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04/28/12
Parting shots from Florida
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Florida & SE US, Illinois, Birding "Patches"
Posted by: Ken @ 12:23 pm

The past few weeks have kept us occupied with the welfare of the downed Bald Eagle chick (now presumed to have perished– follow events at our nest watch FORUM) and that of the heron nests in trees that are dead or dying from the effects of a herbicide.

Add to this my dismay in witnessing the destruction of one of my favorite warbler birding spots, the place I called the “Fake Hammock.” (To see it in happier times, visit Birding in a make-believe hammock) Now a “roadway” has been cut all the way through the grove of trees.

RV damage in fake hammock 20120222

A large open area has been created by removal of most of the underbrush, and worst of all, the secluded area is being ravaged by “sport” riders of all-terrain vehicles. Instead of a dark cool place under a canopy of native Trema trees, it is now shaped like a doughnut, with full sky overhead, and a fire ring in the middle. Two of the five mature Tremas have been pulled over with chains, presumably attached to the ATVs, and a third is badly de-barked and will surely die. Tremas produce berries continuously all winter and are an important food source for birds and other wildlife.

Destruction in Fake Hammock 3-20120424

On a happier note, we have headed north, and hope to catch up with the spring warbler migration that, this year, has bypassed our Florida home.

Just before we left Florida, The first Yellow-crowned Night-Heron chicks began hatching. There were two chicks visible in this nest, which is totally open to view because of the defoliation of the nest tree by herbicides (See: Courting herons unaware of danger). Last year the nests were barely visible through the leaves. Now they are exposed to predators and any rock-throwing vandals who happen to notice them from across the 30 foot canal.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron chick choking Nest 9HT

Look closely at the above photo and notice that one of the 3-5 day old chicks is trying very hard to swallow something that is awfully big.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron chick choking close1

The prey item looks like a fat white creature– maybe a horsefly larva, but I could not be sure, as it looks larger, more the shape of a siren that has been skinned. Whatever it is, it may have been partly digested by the parent. The parent bird attempted to pull the partially-swallowed item out of
the chick’s mouth, but, despite its small size the chick resisted the adult’s attempts to dislodge it from its gullet, protesting vigorously.
Initially, the parentt’s efforts did not succeed.


Yellow-crowned Night-Heron chick choking close2

 A few minutes later I captured this short video clip that demonstrates that the little guy finally gave up the prize, which was quickly swallowed by its parent.


Baby Yellow-crowned Night-Heron almost chokes to death from Ken Schneider on Vimeo.

If you have trouble viewing this VIMEO clip, here is a direct link to it on FLICKR.

I have accumulated a backlog of non-heron and non-eagle images from our recent morning walks in our local wetlands. Among them:

Common Nighthawks arrived during the past two weeks.

Common Nighthawk 5-20120419

Their flight is so erratic and unpredictable that it is very hard to catch them in the viewfinder, much less get a decent photo when they are on the wing.

Common Nighthawk 4-20120419

Here, the first light of morning creeps underneath an overflying nighthawk.

Common Nighthawk 2-20120419

A male Eastern Towhee sings on territory. Its yellow eyes indicate that it is a local bird.

Eastern Towhee 2-20120418

As usual, I do not pass by an opportunity to photograph a singing male Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal 20120415

This year, for the first time, we heard and saw Pileated Woodpeckers in our neighborhood. I finally find one out in the open.

Pileated Woodpecker 20120413

A flock of Cattle Egrets is joined by a lone Snowy Egret.

Spot the intruder 20120411

Another Snowy Egret casts its reflection in the stillness of a misty morning.

Snowy Egret 20120411

A Little Blue Heron is changing from the white phase of a juvenile into dark adult plumage .

Little Blue Heron immature 2-20120411

Nearby, a Great Egret barely disturbs the calm waters.

Great Egret 2-20120411

A pair of Mottled Ducks will also nest along the shore. The male, showing a clear yellow-green bill, is on the right.

Mottled Ducks 2-20120411

Later in the morning, a Killdeer flies by,

Killdeer in flight 2-20120410

Killdeer may be planning to nest on this spit of land that has been exposed by the dropping water levels.

Killdeer 20120410

I am pleased to find a native Green Anole in our birding patch. They have been almost entirely displaced by exotic Brown Anoles.

Green Anole 20120409

A Black Vulture is graceful in flight.

Black Vulture 20120409

A yearling female White-tailed Deer eyes us from the edge of a dense tract of exotic Melaleuca trees.

White-tailed Deer portrait 20120415

A curious (and presumably near-sighted) Raccoon stands on one foot, trying to figure out who is right in front of him/her in the trail:

Raccoon 2-20120419

A Queen butterfly sips nectar from a Lantana flower

Queen butterfly 20120409



8 Responses to “Parting shots from Florida”

  1. Laurence Butler Says:
    Sorry to hear about your patches. It seems like thats a problem outside of any national parks, and even then… One of my favorite spots in Phoenix is now being frequented by ATVs and people coming for target practice. It’s nerve-wracking and I feel totally incapable of doing anything about it. You’ve got some great images though. Never seen Night Heron chicks before, and those Nighthawk images are some of the best I’ve ever seen–well done.
  2. springman Says:
    I can not believe they have torn up the fake hammock. You must be heart broken. I have enjoyed your perfectly detailed pictures from that patch so often and wondered over the rich diversity. They know not what they do…
  3. Mick Says:
    Great photos again but the photos of the little heron trying to swallow something definitely too big for its ‘tummy’ are fantastic! Its great to see something like that but getting photos as well is really extra special. The problem of ATV’s and 4 wheel drives is everywhere! There doesn’t seem to be any solution. There is a wonderful National Park next door to where I live and it is only accessible with one of those vehicles - which I don’t have. I’d love to be able to get in there occasionally to see birds and wildlife only available in there - but most seem to see it only as a series of wonderful adventure tracks for their vehicles.
  4. Mary Howell Cromer Says:
    What a sad turn of events for the Eaglette! Also quite sad when people do not consider wildlife and nature when they make even more “wonders” for the enjoyment and pleasures of mankind! I love the Nighthawks, beautiful birds, hope to view in person one day~
  5. eileen Says:
    Another great post, Ken! The birds are all wonderful sightings. Love the cute heron chick. And the nighthawk shots are cool and I love the cattle egrets in flight. Wonderful photos, happy birding.
  6. Stewart M - Australia Says:
    What a great set of pictures - the woodpecker is one of my all time fav birds. Cheers - Stewart M - Australia
  7. Larry Jordan Says:
    I am horrified at your “Fake Hammock” being destroyed for no reason. The devastation happening to our natural places is very disturbing and I fear, on the rise. I don’t know if you saw my post on “Shale Oil Development on Our Public Lands” but it scares the heck out of me. Today is the last day to comment on the proposal. On the positive side, I love the Yellow-crowned Heron shots and the Common Nighthawks are awesome! I’m especially fond of Pileaded Woodpeckers and you got a great photo there. Even though I’m a bird fanatic, you really got me with that shot of the Raccoon standing up in front of you on one foot.
  8. Ken Says:
    Thank you all for your kind comments! Since I posted this the destruction by ATVs and their occupants has only increased. The onset of the wet season will curtail their incursions, except for their “meeting place” in the dry area occupied by the “Fake Hammock.”

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