Hanging by a Thread

Rescued red-bellied woodpecker that continually plucks his feathers.

Around the beginning of the year, we took in a rescue adult red-bellied woodpecker who had gotten himself into trouble. He was found with a sticky substance all over him and cleaning him required the removal of many of his feathers. In particular, he lost many flight feathers. He came to us to stay safe until he could fly and we could release him.

Being an adult woodpecker, he is troubled whenever we come near him. We leave him alone as best we can to keep him calm. We started off letting him on the lanai once a week to check his flying capability. This required capturing him and placing him back in his cage after the test which was traumatizing to him and painful for us. He pecked and screamed.

We thought his feathers were growing in too slowly and eventually held him long enough to see that his flight feathers were not growing back in. His feathers were broken, so his body did not know to replace them. We will not remove his feathers, so we have to wait for him to molt.

He has removed all his body and tail feathers at least three times since we got him. Recently, the weather cooled a lot for Florida and he was naked wherever he could reach his feathers. I was concerned about his ability to keep warm, so we brought him into the house.

Not only did he remove his body feathers, but he plucked out all his tail feathers also.

He is getting better about me being near the cage without him hiding as long as I don’t get too near. Last night, as I was letting the dog out, I noticed the bird was hanging from the top of the cage like a bat. This was not unusual. Later, I let the dog out again and the bird was still hanging in the same spot. I jokingly asked if he was stuck and then realized he was. We had a towel draped over half the cage to give him some privacy. He had gotten his toenail stuck in the threads of the towel. Poor guy.

I had to grab him while Regis got scissors to cut him free. We had to take him to a brightly lit room to remove the threads from his leg. The whole time, he was screaming and pecking at me. I felt terrible that he did not appreciate how we were helping him. He did not make the connection and hates us. The good news is that he is back to being his regular crazy self. He throws his bark butter bits, crickets, and mealworms out of the cage. He is a major cleanup issue. Does anyone know when red-bellied woodpeckers molt?

The woodpecker hiding from me behind his log.

On another note, we released a mockingbird and blue jay last May. I have seen the blue jay, Topaz, on several of my walks over the last week. He has always been with a mockingbird. (I do not know what sex the bird is but have taken to calling it a he.) There are so many mockingbirds on our street that I can’t be sure it is our mockingbird, but the bird allowed me to stay close to video.

I do not think it is possible for a mockingbird and blue jay to mate, but I have recently wondered what mocking jays might look like.

Mosquitos at Sunrise

Regis and I went to the Palencia boardwalk at the Palencia salt marsh yesterday morning to capture sunrise pictures. The mosquitos were out in full force. Regis sprayed his Off all over himself and I sprayed Skin so Soft all over me. It kept them at bay, but did not get rid of them entirely. The most frustrating thing was listening to them buzz in my ear. I was concerned one would fly in and take up residence. With the oil all over me, it got on the camera and binoculars and everything had to be cleaned when I got home. But, the sunrise was beautiful and we were fortunate to be there.

Sunrise at the St. Augustine Inlet

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I planned to launch the kayak before sunrise in another location today. I launched from the boat ramp at the Villano Bridge. The winds were calm. It was the kind of trip where it did not matter whether I got good pictures because the experience was amazing. I love the beautiful colors of the sunrise reflected on the water. Regis and I usually look for the gifts of the day having no expectations of what the experience will bring and being delighted with what shows up. Today was like that.

As I was leaving the area around the boat ramp, I found some dolphins frolicking in the water. I have never launched out of this boat ramp and not seen dolphins.

I saw a flock of black skimmers flying.

There was a snowy egret beautifully illuminated by the morning sun.

I have been wanting to get a picture of a bird taking off from the water in the morning sun. I got this picture today. It is a double-crested cormorant.

I stopped to watch the gulls, etc. making a raucous on a sand spit. A single picture would not do, so I pulled out my cell phone to get some video.

Remember that I am bouncing around in a kayak with these pictures. In spite of that, I managed to get this picture of a pelican flying.

