Nesting Green Sea Turtle before Isaias

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It felt amazing to sneak away to the beach this morning for a sunrise walk with the nesting sea turtles. The clouds on the horizon hinted of Hurricane Isaias lurking by the Bahamas, ready to visit Florida this weekend. But for a few quiet moments, we forgot about coronavirus and political craziness and hurricanes and said hello to an ancient species who was oblivious to all the human disruptions of 2020.

Green Turtle at Sunrise
Green Turtle at Sunrise

According to the UCF Turtle Research Group, it’s been a good year for nesting Loggerheads, who are reaching the end of their nesting season. This year is a low year for the Green turtles, who typically have high nest counts every other year. So we weren’t really expecting to see a mother turtle this morning, but we did. :)

Sunrise Flyover
Sunrise Flyover

I kept an eye out for vagrant birds blown north by the hurricane. It was probably a day too early for that. We did see this flock of White Ibises fly overhead.

Sunrise before Isaias
Sunrise before Isaias

We had a good walk on the beach before the sun finally made its appearance. It slipped out from under the horizon and bathed the beach in beautiful morning light. The waves tickled my toes and the Sanderlings darted at the shoreline, searching for tiny bugs for breakfast.

Beach Erosion
Beach Erosion

Even before Hurricane Isaias, the beach shows signs of being shaped by nature. The winds erode the sand, creating small “cliffs” between the waves and the dunes. We saw many false crawls from turtles who crawled up the beach only to hit the wall and turn around. Turtle eggs were exposed by the sand erosion. As we chucked at the thought of baby turtles throwing themselves down the “sand slide,” we realized that the weekend will be a tough one as the hurricane makes its way up Florida’s East Coast.

R+J
R+J

Rich left our initials in the sand before we headed back to reality, our own small tracks mixed with the tracks of the turtles. A fun end to a beautiful morning.

Backyard Birding Corona-Style: Special Guest Post by Whiskey

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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!

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That’s me, Whiskey, in my favorite bird-watching window. Jess says to remind everybody that I’m an indoor-only cat who looks (and squeaks) but doesn’t touch our feathered friends!

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.

Painted Buntings at Bird Feeder
Painted Buntings at Bird Feeder

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.

Northern Cardinal feeding Baby at Nest
Northern Cardinal feeding Baby at Nest – from last year when the birds nested right outside one of my other windows

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!

Brown Thrasher
A Brown Thrasher feeds his youngster in my backyard. From 2013

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 Jay
Blue Jay

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!”

Eastern Bluebird (Female)
Eastern Bluebird

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.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird

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.

Swallow-tailed Kite
Swallow-tailed Kite

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?