Sunday, January 29, 2017

Brevard County Birding

Saturday's field trip entitled itself "Brevard County Hotspots," and honestly, I never had a clue of where we were or how we got there. We were on the bus at 0-dark hundred, and stopped at a marsh often used by hunters and fishermen, from the piles of shot gun shells on the ground. I wondered how they ever found their way out after going into the marsh to hunt. The county itself is about 72 miles long from north to south. David LaPuma was one of our leaders again,  so I learned lots of good stuff, while shivering in the cold morning air.
As the sun rose, we watched the various species lift from their roosting spots in the marsh to head to the ocean for breakfast. Learning more of their profiles and flight patterns helped, since it was too dark for details in the beginning.
For example, there is a Little Blue Heron that is dark blue. But in its first year it is white. Look for a bi-color bill and greenish legs to distinguish it from the Snowy Egret (on the left in this photo).  Oh, so many white birds with so many sizes!
Yeah! The Common Yellow-throat - a bird I can identify without help! Dick and I think that no bird should have the word "Common" in its name. David was explaining the convoluted changes made to bird names by the AOU. They have to co-ordinate with the rest of the world, and will sometimes change a bird's name 3 or 4 times before ending up back at the name originally used. The Common Gallinule is a good example.
Marsh Wren
Several kinds of little brown jobs live in the marsh - but it's not easy to find them, since they like to hide in the brush. Our leaders were great at finding them in the scope (which always amazes me), then I would have to find them for my camera. This little Marsh Wren finally came out in the open!
Wilson's Snipe
We saw a dead Snipe the day before - hit by a car - but today we found one walking around on a mud flat, with the sun shining brightly on him. This is a life bird for us! Their long bills are flexible at the end, so they can open the tip without opening up to the top.
We've had excellent views of raptors this week. Many of them were in pairs, often displaying courtship behavior. I was a little surprised to find them about in the very early dawn.
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks
One of our target birds were Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, which we found at a small pond in the middle of a subdivision. They have black bellies (of course), and bright orange bills and legs, with a brown mohawk of feathers down the back of their heads. And yes, they do whistle rather than quacking.
Florida Scrub Jay
After a delicious, but extended lunch at a local restaurant, we sped over to Merritt Island for a few more birds. The target was the endemic and endangered Florida Scrub Jay, which needs precise habitat conditions. We walked back into the scrub for a ways, and the leaders called and pished like crazy before ONE bird finally came up to see what all the ruckus was about.
Dick and I drove back to Merritt Island to get a view of the Great Horned Owl who had taken over an Osprey nest on an old power line. You can see the insulators (I think that's what they are) under the sticks. She sat snoozing in the afternoon sun. I think it may get pretty hot there for her chicks in a few months.
Painted Bunting
We had gone to the Merritt Island visitors center once this week, looking for the Painted Buntings who live there, with no success.  On another trip, we found some in the brush, and it took six different photos of different parts of the bird to see what he looked like all together. But third time charm, apparently, since the male and female buntings came out for a quick snack at the feeders, before being chased away by raucous Red-wings Blackbirds. The quest for the Painted Bunting photo has ended successfully!
The forecast for Sunday was for rain all morning, so we stopped at Walmart for some rain gear on the way home. Out in the parking lot, I kept hearing an Osprey call and found her trying to build a nest on top of the light post, while her mate perched on the next pole. He didn't seem interested in gather sticks as she told him. Ospreys are very flexible in their nesting sites!

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