Birds at Sunrise

Brown pelican at sunrise.

I went to the Villano Boat Ramp in St. Augustine before sunrise to get some morning pictures of the birds. The colors were not as spectacular as I had hoped, but all sunrises are amazing in their own way. The fishermen were departing while many of the birds were arriving near the ramp. It was peaceful and beautiful.

Brown pelican at sunrise.

While downloading the pictures and going through them this afternoon, Regis was on the lanai trying to get a Carolina Wren out of there. We have had to chase the wren out of the bedroom, garage, and now twice out of the lanai.

Our little rescue red-bellied woodpecker continues to pull his feathers out. His tail and body feathers were beginning to come in, but he pulled all his tail feathers out and is working on what left of his body feathers. Fortunately, he has not pulled his wing feathers out. They are growing in more slowly than we would like. Once he can fly, we will release him regardless of the tail and body feathers. He clearly has some issues in captivity and it does not suit him. We let him out on the lanai today to see how well he could fly. He can get airborne for about a foot, but not enough to be released. I now think we may have him for as much as a month more.

I do not feel comfortable taking good pictures of people. So, I took an outdoor class yesterday with Rick Ferro who does wedding photography at Disney to learn how to take portraits of people. I learned a lot and feel more comfortable with the idea of using flash and other options for lighting and photographing people. Perhaps I can get some victims to volunteer for me. I told Regis he needed a proper haircut so I could use him as a test subject. Neither of us has had a good haircut since last spring. I do not wish to put his life at risk for a picture, so we will see when it seems safe to do so. Once that happens, I will give my new skills a try and post a picture if I can get a good one.

Great black-backed gull at sunrise.
Laughing gull at sunrise.
Brown pelican at sunrise. I love pelicans. They are fun to photograph.

Regis vs Pippen

Moonrise over the salt marsh.

I think the red-bellied woodpecker we are rescuing is driving Regis crazy. The bird plucked all its body feathers and the temperature dipped, so I brought the bird inside. Its feathers are starting to come back, but they are not long enough to keep the bird warm. The bird has been trying desperately to escape its cage and makes a lot of noise all day long in the process of trying. Dart and I have learned to live with it. Regis tries to sneak up on the bird. There is no sneaking up on the bird. It has a 6th sense and if you even think about looking at it, it knows. I challenge anyone to try to get one over on this bird. Its not happening. Regis tries to spook the bird by sneaking up behind its log, but it knows. It always knows. It is getting used to us and does not hide when we go about our daily business. If we go to the cage, it hides. It knows the difference. As long as Regis is interacting with the bird, it is not bored and plucking its feathers.

With the bird inside, the red-bellied woodpecker outside is not hanging out and clinging to the screen on the lanai. I have been concerned the outside woodpecker will poke a hole in the screen. If that happens, Regis will not be so generous about saving birds. The outside woodpecker was drumming on the gutter yesterday but has not been doing it today. When we can release Pippen, he needs to be prepared to fend for himself. He looks terrible right now with his feathers in bad shape, but there is improvement. He gets a lot of exercise in spite of being in the cage. He almost never stops jumping around in the cage during the day. I went to take pictures of the moonrise tonight and when I came home the bird was missing. Regis said he is exhausted from all his activity and sleeping in his log.

About the moonrise. Twelve times a year, during the full moon, the moon rises at the same time the sun sets. This can be a time to get spectacular colors during a moonrise. For the full moon last month, the clouds came in late afternoon and covered the sky. For a variety of reasons, including the weather, I often miss the opportunity. Tonight, there were no clouds and I took pictures of the moonrise.

The colors were not spectacular, but being on the marsh as the sun set and the moon rose was amazing. I saw several deer crossing the marsh after the sun set. On my way back, I saw an owl flying. I always feel that whether I get good pictures or not, the experience is what is most important.

Sunset over the salt marsh. There are a few deer in the marsh in this picture, but the long exposure “ghosts” them out. You can barely see a couple of them.

Dart has been doing well on his medication. He was driving me crazy all day. You know Dart is feeling ok when he drives you crazy.

Wren in the Garage

I suppose the wrens are looking for nesting opportunities. I found one in the garage. The other day, one was in the bedroom. Yegads!

We have not seen Squeak for two days. I have heard killdeers in the marsh for a couple days. I hope that Squeak decided it did not need us anymore and joined the other killdeers. I have no reason to believe otherwise. The bird could fly well and find its own food. That is a recipe for success.

It has warmed up here, so we put Pippen (the red-bellied woodpecker) on the lanai yesterday but brought him in for the night since he plucked his body feathers out. I put him back on the lanai this morning and he seems to thrive out there. Regis harassed the bird to catch it so we could get a good look at its feathers. They are coming in on his body and his flight and tail feathers are also coming in. Karen, from the Ark, told us a week ago he might have enough flight feathers to release in two weeks. Currently, that is one week from today. That may be possible. The bird still looks terrible, but we need to get him out as soon as he can fly because being caged is not conducive to his mental well being.

