Monday, June 17, 2013

A Vulture's Foul Feast

A few days ago as I was arriving home, I noticed a large group of visitors near the river. I couldn't help but to be a little curious about what attracted them. After my son drifted off into his much needed nap, I stepped out to see what the vultures were up to. The time I spent with these grotesque guests was all that I expected it might be...visually and olfactorily offensive. The American Black Vulture....its not so pretty...

...even when its young.

Carrion, it's what's for dinner! The large group of Black Vultures had gathered together to dine upon a washed up, deceased Armadillo. Unlike Turkey Vultures who use their very keen sense of smell, Black Vultures find their meals via sight. I have to think they were able to smell this decaying critter though. It took me a few days to get the smell out of my nose! (And they got quite a bit closer than I did)

Who would have though that a dead animal would get away...

...not for long!

Nope, not gonna share! These vultures are quite vicious towards one another when they are dining or even just waiting for a turn. There was quite a bit of squabbling going on as one vulture monopolized the meal for quite some time.

Juvenile vultures-in-training...

The most attentive student!

Snuggles with almost cute vulture photo!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Local Happenings

The local Scrub Jay sanctuary is one of our favorite places to visit. We try to incorporate an early morning hike as often as possible...

As you travel the trails of Helen and Alan Cruikshank Sanctuary, the songs of various birds  travel with you every step of the way. Mockingbirds, Scrub Jays, and Eastern Towhees are tops on the playlist.

This is a popular community tree where numerous species congregate. The Mocker decided it was a little much when the Grackle joined its morning meeting with the Red-bellied WP and Scrub Jay.

This Gopher Tortoise was one of the several non feathered species we encountered.

I came across a branch loaded with these downward facing blossoms.

This was one of the raptors we saw...and I'm pretty certain it was a Sharp-shinned Hawk; it seemed too small to be a Cooper's Hawk. Hopefully it will stay away from my favorite youngsters! We also saw a Great Horned Owl and an Osprey.

Speaking of youngsters...the young Jays were getting along better this week. The last time I saw these two they were knocking each other around over an acorn one had found.

This time the Jay offered its mostly hollowed out acorn to the other young Jay.

I've read a lot about Florida Scrub Jays and their unique, cooperative breeding habits.

Since the young/juvenile Jays are fed and protected by not only their parents but other young, non-breeding Jays, they are considered to be "cooperative breeders". I've seen these two young Jays regularly each visit and I'm pretty certain they are very close in age, so I thought it was interesting that they were feeding one another.

We also visited River Lakes Conservation Area this week. Its a slow time for birds in the area....we did see (and hear) lots of Meadowlarks, including this scrawny juvenile that was foraging on the trail. We also saw adult adult Killdeer with a tiny chick, several Sandhill Cranes, a few waders along the canal, and 2 Swallow-tailed Kites circling the area.

My son now likes to search for bugs, with caterpillars being his favorite. He spotted this tiny ladybug making its way up and down a branch.

I was looking at the different species of dragonflies that were occupying the upper limbs.

These Nuttall's Thistles are blooming all along the trail!