Sunday, December 6, 2009


I have for a while now been thinking about going on a Pelagic Birding Trip. Last year I heard about one and told them I was interested but the more I thought about it and what it would cost me I soon realized that this was not to be my trip. Plus there was the rickety old car I was driving and this trip would have meant a 4 hour drive to and from plus two night stay in a hotel & food plus the cost of the trip and a day’s pay as I would have to take a day off from work.

This year however things came together and I got the new car, found out a friend lives very close to the departure so I had a place to stay. So I booked and paid for the trip and looked forward to it with great anticipation for a few months.

The Leader of the trip sent us all the information we needed including directions to the boat and a list of things we might need to bring along.

Sunscreen – Important!
Binoculars – imperative; however, a scope is not useful on a pelagic trip. It is better to leave it at home or in the car.
Lens cloth to clean off salt spray
Rain gear
Seat cushion – The metal seats get hard by the end of a full day. Some sort of stadium- type seat pad or cushion would help. (Bring one without a back.)
Small pillow – To help you rest on the way out and back.
Sea sickness medication – Do not forget to take it before the trip starts

Well I have been on boats before and never got seasick but all that was a long time ago and as you get older things change so I bought some Dramamine and took one pill one hour before the trip began. As for a cushion I thought a flotation cushion would work so I went to Bass Pro Shop and bought one. (Big Mistake).The rest of the stuff I had except the rain gear because they said no ponchos. So I found a waterproof jacket and took that. Not sure how that would have worked out but I was pretty sure I wouldn't need it.  OK I felt I was now ready! Bring on the Games. I was so looking forward to this.

Oh no, what this hurricane going to do. Please don't let it spoil this trip. got a another email the day before Seas were rough and they might have to cancel but things were expected to calm down so they would send another email On Saturday. Well by the time that one would come I would already be at Ormond Beach. Please, please let this trip get off!

Then the time came, I got in my car and headed north to Ormond Beach it took me the better part of 4 hours to reach my friends home. I had just spent the better part of a week with them in October catching up on old time like we hadn't, not seen each other for years. It was a great reunion. They are the BEST! And now Joye has developed an interest in birding so will be enjoying talking to her about the birds we see. I hope to get back up there and I hope too that they will come to visit me and we can go birding together down here.

Ahhhhhhh I have arrived and what is the first thing we do after I unload my car. Well go exploring of course. They were having some sort of bird Migration Festival  and bird release at the Marine Science Center's so we went to check it out. I have never been to the Marine Science Center so was looking forward to this and I was not disappointed.

The Bird release was neat too. This was a release of injured birds that had been treated and were being released back into the wild. They do great things at that Center for sure.

Then we headed over to the inlet as the last time I was there it was full of shore birds and I am now at a stage in my birding that I want to learn about the shore birds. Unfortunately there weren't as many birds this time but I did get a cute little "lifer" Piping Plover, such a tiny little thing running along the beach. We hung around a little longer then walked some of the boardwalk but didn't turn up much of anything interesting. Then we headed over to one of our favorite spots to eat and had dinner. I must say though that this place has slipped down a few notches this time. Not sure I even want to go back again.  Now for the drive home and of course we decided on some Ice Cream for dessert. Well that was a great idea, that Ice Cream  well Ritter's Frozen Custard that is. Yummy, yummy, yummy.

Once home we got into out PJ's and sat a talked  and then I begged off as I wanted to get a good night sleep. Well as it turned out I tossed and turned and tossed and turned and didn't get to sleep until like 2:30 am and I was planning to get up at 4 as I wanted to grabbed something to eat and I had a 30 minute drive  to someplace I hadn't been, so wanted to leave early and allow  myself the time.  Well I got up grabbed a yogurt and soon felt awake and made the drive and found the boat place and then had to stand and wait to get aboard the boat. To place to sit and couldn't sit in the car as we had to park in a different lot.

