File Cleanup

Linda under an arch near Moab, Utah

I’ve been spending some time trying to clean up my photos. I think I have been doing this once a year over the last couple years and never get it quite right. But, I’m getting there. Most of my old photos are only good for family memories. There aren’t that many great photos with me being a novice photographer and not having great lenses. Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun going through them.

I came upon this photo taken in 2003 when Regis and I flew to Utah to visit several of the parks. We went on a hike off the beaten path and came upon this arch. If you look closely, you will see me under the arch with outstretched hands. We did not encounter a single person on this hike. It was an amazing experience.

My lesson learned: Get out of the National Parks and visit the surrounding areas. They have many treasures to see and they are not as crowded.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk sitting on top of a bird feeder.
Red-shouldered Hawk in the rain. The feeder was a hopping place until the Hawk showed up.

By Linda

This Red-shouldered Hawk was hanging around the backyard on a rainy day recently.  If he was hoping to catch birds at the feeder, it might have been better to be less obvious!

I was conducting a Climate Watch count today and noticed the Snowy and Great Egrets are starting to get their breeding plumage.  All you folks in the cold north, spring is coming.  Hang in there!

Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret beginning to show breeding plumage.

American Coot
American Coot

I want to give a little update on Dart.  Dart has been having pain in both his front legs, but particularly his right leg.  It has gotten so bad, he often won’t put weight on it.  He bites at his legs a lot when he’s in pain.  We’ve tried different pain medications, but his digestive system can’t handle it.  We eventually found something his digestive system could handle, but it didn’t do anything to improve his situation.  I eventually found a vet that did Xrays of his legs and determined what’s wrong.  I don’t know how to explain what the problem is, but pain medication won’t help.  The vet recommended laser therapy and it has helped significantly.

While at the new vet, we got to discussing Dart’s many digestive problems and the vet took Xrays of Dart’s insides.  She thinks his problem is stress.  That would not surprise me.   We are working on some options to reduce his anxiety without making him lethargic.  We’ll see how it goes.  Anyone who has spent enough time around Dart would have to agree he is uptight!  Maybe it comes with the territory with some herding breeds.

Climate Watch Bird Survey

Bluebird in St Johns County, Florida.
Bluebird in St Johns County, Florida.

By Linda

Every time of year is wonderful in Florida.  In winter, you have birds visiting from the north.  In summer, the residents are raising young.  There is always something wonderful to see no matter the time of year.  We’ve also had whale sightings this year.  Last year was terrible.  A couple Northern Right Whale’s with their calves have been spotted off the coast.  That’s very good news indeed!

I became the local coordinator for the National Audubon Society’s Climate Watch.  National Audubon has developed models to predict changes in bird populations as a result of the changing climate. They are seeking to validate those models. They have chosen to start the program by monitoring the presence of two species, bluebirds and nuthatches, during a winter and summer count. These species were selected based on strong predictions of range shifts. More species will be included in the future.

The winter count is January 15 to February 15 each year. Based on analysis of the Audubon population predictions, I chose bluebirds as the species to begin our efforts. National Audubon predicts a reduction in the presence of bluebirds in our area in summer and a stable presence in winter.  More information on the program can be found at www.audubon.org/conservation/climate-watch.

Regis came with me on the first day I went out to survey bluebirds.  Since I was busy with binoculars and eBird, he became responsible for the camera.  For the past 3 years, I have been trying to get decent pictures of the Hooded Mergansers that show up every winter.  We saw them during the count and Regis got the following picture.  Nice job!

Females Hooded Merganser
Female Hooded Merganser

He also got a nice picture of an immature blue heron.

Immature Little Blue Heron
Immature Little Blue Heron

I take Dart for a walk every morning.  Lately, almost every morning, the bluebirds are hanging around our house or the neighbors’ houses.  I hear all their twittering before I even see them.  But, while I’m out counting bluebirds, there are few to be seen or heard.  Unbelievable!

 

 

A Duck and a Horse

Two horses and a duck.
The duck is very fond of the brown and white horse.

January 6, 2019

When we were scouting for the Matanzas Christmas Bird Count, we stopped to talk to a property owner to request permission to bird on his property.  He was very nice and gave us permission.  We chatted for a bit and the property owner told us about his animals.  In that discussion, he mentioned that he had a horse with a duck friend.  The duck wants to be by the horse and is unhappy if he can’t be by his horse friend.

On the day of the Christmas Bird Count, we saw the horse and duck when we went to the property to bird.  We had to stop birding for a while just to watch as the duck made sure to stay close to the horse.  As you can see from the picture above, the field is currently a lovely place for a duck.  I’m not sure how the horses feel about all that water.

Below are a few pictures from the last several days.

Turtle
Turtle in Matanzas State Forest

Towhee
Towhee in Matanzas State Forest

Pine Warbler
Pine Warbler in my backyard

Chipping Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow in my backyard

Common Ground-Dove
Common Ground-Dove in my backyard

Thank Goodness for a Jeep

Muddy Jeep Cherokee
Our beautiful Jeep Cherokee.

