Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Foggy Morning Birds and Beasts

We know we have Armadillos because they poke their pointy noses into the ground looking for grubs, but we rarely see them. It was early on a foggy morning and I was sitting at my sewing machine when his movement caught my eye.

When I got up to investigate (and grab my camera) I also spotted our very regular visitor, Mr. Coyote, heading back home. ...until he spotted the Armadillo! The coyote stopped dead in his tracks and watched the armadillo for a long time - decided he would not be a good meal - and turned and left just as the armadillo disappeared into the woods.

Another furry visitor! Too bad the coyote didn't see him! We have very few grey squirrels at the back feeders as it is too open but this one was brave.

Out in front, I noticed a new bird for the year - a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. You can't see the ruby spot on his head, but I'm sure it's there.

Looking out back again, a Yellow-rumped Warbler had scared the squirrel away.

Friday, February 21, 2014

One Block Wonder

I finished another One Block Wonder quilt top. I just love this technique! You never know what you'll get. I usually go through several love-hate periods while working on one. This time I really hated it when I finished the blocks but adding the multiple borders made a huge difference. I'm now pleased with the end result - but it still is not my favorite. That's probably because it isn't blue.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Great Backyard Bird Count

This weekend was the Great Backyard Bird Count so on Saturday morning at 7:40 I sat in Beth's chair looking out the window with pen & paper in hand and counted birds. Lots of birds. There seems to be a feeding frenzy as some birds get ready to head north and others start to think about spring and starting a family. The colors are getting brighter and richer.

Saturday was the last I saw of our beautiful Yellow-throated Warbler.

We had both male and female Cardinals. This is, of course, the male.

Lots of Bluebirds showed up to be counted...

...as did our Florida Fox Squirrel. Fox Squirrel sightings are reported on a different website: https://public.myfwc.com/hsc/foxsquirrel/GetLatLong.aspx

A couple of Tufted Titmice.

And a Carolina Chickadee.

We had quite a few Blue Jays.

And lots of Pine Warblers.

But the American Goldfinches won the count.

Northern Mockingbirds are by no means rare, except at my feeders.

He looks radiant in this shot, don't you think?

This has been an unusual year for Yellow-rumped Warblers. We have seen many, many more than in any previous year. At any given time, there could be a dozen or more at the feeders - all of the "Myrtle" variety. In previous years, we might see one or two a week.

This one thinks he's a hummingbird.

The Yellow-rumped Warblers have turned out to be little bullies - guarding THEIR feeders and chasing away the smaller birds.

I didn't see any Cedar Waxwings on Saturday, but we saw a large flock the previous week - in the rain.

Even in the rain, the Yellow-rumped kept guard.

They ARE pretty!

But not as pretty as the Yellow-throated Warbler.

In the sun, the Pine Warblers look like Canaries.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker was actually the first bird I saw during the count.

And a Blue Jay was the second.

Even a Crow stopped by!!

Ms. Cardinal didn't want to be left out.

And the Titmouse came back several times.

Another Yellow-rumped - I promise he's the last for the day.

At the end of 20 minutes of counting, a Red-tailed Hawk landed in a tree and all of the birds suddenly disappeared. Shortly afterwards, a male Red-tailed joined her and they mated. Maybe we'll have juvenile hawks before we head back to our summer place in Colorado Springs!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snipe Hunting at the Dump

 Bill, Beth and I went to the dump. Not just any dump but the Citrus County Solid Waste Management Landfill. They have a road around the operation where people can drive and see the various birds that frequent the dump as well as the large machinery moving the trash around. They call it the Eagle Loop as so many Eagles are in the area.

Thousands of birds circled overhead - mostly seagulls - but we saw 8 to 10 Eagles circling, landing and fighting to be king of the heap.

You can stop your car anywhere along the road but you have to stay out of the path of the large tractors and trucks. We had bright orange vests to wear if we got out of our car. We pulled up next to this Killdeer. You can see what long legs he has! I've seen many more Killdeer this year than usual.

Overhead, looking down into one of the retention ponds, we spotted this pair of Hooded Mergansers. As they were swimming away something else caught my eye.

There was a Wilson's Snipe on the bank. He was far away so my pictures aren't great. Beth was excited as this was a Life Bird for her.

A Life Bird is one you've never seen before and many birders keep an ever-growing "Life List."

Beth added this to her list - then returned home to Kure Beach where 4 more of the elusive birds waited for her! I think we taught her what to look for.

As we drove around, the pair of Headed Mergansers swam back.

Bald Eagles are such beautiful majestic birds - it's hard to see them picking in the trash. This bird is over 4 years old - the time it takes for full adult plumage.

Another Bald Eagle - a first year juvenile. Now that's a big baby!

And another. I assumed this bird with so much white was younger, but my book tells me it's actually a 2nd year juvenile. I didn't see a 3rd year - but it would have looked more like an adult with an almost all-white head and tail and dark-brown body.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Birding with Beth - Paynes Prairie

On our way to Paynes Prairie we made a brief stop at the University of Florida's Beef Farm to see the Sandhill Cranes that winter there. No, this one isn't missing a leg - it's neatly tucked under. Do you see the Killdeer in the background?

I get a kick out of the cows. They must be very used to the big birds!

On to Paynes Prairie and the LaChua Trail! Every time we visit it is completely different. There was a Bald Eagle on top of the electric towers at the beginning of the trail. Beth said that was a good omen and that we would see lots of birds.

I can't help myself - I just have to take lots of pictures of the Great Blue Herons. They are just so regal.

Naturally, there were many, many alligators sunning themselves on the banks of the river. There were so many on the side of the trail that the park rangers on 4-wheelers herded them back into the water.

The Green Herons were accounted for in numbers. In fact, all of the herons, egrets and ibises were there. We saw Black-crowned Night Herons in the trees across the water - but they were too far away for me to get decent pictures. Maybe Beth got some better shots with her fancy new lens.

The Glossy Ibis aren't very pretty this time of year.

I've only seen a Swamp Sparrow one other time - 3 years ago from the observation platform on the other side of the park. Very cool bird!

The Cardinals are always a treat - no matter how often I see them! I thought this female was especially pretty sitting in the trees.

The Savannah Sparrows were everywhere.

This is the first time I've seen a Ruddy Duck at Paines Prairie. We also saw Green-winged Teal.

Later in the year the lores on this White Egret will turn bright green.

The Snowy Egrets have bright yellow lores, feet and yellow stripes on their legs.

This was a nice surprise - a Common Yellowthroat! I saw one years ago in South Florida, but never got a picture so it didn't count.

The Eastern Phoebes have been especially plentiful this year. I love when they call "fee-bee, fee-bee."

This was the trip of the Sora Rail. I bet we saw five during our 3-mile walk out to the observation platform and back again. We also saw one lone immature Purple Gallinule.

I feel like I take this same picture of a Tricolored Heron every time I visit.

An American Bittern caught my eye peeking out of the grass.

And this was the best treat of the day - and the reason both Beth and I made it all the way out to the observation platform. We saw two King Rails! We heard they had been sighted and we weren't leaving before we saw them for ourselves! Life birds for all three of us!

Our walk back was a little slower than our walk out but we made it. As the Bald Eagle promised - it was a very good day!!