Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wood Duck Drive of Emeralda Marsh with the OTOW Unique Birders

The OTOW Unique Birding Club gathered bright and early at the Health and Recreation building for the hour plus long caravan to Emeralda Marsh and Wood Duck Drive.

We stopped several times along the drive - but since it was a narrow one-way road, we couldn't always stay as long as we liked because some less relaxed drivers wanted to get moving. They must not have been retired. This is a Limpkin and he was keeping company with a couple of White Ibis.

I still can't resist taking pictures of every Great Blue Heron I see. They are so beautiful.

An Eastern Water Snake decided to cross the path at the same time we were walking. I don't know who was more startled - the snake or the birder who almost stepped on him!

It will take about a year for this immature White Ibis to turn white.

Many of the herons and ibises were starting to get their breeding feathers. This Great Egret was pruning his new feathers.

An especially pretty Glossy Ibis - look at the colors!

Even the adult Pied-billed Grebe look like babies. They are so cute.

An Eastern Phoebe in a tree near the observation tower.

I was so busy looking at the Phoebe that I almost missed a Great-crested Flycatcher sitting in the same tree. This picture was taken earlier but I am including it here again because it is a much better shot than the one I took yesterday.

There were just a few Tree Swallows flying overhead.

This was the prettiest stop along the road - and we were able to pull off to let people pass. There were lots and lots of Coots and Common Moorhens swimming around, as well as herons, ibises and egrets.

Off in the distance, one of the more experienced birders spotted these Ring-necked Ducks. The rings on their necks are purplish - and not anywhere as easily seen as the ring around their bills.

They have very distinctive coloring and are easily identified.

Look at the nice long tail on this Boat-tailed Grackle.

Another Glossy Ibis showing the first signs of his mating colors.

I wish I could have gotten a picture of the Common Snipe in the scope - he was great! Other birds we spotted included: House Wren, Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Tri-colored Heron, Sandhill Crane, Cattle Egret, Bald Eagle, Snowy Egret, Vultures, Sparrows - and more!

After a full morning, we gathered at the Main Street Diner in Leesburg for a delicious lunch and fellowship. Bill and I had to depart promptly after eating for the long drive down to Fort Myers where we are visiting with good friends Wendy and Larry.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Birding at Cedar Key

The town of Cedar Key is a quaint fishing village on the Gulf Coast, about 50 miles southwest of Gainesville. The Cedar Keys are a group of barrier islands that are Federally protected bird and wildlife sanctuaries.

This picture was taken from the dock where we were waiting to depart on a birding trip through the marshes with expert birder Captain Doug. The birds flying over the hotels are Black Skimmers.

A large flock of Black Skimmers.

I caught this pair as they were flying to sit on the hotel roof with the rest of the gang. Note that their lower bill is longer than their upper. They feed by flying low and skimming the water with their lower bill.

The ever-present Ring-billed Gulls.

Once we were out in the boat, I saw more shore birds than I ever saw in South Florida. There were hundreds of huge White Pelicans.

The distinctive black markings on their wings show only when they fly. I was amazed how close we were able to get to them.

Oystercatchers were everywhere. It was high tide and every inch of every available sand bar was covered with shore birds.

Oystercatchers and Willets. The Willets also have a very distinctive black and white wing pattern when they fly.

Willets, Willets and more Willets - but note the bigger bird with the long downward curved bill. It is a Wimbrel.

Another Wimbrel. The two smaller birds facing in the same direction as the Wimbrel are, I believe, a Short-billed Dowitcher (center) and a Dunlin.

A little of everything - can you name them all? I can't!

A couple of the sand bars were wall-to-wall Ruddy Turnstones.

Captain Doug promised us Plovers and we found these way out on a secluded beach. The one on the right is a Semipalmated Plover. I'm not sure if the other two are also Semipalmated or another plover.

Close-up of the Semipalmated Plover showing the necklace that goes all the way around.

I didn't expect to see a Loon on this trip!

The larger bird with the long black and pink bill is a Marbled Godwit.

We saw a couple of Bald Eagles during our 3 hour trip.

Back on land, I saw this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

We met another couple on our trip, Linda and Graham, and joined them for dinner at Tony's. Tony has won the gold ribbon for his clam chowder two years in a row - and after eating it I sure understood why! It was the BEST clam chowder I've ever had. Bill had fresh raw oysters and he said they were delicious. We have a new favorite place to eat!

