The clouds cleared and gave us a great view of the SpaceX launch this afternoon. It’s so great to see Americans flying from the Space Coast once more!
Hi, my name is Whiskey, and I’m now the resident feline ornithologist at Jess’s house. In honor of my ninth birthday today, Jess is letting me write a guest post. Today is also Mother’s Day, so we hope all our favorite mothers had a purr-fect day!
It’s been a weird spring. Jess and Rich have stayed home with Squirt and me a lot because of a thing they keep calling coronavirus. I don’t understand what that means but I do like having them around. They spoil me rotten! Because of this corona thing, Jess hasn’t been out taking pictures, so she let me re-use some of my favorites for this post.
My window has been very active this spring. Our Painted Buntings left as usual around Earth Day. The males leave a week or two before the females. Our feeder is a very colorful flurry of activity during those last couple of weeks as the birds eat up and prepare to migrate.
We only had a handful of Goldy’s finches this spring. I missed seeing their bright yellow feathers and hearing their happy “potato chip!” calls.
We miss our wintering birds when they leave, but my window stays active as the resident birds start to nest. Mr. and Mrs. “Beaky” Cardinal live in the bushes outside. They won’t tell Jess where the nest is – she wants to see the tiny babies as soon as they hatch! They fly into my window regularly to attack their reflections and guard their territory. Silly birds. They are currently feeding their first clutch of youngsters and boy, are those baby birds annoying! Their constant calls can seriously interrupt a good cat nap.
The cardinals aren’t the only ones nesting in my yard. We have baby Brown Thrashers darting around, too. The babies have blue eyes and the parents have yellow eyes. I like to watch them when they come close to my window and toss all the mulch onto the grass. Jess doesn’t find this as amusing as I do!
The Blue Jays have started to come to the backyard feeders for peanuts. That must mean they have babies nearby. They only come to our feeders during nesting season.
Blue Jays aren’t the only blue birds that come visit me. A few nights ago, we were all eating dinner out on the porch. Suddenly two birds flew in and landed on the bird bath, right on the other side of the screen from Squirt. Squirt warbled a welcome as Jess and Rich whispered excitedly, “Those are bluebirds! A dad and a baby!”
Jess said she missed going to a place called Fort de Soto for spring migration. I thought we had a pretty good migration from my back window. We had a bright yellow male Prairie Warbler who sang a sweet song for us. I thought I might have glimpsed a Cape May warbler, too. Plus we had both male and female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nectaring on all our flowers.
If you listen carefully (which I always do, just not always to Jess!) – you can hear the sounds of lots of other summer visitors. Our Purple Martins are back flying over my head during the day. As the sun goes down, I hear the Chimney Swifts catching insects in mid-air. Occasionally I hear the chirp of a Great-Crested Flycatcher.
Today I even saw a Swallow-tailed Kite swooping overhead! It was very exciting.
As much as I like the birds, I think my favorite part of this spring has been my butterfly garden just outside the window. I get to watch the monarch butterflies flutter around, then the “cat”-erpillars growing big on the milkweed bushes. One of them even made a chrysalis right in the top of my window! What a great spring. Who needs to leave home to enjoy the world of nature?
It’s been a while since I visited a new birding location. So I drove up to Gainesville to visit Sweetwater Wetlands Park. My target birds were the uncommon Le Conte’s Sparrows and Yellow-breasted Chat that have been spotted at the park. Sweetwater reminded me of Circle B or Orlando Wetlands, and I enjoyed a nice long walk as I meandered around the park.
My first bird of the morning was this Great Blue Heron in breeding plumage, stalking his breakfast in the morning light. Surrounding him were coots…and more coots…and more coots.
Sparrows are most active in the early morning, so I headed immediately for the Le Conte’s location. A couple of other birds were also watching for these rare birds. We found lots of Savannah Sparrows, but no Le Conte’s. The wind picked up after a while, so I moved on to enjoy the rest of the park.
This Limpkin was showing off his long beak. Usually Limpkins eat apple snails, but this one grabbed what looked like a clam. He pranced around with it for several minutes before setting it down in the shallow water and attacking it with that long beak.
I headed back to the entrance of the park, where the Yellow-breasted Chat has been spotted. A few years ago, a chat frequented the Lust Road entrance and Crazy U at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, but I never got to see him. So I was a little surprised at how easy it was to find the one at Sweetwater. I stood in the general area, watching the Carolina Chickadees, and then spotted a bright flash of yellow. He was a big warbler. He moved very quickly, hopping from bush to bush, defying my focusing skills as I followed him from bush to tree. But I managed a few shots – what a pretty bird!
Then I headed to the pool where a volunteer told me the Buffleheads have been hanging out. While I’ve seen Buffleheads before, these were closer and more cooperative than the others I’ve photographed. Especially the males. Their feathers sparkle in the sun and shine with a beautiful iridescent sheen. What a great way to end the morning!