Archive for January, 2014

A Visit to Possum Long Banding Station

A juvenile Little Blue Heron, seen at Possom Long Center.

A juvenile Little Blue Heron, seen at Possom Long Center.

We have visited this banding station in Stuart, Florida twice now.  While the banding has been slow, it has been great to meet kindred spirits and chat birds, birding, bird habitats, plants to attract birds…well, you get it.  The small sanctuary is about five acres, about the same size as our Birdcraft in Connecticut.  The banders are also working at other sites in the area banding Painted Buntings in concert with a program in the Carolinas, in an attempt to learn more about the decline of the Eastern population of this lovely bird (a popular cage bird in Europe!)  They have installed an Osprey nesting platform and Mr. & Mrs. Osprey were hard at work mating and chasing off intruders.

What a splendid view they must have from this beautiful platform.

What a splendid view they must have from this beautiful platform.

Possum Long was a local high school science teacher and he donated the property to the Martin County Audubon Society on his death.  While I didn’t see any life birds there, I did get a life spider, a Golden Silk Spider or Florida Banana Spider.  This impressive creature is beneficial and harmless, unlike the South American ones that come into the US on bunches of bananas, which have a venomous bite.  Females can have up to a five inch leg span and are the largest North American spider species after Tarantulas.   This one was about four inches wide, larger than my palm.

Golden Silk or Florida Banana Spider.

Golden Silk or Florida Banana Spider.

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Invasion of the Ibises

At first there were only a few, two adults and one juvenile.

At first there were only a few, two adults and one juvenile.

We’ve been in Florida, and while there we had a tropical downpour during which we received almost a foot of rain in just a few hours.  This caused some flooding behind the house making a pond that attracted some wading birds.  At first there were just three White Ibises, parents and child perhaps?  The word spread and more kept coming, small flocks coming by over the day.  They seemed to be eating beetles and anoles with maybe a frog or toad or two.

More and more flew in for the feast.

More and more flew in for the feast.

By the end of the day we had over 100 Ibises, one Great Blue Heron and a Cattle Egret.

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A flurry of panic from a passing Cooper's Hawk

A flurry of panic from a passing Cooper’s Hawk

A Cooper’s Hawk flew over, spooked everybody and they all flew off with a stunning rush of wings.

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Antarctic Adventure

The Tourist Ship Akademik Shokalskiy

The Tourist Ship Akademik Shokalskiy

I was horrified just after Christmas to see the Russian scientific research vessel turned tourist ship imprisoned in the Antarctic pack ice.  This was the very same ship my husband and I toured Antarctica in nearly ten years ago.  Today I learned that the wind had shifted and that she had broken free, now headed back to New Zealand for another load of tourists.  I became very fond of that little ship over the 25 days of our trip.  She is smaller than most of the ships that tour Antarctica and can therefore get into tighter harbors than the more common “Princess Line” sized behemoths we saw.   With only 47 passengers, we got to know our fellow travelers quite well.  They were a well traveled international lot with only 12 of us being Americans, much more fun for us.  The chef was Austrian and the food was delicious.  I loved the position of our cabin which was on the bow deck, the first one, facing the waves.  There were two portholes side by side in front and when the sea was rough it looked like we were looking into a washing machine with the foaming seawater swirling around in the windows.  I’m so glad she’s safe.

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Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Connecticut

Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus savana)

Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus savana) not showing his spectacular forked tail well in my picture.

Those in the know about Connecticut sightings will say, “This is old news,” but I had wanted to post about our South American visitor and didn’t get to it over the busyness of the holidays.  The first notice that Connecticut had a Fork-tailed Flycatcher came on November 30th.  It had been seen at the ferry landing in Hadlyme and the next morning I was on the road (icy from an overnight freezing rain) and on my way up to see it.  When I pulled into the parking lot, several friends were already there and the bird was flitting from tree to tree.   We all got great looks at the bird as it ate berries and searched for insects.  I had seen this species once previously at Cove Island Sanctuary in Stamford on November 18, 2010.  This bird is noted for wandering to the East Coast of the United States.  I believe this is the fourth time one has been sighted here in Connecticut.

Why do birds wander so far away from their familiar territories?  Are the ones we are seeing “scouts” coming north to explore our area in hopes of extending their natural range?  Are their brain cortexes defective with regard to directions?  Are they just overshoots (going too far in their migrations)?  I’ve heard some theories but no one seems to know for sure.

 

 

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