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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.

A Scouting Trip to PEAR Park

My goldfinches had a problem last weekend.  We were out of niger seed.  And out of millet for my buntings!  Time for a trip to Wild Birds Unlimited, and on my way, I stopped at PEAR Park in Leesburg to check it out.  I’d read that it was good for sparrows.  It was a foggy morning, and I didn’t stay for long, but I will definitely be going back.

Have you ever seen a fog bow?  It’s like a rainbow, but in the fog.  A fog bow greeted me as I drove into PEAR Park.  I took it as a good sign for the birding opportunities to be found there!

Fogbow at PEAR Park

Fogbow at PEAR Park

PEAR Park is pure Florida.  Scrub habitat.  Think bluebirds, kestrels, and sparrows.  I had a great time meandering around.  Best of all, there were so few people there!

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

My second Grasshopper Sparrow this month!  Actually, I saw at least three Grasshopper Sparrows.  Not bad, huh?  There were plenty of Savannah Sparrows also.  I know there are Vesper Sparrows there also, but none wanted to pose.

This Swamp Sparrow obliged me by posing in full view, in good light.  I learned the right way to walk the paths during my scouting trip.  It doesn’t pay to walk against the light.  By the time you get on the right light angle, you’ve startled the birds, and they’ve hidden.  :(

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

There were all the normal winter birds at PEAR Park.  Plenty of Eastern Phoebes…

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

…and I found a couple of singing White-eyed Vireos, too.  You know it’s starting to be spring as you hear the birds starting to sing.  Apparently the birds didn’t get the Groundhog Day memo from Punxsutawney Phil.  It’s an early spring in Florida!

Caw, caw went the crows.

American Crow

American Crow

But the best bird of the morning was also the most cooperative.  This American Kestrel flew in to a nearby tree and let me photograph him.  Repeatedly.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

The park caretakers told me that they often see bluebirds on the trails.  As if I needed more enticement to go back! :)