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Quiet Time with the Little Birds

This weekend I headed to a small park near our house for some quiet time.  The weather is finally starting to cool off, the sky was a bright blue, and the light was golden – the perfect conditions for a fun photo shoot!

Although Eastern Bluebirds are year-round residents in Central Florida, I don’t have that many images of bluebirds.  So when I heard the sweet, chortling call of the bluebird, the Beast and I set off to find it.  Turns out “it” was a pair of them.  They were on the hunt for their breakfasts.  Like a flycatcher, they would perch at the tops of the trees, then dart out and catch insects in mid-air.  They sang the whole time.

Eastern Bluebird (Female)

Eastern Bluebird (Male)

Eastern Bluebird (Female)

Eastern Bluebird (Female)

The Palm Warblers have been back for about a month now, and they were all over the place.  Also joining us now are Yellow-rumped Warblers.  When the trees are full of warblers hopping around, it’s harder to find the other little birds, like this Ruby-crowned Kinglet who popped out to say hello.  I asked him to show me his ruby crown.  He said he wasn’t feeling particularly agitated, so he didn’t show me his crown.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

I heard the Tufted Titmice before I saw them.  Then one of them hopped to a nearby branch, dug about for a few seconds in a dew-studded spiderweb, and then emerged triumphant with a small acorn.  He showed off his trophy for a couple of seconds to ensure that I got a good picture before he swallowed the acorn whole. :)

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

The Tufted Titmice weren’t the only cute little gray birds.  Blue-gray Gnatcatchers hopped around and posed periodically for the camera.  I never get tired of photographing these little acrobats.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

I turned around at one point and was surprised to see a male House Finch perched close to me.  I got a few quick shots before he flew off with two of his friends.  It’s fun to see them outside of my backyard.

House Finch (Male)

House Finch (Male)

Our last bird of the day was also the one who gave me the quickest look at him. I spotted this White-crowned Sparrow, fired off two frames, and then the bird disappeared and I never relocated him.  It’s fun to see the sparrows returning to Florida.  Maybe on my next visit I’ll see more varieties.

White-crowned Sparrow (Juvenile)

White-crowned Sparrow (Juvenile)

Only two weeks until Thanksgiving and a wonderful week of birding!

Fall Walk at Orlando Wetlands Park

My Beast and I ventured out of our backyard yesterday for the first time since Hurricane Irma.  We headed to Orlando Wetlands Park and greeted all the fall birds that have moved in for the winter.

The park didn’t look all that different post-Irma.  The first birds to greet us were, as usual, the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  They congregated on their trees and chortled out a sweet hello:

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

The whistlers are such clowns.  Four of them were lined up on a tree branch as the sun rose behind them.  They flapped and called and finally all pointed their heads towards the camera.

Black-bellied Whistling Clowns

Black-bellied Whistling Clowns

It’s easy to walk right past the little birds, who stay hidden in the reeds.  This Marsh Wren finally ventured out where I could see most of him…

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren

The Savannah Sparrows are back, and they will hop out in the open and pose for you.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

After photographing turtles all summer, I was a little out of practice on fast focusing and flight shots.  This Green Heron took pity on me.  He flew past me, gave me time to focus on him, then turned around and flew right back in front of me.  What a nice bird!

Green Heron in Flight

Green Heron in Flight

It’s impossible to go to Orlando Wetlands without photographing the fishing Snowy Egrets.  Yes, Michael, I had Elton John in my head as I recalled your “tiny dancer” image!

Snowy Egret Fishing

Snowy Egret Fishing

This Sora ventured briefly out of the reeds to let me photograph him.  It was a treat that didn’t last long.

Sora

Sora

The Belted Kingfishers are back in Florida.  Two of them entertained me yesterday chasing each other around the wetlands.  Then one caught a fish and took it to a branch to eat.  Mmm, breakfast!

Belted Kingfisher with Fish

Belted Kingfisher with Fish

Two Red-shouldered Hawks were having a heated discussion over which of them should sit on a particular perch.  They ended up chasing each other across the marsh (and neither of them got the perch).  Silly birds.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

On my walk back I spotted a juvenile male Common Yellowthroat in the reeds.  You can tell he’s a juvenile male because his face mask isn’t as black as an adult male.  A Zorro in training!

Common Yellowthroat (male)

Common Yellowthroat (male)

All morning I heard the calls of Gray Catbirds and Eastern Phoebes, but I was almost back to my car before I photographed my first one.  This Phoebe was having a great time catching bugs.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

My last bird of the morning was a White-eyed Vireo who called to me as I left.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

All in all, it was a wonderful walk on a cool morning, and it felt great to be back out!

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Welcome Fall Birds!

My favorite birding locations are slowly reopening after Hurricane Irma.  I’m really missing the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, which won’t open again for a while.  So when I have some free time, I sneak out into the backyard and say hello to the fall birds who are starting to return to Florida.

Gray Catbird at American Beautyberry

Gray Catbird at American Beautyberry

Mew! Mew! Squirt (our gray cat) is happy to welcome back his namesake bird, the Gray Catbird who fusses almost as much as Squirt does.  We’ve had at least two catbirds hanging out in the backyard this week. They compete with the mockingbirds for the berries on the American Beautyberry bush.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Our hurricane hummers have gradually left us, either resuming their migratory travels or perhaps they found alternate nectar sources.  I still occasionally see a single hummingbird at one of my firebushes. I hope he sticks around for the winter.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

The Palm Warblers show up every year around the first of October.  This year was no exception.  Goldy enjoys watching “Mr. Warbles” hopping around outside her window and stealing mealworms from the feeder.

House Finch

House Finch

The House Finches have been around all summer, and they continue to visit.  The juvenile House Finch with eye disease hasn’t been seen since Irma, but his parents still turn up periodically.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Our Brown Thrashers disappeared this summer, but they’ve started hanging out with us again.  They too are fond of my mealworm dish.  They also like to redecorate my flower beds, tossing mulch every which way.  I love to listen to their sweet songs.

American Redstart (male)

American Redstart (male)

We had a group of three American Redstarts show up late one evening.  They spent a lot of time hopping in the interior of my biggest firebush. One of the males came out for a quick photo op before diving back into the bush.

Common Yellowthroat (Female)

Common Yellowthroat (Female)

Common Yellowthroats have made several appearances, often in male/female pairs.  They too like to hide in the depths of the firebush.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

We have several pairs of cardinals who frequent the backyard.  They are fond of stealing honeysuckle blooms and extracting the nectar from within.

Painted Bunting Bathtime

Painted Bunting Bathtime

The birds that I’m most excited to welcome back are our Painted Buntings.  So far we have a single male that we see daily at the feeder.  He enjoys a good splash in the birdbath, too.  Maybe the cold front this week will bring some of his friends to join him.  :)