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12/12/08
Seeking the Painted Bunting
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Florida & SE US
Posted by: Ken @ 7:42 pm

Corkscrew Swamp, Collier County, Florida

One bird that has eluded Mary Lou has been the Painted Bunting. It is almost in the class of the Elegant Trogan, the bird that got her started in birding (See; “How Mary Lou Became A Birder”). We seemed to always just miss the bunting– not only in Florida, but several times in New Jersey, Georgia and New Orleans. Although we have had goldfinches at our backyard feeder, we never attracted a Painted Bunting, probably because our property is land newly “reclaimed” (I hate that term– “”robbed” or “stolen” is more apt) from the Everglades, covered with lawns, concrete and exotic plantings.

We knew the bunting hung out at Corkscrew Swamp most of the winter, and we traveled there several times, but always with non-birding friends and relatives. We would wait at the feeders and grow ever more conscious of their impatience and of our obligation to walk the boardwalk and see the the bigger furry and feathery attractions with them. This past week we again took some non-birding visitors there, without great expectations, but we finally lucked out, and Mary Lou got her 503rd “lifer.”

Right off the bat, the first bird we saw was this very cooperative Pileated Woodpecker (click for more views):

Pileated Woodpecker

A young raccoon eyed us as we gazed back at it from the boardwalk:

Raccoon 20081204

The feeders, where we hoped to find our bunting, were , at first, deserted, except for a Gray Squirrel in the underbrush:

Squirrel 20081204

We did see a Northern Cardinal and a White-throated Sparrow near the squirrel, but they both disappeared before my shutter clicked. I was surprised to learn, from Vince Lucas, an experienced local birder, that this was the first time the latter species had ever been recorded in Collier County! But we had a higher objective in mind.

Then, American Goldfinches appeared at the feeder:

American Goldfinches 20081204

Within ten minutes, we were treated to the arrival of a male Painted Bunting (High Fives all around!!):

Painted Bunting 20081204

This is a Ruddy Daggerwing– click and scroll down to see an example of its host plant (PG-13):

Ruddy Daggerwing

Back home, we visited wetlands in Pembroke Pines. I remarked to Mary Lou that I really wanted to get a photo of a Purple Swamphen before they are extirpated, er… exterminated. Although they were quite numerous when we arrived in Florida about 4 1/2 years ago, they have become increasingly scarce. In fact, I had not even seen one since I obtained my SLR camera this past spring. Exotic birds from Asia, they have increased exponentially since their accidental introduction into Florida, and have been determined to pose a threat to the native biota. For more about the extermination program, see my post on “Trash Birds.” They look like very large and muscular Purple Gallinules.

Amazingly, not five minutes later, we spotted two Purple Swamphens. One posed briefly before flying off (click on image for close up view of head):

Purple Swamphen 20081211

An unexpected treat was this Merlin, perched on a fence at Chapel Trail Nature Center in Pembroke Pines (again, click for larger and additional views)::

Merlin 20081211

Early the next morning, we stopped by our local Bald Eagle nest, and saw this eagle bringing sticks:

Eagle Bringing Sticks 20081211

Its mate had preceded it, carrying a much larger branch (but I have not mastered the skill of flight photography and oly captured several blurred images). They proceeded to the nest, where one of the pair worked on the nest for several minutes, while the other stood watch. Then, they touched beaks, and the bird that had been on guard flew off. The other settled down and almost disappeared from sight inside the cup of the nest. This morning only one bird was on the nest for a protracted period, possibly laying or incubating eggs.

The bird on the right was standing watch. Perhaps it is the male:

Eagle Pair at Nest 20081211

Back home this evening, a Wood Stork (I almost typed “Wood Ibis,” showing my age!) slowly walked along the edge of our lake, and I got several photos of it from our back patio. Click for larger additional views):

Wood Stork Head 20081212

This evening, December 12, 2008, the Moon made its closest approach to Earth this Century:

Luna Llena 20081212

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