Monday, May 6, 2013
De Soto County Park is on the Florida Gulf just south of St. Petersburg. We spent three days birding the arrow shaped island and found several Gray Kingbirds like this one on the left. We had hoped for a good warbler migration but it didn't materialize. We had Black-whiskered Vireos in the Mulberry trees along with Indigo Buntings and Blackpolls.
We stopped at Honeymoon Island and the most common bird here were Ospreys. There were many nests along the trail, some with very small young. This Osprey got himself a nice meal of sea trout.
We found a quiet campground at Chassahowitzka River. Large springs form this river. The campground area was filled with the song of the Carolina Wrens. This one put on quite a show.
We rented a tandem kayak and explored the maze of inlets and bayous filled with playful otters, schools of mullet and large alligators.
We then spent two days at Manatee Springs State Park. We found this Pileated Woodpecker searching for carpenter ants and eating them down quickly.
We found Prothonotary warblers among the cypress trees on the boardwalk.
For the next three days we stayed near St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuge spending each day exploring the different habitats and trails. There were many Purple Gallinules in the cattail/pond lily area along with Least Bittern and Marsh Wrens.
For two days in a row we found this Mississippi Kite perched near the entrance to the Wildlife Refuge. This was one of our retirement target birds that we hoped to see in this area. The first day he was wet and ruffled so we were glad to see him looking his best the next day.
Here's a sight that stopped us - by the side of the road at St. Mark's was a Soft-shelled Turtle. Look closely under her shell for the egg she is laying.
We had our best bird list here with 122 species, including a great shorebird migration.
Next stop was Ochlochonee State Park which is famous for two things: White Squirrels (gray squirrel variant) and Red Cockaded Woodpeckers. At least one wanted their picture taken. The woodpeckers were being very quiet and secretive as they were nesting but we had some good sightings.
This is our last Florida stop - the snowy-white beaches of Destin. A walk on the beach yielded close encounters with several Least Terns. This act of passing fish is part of pair bonding.
We also saw four Masked Boobies fly by.
As we leave Florida for Southern Alabama we reflect on all the wonderful adventures of over six months. We have 258 species of birds for that time. It certainly was a great time.
Our best to all, God Bless! Ty & Ida Baumann
Saturday, April 27, 2013
An early morning stop at Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp gave us two surprises - the brand new Nature Education Center and the extremely dry conditions from the several years of drought. Most of the birds were concentrated in the two remaining "gator holes". It was sad to see so little water around the knees of the Bald Cypress and the Pond Cypress trees. This Roseate Spoonbill was one of only a few birds in the ponds. Only two Wood Storks were seen. When we visited here many years ago this was the main nesting area for them.
We drove to Fort Myers Beach and camped a week at the Red Coconut RV Resort - right on the snow-white sands. The gulf water was warm - suitable for salty swimming, shell collecting and bird watching. This Snowy Egret was feeding in the surf along with Willets, Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones. Magnificent Frigatebirds soared over the condo towers along this barrier island.
We took a day to visit Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. Along the four mile auto tour, we stopped numerous times to hike and explore this gem of Florida. We observed this Yellow-crowned Night-heron catching a crab for breakfast. He carefully clipped off the claws then swallowed the rest whole.
This lively River Otter was too busy securing his own breakfast to pay attention to the camera. He was diving for oysters and crabs.
We reported a fishline tangled Black-crowned Night-heron to the local rehab center (CROWS) and they rescued the bird from being tied to a tree branch.
This Black Racer was sunning along the edge of the nature trail, the sun felt good on this cool morning.
Adjacent to the Red Coconut was the Matanza Pass Preserve - a nature conservancy with extensive hiking trails and boardwalks through the mangroves. This young raccoon got separated from his family - mama was calling and he kept playing "peek-a-boo" with us as he tried to get across the boardwalk.
We spent 4 days at Myakka River State Park in their new RV campground. Bobwhite quail were quite abundant in the area. They whistled their presence and scooted here and there. This female quickly darted across our site followed shortly by the male.
Who says only birds respond to "pishing"? This 9-Banded Armadillo sat up and took notice to the sounds, (as he is a little near sighted) taking a break from hunting for grubs. This South American import is fond of digging up lawns and not appreciated by homeowners.
There is lots to see at Myakka and one treat was seeing these young Barred Owls, found high in a live oak tree.
We walked the canopy walk, an elevated suspension bridge between two towers. A beautiful walk in the tree tops.
We also took the "Gator Gal" (the largest air boat in Florida - and very quiet too) on a tour of Lake Myakka. Lots of alligators, wild hogs, Black-necked Stilts, Ospreys fishing and many herons and egrets.
