February 2015 Three New
This month I was fortunate to find three new Florida “life birds”. The first was a male Bullock’s oriole, which I saw over in Gainesville (Alachua county), thanks to reports by other birders .
This is a rare winter visitor from the western United States, which I missed on two attempts last year. It was in the company of several Baltimore orioles (male and female).
Next, down in Daytona (Volusia county) I found a Great cormorant, which had been reported by local birders. This bird was a bit easier to locate as it was the only cormorant on the lake, and presented itself upon arrival. It’s a rare winter visitor from the north Atlantic coast, distinguished by a white border to its yellow gular pouch.
Finally, back over in the Gainesville area I found another new bird based on reports, a Le Conte’s sparrow.
It’s a more common winter visitor to north Florida. Also in the same vicinity was another winter visitor which I had seen once before, a White-throated sparrow. This time I was able to get a closer look.
And a good look at the common winter Chipping sparrow.
Closer to home I got close looks at some regular year round birds–pelicans, skimmers and grebes.
Local winter visitors included Lesser scaup (male and female), and adult and first winter Bonaparte gulls.
Also, lots of Robins around in the company of some Cedar waxwings.
In town (Jacksonville) I lucked upon a Western Kingbird catching insects from the top of a tree. It’s a rare winter visitor from the western United States, which I had seen for the first time over a year ago. This time I got a close look, and also saw a Red-headed woodpecker nearby.
Finally, I had an interesting experience with an eagle. When leaving the local CVS pharmacy at the beaches (a couple of blocks from the ocean) I saw this bird land on top of a utility pole by the street in front of the store.
I happened to have my camera with me and began shooting as it flew back and forth a couple of times between the poles on either side of the street. Finally it made a dive toward the bushes in the median and landed in the street.
Traffic sent it flying back to another pole. A passerby told me they saw something fall into the bushes when the eagle arrived, so we looked and found a dead tern. Then I recalled seeing a falcon circling above earlier, surveying the scene when the eagle first landed. We surmised that the eagle probably harassed the falcon (which likely killed the tern at the beach) till it dropped the bird. Now the eagle was trying to retrieve it. It was the first time I’d seen an eagle willing to approach so close to human and vehicle traffic. We left as it began to rain with the eagle still sitting atop the pole, but I assumed that by then the main show was over.
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Phil Graham–Photo Naturalist