Escargot on the go..

     Spring time flowers are blooming. Azure skies and puffy clouds fill the morning scene. I head south with some friends for another adventure to capture photos of one of Florida’s endangered species, the Snail Kite. An Airboat convention was meeting at the same time during one of the outings unfortunately.  It got pretty noisy with 50+ airboats zipping all over the place. 

     Unless you live in Florida or Central America you probably have never seen or heard of the Snail Kite. This endangered raptor feeds only on the apple snail (or an invasive apple snail variety) found in central and southern Florida lakes and marshes. In 2011 there were only an estimated 925 snail kites in Florida. What is unique on this bird is the sharp curved beak that it uses to dig out the snail meat from the shells. It glides over the lakes and marshes looking for snails that come to the surface. The Kites are distinguished with a white stripe across the tail and broad wings. The mature males are slate gray in color while the females are mottled brown with some white facial feathers. Adult snail kites have red eyes, juveniles have brown eyes.

     Picking up a snail, the Kite will head for a branch or marsh shrub to sit and feed. It will often transfer the snail while in flight from the feet to the beak prior to landing. This is one of my most sought after flight shots. I call it "Escargot on the go". Between the hoards of midge flies and harassing Boat-tailed Grackles that try to steal the snails, the Snail Kite pair feed their fledglings from sun up to sun down, one snail at a time (I.E. at a "Snail Kites" pace). 

     Hope you enjoy these glimpses into the life of these unique raptors. With dwindling food supplies and habitat, they may not be around much longer. Approaching that time of life myself where nothing is taken for granted and each day is a blessing. And on this special day please remember those who gave their all..

We remember those who gave their all for us...

Male Snail Kite Profiile (from 2017) showing hooked beak used to pick and eat snail meat

It was difficult to hear at times with all the airboats on the lake

Young Male (left), female (right) Snail Kite pair.

Female Snail Kite landing..note banding on legs

Male Snail Kite bringing in snail to nesting area

Pink Snail Eggs under the lily pads will become the only food the Snail Kite eats

Bringing in nesting material

Female with snail snack

Male Snail Kite uses hook to pull meat from apple snail

Female kite bringing in snail

Snail Kite Male with apple snail

Sunset flight

Shot of the day..incoming

Escargot on the go...

Female lands amid hoards of midge flies (see to the right of screen)

This female was harassed by Grackles and picks up its snail to move to another site to eat.

Boat-tailed Grackle (left) tries to steal the snails and harass the Kites

Snail Kites give warning to the pesky Grackle

Another sundown for the harried Snail Kite..

Fix It Upper..Part 1

     The morning sun is rising over the Broward. As I sit on the dock the shadows of night slowly roll back revealing the morning marsh bathed in golden light, I hear a loud familiar call. It is our local Pileated Woodpecker. I say a silent prayer wishing to see a nesting pair nearby. The last time I photographed such a sight had been several years and a hundred miles to the south. 

     Across the street from my house was a half dead Sycamore tree with some old woodpecker nest holes. I went over there to speak to my neighbor that lives there as he was doing some repair work for me.  I noticed a male Pileated Woodpecker above us in that tree reworking the opening of that old abandoned nest. This was a perfectly round opening hole so it was not done originally by a Pileated Woodpecker, they leave oblong shaped openings. This bird was doing a remodeling job, a” Fix it Upper” similar to the “Fixer Upper” HGTV show about Chip and Joanna Gains fixing up old houses in Texas. I kept an eye on the site and discovered the male furiously chipping away, renovating the hole and later saw the female come inspect the job. I named them Chipper P Pecker and mate JoJo. It wasn’t long before they moved in and started a family.

     There were days I wondered if they were still there. Sometimes Pileated Woodpeckers will choose several nest sites before settling in on the one they want. My apprehension was short lived as I began to see daily activity and began to document it on my Facebook page. They incubate the eggs about 15-18 days so I expected an early to mid- May delivery date. I watched and waited as they relieved each other every few hours to sit on the eggs. On 11 May I noticed JoJo taking out some doo-doo. The eggs had hatched. What a wonderful Mothers Day surprise! 

My prayers were answered indeed. Wonder if I will get a TV contract now..Hope all you Mom's enjoy this beautiful family, more to follow. Blessings

Male Pileated Woodpecker (note red mustache feathers) working on an old woodpecker site

A real fix it upper project begins in earnest..chips were flying so I named him "Chipper"

The female I named JoJo...similar to the male but no red mustache..

Chipper picks up the pace of the renovation..

JoJo inspects the nest site and gives her approval

Not long afterwards JoJo is sitting on eggs..

