Metal Rods Attract Unusual Nighttime Visitors

So that last post garnered little attention.  Not that surprising considering it’s technical nature and dearth of birds!

As the semester wraps up for me, things are rather busy with two presentations on Monday, a final to proctor and all the data to pull together before Friday.  (This is the last week for me anyway since I take off on Sunday for a two-week bird banding workshop).

Campus in bloom. Rutgers University - Newark. Photo taken on April 26, 2015.

Campus in bloom. Rutgers University – Newark. Photo taken on April 26, 2015.

I do get a little bit of green and birds as I move between campuses.  I heard a Warbling Vireo earlier this weekend!

Campus in bloom. Rutgers University - Newark. Photo taken on April 26, 2015.

Campus in bloom. Rutgers University – Newark. Photo taken on April 26, 2015.

However, as I couldn’t go to the birds, the birds came to me.

On Friday, I learned through the grapevine that an Eastern Whip-poor-will appeared on campus.  On my way home, I stopped to look for it.

I did find it, exactly where it had been all day.  I’m not sure what it thought about the disconcerting concert taking place 150 feet away.  It flushed as soon as it realized I had spotted it and I couldn’t relocate it. So no pictures.

When I arrived Saturday morning, I poked around looking for it, but it seemed to have vanished/moved on/concealed itself really well.

Then last night leaving campus (yes on a Saturday), we stumbled across it again.

Eastern Whip-poor-will.  Rutgers University - Newark. Photo taken on May 2, 2015.

Eastern Whip-poor-will. Rutgers University – Newark. Photo taken on May 2, 2015.

This time I had an opportunity to go back to my car, get my camera (and monopod!) and get a few shots as it hunted from one of the poles holding up our mist nets.  I had a chance to watch it take off and return a few times.

Eastern Whip-poor-will from another angle. Rutgers University - Newark. Photo taken on May 2, 2015.

Eastern Whip-poor-will from another angle. Rutgers University – Newark. Photo taken on May 2, 2015.

Not quite as cool as last year’s Chuck-will’s-widow (check out May 6 and 7 entries 2014) which also appeared briefly in May and perched on metal poles.

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Perils of Data-based Birding

As a birder-scientist, not only do I have the joys of exploring farmlands and forests for novel encounters, but I also have the “joys” of exploring fields…. as in data fields.

As part of my PhD program, to become more knowledgeable about birds, I have to spend more time away from real birds (much of the current knowledge transfer system is based on similar logic…e.g. to improve learning we should spend less time learning and more time testing).  For the spring semester, I opted to do a rotation in the lab of Dr. Gareth Russell.

The Russell Lab does fascinating work looking at animal choice and response to their environment by modeling behavior and movement.  Current and recent work has followed Grizzly Bears in Alaska, Big Horn Sheep in California, Baleen Whales social networks in the Atlantic Ocean, Elephants in Africa.  The modeling element comes in when scientist try to interpret why the animals made the choices they did.  What elements of the environment most resonated with the animal causing its behaviour?

Turns out since you can’t actually ask the animals, you can use a computer to figure it out.

For my project, I can share the details later, I obtained  USGS banding records for songbirds along the east coast to determine movements over time.  My goal was to use this data to answer questions about their migratory movements in the fall.

As it goes with a venture into any new area, there’s a steep learning curve as you get to know the landscape.  You have weird experiences such as when I reloaded the data set and every bird name involving a color (say yellow warbler and white-throated sparrow) became {#*code#) warbler and (#&code#(-throated sparrow.

Twitter Screen Capture.

Twitter Screen Capture.

So after months of learning to program in Mathematica (mixed success), I managed to create a map! This beautiful rendered map shows 50+ years worth of records where in the birds presented:

  • were banded and recaptured after July 1,
  • were banded and recaptured in the same year,
  • were recaptured in a new location.
Mathematica output.

