Friday, September 13, 2013

Field Trippin' With the Audubon Society

I've been a card carrying member of the Audubon Society Since I was in the fourth grade. I had a book about bird gardening, and in the back of the book, there was an address for the National Audubon Society. I wrote them, telling them I was in the fourth grade and asked for a membership packet. About two months later, I got the packet, and I ponied up the fee out of my own money. I've been a member since, usually remembering to re-up, occasionally forgetting, mostly, I get a gift membership every year from my parents for my birthday or Christmas. When we moved to Jacksonville, FL from Louisiana in 1989 I discovered the wonderful joys of going on the Local Audubon Society chapter field trips. Until then, birding had largely been a solo pursuit for me, and I quickly discovered that having people with you when you went out really made the birding fun, especially when there were people who are better birders than you.

On the 7th, I introduced the two eldest kiddos to Audubon field trips. We went with the Lake Region Audubon Society to Saddle creek. Hey, it's the local warbler spot. It's reasonably close to the house, and doesn't have an entry fee, what's not to like?

The LRAS puts on several fall migrant walks at Saddle Creek. The next one is on September 21st and the final official one of the season is October 26th. They promptly start at 8AM. We arrived about 10 minutes late, because I was still sleeping when the girls were almost ready to go. At 7:20, I felt a tap tap tap on my leg, peeked open my eyes, and saw Emma:
"Dad, it's time to get up and go birding."
Yes Sweetheart.
Sometimes, I really dislike having a second shift job. Saturday mornings are one of those times. When I operate on my natural rhythm I am asleep by 10pm, and awake by 6am. Since college however, I've been shoehorned into jobs and other activities that have kept me out. Right now, it's hard to get to bed early on my day off, but when I do, it's very easy to get up.
Last Saturday was not easy to get up, but get up I did, and get coffee flowing through my veins. After feeding the kids, we were off.

The group was still close to the gate so to speak, glancing hopefully upward in the trees, hoping to catch a passing migrant. As we approached the group, someone pointed out a mockingbird on top of the plastic owl by the county facilities at the park entrance. The girls got a kick out of seeing this peculiarity. Walking up the big hill, we saw our first migrants, a red eyed vireo and yellow throated warbler. KT especially liked the warbler, and said it made the list as her favorite bird of the day. Another ovenbird appeared at the same spot it did the week before. Someone reported black crowned night herons by the creekside (yep, there is an actual Saddle Creek!), but we missed it. We did however see a black and white warbler.
There were more vireos. And then there were more vireos! all of them were red eyed. come to think of it, I've seen a lot of red eyed vireos all this week. They must all leave for points south at the same time. We had to leave early so I could get to work, and on the way back, just after we passed the ovenbird spot on the way to the hill, I spied a bird on the ground, waggin' it's tail, looking like a waterthrush. I raised my 'nocs to see a streaky breast, overall yellowish bird with an eyestripe that lead me to conclude "Northern Waterthrush" I was really hoping for a Lousiana. Any waterthrush is worth the view, but Louisiana seems to be my nemesis bird for the area. The Audubon group had it on it's list, but no Northern. The bird I saw was too yellow, and the eyestripe was off for a Louisiana. I guess I can take comfort in that they didn't have Northern on their list.

Once in the car, I directed the girls to the top of another pole where a red shouldered hawk surveyed the lakes and all around. When we got on the road, and to the bait shop, right before getting onto Memorial Highway, a Great egret gave us a really close look. Emma was impressed, and said it was her favorite bird of the day. We also laughed at the "No tail Grackles" that were singing and flying around.

It's late Friday night as I finish this up, and the morning is coming quick. I have a feeling that I'll be getting another nudge. I think tomorrow morning we will go to Lake Hollingsworth though, I spied some terns on some bouys that need perusing on the way to work the other day.

Our list:
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow Throated Warbler
Red-eyed Vireo
Northern Cardinal
Red Bellied woodpecker
Black and white warbler
downey woodpecker
northern waterthrush
carolina wren
red shouldered hawk
mourning dove
white ibis
great egret
boat tailed grackle (no tail grackles)
tricolored heron.

Didn't make it to Lake Hollingsworth with girls, but I did drive by on the way into work. There were no terns on the southside bouys when I rode by at 11:40 AM today.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saddle up For Saddle Creek!

