Beyond the Backyard

Seeking the Ash-throated Flycatcher in Florida

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Ash-throated Flycatcher

After visiting the nesting Great Blue Herons at Viera Wetlands before Christmas, Michael and I drove down the road to the Moccasin Island Tract to see a rare Ash-throated Flycatcher in Florida.  Ash-throated Flycatchers typically live in the western US, so this guy is a little far from home!  We parked, spotted a flycatcher-like bird on a post, and I got two very quick shots before the bird flew off.  Why is it that lifer shots are always bad ones?  My settings were all off and I severely underexposed him!  But at least I got a shot.  Lightroom helped me lighten the image so that I could post it and add it to my Life List… A friendly Eastern Meadowlark was very cooperative for us.  Maybe he felt badly that we didn’t get great shots of the Ash-throated Flycatcher, so he decided to pose.  He sat on a fencepost and sang his heart out for us.  It was very windy, and I was hand-handling the Beast.  It was hard to keep the bird in the frame with the wind blowing so hard!   I kept hoping he’d hop down to a berry bush below his fence, but he wasn’t that […]

Beyond the Backyard

A Shrike and a Kestrel

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Loggerhead Shrike

Birding is starting to pick up again after a long hot summer.  The first day of fall was officially on September 22, although temperatures in Florida continue well into the upper 80s and 90s.  But there’s a hope in sight: the lows are forecast to dip into the 60s this week!  I’ve been working crazy hours again, so it’s been hard to find time for shooting.  But I’ve been working on a project out by where my Burrowing Owls grew up.  When I was last out there, I found two birdie surprises: a shrike and a kestrel! I haven’t seen an American Kestrel out this way since early this spring, when Dyeyo and I first visited the owls to see if they were building their burrows.  They are fairly skittish, flying away as soon as I approach.  It’s a little surprising, given that they are small falcons.  The image above was taken with the Beast and a 1.4x teleconverter, and it’s still pretty heavily cropped.  I love the red, white, and blue colors of the kestrel.  This one is a male (the females don’t have the blue on the wings).  The kestrels are so pretty that you can almost forget […]

Beyond the Backyard

Fort De Soto with My Dad

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Juvenile Loggerhead Shrike

After visiting the Black Skimmer colony with my dad on Father’s Day, we decided to head to Fort De Soto to explore.  It was mid-day, and we knew we’d see more people than birds.  Still, it’s hard to be half an hour away from Bird Photography Paradise and not at least stop by!  I’m glad we did, because we had a great time.  I think I got some decent pictures, too. We started on North Beach, where we hiked the length of the beach.  I had the Beast attached to my Black Rapid strap, and I found it surprisingly comfortable to carry that way!  We got lots of comments about our cameras from the people enjoying the beach.  Photographers are practically the only ones on the beach at 7am, but by 10am we’re certainly outnumbered, and I guess we do look a little out of place! Snowy Egrets are common birds in Florida, but this one was so pretty against the ocean waves.  I loved watching him walk through the surf.  His feet are so long and his toenails are huge!  I kneeled to photograph him, but the waves kept breaking right behind his head.  So I settled back in […]

Backyard photography

Happy Mother’s Day!

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I spent yesterday afternoon with my parents in their backyard.  We had a fun time planting and transplanting, trying to make sure there’s enough nectar to satisfy Mum-mum’s visiting hummers.  When I saw the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers eating oranges in Dick’s backyard, though, I couldn’t resist going to get my camera… These silly birds will land carefully on the branch above the orange, sorta hop-skip-flap their way down to actually stand on the orange, then peck it open with their beaks in order to get at the juice within.  Sorry, Dick, I hope you don’t mind sharing… Mum-mum and Dyeyo call their resident friendly woodpecker “Shorty.”  He comes to their feeders regularly, especially now that he’s raising a brood of babies.  Sometimes he brings Mrs. Shorty in, too.  Yesterday both Mr. and Mrs. Shorty spent a good part of the afternoon taking care of their new family.  They’d fly down to the feeder, grab a seed, then disappear up into the oak tree.  Tiny baby calls would ensue.  Then the process repeated, over and over.  We tried to find the nest, but I couldn’t find the cavity hole.  We did find a recent fledgling, though.  We spotted a fledgling Mockingbird, too, […]

Backyard photography

Hi There, Shrek Junior!