Mathematica output: Apparently one bird didn’t get the memo and went west, not south.  H1: That bird can’t read a compass. H2: That bird is a rebellious juvenile.

However, as beautifully colored as it is and as important as it looks, it’s only ~800 pieces of data across 44 species and 50+ years, not enough for a solid analysis. Back to the drawing board.

When after significant hours of effort, you’re still coming up with nothing, you doubt yourself, even when other people have faith. “There aren’t any birds here!”

Twitter Screen Capture.

Twitter Screen Capture.

Then you do something really basic, like identifying an American Robin, or writing a function which figures out how many days into a year it is.

Twitter Screen Capture.

Twitter Screen Capture.

Now you know there are birds there, and you’re just not finding them.  You feel conflicted about that.

Three weeks to go and we’re still “exploring the data”.  The sun is nearly setting.

Mathematica output: Tree swallow presence (blue) and absence (white) data with years as the x axis and days into the year as the y axis.

Mathematica output: Tree swallow presence (blue) and absence (white) data with years as the x axis and days into the year as the y axis.

So, finally we made a graph.  This graph, for Tree Swallows, shows presence (blue) and absence (white) data with years as the x axis and days into the year as the y axis.  Think January at the bottom and December at the top.

Now that I’d found one bird surely I could find them all, but could I do it by family?

Yes… Probably… How hard could it be?… Maybe… If I had more time… Impossible… Wait, what?… No… Maybe… Nope… Did I get it?

After a very dark night:

Mathematica output.

Mathematica output: 10 families of songbirds tracked over the years for arrivals and departures. years are represented on the x axis and days into the year as the y axis.

 

I actually succeeded as the sun rose.  Talk about symbolism!  I’ll have a chance to share this in my next meeting on Friday. Hopefully we can call this success.

Can only imagine what’s next?  3D versions?

Stay tuned for Rotation 2 news coming Summer 2015 when I return to real fields (or forests anyway)!

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Cavorting at Cape Florida

This post could also be called “A Reason to Return”.  There are two reasons, so settle in for a long story.

On our first conference free day, Tara and I decided to venture over to the Gulf Coast to visit J. N. Ding Darling NWR.  However, Our foray was not meant to be.

What we didn’t realize when we arrived is that there are three classes of roads in Florida.  There are the streets with a light at every possible intersection (very slow going!), the freeways (highways without a cost, also very slow going!), and the tollroads (much faster going!).  However, Florida has switched over to a mandatory automated toll payment system based on either a tag or your license plate (no more cash/coin payments!).  If you inadvertently drive through without the tag, they sent the fee to the address associated with the license, no big deal and no big cost, unless you happen to be in a rental vehicle.  If you are in a rental, then you are charged a ~$50 surcharge for each day you go through tolls.   If you wish to rent a tag in addition to the vehicle, it’s $10/day.  Neither option is ideal.  So our solution was avoid toll roads.  Which doesn’t work if you want to go to Disney World or travel across the state.  We didn’t want Disney but we did need to cross southern Florida.  We searched and searched, but couldn’t figure out a route after accidentally getting on the toll road and getting right off again. (Had we just kept going we would have had the fine either way and very different birds to share, oh well!).

By the way, the solution we learned on our way out of Florida is to purchase a tag at a grocery store. It’s a few dollars and prevents the charge going to the lisence and thus through the rental agency.   Now, you know too, and back to the birds.

Since going west was a fail…

“”Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.” “That,” I said, “is very frank advice, but it is medicine easier given than taken. It is a wide country, but I do not know just where to go.” “It is all room away from the pavements. […]” 
                  —Josiah Bushnell Grinnell [3]

We went south.  We drove into Miami-Dade county (home of the 2000 election controversy which was realized as we drove through!) and decided to visit Not Bilbo Baggins, but Bill Baggs Cape Florida SP (Bilbo Baggins would be much better a name!)

