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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

A few more things from Days 1-4



I left out a few things from days 1-4 that I wanted to share, and then I'll get to Sanibel, which was like a different world, simply because it wasn't cloudy or raining.

Here's one I missed posting yesterday taken at Lovers Key State Park- a Wilson's Plover, which was a first sighting for me.  There intermediate in size between the much smaller piping and snowy plovers (they're coming) and the Black-bellied Plover, which is giant.  I observed three of these birds on the sandflat.  They pretty much either stood or ran.  I didn't observe them eating, unlike the nearby Least Sandpipers, which never stopped foraging. 

Here's proof that not every gray and yellow warbler is a Palm Warbler.  This Yellow-rumped Warbler was quite curious of my presence at the Rookery Swamp boardwalk. 

Photographing Bald Eagles is nice in Ohio, but there's something special when one is perched in a tree full of Tillandsia bromeliads. Can't get that shot in the Buckeye State.

When I visited Florida in late January, 2015, the television weather people were lamenting the lack of rain.  Not this year.  El Nino typically means cold, gray, and wet winter weather for Florida.  While I was there, the local airport beat its previous record for most January rain, topping somewhere over 10".  An inch or so for the month is typical.  Luckily, I rented a compact SUV that had no problems going through the "roads" that had become rivers.

The Everglades are a giant river, flowing roughly, from North to South.  The many roads across the system act as endless low head dams.  Yes, there are culverts under the road, but when there is too much water, the roads flood.  Take a look at the video below- the water couldn't wait to get past this road.

-Tom

video





Monday, February 08, 2016

Southwest Florida Bird Highlights - The First Four Days

With the crazy El Nino weather, my time in Florida, five days including travel days, all three of my full days had rain, clouds, and seasonably cool temperatures.  But I can't complain.  Yes, I wasn't prepared for ankle to knee high water on several of the trails I visited, but that didn't stop me from exploring.

The focus of this trip was to expand my knowledge of the birds of this part of the country. Last year, I photographed many of the tame, common birds around the lagoons and drainage ditches.  This year, I set out to see and photograph a wider array of species, and here are some of my highlights.  I'm saving the last day of the trip, day five, a very beautiful day on Sanibel Island, for tomorrow.


Roseate Spoonbills - I saw more than ever.  This one was flying across a tidal flat at Lovers Key State Park

The Reddish Egret is the athlete of the wading bird world.  It actively chases its prey, running through the water, with the ability to change direction in the blink of an eye.

The Black Skimmers on the beach at Lovers Key were quite tame. At my favorite place to see them in South Carolina, I can't get within 30 feet of them before they become agitated and I back off.  In Florida, the birds, in general, are amazingly tame.

This American Flamingo has been hanging out on the tidal flats at Bunche Beach, on the mainland near Sanibel, for nearly a month. I'm a skeptic with this bird, since they are so common in captivity.  Who knows- it could have flown here from the Caribbean. The bird does not contain any bands, which would denote it was an escaped captive. 

If you want to photograph Ospreys, Lovers Key State Park is an excellent spot.  This bird was either carrying nesting material, or, it captured this stuff in its talons when diving for a fish and hasn't been able to remove it. 

I captured my best-ever but still not great photos of a Glossy Ibis.  I find this species much more wary than its white-feathered cousin. 

I watched this rather strange encounter with a young Red-shoulder Hawk and a pair of Mottled Ducks.  The hawk had come to bathe, and I'm not sure what the ducks thought of that.  The hawk eventually left, frightening the you know what out of the ducks.

This Red-shouldered Hawk at Bird Rookery Swamp exhibits the very light facial coloration that typifies these birds in Florida. 

I hit the jackpot with my rainy day visit to Bird Rookery Swamp as I watched two Short-tailed Hawks glide above during breaks in the rain.  According to the Sibley Guide, there are less than 300 pairs of this species in the U.S.

On day four of the trip, it stopped raining, but my trek to Shark Valley was met with cold temperatures and gray skies.  This Limpkin didn't seem to mind. 

I believe this is a fairly bad photo of the Orange-crowned Warbler, a species which was new to me.  Warblers are fast moving birds.  It was quite a challenge to make any sharp images of them on this gray day. I'm fairly certain this matches up with orange-crowned.  I'd love to hear your opinion.

This Northern Parula was a treat.  It gleaned for 10 minutes or so along the Shark Valley road.  

There are ALMOST as many Palm Warblers in Southwest Florida as there are people over 70.  Almost.  Seriously, if you see a warbler like bird, anywhere, it's most likely to be a Palm.

