Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mystery Solved by the Stokes'

Mystery solved! My mystery Dove is a common Mourning Dove. In a recent e-mail from the Stokes' (Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America) they give this explanation:

"In our guide we list all known hybrids that have occurred in the wild at the end of each account. If there are none listed, then there are no known occurrances. Thus, there are no known hybrids between White-winged and Mourning Doves. This listing of hybrids is unique to our guide and a nice feature in cases like this.

I believe that the lighter area is due to the wing being tucked under the feathers at the side of the breast, pushing them out so that they are reflecting the light more. White-winged Doves have white along the edge of the wing and not along the side of the breast; they also have no dark spots on the wing coverts, and they have a longer, slightly downcurved bill. This bird does seem to have a shorter tail, but Mourning Doves can also be molting or have lost their central tail feathers temporarily, as seems to be the case with this bird."


Don and Lillian

The Stokes' have just released their new Eastern and Western Field Guides and there are quite a few changes from the old guides - definitely worth the upgrade!

Monday, March 18, 2013

White-winged Dove?

We had lots of interesting company for Saint Patrick's Day. Bill made a delicious traditional dinner of corned beef and cabbage. We were joined  by two local couples and all six of us crowded around our dinner table to enjoy the feast. Bill made black and tan beers for the guys and us girls enjoyed a nice local red wine. Just as we were getting ready for dessert, one of our guests commented about the number of doves under the feeders in the back yard. This unusual dove was among them.

Other local birders have reported seeing White-winged Doves in the area so that was my first thought. He has the black mark on his cheek, blue eye ring and is shorter and plumper than the Mourning Doves we see all the time. But he also has black spots on his wings, short Mourning Dove-like bill and the white wing markings curl up to his "shoulders." The markings are the same on both sides. I think this must be a hybrid - a Mourning/White-winged Dove mix except no hybrids are listed in the new Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America so I'm baffled. Any thoughts?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Blue Heron Nest

We've been checking on the Great Blue Heron nest in Shalom Park every couple of days. Today we were greeted with 4 rather large - but still fuzzy - baby herons.

There are two adults in attendance - and at least one more adult in another nest in the adjoining tree.

Cute, aren't they?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Backyard Visitors

We have bird feeders in both our front yard and in our back yard. It's amazing to me that we see different birds and creatures depending which way we look. In our front yard we see lots of common grey squirrels - but they never venture into our open backyard. We think it is because of the hawks and owls. The Sherman Fox Squirrels, however, prefer the back yard to the front yard.

The Florida (or Sherman) Fox Squirrels have very long tails - except this one. We've also had a baby Fox Squirrel visit - but I haven't gotten a picture of him yet.

The American Goldfinches are getting yellower by the day. Migration has begun and we are seeing them in lesser numbers than last week. They like the feeders in the back as do the Pine Warblers. We are more likely to see Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice in the front yard.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Birding in Shalom Park

 Another beautiful sunny day means another nice walk in the park - this time Shalom Park adjacent to On Top Of the World (OTOW). We were greeted with the sounds of birds everywhere and butterflies flitting among the flowers and bushes.

We usually hear the Carolina Wrens loud song - but only occasionally do we actually see one. They are small jittery birds that blend in with their surroundings. I was just lucky today.

I love this picture - the bright red Cardinal against the muted colors in the background. The mature trees in the park are wonderful with lots of hanging moss.

Another bird that prefers camouflage; this Eastern Phoebe is hiding in the tree.

She may have tried to hide, but this female Cardinal stands out almost as much as her mate.

She finally gave up and came out to pose for me. I think the females are every bit as beautiful as the males.

This shot of a Red-bellied Woodpecker really shows the beautiful pattern on his back and wings.

Yesterday I had a picture of another Yellow-rumped Warbler that showed the bright yellow patch on his back. Today's picture shows the yellow spot on his side.

One of my favorites: a Tufted Titmouse. It's not hard to see how he got his name.