This is a Black-hooded Parakeet (Nanday) that we found a flock of on our way out to Ft. DeSoto County Park just south of St. Petersburg. We spent a day and a half on this Key and found great shorebirds, terns, and added Am. Oystercatchers to our list.
It's getting to feel a lot like summer here and we will keep heading north.
Blessings to all, Ty & Ida Baumann
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
After a quick trip back to Port St. Lucie on Easter to pick up forwarded mail at Daryl & Vicki's. we spent two days at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. On the way south we found a nesting colony of Monk Parakeets. We were alerted to their presence by their loud, continuous chattering.
At the park we walked the trails mainly for this beautiful Florida Scrub Jay - notice all the bling on this one. Then we added the Bachman's Sparrow, several singing in the Pine/Saw- Palmetto habitat. Also seeing the rare for Florida Red-headed Woodpecker.
We zigzagged across the North Everglades and Big Cypress Preserve finding several Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Swallow-tailed Kites.
From our base here we drove up to explore the Big Cypress Swamp, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Fakahatchee Strand Preserve. Hatching in large numbers were these large colorful Lubber Grasshoppers.
These areas also produced large numbers of wading birds such as these Black-necked Stilts. There were Reddish, Snowy, and Great Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Tri-colored, Little Blue, Green and Great Blue Herons feeding in the ponds. Also spotted a few more Manatees.
Next stop was a few days at Collier-Seminole State Park. Birding highlights on our own campsite were this Red-Shouldered Hawk, a Worm-eating Warbler, a number of Black-Whiskered Vireos, Orchard Orioles and during the night, several Barred Owls serenaded us.
At least three pairs of Pileated Woodpeckers were near the campground, always fun to hear and see.
Daily walks on the Royal Palm Trail yielded a Yellow-breasted Chat, and a fleeting glimpse of the secretive Mangrove Cuckoo - one of our target birds.
As we bid farewell to this area, we made a short stop at Marco Island. We were blessed with two sightings of Antillean Nighthawks - a life bird; great looks at Least Terns and these very cute Burrowing Owls tucked in the shadow of condos on "postage-stamp" lots.
Heading north along the gulf!
Blessings to all!
Love, Ty & Ida
Monday, April 1, 2013
A trip to Southern Florida would not be complete without exploring the Keys. We were anxious to see what changes took place from our trip of 30 years ago. Despite all the development, heavy traffic and fast paced life there is still the wild "real Florida" if you take time to find it.
Our first encampment was at Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge and Campground in the heart of the Key Deer Refuge and yes, we found the small Key Deer: The wild as seen above, and the not so wild like this fawn to the right checking out our neighbors RV site.
This area is also part of the Great White Heron Refuge and we found our first bird on No Name Key.
One of our birding goals has been to take the boat trip to the Dry Tortugas. This day long adventure took us 70 miles west of Key West to Fort Jefferson (pictured above) and the birding mecca of the National Park. This massive hexagon shaped fort was built in 1836 but never finished.
This Brown Noddy was one of hundreds nesting here along with Sooty Terns. A few Bridled Terns and a Black Noddy were seen along with Sandwich, Royal and Roseate Terns while scoping the coral spit.
Dozens of Magnificent Frigatebirds were harassing the other birds, carrying nesting material and were soaring in circles over the fort most of the day.
While exploring the key, we found a Gray Kingbird, a Thick-billed Vireo (a lifer), Cave Swallows, and Black Skimmers. Two other life birds were found on the way: Masked & Brown Boobies that rounded out our 30 species for the boat trip.
A mile walk from Boyd's RV park to the Key West Botanical Garden yielded a rich floral and fauna diversity. Flowers, trees, insects and lizards plus interesting birds including another lifer: the Western Spindalis made for a very interesting day. We couldn't always hear the birds because the "Blue Angels" were practicing low overhead for upcoming air shows (possibly their last - per sequester).
No problem getting up early, or for that matter being able to sleep during the night. This dandy bird was roosting right above our RV and decided wake-up calls were at 1:30 AM, 3:00 AM, and 5:30 AM. After three disrupted nights, we were happy to be on our way. Ty threatened that bird with a call Colonel Sanders.
Next stop was the "Jolly Roger" on Grassy Key with a site right on the sea wall on the gulf side of the key. In the evening Spiny Lobsters emerged from beneath the wall. Other interesting sea life included rock crabs, horseshoe crabs, parrot fish, barracuda, damselfish, and needlefish.
Spent a half day at Long Key State Park with our largest key bird list of 44 species. This Piping Plover was a great find and even surprised the park naturalist. We also added Black-necked Stilts and Hooded Warbler to our year list.
