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Red-Headed Woodpeckers at Bok Tower

Thanks to my friend Roberta, I found the Red-headed Woodpeckers at Bok Tower this past Sunday!  They have been somewhat of a local sensation, discovered by birders a few weeks back in the pine trees around the Pinewoods Estate.  I’d never really explored that part of the gardens, and I was excited to find that it was very birdy.  Warblers hopped around, Blue Jays circled their territory, and a small group of 5-7 Red-headed Woodpeckers gathered acorns for winter…

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

From what I’ve been told, Red-headed Woodpeckers used to be regular inhabitants of Central Florida.  Due to habitat loss of their pine forests, they are getting harder to find.  Herman tortured my dad for at least a year with reports of a Red-headed Woodpecker at the Circle B Bar Reserve, and my dad watched and watched for that bird, but never saw it.  So I took him up to Chinsegut to get his lifer Red-headed Woodpecker for Father’s Day.  Now my dad only has to drive a few minutes away, because the birds are at Bok Tower!  There were several adults with bright red heads, and also at least two juvenile birds with dark gray heads.

Leaves Still Attached!

Leaves Still Attached!

The birds were incredibly active storing acorns in the nooks and crannies of dead trees.  We stood watching as they would fly across the road to a huge oak tree, grab an acorn, and then fly to the dead tree to stash the acorn.  They did this repeatedly for several hours.  I had to chuckle when one bird brought back an acorn with leaves still attached.  The leaves stuck out of the hole as a reminder to the bird where his hidden treasure was buried. :)

Big Mouth Blue Jay

Big Mouth Blue Jay

The woodpeckers weren’t the only birds that I enjoyed watching.  Blue Jays were all over the place.  This one landed on a stump right in front of me to show off his mouthful.  Apparently the really good acorn-gatherers fly with two acorns in their beaks!

Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird

The other bird of note at Bok Tower right now is a Rufous Hummingbird.  Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are regulars at Bok Tower during the winter, but the Rufous is a little rare.  If you look at the range maps for the Rufous Hummingbird at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the typical range is the west coast of the United States.  But the birds are beginning to have more of a presence on the East Coast as well, and they show up in pockets all over the country.  I would guess that this is the same Rufous Hummingbird that I saw last year and the year before.  She certainly defends the same territory with the same energetic little bursts of flight!

Hooray! Pansy Time for Cats Again!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again!  After six months of pansy deprivation, our feline friends finally got their teeth sunk into a fresh batch of pansies this weekend.  The guy at Lowes Pansies-R-Us thought Rich and I were nuts when I walked into the garden center, saw the pansies, and squealed “they have them!”  (We didn’t even tell him that the pansies were feline consumption!)

We waited until the boys were happily occupied on the porch, then I got the iPhone video ready while Rich bought out the first plant.  We carefully choose pansies with lots of “leafy greens” because Squirt devours them!  Whiskey is more refined and delicately eats the flowers.  (Goldy likes pansies but prefers to partake of hers in private, thank you very much.)

Squirt Begins to Devour

Squirt Begins to Devour

Whiskey Eats a Flower From Rich

Whiskey Eats a Flower From Rich

While the boys enjoyed the first batch, I quietly took a second plant outside and photographed it.  I love the face of the pansy.  Usually I do macro close-ups, but this time I tried some zoom blurs with my telephoto zoom lens.  The weather wasn’t cooperating with me, though.  I was trying to zoom out with my lens centered on the yellow center, such that the zoom lines would radiate like the black lines coming from the middle of the flower.  But it was windy, and I couldn’t keep the flower still!  Oh well, maybe next time.  Here’s a consolation prize shot…

Pansy Close-Up

Pansy Close-Up

Whiskey eventually realized that I was withholding pansies, and he had something to say about it!  It’s going to be  a fun winter while the supplies last… :)

Stick Your Tongue Out!

Stick Your Tongue Out!

Banded Piping Plover Information

Back in September, I photographed some banded Piping Plovers at Fort De Soto.  They entertained me for a long time scurrying around the mud flats at the North Beach.   It was the first time I’d seen Piping Plovers here in Florida.  Two of them were banded, so I submitted banding reports to the USGS Bird Banding Lab.  This morning I received a response from the bander, telling me that both these birds were born in the Dakotas.  Here’s a reminder of what the birds looked like…

Banded Piping Plover B02

Banded Piping Plover B02 – Yellow Over White, Blue over Orange.  Click on photo to see larger.

Banded Piping Plover T30

Banded Piping Plover T30 – Green over Blue, Yellow over Green.  Click on photo to see larger.

Here’s what the bander had to say:

Hi Jess – thanks so much for reporting these re-sightings, and for the excellent photos! These birds were banded by USGS working with plovers in the Great Plains.
B02 – this is a fairly old bird! It was banded as a 2-day-old chick on 14 July 2007 on Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. It has been observed in Fort DeSoto every winter since 2010. It’s lower left is actually yellow over pink (we plan to replace faded bands in 2015). Metal band# 199192017.
T30 – banded as an adult on 28 May 2014 on Lake Oahe near Pollock, South Dakota. Observed several times in Fort DeSoto since July 2014 – he was the very first USGS-banded bird to be reported from the wintering grounds this season. Metal band# 256152529 (not submitted yet).

It gives you new respect for six-inch long birds when you see the long distances that they travel each year.  They travel to the northern Great Plains to lay their eggs and raise their young.  Then they fly to Florida for the winter.  Audubon did a neat write-up on their incredible journey.  Check it out!

 

Piping Plover Range, courtesy of http://ternandplover.unl.edu

Piping Plover Range, courtesy of http://ternandplover.unl.edu