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Friday, April 27, 2007

A sad note:

One of the first Fridays we were in Florida this January, we attended a local "Concert in the Park". We didn't expect much. We had never heard of the singer who was being honored with a "tribute". Actually, he sang every song in the 2 1/2 hour performance. Some made us smile or laugh. Some made us smile at each other. The instrumentals were beautiful poems to local flavor. The songs were mostly about beer and fishing. All reminded us of his friend, Jimmy Buffet and the Key West version of Country Folk Music.

Once we were home I Googled his name and found his web page, Pete Harris

I was dismayed to learn Pete was fighting brain cancer and the "Tribute" we had just attended was part of a series of fund raisers for him and his family. the middle of his fight, he had found the strength to sing for the whole concert! I bought his available records that night and we played them all through our 4-month stay in Florida. We played them for our company all winter. My daughter and her family took my CDs and I had to buy new ones.

Today, our Florida neighbor called to tell us Pete had passed away. His web site has been updated to tell his fans that he had passed away peacefully with his family by his side. Tonight, Friday, there will be a memorial service, so to speak, at the local favorite Sand Bar where he had preformed. Patrons are actually encouraged to wear Flip-Flops. I wish we had waited one more week to return North.
Friday, April 20, 2007

A Wow Moment

Down to the last few days before heading North and we had one of those moments that makes you stop breathing. All of the doors are open so the bird sounds are quite clear. Suddenly I heard a different one. I looked out the front door and there, on the nearest palm tree was a Pileated Woodpecker. While not endangered, they ARE unusual. We saw one 5 years ago and not since. I snapped away and got these keepers.From "About Birds" - link on the side of the blog

Nearly as large as a crow, the Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in most of North America. Its loud ringing calls and huge, rectangular excavations in dead trees announce its presence in forests across the continent.

  • Large woodpecker.
  • Red crest on head.
  • Black body.
  • Size: 40-49 cm (16-19 in)
  • Wingspan: 66-75 cm (26-30 in)
  • Weight: 250-350 g (8.83-12.36 ounces)
  • Sexes similar, male has red crown and forehead and red in black mustache stripe. Female has gray to yellow-brown forehead and no red in mustache stripe.
  • Call a loud, ringing "kuk-kuk-kuk." Drumming loud and resonant.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Today's Sightings

Sitting on the patio eating lunch, I lamented that we just didn't see much this late in the season. I was wondering if the birds had gone North with the Snowbird Tourists. Then within a few minutes I got pictures of:Northern Mockingbird
The "American nightingale," the Northern Mockingbird is known for its long, complex songs that include imitations of many other birds. It is a common bird of hedgerows and suburbs, and has been slowly expanding its range northward
  • Medium-sized songbird.
  • Long tail.
  • Pale gray above, whitish below.
  • Bill thin.
  • Two white wingbars.
  • Large white patches show in wings in flight.
  • White outer tail feathers.
  • Size: 21-26 cm (8-10 in)
  • Wingspan: 31-35 cm (12-14 in)
  • Weight: 45-58 g (1.59-2.05 ounces)
  • Sexes look alike.
  • Song is a series of varied phrases, with each phrase repeated many times in a row. Includes much mimicry of other bird songs and calls. Call a harsh dry "chew."
Blue Jay

A familiar sight at bird feeders, the boldly patterned Blue Jay is unmistakable. It is abundant in the East and is extending into the West, using food and shelter provided by humans.

  • Large songbird.
  • Crest on head.
  • Upperparts various shades of blue.
  • Size: 25-30 cm (10-12 in)
  • Wingspan: 34-43 cm (13-17 in)
  • Weight: 70-100 g (2.47-3.53 ounces)
  • Sexes alike.
  • Very vocal; make a large variety of calls. Most frequent call is a harsh "jeer." Also clear whistled notes and gurgling sounds.
I have been watching this nest since the first stick was placed in February (see earlier entry). So far, although the parents are still sitting, no sign nor sound of babies. The other Osprey nestlings on the island are very vocal right now. I am afraid we will have to return North without a sign of babies.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Stalking the Wild Peacock

About an hour North of us, there is a small neighborhood that is plagued or blessed (as your point of view) with peacocks. Since we had to be in the area, I hauled my camera along and when we had time, we drove over to that neighborhood.

