I had a fascinating walk and talk with Shirley Hills today at Turkey Creek Sanctuary. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog entry, Shirley has been birding at Turkey Creek (along with her late husband, Bill) for over 20 years, and she is a great local source for birding information. We lamented the horrendously slow Fall migration this year, but were both on the lookout for winter residents. Unfortunately, they seemed as scarce as the migrants had.

When I first entered the park, I tried to get a sound recording (using my camera’s HD video capability) of the quiet, gurgling of the Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher song. There’s a bit of background hiss, despite my best attempts to remove it.

Just before Shirley and I got together, I managed to get this photo of a slightly lethargic female Indigo Bunting.

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Cute brown ball of puff.

Other than that, the two of us managed to scare up several unidentifiable warbler species throughout the morning. They were just too far away or too quick for us. Eventually we did come across a single Ovenbird, and spent a bit of time at McKinnon’s Way trying to pin down the ID of a bird that looked suspiciouls like a Black-and-white Warbler.

At one point we did breifly see a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, the first of the season for both of us. We also flushed out small raptor (perhaps a Cooper’s Hawk, but I didn’t get a good enough look).

We had the most luck behind the weir, where apparently she’d never really birded at before! There, we saw a Spotted Sandpiper, a couple of Green Herons, a small group of Cattle Egrets, a Little Blue Heron, an American Kestrel, and a Common Gallinule.

It was very interesting to hear her views on invasive species and how they are taking over the hammocks in the Sanctuary.

She seems especially worried about the Silver Plume Grass that is growing in from the western side of the park. It is nearly impossible to eradicate, and it is not used by native wildlife very much.

She also told me how in past years, she, her husband and one of the Rangers/caretakers of the Sanctuary eliminated massive amouns of the invasive Brazilian Pepper Trees from one area. That areas is beautiful, pepper tree free, and normally conducive to good birding. This year, just like everything else in the Sanctuary, it was just a big flop.

We parted ways after seeing only some Grey Catbirds, Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, some Fish Crows, Mourning Doves, some vultures and Blue Jays. Shirley has some well-thought out and deliberate opinions on environmental and economic issues, and I was actually glad this morning not to be a very lonely birder.

20 Minutes

I had a few minutes to walk around some conservation land abutting a housing subdivision in Viera this evening. The paved walk/bike ways encircle a large irregular pond. It was a nice 20 minutes.

  • Downy Woodpeckers
  • Lesser Scaups (first this year)
  • Blue-winged Teals
  • Mottled Ducks
  • Common Grackles
  • Mourning Doves

I didn’t have my camera handy, so you’ll have to go with your imaginations or a Google image search. Your choice!

I went to Erna Nixon Park this morning to see what was happening there. At the first “Vista” stop along the boardwalk, there’s an overlook of some reedy vegetation and some grasses, adjacent to a pond that there is no path to get at. In that area I had the most success today. There were several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (males and females, a lot of bickering), what sounded like House Wrens, and at least one Common Yellowthroat (which came quite close, but I was unable to capture on camera). Further along the boardwalk I did see a single male Northern Parula, and along the fire-path along the northern edge of the property was a nice little gathering of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. The usual Northern Cardinals, Mourning Doves and Fish Crows were also in evidence. I did get a nice shot of a snake (not sure what species). Also heard some Carolina Wrens, but they stayed well out of sight.

Went With The Wind!

Continuing my adventures from Part 1, after walking McKinnon’s Way, I came out by a pumphouse just down from the Scrub Trail. The wind was doing some pretty funky things! These Mourning Doves were hanging onto this wire for dear life! But as you can see, sometimes the gusts seemed very localized. The bird on the left is really getting it, while the one on the right seems fairly unperturbed by the gust:

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Hang on there, little fella!

From there, I headed to the scrub trail, along the jogging path.

I caught a very inexperienced looking Red-shouldered Hawk over a small clearing on the other side of some thick brush. It seemed to have a fair bit of white fluffy feathers near its tail, so I assume it was a juvenile (though the rest of the plumage was adult, and I have never seen that much puffy proliferation of feathers). It was odd, but it moved on after scattering whatever birds were present and sending the throngs of cardinals into a frenzy of chipping notes.

By this point, the wind was so bad, I figured my observing was over with for the day, but I heard more persistent “per-chick-oo-chick” calls from the White-eyed Vireos. While on one of the walks with Laura Erickson at the birding festival, she mentioned that if you see a warbler or vireo, scan around, because there are probably more birds hanging around.

She was right!

A benefit of birding alone is perseverance. When the group wants to move along, you can stay and wait it out. I could hear the vireo right in front of me, but I could NOT find it for the longest time. But in my scanning for it (both with the unaided eye, and with my binoculars), I caught a flash of yellow and black. It wasn’t enough to ID, but I stuck with it. After several minutes, not only did I catch another White-eyed Vireo, I got a glimpse of a male Prairie Warbler, a first for this year.

There was also some dusky looking small birds with faint streaking that I could not ID, and some very irritated sounding Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers.

From there it was off to the Scrub Trail, but the wind was really roaring by then, and apart from some vultures having a grand time of it, wheeling through the sky, it was time to go. Here are a couple of shots of the Scrub Trail.

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Not a bad morning, especially considering the weather.

I also learned that getting snaps of birds is REALLY hard with the branches swaying like a drunken construction crane. Hopefully I’ll get some shots next time when things are calmer.

Front yard chorus and fly-bys

This morning while waiting for my ride to work (yay, carpool!), I took a few minutes to concentrate on the bird songs and calls in the neighborhood.

Apart from the usual cacophony of grackles, I could hear 2 species of dove singing simultaneously (Eurasian Collared and Mourning), at least one American Robin (alarm calls), a Red-bellied Woodpecker (call), what was most likely a Northern Mockingbird (might have been masking a Carolina Wren, but I am not certain of that).

In flight, I saw some terns flying overhead. I usually see them heading inland, toward the west in the morning. I don’t know why that is. I wonder if they are heading toward Lake Washington? A pair of cormorants were heading east, and a pair of White Ibises flew over the house to the south.

Not bad for a few minutes just looking and listening.