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Goldy’s Backyard Bird Count

Last weekend was the Audubon Great Backyard Bird Count, an annual event that encourages citizen scientists to get out into their backyards to count birds.  Longtime readers of my blog will know that our family’s first ornithologist is my cat Goldilocks, who will be 15 this year.  She’s still an avid watcher of all feathered friends that visit her window, and she encouraged me to spend a few hours in my backyard blind for the bird count.

Window Watcher: Our cat Goldilocks

Window Watcher: Our cat Goldilocks, our family’s first birdwatcher

The list we compiled wasn’t too bad for a suburban backyard.  Highlights included:

  • Northern Cardinals (breeding pair)
  • Brown Thrashers (breeding pair)
  • Common Ground Doves (breeding pair)
  • Tons of Mourning Doves (anxious suitors)
  • Painted Buntings (just friends*)

* Rich’s contribution to this blog post!

Of course we are thrilled each year to host Painted Buntings in our backyard, and I counted 8 for the bird count (4 males, 4 greenies).  I regularly report my Painted Buntings to the Painted Bunting Observation Team, as they track the movement of buntings between Florida (wintertime) and the Carolinas (summertime).  I hope that someday the banders can make it to my backyard. It would be wonderful to see how many of the birds return each year.

Painted Bunting (Male)

Painted Bunting (Male)

Painted Bunting (Greenie)

Painted Bunting (Greenie)

We are still seeing American Robins pass through the neighborhood, although their numbers are down from a few weeks ago.  Goldy and I heard the chatter of some robins and went to investigate.  We found them in the top of our oak tree.  So we revived an old tradition of using our guest bedroom as a photography blind – the window looks right out into the tree!

American Robin

American Robin

While I was sitting in my backyard blind, the birds were a little wary of my presence, but they didn’t seem to mind me too much.  This Common Ground Dove didn’t see me at all.  He flew right into the blind to perch on one of the walls.  I tried to not move, so as not to scare him.  When he did notice me, the incredulity was amusing.  It was like he was saying, “where did you come from?  This is my spot!”  He flew a little way off and let me take a picture.

Common Ground Dove

Common Ground Dove

With my Painted Buntings and American Goldfinches, you may find it amusing that one of my desired backyard shots is of one of the most common birds around, the Mourning Dove.  They’ve always made me laugh with the sound their wings make in flight.  It sounds like they are warning, “Look out below!”  (It’s rather wise advise as they are not the most coordinated birds.)  I don’t have a good image of a Mourning Dove in flight.  I’ll have to work on that. :). In the meantime, this bird was showing off his iridescent plumes on the bird feeder.  Pretty!

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Goldy and I totaled 17 species in the backyard, including a Bald Eagle fly-over.  Not bad!  You can check out our eBird list below.  Now, go outside and count some birds! ;-)

eBirdFind my birding list from today on eBird.

Little Birds at Oakland Nature Preserve

Recently on eBird a Golden-crowned Kinglet has been reported at Oakland Nature Preserve.  ONP is just a few minutes from my house, and it’s hitehere I learned the basics of digital bird photography.  I have many happy memories of sitting with Rich at the Painted Bunting feeders, waiting for a glimpse of a male.  So on Sunday I decided it was time to head back to ONP and hopefully score a lifer kinglet.

The Golden-crowned Kinglet is a rare bird in Florida.  It has been reported in the trees at the entrance of the boardwalk.  You hear it before you see it.  Turns out, there are lots of little birds flitting around.  Even though I know I saw it flit from tree to tree, and I heard it repeatedly, I never got my camera on it.  Oh well.  It counts as an ABA lifer but to me it doesn’t count unless I get a photo.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Oakland Nature Preserve

Ruby-crowned Kinglet – the more common kinglet found in Florida during the winter.  The top of his head is bright red, if you can get him to show it to you!

A mixed flock of passerines moved through as I was searching, and I got some nice photos – especially for a gray, nasty, rainy day! This Blue-headed Vireo was the first bird to show off for my camera…

Blue-headed Vireo at Oakland Nature Preserve

Blue-headed Vireo

Then I heard the happy song of a Brown Thrasher.  His song sounds like that of a mockingbird, but sweeter.  I looked around and there he was, perched out in the open.

Singing Brown Thrasher at Oakland Nature Preserve

Singing Brown Thrasher

A Black-and-white Warbler hopped onto the thrasher’s tree and started moving down.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen so many of these little birds!

Black-and-white Warbler at Oakland Nature Preserve

Black-and-white Warbler

I saw a Downy Woodpecker deep inside a tree, and didn’t try for a photo.  But when this Red-bellied Woodpecker hopped right out in front of me, I couldn’t resist.