I took some video of him. He likes to hide his bark butter bits in his log. I learned that he will eat more mealworms/crickets if I put them higher in his cage instead of leaving them on the floor of the cage. He looks terrible in this video because he feathers are in terrible shape, but know that he is improving. The banging noise you hear in the background is me removing the carpet strips from one of the rooms. We are replacing the carpet with a vinyl floor that looks like wood and is water resistant.

We have multiple projects going on at the same time and one of them is mulching the gardens. I have 12 cubic yards of mulch to distribute and take it a bit each day. While mulching today, I looked up and saw a young raccoon a few feet away. It did not care that I was busy mulching. It had found the peanuts I left out for the squirrels and was too busy to care. Later, Dart realized the raccoon was there and chased it. It ran up the nearest tree and stayed there for a long time. Eventually, it returned to see what was available and found some dried mealworms I had put on the ground.

Later in the day, we saw another male red-belled woodpecker hanging around the lanai. It perched on the screen and began pecking. It is interested in Pippen. The problem is that interest may lead to a hole in our screen. Argh! We have another week or so of dealing with this drama.

I took Dart to a specialist on Monday and he determined that Dart likely has chronic osteoarthritis/immune mediated polyarthropathy. Basically, he has a bad case of arthritis. The vet recommended a treatment which we are trying, but I am currently suspect that the treatment is worse than the disease. We will give it a try, but we may wind up accepting that it is what it is. I have severe osteoarthritis and have to alter my activities to live with the pain. I think we will have to learn how to do the same with Dart. I am grateful to know it is not something more serious.

Wren in the Bedroom

Squeak in the road yesterday. The bird is now hanging out on our walkway and driveway. I find it interesting that it prefers the manmade sidewalks and driveways instead of the lawns. Perhaps it hates St. Augustine grass as much as we and Dart do.

Today, Regis found a Carolina Wren in our bedroom. We opened one of the windows and easily got it out. When the weather is nice, we often leave the lanai door ajar so Dart can go in and out as he pleases. As a result, we sometimes have wildlife IN our house. We once had a snake and now this wren.

Squeak, our recently released killdeer chick, is hanging around our house. The bird has upgraded from hanging out in the gutters to hanging out on the driveways and sidewalk. It only occasionally eats the mealworms we offer. I hope that is a sign it is finding enough food on its own. It is probably sick to death of eating mealworms anyway. That is all it ate for the first month of its life. This morning, I heard killdeer making sounds over the marsh behind our house. I think Squeak needs about another week on its own before it is comfortable enough to venture further and explore the world and perhaps join up with these other killdeer. I know for sure it spends a lot of time on our walkway because there is a lot of bird poop on it.

I went to one of our ponds to get some video of the Hooded Mergansers. I was trying out Regis’ Tamron 150-600 which I love, but need more practice to get the settings right. The video shows you the behavior of the mergansers but National Geographic will not be contacting me for a copy.

In the Gutter

On Fridays, I usually clean the aviaries at the Ark. Today, we had two new pelican patients and one on the way. It does not appear to be a good time for pelicans at the moment. The good news is that the loon was released. That is the loon that attacked my hand and taught me a valuable lesson about dealing with birds that use their bills as weapons.

As I was leaving the Ark, Regis texted that Squeak (our recently released killdeer) was hanging out in the street gutters near our house and I should look out for him when I got home. When I arrived on our street, I found Squeak in the street gutter at the house next to us. It was actively looking for food. When Regis realized the bird was hanging out in the gutters, he put some mealworms in the gutter. He also put the tray of mealworms out front where Squeak was more likely to find it. For several hours after coming home, we could see Squeak in the gutter or on the sidewalk. It flew away whenever a car came, so it was being safe. I would like to see it lift itself up and get out of the gutter. I suppose every kid has to find their own way, but I would like to encourage the little bird to be upwardly mobile and start hanging around better places.

I worry about the releases making it through the first night on their own. I was thrilled to see the bird and it looks good. It appears to be getting food even though I prefer it hang out in a better place.

We had to move the woodpecker’s cage today. We are replacing all the carpet in the house with vinyl flooring that looks like wood. It can better handle sick dogs and wildlife messes. We had the woodpecker located in the first room to be redone because there was no furniture. Regis was ready to start installing today, so the bird had to move. Since it would be upset about the movement of its cage, we took the opportunity to harass it even more by grabbing it and checking out its wings to see if its feathers were growing in. The good news is that we could see the flight feathers growing in and it should only be a few more weeks before the bird can fly. The bad news is that the bird has pulled out every feather on its body. We had hoped to move the bird to the lanai. With no body feathers, it can not keep itself warm. It now lives in our dining room. I am certain that Pippen ( the woodpecker) will not like that location but it is what it is. Karen from the Ark thinks the body feathers will grow back quickly. Regis wondered if the bird detected adhesive on the feathers and therefore removed them all. The bird was found with a sticky substance all over it and lost wing feathers in the process of removing the substance.

