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Thursday, January 29, 2015

White-crowed Pigeon Still at Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel, FL

The White-crowned Pigeon is still at J.N.Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel FL, on the Shell Mound trail. This is the celebrity bird of the winter, as it is quite unusual to be seen here and listed as Threatened in the state of Florida. Here is is sitting in the Snowberry it loves to eat. So many birders have come to see and enjoy it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

How To Do A Backyard Birding Big Year

You may have heard of birders doing a “Big Year”, that is seeing how many birds can be seen in North America in one year. There was even a movie about this, called The Big Year, starring Steve Martin, about 3 avid birders who compete and travel all over to see who can break the North American record for how many birds can be seen in one year. Well you can do your own big year right in your own backyard. All you have to do is create an excellent bird feeder and bird attracting property and watch and record who shows up. January is the perfect time to start. Here’s what you need.

1. Start with an excellent bird feeder set up. Make sure you include in winter multiple tubular, hopper and screen and suet feeders filled with a variety of quality bird seeds and suet. Focus on providing black oil sunflower, seed mixes that contain a good amount of black oil sunflower, and for finches, Nyjer (thistle) seed. Also include suet which is a calorie-rich food that provides much needed energy for birds in cold weather. Place feeders near cover so birds can escape wind and cold. Place feeders on poles with squirrel baffles, located 12 or more feet from any place a squirrel can jump from. Clean off snow from feeders. The more feeders you have the more kinds of birds you will attract.

Evening Grosbeak

Winter target birds: in addition to regulars like chickadees, titmice, goldfinches, nuthatches, cardinals, jays, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, juncos and White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, you may attract more rare species like Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins and Evening Grosbeaks.

Female Bluebird feeding fledgling at mealworm feeder

2. In spring and summer keep all the same feeders you had in winter and add hummingbird and oriole feeders, mealworm feeders, fruit and jelly feeders. Also add bird baths filled with clean water. These feeders and baths will attract birds that may not come to regular seed feeders. You can expect to attract bluebirds, orioles, catbirds, warblers, hummingbirds, wrens, robins and mockingbirds. At your regular seed and suet feeders you may attract birds that are only here in spring and summer such as Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Northern Flickers, towhees, Chipping Sparrows and Indigo Buntings.

American Robin on crabapples.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Salvia "Lady in Red" flowers

3. In spring plant flowering Crab Apple trees, berry producing shrubs, cone and nut producing trees and red tubular flowers for hummingbirds. Use native species when possible. Birds that do not come to feeders may be attracted to this wild food. For example, Cape May Warblers may stop on migration and drink nectar from the Crab Apple blossoms. Cedar Waxwings eat many kinds of berries.

Common Redpoll

4. Learn to identify the birds at your feeders and in your yard. You will need a bird guide such as Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Bird Feeding, Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern and Western Regions.

5. Get binoculars so you can see the birds. The best for bird watching are binoculars that are 8x42. These magnify birds 8 power. Get the best you can afford and you will be rewarded with beautiful close looks at birds. Keep the binoculars near the window and wear them around your neck when you go outside. 

6. Learn the songs and calls of birds. Birds sing mainly in spring and you will hear many more birds than you will see. Get Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs CDs that give you all the songs and calls of birds.

6. Place comfortable chairs or a bench outside where you can overlook your feeders and also see your property. Scan the trees for visitors that may not come to your feeders.

7. Now the fun part comes. Keep a record of who visits including birds that you see or hear.  Keep your record in a journal, or notebook or get a checklist of birds that can be expected in your area from your local nature center. You can turn in your sightings to the national (and international) bird database, You will be amazed at how many wonderful birds you will see over the year and it will motivate you to improve your property to attract more birds.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cool Sanibel Birds today!

White-crowned Pigeon was out in the open today, roosting on the Shell Mound trail in Ding Darling NWR. Listed as threatened in FL, this bird is finding the hardwood fruits it needs in this upland hammock habitat.

White-crowned Pigeon

Short-tailed Hawk, flew over us on Sanibel, this hawk is rarely seen here.

American Kestrel hunting from a low shrub on the beach today because of high winds.

Some cool birds seen on Sanibel Island today. You never know what you'll find that's the fun of birding.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

White-crowned Pigeon, Again, Sanibel, FL!

We saw a White-crowned Pigeon on the Shell Mound Trail, Ding Darling NWR this morning. We had also seen this bird there last year. Maybe it is the same bird. Such a treat to see as it is listed as threatened in FL.
This is a very unusual bird for here, although there have been a very few sightings previously on Sanibel. Research has indicated that the total distribution of this bird occurs in the Caribbean Basin, the Bahamas and extreme southern Florida, but they make long over-water flights between breeding and wintering areas within this region. They are threatened due to loss of habitat and hunting and poaching in their range. White-crowned Pigeons feed mainly on fruits of hardwood trees and they are an important dispersal agent for these trees. It was nice to see this bird on the Shell Mound trail, which had a lot of fruiting hardwood trees, thus providing the type of habitat crucial for this bird species. What a special bird for us to see!!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hooded Merganser reflections

Hooded Merganser, male at Ding Darling NWR. Hunting for fish, diving, surfacing, such interesting water colors and patterns. What a treat to photograph.
Lillian Stokes

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sanibel Raptors

Peregrine Falcon in a tree next to our backyard this morning.

Bald Eagle sitting in the same tree that the peregrine sat in, drying its wings that were wet from mist.

Bald Eagle, 2nd year, flying over Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel.

Here are a few of the raptors we have seen this winter on Sanibel Island, FL. There are at least 3 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles on the island, plus their young from previous years can be seen flying around sometimes. There are can be up to 100 nesting Ospreys. It's a great place to see raptors.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Wonderful Sandhill Cranes!

Sandhill Cranes are elegant and  amazing birds. Photos from Harnes Marsh, FL. Some live in FL year round, most are migratory and breed in the West, Midwest and up through Canada and AK. Many winter in large numbers, sometimes in the tens of thousands, in the lower western part of the country in places like Bosque del Apache, NM. Cranes forage in prairies, marshes and grasslands for grains and insects. At night they may sleep in deeper water to stay safe. They remain paired throughout the year. Their vocalizations include wonderful bugling calls. Great birds, hope you get to see some