Lucky LUCY...or LARRY?

     There are many pathways to the ocean. Mine was via car today. While driving along the beach to do my bird stewarding duties on Huguenot Beach I saw the Park Naturalist surrounded by a small group of folks intently watching as she excavated a turtle nest site. I had to stop and grab my camera just in case. This nest had hatched a few days prior. The Park Naturalist (Shelley) had dug up and excavated nearly all the 116 shell remnants when she felt one lone hatchling that had not made it out. Since it was near the bottom of the nest I called it Lucky Lucy, a baby Loggerhead Turtle.

     Finding no more stragglers, we formed a protective ring around the lucky survivor while Shelley took it down to the oceans edge. Its little flippers and feet seemed anxious to head to sea. It paused a moment to imprint the beach in its little brain before taking the plunge. If Lucy is indeed a female, (it could turn out to be a “Larry” instead), maybe in about 35 years it will return to this same beach and hatch another generation. The sex of turtles is determined by the sand temperature. Hotter seasons produce more females, while cooler summers produce more males. It has been a hot summer indeed and probably most of the eggs hatched are female.  Loggerheads are named for their huge head and powerful jaws used to eat a variety of crustaceans. In the Southeast US adult Loggerheads average about 250 lbs and grow to be about 36 inches long. Found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Tropic and Sub-Tropic Oceans, it is the most common turtle found in US coastal waters. The hatchlings head out to sea in search of “sargassum” (floating patches of weeds) and feed there until about 10 or 12 years old in this pelagic environment before returning to coastal areas to feed in the benthic zones of bays, rivers and coastal waters. They feed there for about another decade or two before maturing and making their first reproductive migration. A female will return to the beach where it was hatched to lay its eggs. Typical nest may contain up to 120 eggs. Eggs typically hatch in 50-70 days depending on the temperature. They mate (after maturing) about every 2-3 years and can live to be 50 years old or more.  

     Lucky Lucy's pathway to the ocean was lead by human hands. I said a prayer for this lucky survivor and hope someday it will indeed return to this beach. Without parents to protect it, life and survival are a daily challenge. If you had two parents that raised you with love, make sure you let them know how lucky you are!  Blessings. Harry

Pathways to the sea...a tidal tributary finds its way back to the sea on this Atlantic sunrise

The Park Naturalist is excavating one of the many turtle nests at Huguenot Park. 

One lucky survivor that I called "Lucky Lucy" was found in the nest excavation along with 116 Loggerhead shells that had hatched a few days prior.

We formed a safety ring around Lucy and the Park Naturalist set her down near the surf zone..it took a few steps for Lucy to get the hang of it..

Lucy quickly got the coordination of feet n flippers going and headed for the surf zone..

Lucy pauses to imprint the beach location in her little Loggerhead brain. As an adult, Lucy will return to this same beach to lay eggs perhaps.

Now which way to Atlantis?...hatchlings turtles head out to find floating Sargassum in the sea to spend the next decade or so..Godspeed Lucy..your pathway to the sea was with the aid of human hands..the fate of your return will be in much greater hands.

Close encounters....

 

    In May I had a close encounter of the “who” kind when a local Barred Owl responded to my electronic “Call” and nearly landed on my head. One evening on a recent workshop I had another similar encounter. A number of Barred Owls nested along the lake where the Swallow-tailed Kites gathered for their migration south. We decided to try and get some photographs of the “who kind” one evening.

     One of our workshop leaders has spent 20 + years studying bird behavior and documenting it for others to learn from. He can observe a bird in the wild and aptly predict, set up and call in a bird to a particular branch. I watched him do it several times. I didn’t even know what an Eastern Towhee was until that day he called it onto a particular branch. He could call in any bird I think. That is except for our owl friend. We spent several hours preparing just the perfect place for it to land for a stunning photograph. The owl flew in on cue but this “wise one” decided to land elsewhere. Undaunted we tried to repeat our “success” the next night with similar results. Only this time it did indeed land on the right tree and almost on the exact branch we wanted. Almost. The sunset was golden and the light was just right. If only the owl had perched at the right spot. As we moved into the bank to retrieve a boat cushion by the tree, the owl decided to stay and watch our antics instead. We motored right up to it, just a few feet away and it just sat there and watched us watching it. I have never been so close to a wild owl in nature. It was a beautiful and close encounter of the who kind. What a Hoot! It’s photo is now etched in metal and hanging on my wall.

