Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sanibel Island Birds - Pt. 3

We decided to go to Doc Ford's on Sanibel for our farewell dinner on Tuesday night and of course left a little early in case we could spot some more of the migrating birds and we weren't disappointed! 

This an Eastern Kingbird which is a pretty good sized bird.

This is the same Kingbird when he decided to fly away.

There were numerous male and female Blue Grosbeaks on the beach again but they were very shy and would move ahead of you down the beach.  This is one of the males.

He did take off as I tried to get closer and away from the reeds which make it hard to focus!
This is one of the female Blue Grosbeaks.  She is really dull compared to her flamboyant partner.
Another of the young male Blue Grosbeaks.

There were still numerous Rose Breasted Grosbeaks -- here is the male with his bright red chest patch.  He is a striking black and white elsewhere.
Here is the female Rose Breasted Grosbeak who, unlike the female Blue Grosbeak, is quite attractive in her own right.

This is a Lincoln Sparrow that I spotted on the beach.    I got quite a few pictures of him before he flew off.  Haven't seen any other pictures of him from others there although quite a few people did see them.
As I was sitting there waiting for the birds to come to me, a gopher turtle meandered over and looked like he was coming right at me.  They burrow in the sand and he soon wandered over to the beach scrub and disappeared after eating every piece of green he could find.

I was definitely surprised to see this Pileated Woodpecker right by the wooden boardwalk.  He soon went back into his nest though in a tree hollow.  I had seen two Red Bellied Woodpeckers just earlier but the pictures are just too fuzzy.

 There were still lots of the beautiful Scarlet Tanagers around.
 And of course there were more of the Summer Tanagers. 

Another Summer Tanager.

This is an Eastern Phoebe but I don't know whether they were part of the migration or just a local bird.
And last but not least, here is a Grey Catbird. I had a hard time identifying this one but Gail figured it out.  He has a little red patch under his tail which is difficult to see in the picture.
As we were leaving our parking spot, Bill pointed over to an adjacent field which was seemingly covered with emerald pieces of paper.  They were the Indigo Buntings -- lots of them, male and female.  You had to look at the pictures to see the females as they so effectively blended in with their surroundings.
This is several of the male and female buntings taking off.  The females are remarkably nondescript unlike their stunning partners!

This was an appropriate end to our birding adventures on Sanibel  and Southwest Florida in the spring and it certainly was exciting for me to see all these wonderful and very colorful birds.  

It was challenging to get good enough photos so that we could go back in the evenings and try to identify everything.  Gail was able to add a Black Billed Cuckoo and Scissortailed Flycatcher to her count as well.  I missed both of those.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Harns Marsh and Snail Kites

Well, this one isn't hard to identify!  I can't remember a year when I haven't spotted a Bald Eagle down in S. Florida and this year was no exception.  I missed him the first time around as I was taking the picture below.  Thanks to my lesson from Lillian Stokes, I was able to get many decent pictures of the eagle even though he was a great distance from us.
The south end of the marsh was filled with an enormous number of Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, White Ibis and Glossy Ibis among the egrets and herons.  All of a sudden they all took to the sky.  Bill and Gail told me that the reason was that an eagle had visited (the one I missed).  So the next time the birds all took off, I looked for the eagle which resulted in the above picture. The sky was just a riot of pink, black and white.
These pictures were all taken in this southern end of the marsh.  The upper left shows a group of snowy egrets -- more than I have seen elsewhere together.  On the lower right is first a  Great Egret taking off with a Snowy Egret next to it and then a Glossy Ibis and a White Ibis.

The bottom left is a snowy egret taking off in the early  morning sun and the upper right is a group of wood storks with some Roseate Spoonbills in the background (of varying ages).

 I had particularly wanted to get some decent pictures of the Glossy Ibis we had seen quite a bit of with its summer plumage which is just spectacular.  My pictures from the winter show an very shiny blue black bird but this is how they look during the mating season -- this nice rich brown with the green highlights.
Again, the Glossy Ibis.