Before boarding of course they read us the rules and regulations and had a roll call (necessary I guess). Finally we were allowed to board. OMG! I have to go up that narrow plank with nothing but those skinny ropes to hold on to???? Yikes! But I did it no problem. Now there is no way I am going to climb up to the upper deck. So let see where do I want to sit? Well I finally found a space on the Port side of the boat and settled in. This was the shady side so I didn’t have the sun in my eye though it was probably warmer on the other side. As it turned out it was not the best seat in the house as they were cutting up fish in back of me to try to attract the birds to come in and fish water was splashing all over the place and my carry on bags were totally wet and fishy by the time we docked 12 hours later.
OK, sunrise and we are getting underway (Please Lord don't let me get sea sick) It's a little chilly but I am OK . Away we go and it was a nice ride to the inlet not too rough and we saw lots of birds. I didn't try to take pictures as it was still pretty dark and the moving boat and flying birds were beyond my capabilities. So I just sat back and enjoyed the ride, besides they were the usual birds that one is apt to see on the Wetlands or the seashore. I was waiting for the Pelagic Birds.

OK now we are approaching the inlet and the swell are a little higher and we ride up & over kind of like riding over hills and vales in the roads in Maine. Up and over and down and your stomach isn't where it is suppose to be but it feels good and the salt air is refreshing and it's a great day to be alive.

Soon the spotters are calling out birds they see but I can't hear them from where I am sitting and I wasn't alone. Seems the PA system doesn't work in that section. Great! So I see a bird and I take a picture figuring I can maybe ID it when I get back home. This activity goes one for a period of time and the sun has long risen and I am getting a little warm and thinking about getting something to eat. But the boat is moving fast and I can't seem to get my sea legs so I stay put.  Maybe when they slow down a little I will be able to get into the area where the food is. I have a couple of snacks and plenty of water so that will sustain me for a while. But I think that I shouldn't drink too much or I will need to go and not sure I can make it to the bathroom. So I make the decision not to drink too much liquid.

So the spotters call out for birds and the boat slows down but I am afraid to miss out on something so I keep looking and photographing. By late afternoon I am really hungry but when I think I can try to get to the food the boat speeds up and I am stuck again. I am also afraid to be inside as the only time I got sea sick I was below deck and once back out into the open I was OK.

At least now someone is passing along the names of the bird they are spotting but I still can't get my feet under me enough to get very far. I think because the railings on the boat were so low and I was carrying so much gear I was afraid I would if the boat turned just right go over the rail and into the sea. So although I finally did get up and move a little to get some pictures I still didn't feel comfortable moving too far from my seat and stayed put the whole trip.

Not only was I loaded with camera and binoculars but stashed under my seat were two canvas bags and a camera case with extra batteries and flash cards should I need them and of course I was well dressed in layers as suggested. The bags as it turned out got saturated with fishy water from the fish they were cutting up and using as bait to draw in the birds. Should I ever decide I want to try this again I need to get something water proof to stow my gear in. Not at all sure what that would be but will keep my eye out just in case I ever forget just how miserable I ended up being. Because as it turns out I didn't eat (except for 2 small breakfast bars) and I didn't go to the bathroom for those 12 long hours on that boat.

Late in the afternoon and thinking we were on the way in I pulled out my cushion to see if I could get more comfortable but that didn't work If anything the flotation cushion was harder to sit on the molded bench. I soon got rid of that. Now I am getting really hungry, I am tired (didn't get much sleep last night) and I am more than a little concerned that I don't feel the need to go to the bathroom???? and my fanny is screaming in pain and this bloody boat trip won't end. I am miserable!!!

Luckily I was sitting with a really nice couple and they provided a little distraction, plus there was the girl from GA and the young lady from up north and a young couple he seemed more interested in the birds and she in photography.

Look land!  hopefully we will be home soon.  Oh no once you see land you are still 3 hours out???  Can that be? God I want of this boat now!

The sun is setting how pretty wish I was on the other side to photograph the lighthouse as we head in. Look at these beautiful homes what it must be like to live here. What views they must have.

Now why are we just sitting here why don't they raise the bridge so we can get off this boat?

Finally we are moving again and now we are at the dock. Hurray! Now I have only to find my way back to Joye's place in the dark and it is hour away................and there will be food ................and a bathroom...................and a shower....................and sleep..........and tomorrow the 4 hour ride home. Oh the things I do to see a bird!

List of birds see on this trip can be found here.

The End! and at the time I thought it would be the end of such trips for me. But now that some time has past I might consider another going on another one at some  in my life and have been keeping an eye open for things to make it a more enjoyable experience for myself.....Comfort and ease of movement being top priorities. I have even been looking into some off the Oregon

Friday, October 30, 2009

What kind of birder are you?

