Sunday, November 25, 2012

Birds of a feather ... IV

I first saw one of these odd-looking (to a northerner) birds from an airboat in the Everglades a couple of years ago [note - an airboat is not the best way to get close to wildlife, unless the wildlife is quite deaf]. But a couple of weeks ago patience paid dividends as I was able to approach a mixed flock of some 70 - 80 birds of different species precariously perched in a lone pine tree.

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, let me introduce to you the obviously-named roseate spoonbill. A little research revealed that the ones I saw were juveniles (either they haven't learned to fear humans yet, or my stealth skills were exceptional). They almost became extinct as they were hunted for their plumage, but in Florida there are now an estimated 1,000 breeding pairs.

I don't know what startled them, but after an hour of creeping up and getting my shots, the birds decided they'd posed enough and flew off in unison. I then turned my attention to a nearby slough where there was bound to be some action, but that's fodder for another day.

I hope all my American friends had a lovely Thanksgiving; we did as we were invited to share it with our wonderful neighbors and their family.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Birds of a feather ... III

Hope you haven't tired of our feathered friends quite yet. While the more gregarious ones were gathered on the pine tree, I noticed a few less sociable, or perhaps ostracized, birds nearby. Careful not to disturb the group just above me, I swung my lens around to capture a great blue heron and a turkey vulture.

Today's interesting fact: vultures often appear to have white legs because they squirt feces onto their legs and feet to cool themselves. Who says reading blogs can't be educational ? Keep that one in mind for your next trivia quiz. And a bonus fact: vultures are related to storks.

Note: I will be MIA for the next number of days as we welcome company. I expect to come visit you in about a week (although I might sneak a peek at comments you leave here ... shhh).

I don't think this spot was very conducive to fishing ...

 and it seems he agrees

 a member of the clean up crew arrives

Monday, November 12, 2012

Birds of a feather ... II

I have seen these beauties (well, it's said that beauty IS in the eye of the beholder, and these have a face I'm sure only a mother could love) before in Florida - the wood stork. But I'd never been able to get within twenty feet of them before. Apparently they are the only stork that breeds in North America. If you're interested, Wikipedia has some more interesting information on them.

Curiously, the storks seemed to be the only ones who took an interest in me creeping up towards the gathering.

Here he's with his friend Pinocchio

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Birds of a feather ...

I developed a habit while completing a Project 365 during 2010 of making mental notes of places to visit, or re-visit, where I thought there were photographic opportunities. [editorial note: a better practice is to carry a notebook to jot down the info since, if your memory is anything like mine - good but short - you greatly increase your chances of finding the place again].

While on an expedition recently to get another check mark on our Christmas gift list, I saw a spot along a highway where a large number of birds were gathered. Mentally noted. Three fortunate things then happened - 1) I remembered by the time we got home; 2) I had the opportunity the next day to go back there; 3) the birds were waiting for me.

There was a bit of a logistical problem, however. The birds had congregated in a lone pine in the middle of a field. There would be little cover to allow me to get close. I parked a hundred yards or so away and assumed my best nonchalant stealth shuffle. I paused every so many feet to get a few shots in case I lost the whole flock suddenly. All went well until I got a sand spur (those of you living in Florida know what those are) lodged between my sole and the sole of my sandal. I managed not to do a crazed pain dance as I balanced on one foot, removed the sandal and sand spur, and continued my advance. Amazingly I managed to get within about twenty feet of the tree. Now and then a bird would depart but another would come in to take over the vacated spot, while most of the others just stared curiously at the slow-moving creature below them.

I'm no bird expert but I think most or all the ones I spotted in the pine tree are known as wading birds. Maybe they just appreciate a change of view. I'll show you them over the next few posts.

The first one is an ibis which I affectionately call a pinocchio bird.

Here's a partial shot of the tree, and an incoming ...