Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bulletin #66 – Sarasota FL #3 - waders and water birds

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
February 14, 2009

Bulletin #66 – Sarasota Florida - waders and water birds

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 -

Numerous Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) winter in Florida. These large birds roost at night in ponds to avoid predators. My guide took me at dawn to see and photograph them.

This first photo shows a pair at first light with the pink sky reflecting on the pods, but the birds themselves aren’t in the sunlight as it hasn’t risen high enough above the horizon.

Several minutes later, the birds themselves are bathed in the sunlight.

Another common large wader is the Wood Stork (Mycteria americana). This huge white bird with black wings, bare black neck and large bill is unmistakable.

Here are a couple of photos – the first just as he was getting ready to take off and the second coming at me in a glide to land. Interesting, I didn’t realize that they had black tails, until I saw the first photo. click ‘next’ once

I have seen numerous Anhingas (Anhinga anhinga) in Florida and Texas. This one was beside the Wood Stork in the first photo above (on a golf course!) I realized that he had a most colorful face. When I got home and checked the Sibley and other reference guides, none of them show a males breeding facial pattern. Many herons and cormorants get quite colorful in breeding season.

What is interesting is that the juvenile plumage that this bird shows, the brown neck, lasts for 3 years. But this bird also has the breeding white plume feathers on the neck. Look closely at the face. He has a bright blue iris, green face, bright orange bill and black throat. I suspect that this juvenile is going through puberty and starting to get the adult hormone surge to cause the breeding attributes, and will shortly molt to the adult male plumage that is all black. I have never seen a breeding plumaged Anhinga previously.

Brown Pelicans (Pelicanus occidentalis) are a joy to watch as they do their spectacular dives into the ocean to catch fish. They become quite used to humans and can be photographed fairly close up. But of course, with their huge size (51”) you don’t really need to be too close. In January, they are starting to molt to breeding plumage so all plumages can be seen side by side.

The breeding adult has a mahogany colored neck with yellow head.

The non-breeding adult just has a white neck.

The juvenile is all brown with a white belly. This one has a band on his left leg.

On the fishing pier with the juvenile above were some Royal Terns
(Sterna maxima). I was able to get some nice close-ups. These are non-breeding birds. The bushy black crest is easily seen. click ‘next’ once

The next bird was a lifer. Northern Gannets (Morus bassanus) are seabirds of the North Atlantic off Canada, but in winter, they move south. Some come into the Gulf of Mexico and can be seen in Florida and Texas. This juvenile plumaged bird flew along the fishing pier. The adult birds would be white.

Lastly, off the end of the pier, there was a raft of Common Loons (Gavia immer). I counted 29 birds in the group. I have never seen more than 2-3 at a time previously. Here are a few of them.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,
David McDonald
photos copyright 2009 David McDonald

1 comment:

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