Cattle Egret, Bulbucus ibis

Sunday, March 30, 2008

OOPS, Spring postponed, winter is back!

Gonna hibernate a few more days.

HUMMINGBIRD TIME!

There was a female Ruby throat sipping from the Lantana and Milkweed a couple of days ago, so I got the feeder cleaned up and refilled. It wasn't long before a male showed up, I'm hoping they'll set up house and stay for the season. Some years I've had 3 or 4 nests near the house, when the chicks leave the nest and start flying it's a sight to see, a minature airshow. I'll have a camera ready, they make great models.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Yard Day

Never left the yard Thursday, trying to catch up and get this place ready for summer.
There is a Monarch caterpillar on the Milkweed, likely more I haven't found yet. I've got two small ponds to clean out, got to catch the fish in one, put them in the other, then repeat. This should be done already, I'm way behind.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

COOL, CLEAR WATER

Some of the sea birds can do without drinking fresh water, but the shore birds drink and bathe wherever they can find a freshwater pond. The timing of this is based on the tides, just as the tide begins to rise the activity at this little pond increases. If you ever went birding, and didn't see anything, maybe your timing was wrong. You don't have to be near the ocean for the natural clock to work, it's all tied to the sun and moon cycles. There is a link on this page to the SOLAR/LUNAR charts, take a look at it, see if they work for you. I've found them to be a good predictor of wildlife activity, when the critters are napping I can nap too!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

HAWK STRIKE

The Red shouldered hawk made a kill in the yard today, it happened so fast I don't know what she got. The yard birds and squirrels scattered, a puff of feathers exploded way up near the top of the Live Oak tree, and I heard the beat of wings as she pulled out of the dive. No noise at all coming in. Fast doesn't really describe it! It took a while for everything to calm down, and didn't take much to send the whole crew running for cover, but they soon forget, and go on as normal.
One of the Brown Thrashers came in to the yard today, they usually stay in the thickets. When they show up you've got to be ready, they don't strike a pose and sit there. A female Ruby Throated Hummingbird was sipping from the few flowers on the Milkweed and Lantana. I got the feeder cleaned out and set up for them, and more flowers are coming later.

Pretty Weather

I made another slow trip to the high school yesterday, spent some time along Hospital Creek.
The Snowy Egrets use a hunting tactic that involves running around like crazy, it panics the prey out of hiding. I've never seen a collision, but it must happen. The Great Blue didn't hang around long, I tried to catch it as the feet cleared the water, just fired the camera off a little fast. The Merganser was alone, but still doing some of it's display ritual, as were the Laughing Gulls. There were several Boat Tailed Grackle pairs at the boat ramp pond, but so much trash was in the water and around the pond that it was disgusting. I used to pick stuff up, just can't physically do it now.

Friday, March 21, 2008

St. John's County Arboretum

The St. John's County Arboretum is part of the Agriculture Center complex. It is maintained by a small staff of dedicated professionals, and some great volunteer master gardeners. The garden isn't all there is, the surrounding area has little ponds, a larger lake, hayfields, and all the birds and other critters you could want.
You may see raptors, from American Kestrels to Cooper's Hawks. Gallinules and Coots like the ponds, Little Blue Herons, Anhingas, and Great Egrets are common.
Just move slowly, and sit a lot. Look in the bushes, not just at the bushes.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rising Tide

I rolled in to town Wednesday just as the tide was ready to turn. This is a big event for the shore waders, the groceries are delivered. The Snowy Egrets hadn't arrived at the Mission, but there was a Great Blue Heron waiting, and willing to pose. I went to the county boat ramp next, just in time for a flock of White Ibis to sail in. There is a freshwater pond next to the marsh, many shore birds drink and bath there. The Ibis inspired a bathing frenzy, some Boat Tailed Grackles showed up, and some Fish Crows, and a Great Egret, all splashing around. They all were on the way to fish the early tide rise, but it was time to meet my grandson at the high school, and I moved on.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Little Wild Ponds

Just a small pond near I-95, banks all grown up and brushy, floating mats of water weeds all over, what a mess! Thing is, it isn't a mess, it's about perfect, just like it is. If you sit still for a while stuff starts to move, heads pop up out of the water weeds, frogs jump and fish splash. 30 minutes, with a bush hog on a tractor, is all it would take to tame it, and kill it. I'd rather just sit there and watch it. I put in a couple of flower shots from the yard too, just because. They bloomed steady all winter.

