Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Great Blue Heron

No matter how many great blue herons I see, I still look in awe and admiration. They are gorgeous and a sum of many distinct parts. They are the largest North American heron (slightly taller than the great egret, but twice as heavy). They are: (a) slaty-blue overall; 
Wings spread out in flight revealing the basic color. 
(b) with a red-brown and black stripe up the flanks; 
The black and reddish areas on the flanks (the side of the bird between the underside of the wings and the abdomen (belly)). Toward the top of the wing it is dark, but note a picture below where it is rust colored. 
This heron swallowing a fish in Circle Bar B reveals a portion of its flank. 
(c) black and white streaking down the neck; (d) the feathers on the lower neck are long and plume-like; 
The front of the heron at Merritt Island, revealing the colorful top of the legs, flanks, black and white on the neck and neck plumes. 
The neck plumes and black and white on the neck of this bird in Circle B Bar Reserve.
(e) a white face with black or dark gray plumes from just above the eye to the back of the head; 
This heron, eating a fish at Circle Bar B, shows the white head with blackish stripes above the eyes. 
The blackish head plume and yellowish bill (in Orlando Wetlands). 
(f) a dull yellow bill that becomes orange briefly at the start of the breeding season; and (g) plumes on the lower back at the start of the breeding season. 
This heron in Circle B Bar has the mating plumage on the back and orange bill. 
More mating plumage on the back and orange bill.
This heron with its neck contracted and neck plumes looks like it has a long beard, and with the cap on top, reminds me of an old Chinese holy man. At Circle Bar B.
A heron nest high up in a tree at Circle Bar B.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Little Blue Heron

The little blue heron is small and long-legged, with a purple-maroon head and a slate-blue body. The dagger-like bill is dark at the tip and blue-gray at the base. 

Two little blue herons at Merritt Island. 
At Merritt Island
At Merritt Island
Flying in Orlando Wetlands
Orlando Wetlands
Juveniles look like an entirely different bird. They are all-white, except perhaps dusky tips to their primary feathers, and the bill is usually rather two-toned. 
Juvenile in the Okefenokee Swamp. Our guide made a point of it looking like a white egret, but actually being a juvenile little blue heron. 
The same bird revealing its greenish yellow legs. 
This looks like an even younger juvenile in Orlando Wetlands Park. 
A juvenile little blue heron with a white ibis and glossy ibis at Merritt Island. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Northern Shoveler

I got one very poor picture of a northern shoveler duck at Merritt Island in Florida. But because it is a new species for me, I am posting it. 
The northern shoveler has a distinctive spatulate (spoon-shaped) bill. The male is quite spectacular in breeding season with a green head, like a male mallard, and cinnamon sides. The male and female in non-breeding season look a lot a like. This one is either a female or a non-breeding male. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Glossy Ibis

The breeding glossy ibis, which I saw in January 2018 at Merritt Island, is a palate of colors, although in bad light it can look quite drab. It has a brownish to flesh color bill, a Persian red body and legs, and metallic green wings that reflect iridescent abalone shell colors, including turquoise and purple. The face is dark with cobalt-blue lines extending from the bill to the eye (but not around the eye) and bordering the face.  The non-breeding bird is much duller and the facial lines are a blue-gray. Juveniles are even duller and have white-streaking on the head and neck. 

It is found in peninsular Florida and along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida and the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Florida, although year-round only from mid-North Carolina to Florida. 
I also saw the glossy ibis in the Orlando Wetlands Park and it did not see as colorful, perhaps not as far along in its breeding plumage.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Great Egret

The great egret is a large white heron which can be distinguished from other white egrets by its yellow bill and black legs and feet. During breeding season it gets ornamental feathers on its back and bright green lores (the area between the eye and the upper base of the beak). 
Kind of comical looking in Merritt Island.
Merritt Island
Circle B Bar Reserve. Note the green on the face. 
Going after food in the Viera Wetlands.
Viera Wetlands
Snakelike neck - Merritt Island
Merritt Island
In flight its neck is retracted, a characteristic of herons and bitterns, which differentiates it from spoonbills, ibises, cranes and storks which extend their necks in flight. 
In flight in the Okefenokee Swamp. Note the retracted neck.
Liftoff on Merritt Island
Also on Merritt Island.
There are four subspecies: one found in Africa, one in the Americas, one in Europe and one India, Southeast Asia and Oceania. 

On my recent trip to Florida I did not see a lot of egrets, but I did spot one in the Viera Wetlands, at the Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, several at Merritt Island and one in Southern Georgia in the Okefenokee Swamp.  

Friday, February 16, 2018

Red-Winged Blackbird

The red-winged blackbird is found throughout the United States and is a year-round resident in all but some of the northern most regions. It is also found in large portions of Canada and Mexico and small portions of Central America and the Caribbean. 
This bird also has splotches of reddish/brown on its back. 
Males are black with a red shoulder patch bordered by a yellow wingbar. It also has a black, conical bill. The female is blackish/brown and looks nothing like the male. 
The yellow shoulder band shows up clearly in this photo. 
I saw this red-winged blackbird in Florida in the Viera Wetlands, west of Merritt Island. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Peninsula Cooter

The peninsula cooter, a subspecies of the coastal plain cooter, differs from the Florida red-bellied cooter by the completely yellow color (no red) of its plastron (belly) and a lack of "u" because of a lack of cusps in the upper jaw.  

Although not without doubt, I believe one of the turtles I saw at the Circle Bar B Reserve in Lakeland was a peninsula cooter, although I did not get a good look at the plastron or front beak to confirm it.