This is one of two Great Blue Heron nests in Shalom Park - both in the same tree. We've been watching them for a couple of weeks. The eggs have hatched and when we look through the binoculars we can see little white heads popping up. We'll check back every couple of days.

Paynes Prairie

It's been 6 weeks since my surgery and we decided it was time to try out my new hip at Paynes Prairie. We walked the La Chua Trail just before surgery and it was very difficult for me to finish the 3 mile loop. Yesterday we walked 2 of the 3 miles without any problems. I feel sure I could have done the whole loop but we didn't want to push it.

There were lots of birds, alligators and people enjoying the beautiful, sunny day. Our first avian sighting was this wonderful White-crowned Sparrow. 

We've occasionally seen them in Colorado, but never here in Florida. They were much rarer here in the southeast, but are slowly expanding their territory.

All of the usual herons, egrets and ibis were on hand.

It was breezy as this Great Blue Heron came in for a landing.

It's fun to see so many different kinds of birds together. The Anhinga has his wings spread, drying them in the sun; the White Ibis is keeping a close eye on the immature Ibis still sporting his brown feathers. Between them is a Little Blue Heron.

Lots of Pied-billed Grebes and another immature White Ibis to the right.

The Ibis keep their brown feathers for up to a year before they turn white.

You can just start to see the reddish blush on top of the Cattle Egret's head indicating he's ready to breed.

I love this shot of a Snowy Egret walking past this huge gator!

I was surprised to see so many Wood Storks as I thought they were further south. The way they were standing together in a group reminded me of Emperor Penguins.

We were playing peek-a-boo with a Great Blue Heron.

This Sora Rail was a nice addition to our list as we've not seen one here in Ocala before.

The Yellow-rumped Warblers have returned in droves. Note that the bright yellow patch is on the lower back not under the tail. The other smaller yellow patch is on the side.They were everywhere - rarely keeping still long enough for a decent shot.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Back to Birds

We have lots of birds in the yard - and many of them are yellow. The Pine Warblers are bright yellow and have streaks on their chests with grey and white wings. 

They prefer the peanut butter suet to the sunflower seeds and will also eat the seeds that have dropped on the ground.

This time of year we have hundreds and hundreds of American Goldfinches. We are filling the feeders daily with black-oil sunflower seeds. They fill every available seat at the feeders and blanket the ground underneath. They are gathering and fattening up for their journey north.

Most of the goldfinches do not have all of their bright yellow yet and look mottled with striking black and white wings.

A frequent visitor is this beautiful Yellow-chinned Warbler. This is the first year we've seen them in the yard. I sure hope they stay!

Another regular is this fabulous Red-bellied Woodpecker. People tend to refer to these as Red-headed Woodpeckers for obvious reasons - but they really do have a red blush on their fronts.

Out by the back gate we have several dead snags - home to lots of woodpeckers. We went looking for the real Red-headed Woodpeckers and saw this Piliated Woodpecker first.

But not too far away was Red-headed Woodpecker.

Look what we found in our backyard when we got up early this morning! I took this picture through the lanai window and screen so the quality isn't very good - and the sun wasn't yet up, but you can tell it's a coyote.

Always a favorite visitor is this beautiful male Cardinal.

No, this Brown Pelican wasn't in the backyard. We drove over to the Gulf Coast looking for new hiking & birding trails and he was sunning on the pier at Crystal River Preserve State Park.

There was an interesting drainage ditch on the side of the road that leads back to the Chrystal River power plant. We saw this Yellowlegs and stopped to take a closer look.

This was a real thrill - a Common Snipe! He was at the edge of the puddle - but as soon as we approached, he flew to the other side and sat very still in the brush. His camouflage was amazing. If we hadn't seen him fly - we would never have found him.

And huddled by the bank were these two Mergansers. Lots of good birds in an unlikely spot!

This Eastern Phoebe watched as we drove away.