Thursday, October 26, 2017

Back in Florida

We decided to make a trip to Punta Gorda in October to see if we could extend the summer months just a little bit. Connie's sister moved down here in April and told us that it has been really hot this week. On that advice, I packed shorts, T-shirts and a bathing suit. This morning it was 50 degrees outside. Connie and I headed over to Babcock-Webb NWR before dawn to see what we could see. We had the heater on in the van and we were freezing but we saw some good birds anyway.

I watched this Osprey surveying his surroundings, then take off and catch a fish.

Connie and I found a family of Purple Gallinules feeding on these purple seeds of the Alligator Weed. It was quite comical to watch them try to balance on top of the weeds.

Purple Gallinule
This immature Night Heron was not happy when I showed up to one of the ponds. He squawked and flew to the opposite side.

Night Heron
This Boat-tailed Grackle landed right next to the car and sang his crackly song.

Boat-tailed Grackle
There were quite a few Kingfishers. This one was hanging out on the wire at the entrance.

Belted Kingfisher
I saw some non-avian species too like this squirrel.

And a few gators too.

The most unusual sighting was this Turkey Vulture who decided to lay down in the middle of the dirt road. I drove right up to him before he moved. Funny.

Lazy Days Turkey Vulture
When he finally got up, he didn't fly off. Instead, he stood there watching me while I got out of the van to take this close-up photo. Pretty huh?

I'm ready for my closeup
On our way out, Connie spotted these immature White Ibis up in a pine tree. She tested her camera and actually got a closer photo than this one. I like the composition of mine. 

Of course, a trip around Babcock-Webb wouldn't be complete without seeing a few Loggerhead Shrikes.
Loggerhead Shrike
We will be here for a few more days. I hope we find some other birds.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Out on a Limb

Of all the warblers that we can see in the eastern US, some are pretty common - birds that breed in our area or are conspicuous. Like the Common Yellowthroat. For Pete's sake, it has the word "common" right in the name. Easy to see in spring, summer and fall.

Common Yellowthroat
Others are pretty rare or secretive making those birds a big target for birders. Warblers like Mourning or Connecticut. Finding either of those warblers elicits text messages and alerts. A Swainson's warbler makes ABA Rare bird lists. I've only seen these birds a few times and none this season.

And still others may easier for some birders to see than others. These warblers migrate through each year and plenty of birders see them. Sighting these birds doesn't warrant a text message. Birders talk about the sightings in common conversation. Mostly, these birds either elude me or give me a fleeting look without photo opp. Nashville, Wilson's and Tennessee fall into this category. Tennessee warblers are very bland looking by comparison to Blackburnian or Golden-winged warblers but they have a magic all their own. I regularly miss seeing Tennessee warblers which is why I'm so confused by the past month. So far, I've spotted at least 5 of them. One day, there were even 2 together. I'm going out on a limb with the ID. Maybe the birds are another species? I checked the field guides. Overall green, no markings on the wings, light eyebrow, short tail. I finally got some decent photos after seeing the bird for 3 days in a row. What do you think?

Tennessee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

I really hope it is a Tennessee warbler or I'm going to be really embarrassed.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Migration of a Different Kind

Cape May in fall is touted as "off the charts" and "so many birds". This marketing brings many birders to Higbee beach in September and October expecting lots of birds. Us "locals" know that the migration phenomenon only happens when conditions are right. Those conditions consist of winds blowing from the northwest overnight and birds bottled up to the north of NJ waiting for the right winds. Even when everything looks right, the birds sometimes fool us and don't show up. That happened this weekend. The winds blew out of the northwest on Thursday night but Friday morning left us birders high and dry for the most part. Luckily, there were a few stray birds. We saw over 50 Northern Parulas. This one posed on a posy for us. The ID here is the green patch on the back and split eye ring.

Northern Parula
This young Black and White warbler was lit up by the morning sun. The ID here is that this "black" and white is really more "brown" and white. 

Black and White Warbler
This House Wren was none too happy with us walking past. Kind of giving us the stink eye.

House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are showing up on their way south. This one was really trying to show off. They are so twitchy that they are hard to photograph.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Once this little flurry of birds past through, I went to work. Other birders found some more migrants but not the quantities that we expected.

Saturday was worse than Friday. Barely any birds at all. Peanut and I walked the fields, went to breakfast, birded some other places, then I went to the State Park at the lighthouse to sit at the hawkwatch hoping to see a show. I did get a show but not of the bird variety. I walked up the trail between the hawkwatch and the beach dunes and walked into a dream world of Monarch butterflies.

Monarch Butterfly Roost
The photo above depicts 80 butterflies. They were everywhere. Flying, feeding on flowers, and hanging on the cedar trees. Click on the video below to see them in action.

I've never seen anything like this before. I met a woman who monitors Monarchs. She said that the butterflies were stopped in NJ due to the high winds and that they would spend the night roosting in the trees. If the winds were good on Sunday, they would head south. And they did.

There were so many Monarchs that there weren't enough flowers for them to each have their own.

Feeding Frenzy
I also learned to tell the difference between male and female Monarchs. This one is a male. Notice the 2 little spots on the viens.

Male Monarch Butterfly
This one is a female. No spots.

Female Monarch Butterfly
All in all, an amazing experience. I hope the birds come through soon.