Birder's Eye View

Saturday, August 30, 2008


"Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn't people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?" -Rose F. Kennedy

I was looking back over some of the photos from the nesting seabird fieldtrip my class took the other day, and I realized I had misidentified one of the species!

Never having seen a Dowitcher before, I didn't even recognize them in my photos. However, when some of my classmates IDed the birds as Short-billed Dowitchers, I was ecstatic when I looked back through my own photos and found I have pictures of the bird as well. In the above photo, I have drawn arrows pointing out the Dowitchers amongst the Willets and Godwits.

I am really happy -- that's year bird #96!

Happy birding!

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nesting Seabirds!

Yesterday my class went on a field trip with two professors who are working on a project to protect the local nesting seabirds on the beach. Needless to say, I was ecstatic.

After a short hike across the sugar sand, we came across flocks of hundreds of birds. Black Skimmers, Wilson's Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, Marbled Godwits and Least Terns swarmed the beach. I had never seen so many birds of different species grouped together such as they were.

The professors led us out to a tidal pool of knee-deep water so we could get closer to the colonies. The whole time, I was simply amazed at what I was seeing. Four of the species I saw in the first few minutes were life birds!
How many different species can you see in the above picture?

Above is a black-bellied plover sitting near a tidal pool with several different species of birds in the background.
I had never seen a godwit before yesterday (even though they're supposed to be fairly common around here) so I was really excited to see groups of them clustered around on the beach.

Tons of birds! According to the professors, there are only 5 species that nest on the beaches in our county, a couple of which are endangered or threatened.

I have seen pictures of Black Skimmers lying on the ground before, but it was still startling to come upon a colony of them laying there looking dead! I learned that there are approximately 2,000 breeding pairs of Black Skimmers in FL.

I just thought this was a cool picture, with the lighthouse in the background... :-)

Other things I learned:
  • There are 216 pairs of Snowy Plover in FL
  • 400 pairs of oystercatchers
  • 12,000 pairs of Least Terns in the country
  • And 500 pairs of Wilson's Plover in Florida

(I believe I have got all this data right; if you see any inaccuracies, please let me know. My notes are not always very legible...)

My bird list for the day:

  1. Black Skimmer
  2. American Oystercatcher
  3. Wilson's Plover
  4. Red Knot
  5. Ruddy Turnstone
  6. Willet
  7. Marbled Godwit
  8. Laughing Gull
  9. Least Tern
  10. Royal Tern
  11. Osprey
  12. Black-bellied Plover
  13. Monk Parakeet
  14. Mockingbird
  15. Mourning Dove

It was an amazing trip. I am definitely going to try and get involved in some sort of bird project while I'm here in college and I want to check out that beach again sometime to see what other species are out there.

Happy birding!

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Herons, Shrikes and Ducks

"Not all who wander are lost." - JRR Tolkien

After an entire day of researching and studying for my ecology class, I decided to take the evening to go birding around campus. And believe you me, nothing relaxes the mind like a good hour of birding.

It's almost meditational, zen-like for me. After growing up in a quiet lifestyle, college has been overwhelming. I am glad I have birding though; I was able to relax for a while and enjoy outdoors without worrying about my presentation next week or my 8-page paper I need to write.

My first find was a Great Blue Heron near the waterfront, resting on the "No Wake Zone" sign. I was able to get fairly close to it.

I am not sure, but I think these are Mottled Ducks. Can anyone confirm this? They don't seem to be Mallards, although I could be wrong; comparing the picture to my field guide, the best possible candidate seems to be the Mottled Duck. If this is true, it'll be a life bird for me!

I was surprised when I came around the corner of the pond and found a Loggerhead Shrike sitting on a snag. This is the first time I've ever had the opportunity to photograph a shrike, and I'm very happy with how well it came out.

I was able to get really close before the bird flew away. It was a great opportunity to see the bird up close and examine some of its markings.

I continued down the beach and came across a beautiful Little Blue Heron hunting in the shallows.

There were many herons and egrets in the area and I had a blast photographing them in the light of the setting sun. (I tried to upload them, but for some reason Blogger isn't working well at the moment)

I followed the various walkways through campus, checked out the lakes and ponds, mangroves, oak and palm hammocks. It was a wonderful evening and a great start to what will surely be a busy week.

Until next time,

Happy birding!

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Light birding

"Birds have wings; they're free; they can fly where they want when they want. They have the kind of mobility many people envy." - Roger Tory Peterson

In a flurry of field trips, homework, meetings, programs and activities, my first week of college is coming to a close. I don't think I'll ever get used to being constantly tired like I have been all week, but I know I can get used to living on the coast studying the ecosystems and wildlife around me. This part of college has certainly been a blast thus far.

Today, a friend (a marine bio student), my roommate and I took kayaks out to explore the small bay bordering the campus. Thunderstorms threatened erupt overhead, so we avoided going too far out into the open water. Instead, we explored the mangroves near the marina, and enjoyed a relaxing hour-long paddle.

I didn't expect to see many birds, so I was surprised to find the area was populated with a plethora of species, including gulls, terns, herons, egrets and tons of anhingas. I was also interested to see that the mangroves in the waterway are covered in guano -- a good sign that birds probably roost there at night.

I only wish I had more time to go birding. Looks like weekends are the only free time I have, and even that is limited somewhat.

Ah, well. I'll just have to keep my eyes and ears open, and go kayaking every chance I get!

Happy birding!


Sunday, August 10, 2008

The college try

I am sitting here writing this from my college dorm. I didn't know when I'd have time to blog, but, despite having homework the first day of class yesterday (yes, we had to go to class on Saturday), I was able to get everything done with time to spare.

The college campus is beautiful, and should be *amazing* during migration season. Already yesterday I saw a life bird as I was coming out of the opening ceremonies: A Black Skimmer!

I took my swimming test yesterday so I am cleared to take out kayaks whenever I want. So, if I ever get a few free hours, I am definitely going to go out and explore the bay and surrounding islands.

There are already a ton of birds out here, even in the height of summer. My roommate and I had dinner out by the water this evening, and watched terns, pelicans, gulls, herons, egrets, anhingas, and other common shorebirds.

College itself is going to take some getting used to. I'm not sure if I like it yet, but I'm giving it a try. If I can get through this, I know I can accomplish great things.

Happy birding!

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Leaving the nest

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

You may notice a slight change to my blog logo design at the top of the page. You guessed it: I am leaving the nest, so to speak; going off to college.

I have mentioned this briefly before, but now it's official. In a couple days, I'm moving to the coast to begin studying for my future carrier (hopefully) in the environmental field.

While this new endeavor provides me with exciting opportunities to go after my dreams, it also means that for the next few days (weeks, even?) I won't be able to update the blog. New classes, obligations, and other formalities are in order, so I am gearing up for a hectic few weeks ahead.

Nonetheless, my eyes and ears will remain open at all times, looking out for new birds to list and share with you.

I will update the blog as soon as I can, but until then:

Happy birding!

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