January 1, 2019

The Matanzas Christmas Bird Count is tomorrow and I agreed to lead the count in the Matanzas State Forest.  The person who usually does it was unable to do so.  I had never been to the Forest.  A permit is required to gain access and I got the permit.  After talking to the lead Forester, I found that I could get a permit to drive on the roads that are designated for authorized vehicles only.

Two fellow birders and I went to the Forest the other day to scout.  It was amazingly muddy.  We did not drive on the “trails” that require the special permit.  We had a lot of ground to cover and I said that I would come back with Regis and try the “trails” to see if any were worth visiting during the CBC.  The Forest is 330 acres so we wanted to hit the best birding spots on the designated day to count.

The Forester recommended a couple trails would could only walk on, but would take us to the marsh.  We did the first trail but goodness knows why.  It was like walking through a swamp.  In fact, we were walking through a swamp.  Sue and I had proper boots for the adventure but poor Amy hung in there and got her shoes very muddy and wet.  We saw one bird in the marsh.  We decided to nix the wet hike for the CBC. At the end of the day, the car was as muddy as it has ever been including the car mats and Sue, Amy, and me.

Today, Regis and I went back to check out those side trails.  I drove and turned onto the first available trail.  It was a mess.  But, I was in a Jeep and on a bird mission!  When I saw the big puddle ahead, I didn’t think twice (or maybe I did) about driving through it with the Jeep.  The water turned out to be MUCH deeper than I thought.  I tried to keep the momentum going to get through it.  We had our windows open to listen for birds and I failed to close them before the “puddle” or small pond.  I was on the upside and mud and muck sprayed everywhere including inside the driver side window.

My momentum was stopped by a submerged tree that we did not see.  As I came to a stop in the middle of this pond, I turned to Regis and said “you can take it from here”.  I was petrified that we were going to spend the next several days partially submerged in this swamp.  Of course Regis got the Jeep out of there while I waded through the water removing logs for him.  The water was well over the top of my muck boots.  Thank goodness I didn’t see a snake.

I was ready to go home but Regis felt we should continue since we came there to see birds.  Of course, he may have been a bit wet, but he wasn’t full of mud like me.  And, he turned the driving back to me so I could sit in the disgusting mud and muck in the car as well as all over me.  But, onward.

Muddy map
The State Forest map I was using to make notes. It was sitting on my lap when we entered the “puddle”.

There were several pickup trucks driving through the Forest which led to big, big ruts in the big, big, muddy puddles in the road.  You could not drive a regular vehicle through this mess.  We got through the day just fine, but I will limit where we go on the CBC so we can return alive.

On the way home, we stopped in Tractor Supply to get a boot dryer.  I need the boots again tomorrow and they were soaked.  We couldn’t find them at first and almost gave up, but Regis went to look one more time.  He found the only box left.  So, he turned into my hero twice today.

When we got to the checkout counter, the lady asked me what happened to the car.  She said she noticed us drive into the lot.  When I got home and realized I how much mud I had on my face and clothes, I wondered why she didn’t ask what happened to me.

I spent a while cleaning the inside and spraying off the worst of the muck and vegetation from the outside.  Since I will be going back tomorrow, it doesn’t make sense to do more.  I guess this week-end will be spent thoroughly cleaning the poor Jeep.

While cleaning the inside, I noticed that the mud sprayed clear through half the car but stopped just short of getting any mud on Regis.  Really!

We have driven the Jeep in lots of off road situations all over the country.  Regis usually drives while I hold the camera ready for picture taking.  We agreed on the way home today that I get the award for getting the Jeep the muddiest it has ever been.

One last thing.  As I was asking Regis about how concerned we should be about any damage I might have done to the Jeep by submerging it in that much he water, he said that since the water wasn’t coming up through the floorboards, it wasn’t that bad.

We are off to a great start in 2019!!

Robin with a berry.
Robin. At least I got one bird picture out of today.

 

Photo Contests

Elk and other animals.
Friends

December 30, 2018

This year, I entered a few photo contests.  The biggest one I entered was the North American Nature Photographers Association annual photo competition.  The picture above placed in the top twenty in the Altered Reality category and in the top 100 overall in the competition.

The following photo won honorable mention in a Florida Camera Club Council digital competition.

Seattle From the Ferry at night
Seattle From the Ferry

There are so many amazing photos out there that I am honored to have placed where I did in these competitions.

 

Clapper Rail

Clapper Rail in the salt marsh
Clapper Rail in the salt marsh

December 30, 2018

For a few years now, I’ve been hearing the sound of Clapper Rails in the salt marshes but never saw one.  I would try to sneak up on them on my kayak when I heard them, but they would become silent and I couldn’t see them.

When I started going out on the boardwalk over the salt marsh in our community to watch the sunrise, I started to get lucky.  Occasionally, a Clapper Rail would come out of the grasses and run along side or under the boardwalk.

