There is no weekend blog update for this past Sunday. I slept in and gave myself some needed rest. There are a few things I would like to note.

First, if you haven’t checked out Laura Erickson’s blog lately, have a look. She’s a very passionate conservationist, and her take on the bunker oil spill in Galveston Bay can be found here:

You can also read her review of the movie “A Birder’s Guide to Everything”, which I have not seen yet. Sounds good though:

Over at the 10,000 Birds Blog, Corey Finger has a short post about a not-bird he recently encountered:

I had to laugh at this one, because (as I am sure many of my fellow birders can relate) I am often talking about the “stump bird” or “trash bird” or “leaf bird” that tricked me into thinking I’d seen a Whip-poor-will or a Snowy Owl or a Marsh Wren (respectively). I have to say, Corey’s not-bird is among the “best” I’ve seen.

In “local” birding news, the Sandhill Crane family is doing well as of this morning. The chicks are growing like the proverbial weeds. I may try to get some new photos later on. I also saw a “FOY” Swallow-tailed Kite on Friday.

That’s about all I have for fillers this morning. I hope you can have a fine day.

SCBWF January 23, 2014: Birding with Laura Erickson

My first field trip for the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival was a leisurely walk at the Blue Heron Wetlands Park in Titusville. This park is part of the city’s water treatment and reclamation efforts. It is similar to the Ritch Grissom Wetlands at Viera in that regard.

It was nice to see Laura again, freshly (or pehaps not so) back from her Conservation Big Year. The other co-leader for this trip was Corey Finger from the 10,000 birds blog. Corey is an engaging fellow and an accomplished birder as well.

I rode along with a nice couple from Palm Bay, who have been around the country and the world, birding and enjoying their retirements.

It was a cold morning, and this was evident in the flock of low flying Tree Swallows over the water. The temperature near the surface of the water would be warmer than the air. This not only would help the birds stay warm, but would be the most likely place for any insects the birds prey on to be active and available.

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Tree Swallow in flight over a reclamation pond.

American Coots and Common Gallinules were present in high numbers. We had hoped to see a Purple Gallinule, but one never appeared for us.

Another species that was quite numerous was the American Robin. Winter is the only time these birds are in central Florida, but when they are here, the flocks are quite large. We saw hundreds fly over during the course of the morning. Occasionally a few would perch in the trees nearby, but these birds are a bit more shy than the front lawn varieties I remember as a child in Massachusetts.

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Holy Turdus migratorius, Batman!

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were plentiful as well. I learned that the population of these ducks is increasing in Florida, even as those of the Mottled Duck and Mallard decline. There is no consensus on why it is happening yet.

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When asked why their cousin Mottled Ducks and Mallards were leaving the state, these birds ducked the answer…

At another point along the water, we heard what at first sounded like a Limpkin, but turned out after closer inspection to be a Sora, which we caught glimpses of through the reeds. This was a lifer for me, and I spotted it first, which was satisfying.

We saw other birds as well. Among the dozens of Palm and Yellow-rumped (affectionately referred to as “butter butts”) warblers, we saw a Prairie Warbler and a few Common Yellowthroats.

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A Prairie Warbler Companion.

As the morning warmed up, the Tree Swallows followed their prey source higher in the air, and we saw some vultures, hawks and a Bald Eagle starting their day, searching for thermals.

My species list for this field trip:

  • American Robin
  • Palm Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Common Gallinule
  • American Coot
  • Tree Swallow
  • Boat-tailed Grackle
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Anhinga
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Little Blue Heron
  • Glossy Ibis
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Black-bellied Whistling Duck
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Sora [lifer]
  • Osprey
  • Mourning Dove
  • Bald Eagle
  • Double Crested Cormorant
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Snowy Egret
  • White Ibis
  • Killdeer
  • Green Heron
  • Tri-colored Heron
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Wood Stork
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow (one among the Tree Swallows)

After the trip, I had lunch with Laura and Corey at Dixie Crossroads, a local restaurant and major Festival supporter. Although some of the people and places Laura and Corey know and talked about were at times over my head, the conversation reaffirmed my belief that the “everyman” or “everywoman” can make major contributions to birding and ornithology.

Coming Up Next…

I did not go birding this weekend, but birding has been on my mind. I’ve registered for The Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival, coming this January, with several exciting field trips! I’ll be going (weather willing) on the pelagic trip again, plus one for Black Rails and some other specialty trips. My birding friend Laura Erickson is giving a talk on her Conservation Big Year, which should be fun. I’ve missed her this past year, so it will be nice to see her.

Looking farther ahead, the Big “O” Birding Festival, around Lake Okeechobee, is in March. David Goodwin is usually heavily involved in that festival. I missed getting to see him this summer due to personal and financial reasons (which I hope he can forgive). I met him at the SCBWF last year, and really wanted to see him before the summer had gone. Such is life, I suppose. I’m making every effort to go this coming year. Registration seems more affordable than last year, if I am remembering correctly.

Besides that, the winter bird residents are settling in, so it’ll be time to make the rounds of Pine Island and the Viera Wetlands soon for waterfowl and such. Those will be my last pushes for my 2013 bird count, which still sits officially at 140.

What do you mean, the one without the Gannet? They’ve all got the Gannet!

My new birding friend, Laura Erickson took some fabulous photographs while on the pelagic birding field trip at the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival last week. Here’s her blog page for her Northern Gannet photographs. Here’s a teaser… follow the link above for the blog post (and the rest of her blog is fabulous).


Photograph is © 2013 Laura Erickson.

What do you mean, the one without the Gannet? They’ve all got the Gannet!