There were a lot of Tri-Color Herons at the Marsh.  They have a very blue bill this time of year.
This was a low flying Wood Stork.  They are are certainly a striking bird.

Gail and Bill insisted that I had seen a Limpkin before on other visits but I don't remember him if I did.   Well, I checked and I had seen one but only a bit of one and from a great distance.  So these are the first time I had seen the whole bird! They are very noisy birds and there were a lot of them this visit although at a bit of a distance.  There were more when we first arrived just as the sun was rising.  
Here is one of the Limpkins taking off.

I still haven't gotten a Black Necked Stilt picture that I am totally satisfied with but I do like his very pink legs here.  This is the first year I have seen this bird down here.
This is a Greater Yellowlegs although neither Gail nor I are ever quite sure we have guessed right about it being a Greater or Lesser.

Another shot of the eagle as he was gliding overhead scaring the other birds!
Last but certainly not least is the Snail Kite, a raptor  which has a very limited range in Florida and feeds on the Apple Snails which you see scattered all around with the Ram's Horn Snails.  I had seen them before but not in the number that we saw in this visit to another part of the marsh area.  They were all quite distant though!

Another Visit to Ding Darling on Sanibel

Before we left Sanibel Island on Monday, we decided to revisit Ding Darling to see if we could spot any of the migratory birds there. On Sunday, there had been quite a number. I have yet to identify the one small bird that I did see but we did spot at least one bird that had eluded me this visit (below).

To the left is a female Red Breasted Merganser.  I haven't really seen these birds out of the water before.

This was the male Red Breasted Merganser.
This is a Reddish Egret which is one of only two of the common wading birds that I hadn't seen (didn't see a Green Heron at all).  The light wasn't great at this time of day but his bill is a lot bluer this season of the year (above the yellow).
Here he is showing his fishing behavior.  He tricks the fish so he can catch them by causing large shadows with his wings.  He did this quite a bit while we watched.

We finally headed home to one of Bill's wonderful dinners and fell into bed, intent upon going to Harns Marsh early the next morning.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hunting for Bird Treasures on Sanibel Island - Pt. 2

A huge thrill for us on this day was running into Lillian and Donald Stokes who are the authors of our favorite birding book - Field Guide to Birds - Eastern Region. I never travel without it! Gail had just purchased their new Field Guide to North American Birds (which includes the west as well) and after seeing it, I ordered it as well. It is a bargain for all the information it carries as well as the stunning photography.  They used to have their own show on PBS and have authored about 30 books on nature.

 Lillian took the time to give us hints on how to use our cameras more effectively to take bird pictures with our telephoto lens. It certainly paid off over the next few days as I never would have gotten some of the pictures of birds in flight otherwise. It was obvious once she showed us but these were  not settings I had used before. She had us set our apertures to the narrowest (5.6 or 6.3) and told us to keep the camera on the aperture setting. This way in the bright light, we were taking very fast pictures and could capture a lot of detail. She also told us to turn off image stabilization when we were at these high speeds (I had known that one as using image stabilization will actually cause fuzziness when your pictures are crisp).  She encouraged us to practice changing the settings on our cameras so that we could do it without thinking when we had the opportunity for a good shot.  We also reset our camera to shoot multiple times rapidly and that paid off as well. They couldn't have been nicer and we trekked around after them as they are certainly the experts on finding and photographing birds!!  I told Gail that I think my good kharma (meeting famous people) is still going strong!

This butterfly was very skittish but we saw a lot of them during the day.  It is called a Great Southern White.

We had gotten to Sanibel before sunrise and this was the view from the beach over to Ft. Myers Beach.

This is a closeup of the Yellow Billed Cuckoo. They are rarely seen as they generally hide. This one stayed still for a long time.

This is just another view of the Yellow Billed Cuckoo.

This isn't a very good picture but shows a Magnolia Warbler.  My sister got a really got shot of him.  He has a yellow belly with lots of speckles on it and a white spot under his tail.
This is the Sanibel Lighthouse, the area where we saw all the birds -- not a particularly striking example of lighthouses.

