Birds in our Backyard

Male Bluebird

We’ve had bird drama in our yard recently. Some Bluebirds have been checking out the nest box, bathing in the birdbath, checking out the gourds, etc. But, I keep seeing two males and they are often fighting. I got some video below of a pair of Bluebirds hanging out at the nest box, but you can hear additional Bluebirds in the background.

This particular female would not go inside the nest box. This poor male tried and tried for a few days and she would not go inside. I was really feeling sorry for the guy.

This evening I heard what sounded like baby birds cheeping. A bit later, three birds lined up at the bird bath to drink. It turns out, they were baby Bluebirds.

I wonder if a pair of Bluebirds nested in a cavity in one of the trees and a different Bluebird was trying to entice the female to nest in the box. Perhaps all the fighting was between the resident male and the newcomer.

I don’t know for sure, but it’s been interesting to watch.

Bluebirds. Notice that there are sounds of additional bluebirds nearby.

We saw an Osprey in the tree that just caught a fish.

Osprey. Toward the end of this video, the Osprey “lightens its load” before departing. Also, notice the pair of Bluebirds that briefly fly by in the middle of the video.

There was a hawk in one of the trees. I’m sure the hawk finds the bird feeder in the back worth watching.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Least Terns Courting

Least Terns

We recently went to the beach to watch the Least Terns courting. The male brings a fish to the female. If all goes well, they consummate the relationship and start a family. As you can see in the video below, sometimes the male is too busy watching out for other things to take advantage of a receptive female. Sometimes, she’s not interested.

Least Terns courting. (I forgot to put the muffler on the mike to block the wind sounds!)

When things go well, they will dig a nest. One of the birds makes a few scrapes in the sand and that’s the nest!

A lot needs to go well to successfully raise a chick. Weather must cooperate. The nest can’t be predated. If the birds are flushed from the nest too often, the eggs can bake in the sun. Predators will flush the birds but people activity to close to the nests and especially dogs are a problem. It doesn’t matter if the dogs are well behaved. The birds can’t distinguish between a well-behaved dog and a coyote.

On this particular part of the beach, dogs are not allowed. This county has extensive beaches that are dog friendly. For some reason, people like to walk their dogs right by this nesting colony.

While I was there taking pictures, a guy and his children were walking two dogs. I gently reminded him that dogs were not allowed. He said he knew but he was following the spirit of the law by not walking his dog next to the rope circling the main part of the colony.

Personally, I don’t know why people can’t walk their dogs on the miles of dog friendly beaches and feel compelled to walk them along the hundred yards of endangered nesting bird colony where dogs are not allowed.

There are not many beaches left in Florida where birds can nest. Lots of beaches are lined with condos. The birds have been going to rooftops of buildings to nest. This is not ideal because it sometimes the roofs can get too hot and cooks the eggs or chicks and bad weather can cause the chicks to fall off the roof.

The birds just need a little bit of space on the beach for a few months so they can have a fighting chance of raising the next generation.

Least terns courting

Least Terns courting

Bellowing Alligators and Baby Birds

Alligator at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida

I went to the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine today to get video of the birds nesting in the rookery. All the birds in the video below are wild. The alligators are captive. The alligators were bellowing a lot today.

I also saw a few birds picking up nesting material off the ground near the alligators. Very brave indeed!!

Alligators bellowing!

Although the birds were making interesting sounds, there were a lot of clips with people talking in the background, so I took the audio out.

Baby Alligators

Baby Alligator

I went looking for baby alligators today at the GTM Reserve and I was successful. I also think I found their mom. She was keeping an eye on me.

I think this was the mom alligator. She was close to the young.

I saw an armadillo on the way to the car.

Armadillo. I love those ears. This little fellow reminds me of Piglet.

I was enjoying some flowers and noticed little green bees visiting them.

Bee visiting flower at the GTM Reserve.

