Archive for ‘Nature Notes’

Reed Jumper

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren, Lake Seminole Park, Seminole, Florida May 2020

It can be rather challenging to get a decent shot of a Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) as they are rarely still. The genus certainly earned its name, Latin for reed jumper, which takes into account the species’ preference for riparian areas and incessant movement.

Found in most every woodland patch in the eastern US, this is our second largest wren (after the Cactus Wren, denizen of my old stomping grounds). Though I didn’t get a photo, there were three fledglings eagerly awaiting their parent’s return under a nearby bush.

Snail Shells

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I was fortunate to find a couple Florida Fighting Conch (Strombus alatus) shells on my beach recently. The sturdy, butterscotch-colored shells are surprisingly heavy for their size.

This is a smaller relative of the West Indian Fighting Conch (Strombus pugilis). Though both share the territorial male behavior that earned them their names.

The rest of the time, the snails live peacefully in the intertidal feeding on algae. They are edible but since these only reach about 5″ they aren’t really worth the hassle. Besides, I’d rather have them out there keeping the algae under control!

FOS: First of Season

I came across this sea turtle nesting site two days ago. It was the first one I’ve seen on my stretch of beach here in Treasure Island. Pinellas County has over 20 miles of sandy beach that are monitored each dawn during season for sea turtle nests.

Of the three species known to nest here; Leatherback, Green, and Loggerhead, the latter are the most common. Their nesting season runs May through August with the first nests of 2020 spotted on May 8th.

Since these beaches are very popular, officials have asked the public for their help: report any turtles or nests, turn off or dim outdoor lights, pick up trash, and smooth the sand. Of the four items, knocking down sand castles is the most fun!

Here’s hoping the nesting season goes well and all the little hatchlings make it safely to the water!

Sushi Dinner

The waters at Lake Seminole Park must be chock full of fish because these two Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) were very successful. Good thing they had something big to occupy their time since it allowed me to get a few good shots. Just look at those talons!

 

Looking for Grub

This handsome raccoon was so busy foraging that it didn’t even notice me (it helped that I was downwind). The word raccoon was anglicized from the Algonquin language and means “one who rubs, scrubs and scratches with its hands.” Pretty fitting description.

I felt fortunate to watch for about twenty minutes before it headed up my side of the bank and was startled by the sight of me. It beat a hasty retreat back into the creek but not before I captured a decent portrait.

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Raccoon, Walsingham Park, Largo Florida May 2020

 

Deep Purple

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I popped over to explore Lake Seminole Park this afternoon after the rain stopped. I figured it was high time to venture out beyond my favorite stomping grounds. As luck would have it, I came across this adult Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea).

Thanks, Nature, for providing me with such a nice contrast to the patchy-colored juvenile that I shared with you just yesterday. The base of the bill is a lovely pale blue and the body is an elegant slate gray but that deep purple neck is the showstopper here. There’s a lot to admire in this small package!

Piebald

Met my first Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) at the park a couple weeks ago. Though it looks a little patchy it was still an attractive bird, especially the light blue at the base of the bill.

The species turns from white to blue-gray as it enters adulthood. It is thought the white coloration is beneficial as Snowy Egrets will tolerate them which provides protection and even feeding advantages for the youngsters. Snowies are known to chase off the darker-colored adults.

Sparrow-like Cerulean

I stalked this skittish adult male Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) through a field before finally catching him feeding on grass seeds. Though it looks like a sparrow in size and appearance, this species is actually in the cardinal family.

The genus name refers to true sparrows (picking up on the superficial resemblance), while the latter part of the binomial is based on the male’s brilliant coloration during breeding season.

This one, unfortunately, is not yet all dressed up for prom. Though he is in his nonbreeding plumage he is still a handsome bird! The female by contrast is always quite drab.

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Female Indigo Bunting, Walsingham Park, Largo, Florida May 2020

Hide and Seek

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Walsingham Park, Largo, Florida May 2020

Last week this secretive Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) hopped around in the bushes evading me. Well, it alternated between hiding-from and looking-for me. In a rare display of patience, I stood completely still, camera at the ready, and waited.

Sure enough, within a couple moments it popped into an opening in the leaves and I was able to snap a couple photos. Though they are known for being easier to locate by sound than sight, I didn’t hear it’s distinctive croaking call that afternoon. You can bet that I’ll be listening for it next time I’m in the area!

Night Shift

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Black-crowned Night Heron, Walsingham Park, Largo, Florida April 2020

Near nightfall the aptly named, Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), takes over for its egret and heron cousins on the daytime crew. This crepuscular bird ambush hunts at the edge of shallow water and has even been known to use tools, tossing in small objects to bait fish into coming closer.

They are short and stocky in comparison and possibly not as flashy looking as their relatives (why bother, when you’re mostly active at night?) but I think they are quite dignified looking.