Yesterday I got it in my head that one thing I could do to help my wife be able to sleep in on a Saturday was to take our two kids in elementary school (3rd grade and kindergarden) out for a lil birding while she and my youngest slept.  For a plan, it mostly worked out! She at least didn't have to get out of bed until after we left. Lil' Sister was very anxious about not seeing her big sisters when she got up though.
#1 and #2 are neophytes in the realm of birding, and I expect that mainly they do such things with me because they get to do such things with me, but we do enjoy birding together every now and again. Our last trip was a success, but that was back in spring, and the migration is once again upon us!
Today was their first trip out to Saddle Creek for birding. We've been fishing out there a couple of times, but never birding. I haven't been birding out there since #2 was born. I thought the Audubon Field trips were every weekend out there, but I guess they changed it up some, no matter. We were late getting out the door anyway, and the weather was too nice for migrants.
We began birding as soon as we turned from Memorial and passed the bait shack. Right away we had a whole group of rough looking molting Boat tailed grackles. The girls thought they were funny looking. Driving along we noted several other birds, Great Egrets, Great Blue Heron, Common Moorhen, and even a Belted Kingfisher on a powerline. My oldest was especially impressed by it. Kingfisher's got some style, I'll give him that! The moorhen had some mostly grown chicks with her, and that produced the expected "Awwwwwwwww"'s too.
After parking, we began a brief excusion. I was planning on being out there for not more than an hour and a half, and we wound up walking for about forty minutes. I let the girls set the pace, and while trying to direct their wandering, let them roam about chasing butterflies on the morning dewed grass. We had to climb up the observation hill, and go through the brush tunnel. They enjoyed that. I kept hearing an ovenbird, and when we got to where it was I pished at it for a little bit. Out popped the Ovenbird, a northern cardinal, scads of Blue-gray gnatcatchers, and a rough looking northern Parula. While looking around, a gent came by in search of moths. I'm not certain, but I think it was Tom Palmer of Lakeland Ledger fame, I'm shooting him an email, update to follow. (EDIT: Sure was Tom Palmer, I hope he found some cool moths!) We walked back to the car, found some racoon tracks, and followed them some. Then we birded our way back to memorial. Got out of the car down one of the fishing spurs that heads off into the old mine pits, and noted some squirrel tracks. Then it was back to home, and snacks!
Lil' Sister was mad at us, but she calmed down.
The List:
White Ibis
Boat Tail Grackle
Great Blue Heron
American Anhinga
Belted Kingfisher
Common Moorhen
Great Egret
Loggerheaded Shrike
Mourning Dove
Fish Crow
Northern Cardinal
Blue Jay
Northern Parula
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Had Some Time to Enjoy the Outdoors.

Location: Ichetucknee river, FL, near . Things seen of note: Birds (see list below), coons, manatees, otterscat, crawfish, bass, bream, mullet, rednecks, turtles, a lined sole, or maybe a hogchoker still suprising though...
I had to stop to take a pic, couldn't help myself. Poetry came afterward.

For the birds, there wasn't enough time for a "formal evaluation," but for an informal evaluation, I was able to accumulate quite a list!
Carolina wren
Tufted Titmouse (see Greg Scheckler's excellent portrait of TUTI)
Carolina Chickadee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Pileated Woodpecker
Red Bellied Woodpecker
heard a Downy Woodpecker
Fish Crow
Blue Jay
heard many Northern Parulas
Yellow-crowned Night Heron - I really really really needed a good long telephoto lens for him!
heard a Hummingbird (i'm guessing Ruby throated. Sounded like every RTHU I've ever heard)
Cooper's Hawk
Heard Barred Owls at night (many of them, more than 2!)

The girls got a kick out of seeing it all, especially when I pished up the TUTIs, had those lil jokers hopping all around me. Thought a couple of them looked like they had recently fledged, they were begging from others in the group. Is it time for them in Columbia County to be fledging? I've never taken part in a breeding bird census, mainly because my work schedule keeps me busy when normal people have the time for such things. Maybe it's time to start such a thing, especially if I can get the girls involved during the summer.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Sisters Go Exploring.

The Survivors
The latest birding adventure is without lists.
Not that I wasn't keeping track of what we saw, but that Friday was just about seeing things. I'm not entirely certain, but I'm pretty sure that the point of birdwatching is to watch birds. :)
I took all three girls around some of the key lakes for Lakeland birds, and they had a blast. The trick to keeping kids interested in watching birds is to have interesting birds to watch.
Lake Hollingsworth goes from brimming with flying swallows, fishing pelicans, stalking ospreys and eagles to frantic searches to find the regulars. For us, birding from a car, we had to be fast, noting and calling attention to interesting birds on the fly, so that people didn't get backed up behind us. Looping around Lake Hollingsworth a couple of times and Lake mirror a few times more was all my youngest could handle. We dropped her off at the house where Momma said she took a nap.
Then the Two Sisters and I took a ride to a couple of more places.
Didn't see much at the first place. So we went to a place I call "The Jackpot". The kids call it that every time we drive by it now.

The "Jackpot"
In the middle of the picture above is a Sandhill Crane on a nest.
it's hard to see. People, you really should donate to the blog (at my other blog site.) so I can buy some camera gear, and a spotting scope.

best view I can do of the bird on the nest.
as of last Friday, the bird was still on the nest. I'll be taking the girls out again, for a little birding by car (if they are interested) this Friday.
We'll gladly report back.

I may even ask K to keep a list!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Interesting Developments in the House...

When I originally conceived of this blog as an idea, it was to basically encourage myself to get outside more, and get some exercise. I also planned on introducing my kids to the wide world of birds, hoping to spark their interest in science or something.
I started this blog when I had 1 kid about 2 years old. Now I have 3 kids, and the youngest is 3.
There hasn't been a lot of time in my schedule for strict birding only type trips, but that is coming around I think. The eldest has shown an interest!
That's right, on her own, K has decided to investigate birds. We've gone on one Daddy/K only fieldtrip to one of the local hotspots, and I think we can do some more. It will be short trips, about an hour each. I'm even thinking about letting her do the write up for the trips. It would be a good summer project.