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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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!
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.
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.
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.