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We finally met our new little Loggerhead Shrikes.  I’ve been watching the adults for a while, and I figured we’d see the babies any day.  This guy was hanging out in a palm tree at the Town Commons/Tour Point intersection.  You can tell he’s a juvenile because of the orangey edge to his beak.  I think it’s left over from when he was a tiny fluffball in his nest, when his bright orange beak made it easier for his mom to feed him.

Backyard photography

Down by the Pond

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We found a new family of ducks by the pond tonight.  At least, I think they are another family.  The babies seem smaller than the ones that I found last week.  These guys launched into the water and followed Mama off into the sunset… There were two Loggerhead Shrikes in the usual weeping willow tree.  We call them Shrek and Fiona (Shrek the Shrike, try saying that five times fast!)  I’m not sure if the nest is in the willow or in a nearby palm tree, but I’m pretty sure it’s close! Our American Goldfinches have definitely left.  We haven’t seen them in at least a week.  We continue to see our Painted Buntings.

Backyard photography

Stoneybrook Signs of Spring

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I’m getting way behind in posting backyard spring pictures!  So here’s a nice collection of the birdie goings-on around Stoneybrook West… We have a pair of Brown Thrashers who have been making an appearance each afternoon in my back rose bed.  They are quite regular.  I wonder if they may have a nest in our viburnum?  I had thought that I would trim it after the Painted Buntings leave, but I’ve had so many birds moving in and out of the bushes that I think I may have to wait until after spring nesting season is over. The American Goldfinches continue to grace us with their sweet calls and cheerful presence.  I haven’t seen a male in the past few weeks.  (Males are distinguished by their bright black heads.)  The females continue to visit our niger feeder.  Their feathers are turning brighter by the day.  It’s going to be sad when they too leave us. The House Finches are bright red and they have started to sing as they attract their mates and begin to build their nests.  They’ve learned to appreciate the Painted Bunting feeder, which has a cage surrounding it to protect the little birds from being evicted […]

Beyond the Backyard

Beautiful Morning at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

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After hearing  time after time about how great the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is, Dyeyo decided that he wanted to go with me and see it.  It was a pretty foggy morning, but the sun burned off the fog just as we arrived at the refuge around 8:30.  The Birdbrains have been saying that the Peacocks Pocket drive has been fairly active, so we headed there first.  We found Black-Necked Stilts and a small variety of shorebirds.  Then we went over to the Scrub Jay trail and found a Scrub Jay!  Finally we ended up at the Visitor’s Center, where they have a little boardwalk.  We found a pair of White-Eyed Vireos building a nest, and we stood and watched and photographed for probably over half an hour. Dyeyo and I are used to walking the trails at the Circle B Bar Reserve, so it was strange for us to drive Peacock’s Pocket.  The car works as a bird blind, but the birds at Merritt Island are also more skittish than our birds at Circle B. Our first bird of the day was this White Ibis, who probably had no idea that he was casting such a great reflection […]

Backyard photography

Meet Shrek the Shrike

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This evening, Rich and I set out on our walk, I mean, our quest, to the Weeping Willows that are Far, Far Away (well, the intersection of Tour Pointe and Town Commons).  There we met two ogres (according to their prey!) named Shrek and Fiona.  I began photographing them as Rich asked “Can we go yet?  Can we go yet?”  Shrek promised to come to a Royal Ball in Goldy’s yard as soon as he’s old enough to fly away from his parents! :) Note:  As we prepared for our walk, I told Rich that I wanted to go see if we could find the baby shreks.  I don’t know why I kept mis-speaking, but after about the third time, it was clear that our babies had gotten their names!  We’ve seen the shrike parents sitting in the tops of the weeping willows for months, and it’s fun to see their new little family.  The baby shrikes look a lot like the adults, but if you look closely, they have a yellow line under their beaks, and gray scalloping along their black wing stripes.  I was so excited when one of the babies landed right in front of me and […]