As I was leaving Shark Valley, I watched a Double-crested Cormorant nearby.  I've got plenty of close-up images of this species, so I just happily watched it swimming and diving.  And then all of the sudden the bird came up with this.  It's actually an Oscar, a non-native fish introduced to Florida from the aquarium trade.  I had one in high school.  This cormorant had NO PROBLEM downing this massive fish.

And finally, the sublimely beautiful Common Ground Dove, a bird that I found quite hard to photograph.  This was at the end of the day of my venture to the Everglades at Fakahatchee Strand State Park.


 And there are fifteen highlights from the first four days of the trip.  Tomorrow?  Sanibel Island and the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

-Tom



Monday, February 01, 2016

I'm Back from Rainy Florida

Tamiami Trail, near Copeland, Florida

I spent five days last week exploring southwest Florida. Unlike most Florida January weeks, I experienced quite the deluge, with over four inches of rain in a 48 a period.  I managed to make most of my time that it wasn't raining, photographing many species of birds.  Highlights included closeup encounters with a short-tailed hawk, reddish egret, an American flamingo, and several species of shorebirds.  I'll be sharing my images of the trip over the foreseeable future.  I photographed many species of birds, and saw many others.  Southwest Florida gives me a jolt of energy just when I need it through the long, gray, Ohio winters.

-Tom

Monday, January 25, 2016

Hoover Reservoir Spillway Wood Duck

I've updoaded this image at 2000 pixels wide.  Click for a much larger image. 

Yesterday afternoon, I zipped down to the spillway below Hoover Reservoir.  You're looking at the drinking water for a major chunk of the Columbus area.  It also happens to be a place where waterfowl gather when much of the reservoir is frozen.  While yesterday's temps reached above freezing, we've had a fairly good stretch of subzero temperatures.

This drake wood duck stole the show yesterday.  It is just a simply stunning bird. This by far is the best look at one I've ever had, and it's simply beautiful.  Wood ducks are quite wary, and as this one approached, it had its eye on me the whole time.

The platform above the spillway is becoming such a popular and busy place, for both birdwatchers and fitness enthusiasts who climb the dam's long stretch of concrete stairs, that the ducks seem even less wary of people.  So, if you've never gone to Hoover, I urge you to, it's a great place to see waterfowl relatively closeup.

-Tom

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Vultures and Hawks



Doesn't everyone love the birds of prey?  Ok, maybe not the vultures, but there's something special about the soaring flight of a hawk.

I'm hoping to catch a glimpse of the Snail Kite next week in Everglades National Park.  And if I'm lucky, maybe even a photograph.

Not that I've photographed the group very much, but I will have a separate group for the falcons.  I don't own a great image of our commonest falcon, the American Kestrel.  And I'll also be searching for the Crested Caracara next week as well.  Wish me luck!

-Tom

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Blue Jays and Crows


The Blue Jays and Crows. It's interesting how I don't photograph our common birds very often. Crows, which I see almost every day, are just not very well covered in my archives.  I should have the best photos of the birds that are the most common.  But sometimes, that just isn't the case.  The common and familiar just don't draw my photographic eye.  That will change in the future.

I'm quite limited in this group.  I'm hoping to photograph the Florida Scrub Jay next week in southwest Florida.  I'll look to find it and the Burrowing Owl in the city of Cape Coral.  And come May, Megan and I are planning a trip to New Mexico, where several western species may be possible photographic targets.

-Tom

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls

These might take a while to load.....
















These magnificent denizens of the grassland are what I encountered in a seemingly sterile landscape of nothing but native (but planted) prairie grasses. 

-Tom

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Pickaway Plains




I spent the evening in one of Ohio's former grassland areas, which happened lie just as the landscape changes to the rugged foothills the Appalachians, as seen along the horizon in the second photo. What was I looking for?  Come back later this week for the answer!

-Tom

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Hummingbirds


My hummingbird images come not from Ohio, but Colorado and Maine.  Just two species.  The broad-tailed just happened to be perched on a branch where I set up my camera for a session of sunrise photography, as seen in the first two images here. We haven't been to Colorado since 2011.  I think it's time to go back.

-Tom

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Gruiformes- Gallinules, Coots, Rails and Cranes



An interesting group, certainly under represented in my photographs.  The Purple Gallinule and Limpkin will targets during my upcoming trip to Southwest Florida.  The Clapper rail shots are from South Carolina.  They're a blast to watch as they dart across the tidal flats during a morning low tide in the salt marsh.

-Tom