People put out sticky traps for insects, mice, and rats. The sticky substance often attracts bugs which attracts birds. The birds get stuck in the adhesive and often do not survive. I have my fingers crossed that we can get this bird through the next few weeks and let it go free.

I love our street and all the wildlife we see here. Regis wandered the street taking pictures the other day while I was kayaking. He got pictures of the hooded mergansers that we often see in the winter. They are a joy to watch as they dive for food, take baths, and preen themselves. Dart is happy to lay down next to me on the edge of the pond while I watch the mergansers.

Hooded mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus).

The white pelicans also show up in the winter. They hang out in a large flock on the intracoastal waterway which we can barely see from our house. Every so often, we see them fly overhead.

American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

I have been birding regularly on our street since we moved in almost two years ago. Our street is 3/4 of a mile and has 4 ponds, one of which has a higher salinity level. We have wetlands (swamp) across the street and the marsh behind us. With the variety of habitats, we get a variety of birds. I use the eBird app on my phone to record what I see. I recently did an analysis and saw that I had 257 checklists (bird lists) over the last two years and saw 87 different species of birds. That is why I love this place. The winter residents will begin to leave soon and it is always sad to see them go. During migration, we have opportunities to see some interesting birds that pass through briefly. The white pelicans will be replaced with swallow-tailed kites. Soon, our resident birds will begin nesting. Each season brings its own gifts of the day.

Pip Died Last Night

Squeak.

Yesterday, we noticed that Pip (our smallest killdeer) looked a little scruffy. We weighed the little killdeer and it lost 5 grams in two days. I gave it the same medication I gave earlier to help the bird beef up. It was not enough and we found Pip dead this morning while Squeak was very active running around and trying to get out. Squeak has been doing that anyway, but the bird was particularly noisy about it this morning. I think Squeak was ready to go a couple days ago but I was waiting for Pip to catch up with it so I could release them together. We gave Squeak the opportunity to leave on its own and it immediately took a straight shot through the open door. We have good habitat nearby but wanted to give the bird the opportunity to hang close by if it needed a few more days in a familiar place. It did not take long for Squeak to fly away. There was no hanging around.

When Regis went to get the mail which is a couple blocks from our house, a killdeer flew in front of him. Regis got some pictures. We know its Squeak. The tip of the tail is still a little “fuzzy” as it is on juvenile killdeers. I saw the bird on top of the neighbors house around 4:30 as I was unloading the kayak from the car after being gone all day.

Squeak hanging out down the street from our house which is across the street from a pond.

The door to the lanai is open in case the bird wants to return and there are lots of mealworms on the back patio. We will keep putting them out until we run out. The bluebirds, wrens, etc. will be happy to eat Squeak’s mealworms also.

I had plans to go kayaking today with my friend Paige. I was so bummed this morning about Pip dying and so soon after Sandy died, I almost canceled. I am glad I went. She and I both enjoyed a lovely day on Pellicer Creek. It was an easy and lazy kayak run. I enjoyed a beautiful day with a good friend out in nature and it improved our spirits. When we pulled out for lunch, Paige noticed a variety of animal footprints on the shore. It was an animal superhighway judging by the number of prints. Pictures of some of the prints are below. Paige believes the large print in the first photo is a bobcat. The third photo shows raccoon prints. We saw an alligator on our return trip. Paige has lived here all her life and been on this creek many times and that is the first time she saw an alligator in it.

Dart got a nifty new bed today. Dart inherited a good bed from the collies and it appears to be his favorite. That bed is in the living area. He has a small bed in our bedroom. This was the bed that I had to toss the stuffing because Dart vomited on it so many times during our camping trip this year. I purchased him a new bed from a pet store in the nearest town to our campground but Dart would not sleep on that bed. Regis took the stuffing out of the new bed and crammed it into the covering for the old bed and Dart found that acceptable and will sleep on it. There was a third bed that I have in my office. It was an inexpensive bed I purchased for the collies. Dart no longer likes the bed. He regularly tried to rearrange it and when it wouldn’t cooperate, he would sleep on the floor. I think Orvis makes some of the best dog beds, so I ordered him a new bed for my office. The bed has an orthopedic cushion to help support him with his arthritis and joint problems and it has a feature that allows it to remain cool. Being Florida, that will come in handy. When it gets too hot, Dart moves to the tile floor to sleep which is likely not good for his bones and joints now that he is having issues. It was the most expensive dog bed I ever purchased and I was afraid that he would stick his nose up at it. He likes it! That’s him laying on his new bed while I type this post.

