Youth Day!

Sunday was another quiet morning at both Turkey Creek Sanctuary and Erna Nixon Park. What activity there was revolved around juvenile Northern Cardinals (making the usual racket) and some Northern Parulas and Blue-grey Gnatcatchers high in the canopy (at least at Turkey Creek; almost nothing was to be had at Erna Nixon). Still, it was a pleasant enough morning and not too hot since it was mostly overcast. Toward the end of my Turkey Creek hike it started to rain rather steadily, but the rain hadn’t affected Erna Nixon Park when I drove there later in the morning.

After returning home, at some point during the early afternoon, my wife excitedly drew my attention to the antics of a bird on the wire between our house and the utility pole. It was a fledgling Northern Mockingbird leaping off the wires and making short almost flycatcher like sorties before landing back on the wire. We watched it for a few minutes and then noticed another fledgling along the power lines running along the right-of-way behind our house. And then ANOTHER. Then I noticed a fly-catcher along the same wire. It was a bit tougher to identify, but I finally figured out it was a juvenile Great-crested Flycatcher. It seemed a bit more adept at flying, so likely was past fledgling stage.

Looks like the day belonged to the youngsters.

[Edited to add: I’ll have a few photos from the parks later this week (more flowers, bugs and trees), and I’ll see how my only shot of one of the youngsters turned out.]

Lazy Day

Yesterday’s excursion to Turkey Creek was particularly uneventful but for the continued prevalence of White-eyed Vireos throughout the sanctuary. I did get some good binocular views, but no photos.

This seems to be a banner year for the species in the sanctuary, and it was interesting to hear all the variants of its songs. A lot of the song segements were reminiscent of other birds. I could hear Eastern Towhee, Great Crested Flycatcher, and even Blue Jay sounds in the vireo songs. I don’t know if this is a coincidence or that White-eyed Vireos have developed mimicry as part of their mating or territorial strategies. I will have to investigate.

[Edited to add: A quick Internet search on White-eyed Vireo mimicry does show that they are known for this. On site has some fairly extensive sonograms and recordings, too. In some cases apparently they mimic up to a dozen species’ calls! I did not know this. How fun!]

Of the photographs I did take, I took a couple of this magnificent spiny orb-weaver and its web. I don’t know the exact species.

Spiny orb-weaver (sp. ?) in its beautiful web.

Close up of the spiny orb-weaver (underside).

Other than that, I caught a few glimpses of Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, heard a few Northern Parulas, and of course, the Northern Cardinals were everywhere (though a bit more quiet than usual). I think I may need to shift my start times to before 7am if I am going to see anything interesting. It was already quite warm by 10:00, which quiets the bird activity tremendously.

Mid-May at Turkey Creek

I went out to Turkey Creek this morning with the threat of rain looming ahead, but the morning seemed nice enough. The birding was a bit flat most of the morning, but I had a nice outing.

The Sand Pine Ridge Trail was quiet for most of the length. At the western end, some activity picked up with a couple of female American Redstarts flitting in the brush. As I stepped onto the boardwalk at that end, I could here some warblers calling ahead in the canopy. At the first creek overlook, I saw some adult Northern Parulas feeding their fledgling chicks. I tried to get some photographs, but the brush was too thick and they were moving too fast. It was really neat, though, to see the chicks in almost full adult plumage. 

A bit further down, a White-eyed Viero began calling, rather frantically. As I watched from the end of the boardwalk, I could see an argument brewing between the vireo and a pair of parulas. I don’t know what got everyone so worked up, but I didn’t realize such small birds could make that much noise!

After they calmed down, I traversed the rest of the boardwalk in comparative silence. I could here the ubiquitous Northern Cardinals off in the distance, and the insect noise was quite loud.

The creek was very pretty, especially as the water level is up a bit from my last visit.

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Turkey creek by Tree House

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One of the creek loops.

As I rounded one part of the boardwalk toward the canoe deck, I surprised a family of raccoons. Before they could all run off, I got a quick photo of one.

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Baby racoon watching mom and sibs trot off.

The paths near McKinnon’s Way and the jogging trail were quiet, but I caught some very brief glimpses of more American Redstarts. Near the Harris radio tower I came across a rather handsome Gopher Tortoise!

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“I *am* smiling!”

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For anyone wondering where these venerable creatures live, here’s a shot of a Gopher Tortoise hole I took a little later in my walk

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“Home sweet home.”

Click here if you want to see a shot with the inside a bit visible.

Near the Scrub Trail I came across a couple of interesting critters. First was this Six Lined Racerunner (actual name!) checking me out. I found out that these lizards can run 18 miles-per-hour! Not bad for animal under a foot long!

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Six Lined Racerunner, racing stripes standard.

Then there was this creepy fly. It’s hard to tell by the photograph, but it was about 3.5cm long (almost 1.5in). Apparently it (she?) was laying eggs in the sand. You can see her abdomen curled down and the tip stuck in the sand.

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Creepy fly. Not much else to say.

Squirrels were abundant, quietly gathering food. This one’s tail is a bit sparse, but he seemed happy enough.

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Got nuts?

I circled back to McKinnon’s Way, passing this prickly pear cactus.

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Yes, Florida does have cacti.

This lovely flowering bush was pretty.

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Colorful finale.

At this point, the few intermittent sprinkles gave way to more steady rain and some thunder, so I made my way out of the park to head home.

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:


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.


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.