Cape Florida: What's a post about Florida beaches without sand or a lighthouse?   Photo taken on January 8, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Cape Florida: What’s a post about Florida beaches without sand or a lighthouse? Photo taken on January 8, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Since many more of you know of Bilbo Baggins than Bill Baggs: Bill Baggs was a Miami journalist and editor who did much coverage of racial tensions in Florida during the 50s and 60s as well as opposed the Vietnam War (per Wikipedia).  More relevantly, he supported Florida conservation efforts.  So we ended up at Bill Baggs State Park.

There was a lighthouse (pictured above) and white sand beaches (not pictured), but there were also birds. Not the tons and tons we were hoping for, but quality enough that it made the excursion worthwhile.

Immature Double-crested Cormorant flying   just above the water.  Playing with birds on the move and the telephoto lens. Photo taken on January 8, 2015  with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Immature Double-crested Cormorant flying just above the water. Playing with birds on the move and the telephoto lens. Photo taken on January 8, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

There’ll be a few photos of Cormorants in this post in part because they were common, but also because they’re super cool!  As we were wandering around the interior, I happened to look up to spot this fellow: Short-tailed Hawk.  Short-tailed Hawk was  on our wish list.

Our only view of a Short-tailed Hawk during our entire visit.  Much more cooperative than the Galapagos Hawk of a year past! Photo taken on January 8, 2015  with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Our only view of a Short-tailed Hawk during our entire visit. Much more cooperative than the Galapagos Hawk of a year past! Photo taken on January 8, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

I also happened to look up and spot a Magnificent Frigatebird, but no luck on that photo. (I have plenty from Galapagos to tide me over though!).

After seeing what the park had to offer, we decided to move on a bit and try nearby  Bear Cut Preserve at Crandon Park.  Most of the birds were to be found around the Marjory Stoneman Douglas visitor’s center (which was lovely).   We spotted 3 Eurasian Collared Doves around the building.

Eurasian Collared Dove looking mournful it's not a mourning dove.  Photo taken on January 8, 2015  with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Eurasian Collared Dove looking mournful it’s not a mourning dove. Photo taken on January 8, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

We walked their recommended trail and came across a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (not pictured) and then walked back along the beach  (frequently ranked in the top 10 of America’s best beaches) where we came across this view:

The only fossilized reefs in the world.  How cool?! Photo taken on January 8, 2015  with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

The only fossilized reefs in Florida. How cool?! Photo taken on January 8, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

What you’re looking at are fossilized mangrove reefs.  They’re really only inches tall here.  I suspect they’re mostly buried under the sand. And yes, that is Miami in the background. More on fossil reefs can be learned here.

Second photo of the still only fossilized reefs in the world.  Still cool. Photo taken on January 8, 2015  with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Second photo of the still only fossilized reefs in Florida. Still cool. Photo taken on January 8, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

I’m including the next photo just because I like the alignment of birds.  Some type of gull.

The detail on the photo is rubbish.  But I love the clouds and the alignment of the birds.  Authentic photo, no photoshopping here! Photo taken on January 8, 2015  with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

The detail on the photo is rubbish. But I love the clouds and the alignment of the birds. Authentic photo, no photoshopping here! Photo taken on January 8, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

As we returned, the tide was creeping out and by just rolling up our pants (in my case because only I go to Florida and still wear pants!) a few inches, could we walk out along  a sandbar to get much closer to the birds.

Glorious detail of Double-crested Cormorant feathers. Double-crested Cormorant feathers are cool.  Photo taken on January 8, 2015  with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Glorious detail of Double-crested Cormorant feathers. Double-crested Cormorant feathers are cool. Photo taken on January 8, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Yes, this Cormorant has his back to us, but note the feathers. The feathers are truly amazing.  Feathers of cormorants are truly amazing.  I recently read a paper discussing the unusual feather structure in Great Cormorants.  Any birder familiar with Cormorants knows how they stand with their wings outstretched.  Why?  All birds have fine feather control.  What this means is that there are muscles attached to their feathers that allows the precise rearrangement of each feather.  It is believed that cormorants manipulate their feathers underwater to help them dive.

