South Florida’s Boat-tailed Grackles

Boat-tailed Grackles aren’t a very exciting find for a birder in South Florida.  Their population here is huge and they are everywhere.  You will find them in fields, yards, parking lots and just about anywhere you go.  Regardless of whether you are looking for birds or not, in South Florida you come across them every day. They are omnivorous, which means that, not unlike myself, they will eat just about anything.  Their diet ranges from berries to snails to other birds to garbage.  (I personally stop short of garbage.)  The males are jet black and are often mistaken for crows, while the females have brown heads.  Many people, bird lovers included, find them a nuisance because of their ever present numbers, aggressive behavior and loud call, which reminds me a of a swing set in need of a good oiling.  On the positive side they are big, strong and beautiful birds.  Their immense and concentrated population and their boldness make them an easy bird to find, observe and photograph.  Here are some shots of Boat-tailed Grackles I have taken over the past year.

Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major)

Boat-tailed Grackle male hovering over a small pond.

Boat-tailed Grackle female in flight.

Boat-tailed Grackle – Father and Son

Boat-tailed Grackle – Feeding Time

Tree decorated with Boat-tailed Grackles and one European Starling (Top Left)

Two Boat-tailed Grackle females captured with my cell phone in a grocery store parking lot.

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Egret and Herons

Here are some shots of an Egret and some Herons I captured on my last birding walk.  Egrets and Herons are carnivorous birds both belonging to the Ardeidae family.  Their beautiful plumage has made these birds popular in the fashion trade in the past.  It also makes them fascinating birds to observe and photograph.

Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)

Looking for breakfast.

Keeping a wary eye out for the birding paparazzi.

Hey!  You!  Put that camera away.

Great Blue Heron braving the wind.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

American Avocets at Cutler Wetland

Shortly before my season-ending injury I was able to enjoy some American Avocets at Cutler Wetland not far from my home in Cutler Bay, FL. These unique waders were a first for me.  Their long bills have a slight upward bend and they give out an enthusiastic “kleek, kleek, kleek, kleek” as they forage in the marshy shallows for bugs and slugs.  The photographs below show non-breeding American Avocets with gray, black and white plumage.  In the summer during breeding season their heads are a beautiful cinnamon color.

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)

American Avocets trying to get some sleep.

American Avocets Male and Female – The male (with the longer bill) is on the right.

American Avocet skimming the surface of the marshy wetland.

Broken Foot Birder Part II

If you have been following my blog since its inception you may recall my first post, The Broken Foot Birder. It was composed in September of 2010 while I was recovering from a broken foot.  I was frustrated about missing out on things due to my dependency on crutches, and it was during this time period that I decided to take up birding and blogging. Now, in an uncanny turn of fate akin to being struck by lightning twice, I have once again broken my foot.  This time I fell of a ledge while hanging Christmas lights on my house.  Technically I jumped off the ledge, and I should probably add that I jumped due to a swarm of wasps coming out of a nest I had disturbed, lest you think that I am prone to reckless ledge-jumping.  The result was a crushed heel that must now be surgically repaired.  So I have once again donned the Broken Foot Birder moniker and figure it is time for another session of introspective analysis.

I have been birding for a little over a year, and, although I am still relatively new at it, I realize that I may be the world’s worst birder.  I still can’t identify most of the birds I see, especially the little ones, because they all look the same to me.  I set a goal of seeing 200 types of birds this year, which should be an easy feat here in South Florida, and I may not even hit the half way point.  I haven’t yet seen an eagle or an owl, unless you count the fake owl that my coworkers put in a tree in the parking lot that completely fooled me.  I have non-birding friends telling me about seeing owls all the time and they aren’t even trying.  So I am definitely not good at birding.  But I still love it.

It is great having something to be passionate about that isn’t work.  I love getting out into nature.  I enjoy the challenge of identifying the birds I see and the quest to check new birds off the list.  I am learning quite a bit about this fascinating subject.  I am becoming a pretty good photographer.  I get to write creatively.  I think my favorite thing about birding is seeing the little treasures that a million people pass right by and never notice.

So even though I am not a great birder, I am definitely going to miss it during these next few weeks and I can’t wait to get out there again.  Luckily, I had the opportunity to get a few sessions in just before the injury — in fact I birded a new spot the morning of the day it happened — so I will be able to post some photos and stories while I am on the shelf.  Here is a shot of a molting European Starling taken at the Dump Marsh in Cutler Bay, FL a couple hours before my fall…er…jump.

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)