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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Glossy Ibis, Long-billed Dowitchers

Here are a few more photos I took while at the Space Coast Birding Festival. These Long-billed Dowitchers were at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Those very long bills enable them to feed at a deeper level in the water, where they poke the long bills into the mud to get tiny creatures. There is another shorebird species, called a Short-billed Dowitcher, which also has a long bill, but not as long as the Long-billed Dowitcher's. So maybe they should be called the Long-billed Dowitcher and these the Very Long-billed Dowitcher.

You can see why this is called a Glossy Ibis. When the sun shines on its plumage you can see those wonderful iridescent blue and green colors on the bronze plumage. This is an adult in winter plumage. The juvenile (Jul.-Nov.) plumage is browner with little iridescence. Use your The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America to age the birds you see, it has the most extensive clues to aging and sexing the birds. It's fun.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Space Coast Birding Festival Crested Caracara

I just took this photo of this Crested Caracara (2nd yr.) this morning at the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera, one of the birding places as part of the Space Coast Birding Festival, where we are keynote speakers tonight. Crested Caracaras southern raptors mainly found in FL, TX and AZ. They eat small animals, fish, reptiles and carrion, as do vultures.
Awesome bird! Awesome photo ops are available at Viera.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stokes at Space Coast Birding Festival

Florida Scrub-Jay

Come escape the cold and see us at the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Titusville, FL where we will be giving a keynote talk and book signing on Tues., Jan. 26th at 6:30 pm. Here's a photo of one of the central FL special birds you might see, a beautiful Florida Scrub-Jay. In our keynote talk we will tell you how to fast-forward your birding skills by using "quantitative shape" to identify birds, an approach pioneered in our new field guide, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America. "Quantitative shape" will help you distinguish difficult species apart faster, help you ID tricky birds when they are standing alone, and help you nail an ID when color and plumage clues fail you.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sunset Heron

Tri-colored Heron, sunset

One of the fun things is going to Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel, FL, at sunset and watching all the herons move about, many of them flying to their nightime roosts. Even more fun is trying to get photos of them. That's where the high ISO settings (goes up to 12,800 ISO) available on my Canon 1D Mark IV camera make shooting in low light possible, when other photographers must quit. Yes, for me, way fun!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tale, (tail) of the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. The undertail is completely white and white extends through the undertail coverts.

What's faster than a speeding warbler? That would be this little bird, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a very hyperactive bird found in winter in far southern areas of the country, including FL. Here in Ding Darling, NWR on Sanibel, you can see them flitting through the mangroves, hunting for small insects in the leaves.

"The adult male in summer has a thin black eyebrow, mostly in front of eye and extending to forehead"(SFG) but not in winter. In summer their breeding range extends throughout much of the country.

I love the way the top photograph shows the full tail fanned, something they do often. The outer tail feathers are mostly white. In the bottom photo you can see how, when they close their tail, it's like a fan closing. The two outer tail feather come together and when the tail is fully closed it would appear all white from underneath. On this bird, there is white extending all the way from the tail feathers continuing down through the fluffy white undertail coverts. This may help ID it as to subspecies.

There are 3 subspecies, "caerula (KS-cent. TX and east); m. back bluish gray, undertail white through undertail coverts"... obscura (w. TX-WY and west); m. back darker undertail mostly white but black just before the undertail coverts... deppei (s. TX) like caerula but smaller" (from The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America.)

In today's world of digital photography, where many a birder carries a digital camera, it becomes possible to see intimate details of a bird's plumage and tell things about it never before possible. Look closely at your digital photos, blow them up on your screen. Our new Stokes field guide will help you discover new things about the birds you are seeing.

As to getting a photo of this hyper species, moving through mangroves, well, that's a topic for another blog post.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MId-Air Catch, Ahinga

Anhinga's are amazing birds. They can swim underwater, stab a fish, then toss it,

and catch it, then it goes down the hatch. Here you can see the fish in it's bill, with the
fish tail still sticking out! One of the things I love about digital photography is that you can blow up your photo and see fantastic details about a bird.

