Sunday, April 29, 2012

Harns Marsh & the Three "R's"

Reflections, Roseates & Reddish

  We promised Beth a trip to Harns Marsh. It was postponed on Monday in favor of the fallout at the Sanibel Lighthouse, but very early on Tuesday we headed into Lehigh Acres and Harns Marsh, arriving at sunrise. Another photographer that we met there before was already in place.

Great Egrets
 Great Egrets were out in numbers. They are always beautiful and a pleasure to photograph.

White Ibis and Reflection

Harns Marsh
  While we were watching, all of the birds suddenly took flight,

Bald Eagle
 ...and this was the reason.

Roseate Spoonbills
 The early morning light complimented the pink reflections.

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills
 The Roseate Spoonbill in the back is almost all white - very little pink. Both of these are juveniles.

Roseate Spoonbill and Snowy Egret

Sister Beth:
Snail Kite
 We drove to the other side of the Marsh to see the Snail Kites. I was surprised that Bill drove back the sand road after our last experience - but I guess he took pity on us old gals.

Snail Kite
 They were quite a distance away - but very numerous. We counted over a dozen.

Snail Kite

Reddish Egret
  The last of my three "R's" is a Reddish Egret. This picture was taken at Ding Darling on Sanibel the day before.
Reddish Egret
He looks cold but he's just getting ready to open his wings to shade the water so he can see the fish better. I like this shot because it shows his bright pink bill and long breeding feathers.

 Another one of my mystery fallout birds identified! This is a Merlin and he probably thought of the influx of tropical birds as "lunch."


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sanibel Fallout (continued)

I took so many pictures on Monday and Tuesday at the Sanibel Fallout of neotropical migrating birds that it's hard to choose which ones to publish. The birds were all so beautiful but the heavy foliage and bright sun made photography a challenge.

Summer Tanager
This Summer Tanager sat still near the main path for quite some time - to the delight of the many birders.

Summer Tanager
According to my "The Stokes Field Guide of the Birds of North America" Summer Tanagers and Scarlet Tanagers can cross breed.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Even thought this shot is not as clear as I would have liked, I thought the colors on his wings were interesting, so it's included.

Indigo Bunting

At the exit to the park, late in the afternoon, (on our way to Doc Fords for dinner) we saw a large flock of Indigo Buntings - both male and female - on the ground.

Indigo Bunting

Blue Grosbeak

Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird

I didn't identify this Kingbird until I got home and looked at my pictures. Both my sister and I moved the "unknown" birds to a separate folder on our computers for later attribution.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (female)
It's easy to see how these birds got their name!

Along with the birds, it was fun to bump into fellow birders that I recognized from my time with the Caloosa Bird Club, Vince McGrath and Ruth Woodall. I also enjoyed visiting with Charlie Ewell and Cheryl Anderson as we stalked the Black-billed Cuckoo, Veery and Lincoln Sparrow. I was surprised to read Bob Pelkey's SWFloridabirder blog and learn that we were also birding side by side. I'm sorry I missed the opportunity to meet him.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sanibel Fallout (continued)

Black-billed Cuckoo and Veery

The Migratory Bird Fallout began on Sunday. On Monday, I filled my camera disk with pictures of beautiful birds. We returned on Tuesday (after a postponed trip to Harns Marsh) and saw even more including this rare and illusive Black-billed Cuckoo.

Black-billed Cuckoo

A Veery is more commonly heard than seen as they prefer hiding in the woods. He will not stay in Florida - he's heading north to New England or Canada.

I'm still going through my pictures and will continue to post more, so keep checking back!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sanibel Fallout

Just wanted to share a couple more pictures from the fallout that I thought were especially nice. If you haven't read the previous entry - read it first.

Magnolia Warbler
Blue Grosbeak by the beach
The beach was littered with seashells from the same storm that brought in the birds which delighted the beach goers. They didn't seem to notice the beautiful birds that were right next to the beach and in the park beyond.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sanibel Lighthouse Migratory Bird Fallout - Every Birder's Dream

 I never thought it could happen to me. But it did. I was in the right place at the right time and experienced one of the thrills of my lifetime. And I got to share it with two of my most favorite people - my wonderful hubby Bill and big sister Beth. 