Last stop was Key Largo Kampground, just a mile from the John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park. We walked there and took the glass-bottom boat to the coral reef. Great to see live, but hard to get photos of.
This green anole is waving his throat patch at us as we say good-bye to the Keys. As we crossed the causeway to the Mainland, a Magnificent Frigatebird soared overhead and a White-Crowned Pigeon bid us farewell.
Our best to all.
Ty & Ida Baumann
Monday, March 11, 2013
Our first target bird heading south from Port St. Lucie on March 1st was the Burrowing Owl; this bird posed for us on the burrow in the open park between the ball fields and the playground of Brian Piccolo Park near Pembroke Pines.
After a couple days near Kendall/Miami looking for some specialties, we found Red-masked, Mitred and Monk Parakeets at the Baptist Hospital in Kendall.
On to the Everglades National Park - after a stop at the Visitors Center we went to walk the Anhinga Trail. This welcoming committee of hundreds of Black Vultures greeted us at the parking lot. Note photo of park provided coverings for vehicles as the vultures have severely damaged wipers and rubber gaskets.
Of course Anhinga Trail would not be complete without its name sake. There were many nests with noisy, food-begging chicks as pictured here.
Dozens of alligators have taken up residence in this fresh-water "gator hole" along with herons, egrets, bittern, and a very secretive Purple Gallinule.
Along the road to Flamingo we observed a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites. One of which landed in a dead snag over our RV. We later saw them carrying nesting material and putting on quite an aerial show.
Several visits to Paurotis Pond providd the view of a very large Wood Stork and Roseate Spoonbill Rookery. The birds were moving in and out with nesting material and food continually .
One of our highlights was a surprisingly large number of salt water preferring American Crocodiles like our tooth grinner in the photo. Some we found later exceeded 13 feet in length.
We camped at Flamingo for 4 days, from this home base each day we explored nearby habitats: Eco-Pond - where we found this beautiful Painted Bunting; Snake Bight Trail to the Florida Bay with hundreds of shorebirds and waders, plus a Black-whiskered Vireo; Bear Lake area where we found several White-crowned Pigeons; and Mahogany Hammock where the best find was birders from Green Bay - Tom & Denise Mooren. We also had a Barn Owl two nights, one near the Visitors Center and also right next to our campsite.
We moved north to Long Pine Key campground for 2 nights where we visited the Gumbo-Limbo Trail, re-walked the Anhinga Trail. and took the tour of the Nike Missile Base and enjoyed cold war history with Ranger Leon.
A birding trip would not be be complete without a stop at the Florida City Burger King to see the Common Mynas. We also added a dark-morph Short-tailed Hawk over Homestead only a few miles from the Miami/Everglades RV park where we are preparing for the next leg of our journey. Tomorrow we head to the Florida Keys until Easter.
Our best to all!
Ty & Ida Baumann
Sunday, February 24, 2013
We were very impressed with the zoological, botanical and architectural design and development. Our favorite exhibit was the African Safari aboard the authentic jungle trucks, (seen to the right facing off with the White Rhinoceros).
From the intensionally designed rough roads to drive-through water holes and the Serengeti Plains, we experienced close-up encounters with giraffes, wild cattle, antelopes, big cats, and these young elephants with mom (roaming along the artificial Baobob Trees).
This photo at right is looking into the Asian section seeing the beautiful Mt. Everest in the distance. We especially enjoyed the African and Asian walk through aviaries, the live bird show with free flying birds with a great environmental message.
In a matter of hours this Douglas Turbine DC3 transported Daryl & Ty into the Caribbean. However, the sights sounds and smells were altogether from a different world. This adventure immersed us into the life and culture of Haiti.
Our mission trip goal was to meet with the teachers, pastors, and children of the four schools that New Hope Missions Intl. sponsors. We delivered a lap-top computer and electric guitars for church ministry.
We picked up 89 boxes of school supplies from the seaport warehouse and began hand sorting items into handbags for each of the 800 children and teachers.
The extreme physical poverty was evident all around us, like the homes on this litter-strewn polluted river. The river serves as drinking water, laundry, transportation and septic system and fishing grounds.
In contrast, new church construction with strong and growing attendance, and the Christian based school curriculum is a testimony to God's love and grace for these needy people.
This visit has left a lasting impact on me personally. Ida and I count it a privilege and a blessing to be involved in a small way in this important ministry. Although I spent little time birding on this trip I managed to identify 37 species, 20 of which were life birds.
Blessing & Prayers,
Ty & Ida Baumann