Ted and I returned to Florida for five days at the end of February and went to most of the same places I photographed in late January. On my first trip I heard Sandhill Cranes calling at Vierra Wetlands but never saw them. I was delighted to see a pair on the second trip.
When we first saw the pair they were calling repeatedly and appeared to be looking for something. Unfortunately there was nothing nearby to include in the image to indicate their size. Sandhill Cranes are larger than Great Blue Herons, and can weight up to 10 pounds (4.75 KG). Great Blues top out at 5.5 pounds (2.5 KG).
We looped around the wildlife drive and about an hour later found them in about the same spot. They had stopped calling and their attention had turned to preening.
Ibis always make me smile. They chatter, a lot, in an “unmusical” way according to All About Birds. There is no mistaking them for something else, by sound or sight with that big beak. A small group took off as we rounded the corner of the rice field and this one landed in a tree hanging over the path, nicely framed by the turning leaves.
He didn’t stay in the tree long, spotting some of the others who had landed in some open water at the edge of the marsh.
He touched down gently on the other side of the path showing off his black wing tips.
I’ve posted photos of a Belted Kingfisher at this location before, posing on the beams of the re-purposed bridge. This visit did not disappoint as I spotted this female posing on a rotting piling, first squawking at a passing Snowy Egret.
She was then content to turn this way, then that way.
The afternoon sun lit her and the post up.
Then she was done. The tide was going out so we hoped that she was fishing and would return with a snack as we have seen her do. We waited for about five minutes and presumed she moved on to another of her favorite spots.
On a recent trip to Maine a family of Hairy Woodpeckers entertained me as they investigated this tree. The tree wasn’t too healthy looking but the lack of full boughs and the lichen made for good woodpecker props.
I couldn’t resist photographing them even though the tree was very tall, the birds were in the higher reaches and I had left my long lens at home.
The old Pitt Street Bridge at Pickett Park in Mount Pleasant is known locally as a hang out for Belted Kingfisher. Often they oblige bird watchers by fishing just off the pier and then posing on the old bridge beams. (See my December post, Belted Kingfisher.)
Yesterday a female made just one pass, impressing us with her flying skill, paused for less than 15 seconds on the beam, then flew out over the marsh.
At low tide there isn’t much water near the bridge for a diving bird to hunt in and at over 90 degrees it was too warm to hang out waiting for the tide to turn. We didn’t stay much longer, either.
I’ve watched a Red-bellied Woodpecker on this tree on several visits to this area. It is a neck-craning experience due to surrounding trees, but I can’t resist following the sound of the tap-tap-tapping.
The tree he is working on is dead and if you put your hand on the trunk you can feel the vibration as the woodpecker does his thing. I think nesting season is over and doesn’t appear to be finding food, but there must be something attracting him.
Not a great shot, but standing way back and peaking through the leaves there is a view of the large hole being worked on. He puts his entire top half in the hole to tap-tap-tap.
It looks a lot like the Gnatchatcher drawing in the Peterson Field Guide and less like the photos on Cornell’s All About Birds website. The eye ring points to a Vireo.
Either way, it was a perky energetic bird that mostly stayed hidden by branches of the trees he was inspecting. A dead limb let me get a few clear shots.
A flash of the tail and he was gone.
I’ve been calling these small birds “Song Birds” but have learned while trying to identify this bird that as members of the order Passeriformes they are “Perching Birds.” The arrangement of their toes, with three pointing forward and one backward, facilitates perching. Somehow I’ve been skipping over that in my bird ID activities.