May 2011 Backyard Birds

Backyard birding is one of the easiest ways to see birds and can often present good photo opportunities.  You can increase your chance for getting a good view by placing a bird feeder close to bushes or small trees to provide a natural perch.  This helps especially with small birds, which tend to move quickly, darting from here to there, and often at some distance in most settings.  The feeder brings them closer, and a perch provides a chance for them to hold still momentarily.  This Chickadee,waiting its turn at the feeder is in clear view, sitting on a dead branch.

Carolina Chickadee

Even the relatively plain-looking female House Finch looks interesting when you can see the details of its feathering up close.

House Finch

Small woodpeckers will visit your feeder and sit occasionally on a larger perch.  The added incentive in this case was a small cup of food attached to the top of the stump, which I “photo-shopped” out of the final picture.

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Like the Chickadee, the Tufted Titmouse moves quickly, even on the feeder, but occasionally will sit on a perch momentarily.

Tufted Titmouse

This Carolina Wren fledgling was a “lucky shot” for me.  I spotted it out of the corner of my eye as I was walking by the wooded area on the side of our house.  There were several of them moving about in the palm branches and trees, foraging and chirping away.

Carolina Wren

All of these birds are “regulars” in our yard in addition to Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Mourning Doves.  Even spring and fall migrants can come your way, and spend some time feeding and perching for easy viewing, right in your own backyard.

Huguenot Park

I’ve had the privileged of participating in shorebird surveys at this park over the past two years.  It’s a great opportunity to observe and learn about water birds (Gulls, Terns, Plovers, Sandpipers, Ducks, Herons, Egrets, Ibises, Pelicans, Cormorants, Grebes, Loons, etc.) with expert birders on a regular basis.  Some of these birds (Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns, for example) live and nest in the park.  But Huguenot has other occasional visitors like this Merlin, a small (L 10″) compact falcon, which we observed one morning attacking and carrying off a Northern Mockingbird for a meal.


These Royals Terns are doing a mating dance in their breeding costume of dark orange bill and full black cap.  Thousands nest in the dunes and their offspring will cover nearby sections of the beach by summertime, necessitating park shore patrols to maintain their safety.

Royal Terns

A winter visitor to Florida, these Short-Billed Dowitchers are showing breeding plumage and will soon be heading north to the arctic tundra where they will nest for the summer.

Short-Billed Dowitchers

This isolated Laughing Gull is one of thousands that will soon be mating, nesting and raising their young along with Royal Terns in the dunes and on the nearby park beaches.

Laughing Gull

The seemingly omnipresent Osprey is always a welcome diversion from the multitude of shorebirds one sees day in and day out.


Hanna Park

This park along the Northeast Florida coast, just south of the St Johns River and the Mayport Naval Station, includes beach, dunes, a lake, lagoons and woods.  With its variety of habitat it offers many birding opportunities, and like Huguenot, there are almost always a good number of birds to be found.  Green Herons are seen here most of the year.  A relatively small heron (L 19″), they are usually crouched when hunting and their long thick neck only seen during a strike for food.  On occasion you can get close to them, especially when they are feeding.

Green Heron

The Spotted Sandpiper is a winter visitor to Florida.  It continuously bobs it rear while walking or standing as it forages for food.  This bird is showing its summer spotted plumage prior to migrating to nest in the northern United State and Canada.

Spotted Sandpiper

Year round residents, Red-Winged Blackbirds live and breed in the park, nesting in the cattails, rushes and grasses that border the lake.

Red-Winged Blackbird

The female looks quite different from the male.  It is dark brown overall with heavily streaked back and underparts, pale eyebrow over a broad dark eyeline, and  its chin and face have an orangish wash.

Red-Winged Blackbird (Female)

Lastly, these Wood Duck ducklings were a pleasant surprise, since I did not see any Wood Ducks in the park the prior year.  This gave me hope of eventually seeing the uniquely colorful adult male once they matured.  While Wood Ducks are year-round residents in Florida and supposed to be fairly common, this was my first sighting in more than two years of birding.  It is interesting to note that after hatching the ducklings head for the water and by the next day can swim and find food on their own.

Wood Duck Ducklings

As always, please feel free to send comments, questions, and suggestions by using the “Leave a Reply” box or “Comment” button  below.  Also, corrections and additional information will always be appreciated.

Phil Graham–Photo Naturalist

NEXT POST   June 2011 – Central Florida Birds: Snail Kite, Burrowing Owl, Florida Scrub-Jay and more!

“The voice of nature is always encouraging.” –Thoreau