Today Kathi and I birded from Fort Myers Beach all the way across to the Wellington area. We finally got our RED-COCKADED WOODPECKERS! Other highlights included this GLOSSY IBIS, which although not all that rare, was unique because it was missing all its right foot and lower leg. Only a stump was visible and the wound appeared to be fairly fresh. We wondered whether it was a large turtle or an alligator?

At Okeeheelee Park we spent some productive time at the bird feeders. We tallied no fewer than 13 PAINTED BUNTINGS and 5 INDIGO BUNTINGS! Only two were adult male PAINTED BUNTINGS. There were at least 9 or 10 that were female type birds with one or two of these being much brighter green. The one below appeared to be a first year male because of the orangy red present on the lower breast!

The other exciting bird that appeared at the feeders was a female DICKCISSEL! We were thrilled to find this bird still lingering as it was expected to depart any day now.


Today Kathi and I visited Peaceful Waters natural area to search for shorebirds and other waterbirds. Our main target here was LONG-BILLED DOWICHER. When we arrived I was disappointed to see that the water levels in the ponds had risen significantly. Nonetheless the back cell held a nice flock of dowitchers, plus both YELLOWLEGS, and many STILT SANDPIPERS.

Below is an image of one of the dowitchers. This is a LONG-BILLED.

Many of the dowitchers seemed to be paired off and were frequently seen having little scuffles about feeding sites.


We were in the Orlando area this morning and headed first to Brinson Park. Highlights here were both FULVOUS and BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING DUCKS, LIMPKINS, and several SNAIL KITES. The male kite flew by within twenty feet of us carrying a snail!

At Three Lakes WMA we managed to hear loads of BACHMAN'S SPARROWS and then finally got two males to co-operate. They sang from close distance allowing great scope views. Below is a poor image of one of the sparrows.

In the Lake Placid area Kathi and I spent some time searching for the endemic breeding FLORIDA SCRUB JAY. This confiding bird showed off well allowing us to get some decent images.

In this photo the jay scolds us as we watch from a close distance. You can see he is colour banded as part of an ongoing long term study.



I spent most of today checking out Joe Overstreet and Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area south of Kissimmee. The landing at Joe O was not as productive as usual, but still lots of great birds. According to Rob, the airboat tour captain, the whoopers have moved south this year to around Lake Okeechobee. BTW - I recommend his tours. Have done them in the past with Kathi and he really knows where the birds are, and gets you great views.

In Three Lakes my main target was the endangered RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER. I was too late to see them leaving roost holes but managed to find a number of birds foraging. Here is a photo of one of pair that seemed to be searching for a nesting cavity. Note that this bird is colour banded (for identification) as all of the RCWPs are here.

As I entered the WMA it was apparent that hunting was in full swing (turkey season I think). At the entry gate one hunter was decked out in full gear leaning against the gate staring off into the forest with his shotgun in his arms and ready for anything that moved. He warned me to 'be careful' out there! Ironically twenty yards past him there was a NORTHERN BOBWHITE standing on a log right beside the road. I was really pleased to get what is certainly my best image of this bird.



This morning Kathi and I took a short trip to look for BURROWING OWLS at Brian Piccolo Park near Pembroke Pines. It was certainly easy finding these great birds even in the heat of midday. At one burrow we came across one adult perched up in a tree.

At another burrow we watched a pair of owls interact by their nest burrow. What was presumably the male offered a blob of something to his mate. We weren't sure if it was nesting material or food, but the female readily accepted it.



Kathi and I are enjoying some fun on the beach here in Pompano Beach, Florida. We took a walk down the beach with a point and shoot a few days ago and too some pics of gulls and terns and skimmers on the beach. The black line centre left are all skimmers, the terns at bottom left are mostly ROYAL TERNS with the odd LAUGHING GULL and RING-BILLED GULL. But what about that group of gulls on in the centre right of the photo????

Below is a closer shot of that group of gulls. If you look carefully you will notice there are fourteen birds in this group. There are three species represented here. So what are they?

I know. I know. They are pretty small in this image, so below is a close up showing two of the species. The third species is RING-BILLED GULL. One is pretty much hidden except a wing tip and the other near the centre is noticeably smaller. So what are the two species below?

The bird in the bottom left with really bleached and pale wing coverts is a first summer HERRING GULL. It is the ONLY herring gull in any of these images. All the other gulls (and there are ELEVEN of them!!!) are LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS of varying ages. Just a few decades ago this species would have been earth shattering news anywhere in North America, but today they are widely reported in numbers. The thing I found most surprising is that this group of LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS were the DOMINANT species in this gull flock. I had upwards of fourteen LBBGs at any one time on the beach and there was never more than three or four other gulls with the flock! The LESSERS age classes seemed to be 4 adult or near adult, 3 second summer, and 7 first summer birds. In the image below you can see a range of variation of birds in the group - all of these are LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS!


Yesterday Kathi and I headed to Okeeheelee Park to hopefully finally end her quest for the elusive PAINTED BUNTING. Last year in Texas I had promised to produce one and had failed (although I did see one the week after she headed home!).

We arrived at the nature center around 9:30 am and found the feeder the buntings had been frequenting occupied by a surly RACCOON, several SQUIRRELS and some pesky BLUE JAYS. Another birder/photographer let us know that the buntings had been there about twenty minutes prior (ugh!).

After a tense wait of about twenty minutes a female PAINTED BUNTING appeared. Kathi was pleased but this was really not what we were there to see. Another twenty minutes and several failed attempts to deter the raccoon later, we could hear a number of bunting call notes as the flock of buntings approached. Suddenly two female painted buntings appeared, then Kathi spotted a stunning male PAINTED BUNTING sitting in the brush above the feeders.

Not long after the single male moved down to the ground at point blank range and began to feed. It was great to have such stunning views of this wonderful bird. The range of colours on the male is amazing.

Soon the ground was littered with buntings - we counted a minimum of 12 PAINTED BUNTINGS (4 males, 8 females) and four INDIGO BUNTINGS (two males and two females). Below is one of the male INDIGOS coming into full alternate (breeding) plumage.

After this fantastic start to the day we headed to IHOP for Kathi's favourite breakfast - German pancakes (not on the menu anymore but they still will make them!). Later we visited two other great sites - Peaceful Waters and Grassy Waters, but the buntings were definitely the highlight of the day!