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10/02/11
End of a long hot summer
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Florida & SE US, Birding "Patches"
Posted by: Ken @ 9:34 am

Before we left Illinois early in September, we had been experiencing heat and humidity that rivaled that in our Florida home. As soon as we got back to Florida, Illinois cooled off, but Florida seemed hotter than ever. With the arrival of autumn, heat and morning rain showers have reduced our time in the field.

At the same time, we have been more alert to happenings at the home front– particularly on the lake in back of our home, where an interesting drama played out. I noticed that a Double-crested Cormorant had caught a large exotic Plecostomus species. The 9-10 inch fish is native to the Amazon and popular in the pet trade, and has invaded south Florida waters. It struggled vigorously in the bird’s beak, its spiny fins fully extended. I do not know how long the fish had been in the cormorant’s grasp, but I watched intently to see if the bird could succeed in swallowing it, or whether it might get stuck in its gullet.

These photos cover a period of about 7 minutes. The bird won!

Cormorant takes on a Plecostomus (to see how the battle ended, CLICK HERE for a slide show):

Cormorant vs Plecostomus 20110925 103439AM

Dodging a few raindrops, we did get out a couple of mornings this past week. Our first walk was the usual visit to the water conservation preserve next to our subdivision that we call the West Miramar Environmentally Sensitive Land (ESL). The sky overhead looked fine, but there were ominous clouds over the Everglades to the west.

At dawn, we entered the unpaved road that leads westward into the wetlands, and were greeted with this view:
 
Entering ESL at Dawn 20110923

We walked quickly at first, but stopped to look at a couple of roadside attractions.

A Loggerhead Shrike defecated just as I clicked the shutter:

Loggerhead Shrike 20110923

This Eastern Kingbird looked atypical. It assumed a vertical elongated posture, unlike their usual more horizontal hunched attitude. Also, the terminal white band was almost invisible on its worn tail:

Eastern Kingbird 3-20110923

Mary Lou alerted me to the approach of a Red-shouldered Hawk, and I got the camera up just in time as it flew almost overhead:

 Red-shouldered Hawk 2-20110923

We found the water level to be very high in the Harbour Lakes impoundment. The lake had flooded into the adjacent grasslands, and the mud flats had disappeared under a foot or two of water.  We continued our “power walk,” but now moved more slowly as the sun rose higher and the sky turned blue.

This distant Great Egret was all alone on the lake:

Great Egret 20110923

We continued to the end of the road, and started walking the mile back to home. On the way, I tarried in the area of the “fake hammock,” and Mary Lou continued home without me. Again, I had to break through high grass, vines and tree branches that had proliferated at the edge of the woody patch.

As usual, the open space inside the “hammock” was shady and inviting:

  Fake Hammock 20110919

An Ovenbird appeared in the open area and flew to a low perch:

Ovenbird 3-20110928

The Ovenbird posed for almost a minute as I feverishly clicked off photos:

Ovenbird 2-20110928

Several Florida Trema trees were producing berries in clusters along their stems. The fruit continues to ripen through the winter, and attracts insects and many migrating and resident birds, such as this Northern Cardinal:

Northern Cardinal male 20110923

No less attractive, his mate was also partaking of the crop:

Northern Cardinal female 20110923

Against the sky, the iridescence of this Common Grackle was uncommonly beautiful:

Common Grackle 20110923

A Red-bellied Woodpecker displaced the grackle on the perch:

Red-bellied Woodpecker 3-20110923

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers had migrated in, and many will stay for the winter:

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2-20110923

So far, we have not experienced a huge invasion of migrating warblers, but this female Black-throated Blue Warbler was a welcome visitor to a Trema tree:

Black-throated Blue Warbler female 20110923

This was the best shot I could get of the male Black-throated Blue Warbler, as he never came out into the open:

Black-throated Blue Warbler 2-20110930

A female American Redstart, one of several I saw that morning, was unusually cooperative, striking a pose before dashing off after insects:

American Redstart 20110923

A male redstart was even more difficult to capture as it moved through the Trema branches:

American Redstart 5-20110928

Intent on my photography, I failed to notice that the skies had turned darker and a breeze began building. Too late for a retreat, I hunkered down in the most densely covered area as big drops started to fall. Lacking a camera bag or any rainproof clothing, I had to shield the camera with my body during what turned out to be only a brief downpour. Mental note– bring garbage bags out next time!

Photos came out soft in the mostly overcast skies. This is one of several Eastern Wood-Pewees I saw after the shower:

Eastern Wood-Pewee 20110919

Another flycatcher showed up and it looked different. It seemed smaller than a Wood-Pewee, and and its eye ring was complete and more pronounced. It constantly flicked its tail downward, which would be unusual in a pewee. On close examination it appears to have shorter wings and shorter primary projection than a pewee, and its under-tail coverts are clear rather than smudged as with the Eastern Wood-Pewee.

It did not vocalize. I believe this is a Willow or Alder  Flycatcher, reliably distinguished only by their calls (”Traill’s” complex):

Flycatcher 20110923

During lulls in birding, I paused to enjoy the insects, like this Zebra Heliconian:

Zebra Heliconian 20110923

I could not identify this tiny skipper, probably a member of the Grass-Skipper group:

Small Skipper 20110923

This Giant Swallowtail is at the other end of the size spectrum:

Giant Swallowtail 20110928

Before the rains came, I got this nice shot of a garden spider and her handiwork:

Spider 20110923

15 Responses to “End of a long hot summer”

  1. Donna Catterick Says:
    Wonderful shots. I don’t know the ovenbird at all - it’s beautiful. Thanks.
  2. Boom & Gary Says:
    Great sequence!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.
  3. Andrew Says:
    All wonderful to see Ken… but the Cormarant has to be WBW pic of the week for me… a fantasic capture.
  4. eileen Says:
    Wow, gorgeous bords and photos. I love the shot of the Cormorant with the fish. And the warblers are gorgeous. Wonderful photos, happy birding!
  5. Mick Says:
    Great photos - you are lucky to have such a variety of habitats close by. I especially like the cormorant with the exotic fish.
  6. springman Says:
    I sit here stunned Ken. What a post. You are on your “A” game for sure. You are truly the master of dealing with that bright Florida light. Of course your false hammock is almost guaranteed to give you splendid chances, at least that’s the way you make it seem. I’ll tell you what though, beside the cormorant shot which is epic, I really love your spider web image, such great focus!
  7. Kathiesbirds Says:
    Wow, what a walk and what a lot of birds! Love the ovenbird!
  8. joo Says:
    The photo of cormorant is terrific! I’m really impressed! All photos are great, but the first is simply awesome!
  9. Anna Says:
    Great shots, I especially love that Ovenbird shot!
  10. Dave Says:
    stunning selection of images: That fish is enormous and the ovenbird a a little cracker
  11. Hilke Breder Says:
    That’s a spectacular shot of the cormorant and te fish! Hurrah for the cormorant! Beautiful warbler and flycatcher pix! Actually all of them are marvelous, Ken. Good work!
  12. Pat Says:
    Great slide show! All your photos are wonderful! I would love to see an Ovenbird.
  13. Jean Says:
    Gee…I want to go on a bird walk with you! Loved the show…better than TV for sure!!!
  14. Ken Says:
    Thank you, all, for your kind and encouraging comments!
  15. Esther Garvi Says:
    Wow, so many beautiful birds to choose from! The woodpecker was my favourite! Greetings from West Africa!

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