Anhingas often climb out of the water, then they can spread their wings and dry them. They do this because their feathers are adapted to be more wettable than other birds, allowing the Anhinga to submege underwater. Don and I never tire of watching and enjoying all the birds, even the more common ones. Anhingas are easy to see here at Ding Darling NWR.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Brown Pelican, excedrin headache

We spoke of how White Pelicans feed in yesterday's blog. Here's how Brown Pelicans feed. They fly up, then plunge head first into the water and grab a fish, then let the water drain out of their bill. They are specially adapted to be able to do this all day without getting an excedrin headache.
Have a nice weekend. Stay warm and keep the feeders full.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

White Pelicans, up close and personal

White Pelicans are such group-oriented birds

They do the same things at the same time, preening

and then going out to feed.

Sending you some birds from sunny Florida where the only thing white is these White Pelicans, as well as Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, and Great Egrets. Often these White Pelicans have a little feeding frenzy in Ding Darling NWR in Sanibel, FL. When the wind pushs the tide out more than usual so the water levels are low, it congregatesfish. These pelicans feed, often as a group, by "herding" fish and scooping the small fish up in their bills, letting the water spill out. Click on the video to watch them feed. It is such a treat to see them so close.

White Pelicans are winter visitors here. Their breeding areas are in western areas of the U.S. and Canada, such as MT, ID, UT, WY, etc. Their relatives, the Brown Pelicans, live in southern coastal areas all year, and have a different method of feeding by diving headfirst into the water to catch a fish.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Green Heron, imm. waiting in the mangroves, to strike at a passing fish.

While other birds, like this Double-crested Cormorant, actively chase their prey. Just how do you think it will get that catfish down?

Monday, January 10, 2011

hippie Anhinga

"She looks like something we wore in the '60's" said the lady next to me as I stood photographing this lovely female, adult Anhinga. I smiled.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, current favorite..

Fun fact: This Pileated Woodpecker photo on the back of The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America was taken by Lillian Stokes, at the Sanibel, FL, Lighthouse park. The bird flew off a tree (not at a nest) and Lillian got the photo.

We continue to get praise for our new field guide. Here is some of the latest:

"Each of the last four years has brought us a new photographic field guide to the birds of North America. They’ve each had their merits, but The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America is my current favorite photo-based guide. It is an excellent reference that is worth having even if you already have a dozen other NA field guides."
From, The Birder's Library Book Reviews

"I've had it a short time and won't leave home without it. I already find myself reaching for it first when I've got a perplexing sighting to resolve or I want more information on a particular species. I could go on and on about this excellent birding resource."

"An outstanding guide, the many pictures of birds with different molting conditions as well as the pithy comments make this guide an essential for birders. The section on Gulls alone makes this worthwhile."
P. Mishell

"Beautiful Pictures, excellent descriptions, and a sweet surprise.,
We ordered this item as a Christmas gift for my mother and am now thinking of ordering a second for our home."
Miss Manda

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Pied-billed Grebe ballerina

Pied-billed Grebe, photographed in soft light, taking off, looking like a ballerina, so ungrebe-like. I love experimenting with unusual lighting opportunities. Makes you look at birds in a whole new way.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull, adult winter

Here's another of the same bird.

Here's a 3rd winter Lesser Black-backed Gull. Note the black on bill tip.

Eating a crab.

First winter Lesser Black-backed Gull

and in flight. Note the broad tail band and contrasting whitish rump.

Just saw 4 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Sanibel Island, FL beach. This is an unusual gull to see here where mainly there are Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls and some Herring Gulls. We were lucky.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Yellow-throated Warbler, Yum spider!

Yellow-throated Warbler, Dendroica dominica

We're down in Sanibel Island, FL where the birding and bird photography is just great. I photographed this Yellow-throated Warbler in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, it was wrestling with something big, not sure what is was.

A-ha! A tasty, big spider, yum! Gutsy warbler.

Yellow-throated Warblers are aptly named and gorgeous, with that lemon yellow throat dramatically outlined by black.

This is a relatively slower moving warbler, as warblers go (which means it's fast compared to many birds). It creeps around trunks and limbs, much like a Black-and-white Warbler or nuthatch.

It also has a relatively long bill,

all the better to poke and probe crevices and under bark, as here, to find insects and prey.

Very cool bird. I love warblers and was happy to have a chance to photograph this one. I hand-held (necessary to track this quick moving bird in the foliage) my Canon 1D Mark IV camera with my Canon IS 300 mm lens plus a 1.4 teleconverter, and bumped up the ISO to 1250 in some of these photos where the bird was in the shade.