Are you a BACKYARD BIRDER? Do you enjoy the birds that visit your feeders and do you actively seek to attract a wide variety to your yard with different feeders, birdhouses and bird-friendly plantings. I believe this is where I started out many, many years ago. I could identify both everyday and seasonal species, as well as some of the more unusual guests to my back yard. I started doing this to amuse my children and because my mother was a Backyard birder. I don’t really feed the birds today as I moved into a condo and such habits are frowned up there, but I do have a few peanuts around for when the Bluejays show up………….smile

Are you a true “BIRDER”? Do you actively observe and study different birds in order to learn more about their behavior, habitats and personalities. Do you often plan travels to seek out more birds and have you taken to photographing them. I may fall into this league a little too and find too that I enjoy watching and learning about other winged creatures and some that have no wings. In this section I differ in that I don’t participate in organized competitions and birding marathons to see a wide number of species  (althought I have signed up for a Pelagic Birding trip) and I can’t readily identify every species on my life list even though I may consult with numerous field guides for certainty.

Are you a Twitcher? Twitcher’s they say are passionate birders actively seeking to add more and more birds to their life lists, and they may travel extensively when rare or unusual birds are reported. The Twitchers I have been in contact with often keep more than one checklist. They may keep seasonal lists, state lists and county lists etc., etc. Now I did try this but I just can’t keep up with them. Not me not at this time in my life. Now while I do enjoy finding new birds I don’t go out of my way nor do I travel great distances to see a rare bird, although I did travel to WA to go birding OK so it wasn't all for the birding............ If I am going to be in the area or if it is some where I can get to easily I might try for it.

Are you a CITIZEN SCIENTIST ? This is a serious birder, often active in multiple bird conservation and education events. These birders participate in annual counts and report their findings to the appropriate organizations, and they also seek to promote conservation of bird species and their essential habitats. A citizen scientist may organize educational or birding events, or they may be volunteers with various aviaries or rehabilitation centers. While I commend this type of birder I am not that birder.

Perhaps you are an ORNITHOLOGIST, a professional birder with advanced scientific training about not only bird species but also about behavior, anatomy, physiology and bird species history. Nope this is not me either but if I had my life to do over it might well be me.

Me, I believe I am a Casual Birder who enjoys photographing all that Mother Nature has to offer. I enjoy learning about and watching not just the birds, but butterflies, dragonflies, mammals, snakes (from a distance) and flowers and whatever else gets in front of me and my camera.

So now tell me. What kind of birder are you?

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Because I have spent so much time out there this spring and summer I thought I would write about it this month. Last month I talked about the rookery out there and that is where I havebeen spending my time lately.

This is just a small area of to the left just as you enter the Nature Center property. This little area has been so full of life and a great place to watch birds as they go about their daily routines as they first build their nests and then lay and incubates their eggs.

Then the real fun begins as the chicks hatch and you watch the parents feed them and they grow and begin to move about the nest then slowly and cautiously move outside the nest onto the surrounding branches learning to wait and play there waiting for the parents to return and feed them. These babies are always hungry and will reach up and pull the parent down by whatever means it can try to get something to eat.

As they grow the parents will try to teach the young to look for food in the surrounding water and then eventually comes the flying lesson. Soon there are birds flying all around and over your head. Now would be a good time to wear a hat to protect your

Soon though they will be gone and I will miss all that activity but will continue to make little trips out there to discover what else I might find.

The water’s edge here around the rookery seems to be a good source for dragonflies and I have seen a few different ones depending on the season. The bridge area too is a good source for dragonflies and damselflies.
From the bridge I have seen Green Herons, Pied-Billed Grebes, White Ibis, a Great Egret and even got to see my first Swallow-tailed Kite.

There are lawn areas with picnic tables and sometimes the oaks are filled with warblers. There is a pair of Grackles that hangs around hoping to get a snack and I have seen Blue Jays and Cardinals, Sapsuckers and other wood pecker plus was treated one day to a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers flying all over the property.

There are many different butterflies in the area as well. I have seen White Peacocks, Orange Julia’s Zebra’s and Queens.

One day when I went out there the field to the right, as you enter was filled with Killdeer all scurrying around looking for food. Another day the field was filled with Great Egrets and their young leaning to find food.

The center does offer guided nature walks and although I have gone on one yet I am considering a full moon walk here in the near future. I have signed up for one) I have done the short nature trail a couple of times and my son does it just about every time we go out there. Sometimes for me it is just too hot so I sit and rock and enjoy. I guess I would enjoy it more if there were more to see besides spiders. There was some talk of a trail expansion so hopefully in the near future......