We had a great day at Cedar Key - and I can't wait to go back.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Walk in the Woods

What a beautiful day for a walk in the woods! Bill and I hiked the Johnson Pond Trail in the Withlacoochee State Forest - about 12 miles down the road from OTOW.

This is the most beautiful Robin I have ever seen. I couldn't get over how bright orange his chest was! He and his friends were enjoying the berries.

The Tufted Titmice are the cutest birds! We have quite a few in the Live Oak tree in front of the house. They take turns coming to the feeders for sunflower seeds.

I wish we had more woodpeckers in the yard. I think this Downy is smaller than the ones we have in Colorado.

There were lots and lots of little birds flitting around in the trees including this common Palm Warbler.

Bill spotted these deer just off to the right of the trail as it looped around.

I think this is a Northern Harrier. He and a friend were flying over the pond. There is a nice observation deck overlooking the pond about half-way around the 2.6 mile loop.

Another hawk - probably a Red-shouldered. After our hike we stopped at Subway for a sandwich and huge drink of Diet Coke.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Valentine Tree

I had a wonderful Valentine's Day! Bill asked me over the weekend what I wanted and I said I wanted to plant a tree in the backyard. We already had the plan approved by the landscape committee and the utilities had marked the underground cables so we knew where we could dig. Off we go to Lowes to select our tree - but they didn't have what I wanted - a Live Oak - so we checked Home Depot, and they had a nice selection. Since we weren't going to plant the tree until the next day, we came home empty handed. Bill dug the hole - 3 times bigger than what we remembered was the size of the root ball. We soaked the hole with water. It looked like a man-made lake and we expected to see flocks of migrating ducks land in our yard.

After Bill returned from flying his RC plane on Valentine's morning, we headed back to Home Depot to buy our tree. The master gardener helped us select a nice healthy Live Oak - and the other stuff we would need: 50 pounds of potting soil to mix with our sandy soil and Quick Start fertilizer. Bill borrowed a wheelbarrow from the neighbor.

The hole was a "little" larger than we needed and we didn't have enough potting soil so Bill headed back for more. While he was gone, a sparrow landed in the tree and knocked it over.

This is my tree. I love it. I hope the birds don't knock it over again. Oh, and Bill says that next year I'm getting a dozen roses.

I'm having a great time learning to quilt.

This is the top I just finished. The pattern is "Cascades." At one point, I didn't think it would get finished as there was an error in the pattern and the triangles for the sides were too small - but I was able to get more material and finish putting it together. Before I start another pattern, I will check the website for "updates."

This is the top I'm making in my beginner class. I have one more session - to do the binding - and I'm finished. It's been a blast.

We are still enjoying the birds in the yard. This is a beautiful American Kestrel.

While I was looking at the Kestrel, this blimp flew over. We've seen it quite a few times in the neighborhood. Rumor has it that it's one of our neighbors - John Travolta - showing off the horse farms to his friends.

Mr. Fox Squirrel has been a regular visitor. I don't even mind if he eats from the feeders.

I took this shot right before he fell off.

But he got right back up.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Sewing Table

The OTOW RC flying field was closed all last week for road repairs - so Bill built me a new sewing table! Thank you repair crew! (and Bill too!)

We are certainly glad to have an oversized garage - lots of room for projects. The design began with several trips to Lowes to get the right wood.

Designing the table was a feat. Several more trips to Lowes and he finally had the right hardware - just not enough - so back he went.

Thank goodness for Harbor Freight and the wonderfully equipped wood shop here at OTOW - not to mention the tools Bill borrowed from friends Carl and Bob.

I think Bill was off once again to Lowes when I took this picture It's starting to look good with a fresh coat of white paint. We got the 8-foot pre-made Formica counter top from Home Depot. I wanted a slot for rulers and mats and shelves for everything else. Bill put on wheels so I can easily move it out to clean (??).

It fits perfectly along one wall in the bedroom - under the window so I can look out at the birds. It's big enough that it can double as a cutting table but I've discovered the pub-height kitchen table is easier on my back.

I'm a happy camper!!

And so is Bill - they opened the flying field this morning!