Consider it this way.  Birds have these amazing adaptations that help them take to the sky: they need to be lightweight.  However, this is not beneficial if you want to sink, which cormorants do.  Thus, as they dive, scientists hypothesize cormorants rearrange their feathers allowing water to seep in, decreasing their buoyancy whereas most birds will arrange their feathers in such a way as to repel water.   When you look at the structure of the feathers themselves, cormorant feathers are actually different: the density of the barbs is actually where it’s thinnest in other birds.

A less than white looking American White Pelican. Photo taken on January 8, 2015  with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

A less than white looking American White Pelican. Photo taken on January 8, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

After our visit to Bear Cut Preserve, we headed to the other side of the road to Miami Seaquarium Marina where we picked up more gulls and views of aquatic birds. The feather detail on the American White Pelican is also notable.  So colorful!  And the bill looks like the Pelican had a wonderful, messy encounter with a painter.

Preening Double-crested Cormorant.Photo taken on January 8, 2015  with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Preening Double-crested Cormorant.Photo taken on January 8, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Preening cormorant.  Got to wet those feathers just right.

Regarding the second reason to return.  It wasn’t until much later in the trip, possibly the flight home when I got to the portion of Kenn Kaufman’s book discussing the birds of Florida’s Cape.  Clearly we needed to go further south and even out on the water for the best birds.  So some day we will definitely need to return to Florida for both the more western and more southern birds.  Onward, birds!

Florida Total: 76
Bill Baggs State Park, Cape Florida: 23
Bear Cut Preserve, Crandon Park: 18
Miami Seaquarium Marina: 8
New for Florida: 13
Lifers: 2

Paper: Ribak, G., Weihs, D. & Arad, Z. Water retention in the plumage of diving great cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis. J. Avian Biol. 36, 89–95 (2005).

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The Gray Casts of Green Cay

The following day when talks concluded, Tara and I decided to cross the road to Green Cay.   We were starting to get the hang of navigating Florida and the endless evening traffic.   Despite the dreary forecast, Tara and I decided to risk the rains for birds.

Green Cay in the rain. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Green Cay in the rain. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

The Green Cay preserve is a boardwalk punctuated with covered villas (or Chickees) that allowed us to keep our equipment dry as we scouted about.

White Ibis in flight. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

White Ibis in flight. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

With the rain, there were just as many birds out foraging as there were hunkering and waiting out the rains.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron hunkers down in the afternoon showers. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron hunkers down in the afternoon showers. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

But unlike home, this bad weather was (relatively) pleasant to be out and about in… I believe the northeast was being hit with another snowstorm.

Anhinga spreads its wings to dry between dives and downpours. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Anhinga spreads its wings to dry between dives and downpours. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Not sure how effective it is to dry out your wings in the rain, but the rain may feel pleasant as it wicks down the wings.

Common Gallinule braves the weather. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Common Gallinule braves the weather. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

With the proximity one can achieve at Wakodahatchee and Green Cay, you can get such intricate feather detail.  The wings look almost art deco!

Green Heron hidden in the reeds.  Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Green Heron hidden in the reeds. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

The variation in feather detail is incredible.   Here you can see the long, flowing plumes that made egrets desirable in millinery trends 100 years ago.

Tricolored Heron, hunting. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Tricolored Heron, hunting. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

I love that the camera/lens combination acts so quickly that each raindrop hitting the water’s surface.

Great Egret and Common Gallinule experience the downpour. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Great Egret and Common Gallinule experience the downpour. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

There were breaks in the rain where we could see a tree where a Wood Stork stood with White Ibis.