There is an 18,000-square foot nature center building that houses an exhibit hall, educational displays, an interactive replica of an archeological dig pit, an assembly hall, classroom, theater, and a photographs from the famous photographer of Florida's natural wonders, Clyde Butcher. Now to be truthful I haven’t really spent a lot of time inside. I do know that there are rocking chairs and ceiling fans on 3 sides of the outside of this building. It is nice sometime to just
sit and rock and enjoy the serenity of course the inside is air conditioned and great on these hot, hot, days of summer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A time of Renewal, A time of new life, of being born!

Baby ducks get their first taste of seed.

Here in my little corner of Florida the signs of new life begin in January and February with the nesting of the Anhinga and Great Blue Herons. Ospreys also begin nesting in January as well as some other herons and egrets and the doves in my back yard. By spring the wetlands come alive with birds carrying nesting materials and building nests. By late spring early summer there are baby birds everywhere.
Young Great Blue Heron wants to be fed!
So do they. Glad I am not a Great Blue Heron parent.

On my last trip to Wakodahatchee some of the Great Blue Heron babies were still in the nest although it was evident that they should be moving on. The parent was ignoring the young ones pleas for food and the young one was harassing the parent to no end. I am sure glad I am not a Great Blue Heron Parent.

Baby Red-wing Blackbird gets fed.

Also evident were the baby Red-wing Blackbirds. These are hard to see in the nest as the nest is quite deep and getting any clear pictures was a feat with all the foliage. We did however find one mommy feeding her young and was able to get a few shots of this event. We also baby Moorhens and baby Black-necked Stilts. We were lucky at one point to see a Limpkin fly in and it was bringing home the bacon for its family. This was a very cool sighting.

Moorehen Chick

The Rookery

There is a little rookery (a colony of breeding birds) at Long Key Nature Center where Great Egrets, Tri-colored Herons and Cattle Egrets nest in spring. I was late getting to it this year and the Great Egrets were already nesting and the eggs were starting to hatch. In fact that day one was hatching out. I have been back every weekend since. It is fun to go and see how things are progressing, although I sometimes get confused. Where I remember there was a nest it seems is no longer there. Where last week I saw eggs in a nest this week nothing is there. I suppose that when I am not there other critters raid the nests and get at the eggs and then the birds move on or try again as my resident doves do. And then there are the Hawks and other predators. I do know that there is a colony of Iguanas that also inhabits this island. Now whether or not the Iguanas eat eggs was unknown to me. Not knowing prompted me to do a search on Google and most responses said that they (the Iguanas) were vegetarians but would eat meat if presented to them and occasionally do enjoy a bird's egg.
Great Egret Chicks

Tri-colored Heron Chicks

Last week end I saw some newly hatched Tri-colored Herons. Well I really didn’t see much as they were just laying there in the nest, little grey balls of fluff, while mommy or daddy stood guard. I think that soon some of the Cattle Egrets would soon have babies too. There sure are a lot of them sitting on nests. The nests are staggered so that it reminds me of an apartment complex. In a way I suppose it is.

Apartment Living

It is such a pleasure to be able to sit and watch all the activity going on. There are birds flying in and out with nesting material or food for the families. Sometimes there is what appears to be fight between pairs about the placement of the nesting material or some neighbors squabbling over nesting space. Little heads appear in the nest. A parent is turning the eggs. Another parent spreads its wings to shade the young from the hot sun. An Anhinga chick sees something and stretches its neck to try and reach it “Careful Jr. or you will fall out of the nest. Closer to the water there is a pair of Tri-color fledglings getting ready to try to fish for themselves. They will surely be gone next time I go out there.

Great Egret Flies in with nesting material.

Tri-Colored Herons building a nest.

Cattle Egret Turns eggs.

Young Tri-colored Fledglings ready to try fishing

Anhinga young reaching for something

This week things are progressing and there is evidence of all stages of nesting activity from nests being built, to nests filled with eggs, to just hatched chicks, to older chicks to fledglings. And believe it or not some of the birds are still showing their beautiful breeding colors. This week also brought our first glimpses of the newly hatched Cattle egrets. To me they look very much like the Great Egret nestlings. I can’t wait to see what next week brings…………………..

Cattle Egret with chicks