Tales from the Lizard Lounge..

     Recently I made a little modification to my small 12 x 16 ft platform dock. I needed a place to be able to sit down with my new lens and camera without bringing a chair. My original plan was one bench seat facing west to take advantage of the sunset view and another facing south for the river view with a small ramp between them for easy access. When I showed the plans to the Editor she immediately disagreed with them. Guess who won? The revised design now meets “her” requirements. I call it the “Lizard Lounge” for obvious reasons. The local lizards were the first to take advantage of the new benches to catch some rays.

     With coffee cup in hand, I wander down to the Lizard Lounge on this beautiful summer morning. There is a slight breeze blowing and already billowing clouds are blowing in from the east. George, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron is up in the nearby tree silhouetted by the sun.  I hope to capture him taking off and flying by. All he has to do is fly by me to the right. Perfect light. I sit there for an hour waiting for him to fly and sure enough he does. But he takes off to the left and away from my doohickey. Another bird butt shot! Oh bird poop! While sitting there waiting I hear some strange crunching sounds. It sounds like someone gnawing on the pilings. Suddenly a small brown head pops up by the neighbor’s pier. A river otter! It must have been crunching on oysters growing on the pilings. Giving me a wet whiskered grin, he quickly swims past me and dips below the water. Not bothered by my presence, nor camera, he gracefully resurfaces with a tasty Blue Crab for breakfast. The otter then swims by me and continues its underwater adventures. At least someone cooperated this morning.

     In all fairness, the Editor’s design modifications worked out great. My friend Joe did most of the labor. I now have a cozy corner to prop my bad back and aching legs up on. The bench ledge makes a handy camera rest too! Stay tuned for more tales from the Lizard Lounge...Blessings. Harry

My original dock bench plans called for two benches, one facing West and one facing South!

The Editor's redesigned dock benches and ramp.

View from the river to new dock benches.

I now call it the Lizard Lounge as they were the first to enjoy it!

The lizards sure do enjoy these benches!

George was in a nearby tree, back to the sun...if he would only fly to the right

I see you Mr. Doohickey!

You want me to fly where?

Gotta stretch my legs and wings first!

Here I go!

George takes off ...

But in the wrong direction..Rats!

A River Otter pops up and gives me a wet whiskered grin..

He dives again and comes up with a Blue Crab breakfast!

The River Otter then continues on it's morning adventures..

The Roseate Spoonbills are back..saw about a half dozen..first shot of the season..

Old Man River, the Great Blue Heron fly by..

Black-crowned Night Heron fly by on a cloudy day..

Happy Feathers Day...

     No, I didn’t misspell it. Went to the beach to help watch the birds again. The Royal Terns have hatched and are already out on the beach. The Laughing Gull chicks are getting larger and starting to grow feathers over the down. Growing feathers is a good thing for them because they can start to regulate their body heat more efficiently. The “down side” is those wing feathers are heavy. One poor little Laughing Gull chick came walking up to my chair with its wings hanging down like it was too tired to hold them up. It looked up at me as if to say “Mister, these feathers and “wingy things” are heavy, can I rest a while under the shade of your chair?” It did so while I sipped my coffee.

     Royal Terns by the thousands nest on the sand dunes and the chicks have started hatching. Royal Terns don’t build nest, they just make a “scrape” or hollowed out indention in the sand to lay their eggs. The pair defecates around the rim and after a few weeks it hardens and makes a small barrier against flooding. The chicks can leave the scrape and wander about after only one day. And wander they do indeed. The wet tidal sand provides some cool relief on the beach as well as pools of water at low tide for the parents to get their daily baths. The parents and chicks gather in groups called a “creche”. While the parents fly to the surf zone looking for food, other adults will guard the chicks, which are called “downys”. A parent will only feed its own young and probably recognize it by its call. The oldest known Royal Tern was at least 30 years old found in Belize in 2013 and was banded in North Carolina in 1983 (Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology).

     Summer officially begins at 0634 EDT today. School is out and many of you will indeed take time off and seek refuge to relax by the sea or some lakeshore as you enjoy the summer days. Just remember that our feathered friends are there too and many of them are still growing feathers so one day they can fly. Good thing I am not a bird. It would take a whole lot of feathers to get me off the ground.  Blessings. Harry

On the Fifth Day God created every winged bird according to its kind and said be fruitful and multiply. The Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls surely obeyed.

It is now officially summer and it sure feels like it...Mayport Shrimper on a lazy hazy summer day.

A Ruddy Turnstone looking for tidbits on the beach..

This little Laughing Gull was hot and had heavy wings with its new feathers..it came up to me and just set under my chair to escape the heat. 

Survival for a Laughing Gull is no laughing matter. Although this one now has some feathers, some bird has pecked its head. 

Wanna fish there good looking?...Royal Tern courtship display behavior looking for a mate.

Black Skimmer display behavior..