Wood Storks are the most alien looking birds, ever. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Wood Storks are the most alien looking birds, ever. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

The ibis stalked about, heads bobbing down and wings aloft for balance.

White Ibis perch in a dead tree. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

White Ibis perch in a dead tree. Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

A break in the rains and we make a break for home.

Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Photo taken on January 6, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Florida Total:  56
Green Cay: 32
New for Florida:  3
Lifers: 0

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Wonders of Wakodahatchee

One of the greatest wonders of Wakodahatchee may be finding it.  Tara and I heard of Wakodahatchee from out-of-town birders at Loxahatchee.  (I think they were even from New Jersey!) They promised us it would be better than Green Cay.  Not having been to Green Cay (yet) we took their word for it.

But words are funny things.  We didn’t write it down; we had only heard the word.  So figuring out where wado-wado-what? was located was quite a challenge.  Not too mention all the hatchees everywhere!  The birders had described it to us as “almost across the street”.  And that’s how we found it.  A place beginning with “W” in the vicinity of Green Cay.  Thanks, Google Maps!

Anhinga preening. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Anhinga preening. Their green eye skin looks surreal. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Wakodahatchee is a boardwalk loop that crosses several small shallow waterways.  The design of the walkway brings you very close to the wildlife.   It’s a single loop that allows birders, walkers, and families a chance to get outside and experience nature to whatever degree you desire.

This photo shows better than any other how Wakodahatchee is chock full of wildlife. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

This photo shows better than any other how Wakodahatchee is chock full of wildlife. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

I won’t continue the narrative between each photo, but just present the rest of the photos as their own narrative.  I took 799 photos here as I continued to explore the new camera equipment.  The birds were that close and plentiful!

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks look unreal. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks look unreal. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Great Egret stalks the waterways. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Great Egret stalks the waterways. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

White Ibis stalks up a stick. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

White Ibis stalks up a stick. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Vibrantly colored Tricolored Heron. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Vibrantly colored Tricolored Heron. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Pied-billed Grebe preening. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Pied-billed Grebe preening. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Anhinga preening. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Anhinga preening.  Note their striking wing plumage. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Drawing a blank... really should do a better job processing photos immediately after taking them!  Thoughts? Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Drawing a blank… really should do a better job processing photos immediately after taking them! Thoughts? Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

RBA Yellow-headed Blackbird in Florida.  Makes up for missing it in the Meadowlands. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

RBA Yellow-headed Blackbird in Florida. Makes up for missing it in the Meadowlands. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Glossy Ibis balances  between preening sessions. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Glossy Ibis blends into the Florida marsh. Photo taken on January 5, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

[Can you tell the semester started?  I just realized I haven’t blogged in over a month. That’s embarrassing.  I think I need someone to peck at me when I slack off…]

Florida Total: 53
Wakodahatchee Wetlands: 28
New for Florida: 8
Lifers: 1

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Launching into Birding at Loxahatchee

The SICB conference started on January 3rd. However, as it was only registration and that wasn’t until 3, this meant we had hours of birding before us. Tara and I decided to start at the southern most point of Loxahatchee closest to Coral Springs and work our way north to West Palm Beach where the conference was being held.

Loxahatchee was recommended by both our ornithology professor and also by Olin Sewall Pettingill’s Guide to Bird Finding, which was referenced by Kenn Kaufman in Kingbird Highway!  However Kaufman referenced the first edition, while I was making do with the second, published a bit after Kaufman’s go at a big year. (The guide is awesome!)

However, as we realized once we were in Florida, Loxahatchee is a big, big, big place… and despite the internet, determining location of the visitor’s center wasn’t happening.

Locations of birding locations in Loxahatchee.

Eventually we figured out where the visitor’s center was, but not until we arrived. Locations of birding locations in Loxahatchee.

So we figured out how to get to the Boat Launch, which we learned was a boat launch after we got there. Ah well.  There were still birds to see.