I’ve seen a few more snakes than usual lately. We had a Southern Black Racer in the backyard yesterday and I saw a Pygmy Rattlesnake while walking Dart this morning. I was hoping to see some Water Snakes while I was at the GTM, but it didn’t happen.

Southern Black Racer in my backyard.

Newborn Fawn

Newborn fawn. Look at those beautiful eyelashes.

Regis noticed a newborn fawn walking near our house. This little guy can barely walk, his legs are so new. Regis decided it has to be a boy because the little fawn didn’t stay where mom left him. (These pictures and video were taken with a telephoto lens.)

Newborn fawn
Newborn fawn on wobbly legs.

Following is a Roseate Spoonbill and its chick.

Roseate Spoonbill and Chick

Alligators

Alligators at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida. Note the one guy in front, center with the curled lip on one side. I don’t know whether this guy was born this way or had a fight in his life.

By Linda

I’ve been running around enjoying the Florida environment, but not bringing my camera for some of these excursions. I’ve been using my new cell phone to capture a few of the moments.

I volunteer in a bunch of capacities and I’m trying to streamline that because I spend TOO much time volunteering. I love the citizen science aspects of volunteering and I’m trying to gravitate in that direction. So, I recently volunteered at the Alligator Farm to count breeding birds and got the above picture of some alligators. I got some not so great footage of a chick but Regis and I are having a lot of trouble getting that footage uploaded to youtube. Go figure. I need to go back with a better camera anyway.

We’ve been enjoying our new house and the abundant wildlife we see. There are lots of birds all the time. The Red-bellied Woodpeckers are making great progress with their nest hole behind our property. No one has taken over our nest box. The Bluebirds show up, then the Chickadees, then the Bluebirds, then the Chickadees. I don’t know what they don’t like in order to make a commitment.

Regis, Dart, and I are in heaven with the new house. The house brings in more sunshine which makes the biggest difference. We love all the wildlife we see where we are located. I’d love to get some camera traps, but I’m not in a position to do that right now.

I’m working on a couple fronts to get some of my best images available for purchase. I have some images on https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/linda-burek.html to purchase. Additionally, I’m beginning to upload images to iStock/Getty images. Several images are available there right now.


Fiddler Crabs

Fiddler Crab (Uca) at the GTM National Estuarine Research Reserve.

by Linda

The Chickadees stopped hanging around our nest box and now a Bluebird couple is hanging around. It’s been interesting.

A few days ago we had a nor’easter come through. It was very rainy and windy. We needed the rain. At the tail end of things, the rained stopped but the wind did not. I saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker working on a nest hole. I kept the sound for the video so you can hear the wind in spite of the covering on the mike and you can see the trees swaying. Watch the chips begin to fly as she works on the hole and watch how she uses her tail to prop herself while working.

Today, I volunteered at the GTM with Amy. We drove a golf cart about 7 miles through the reserve to get to a camera where we were supposed to download some video. I think the storm did something to the set up because it was not working properly. Amy and I hung around taking pictures and video and watching the wildlife while awaiting instructions on how to download when the equipment wasn’t working properly. It turns out, we had to leave without accomplishing our goal.

But, Amy and I had a great time watching the wildlife while waiting. We saw a bunch of jelly fish lying on the shore and Fiddler crabs everywhere. I got some neat video of the crabs.

Fiddler crabs males are the ones that have one big claw and one small claw. The crabs eat by getting the microorganisms, etc. off the soil they bring to their mouths. After they get what they can eat, they roll the soil into a ball and leave it behind. The males use the claws to wave to the females to show how healthy and wonderful they are. The size of the burrows they make are the size of the large claw on the male. I noticed some other little crabs but I have not been able to identify them. (When Regis edited this post, he wanted to make sure I pointed out that size matters.)

