Monday, March 12, 2007

Always and forever, a Louisiana Heron.

I've said it before, birding and biking combine some of my favorite diversionary activities. Diversionary activity is a poor choice of words, better to say that they are recreational. They recreate me. Biking recreates my body, and birding recreates my mind. Communicating recreates my soul I think, especially when I communicate with God.

That makes prayer while biking with a pair of binoculars around my neck and a field guide on my hip dang near the most recreational activity I can have by myself!

February 24th I found myself in such a position, riding the ole steed, praying, and keeping a weather eye out for some little brown jobs along the way. Specie wise, there were a lot of the usual suspects, I only added tree swallow to the list of birds I've seen at Lake Hollingsworth. I'd seen them before but they always managed to stay just far enough out of my field of view to remain unidentifiable. This time they skimmed near the water closer to the shore, and I even got a good look at their metallic green/blue sheeny back.

Great stuff...

Kelly had given me the morning off so to speak. She and KT had gone to her mother's house, Kelly's uncle Don had just passed away, and there were a lot of family members in town waiting to make the mournful trip to Naples for the funeral. I was praying a lot that day for my wife's family. Death is never easy.

I pedaled lightly, stopping every now and again to take in the sights and sound, but I found that sometimes there is stealth in a little bit of speed. A chattering Carolina wren stayed put when I zoomed by him. I know this wren, when I am on foot, he hides, and it's a lot harder to spot him. At the lake itself, I spotted a couple, both dressed for the outdoors so to speak, lightweight longsleeve stuff, with brand names like "Columbia" et al. Good stuff. I would find out later they live here now, but they were from up north, he was shooting pictures of birds and everything. I admired his setup, although I find I have trouble remembering what brand it is right now. They walked counterclockwise, while I took my normal clockwise circuit around the lake. I've been seeing a Herring Gull at the boat dock with a gate (if you go to the Lake, it's pretty easy to find) right in front of the synagogue. On this saturday it was missing, but I've seen it since. Just past the Florida Southern College Campus I crossed their path again, and I paused to ask if he was taking any pictures, as if there is anouther reason to wear a weighty camera around your neck. Sometimes, I like asking stupid questions.

They began telling me about a trapped bird.

Quickly I understood what I needed to do, find the bird and release him. The couple told me it seemed like his legs were trapped underwater, and he couldn't get out of the mire. The thought crossed my mind that the bird could be trapped in some fishing line, or discarded cast net. The natural explinations I had were alligator and snappin' turtle related, so I didn't think about them long, especially when I saw what kind of bird struggled in the lake.

A very beautiful tricolored heron stood distressed in the shallows along the shore, near a birdnest box. There was no telling how long the bird had to endure, I could see it's wings drooped down into the water, so I figured it was near exaustion. I set my bike down, emptied my pockets, and waded out into the lake. As I got close to the bird, I could see straight though its nostrils, they were like holes with voices, "don't treatd on me" they said. I took off my shirt and covered its head. Supporting the bird with my left hand and arm, I lifted up the bird, and used my right hand to see what was going on udner the surface so to speak. I held my pocket knife just in case.

Turns out, it was just caught in some weeds, so I freed the bird and brought it back to shore. When I uncovered its eyes, it flew away, somewhat gangly at first, but then remembering how things are put together.

When it flew away I thought:
"It will always be a Louisiana Heron to me..." Climbing back onto my bike, I fielded a couple a pictures for the couple, showing off my eco-studness.

I forgot to get the couple's names
I forgot to get the couple's name.

Fun at the Beach!

My wife is pregnant and misses me at night, she doesn't get morning sickness, she gets evening sick. Since I normally work nights, sometimes it's hard for us to do anything, especially considering that I go to Orlando on sunday nites to help homeless people. I decided to stay home this weekend though, and let my partner Rafi handle Orlando. Kelly, KT and I went to the beach instead. Once again, KT was awesome at the beach. Having a child makes you aware of the world in ways you just don't appreciate when you are single, or married without kids. It reminds you of something. Something important, something that says, man, I bet I've got to make sure my priorities are right, cause if they aren't, man!