As I was heading back to the launch, I found this red-breasted merganser. I have never been this close to one and I was thrilled at the opportunity.

Little Blue Heron

I went kayaking this morning and launched on the Guana River 1/2 hour before sunrise. This is the first time I launched in the dark. It was amazing. The birds were vocalizing, the water was calm, and the colors of the sunrise reflected beautifully in the water. I am already planning to do a before sunrise launch in a different location tomorrow. It is a great time of day to be out there.

I never know what I am going to see when I kayak. I expect one thing and something else shows up. Today was a little blue heron day. I saw several of them and parked myself in the marsh grass to watch and take pictures. Sitting still gives me a great opportunity to watch their behavior. I was too far away to see what they were catching in the water to eat. Following are a couple favorite images.

On the way back to the boat ramp, I found this juvenile tern sitting on a float. I think it is a juvenile royal tern since that is the tern most often seen in this location, but I am unsure. I tried the Merlin app and it thinks it is a common tern which I think is unlikely for this location. I posted it in iNaturalist and will see whether experts can identify it.

Juvenile tern.

Dolphins

I have been on a mission to get some pictures of white pelicans for 2 1/2 months. The pelicans hang out along the shores of the intracoastal waterway (ICW) where they can barely be seen from shore or on the northern half of Guana Lake. These locations require water access to get good views of the pelicans. Every time I have attempted to kayak the ICW to see them, it has been too windy. Most of the winter, the northern part of Guana Lake is closed for hunting. The lake reopened several weeks ago. Regis went to the six mile landing boat launch on Guana Lake the other day and was fortunate to see the pelicans near the shore. He posted a blog. I went the next day with the kayak and I saw no pelicans and the water was too shallow to launch. The pelicans will leave any day to migrate north and I was running out of time this year.

Today, the weather was beautiful with no wind. Regis joined me on a kayak trip on the ICW and we got lucky. There were some pelicans hanging out in their usual spot and I was able to paddle close enough to get pictures without disturbing them.

Linda taking pictures of the white and brown pelicans. There are also a few double-crested cormorants.
White and brown pelicans and a double-crested cormorant to the far left. (Regis got his picture).
White pelican with a raised vertical plate on the bill which they develop early in the breeding season and shed later in the year.

After getting pelican images, I went chasing after some cormorants and Regis found some frolicking dolphins. I am sorry I missed the dolphins. We often see them, but I have not seen the behavior Regis captured today. I suspect they were playing or doing something more adult oriented. There were four of them and they were leaping out of the water and touching each other.

The water was so calm as to be unbelievable after all my prior windy adventures in the same location. As a result, I was able to achieve another goal. I have been trying to get a picture of a single feather floating and reflected on the water. I was almost successful in Alaska in 2019 and have been trying ever since in Florida. The water is not calm enough, there are no feathers or there is too much debris in the water. I only saw this one feather, so this was my chance to make it work.

Feather floating on the water in the ICW.

Unlikely Pair

I recently joined some members of the St. Augustine Camera Club on an all day boat tour of the St. Johns River on Eco-Tours out of DeBary, Florida. The boat was at 25-33% capacity and there was plenty of room for us and our camera gear. The crew were very knowledgeable and delightful. The most unusual thing I saw was this unlikely pair of an alligator and a turtle sunning together. Alligators eat turtles, but these reptiles were more interested in sunning than eating.

Our trip began with this beautiful pileated woodpecker.

The most adorable critter was the young osprey in a nest.

These two white ibises were showing their breeding colors.

These blue herons were sitting on a nest.

We saw several manatees including mother and calf pairs.

The toughest thing to watch was this great white heron eating a frog.

White Pelicans

White pelicans on Guana Lake.

A couple days ago I got a bug to go over to the GTM and get some landscape pictures. The weather was getting warmer (63F) and it was sunny to boot. I grabbed the wide angle and a telephoto lens, the tripod, the external mic for video (it was very windy), an extra battery and stuffed it all into a backpack. I jumped into the car and took off.

