remain with its original post. I suspect money will be needed.

      When my hearing was still functioning, I was taught the importance of using bird songs, calls and sounds as an additional “tool” to help confirm identification. Now, thankfully, Gini is very good at it!

      I’m also partial to that Snipe. Gini spotted a pair and I managed a dozen photos but liked the direct stare the most.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent shots of the Ruby Crowned Kinglet! Those photos by themselves are enough to entice me back outside. I think your readers would be in consensus, you treated our senses to a lovely census.


    • And… that’s what I get for reading your posts out of order… your reader ShoreAcres commented on the puns in your title on your previous post – sorry to be repetitious. By the way, loved the way the hint of scarlet on the Kinglet in your header image was echoed by the red leaves – really fine shot!


  8. Think that’s the first image of a Ruby Crowned Kinglet I’ve seen showing the ruby crown!
    A nice haul of birds, sometimes it’s good to look away from water.


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