Red-bellied Woodpecker at Oakland Nature Preserve

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Common birds often lead to better birds.  After I focused on the Red-bellied, I spotted a Pileated Woodpecker in the distance.  He flew in closer and posed.  Then I saw a second Pileated.  Nice!

Pileated Woodpecker at Oakland Nature Preserve

Pileated Woodpecker

They’ve done a lot of good improvements at Oakland Nature Preserve in the past few years. They’ve added a lot of native plants near the parking area, and they maintain a bunch of feeders. As I wandered looking for the flock of birds that the Golden-crowned Kinglet was hanging out with, I spotted this Chipping Sparrow. He wanted me to get out of the way so that he could enjoy his feeder!

Chipping Sparrow at Oakland Nature Preserve

Chipping Sparrow

I heard a Painted Bunting call note, and then spotted this greenie not too far away. It’s nice to see one in the wild, not on a feeder!

Painted Bunting "Greenie" at Oakland Nature Preserve

Painted Bunting “Greenie”

I turned around and noticed a Pine Warbler perched low on an open branch. Score! I fired off a few shots before he flew off.

Pine Warbler at Oakland Nature Preserve

Pine Warbler

The parking lot started to fill with cars, and suddenly there were more toddlers on the trail than birds. Time to call it a day! I will have to try again for the Golden-crowned Kinglet.

Why Do the Best Birds Like Ugly Fences? at Lust Road

I don’t understand it.  Why do the prettiest birds seem attracted to the ugliest fences?  We really need to send our winter visitors to photography school to teach them the value of a good natural-looking perch! :)

I met Michael on Saturday for a morning of birding on Lust Road.  He said I was supposed to share my recent good luck there.  As it turned out, he spotted most of our birds.  :)  It was a cloudy morning, and there wasn’t a huge amount of activity, but we did find a lot of the specialty birds at that area.

The Ash-throated Flycatcher continues at the Lust Road gate.  He’s a very mobile little bird, so if you don’t see him at first, keep looking.  He first showed up for us in the trees on the north side of the road, then we re-found him as he was flycatching near the palm tree on the south side.  Try not to notice the fencelines behind him! :-p

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher

The female Blue Grosbeak continues as well.  She made an appearance during one of the rare bursts of sunlight that we had on Saturday morning. I hope she finds a mate soon.  Her bright blue male counterpart is gorgeous.

Female Blue Grosbeak

Female Blue Grosbeak

Our American Robin friends appear to be leaving us.  Last week I had large flocks flying overhead all morning; this week I saw significantly fewer birds.  I love to listen to the happy little babbles of robins.  Safe travels on your journey north, little guys!

American Robins

American Robins

“Potato chip!”  I often hear American Goldfinches singing overhead while I am birding, but I don’t always see them land close enough to get a shot.  It’s fun to see them in their natural habitat, away from my feeder!  The goldfinches are starting to turn yellow in anticipation of springtime.

American Goldfinches

American Goldfinches

Michael was on the lookout for Grasshopper and Vesper sparrows, so we spent a while scanning the fence lines and fields.  It takes some patience.  As soon as I go hunting for sparrows, I find the ones that were right in front of me – as they fly away!  I snagged a quick shot of a Grasshopper Sparrow as he posed–you guessed it–on the fence.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

The trees were overrun with Yellow-rumped Warblers.  “Butterbutts”, Michael calls them.  As fast as they were hopping around, I decided they were good practice for long-lens photography.  Especially when they fly away…

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Painted Buntings are another good find at Lust Road.  I often hear them before I see them, now that I am used to hearing their call notes in my own backyard. :)  I often see greenies at Lust Road, but males are more scarce.  When we found one, I bet you can guess where it was…

Male Painted Bunting

Male Painted Bunting

You know, leading lines are supposed to draw your eyes into a photograph.  But the people who say that probably are not referring to the leading lines of a wire fence!

I took some digital liberties with this last image.  We spotted a female/juvenile “greenie” Painted Bunting across the canal, feeding in some lantana bushes.  (Yes, Dyeyo, Lantana bushes are good for birds, even if they are weeds!)  I was struck by how well the greenie blended into her habitat.  You could barely make her out, and that wasn’t just because of the terrible lighting conditions or my high ISO setting.  I cropped the image and took it into some photography filters (Topaz Glow, Nik Color Efex, and an added texture).  This last one earned me a “Wow” from Rich.  High praise indeed! :)

Greenie Painted Bunting on Lantana

Greenie Painted Bunting on Lantana.  View larger on 500px.