The GTM is just a 3/4 mile from our back door so you may ask “why didn’t you just walk?”. It’s one of those “you can’t get there from here”. We live on the west edge of a wide tidal marsh that abuts the ICW (intra-coastal waterway) which runs north-south which abuts a tidal marsh on the east which is part of the GTM. The only way to get to the GTM is to drive the long way around.

One of the great benefits of living on the marsh is the wide open views of the marsh and the many inhabitants. Egrets, herons, hawks, eagles, clapper rails (heard more than seen) and that’s just the feathered friends. We also have raccoons, armadillos, opossums, deer, and other critters. One of the seasonal birds we see is the white pelican. They congregate on a beach just south of our house. They are close enough that we can identify them but too far to count. Our estimate is between 75-150.

While driving to the GTM, I went by a boat ramp on Guana Lake. I slowed to check the water levels of the lake, part of the GTM. This is one of the places we like to kayak. The water level in the lake is controlled thru a dam and at times can be so low as to not be able to launch a kayak. What I saw surprised me. There were about 200 white pelicans! I did a U-turn and pulled into the boat ramp.

I jumped out and set up to get some pictures. The birds were not close but I could at least document my sighting for Linda. While I was setting up, the main group drifted with the wind farther south. A small group swam back and forth in front of me. While snapping pics I noticed what I thought was feeding behavior. I switched over to video mode to capture the action. It looked like they were just swimming back and forth with an open beak in the water. Every so often one of them raised their beak up and looked to be swallowing. (After reviewing the video at home that seems to be what they were doing)

White pelicans feeding on Guana Lake.

Moving on I made my way to the main entrance to the GTM. I collected my gear and went on a hike. My goal was to walk to the ICW where I could get some open water and beach shots. One of the things both Linda and I need to improve is getting landscape pictures. While I was walking along the beach looking for some type of landscape, I came upon a little bird running back and forth along a mud bank. The bird did not seem to mind that I was there. I sat down on the wet low tide beach to swap out the wide angle lens to a telephoto. Just forget the landscape, get the bird shot!

Spotted sandpiper.

On the way back I spent most of the walk off the trail looking for an eagle nest that is in the area. I was hoping to get to a spot to observe if there are any chicks in the nest. Finding the nest was a fail, but several days later I found I got a deer tick for my trouble. Linda made sure Dart’s tick medication was current since she is concerned I am bringing ticks to Dart, instead of the other way around.

Today, Linda took a test to be a licensed drone pilot and she passed. It looks like we have another major expenditure in the works. Now that she is licensed, there is no way to stop the acquisition of a drone. She already has the BEAKS Wildlife Sanctuary asking her to take pictures of their property once she is ready.

First Look The Artisan’s Market

Display at First Look The Artisan’s Market.

I recently set up a display of my photos in the First Look The Artisan’s Market and was interviewed today about it. To see the interview, click here.

We also recently re-established our Facebook page and would love for you to go to the page here and Like It.

Twitterpated

The weather has been beautiful and we had the windows open last night. During the night, I heard loud and strange animal noises. I thought they sounded like raccoons, but not the same sounds we hear regularly of raccoons fighting (or having discussions). I was concerned that some animal was in its death throes and it went on and on and I could not sleep. Today, Regis heard strange sounds coming from the marsh and went to investigate. He saw raccoons entwined. I do not think the female raccoon was as enthralled as the male but I may be misreading her facial expressions. I was glad to know the sounds I was hearing was not an animal in its death throes, but I hope the sounds were a mutual love fest rather than the alternative.

I learned the term twitterpated in the Disney movie Bambi which means smitten or lovestruck.

Osprey with a Fish

Regis and I were sitting on our back patio enjoying the beautiful weather yesterday afternoon when an Osprey landed in a tree near our backyard with a fish in its talons. The fish was flopping as the Osprey began to dine. The fish continued to flop as the Osprey continued to slowly dine. I had to stop watching. It is good for the Osprey that it caught a fish but I felt sorry for the fish, especially since it did not die quickly.