We saw Monk Parakeets which would have been exciting if we weren’t from Bergen County in New Jersey where we have our own flocks of devout parakeets. Zillions of Black Vultures loomed overhead, which was peculiar because we had only seen Turkey Vultures up until this point.  But the looming wasn’t menacing because the Florida winter sun is so bright and cheery.

Anhinga sits on the waters edge... with its wings folded. Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Anhinga sits on the waters edge… with its wings folded. Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Anhingas are more common than Cormorants here.  We were trekking determinedly after a coy American Kestrel, when I caught site of this one hanging out on the side of the slough.

Then, I got distracted by a butterfly wherein the internet redeemed itself.  I’ve been able to identify all the (two) butterflies I’ve looked up so far with vague search terns such as “Florida butterflies” and “orange butterflies in Florida”.

Gulf Fritillary Buterfly, Agraulis vanillae. Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Gulf Fritillary Buterfly, Agraulis vanillae. Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

You can see everything but it’s tongue and….. moving on.

We eventually did make our way up to the coy Kestrel.  Although each time we approached, just as I’d get the camera set, he’d move back further.

American Kestrels are not  in short supply in Florida. Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

American Kestrels are not in short supply in Florida. Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Eventually it worked out in my favor as when I finally captured a reasonably respectable image, it was in a natural setting and not on a sign.

Early glimpse at two White Ibis. Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Early glimpse at two White Ibis. Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

After that we opted to turn around so we could have a chance to try a site further north before heading to the conference.  We were heading back when we glimpsed a flutter of white and located two White Ibises.

Florida Total: 37
Loxahatchee Boat Launch: 20
New for Florida: 13
Lifers: 1

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Fighting the Fading Light

Florida Post #2

After birding Pine Trails Park and Tall Cypress there was a little light left in the day so we decided to pick one more green patch at random and try our luck there.   We opted for Sherwood Forest Park.

As a birding spot at sunset it was pretty much a dud.  But we did have a few gems that made the initial foray worth it.   To begin with, I found a butterfly willing to pause long enough for a photo.  Particularly due to low light levels this was an amazing feat!

 Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius), Florida's state butterfly.  Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius), Florida’s state butterfly. Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

We also found Muscovy Ducks which totally count. (My general rule is if ebird counts it, I count it since I let ebird do all my math.)  At least that’s my take on the Muscovy Duck Debate, which I didn’t realize was a thing until both Tara and Laurence commented on it.  Although Kenn Kaufman relates an interesting insight into counting which resonated with me:

The list total isn’t what’s important, but the birds themselves are important. Every bird you see.  So the list is just a frivolous incentive for birding, but the birding itself is worthwhile. It’s like a trip where the destination doesn’t have any significance except for the fact that it makes you travel. The journey is what counts. – Kingbird Highway

Feral Muscovy Duck at twilight. Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Feral Muscovy Duck at twilight. Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

I can do dark, brooding ducks, too.  But to top it off, almost eclipsing my lifer of a Muscovy Duck, we came across a RBA for Florida: the Canada Goose!

Florida scenery featuring the rare Canada Goose. Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Florida scenery featuring the rare Canada Goose. Photo taken on January 2, 2015 with a Nikon 3200 Sigma 500mm.

Do you see it?  Just swimming off camera to the left?  When in the Galapagos a year ago, I recall explaining how rarities work.  What is not rare at all for New Jersey can be remarkably rare elsewhere.  So in Galapagos as we patrolled beaches for birds and other things,  we were always jokingly on the lookout for a Snowy Owl (hey, they made it to Bermuda!) and a Canada Goose.  Lo and behold one year later the rare Canada Goose because a Real Thing.

In other news I’ve elected to read Kingbird Highway by Kenn Kaufman while in Florida.   So far the insights into birding before ebird and the internet is fascinating.  As a whole the book and its story has been delightful!

Florida Total: 24
Sherwood: Forest Park: 3
New for Florida: 2
Lifers: 1

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