This is another of the wildflowers that were common in the area which I have yet to identify!

I couldn't resist seeing what was on the beach as I knew it had to be covered with shells which it was.  These two Ruddy Turnstones were looking for food.  They certainly are very different in their summer plumages!  Their legs don't appear to be as orange as in winter as well.

You can see the wonderful browns on his back here -- a really pretty bird I thought.

I also had to take a picture of this beautiful Osprey who sat overlooking all the commotion for a long time that day.  They are fish eaters so the little birds had nothing to fear from him.  

Bird watchers are certainly as friendly as quilters although a bit more competitive!!  Everyone helped in the identification and spotting of birds.  I developed a bad case of lens and camera envy though as some wer super well equipped!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hunting for Birding Treasures on Sanibel Island - Pt 1

Usually a big part of being in the Ft. Myers Beach/Sanibel area is collecting shells on the beach and Monday certainly was the day for that but....

The winds that brought in all the shells on the beach also hijacked some migrating birds and blew them onto Florida's west coast for a "Fallout" where the birds literally fall into the trees in a feeding frenzy after their exhausting flight over the Gulf, blown first north and then east by a rather strong storm that had moved through the area.

It was an opportunity of a lifetime for myself and my sister and her husband.  We had planned on going to Harn's Marsh early Monday morning but Gail checked out the blog of famous birding guide  author, Lillian Stokes and found that this Fallout had occurred the previous day (Sunday) on Sanibel and would be continuing today.  An "executive" decision was made to change plans and head for Sanibel.  The above bird is a Scarlet Tanager -- this one with a berry of some kind.  

Another Scarlet Tanager -- we saw many of these brightly colored birds.  The birds were particularly attracted to the Gumbo Limbo trees which were covered with fruit.  They were constantly coming back to these trees or on the ground beneath them. 

It should be noted that all of these pictures were taken around the Lighthouse which is the southern part of Sanibel and a relatively small area but with paths and a small boardwalk through the woods.  You didn't have to move much as the birds came to you.  They were still small, very active and usually pretty far away so forgive some fuzziness.  We like to take pictures so that we can identify the birds in the leisure of home.

This is a Blue Grosbeak male.  There were a lot of these and this one is sitting in the aforesaid Gumbo Limbo.  The adult males are all deep blue with brownish wings.

This is I believe the female Blue Grosbeak who is a fairly dull brown.

This is a young male Blue Grosbeak -- he isn't totally blue yet but is streaked with white and brown patches.

This is a male Indigo Bunting and their color is stunning -- every shade of blue from aqua to deep royal blue.  They are smaller than the Blue Grosbeaks but have the same kind of squatty bill.
Another Indigo Bunting.

Although I have seen Baltimore Orioles before, I thought these were particularly colorful!
The back view of the Oriole.

Another view of the Oriole.

This is a Summer Tanager which is just scarlet all over unlike his cousin the Scarlet Tanager who has black wings. We saw a lot of these.

To the left is a male Red Breasted Grosbeak and to the right a female Rose Breasted Grosbeak.  Unlike the Blue Grosbeaks, I think the female of this species is as pretty as the male although not as graphic for sure!  She has her berry in this shot!

This is another female Grosbeak .

This is a BlackThroated Green Warbler.  I certainly had never seen this one before.  He was a beautiful bird! 
Here he is taking off! 
Another Black Throated Green Warbler. 
This  is a Yellow Warbler, another new one for me.
Another view of the Yellow Warbler.  This was early in the morning with morning light so they appear a little more orange than in person.

The above two pictures are of the very elusive Yellow Billed Cuckoo.  This was a first for my sister and her "goal" bird for this trip.  We were lucky to get such nice pictures of him.  He sat and posed for some time.

I think this will be continued tomorrow!  We had quite an adventurous day and these were only from my first disk (which I FILLED).