Monday, March 17, 2008

No Eagles, Again

I loaded the motorscooter up Sunday morning, burnt up the roads, at 45mph, to Moultrie Creek. You can see the nest, you can see the Eagles, sort of! It is almost a 900 foot shot, across the creek and flats, and backlit. Can't get a view from the South, it is all gated communities over there. I'll forget about that!
I rolled North from the creek, eventually hit the flats behind Mission Nombre Di Dios, Snowy Egrets all over, and a few Red Breasted Mergansers on the way North.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Magnolias and Turtles

My buddy Joe from the ag center emailed me, said that the Saucer Magnolia was blooming, come take some pictures. Little bitty tree, no leaves, but flowers all over. While I was there, and looking around, my first Ladybug sighting of the year showed up, and the Little Blue Heron was after the Crawdads again. Got home, sat on the steps, next thing I knew I had company, big Cooter Turtle was just coming along up the driveway. It was still covered in sand from being buried all winter. I think it was headed for my neighbors big pond, it was aimed that way.
The Squirrel was around too, like always!
IT'S SPRING!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Stay at Home Sunday

I never left the yard. It was bright and cool and the yard was full of birds. The bird blind is super, I can see where it will be hot in there this summer, I'll run a cord out and use a fan. I'm thinking about getting another one to carry on the scooter, and leave the one in the yard set up. Photography is all I do, about all I can do physically, so I don't mind spending a few bucks for something useful. I've got all my gear ready for the nesting season at the alligator farm, I can't make the trip often so I try to make it count.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Water tight and wind resistant

The blind rode out the wind and rain on Friday night just fine, my chair didn't even get wet. There were some pretty strong wind gusts too, it sways, but holds.
The yard was alive with Goldfinches Saturday afternoon, giving the Cardinals a hard time. They aren't afraid to move a Cardinal out of the way to get a spot at the feeder. The Tufted Titmice and Chipping Sparrows were around, but staying out of the way.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Wet Friday, Soggy Saturday

I woke up this morning to the sound of a Bronze frog singing it's heart out, and the beat of rain on my tin roof. I just rolled over and pulled up the old quilt. That Bronze frog didn't see the same weather report I did, mid to low 30s tomorrow, and more rain to boot. My new bird blind was shedding water like a duck out there, 60 years ago I could have run out to it with a mess of comic books, and just sat in it, listening to the rain on that taut canvas, things were more fun, 60 years ago. I may sneak out and sit in it some tomorrow, just to check for leaks!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bird Blind

Closer is always better than all the lenses you can hang on a camera, image quality degrades with every foot you are from your subject. I've had a screen house in the yard for several years, one of the portable models, but it takes time to set up and take down, and the weather took it's toll on things. It worked OK, the screen was hard enough to see through from outside that the birds didn't notice me so much, but you had to sit very still for the shy ones.
I found a small hunters blind on sale at Gander Mountain, 60 second set up and take down, rainproof, 6 pounds, and fits on the motorscooter. There is room for a lawn chair or stool, and a tripod, just right! It needs some screens added to keep skeeters from coming through the viewports, but that's a simple job.
New pics in the galleries, I just haven't had time to create slideshows.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Yard Crew

This isn't all of them, I didn't include the bugs, spiders and furry guys, or any snakes, turtles, lizards or gators, or fish. I'll cover them later. It's never lonely out here, the hammock vibrates with life, just sit and watch.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Big Wet Birds

It's common to see a big, dark colored bird sitting near the water, all spread out, sometimes turning slowly, head up. It may be an Anhinga, could be a Cormorant. They don't have oil glands, their feathers are not water repellent, but they hunt underwater. After several dives they must dry out their feathers, and in winter, warm up.
The Anhinga has a spear pointed beak, the Cormorant has a hooked tip. Around here the Anhinga is also known as the snake bird, or water turkey.


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FISH CROW

Boat-tailed Grackle Quiscalus major fem

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Tricolored heron Egretta tricolor

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Brown Pelican juvenile

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