     I had another close encounter of an even stranger kind about 38 years ago. Only this one never left and hangs around the house with the dogs all day now that she is retired. Oh, the Editor just woke up from her  nap. Got to act like I am working…More coffee dear? Blessings. Harry

I was amazed when workshop leader Alan Murphy called this Eastern Towhee in to this exact perch. 

I had never even heard of let alone seen an Eastern Towhee..Thanks Alan!

Although we were able to call the Barred Owl in for a photo op..

We were not so successful getting the Barred Owl to land on the right tree and branch.

Our second attempt at calling the owl in started out ok..

Right tree, wrong branch. However, this time the owl let us motor right up to it even though it was not where we anticipated  it would perch..

Close up encounter of the Hoot Owl kind...note the feather detail around the eyes..closest I have ever been to a wild Barred Owl. This photo made the bird wall. It hangs out with the Editor now.

Close encounter of the Wood Duck kind (pair of juveniles). Pretty as a painting..

Close encounter of the Gator kind..

Undocumented Immigrants

     Undocumented Immigrant issues will dominate the upcoming elections. Personally “I was for it before I was against it.” But as they say “The times they are a changing”. On a local note, the State of Florida has been invaded with undocumented immigrants. That is until I came along. Now I have plenty of documented photographs of some of my favorite undocumented immigrants, the Swallow-tailed Kite.

     Per the Cornell Lab of Ornithology we find this description of these “illegal aliens”: “The lilting Swallow-tailed Kite has been called “the coolest bird on the planet.” With its deeply forked tail and bold black-and-white plumage, it is unmistakable in the summer skies above swamps of the Southeast. Flying with barely a wingbeat and maneuvering with twists of its incredible tail, it chases dragonflies or plucks frogs, lizards, snakes, and nestling birds from tree branches. After rearing its young in a treetop nest, the kite migrates to wintering grounds in South America.” These undocumented immigrants “are creatures of the air, spending most of their day aloft and rarely flapping their wings. They tend to circle fairly low over trees as they hunt for small animals in the branches. At times they soar very high in the sky, almost at the limits of vision. During migration they may form large flocks.” It was during this return migration that I was able to document their behavior. For centuries these birds have gathered in a small lake tributary in Central Florida before returning to points as far south as Brazil. They form swirling “kettles” when they come in to roost at night often pulling aerobatic maneuvers that even our best “fly boys” would envy. I have seen them dive from thousands of feet, do inverted barrel rolls and pull “Gs” greater than any fighter pilot could imagine and land on a sprig of Cyprus like a feather. As they gather in the swamps for their migration south, they wake up, stretch their wings, catch the rising thermals, and set off for a morning forage. Before they leave, some of them will swoop down from the treetops for a morning drink. As long as there is a wind driven ripple in the water, they can swoop down and grab a gulp of fresh water and lower their tails for a fresh tail feather wash before riding the thermals and heading off for a daytime feast. This action is now well documented thanks to this intrepid photographer and his friends.

     I was also able to document (with my cell phone) a spectacular sunset showing refracted sun rays converging on the opposite horizon. I don’t know the scientific name but it was a rare site to see along with these beautiful now documented “illegal immigrants.” Blessings. Harry

For the past two years I have come to this serene spot to capture undocumented immigrants..

Florida has a large number of the undocumented Immigrants, the Swallow-tailed Kite from South America.

When the wind begins to ripple the waters, the Swallow-tailed Kites glide down from their roost to take a drink..

These striking black and white raptors have been called "the coolest bird on the planet"

The Swallow-tailed Kites also take this opportunity to give the tailfeathers a quick wash while getting a drink..

Swallow-tailed Kite getting a drink..

This action is often referred to as skimming..

After a quick drink and a bath they gather up in Kettles using the thermals and go off to forage for the day..

I think I documented these immigrants pretty well today..

In this cell phone photo of the sunset, corpuscular rays emanate from behind the clouds..these clouds have a gold lining, not a silver one.

180 degrees from the sunset on the opposite bank, the rays are refracted and converge ...they appear to emanate from here instead..

