Category Archives: Wildlife

My Christmas Gift from Nature: A Still Blue Jay

This little blue jay sat squawking on our fence long enough for John to go grab the camera and for me to change the lens.  It hangs around quite a bit.  The neighbor’s have a huge live oak that shades their entire back yard and a small part of ours.  Live oaks are a favorite of blue jays.  But up until today, I had been seeing it, hearing it, and snapping photos through the window.  Finally, I got my shot.

Celery Fields at Sunset

Celery Fields has to be one of my new favorite spots.  I’ve visited in both the morning and afternoon, so it was time to check out the sunset.  No disappointments here, although the water was shockingly low since my last visit a month ago.

Still, there’s enough for the birds.

Above is a Limpkin wading; its nickname is the crying bird.  Being a novice birder, that’s the only way I’m absolutely positive this was a Limpkin.  It wouldn’t stop squawking, and the squawks were loud.

Below is a flock of Sandhill Cranes, which a park regular directed us too.  We had been to that spot earlier and didn’t see any, but he said to go back because they fly in about the same time each night.   It was right around sunset at 5:30; they were wading in the first pond along the trail off Palmer Avenue.

If you don’t see any birds in the water, just look up to the sky and the area’s ample power lines.  I think the first photo is a flock of glossy ibis…if anyone can tell me otherwise, please do.

And one more shot of sunset…

Bringing the outdoors in

When we first moved into this house, I was so excited about the Florida room.  Because it’s so Florida, of course, just a room full of windows to capture our state’s most acclaimed asset: the sunshine.  I thought how great it would be to have plants growing on both sides of the windows—vines outside and potted plants inside.  Just last week, I was thrilled when having left the door open, a gulf fritillary butterfly flew in and circled the sunny room for a good 15 minutes.

I was less thrilled with today’s visitor…

It took me 45 minutes with a push broom as my weapon and knee-high galoshes as my armor to get the damn thing out of the house.

Dream shattered…I no longer want to bring the outdoors in.  Outside, please!

Seeing Pink at Celery Fields

From a pink pumpkin for Halloween to a flock of pink birds at Celery Fields,  the color that symbolizes happiness and is sometimes used to soothe prisoners has been a welcome theme this week.  This gorgeous pink bird was flying over our heads as we got out of the car at Celery Fields Friday morning.  The inexperienced birders my friend and I are, we looked at each other slightly confused and said, “Flamingo?”

The experienced birders are shuddering right now because it is not a flamingo; it’s a Roseate spoonbill.  I’ve seen them once before at Emerson Point Preserve, but it was one time and I couldn’t get nearly so close.  Celery Fields, which actually did produce celery from 1926 through 1995, is a bird’s haven and thus a birder’s mecca. Sarasota County is partnering with the Audubon Society to build a nature center to attract birdwatching tourists, and I was lucky enough to get the assignment.  Otherwise, I would have never known what a birding hot spot it is.

But I’m a part-time birder at best; true birders, they know about Celery Fields.  The first person we came across on the trail was quite a distance from us when he first appeared.  He was toting a bulky backpack of some sort, and we thought maybe he was homeless just leaving the woods.  It was early enough that the timing would have been right, but as he got closer, I could make out galoshes, a fold-up chair and a huge camera.  He immediately pointed us in the direction of spoonbills, storks, egrets and herons.

The tall bird that looks like a vulture from the neck up is a wood stork.  It’s an endangered species in the United States only found in the southeast—Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina.

A Roseate Spoonbill surrounded by Great White Egrets…

And a male Redwinged Blackbird perched on the fence as we walked back to the car.

Great morning!  I’ll be headed back again, next time with my galoshes.

Sandy Feet

In my world, sandy feet are the sign of a very nice day at work.  My morning was spent birdwatching on Siesta Key Beach for an article I’m writing about wintering birds.

