Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tall Timbers and a Weekend Voyage

I've been working at Tall Timbers Research Station for almost two weeks and am loving it! The birds are great, weather has been alright, and the people are nice. But lets get right down to it: the birds. A couple of my favorite pictures this year have been taken on the property while out working. Both Grasshopper and Henslow's Sparrows winter here. Henslow's has always been notoriously hard for me to get even a decent look at, nevermind a photograph. I found these birds can be quite tame on their wintering grounds if you approach with care. Grasshoppers seem to pop out into the open while Henslow's will mouse around the understory vegetation. I really enjoyed watching a Henslow's feed right by my feet, at times too close for the camera to focus!

Henslow's Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

What kind of work am I doing at Tall Timbers you ask? I'm nest searching for and banding Brown-headed Nuthatches. They are already excavating cavities in snags to be used as nests and are actively guarding them from Bluebirds and other cavity nesters.

Brown-headed Nuthatch
I'll walk you through some of the other commonly seen birds on Tall Timbers property. Red-headed Woodpeckers are downright abundant. Who could ever get sick of this flashy woodpecker?

Red-headed Woodpecker

Orange-crowned Warblers winter here and are seen daily.

Orange-crowned Warbler

It seems like you can't stop anywhere on our nuthatch plots without hearing an Eastern Towhee. They are thick in these woods and aren't too shy!

Eastern Towhee

On my first weekend (Feb 9 & 10), I picked up my friend Craig Bateman in Gainesville and drove to the South Skyway Fishing Pier where the Black-legged Kittiwakes had been seen. We didn't really know where to go, ended up walking around aimlessly for a bit, walked under a bridge and bumped into a feeding Razorbill!


We figured out where the actual fishing pier was, and on our way back to our car we saw some birders fixed on a floating gull. There sat a dying Black-legged Kittiwake. It appeared as though it would only last a few more hours, and that stretching it. No one saw it the next day.

Black-legged Kittiwake... not looking so well

We spent the night at Craig's place in Gainesville and birded Paynes Prairie Preserve in the morning. It was pretty quiet, but we found an obliging Ash-throated Flycatcher. Myiarchus flycatchers can be difficult to identify, but this one fits the profile of Ash-throated nicely. Smallish bill, drab underparts, rufous tail... and it was calling.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

There are some other, poor quality photos of common birds in the flickr gallery, so if you are bored feel free to check it out. I have a few more pictures that will be accompanied by an iPhone voice recording (Least Flycatcher and Brown-crested Flycatcher) if I can figure out how to upload them here. I have pictures of Fish Crow but my voice recording seems to have been deleted, so I'll work on getting another picture and recording soon.

I'm heading down to STA-5 near Clewiston, FL tomorrow (2/15) after work. The gates open at 830am on Saturday. The seven hour one-way trip is going to be rough, but the birding will make up for it. Purple Swamphen, here I come!

 I'll also take this time to remind you of the pledge page here. The birds of Hawaii would really appreciate it!

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