Travling Man

     This past weekend I had the pleasure of co-hosting a local “meet-up” for bird photography at a local beach park area just upstream of the Broward. I got to meet some neighbors and photo friends whom I have been corresponding with.  One of them is Angie. You all have seen “Angie’s List” in TV commercials. Well I have “Angie’s Birds” to go to when I need help or advice in identification of some of our local birds. She, like several other folks I know have been watching birds for a while. If she doesn’t know what it is, well, it probably isn’t a bird. Her husband Karl is her “spotter” and he can spot a flea on a tick I think with his scope. Grab your coffee cup, as I share some of these feathered friends with you, some of which I see for the first time also.

     It is overcast with threats of afternoon thunderstorms on the horizon. Routine Florida weather in other words. Huguenot Park is located on the north side of the mouth of the St. Johns River and is one of the few remaining local beaches where one can still drive onto the beach. The Laughing Gulls were nesting in the dunes there as well as the Royal Terns.  After meeting Angie and Karl, we head towards the dunes where we are joined by another professional photographer and meet up coordinator and Host Wayne Mann and Robert.  There are also several migrating species on the beach. Angie quickly spots a Black Bellied Plover in breeding colors. Although a bit illusive, we do manage a few shots of this migratory fowl, which ranges from South and Middle America to Alaska and the North Eastern Canadian Provinces. Traveling even further than the plover is a large sandpiper called a Red Knot. This bird travels from the tundra on the Arctic circle to the southern tip of South America, a distance of over 15,000 km (9,320 miles) on its annual migration route. The reddish orange chest and belly feathers are normally grey in the non- breeding season. They love horseshoe crab eggs and small mollusks and mussels and their numbers are reported in decline. I mount my camera on a skimmer pad (looks like a Frisbee upside down) for a birds-eye level view of some of the smaller wading birds. The Ruddy Turnstone is another arctic tundra breeding bird that migrates as far as Tierra Del Fuego in South America. It uses its beak to turn over stones and debris in the sand in search of insects or small crustaceans thus the name “turnstone”.  Its breeding colors of reddish brown give it the name “ruddy”. The most hilarious bird I see is a Reddish Egret. This is my first sighting. This tall dark grey Egret (most egrets are white) has a reddish brown neck. It hunts for small fish in the surf zone on the beach. It must be real happy to spot a fish because it begins to dance and jump like crazy when it sees one and pounces on it. The dancing antics are sure to make one smile. As I drive past a group of Royal Terns I spot a pair in courting behavior all puffed up circling as if square dancing together. Black Skimmers and Sanderlings, a rare pair of American Oystercatchers, and a few other shorebirds are also present.  The park is an excellent place for bird photography presenting nesting, wading and in flight opportunities and challenges.

     Can you imagine traveling 9000+ miles one way on a round trip every year of your life. Talk about life on the wing. I used to be a traveling man and frequent flier but nothing I ever did compares to the travels some of these birds make on an annual basis. They no sooner arrive in the arctic and get settled, have babies and get them out of the nest when it is time to pack up and head south again. After a brief rest it is time to head north. Yet these amazing birds do it year after year (without GPS even). Heck I don’t like to travel to the other side of town much anymore. Unless of course it is to take some more bird photos. I am off on another birding adventure. You be blessed this week. Harry

Royal Terns, Black Skimmers and others at Huguenot Park. Can you spot the Gull Billed Tern? Me neither but Karl and Angie can!

Laughing Gull hovers over the dunes protecting the nest from predators.

A Migratory bird, the Black Bellied Plover in breeding colors.

A large sandpiper called the Red Knot stops in Jacksonville enroute to arctic summer breeding grounds. This bird travels as much as 15,000 km (9,320 miles) one way twice a year.

Another arctic bound traveler in breeding colors, the Ruddy Turnstone stops at Huguenot Park.

Ruddy Turnstone flips sand and debris looking for food.

Sanderling scans the sand.

A Reddish Egret prowls the beach. My first sighting!

I see a FISH! WOW!, Oh Joy! Woopee!

Oh my gosh, another one. Yahooo!

A pair of courting Royal Terns eye each other up! Wanna dance cutie?

American Oystercatcher. Only about 10000 birds are estimated to remain in North America.


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