Monday, March 29, 2010

Florida Trip

I have not posted much lately. Not that I have not done any exciting birding, though. The whole family went last month (mm I mean february) in Florida, in Fort Myers Beach, to relax a little bit, get some warmth in the middle of the michigan winter, watch birds, and even chase a lifer or 2 (I did not expect that, considering we had a baby with us.
As usual, Esterego Lagoon had a great quantity of waders, ospreys, shorebirds, terns and gulls, as well as quite a few Palm Warblers (I will never get tired of seeing those birds hoping on the sandbeach), Ospreys, Brown Pelicans, etc. Overall, only one lifer on the beach during the 4 days of the trip (red knot), but I had a great time experimenting with my fz28+TCON17.

Osprey in Fort Myers Beach

There were also quite a few local "long lens" photographers, which is quite an interesting mammal species to study by itself.
In particular, I always find amazing that, on a beach where you can potentially find 6 species of plovers (I did not get the snowy this year, but piping, semipalmated, blackbellied, killdeer, wilsons were quite common), plus willets, turnstones, least sandpipers, the long lens photographers seems to be exclusively interested in waders and terns.

I mean, sure enough, a snowy egret in breeding plumage is nice, but why not taking advantage of having a $10,000 (maybe I am underestimating here) lens and take pictures of the cute little ones?

Another point that I find odd with those people, is their tendency to have EXTREMELY noisy shutter noise. "CLICK" "CLICK" "CLICK". dozens, hundreds of times. On my point and shot, you can very easily turn off the sound, so I would be surprised if you could not do it with those DSLR. OR maybe they did not read the manual......

But enough said about the lucky ones with their dream cameras (maybe I am just getting jaleous here). Let's go back to the birds...
Let's take care of the lifer. This was a red knot, bird that is quite rare in Michigan, let alone in Washtenaw county (we have no coast line with any of the great lakes)
Red Knot

I felt sorry for the bird as I discovered that it was missing part of its left leg....(does it still count as a full tick on my life list?) Another nice bird I found on the beach was an American Avocet, despite the relatively long distance, the picture turned out to be ok.....

Red Knot, missing part of its left leg

American Avocet

I was also lucky enough to find a reddish Egret, white morph (about 20% of the reddish Egret in Florida), which I initially misidentified to be a juvenile little blue heron (and for a moment, I was an "ashamed reddish cheeked birder")

Reddish Egret, White Morph

Weather was rather windy and cold (at least for Florida), and a semipalm plover is sheltering behind a Piping Plover. If you ask me, it's easy to see why the semipalm is a common bird, and the piping is endangered! In any case it was great to see them side to side, if only for the size comparison. I always assumed that the piping was smaller, probably because it is so cute, but I was wrong on this one. This bird was still in winter plumage, while many others were molting

Wilson's Plover

We also managed to make a side trip to Venice, where we managed to score a Florida Scrub Jay, bird we did not manage to score during our previous trip, one year ago. With the Red Knot, it was ABA lifer #321 and 322

Florida Scrub Jay

Another nice side trip we did was a visit to the Corkscrew Swamp. I suspect the main reason why Diane wanted to visit the swamp was because of the painted bunting that is fairly reliable other there. I was, too, quite excited to the idea to get a close picture of this little fellow. Just as we started the boardwalk tour, the volonteer for the refuge told me that a Shiny Cowbird had been reported in this area, so I spend a little bit of time looking for this potential lifer, while Diane went to the bird feeder, looking at the Bunting. Well, I did not see the cowbird, AND managed to miss the Bunting at the feeder (Diane, of course, saw the bunting). I still managed a long distance shot of a Bunting, but the quality is obviously not that great.

Incidentally, the french name for this bird is the "passerin non pareil", which could be translated , in jochen style, by "unlike anything else passerine". I think it is quite a nice name!

Painted Bunting

A common bird in Florida : the white Ibis.

Another side trip we did was to go at the 6 miles cypress park in the city of Fort Myers. The park is, to some extend, very similar to the corskrew swamp : a long board walk in the middle of a wooded swamps. Birds are certainly less numerous, but wintering warblers and vireo were common, and a nice challenge for the would be photographer.

Blue Headed Vireo

But the most exciting bird we saw that day was a Great Blue Heron who managed to pick a fight with a local snake (I wish I could ID the snake). The fight lasted for a good 5 minutes, and ended with a clear victory for the bird, who celebrated by eating his opponent!