Monday, December 31, 2018

Fun with Phoebe

Like I said, I went to Babcock-Webb 2 days in a row. The park is huge. You can drive for miles and miles on the gravel roads. If you had a "swamp buggy", you could go even further. I usually take the same route through the park stopping along the way at spots where it looks good for wildlife. On Day 1, I stopped along Seaboard Grade where I saw a few Egrets and Grebes. I left the car unlocked with windows down and approached the water's edge to snap a few photos.

Along with the sights, the forest is also full of sounds. Most of the sounds fade into the background when I am focused on photography but I kept hearing a Phoebe calling, calling calling - "Fee-bee, Fee-bee, Fee-bee" which is it's usual call but this bird added some extra grumbling to the end of the calls. I turned to see what was going on but couldn't find the bird. I finally found it - sitting on the car!

This bird was obsessed with the car. He sat on the roof rack. He sat on the side mirror. He sat on the windshield. He sat on the driver's door. I took video to show Connie. That was Day 1. On Day 2, the whole thing repeated! On Day 2, I was prepared to get better documentation too. Again, the bird sat on the driver's door.

Nice interior
Then, he decided to sit INSIDE the car too. He sat on the headrest.

This seat is comfy
 He sat on the dashboard.

Home James!
He sat on the steering wheel.

How do you start this thing? 
On Day 2, I made another video. Enjoy!

I'm still not sure whether the bird really loved the Subaru or hated it. I think he wanted to make a nest inside but who knows.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Babcock-Webb Day 2

Babcock-Webb WMA is so close to Connie's sister's house that I can't resist spending the morning there. There have been Snail Kites reported at the lake for the past few months so I thought I would try to see them. Spoiler alert: I dipped 2 days in a row. But I did manage to have a great time anyway. Day 2 started with heavy fog. This Red-shouldered Hawk was none-too-happy with it.

Foggy Morning
The park's habitat is a mix of open pine forests and shallow swamps which you can see in the above photo. The shallow marshes support tons of herons and egrets. Maybe I'm becoming a photo snob but I rarely take photos of Great-blue Herons because they are usually in boring poses and and pretty easy to photograph. That said, I took a few on Day 2. This one just because the bird was posing with such an elongated neck.

Great Blue Heron
And this one because the bird bit off more than he could chew. Literally, he spent 10 minutes figuring out how to swallow that huge fish. I didn't stay around to see if he succeeded.

Heron with a mouthful
I also usually don't photograph Great Egrets either. Not because they are boring but because they are very difficult to photograph. The white bird is usually over-exposed. To compensate, you end up making the rest of the photo dark. Today's fog was a perfect opportunity to get a good one. Fog flattens out the light so that the exposure can be good for the bird and the background too.

Great Egret
The Great Egret was crafty too. He was following a juvenile White Ibis along the edge of the water. Presumably waiting for the Ibis to stir up the fish for the Egret to have an easy meal. Juvenile White Ibis are not white. They are mottled so that they blend into the environment more. Here is the one that the Egret was following.
Juvenile White Ibis
The pine forests are great habitat for some species of warblers including well, Pine Warblers. I would come across flocks of a few dozen at a time. A few posed nicely. This guy was low in the grass.

Pine Warbler
This guy was low in a bush. 

Pine Warbler
This juvenile Pine Warbler followed Dad bush by bush, tree by tree. I guess he's not ready to go it alone.
Juvenile Pine Warbler
This Pine Warbler was acting like a Palm Warbler in the palm tree.
Pine Warbler in a palm
It wasn't all about birds at the park. I also saw a few alligators. This was the biggest - probably 7 or 8 feet long. Funny that he hustled into the water when he saw Peanut on the bank. Sissy.
Big Daddy Gator
 I found this water snake sunning himself after the fog cleared.
Water snake

I have one more story to share another day.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Florida for Christmas

We made the trip to Florida again for Christmas this year to see my Mom and Connie's sister. I make the most of the trip by going birding (what's new right?) Not much going on in The Villages bird-wise but we did get to see these Sandhill Cranes wandering around the Sheriff's Office parking area.

I also spotted these Cranes at Harne's Marsh this week. Look at how messy the juvenile's feathers are. They were honking at the park ranger's truck going by.

I also found a few other notable birds at the marsh including a life bird - Gray-headed Swamphen. I have seen a few before but never entered the sighting into eBird. Now, I can "officially" count it as bird # 1224.

There were lots of Tri-colored Herons at the marsh. This one was close to the path and didn't mind me and Peanut.
I also went to my favorite location near Punta Gorda - Babcock-Webb NWA. This is a huge wildlife management area that is a big hunting destination. This week, the park was so crowded that the campground was overflowing. I still had fun and saw some good birds. Anhingas were everywhere.

This Osprey was sitting quietly until he spotted another one flying past. Then, he started that squeeky crying.

Least Bitterns are very hard to see. They are secretive, camouflaged and stealthy. I caught this one jumping from one clump of reeds to another then spent time waiting for it to get into position to be photographed. This is the best shot I could get. I think you can get the idea of how small they are.

This was the best bird of the day for sure.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Christmas Bird Count 2019

Another year, another Christmas Bird Count. It always seems like the worst weather too. This year, I did Pennypack Park on Saturday in drizzle and dreary overcast conditions. My territory is pretty boring but at least I found a Great-horned Owl sitting out. Poor thing was harrassed by a group of crows later in the day but didn't budge from his perch.

Great-horned Owl
And caught this Pileated Woodpecker in flight. You can see the white wing panels that make this bird easy to ID in flight.

Pileated Woodpecker
You can see by the photographs that the lighting was TERRIBLE for photographing birds.

On Sunday, I joined Paul Guris' CBC group to cover the Two Mile Unit of Cape May. I have helped with this territory in the past but this year, the weather was really snotty with sideways rain, wind and fog that prevented us from seeing very much. This Cooper's Hawk sat on the railing at the boat dock dripping wet for a long time. Even she didn't want to fly in that weather.

Once I downloaded the photo, I noticed that this hawk has leg bands. I can't read the band information but interesting to find one with "jewelry".

We were the only group in Cape May to spot a Snow Bunting this year which is weird because there are a lot of professional birders that cover this area. I guess we just got lucky. This little guy was gobbling up seeds in the parking lot of the restaurant.

Snow Bunting
I quit around 2:30 and headed home to host the DVOC photo contest judging. There were alot of great submissions this year. The judges had a tough time choosing winners to be announced on Thursday.