Baltimore Oriole
 On Monday morning we got up early, before sunrise, to go to Harns Marsh. Before we left the condo I checked STOKES BIRDING BLOG where Lillian Stokes posted that a rare phenomena was happening at Sanibel Lighthouse Park - a Migratory Bird FALLOUT. The unusual storm and heavy winds combined with the annual neotropical bird migration north caused hundreds - no, thousands of birds to fall out of the sky to land, exhausted and hungry, desperate to fill their empty stomachs with fruit and insects.

Scarlet Tanager
 Even though we missed the first day (Sunday) it was still going strong when we arrived at Sanibel's Lighthouse Park at 6:30 AM. Everywhere I looked there were beautiful birds - Warblers, Tanagers, Buntings - so many I couldn't take pictures fast enough. Bill kept pointing to one, then another and another and another. I took over 700 pictures on the first day and another 700 the next day. This is just a small group as I'm still going through them.

Black-throated Green Warbler
Many of the birds were attracted to the fruit of the Gumbo Limbo trees throughout the park. Birders could wait in a clearing near one of the trees and just watch the birds fly in. It was amazing! I didn't know which to grab first - my camera or my binoculars.

Blue Grosbeaks
Bright red, yellow, orange and blue birds were everywhere - like ornaments on a Christmas tree, confetti on the ground. Look up, look down, look left and right - they were everywhere.

Blue Grosbeak (male) on a Gumbo Limbo Tree

Blue Grosbeak (male)

Bill and Beth
My sister Beth was taking pictures as fast as I was. Many of our pictures are the same, but we both saw birds that the other missed so be sure to check her blog for more pictures.

Summer Tanager (female)
Sometimes it was difficult to know exactly what birds we were seeing as there were males, females, and juveniles - all with different plumages. Many were birds I'd never seen before - and so many varieties of warblers!

Indigo Bunting (male)
The most common bird in the fallout was the small, bright blue Indigo Bunting; dzeeet, dzeeet dzeeet could be heard everywhere.

Indigo Bunting
The female Indigo Bunting is plain, light and medium browns - but I haven't gotten to those pictures yet.

Orchard Oriole
Some of my first pictures are not very clear because it was barely light yet and I accidentally changed the setting on my camera - but my even more exciting story about camera settings comes later.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male)
There were so many Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, I heard myself saying "it's just another grosbeak."

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (female)
The female Grosbeaks look quite different than the males - but they are pretty in their own way.

Scarlet Tanager

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Can you believe this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher? I spotted him at dawn sitting by the beach all by himself. Bill and Beth were back by the Gumbo Limbo Tree - I had gone to the restroom and not another soul was in the area, so this sighting was all mine! Needless to say this is a new Life Bird for me!

Lillian and Donald Stokes, my sister Beth (on right) and me
Almost as exciting as the birds was recognizing that we were birding with Donald and Lillian Stokes, authors of "The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America" - by far the best bird book I have (and I have a ton!) They were the nicest couple you'll ever want to meet! Lillian spent time helping Beth and me with our camera settings so we could get the best possible pictures. She told us to spend time with our manuals and learn to change our settings without looking - so it can be done in the split second needed to capture a bird on the go. It was amazing. I can't thank them enough.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Before we left Ocala, I told Bill my goal for this trip was to see a Cuckoo. I'd never seen a Cuckoo - so imagine my thrill when I saw this Yellow-billed Cuckoo. They are shy birds and usually hide deep in the brush - but this one was so exhausted, he couldn't keep his eyes open. The next day I saw a Black-billed Cuckoo - but I haven't gotten to those pictures yet, so that will be in a future post.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow Warbler

Sunrise at Sanibel Lighthouse Park
April 23, 2012
The day it rained birds
To be continued...