Welcome to Week #11 of the Bird Weekly Photo Challenge. Week #11 challenge is Rare Birds for your area. This doesn’t have to be in your local area but in the general vicinity. I will be sharing birds that are rare in the area they were seen & captured with my camera in Florida.
Upcoming challenges can be found on my Bird Weekly Challenge Page.
The feature image is Ross’s Goose who showed up in Jacksonville with a flock of Canada Geese. Didn’t stay but for a few weeks and hasn’t been seen here again.
Frank and I actually go birding, count species and log them on ebird.org. This information goes to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We began doing this after see the movie, “The Big Year“. Once I saw this fictional tale, I knew it was what I was meant to do. One day, I hope to do my own big year…maybe not as competitively, but it is a dream of mine to travel the US for a full year to see as many bird species in a year that I can.
The Snowy Owl is the largest in weight of all the North American owls. This is a most unpredictable bird of prey that will remain on its breeding grounds in the arctic in some years, while other years they will migrate to southern Canada and the northern U.S. In December, 2013, I was spending Christmas with my kids, grandkids and best friend down in Tampa. My BFF’s husband was reading the paper and saw a side column article about a rare bird seen at Little Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville, the Snowy Owl. I was like, “What?” He showed me the article. I grabbed my cell phone & called Frank who had stayed in Jacksonville because his brother was visiting from Baltimore. Frank called the park ranger and sure enough it was confirmed the owl was there. Frank went out there that day. The location was easy enough to find. Follow the photographers from all over the world to see this rarity. Once I returned home, we took a trip out to the beach on January 3, 2014. Again, we followed the trail of photographers with their monster 600mm lenses mounted to professional tripods. With a great deal of enthusiasm, I could now say I had seen the elusive Snowy Owl. Here is an article from ameliaislandliving.com about the Snowy Owl.
On the day that we were on the beach with mouths open in awe of the Snowy Owl, there was chatter amongst the photographers that there was another rare bird in Northeast Florida that could be found at Fort Clinch State Park in Fernandina Beach. Only another 26 miles north and another state park that we favored. We headed to Fort Clinch and again, photographers were everywhere. We headed to the pier where the last known location was of the Harlequin Duck. There he was. He must have entertained us for at least an hour. Interesting fact about this waterfowl is they suffer more broken bones than any other species. I can understand why while watching this bird jump off the slippery rocks into the water, sometimes landing on more rock. Clumsy or Daredevil???
By the way, the Fort Clinch Pier that I mentioned no longer exists. The pier was the longest pier in the state of Florida at 2409 feet. It was compromised by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and no longer exists. It is certainly missed when we take day trips out there. Article about the demolition.
The Smooth-billed Ani is in the Cuckoo family. It has a glossy black exterior all over. Typically, they are found in South America & the Caribbean. There is a small & declining population in Florida, but mostly the southern part around Ft. Lauderdale & Miami. This bird made it all the way to Jacksonville and spent several weeks at Little Talbot Island State Park at the end of 2018 & beginning of 2019. Happy New Year to us! They eat insects & lizards and like the shrubby habitats, if you couldn’t tell. An interesting feature to this bird is they have two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backwards. This is called “zygodactyl”. Prehistoric sounding to me! We think this one got lost because they live in small groups of 1-5 breeding pairs and up to 17 individuals at a time. All the females lay their eggs in one communal nest and then entire group incubate the eggs and take care of the young. When these Anis forage, one member will sit high on a perch as a lookout, like the one above. Guard duty at its best!
I know this guy has made an appearance several times in the blogs, but this is one of the rarest things in Florida. Most people associate flamingos with Florida culture. Plastic pink flamingos are easily spotted in many a resident’s yard. However, in most cases if you want to see the American Flamingo in Florida, you must travel south to Everglades National Park or you might get lucky in the Florida Keys. This sole flamingo has been living in the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge near Tallahassee, Florida since Hurricane Michael and is believed to have got caught up in the storm and has now made this awesome habitat…HOME. On our next trip over there, I’m hoping to get a better photo. If I do, this bird will be a blogging diva!
Ross’s Goose is a version of the familiar Snow Goose and breeds solely in Canada. This goose migrates into the US & Mexico. It is uncommon for this goose to migrate to Florida, but this guy flew in with a flock of Canada Geese a few years ago and was spotted at the University of North Florida (UNF). Their breeding grounds are at risk due to climate change as the snow cover is reduced. When they do breed, the female does all the incubation while the male stays close, guarding her the whole time. She will cover the eggs with down when she leaves the nest which keeps them warm & protected from predators. They only have one brood per year, 2-6 eggs per clutch & incubate in 19-25 days. The chicks leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching & have the ability to swim & feed. Pretty cool duck, if you ask me!
Until next week…Week #12 – Seagulls