Momma don't you walk so fast..recently banded Oystercatcher chick and watchful parent

Proud Mamma..Royal Terns usually hatch one or two chicks..

Royal Terns and chicks gather in what is called a "creche" for protections..

Royalty wants fed..Royal Tern pairs will only feed their own chicks. They recognize it by call. 

The parent Royal Terns bring in lots of food for the hungry chicks

Bringing home the bacon (fish)..this fish looks like it has already been sampled..Happy Feathers Day to all...

Missed..

     We dodged a bullet with Tropical Storm Colin last week. A neighbor’s tree fell over on the power lines but didn’t snap them. We never even lost power. Amazing! The Guardian Angels were busy. What we didn’t miss out on though was a great visit with cousin Joe and his lovely wife Julie and son Jordon. Cousin Joe got to see and meet his favorite bird “George” also.

     George, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron is one of the few birds we have been seeing lately. A pair of Great Egrets, and the Tricolored Heron also make daily visits to the dock. Other marsh birds are few and far between. Getting low on the floating dock to watch the Tricolored Heron hunt for minnows gives me a bird’s eye view. Although I have photographed this bird hunt before, this time I used my new birthday present lens I got from the Editor. The Tricolored Heron is still showing the breeding plumage with the blue beak, maroon legs and white crown feather on top of the head. I watch the heron stalk the edge of the stream at low tide. Its head sways from side to side as it looks for a tasty minnow or shrimp. The neck curls back and then snaps forward like a dart or arrow flying. MISSED! "I can’t believe I missed that minnow" seems to be the thoughts and look in its eye as it comes up dripping water from its beak with no breakfast snack. Undaunted, the heron stalks again and this time it didn’t miss! Breakfast on the Broward, courtesy of the daily hand of God.

     We too sometimes miss the mark. Whether it is at work, in our home, in our marriage, there are just times we don’t achieve what we started out to do. Sometimes we don’t know why either. You can do everything seemingly right and still not get it. Don’t be discouraged. God always gives us another chance, and then some more. Blessings. Harry

Cousin Joe got to see and meet "George", the Yellow-crowned Night Heron face to beak..

The Tricolored Heron begins its daily stalk for breakfast minnows..

Pulling its head back to strike, it spots a hapless minnow...

The strike...

I can't believe I missed it....

Got to shake it off ....

Hmmm..I think I see another one over there...

Got one!

Down the hatch...if at first you don't succeed...try try again..

Abide under the shadow...

     It is 90 degrees in the shade! Whew! Summer is here on the Broward. The words  “Ice” and “coffee” however, are not, and never will be in my vocabulary. I still like it hot. A muggy blast of hot humid air hits me when the back door is opened. After nesting season most of the marsh birds have disappeared. Some may be molting. About the only bird I see regularly on the dock now is George ( the Yellow Crowned Night Heron ) and a couple of Great Egrets. Time to head to the beach and do some bird stewarding. The Laughing Gull chicks have hatched and are starting to venture out of the dune nests by the thousands.

     Laughing Gulls are a year round residents of Florida and the gulf coast and primarily an East coast gull. They are a coastal species and rarely seen very far inland. If you see a gull at a shopping mall it is probably a Laughing Gull. They eat almost anything, including food they catch, handouts (IE will steal your food), garbage, and scrap discards from fishing boats (Source: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology). Laughing gulls are medium gray above and white below. Summer adults have a crisp black hood, white arcs around the eye, and a reddish bill. In the winter, the hood becomes a blurry gray mask on a white head. The chicks take a few weeks for the down to turn to feathers. During this time they are unable to regulate their body heat and must have shade to keep cool.  The adult (usually the female) can often be seen with a chick or two abiding in its shadow. The good folks who manage Huguenot beach erect shade screens along the dunes for the chicks to keep cool and provide protection from predator birds. It my job as a Bird Steward to keep the “tourists” from running over the chicks when they venture out on the beach. Life is tough enough for these young gulls. They need every chance they can get to survive.

     It is no wonder we see verses that tell us to abide under the shadow of His wings. I don’t think God literally has wings but the metaphor has true meaning to me. Just like the young birds that abide under the shadow of their parents, we too can do the same and feel that sense of being protected. Just like the little gulls. Blessings. Harry

Laughing Gull profile during breeding season..note the white eye ring and dark hood, and red beak.

A Laughing Gull heads out to the beach to find food for the newly hatched chicks. 

Can you spot the chicks? they blend in well with the surrounding vegetation on the dunes. 

When the parents leave to find food often the chicks will climb down the dunes onto the beach and wait for food.

Where is Mom?..I am getting too hot! Young chicks cannot regulate their body heat. 

Found her! Young Laughing gull chicks abide in the shadow of their parents to keep cool. 

When ya gonna feed us? 

Here comes lunch. Bugs, It's whats for dinner!

email: selsorhd@me.com

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