Birder's Eye View

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winter term birds

Despite my life becoming totally consumed by ichthyology this month, I've actually been able to add a bunch more birds to my year list and even get in some local birding now and again. I have a lot to catch up on though, so bear with me.

About a week and a half ago I saw an email from a professor about a pied-billed grebe in one of our campus ponds that was tangled in soda can plastic, and they were looking for students to help corral and capture it. The plan was to get about 10 students or so in the pond to "herd" the pair of grebes into a large seine net, where one person (a student who also works as a wildlife rehabilitater) would detangle it or take it to the local seabird sanctuary if it was injured.

Unfortunately, only about 7 students showed up -- not nearly enough to keep the wily little grebes from slipping past us. We came close at one point. The grebe actually swam into our net while we were all on the other side of the pond, but by the time we got enough people over, it had somehow disappeared. We waded around, shivering in the pond for about an hour (it was around 45 degrees out), and finally had to give up. Hopefully we'll try again in a couple weeks if the grebes are still around.

Other than the attempted grebe rescue, I managed to get my birding fix over the last few weeks with the plethora of migratory and resident species present on campus this time of year. There are tons of palm warblers, tricolored herons, lesser scaups, blue-winged teals, and mottled ducks around the ponds. The usual for this time of year, but fun to see nonetheless.

Last week my class took a trip to the University of Florida's fisheries department up in Gainesville. The fish were cool, but I was really surprised by all the birds in the area! While we were seining, a pair of great egrets put on a spectacular courting display. I took a ton of pictures, but unfortunately they didn't come out too clearly because of the distance and low afternoon lighting.

By far my favorite birds of the day were the bald eagles hanging around the lake. There were one or two adults and at least one juvenile that I spotted multiple times swooping low over the water, hunting. It was spectacular! I've never seen a bald eagle hunting before, but it was quite a sight to behold. Around sunset a juvenile landed in a tree right over where we were working on the bank of the lake, making for a great photo op.

Now winter term is over and I'm about to return to the usual grind of a full class schedule. Yippee! So who knows when I'll be able to post again, but until next time...

Happy birding! :-)

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