Different Spatula

This Blue-winged Teal pair (Spatula discors) was so busy dabbling that they decided to tolerate my presence. Like our other two teal species, these small ducks have a low profile in the water.

While the female Cinnamon, Blue-winged, and Green-winged can be challenging to differentiate, the half-moon face on the male BWTE makes him easily identifiable. Thankfully, they are often found in mated pairs, which is helpful for the casual birder.

These resourceful birds inhabit all of North America except far northwestern Canada and Alaska. They are the first ducks to migrate south in the fall and the last to return in the spring. Their binomial is Latin for spoon (or spatula) and different (though I’m unclear as to what about them is so different).



Shark Boat, Treasure Island, Florida March 2020

My favorite spot for happy hour overlooks John’s Pass, a channel that connects the Gulf of Mexico and Boca Ciega Bay. This place earned top billing in my book because not only are their prices reasonable and I can sit outside to watch the sunset but there is a pod of dolphins that cruises the channel. I guess you could say we’re all regulars here.

Last week was the first time I’ve seen a shark in these waters. Let’s hope it stays that way!

Swamp Chickens

I spent a while watching this Common Gallinule (Gallinula chloropus) family at a nearby park earlier this week. I was hoping they’d swim closer but the parents were careful to keep their brood away from the shore where potential predators might lurk.

Formerly known as the Common Moorhen, this bird can walk atop water plants, climb into trees, and, despite lacking webbed toes, it is a good swimmer. But it is a lousy flyer (hey, it can’t be good at everything).

Compared to its close relative, the American Coot, the Common Gallinule sports a jaunty splash of color; from its yellow feet (the second part of its binomial translates from Greek as yellow foot) to the bright red shield and bill on the adult birds.

Note the small spur on the outstretched wing of the chick in the second photo. It is used to help the young climb through vegetation.

Permanent Vacation


Treasure Island, Florida March 2020

This is the view on the beach that is two blocks from my house (and the camera on my phone doesn’t do it justice, trust me). Right now it is exceptionally blue and stunning but even on its less vibrant days it is still beautiful. I’m really happy to be here (in other words, this doesn’t suck).

So even though I have to work, living here feels like I’m on a permanent vacation. Which happens to be a line from one of my favorite Zac Brown Band songs, Knee Deep (featuring the original beach bum, Jimmy Buffett).

“Mind on a permanent vacation,
The ocean is my only medication…”


Black Creeper

Though this bird was rather shy (and I failed to get a decent photo) I was fortunate to see the namesake coloration on the underside of this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus). According to the Audubon website this species is well-adjusted to city living, taking special advantage of public parks, which is where I found this one.

The generic name, melanerpes, was derived from ancient Greek and translates as black creeper. An apt description, as all 24 members of this group have black and white markings and they “creep” along tree trunks foraging for insects and other tasty morsels.


Bees of Spring

During my afternoon stroll at a nearby park I noticed a good many bees buzzing around this tree. My first thought was that perhaps there was an active hive inside. Upon closer inspection, I found instead that they were busy slurping up sap from holes in the trunk.

I presume the holes were drilled by a very efficient sapsucker, though I did not see one in the vicinity. Ever curious, I tried the fluid myself. I was not impressed by it, not surprisingly, it was primarily a tannic flavor.