Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hernando County Bounty

Since visiting Florida it has been a bit overwhelming with all the new species. For everything I see in the west there is often an eastern equivalent, which means despite the fact I'm still in the same country I'm almost starting from scratch!

To start this post off I'm going to show off a colourful garden bird common in eastern North America. This bird is superficially similar to all other typical members of its kind and certainly doesn't win awards for taking risks with its plumage choice. Though it may share the same red-black-white colouration of virtually all north hemispherean members of its family, it is still unique. Here is the red-bellied woodpecker:

This rather fantastic looking bird is quite common in the right places here in Florida, and possibly also one of the loudest and raucous woodpeckers I've encountered. Though perhaps this is because it is quite a sociable woodpecker who is often accompanied by several others of its kind. Unlike other woodpeckers, it knows how to show off that stylish red hair. Unfortunately those who named it were so jealous of this amazing hairstyle that they named it after something far less conspicuous; the slight pinkish tint on the underparts of many (but not all) individuals:

Another topic worth mentioning is the crazy amount of ospreys in Florida.  I remember my first osprey in Wales, it was a tiny (but fantastic) dot through the world's longest telescope at a "secret" location. My views of this spectacular bird of prey were changed a little in California when I had seen one flying over the horizon on a particularly good day. Here though, they are just everywhere. I think I've seen more ospreys here than I've seen feral pigeons and starlings combined.

How you see an osprey in Florida. Distance to osprey: less than 10 meters.
How you see an osprey in the UK (through the word's best telescope). Distance to osprey: over 5 miles.
A unique coastal species that is apparently quite common here is the black skimmer with its very peculiar beak. I had distant views of this species in California once, but only once. They are more confiding here, and seemingly more abundant too.

I could not end this post without some insect life, starting with some locally common butterflies.

Long-tailed Skipper
Zebra. A trademark member of tropical butterfly houses, flying here as if it were nothing.
Both sides of gulf fritillary. One of the most vividly coloured butterflies here for sure.
A monarch fighting a queen over flowers in Fort de Soto Park. Interesting that the monarch actually seems to be "kicking" the opponent, not a behaviour I was aware of in butterflies.  I'm sure a good joke could be made here, but I can't think of it.
Fort de Soto Park was probably worth a blog post in itself but I will try and pick out the highlights here. One thing Florida is quite good for is herons and egrets. I think every regular species in North America occurs here, which is a significant 13. Florida is certainly a good place to be for a heron, as there is water everywhere and no lack of fish and aquatic prey.

On one particularly memorable occasion at Fort de Soto Park I was quite literally surrounded by herons. I first watched this little blue heron lurking in mangrove shadows:

Ridiculously tame.
A little to the right was a white ibis alongside a fantastic tricolo(u)red heron:

Behind me was this white-phase reddish egret:

On the coastline down the beach was a little egret. And in the trees far away was a great egret. What a place. Earlier in the trip I spotted an unmistakably bright pink spot on the horizon. Even though it was a few miles away it was undoubtedly a roseate spoonbill. I hope to see one closer eventually.

An extra incentive for Fort de Soto Park was the reported groove-billed ani, one of the most peculiar of cuckoos that occasionally wanders up into the United States, usually in Texas. Unfortunately there was not a lot of information on its whereabouts, with people just saying it was "south of the North Beach car park". I met a few other birders who were equally puzzled on the directions, so after an hour I so I just walked around and hoped it would find me. While surrounded by herons I had heard its squeaky-toy whistle and glimpsed it very briefly on top of a shrub down the path. Nice! I made a bit of a dash to the path on the other side of this hedge and after a good few minutes of waiting turn around and see it just sitting there. For such a supposedly skulky bird it was rather tame.

Note the grooves on the bill as per its name.
A good head on-shot because not many people take (or keep) head-on shots.
 I also managed this comparison image with a lark sparrow too. I didn't realize it at the time but lark sparrow is actually a considerably rarity here as well. I see them all the time in California so I didn't give it a second look!

Credit given to the lark sparrow for finding a new way to make shades of brown look interesting.
I had the time to go find other birders, most of which had given up, and put them on the ani as well. They were well chuffed. Looking back, technically the spot was south(west) of the north car park, but it was hardly useful information on its own...ah well.

And I...don't know where to put this so...have a moth.
A nice moth: Hemeroplanis scopulepes

All in all, you could say it has been a good first week in Florida! I haven't covered even half of what I have seen in this state so far, but perhaps during longer reprises from trips I'll stick some "themed" posts together in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Haha, I love this! Great pictures and interesting comments :)