Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bulletin #64 – Sarasota FL #1 - raptors

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
January 29, 2009

Bulletin #64 – Sarasota Florida raptors

Hello friends,

I spent a week on Longboat Key in the Sarasota Florida area.

I used a guide here for a couple of mornings. His name is Rick Greenspun. His web site is..

This is a great area for wading birds, wintering sparrows, and raptors including Bald Eagles.

Florida if you are not aware has more Bald Eagles than any other state except Alaska.

I found this adult Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on a telephone post. It takes the eagles 4-5 years to reach full adult plumage with the pure white head and tail. There is no question of the ID of this magnificent bird.

He took off as I approached. Here he is from above as he soared.

And from below.

Another day we found a third year bird. He has the white head, but still has a lot of brown in the tail.

Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus) are hawks that fly just above fields and marshes looking for rodents. They have white rumps and thus are easy to identify from a distance. The females are brown and the males are gray. We seem to have mostly females on the upper Texas coast. In fact I have seen the males probably less than 10 times and females literally hundreds of times. This is the first photo I have taken of a male.

There was a park just south of Longboat Key that has a roost of some parakeets that I wanted to photograph. I went there about 4 times and waited for the parakeets to appear, and while waiting on one occasion, this adult Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) flew into a tree right above me.

The most exciting find was this Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus). My guide knew of a bird that winters on Siesta Key on 8 story condo building. We went by and the bird was present on a small shelf about 4-5 stories off the ground. He stated that the bird has been coming to the same location for the past 9 years. It appears to be a female and most Peregrines in Florida summer in Greenland!

Peregrines as you know are the fastest animals in the world. They can dive to capture other birds at 180-200 mph. If the Bald Eagle is the regal symbol of the USA, the Peregrine surely is the king of the air.

I put on the 2x extender, so was shooting at 1400mm effective lens. She was at first sitting with her back to me. The bird is identified by the black sideburns.

Next she walked along the shelf and turned to walk back.

Then she turned and perched as if to take off. What a ferocious looking bird!

Lastly, I enjoy watching Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus). There are lots of these birds along the Florida coast where they nest on trees, nesting platforms etc. While waiting to find the parakeets in the park as I mentioned above, I watched a pair of Ospreys that had a nest on a radio tower, perhaps 60’ off the ground.

Here is one of them carrying a large stick to the nest. They cannot fly straight up to the nest, but have to spiral up. Thus they circled around the tower 5 or 6 times as they ascended to the nest. This allowed multiple photographs.

There was also a pole abut 20 feet off the ground where they would roost or eat their fish.

Once, I watched one of the pair eat part of a fish on the pole, and then fly with the rest of the fish up to the nest and give it to his mate. Here it is with the fish in his talons and the tail fanned out nicely as it spiraled upwards to the nest.

Lastly, in some of the photos when I got home and looked at them, I caught one of the birds in a private moment. Luckily I wasn’t directly underneath the bird! Here are 2 photos 1/3 second apart. This bulletin is already too long, so look at the images on my web site. click ‘next’ once

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2009 David McDonald

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