Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wood Storks return south to breed

On a lake only a 20 minute drive from our south Florida home, an unexpected sight unfolded before our eyes. First a few and then scores of Wood Storks descended upon a rookery. They displaced some of the former resident egrets, other herons, cormorants and Anhingas.

Orange Road Rookery PANO


Wood Stork in flight 07-20170220


Wood Stork 05-20170408


Storks and cormorants 05-20170407


Eventually, 50 to 60 storks occupied 20 or more nests and my estimate is that they have produced over 30 young. 


Wood Storks and nestlings 09-20170408


Wood Storks and nestlings 01-20170408


According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology eBird reports, this was a milestone, the first time in over 10 years that more than a few had been seen together within miles of this location. 


When we moved to south Florida from New Mexico in 2004, Wood Storks were common breeders and visitors to our back yard lake. In my October, 2014 blog, "Wood Storks: Missing but not Endangered" I discussed the reason for the sharp decline in the Wood Stork population in south Florida: 


" Drainage, filling of sloughs and development have altered the natural cycle, and aberrant rainfall patterns have complicated this balance. Summer drought or early onset of the wet season produce adverse conditions. Prolonged drought kills off the fish and their populations may take more than a year to recover even if water conditions are favorable. The 2012 wet season had much greater rainfall than normal, which was very favorable, but heavy rains during late winter reversed the drying process and dispersed prey, accounting for their failure to produce young during 2013." 


The post also contains this photo, taken in 2010, of juvenile Wood Storks in our local wetlands:


Stork Tree 20100118


In a 2012 update to an earlier blog, "Struggling Storks" (October 5, 2010)  I pointed out: 


"Although the number of Wood Stork nests outside of South Florida have increased from 1817 in the 1970s to 5491 in the 2000s, the number of nests in South Florida have not recovered, ranging from from 2406 to 2367 over the same period. Nationally the percentage of nests at Corkscrew Swamp declined from 34-37%  to only 8% of the US total. There has been total nesting failure at Corkscrew since 2010."


Despite the continuous decline and virtual disappearance of breeding Wood Storks in south Florida, in 2016 the US Fish and Wildlife Serve proceeded to remove the Wood Stork from the list of Endangered Species.


Thanks to more favorable weather conditions this past year (dryer in late summer which produced lower water levels), the local newcomers seem to be finding enough food for their youngsters. Tactile feeders, the storks depend upon lower water levels to concentrate their prey and shallow enough to allow them to keep their nostrils above the surface.


VIDEO (01:24): Wood Stork foraging in my back yard. If video fails to load, visit THIS VIMEO LINK



Wood Stork foraging from Ken Schneider on Vimeo.

This immature Wood Stork has a light bill and its head is not yet completely bald:

Wood Stork immature 3-20150122


An adult stork rests along the boardwalk at the local Library wetlands:


Wood Stork 20150203



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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Crops & Clips: Birding bonuses


We venture out on the local wetlands before sunrise nearly every morning. As the rainy season approaches we must keep an eye on the weather.

Rain threatened on April 10:
Pine Bank before sunrise 20170410
The next morning, skies were crystal clear. About fifteen minutes before sunrise (and only a half hour after it officially became "full"), the Pink Moon was plunging into the lake. Note the shadow of the earth a few degrees above the distant horizon. 


The moon is not really pink, but it was so named by Native Americans because it signaled the spring season when Pink Phlox would blanket the landscape. The pink in the atmosphere in this photo is probably due to the presence of ash and smoke particles produced by a nearby wild fire:

Pink Moon setting 20170411


Depending upon the season, the  birds we see are mostly predictable. I never have high expectations but am open to discovery and simply enjoy the sounds and sights of the birds and other wild things as they awake and welcome the cool morning air. Yet, almost every morning offers an opportunity to see something new.
 

A Gray Squirrel, perched on a neighbor's fence munching on an acorn, wishes us luck as we pass by: 

Gray Squirrel 20170228 
 
One morning this past week I was photographing two pairs of Green Herons as they cooperatively built their nests. One member of each pair (presumably the female) sat on the nest site and accepted sticks which were gathered by her mate:
Green Heron at nest 3-20170406
Green Heron at nest 2-20170406
This pair took a break and cuddled up:
Green Herons building nest position 24 20170409
There were some tender interactions as the sticks were brought in and put in place. Here, a male presents a small stick to his mate as she stands over her newly laid first egg:
Green Herons on egg position 6 2-20170409
Green Herons tender moment position 6 2-20170409
She accepts it and he gives her a friendly peck:
Green Herons tender moment position 6 20170409
Usually shy and reclusive, a Pileated Woodpecker landed on the ground near me and searched for some sort of food at the base of a Live Oak. The bird's red forehead and face stripes identified it as a male. Before he was startled by my movements, he provided a brief photo opportunity:
Pileated Woodpecker 02-20170409
Pileated Woodpecker 03-20170409
Pileated Woodpecker 05-20170409
The Cattle Egret, pure white for most of the year, gave us a treat as it took
on new bright orange plumes at the height of breeding season:
Cattle Egret 01-20170407
Cattle Egret pair 05-20170407
The Bald Eagle chicks escaped a threat to their safety. A major fire broke out in the Everglades Preserve, only about 3 miles west of our home. Smoke darkened the sky overhead until the winds shifted away from the nest area. This is the view from the site of the eagle nest:
Everglades fire from eagle nest 03-20170407
The eaglets are safe and sound. This is the larger of the two, probably a female and the older. Female Bald Eagles hatch from the first egg about three times more frequently than males and are larger than males in all stages of life:
Bald Eaglet older 9 weeks of age 20170407
The female parent was roosting nearby. Her feathers are worn and stained:
Bald Eagle female Jewel 04-20170407
Common birds provide new perspectives on their beauty. A Killdeer wheels over the lake:
Killdeer in flight 2-20170406
A Blue Jay musters its troops to gather and face some real or imagined threat: 
Blue Jay 01-20170406
A close look at a Florida Tree Snail exposes its beauty. True jewels of nature, they may show all the colors of the rainbow, and no two are exactly alike:
Florida Tree Snail 20170329

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Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni


Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart


Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Gosia

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James


Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh

________________________________________________

Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display
________________________________________________