Close Encounter with the Whooping Cranes

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Other Places

It’s not often that you drive by a field and come upon two of the rarest birds in North America. When they are super-close and you can get head shots, it’s a really good day!

Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane

The Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America. It is a cousin of our Sandhill Cranes. In the early 1900s, there were only 21-22 Whooping Cranes alive. Thanks to intense conservation efforts, there are around 600 Whooping Cranes alive today. Two of them like this particular field in Lake Wales. I saw them there a couple of years ago and they looked pretty much the same in 2020, even down to the broken radio transponders on their legs.

Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane

Of course the birds were heavily backlit in this rare opportunity to be so close to them. The best light I could find was harsh side-light, which totally blew out their beautiful white feathers. Look at that gorgeous red head. I wonder if the birds realize how rare and special they are.

Whooping Crane
Whooping Crane

Birding in my Parents’ Backyard

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Birds

On the day that Fred Bassett banded my mom’s hummingbirds, I spent a couple of hours with my parents birding in their backyard. It’s an awesome garden planted with all sorts of native plants to attract birds. It attracted a rainbow of feathered friends!

The Painted Buntings found my parents’ backyard several years ago. Each year another bird or two joins the party. My mom reported seeing four males together – that’s a beautiful sight!

Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting

A pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers darted in and out of this salvia plant. They are such fun to photograph as they flutter, pretending to be hummingbirds.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

When I least expected it, a flash of orange appeared at the bird bath. A Baltimore Oriole! He got a quick drink and disappeared as quickly as he arrived. It’s amazing how well he blends in to the barren trees.

Baltimore Oriole
Baltimore Oriole

The birdbath was a popular place. This Blue Jay fussed a lot before he sipped. Nearby, a Red-bellied Woodpecker and Gray Catbird both eyed the bath as they sampled from the suet feeder.

Blue Jay
Blue Jay

I looked up and spotted four American White Pelicans circling overhead. They like to roost on the lake across the street. The bump on the bird’s beak is part of its breeding plumage.

American White Pelican
American White Pelican

After Fred left, we watched for our newly-banded birds to nectar in the backyard. Since the bands are not easily visible while the birds are flying, we watched for the pink marks that Fred left on the back of the birds’ heads. This male Ruby-throated didn’t have a pink mark on the back of his head. So we missed at least one! ;-)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Uncommon Cinnamon Teal at Merritt Island

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

For years I’ve been chasing a Cinnamon Teal. A relative of the common Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teals typically live in the western US, with a range extending from Canada to Mexico. A few turn up each winter in Florida. I’ve chased them from year to year, seeking them at Merritt Island, Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, and other places. Usually they are far out, mixed in with thousands of other ducks. Well, this year there’s one hanging out at Merritt Island. Locating him was super easy. He raised his wings to wave hello!

Cinnamon Teal among Blue-winged Teals
Cinnamon Teal among Blue-winged Teals

You can see why this guy is called a Cinnamon Teal. He’s a beautiful rich brown. Look at that bright red eye! He was dabbling most of the time that I visited him, with his head in the water and only his tail sticking up. I had to time my camera clicks during the rare times that his head was above water and pointed at the camera.

Cinnamon Teal
Cinnamon Teal

I think the Blue-winged Teals were jealous of all the attention that the rare visitor was attracting. Or maybe they just got tired of bumping into each other as they all dabbled with their heads under water. I enjoyed the action shots as they chased each other!

Blue-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal

The teals weren’t the only ones showing off. This Tricolored Heron was darting in and out of the mangrove, grabbing for fish for dinner. At times it looked as though he was walking on water.

Tricolored Heron
Tricolored Heron

The Cinnamon Teal was really quite cooperative. He gave me a total of three wing-flaps before the sun went behind a cloud. I headed home, happy to have finally seen a Cinnamon Teal. What a gorgeous bird!

Cinmamon Teal Wing-Flap
Cinmamon Teal Wing-Flap