Dart in his fancy new dog bed.

The Sanderling Died

I am heartbroken to share the news that the little sanderling succumbed to whatever injuries it sustained from get entangled in fishing line. Yesterday morning it seemed fine and I saw it jump up at least a foot in an attempt to fly. Perhaps that broke something further that was already broken. For the next several hours, the bird stood still in the sun. The bird started to walk around later in the day and it was clear something was wrong because it was not walking properly. It appeared tipped over with its head down and its tail up. After dinner, the bird’s head seemed to be stuck back and it started flopping around. It was heartbreaking to watch. Regis picked up the bird and held it still and it drifted off to sleep. I eventually took over.

I sat on the couch with the bird in my hand and felt its heart beating and the warmth emanating from its little body. I was struggling to determine what to do for it. If we put it down, it would start flopping around again. Something was broken that I didn’t have the skills to fix. As I looked down at the little bird and watched its tiny eyes flutter, I hated to think that little spark of life inside was going to go out.

As I held the bird, I looked out back and saw a squirrel sitting on top of the owl box. This little squirrel has been hanging out at the box for the last several days and often perches on top with its little paws held above its belly. We believe the squirrel has either had babies or is preparing to have babies. It gave me reason to think about the circle of life.

I decided to take the bird to the emergency vet. Regis drove and I held the bird. Because of Covid, we were not allowed inside the vet. We called the number to let them know we were outside and two techs came out to retrieve the bird. I explained why I was holding it and one of the techs gently took the bird into her hands. After my description of events and a quick look at the bird, they were certain it had a neurological problem. There would not be a good outcome for this little sanderling. I was heartened to see the techs be so gentle with the little bird as they took it inside. That was the best place for it to be under the circumstances.

I have had a string of failures recently in rehabilitating wildlife, but Topaz, the blue jay we raised last spring, visits occasionally and I am reminded that the success stories make it worth trying. Also, we look forward to seeing what mama squirrel is up to in that owl box.

Squeak Can Fly

The largest killdeer, Squeak, can fly nicely. Pip, the smallest killdeer, needs to catch up. Pip has always been smaller. About five days ago, I started giving Pip some medication to help its digestive system to ensure it was retaining more nutrients. There has been a big difference in Pip over the last few days.

Pip on January 12.
Pip on January 16.

These are the chicks when we first got them.

Pip and Squeak on December 30.
Pip and Squeak on January 16. Squeak is the one in the front. Pip is catching up.

Mischevious Vultures

Sandy, the sanderling.

I volunteer at the Ark Wildlife Rescue and clean the aviaries once a week in addition to rehabilitating some of the birds at my home. Part of the job is emptying and cleaning the pools and refilling them. There are two pools outside in a penned area where the birds are released while cleaning the inside cages. I like to be as efficient as possible and perform multiple tasks at the same time. It takes time to fill the pool, so I regularly leave a hose running in one pool to fill it while I clean something else. The visiting black vultures make it difficult to be efficient when filling the outside pools. When I leave the area while the pool is being filled, they pull the hose out of the pool. They do this regularly, so I asked Regis to come along today and video them in action while a friend and I cleaned the pens. Following is the video he captured.

The four birds at home are improving. Squeak, the largest killdeer will likely be flying soon. Sandy, the sanderling, has been grooming regularly and jumping up and stretching its wings. I am not sure why it can not fly, but the bird seems to be in better spirits and on the way to recovery. Regis and I both enjoy watching it jump about. All the birds remain on the lanai at night. We have a space heater and a heat lamp for them and I check them regularly all night. Last night, the killdeers and sanderling were regularly running around and not situated under the lamp even though it was in the 40’s (F). That is a good sign. Once I am comfortable that Pip, the smallest killdeer, is robust enough, I plan to turn the heat lamp off in preparation for a future release. We keep the space heater out for the red-bellied woodpecker since it removed many of its feathers. Until they grow back, I am concerned it can not keep itself sufficiently warm.

Sandy, the sanderling.

In the meantime, Dart started vomiting while on his anti-inflammatory that was working so well for him. After keeping him off of it for two days, he could not stand up first thing this morning and kept falling over. He eventually started to walk but would barely use his one back leg. I contacted the vet and she suggested trying an injectable pain reliever and giving him Pepto Bismal in addition to Omeprezole (anti-acid). She gave him a shot today and we have two more to get through the week-end. On Monday, we will assess where we go from here.

Honorable Mentions

The following images that I submitted to the 2020 Share the View International Nature Photography Contest won honorable mention.

The image below was taken while on a photography tour to Alaska.

Honorable Mention – Polar Regions, Sense of Place

The following image was taken while in Port Townsend, Washington. A pair of glaucous-winged gulls were raising their chicks on the roof of a local restaurant.

Honorable Mention – Urban Wildlife