Jellyfish stranded on the shore at the GTM National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Amy and I brought water, cameras, chairs, and snacks with us since we expected to wait awhile to download the video from the camera. When I got home, I realized that I did not have my chair. I know I left the site with the chair, but I don’t remember us having it when we dropped off the golf cart. I have a feeling it fell off the back and is sitting on one of the trails. At least I didn’t lose my camera gear!!

Chickadees

Chickadee perhaps nesting in our Bluebird box.

by Linda

Have patience with us. We’ve been quite busy with the move, me volunteering, and Regis starting a seasonal job. Lots of cool things have been happening, but we haven’t done a good job of capturing them. Moving forward, we hope to improve on that.

The new house is amazing. There is lots of wildlife. We have a couple racoons that travel through the yard every evening. Last evening, I was watering some plants and Dart was accompanying me when the racoon came through. Dart barked, of course. The racoon went off and did it’s racoon thing. Dart wanted to show who’s boss and promptly peed and pooped where the racoon passed through. I guess that’s Dart’s way of swearing.

We see and hear lots of wildlife here and I’ve recently begun to try to capture the drama. We put up a Bluebird box and it was immediately checked out by a Bluebird pair. Apparently, the female was interested in a more rustic home and the pair departed. We see a male every so often, but no luck on them nesting.

In the meantime, a pair of Chickadees showed up. I almost named this post, Lazy Chickadees, but that might be unfair. I don’t really know what’s going on with them. A few days now I’ve seen one of them go to our Crepe Myrtle to pull off some nesting material. The bird flies to the box, comes back a time or two, and gives up. It’s almost like the effort of bringing a few pieces of nesting material was exhausting and requires a day’s rest.

QThe birds came back the next day and did the same thing. They brought of few pieces of nesting material and then left. At this rate, they will never procreate while they are still alive.

Perhaps they are too young and are just playing house. Perhaps they aren’t quite ready to commit. I don’t know. But, a brief video is below.

Regis has been my video editor and he now works full time at Lowes for the season. So, I have to edit my own video. I have a learning curve here to get it right. Have patience with me. I’m still capable of learning and will figure it out.

I have great plans for stuff I want to capture and I hope to be successful. A top priority is the beautiful racoon that shows up regularly. The racoon has golden ears. The only time I saw that was a couple months ago when Regis and I saw some baby racoons in the marsh that all had golden ears.

I recently led a bird walk at the GTM Reserve with the help of a friend. It was a great walk and we saw a racoon and a bunch of baby alligators. I did not bring my camera since my job was to be the leader, but I intend to go back!!!

We have four ponds on our street and several of them contain young alligators. At the one pond, the little alligator keeps an eye on Dart as we go by. I wonder if he’s thinking “just wait until I grow up”. Dart would be a great meal, but the little alligator is too small right now. Not to worry, Dart is my buddy and I won’t let anything bad happen to him!

New House

Dart photobombing my picture.

By Linda

It’s a bit crazy, but Regis, Dart, and I moved to a new house a couple miles away. This house is on the marsh. It may be under water in the near future, but so will much of the rest of Florida. We figured we would live while we are still alive. We love it.

Dart photobombing another picture.

I’ve been recording the birds I see on my daily walks with Dart. I use eBird if anyone is interested in the results. I have been amazed at the variety. I saw a Great Horned Owl on one of our evening walks. I saw a Reddish Egret today in one of the ponds. We put up a bluebird box in the backyard and the bluebirds showed up the next day. I put out a hummingbird feeder and saw a hummingbird the next day. We put out a regular feeder and it is swamped with birds.

Not a good picture, but it shows sunrise from our backyard.

My neighbor told me she saw a bobcat yesterday. I’ve seen racoons twice. The night we put out the garbage, I had a plastic bag with packing materials that would not fit in the garbage bin. I figured it would be safe since there was no food in it. While doing my thing in my office, I noticed that a racoon showed up to check out the garbage. Regis ran out to chase it off. When he came back in, the racoon immediately returned. Regis ran out again and noticed there were two racoons. The one racoon ran into the bushes across the street and turned around to look at Regis. It was clear that the racoons would win this one.

