Contortionistic Red-bellied Woodpecker

If you live in South Florida take an afternoon sometime to drive out to the Chekika Area of Everglades National Park.  It is located on the East side of the park and is open from December through April.  There is a little park area with a boardwalk and a couple small trails to check out. One winds around a small alligator hole where you will definitely some gators and the other snakes through a hardwood hammock. There is a picnic area and usually a friendly park ranger around. The park is a great place to get away from the city and become one with nature for a while, but I have found that the best place for birds is the narrow road leading up to the park entrance that runs parallel to a small canal.  It was there that I found this active little Red-bellied Woodpecker.

If you thought this was called a Red-headed Woodpecker, then like me you were wrong.  The actual Red-headed variety is much less common than the Red-bellied.  Its head is completely red, not just the crown.

Here you can see the red coloring on the belly, which is where the Red-bellied variety gets its name.

Here he shows of his bright red crown and the distinctive black and white striping on his back. 

Displaying expert contortion skills.

The Red-bellied woodpecker actually spends more time picking at and digging into the bark of a tree than it does drilling into it.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

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First Bird of 2011

What was your first bird this year?  For me it was a Turkey Vulture hovering overhead as part of a group of Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures.  That is not very surprising as Turkey Vultures are a very common sight in Florida.  I am writing this post on the second morning of the new year, and so far this year I have identified five different bird species.  In addition to the two vultures I saw a Great Egret, Western Cattle Egrets and a Red-bellied Woodpecker.  I am still waiting to see what my first new species will be.

I set a goal for myself to see and identify 200 different bird species in 2011.  I started birding in late 2010 and was able to identify 45 different birds.  So if I am going to reach my goal I’ll need to see 155 new types of birds.  Even in a place like South Florida, I think this will be quite a challenge.  I’ll be tracking my progress here on this blog on the Year List page.

So how about you?  What was your first bird?  Perhaps you haven’t identified one yet.  Do you have any birding goals for 2011?  Perhaps you are also tracking your 2011 birds on your blog?  Or maybe you have some tips for us novice birders.  Let us know in the comments below.

Birding the Florida Keys – John Pennekamp Coral Reef Sate Park

Recently a business trip landed me in the Florida Keys. There are many great bird watching spots in The Keys, but I only had time for one. I decided to check out John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. I had been there several times in the past; as a swimmer, a snorkeler and as a canoeist, but never a birder.  This time I spent a couple of hours walking along the various trails and took some time to watch shore birds from a bench on one the beaches.  It was amazing to discover how much more there was to this familiar spot.  I realized that each time I visited the park in the past I was on a mission.  I would normally rush straight to the canoe rental stand or the beach, but this time I had no special agenda other than to wait for what nature wanted to give.  I think I need to do that more in all areas of life.  How much am I missing because I am in to much of a hurry?

As I emerged from my car I looked up to see this Red-bellied Woodpecker.  He stayed put long enough for me to snap a decent picture with my point and shoot camera.
There were boardwalks that winded through the mangroves.  I had to share this one with a large reptile.
This Laughing Gull didn’t seemed to be amused at the moment.
I ran into this White Ibis a couple of times.  He seemed to be very used to humans and let me get very close.
Here he is again.
Snails are much better than birds at posing for pictures.
Look closely and you will see a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
These Oceanblue Morning-glory flowers dotted the huge vines that draped the wooded areas of the park.
A Herring Gull and a Double-crested Cormorant resting on some rocks.
Cannon Beach