Great Blue Heron and harem

One of about 800 Reddish Egrets in Florida

Ruddy Turnstone

Red Knots that migrated from the Arctic

Pelicans hunting

The Bees are Back in Town

The sun finally decided to shine again, and it wasn’t just Luke scratching at the door to get outside.  Debby has been a downer for days, so it felt good to take a nice, long walk today. Phillippi Estate Park was the easy choice because today was the last farmer’s market of the season…except last week was.  Debby Downer strikes again.My disappointment was quickly assuaged at the next sign.The bees are back!  When the hive disappeared last year, I thought it might have been removed, but apparently not because the bees are back buzzing and swarming the same tree along the hammock trail.  The hive is high enough to provide swatting- and fear-free viewing.  Walk quietly and listen for the buzzing, but you can’t miss the tree.  It’s marked with yellow caution tape.

Funny Birds

John and I took Luke for a walk on Siesta Key this morning.  Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach anymore, but there are places to walk by the beach where they used to be welcome.  While walking, we caught a Snowy Egret sneaking up to a bait bucket.I missed the picture of the egret beak and body-deep in the bucket because the fisherman interrupted.    He’s not casting his net; he’s chasing after the bird, fists flying.  There was not one bit of that Southern boy shouting, “I’m gonna bring mah gun out next time,” that found humor in that situation.  Still, John and I thought it was hilarious and John even more so when I started taking the kid’s picture as he was storming down the beach…anything for the blog.

The birding continued at the Sun Coast Exotic Bird Fair, an unexpectedly great assignment from the newspaper.  I truly haven’t been so excited about birds since I was a kid and learned to feed our pet macaw a peanut from my mouth.  Although the macaw was exotic and colorful, our canary was yellow and the cockatiel white.

But today’s birds are like comparing the toys you grew up with to the toys your kids play with–from Atari to Xbox but with birds.  There are a dozen different colors of parakeets–pink, purple, turquoise–name a color and there’s a feather to match.

The birds were from all over the world–Australia, Africa and South America–all colorful and gorgeous, but the funny birds were the babies.  One vendor brought newly hatched macaws.  There were four or five that had all been hatched within the past few months, one only nine days ago.  They kept squawking and spreading their wings.  The nine-day old in particular was feisty.  It’s little head kept bobbing up at me, squawking at every other bob.  It was so cute and funny, and with barely any feathers, it gave off such bravado that it seemed like it would fly any second.  At one point, I actually confirmed with the vendor that it wouldn’t.  You have to visit the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for a picture of that little bugger; mine were blurred from the bobbing head.

Please, rain go away! I’m begging.

It’s been raining for days, and normally around now I’d only be stir-crazy and sun-deprived.  Instead I’m grossed out.  It’s so wet outside that even the frogs are looking for respite.  Caught on my camera phone, from my bedroom…eeeeeeeewww!

The Birds of Celery Fields

I’m working on a newspaper article about the Sarasota Audubon Society building a nature center out at Celery Fields.  During our interview, the president of Sarasota Audubon kindly offered me some photos.  Knowing the paper already has images of the trails and boardwalk on file, I asked for some wildlife pictures instead – birds in particular because they are the main attraction.

The pictures were so incredibly amazing that I then had to ask photographer Rick Greenspun to allow me to post them here too, and he was nice enough to oblige.  As a member of the Sarasota Audubon Society, Greenspun generously volunteers his time and photos to the organization.  Please, go see more of his work at www.SarasotaBirdingGuide.com.  It’s a wonderful site and my new local reference for birding – bookmarked!

Limpkin feeding young
Roseate Spoonbill
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Snowy Egret
Sandhill Crane landing

May 29, 2012 Update: The finished Sarasota Herald-Tribune article

Birding by Bike

A list is starting to compile, but one of the everyday things I notice more by bike than by car are the birds.  Even with a car I’ve had to halt for ibis on my street because there’s often a flock crossing from one yard to another.  But by bike, they’re everywhere – black birds and mockingbirds anyway.  Woodpeckers too, but hearing them is more common than seeing them.  Cardinals frequent the trees that line Shade Avenue by Sarasota high school.  And every once in a while, an egret or heron wanders a little too far from shore.  This week, I pinpointed the lucky yard the blue jays call home…well, maybe not so lucky.  Blue jays are notoriously aggressive.  Lucky for me, they were feeling nice enough this week to allow for a few pictures.