June 2012 Pelagics Plus
We’ll start with the “plus” and save the “pelagics” for last. A huge plus for me was finding Eastern Screech Owls for the first time. Leslie Royce and I visited a private property in north Jacksonville and saw both a male and female owl.
Leslie’s research suggested that the smaller bird should be the male, which we saw first and for the longest time, in an apparent defensive posture, flying from spot to spot. The larger owl (female) showed up much later, closer to dark. She was probably staying back with the juveniles, which we didn’t get to see.
Another “plus” was seeing this Laughing Gull chick during the shorebird survey at Huguenot Park.
Nearby was the nesting area for the Black Skimmers, which was pretty active.
Along the beach I saw Sandwich Terns, a Reddish Egret, and a Forster’s Tern transitioning to summer colors.
For a nice comparison I saw a “first winter” Forster’s Tern in flight at Hanna Park.
Also, a Red-winged Blackbird and Spotted Sandpiper with different poses.
I saw a Ground-Dove up in a tree for a change, and a juvenile Green Heron that appeared to be trying to catch flying insects. It evidently preferred this activity to fishing the pond behind him.
A quick visit to Howell Park produced a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers, which I suspected might be nesting in the park.
At Castaway Island there were three more pluses–a Painted Bunting, Clapper Rail, and an adult Cooper’s Hawk.
At last we come to the “pelagics”–birds that live at sea. Many of these birds breed on islands in the north Atlantic and after nesting disperse out to sea. Usually they can be observed at the coast only in the event of very strong winds or storms.
It was our (birders) good fortune that during the latter part of July the east coast of Florida was subjected for several days to strong winds off the Atlantic. The result was that a number of sea-going birds were pushed to shore providing some easy viewing. My first bird, which I saw from the Jacksonville Beach Pier, was a Wilson’s Storm-Petrel.
Next was a Great Shearwater, which I saw from the end of the pier.
Finally, I watched some Leach’s Storm-Petrels frolic among the waves, with erratic bounding flight. They circled back and forth close to the surface, occasionally pattering their feet on the water as they searched for food.
The big “plus” here, of course, was finding three new birds to add to my life-list!
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Phil Graham–Photo Naturalist
NEXT POST July 2012 – SOUTH & NORTH: Meadowlark, Whistling-Duck, Swallow, Kingbird, Rail, Night-Heron and more!