Chipper (left) and JoJo (right)  both sit on the eggs...here is a routine incubation watch relief..

Outta here , you got it,,,those eggs are killing my butt

Time for a break...

Pileated Woodpecker hatchling (a female I think) 

Feed me Daddy! (there are two babies in the nest for sure).

Bluebirds, butterflys n blooms

“Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
My, oh my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine headin' my way
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

Mister Bluebird's on my shoulder
It's the truth, it's actual
Ev'rything is satisfactual
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
Wonderful feeling, wonderful day, yes sir!”

Lyrics by Ray Gilbert , from “Song of the South” by Walt Disney

     May flowers are budding, the Editor's Agapanthus are in bloom. Two years ago I put up a bluebird box in the yard. Last year I saw a mating pair of Eastern Bluebirds build a nest and raise young but didn’t want to bother them with the camera nearby so as to encourage them to return. Indeed they did. I added a perch stick to the nest this year in hopes of getting some photos of them bringing goodies to the nest. It was very successful. I watched daily for more than a week as the male and female began to bring bugs by the dozens to the nest. I was hoping to capture the young Bluebirds fledge but alas, it was not to be this year. I was gone over the rainy weekend that they apparently chose to fledge and fly away. One of the fledglings later returned to the nest box though. The good news is they are making another nesting with three more eggs recently laid, so I hope to see them hatch and fledge.  I posted several of the better adult bluebird photos on some Facebook pages. To my complete surprise, I was contacted by one of the administrators from a UK site and was presented with an award certificate from the British Photographer Society. It was noted that they normally do not award such recognition outside their group. I was humbled indeed.

     Butterfly Hollow also opened at the local zoo so the Editor and I paid it a visit. The Monarchs would not cooperate for a photo so I will have to make a return trip to capture them. 

     Hope you enjoy these Eastern Bluebird and butterfly photos! Hoping all you Mom's had a great Mothers Day too!. “Wonderful Feeling, wonderful day, Yes Sir!” Blessings. 

Got something to crow about today...

The Editor's agapanthus are beginning to bloom...

Ma and Pa Eastern Bluebird at the nest box. Male is on top. 

Male Bluebird on the perch

Female with breakfast bug

Female bringing more bugs for breakfast

Daddy Bluebird taking out the "doo-dah". 

I added some decorative Spanish moss to the perch. 

Bluebird fledgling returned to the nest box area

Posted this capture of the male on a UK Facebook site.

Was notified and presented an award certificate for Bluebird photo. My Oh My What a Wonderful Day!

Julia Butterfly

Zebra Butterfly

White Peacock Butterfly

And for all you Ohio fans...a Buckeye Butterfly..

Stick it to you

 

     The April Showers are indeed bringing the May flowers. The Editors Agapanthus are starting to sprout up and will be blooming soon. Hope all the snow up north has finally gone too!. Old man winter really stuck it to some of you.

     On one of my recent sojourns I hooked up with my friend Ron who does boat tours for birding clients. We went to the T M Godwin Wildlife Management Area also known locally as the “Stick Marsh”.  A public boat ramp leads to some prime bass fishing and duck hunting areas. The reason they call it the “Stick Marsh” is because of the bird rookery there. Marsh birds by the dozens can be seen flying from some small islands to the surrounding trees and marsh to gather sticks to build their nests. Like clockwork, they fly from the nest, find a stick and bring it back to the island and start to do what birds were born to do. Make more birds. To do that they need to build fine looking nests with all those sticks. We saw Spoonbills, Tricolored Herons, Little Green Herons, Great Blue and Little Blue Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets and Cattle Egrets to name just a few.  Although there are occasional territorial squabbles, they all seem to get along. Wish us humans could do the same.

     Hope you don’t mind if I just “stick it to you” today and let the images do the talking. Each stick brings the hope of a foundation for a new generation.  Then the real work begins...feeding them hungry beaks. Blessings. 

T M Godwin "Stick Marsh" areal view showing two Islands used for the rookery..Near Felsmere Florida

Brining in sticks from sunup to sundown ....Roseate Spoonbill

When not bringing sticks they are getting food..Breeding colors on Roseate Spoonbil

Nearly every branch is taken, landings are tricky..Cattle Egret coming in..

Landing...nailed it

Harder to do with a stick in your beak...

Tricolored Heron with nesting material

Here comes another stick

And another one...opps, forgot the stick...

Great Blue Heron with a not so great big stick...every little bit helps though

Well Moms...how would you like to feed the kids like this?  ...Spoonie-fed.

Hey, don't swallow Mom...we want some too!. Great Egret chicks getting fed the hard way..

email: selsorhd@me.com

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