Calvin and Her Calf

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Northern Right Whale (Calvin)

I attended the State of the Reserve at the GTM NERR today which was very interesting. I loved the talks on the different research being performed at the reserve. In the middle of the afternoon, there was a talk on the local dolphins which was fascinating. In the middle of the talk, I got a message that there was a Right Whale 5 minutes away. The GTM NERR borders the Atlantic Ocean and the whale was right off the coast. It was everything I could do to stay for the remaining 5 minutes of the talk (which I wanted to hear!!).

When I got to the location, the Northern Right Whale and her cub were frolicking about a 1/2 mile away. I did not have a camera but more importantly, I did not have binoculars! We’ve been talking about buying a pair of binoculars for the car and this is one of the many reasons why we need to do it.

I called Regis who was, at best, 45 minutes away. He can always be counted on in a crunch and he set off with camera, tripod, and two pairs of binoculars. When he arrived, the whales were still there but no longer as active and as close as they were.

Northern Right Whales are an endangered species and there are likely less than 500 left. The 4 minute video below is not “National Geographic” exciting, but does show the Right Whale mom and her calf at a distance. When I tried to edit, I noticed the birds plummeting into the ocean for fish and a couple dolphins cavorting in the area. So I left most of the video intact so you could see all the activity along with the whales.

Here is a link to the video.

I count my blessings today. The environment in Florida has changed so there is more support of the amazing research done at the GTM NERR and I saw an endangered Right Whale (who turned out to be Calvin) and her beautiful calf on a beautiful day by the sea.

 

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Northern Right Whale (Calvin)

 

freshwater marsh

Regis and I went to the Masters Tract Stormwater Treatment Facility in Hastings, Florida to photograph and video wildlife. Here are a couple pictures along with a short video. At the end of the video is a blurry tri-colored heron. (I have to work on that focusing stuff!) Watch closely and you’ll see a blurry snake swim by.

Palm warbler.
Blue-winged teal.

When we got home, Regis found this green anole hanging out in our bushes.

Green anole.

mealworm feeder

I got some video of the birds coming to the mealworm feeder. There is a northern mockingbird, Carolina wren, male eastern bluebird, and female eastern bluebird. Enjoy!

moCKINGBIRD WITH A TWIST

I put some more mealworms out today. Daddy bluebird showed up and started eating them. He did not take any to the nestlings in the nest box.

While hoping to video the bluebirds at the mealworm feeder, I got a mockingbird instead. When replaying the video, I noticed that the end of the mockingbird’s beak is crossed. It didn’t seem to affect its ability to eat mealworms. The mockingbird has been chasing the bluebirds occasionally but isn’t impacting mama bluebird’s ability to feed her young.

Daddy bluebird spent some time sitting on top of the nest box and displaying for the female. A couple times he poked his head into the entrance hole to the box and got the little birds peeping up a storm and then left. I felt sorry for the little ones when he did that. Mama bluebird ignored the displaying and kept feeding her chicks.

Today is the first day of spring. About 30 years ago, I heard a newscast that said you could balance an egg on its end on the first day of spring because the earth is in balance. I tried it and have been doing it ever since. I found you can balance an egg on end any time of the year, but I get motivated on the first day of spring.

Below is the result of my first attempt.

Broken egg.

Final result!

Balanced egg – success!

You can also balance on the small end with enough patience. I did not have sufficient patience today to get it done.

What’s up with daddy bluebird?

It’s been troubling to watch that mama bluebird is the only one feeding her three chicks in our backyard nest box. Daddy bluebird checks out the box occasionally, but is not contributing to the care and feeding of the little ones. I don’t know if this is normal, but we haven’t seen this before. We have seen lots of successful hatchings in bluebird boxes we had installed on property we owned in Maryland, but never got to watch things up close. Our current box is maybe 10 yards at the most from our lanai, so we get to see what is and isn’t happening. Mama bluebird is frantically feeding the chicks and they are currently doing well. I provided some mealworms today to help her out, but she didn’t find them until this evening. Daddy bluebird found them also. I saw him grab a mealworm, go to the top of the nest box, and then eat it. I guess he’s getting closer to feeding the chicks! I hope he eventually figures out he should take the food inside the box.

Mama bluebird feeding her chicks.

Bluebird Update

Mama bluebird with food in her beak tipped me off that the eggs have started to hatch.

Today I was sitting at my computer and watching our bluebird box out of the corner of my eye. I noticed mama bluebird with some insects. That would suggest that hatching has begun. Regis went out with a camera to look in the nest and was able to verify at least two, possibly three eggs hatched.

I proceeded to take some video and the following is what I got for today. Mama bluebird is actively feeding the hatched chicks. Papa bluebird is still trying to wrap his mind around what’s happening. He keeps looking in the box but I have not seen him bring back any food at this point. He has been very vigilant the last few weeks, so I’m sure he will get with it and start helping mama bluebird out very soon. I think he is a proud papa but hasn’t kicked into gear to help mama feed the chicks.

The video is six minutes long and may be boring to many folks. But, many of you may be self quarantining right now and may enjoy spending a few minutes seeing what’s going on with wildlife in our backyard.

Five Bluebird Eggs

Female eastern bluebird in a next box Regis and I made. It was originally made for wrens but we enlarged the hole. The pair has recently laid 5 eggs!

We have some bluebirds actively nesting in our yard and Regis was able to determine they have laid 5 eggs in the next box we have out. We have two nest boxes in the backyard. We did not expect bluebirds to nest in both boxes at the same time. We hoped another bird would select the other box or the bluebirds would chose to raise their next brood in the other box.

I’m surprised at the box the bluebirds selected. Last year, we purchased an expensive box with nice features to allow us to keep an eye on the process. This past year, Regis and I built some boxes from some online specifications. I was hoping to sell them and had one left. It was built for a wren, but we widened the hole for bluebirds and put it out to see what would happen.

The birds chose the new box painted in a coral color. It’s interesting to me they selected the box we made but we also drilled more holes in it to release the heat. I’m not sure why they picked our box, but they did.

There have also been a pair of Carolina Wrens gathering nesting material for a nest. It’s lovely to hear them singing out back. They make an outsized sound for their small size.

Carolina wren

My last day of the season’s whale survey is on Monday. With my next volunteer activity, I volunteered to count birds at the Alligator Farm during nesting season and the Roseate Spoonbills are off to a nice start. I look forward to seeing the season unfold.

Roseate spoonbill at the Alligator Farm.

I will be giving a talk on photographing birds at the St. Johns County Audubon Society annual meeting at the Alligator Farm this Saturday if any locals are interested. You can get a half price ticket to the Alligator Farm as part of the meeting. Go the St. Johns County Audubon Society website for details.

Although we have a lot of local projects and volunteering to do over the next few months, we are also preparing for our summer trip in the motorhome. We’ll be traveling to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State and returning through Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico before heading home.