I’m working to become a real estate and pet photographer. So, I’ve been taking lots of pictures and videos of the new house to practice. I’m still not happy with the pictures, but I get a kick out of Dart photo bombing many of them. He’s my little buddy and follows me everywhere. I enjoy his company but sometimes the little guy is in the way.

I’m beginning to recognize some of the individual birds on our walks. There is a Carolina Chickadee couple that went from chasing each other around to begin building a nest. There are a few Mourning Doves that are twitter pated (if you don’t know what that means, watch Bambi). There is a Mockingbird that is regularly in the same spot.

It’s pretty cool getting to know certain birds along our regular route.

Dart and I walk a mile round trip in the morning. It’s shorter than he is used to, but he gets to sniff all those great smells along the way while I stop regularly to check out the bird activity.

On the household side, I have a story. We have a couple fire ant mounds and I was concerned about the fire ants biting Dart. I looked up a recipe to get rid of them without introducing toxins in the environment. The recipe called for Dawn dishwashing detergent and orange oil, both of which I have. I made the recipe and did my thing.

That night I started the dishwasher and shortly afterward noticed suds coming out of the dishwasher. I yelled to Regis that we had a disaster. He pointed out that we had SUDS coming out of the dishwasher and why was that. We did a load of dishes the prior day with no problem. I thought through it and realized that I had measured the Dawn dish detergent in a measuring cup for the Fire Ant Killer recipe and put the measuring cup in the dishwasher to be cleaned. Apparently, it had enough detergent to cause a major problem in the dishwasher. Regis had to get out the wet/dry vac to vacuum up all the suds! Yeegads!

Las Vegas

Ceiling in the shops at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

By Linda

I recently went to the North American Nature Photographers Association 2019 Nature Photography Summit in Las Vegas. It was a great experience. I learned a lot and met amazing people in the nature photography industry.

The best part was my son and his partner came down from Seattle to visit with me in Las Vegas. I got to spend Saturday evening with them for dinner. We had dinner in the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace. After dinner, they left for a show and I headed back to my hotel. I got thoroughly lost. I really knew I was in trouble when I met up with this dragon a second time. I thought if I could just get outside, I would be able to get my bearings by looking at the buildings. It didn’t help that I forgot to tell my phone navigator that I was walking and not driving. When I finally found an exit, I should have grabbed a taxi/uber/lyft right away. But, no. I was headed to the monorail.

Dragon at the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. It was beautiful and stunning. Seeing it a second time made me realize I was going in circles.

I wound up walking down back streets with little traffic. It didn’t seem to be a safe thing to do and it took me a long time to get back to where the action was. When I later looked at where I had been, I realized that I must have walked two miles out of my way. Crazy!

On Sunday, we went to the Neon Museum and the Mob Museum. The Mob Museum had a lot of information. You can spend hours there if you look at every exhibit and watch every film clip. If you are squeamish, avoid the room with all the pictures of mobsters that have been gunned down. It was very gruesome. I think it helped that the pictures were in black and white.

Sign at Neon Museum in Las Vegas
Slot machine in the Mob Museum. My parents called this a One-armed Bandit when I was growing up.
I love this horse at the Bellagio in Las Vegas
Lots of places in Las Vegas are celebrating the Chinese New Year, Year of the Pig. These pigs were at the Bellagio.

We ate dinner at an outside table at Spago. It was next to the Bellagio Hotel fountain. The food was good, the entertainment was great, and the company of my son and his partner was amazing. It was a great night and my son made sure I made it back to the monorail station without getting lost.

Fountain at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas as viewed from the Spago restaurant. I had a front row seat from my dinner table.
View from my seat at dinner at Spago at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

It was good to get back home and see Regis and Dart. I don’t know if Regis missed me but it was clear that Dart did!