Birding in my Parents’ Backyard

Posted Posted 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

Rare Mountain Bluebird in Florida!

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Other Places

In early January the eBird and Birdbrain reports started to fly: Mountain Bluebird in Hernando County! 3rd state record! I drove out there on my first available morning. I had to laugh as I pulled up to the GPS coordinates out in the middle of a rural road and found a number of cars parked on both sides of the road, with birders wandering around and binoculars pointed in every direction. “I hope the bird is still here!” was the thought on everybody’s mind. Then Sam called out, “there! behind you!” A small blue bird had quietly flown in and stood perched on a wire fence. Over the course of the morning, he darted along that fence, getting very close at one point, then staying farther out in the field. Birders who arrive at mid-morning saw only a dark spot against the rising sun. But for a few wonderful moments, the Mountain Bluebird hopped over to the right side of the light to the delight of the photographers…and when he grabbed a worm and devoured it in front of me, I think I might have actually done a happy dance.

Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebirds are typically found in the Western US, with their breeding range extending into Alaska and their winter range going down into Mexico. Like the Hooded Oriole, Bullock’s Oriole, and Western Tanager that I’ve seen recently, this bird probably got swept off course during a cold front.

An Eastern Bluebird hopped onto an adjacent fencepost. She shows clearly the distinction between the western Mountain Bluebird and our normal Eastern variety. She wondered why the cameras pointed at her, snapped a few shots, and then moved quickly to the visitor as the photographers muttered “Wrong bird!”

Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird

I enjoyed catching up with some of the birders and observing some of the other birds in this grassy field habitat. As the houses build up close to my home, it’s getting harder to find these birds. A flock of a dozen or so Sandhill Cranes flew in. A pair of Loggerhead Shrikes perched on an electrical wire. An American Kestrel showed off his rainbow colors from the top of a fencepost. The clear tones of a Greater Yellowlegs sounded as the bird flew in behind us. Eastern Meadowlarks called from all over and came very close to the camera to show off. What a great morning!

Eastern Meadowlark
Eastern Meadowlark