On one particular morning, I was able to get some video of these elusive birds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snail Kite

Snail Kite
Snail Kite

By Linda December 26, 2018

I got back to Florida yesterday.  I drove from Maryland to Florida on Christmas Day and the traffic was very light most of the way.  It was most astonishing to me to drive in the Washington, D.C. area and see almost no traffic on the beltway and 95 south from D.C. to Richmond.  I spent much of my life sitting in rush hour traffic in the D.C. area and I felt like I was in an alternate reality having very few cars on the road.

There were several friends I wanted very much to see while I was in Maryland, but I couldn’t stay long enough to make it happen.  I sandwiched the trip between two local Christmas Bird Counts.

I received several eBird alerts over the last couple of days about a Snail Kite in the area.  That is very unusual for here.  After I finished unpacking and catching up on a few things, like brushing Dart and cleaning his ears, Regis and I headed out to where the Snail Kite was last seen. It was there!!  It flew right by us as soon as we arrived.

Snail Kite
Snail Kite

We saw lots and lots of Ibis.  It is the most Ibis I have seen.  There were also a lot of Glossy Ibis.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than one Glossy Ibis at a time.  There were at least two dozen of them.

Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis

Ibis and an Egret
Ibis and an Egret

Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis

Wood Stork
Wood Stork

Greater Yellowlegs
Greater Yellowlegs

Forsters Tern
Forsters Tern

Forsters Tern
Forsters Tern plunging into the water for food.

Forsters Tern with food in its mouth
Forsters Tern successfully getting food.

When we got back from birding, Dart was as frisky as I have seen him in awhile.  I think he took a power nap while we were gone.

Birds

20181222 (3 of 1)
Tundra swans at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge. Most of the birds were far away for viewing, so we made heavy use of binoculars and could have used my scope except the focus ring broke on it.

December 23, 2018

I’ve been doing a lot of birding the last month.  I didn’t start a life list until a couple months ago.  It’s pretty late in life to start one, but better late than never.  I’ve been paying more attention to bird behavior and details and it has really heightened my outdoor experiences.

I did the St. Augustine Christmas Bird Count.  It was the first CBC I’ve done.  We got up well before sunrise in hopes of seeing a Great Horned Owl and we were rewarded for our efforts.  We saw our owl.

20181216 Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl at Sunrise.

We spent the morning birding the Palencia Saltmarsh.  I saw my first Surf Scoter.

Surf Scoter
Surf Scoter at Palencia Saltmarsh.

Black Skimmer skimming.
Black Skimmer skimming.

We spent the afternoon on the Intracoastal Waterway and I saw more birds than I have ever seen in my life.  I was overwhelmed.  I didn’t know enough about identifying shorebirds, especially in winter plumage.  I took lots and lots of pictures and with help identified them from the pictures and counted them.  I need to find a better plan for  next year.

We saw at least a dozen Ospreys and saw one carrying what we thought was a snake.  I managed to get a picture.  From the picture, we were able to see it was a Needlefish.  It was a cool but unfortunate fish.

Osprey with Needlefish.
Osprey with Needlefish.

White Pelicans, brown pelicans, cormorants, and other shorebirds.
White Pelicans, brown pelicans, cormorants, and other shorebirds.

I came to Maryland last week to visit family and friends and go birding.  I had a great time visiting people and a couple wildlife refuges.  I got lucky.  In spite of the Federal budget impasse, the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge was open yesterday.  My brother and I stayed until sunset and watched the moon rise.  With so many ducks, geese, and swans flying around, we saw great views of birds flying across the moon.  I never got a good picture, but I wouldn’t mind trying again and again.  It was peaceful and beautiful.

Tundra swans flying at sunset.
Tundra swans flying at sunset.

Two Bald Eagles
Bald Eagle couple having a discussion. My brother thinks they were discussing what to have for dinner.

Gull
Gull at sunset

Moonrise over Blackwater Wildlife Refuge
Moonrise over Blackwater Wildlife Refuge

 

Grackles

Boat-tailed Grackle sitting on a spotting scope.
A Boat-tailed Grackle checking out my camera equipment. After looking it over, he stared at me while I took his picture.

November 28, 2018

Yesterday, when I was taking pictures in the morning and jumped in the car to warm up, a Boat-tailed Grackle came to check out my camera and scope.  We were nicely entertained.

Three Boat-tailed Grackles
Boat-tailed Grackles entertaining us while we warmed up in the car.  I call them the parking lot birds.  In the south, they are often found in parking lots. 

This morning we went to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge to watch the sunrise.  It was amazing.  It was also freezing, literally.  There were pockets of frost in the refuge.  I used a remote shutter release for the camera so I could keep my hands tucked into my jacket.  It was worth braving the cold.  The sunrise was absolutely beautiful.  And, we got to watch hundreds of birds fly on a bird highway to who knows where.  I suspect they were leaving the places where they had roosted for the night and were heading to the Gulf for breakfast.  We could recognize the silhouettes of many of them like the Great Egrets and Ibises, but some we were not sure of.

Sunrise over St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuge
Sunrise over St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge

We got the results of Dart’s biopsy and it is not cancerous.  Yipee!