Friday, August 31, 2012

The Clean Up Crew

I know Vultures are not considered by most to be very attractive or desirable species to encounter, but, I'll admit, I find these scavengers to be quite interesting. I will say Vultures are definitely not a species I seek out to observe, but I find do quite regularly  see these birds in my everyday travels. Most of these photos were taken last week at Kelly Park in Merritt Island. There are two species of vultures that reside here in Florida, the Turkey Vulture and the Black Vulture.

Black Vulture

Black Vultures are, you guessed it, large, solid black birds with wrinkled, featherless heads.

Juvenile Black Vulture

Juvenile Black Vultures are a touch more pleasing to view as their heads sport a fuzzy, peach fuzz appearance.

Juvenile Black Vulture

 Turkey Vultures are easy to distinguish from Black Vultures as they have bright red, wrinkley heads. Black Vultures also have shorter wings and tails than Turkey Vultures.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey and Black Vultures can be frequently seen soaring the skies in their quest to find a meal. Both vultures feed primarily on the carcasses of dead animals and fish.

 It always amazes me how quickly a large group of them will arrive after the unfortunate demise of a poor critter. For Turkey Vultures this is thanks to their keen sense of smell. Black Vultures utilize vision to a greater extent than Turkey Vultures to locate food.  Black Vultures are the more social of the two species and tend to stick together in larger flocks. On this day there were a handful of Black Vultures and only one Turkey Vulture, but the Turkey Vulture definitely seemed to be dominating the small dead fish they were all gathered around.

Fresh fish is definitely not a requirement of these birds!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Few More Beach Birds

We spent another morning at Jetty Park on Friday. Not only did we enjoy a beautiful morning, but there were plenty of birds to enjoy as well! 

Black Skimmer

This Black Skimmer looked like some of us feel by Friday! While it looks like this Skimmer may have crashed and burned, it is actually just resting. That large bill gets heavy!

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Last week there was quite a bit of skimming action going on, but this week, with the exception of a few joining the group, the Skimmers were all resting. I counted 32 of them with 8 being juveniles.


This lone Willet was practicing its one legged balancing skills.

Magnificent Frigatebird

This juvenile Magnificent Frigatebird took a brief break from soaring the high skies to make a low pass along the beach where the large group of Terns, Gulls, and Skimmers were resting.

After a quick check of the beach action, the Frigatebird was gone. This is the second Frigatebird I've seen at Cape Canaveral in past month.

Red Knot

This nonbreeding Red Knot was foraging in the swallow tide with two others. Other birds that we observed include Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Least Terns, one Long-billed Dowitcher, one Semipalmated Plover, and numerous Sanderlings.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Few Peeps

While at the beach in Cape Canaveral this past weekend,  I came across a few peeps. This poor little one looked like it was as disgusted by the trash as I was.

These are Sanderlings (thank you Mia of

There were about ten Sanderlings, some in breeding colors, scattered in with the terns.

There was also this group of four larger shorebirds, which maybe nonbreeding Red Knots, Knot sure though,  keeping to themselves. One was banded with a red flag.

This little Sanderling was having some bill envy!

One tired peep!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Beach Babes

My tot and I took an early morning jaunt to the beach yesterday. He fit right in as there was quite a variety of youngsters around. We counted around 50 Black Skimmers on the beach, with about 5 of them being juveniles. The Skimmers were resting most of the time, but occasionally they would go out  for a quick skim.

The beach was most heavily populated with terns, including numerous Royals, a handful of Sandwiches, and one Forster's. Several of these juvenile appeared to demonstrate behaviors that parallel those of our young children. This young Royal was definitely making its needs known...."mom, I'm hungry!"

"MOMMM, I'M hungry!!!"

This young one had to touch everything it could get its bill on. From this angle, it looked like the tern was attempting to assault the sandpiper. (note~the Sandpiper's identify has been concealed for its own protection).

This lone Forster's Tern, which, as you can see, is much smaller than a Royal Tern, just kept to himself.

This juvenile Sandwich Tern wasn't up to much.

This is also a juvenile Sandwich Tern (I think) but it had some interesting looking legs that were orange and black.

And the mini birder finding his own birds.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Viera Wetlands 8/16/12

My son and I took a long overdue trip to the wetlands this morning. I had planned on walking the loops, so I was happy to see the "open to foot traffic only" sign waiting to welcome us. The birds were very active at this early hour, especially with the absence of human activity. The first cell continued to be occupied by a plethora of Great Egrets mixed with a few other waders, including Spoonbills, Snowy Egrets, and Ibises. We saw a large flock of female Red-winged Blackbirds gathered together in the reeds.

Female Red-winged Blackbird

We came upon this young Loggerhead Shrike, a cute little fellow,  standing on top of a headless palm.

Juvenile Loggerhead Shrike

Several cells had very low water levels, which appeared to be attractive to a group of Least and Spotted Sandpipers.

Least Sandpiper

This lone Black-necked Stilt stood nearby.

Black-necked Stilt

The Stilt was soon join by a second Stilt. The Stilts were enjoying the company of one another, until...

Black-necked Stilts

A Tricolored Heron tried to join them. But, as the saying goes, three is a crowd.

Black-necked Stilts & Tricolored Heron

 The pair of Stilts decided to move along.

The action was not limited to just the land; birds were passing by overhead continually.  Unfortunately, I was a little to slow to capture most of them.

Roseate Spoonbill

Little Blue Heron

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cormorants & Anhingas

Cormorants and Anhingas are two common Florida birds that share many similar characteristics. They both have long, snake-like necks and can be seen perched along coastal areas, rivers, lake, or ponds. While Anhingas tend to prefer fresh water, and Cormorants salt water, I often see them cohabiting areas, such as the brackish lagoon and the wetlands.

Double-crested Cormorant


Cormorants, like Anhingas, do not have oil glands because their feathers are not water repellent. This benefits both species by allowing them to move easier underwater while foraging.

Cormorants and Anhingas are often seen taking advantage of Florida's sun to dry their non-waterproof wings.

Perhaps the most easily identifiable difference between the two birds is their bill shape.

Cormorants have a curved, hooked bill opposed to Anhingas straight, long bill. In addition, Anhingas have longer tails and small, white markings on their backs.

Both species forage below the surface of the water and feed primarily on fish.

Cormorants have striking crystal like blue eyes. Anhingas display a striking blue-green eye ring in its breeding plumage.