SO my priority today was to be with my family. I think I did ok, didn't wander to far afield alone, even though were were at Ft. DeSoto. Ft. DeSoto is THE Florida west coast spot to bird. Everyone talks about it to the point where I actually get kinda annoyed, cause I don't get to go a lot. ALl kinds of rare shorebirds show up there eventually. Me, I wasn't too ambitious, somebody had posted recent pictures of bonaparte's gull on the "birdbrainz" newslist I subscribe too that were taken at Redington Shores, just north of Ft. DeSoto. I thought, "I feel Lucky"...

KT chases birds, if you let her. I think there is something primal about that action, chasing birds helps us understand that, yes, sometimes things can fly! Alas, though, what's a card carrying member of the Audubon society supposed to do when his daughter is scowled upon by the Bird Police for "disturbing wildlife". I distracted my little squirrel with a shovel and bucket full of sand, and convinced my wife that a short trip down the beach would yield this mysterious bird, the elusive, the captivating, the Bonaparte's Gull. Besides, I was never more than a walkie-talkie call away. Half an hour later I walked back up to the shelter, no BOGU but still happy to see my wife and daughter. Screw the birds, I thought to myself, I'm getting wet in this water with my family!

The water wasn't bad, just cool enough to make sure you didn't stay in too long, KT and I played "Up and Down", and we ran along the shore. Kelly soaked her feet in the water, and videoed the shennanigans. After lunch I birded some more, but you know what, Everything was groovy without the birds.

Still no BOGU.

I'm an experienced birder, and will chase after species if given the chance, but while everyone else hunts down in the keys for loggerhead kingbirds, I'll sit back, enjoy the day, and watch my KT mock gulls.

I'm glad she's getting the last laugh...

GB HOYT out!

yes, that's a herring gull, and not a Bonaparte's at the top of the post.
I will get that bird one day... one day...

Friday, March 09, 2007

"The Water-Chicken Update" Lake Hollingsworth is Hot!

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KT and I have been having a blast...
For the last two weeks we've been taking walks along our bike route, mainly so we can feed ducks when we get down to the lake. Plus I think the seat in the stroller is a little more comfortable. We started on February 23, under clear skies and slight wind. That's been the weather for most of the time too. Clear, slight breeze, temps in the 70's. There was one day (March 3) that wasn't very warm, and we only made it around the block. Consiquently, that was our low day.

We also had an awesome variety of birds, common yard birds, common waterbirds, and one or two nice migrants. Some local specialties made their appearance too.

Let's run through the species real quick:
2/23- saw 32 species:
Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Yellow-rumped warbler, blue jay, Blue-grey gnatcatcher, red-bellied woodpecker, northern mockingbird, palm warbler, northern cardinal, american robin, eurasian collared dove, White Ibis, boat-tailed grackle, American white pelican, pied-billed grebe, great blue heron, tricolored heron, purple gallinule, american coot, wood stork, ring billed gull, american anhinga, common moorhen, mallard duck, double crested cormorant, HERRING GULL, great egret, caspian tern, forster's tern, Osprey, Red-winged blackbird, and tufted titmouse.

2/24 - Went out the next morning on my bicycle, had a bit of an adventure I'll have to tell you about sometime. In all saw 31 species. Added:
Tree-swallow, fish crow, carolina wren, cedar waxwing, laughing gull.

3/7- Great day, saw cedar waxwings feeding on loquats, they were very quiet, I had to look twice to see them. Also had a tern trifecta on the boat dock in front of the synagogue, Caspian, royal, and forster's. Sweet! Katie and I fed birds Last Wednesday, and it was awesome! We had 43 total species and we Added:
Northern Parula, blue-winged teal, limpkin, royal tern, american crow, cooper's hawk, mourning dove, cattle egret.

Today: Beautiful Day! Katie and I had a wonderful time, she got wore out and fell asleep on the way home. It was our biggest specie count day today, and added some really good birds. There were a lot of Limpkin's out and about, and I even talked to a lady about them Here's what we added:
BLUE-HEADED VIREO!!, white-winged dove,(scored a dove trifecta today, MODO, WWDO, and Eurasian collared dove.), downy woodpecker, black-crowned night heron, bald eagle, GULL BILLED TERN! (on the same bouys I saw them on in the fall), and Ruddy duck.

Scored the blue-headed vireo in practically my neighbor's tree, feeding on bugs. Kept saying to myself "all these butter-butts, wonder if there is anything interesting around..." Sure enough, another vireo species added to the ole yard list...

Hope you are having fun this weekend, word is there's a loggerhead kingbird in the keys.

GB and KT