Sunday, August 11, 2013

Birding while dodging raindrops

It was hot in Arizona, and as the locals say "It's a dry heat." True, in Phoenix on the first day of our RV trip the temperature reached 114 degrees (F), and yet I felt chilly emerging from the shady end of the hotel swimming pool.  In Tucson, it was "only" about 110 degrees early in the afternoon when we visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This might conjure up visions of walking the halls of an air-conditioned edifice. However, the Museum includes 2 miles of trails in the open desert, occasionally shaded by the stark trunks of Saguaro Cactus. 

Since returning to Florida, we have experienced not only oppressive humidity with temperatures in the mid to high 90s, but record-breaking rainfall. Keeping a wary eye on the clouds, we were able to get out on the wetlands next to our home less frequently during the past three weeks. The typical morning scenario has been storms coming in from the Everglades just west of us, or, as shown in this view of sunrise from our back patio, storms moving in from the ocean front about 18 miles to the east. 

Sunrise HDR 20130729

One morning, braving the threat of rain, I set out on the gravel road that leads into the wetlands adjacent to our home. I encountered a familiar Florida Box Turtle. Twice before I found him walking across the road in the same direction, away from the wild lands and towards homes where kids would love to capture a new pet. When I returned him to the other side he resolutely turned around to resume his walk in the original direction. 

Florida Box Turtle 1-20130716

A little ways down. a pair of White-winged Doves marched together in step (well, almost in step).

White-winged Doves 20130726

I had to cut my walk short and got home just as a line of thunderstorms hit. At this point I had about another quarter mile to go. A fine mist was falling out of skies that appeared to be perfectly blue.

Storm approaching HDR 20130716

We were in the doldrum period as local birds had finished breeding, many were molting, and migrants from the north had not yet arrived. 

This Blue Jay appears to have mostly fresh plumage but has not completed its molt around its neck and head. While flight feathers are generally replaced singly or in pairs, it is not unusual for this species to lose whole groups of head and body feathers at one time.

Motly molting Blue Jay 20130807

This male Carolina Wren is in heavy molt and appears very shaggy. Molting birds are often rather inactive in order to conserve energy. I thought it unusual that he and a female were singing their duet vigorously as if it were spring.

Carolina Wren 5-20130807

Yet, the birds came to us! A Great Blue Heron loafed and preened on our back lawn.

Great Blue Heron 4-20130728

Great Blue Heron 2-20130728

A Wood Stork visited almost every day.

Wood Stork 20130727

Bill partly open, the stork stirred the water with its bright pink feed, frightening small fish and invertebrates into its waiting jaws.

Wood Stork feeding 20130727

A Tricolored Heron came so close that I could not fit its entire body in the viewfinder.

Tricolored Heron 3-20130801

A White Ibis posed on a street light.

White Ibis on street light 20130721

Cattle Egrets flew over.

Cattle Egrets 20130725

Out on the wetlands, an immature Tricolored Heron struck a beautiful pose that reminded me of a John James Audubon painting.

Tricolored Heron immature 20130721

The soft beauty of a Great Egret contrasted with the texture of a relict dock on the Harbour Lake impoundment.

Great Egret 20130720

The egret was joined by a Little Blue Heron.

Little Blue Heron 20130720

The song of the Carolina Wren pierced the quiet of morning.

Carolina Wren 2-20130720

It is hard to resist the beauty of a Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal 20130720

Common Ground-Doves cooed softly.

Common Ground-Doves 20130720

I was pleased to find as many as three resident Loggerhead Shrikes, as they had been absent all winter and into the spring season.

Loggerhead Shrike 2-20130725

My first migratory warbler sighting occurred on July 31, a Prairie Warbler. This bird is known to breed in south Florida, but none have been seen locally since spring migration.

Prairie Warbler 2-20130731

A wet and shaggy Marsh Rabbit emerged from the ditch beside the road and almost walked up to me before it realized my presence.

Marsh Rabbit 20130719



  1. the egrets and herons steal the show! such gorgeous shots, ken!

  2. So many beautiful birds! And I love the sky shots, lovely colors and reflections! Great series, Ken!

  3. HI Ken ALL shots are wonderful. The sky photos I love and all the different Herons are excellent. It certainly is a great way to learn about birds from other countries. We only have 1 Heron!!!

  4. Incredible series.....I can't even pick a favorite...every picture made me stop and gasp at the beauty! Thank you for showing me what Florida is like when we're not there (and be careful of that lightning!...I'm such a weather wimp, I'd probably be afraid to be out in between showers, so I'd miss all this beauty anyway).

    You really got well-acquainted with two very different kinds of heat this year!

  5. Beautiful birds. I like that great blue heron.

  6. What a terrific series Ken! Your first shot is amazing, terrific reflections. And of course I really enjoyed all your birds.

  7. A great series of birds. Your photos are always beautiful but that first one of the early morning and clouds is really exceptional!

  8. Great series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  9. Fabulous post! The first shot is gorgeous.

  10. Wonderful shots of a great variety of birds, Ken.


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