First Flight

     The Wright Brothers are credited with the first flight of man. Manned flight first had to be imagined in the mind. Ancient literature is replete with stories of mans desire to fly (Icarus who flew too close to the sun, Hermes and Mercury were wing footed Gods who could fly). Can you imagine the thoughts of Adam and Eve, seeing their first winged bird in flight and then wondering why they were limited to walking through the garden instead of flying over it. Mankind was limited to the ground until Wilbur and Orville changed history. Birds however, were born to fly.

     I have witnessed a nest of Carolina Wrens hatch, get fed for two weeks and then hop out of the nest and instinctively am able to fly on their first attempt. Maybe not far, but as flight goes, it was a lot smoother then me flapping my arms and jumping. Watching the Royal Tern and Laughing gull chicks hatch and fly has also been a wonder to behold. They take a bit longer than Carolina Wrens, closer to a month before fledging. Their antics are hilarious as they stretch their tiny wings and exercise those newly feathered appendages. Often they walk with the sheer weight of the feathers causing them to drag their wings along the beach. Observers often think they are injured, but it is just a part of growing up and getting used to the weight of those new wings. At first, they patiently (later not so patiently) wait for the parents to feed them and begin to hop up and down and exercise their wings. This hopping and flapping continues until that one-day when suddenly they feel the time is right. Sometimes the look on their feathered faces seems amazed that they are actually off the ground. In a few days they are taking short hops over the beach and then they begin to fly along with their parents and observe how to feed in the bountiful ocean. The instinct to survive then keeps them going until the instinct to breed kicks in. And the cycle of life continues. Only they can fly and we humans still can’t (without planes).

     I think we humans were also born to fly. We just haven’t completed our cycle of life yet. Just like those birds getting feathers and wings, one day too I will be loosed from the bonds of gravity and the cares of life that weigh me down. Then watch me fly...Blessings. Harry

One of these days I'm gonna use these wingy things and get off the ground..

In the meantime I will just keep eating...wonder where lunch is? 

A few weeks later...I think I am almost ready..

Look at me...I think I am off the ground almost..

Hey...Look at me..I am off the ground!

I can fly!

I'm gonna do that again..just give me a little running start...

Look at me fly...I can zoom all around the beach...I am actually flying! Wheeee!

Gee, wish I could fly but I don't stand a ghost of a chance...cause I'm a Ghost Crab..

Dog Days....

     I am sure you have heard of the term “Dog Days of Summer”.  This is defined as “the sultry part of the summer, supposed to occur during the period the Sirius, the Dog Star, rises at the same time as the sun: now often reckoned from July 3 to August 11.” It is a period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence. I can say for sure the latter describes the actions of my three pups and the Editor lately (only the Editor does not rise at the same time as the sun).

     On a rosier note, it is also the time of year when the “Spoonies” visit the Broward. Although it has been too hot for me to chase them in my kayak, the Roseate Spoonbills are making daily visits during the incoming and ebbing tidal period to feed like little pink pigs in the muddy water. The Roseate Spoonbill gets its name from their rosy pink colored feathers and spoon shaped bill. It sweeps its bill back and forth in the outgoing tidal stream and scoops up minnows and any other tasty morsel it comes upon. Later this fall they will move to points further south as the weather changes.  The Anhinga and Wood Storks are also commonly seen feeding this time of year. George, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, has been successful in raising up another generation with George Jr. too it seems. 

Combines will be rolling on the plains and fields as the harvest time begins later this month. It is also a good time to harvest old friendships and memories. Yet another harvest may be coming soon too..are you ready?....Blessings. Harry

First Roseate Spoonbill flyby of the 2016 summer on the Broward

The bright pink feathers and spoon shaped bill give this bird its unique name..Roseate Spoonbill

This juvenile Roseate Spoonbill still has its head feather, adults have balding heads due to the bacteria in the mud. 

The spoon shaped bill is used to sweep back and forth in the tidal stream and grab minnows and other morsels.

Spoonbill feeding

Roseate Spoonbill Dog Day flyby....

George Jr. the Yellow-crowned Night Heron progeny makes his dog day debut...

Anhinga (male) flyby..

email: selsorhd@me.com

All photographs and materials copyrighted and possession of Harry D Selsor. All rights reserved.

Photos are avail for purchase framed or unframed.