What a sight! There was about a 2-block area with a good 40 peacocks and peahens. You could hear them way before you could see them. Although the peacocks were screaming, none were moved to display their magnificent tails.
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Snapping the Great Blue Heron

This morning, as I searched the shoreline across the bay for the missing resident alligator, I was suddenly looking right at a well-camouflaged Great Blue Heron. "Oh, he's been there an hour" said my son-in-law who had been fishing nearby.

So I grabbed my camera, telephoto lens, and tripod. I snapped quite a few pictures and put this sequence together as he stalked and caught a small fish.

The largest and most widespread heron in North America, the Great Blue Heron can be found along the ocean shore or the edge of a small inland pond. An all white form is found from southern Florida into the Caribbean, and used to be considered a separate species, the "Great White Heron."


  • Large, gray bird.

  • Long legs

  • Long, "S"-shaped neck.
  • Long, thick bill.
  • White crown stripe.
  • Black plume extending from behind eye to off the back of the neck.
  • Shaggy feathers on neck and back.
  • Bluish gray back, wings, and belly.
  • Reddish or gray neck.
  • White morph all white with pale legs, yellow bill.
  • Size: 97-137 cm (38-54 in)
  • Wingspan: 167-201 cm (66-79 in)
  • Weight: 2100-2500 g (74.13-88.25 ounces)
  • Sexes look alike.
  • Call a deep, hoarse croak.
Thursday, April 5, 2007

By Sound Rather Than by Sight

I was in college when the Exotic Sounds of Martin Denny instrumental music was popular: Sounds of Paradise, chirping birds punctuated with an occasional squawk of a Macaw all set to lovely music. Exotica, Quiet Village, Jungle Drums. So restful...right?

Many evenings right at sundown we sit by the lake and watch for whatever we might see...birds reptiles, rolling otter, skydivers. Lately we have done as much listening as watching.

It started with the first squawks out of the young Sand Hill Cranes about 1/4 mile away. Now, 3-4 months old, their voices are piercing; ear-splitting. This particular set of parents had 2 offspring this year, rather than the more common 1 baby. Attempts by a third Sand Hill Crane youngster to join them have been rebuffed. For the last couple of days one sibling has sat at the far end of the one-mile island preserve in the middle of our long lake and the other has sat on the shore of the bay on which we live at the other end. Figure that for a full mile and they are hollering back and forth most of the day. OK ...I can live with that, though not happily, but today they started their loud communication at 8 minutes to 7 in the morning. And the closest Sand Hill was on the utility wires by our bedroom window. I was so annoyed I didn't even take a photo of it. That bird balanced, just barely with those long legs, and yelled until the Macaw a neighbor owns screamed the bird away...about an hour later.

I thought the annoying crows were bad. I even found a Mockingbird less than charming after an hour of his songs. But these cranes are something else! I wish I could record the early morning din and share it with you.

Did I say "early morning"? Like teenagers, the birds are often hollering late at night...midnight to 2 in the morning. Usually not all that close, though. Then there is some other bird. It might be a small owl. "Hoot, Hoot" added to the crane din is enough when you need sleep to really strain the patience.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Winding Down

It must be about time to return to Michigan. The juvenile Sandhill Cranes are starting to annoy the dickens out of me. Three of them squawked all night last night, off and on. Now today they have been at it since dawn. Don't they ever sleep? I may prefer the teenage humans around the lake who play loud rap music and bounce a basketball. At least THEY don't do it for more than a couple of hours and very rarely.

We visited friends yesterday about 2 hours South of us. I was amazed by the differences in wildlife. Their Anoles are so much larger than ours. One seemed about the size of a small chipmunk. I love our little guys; Lizzies, my granddaughter calls them.

We also saw big Iguanas just sitting alongside the road, and in culverts. The ones we saw were dark, not the bright green of the one that took up residence in the wreckage of our shed in 2004 after the hurricanes. The Animal Shelter assured me that an iguana that big and that color would not be living this far North in the wild, but must have been someone's pet that escaped in the storm. The fact that he ran to me for protection when the Shelter man tried to catch him made us think he may have belonged to a woman, and probably lived in her screen room, many of which wound up at the bottom of our lake. That night the temps went into the 40s and the shelter said the Iguana would have been stressed, and maybe even died from the cold. I didn't feel so bad about calling them. They assured me he would find good home if they couldn't reunite him with the original owner. (I will post a photo of him here when I get back North where the old photos are.)

The parrots South of us were another surprise. Several times we saw small flocks of 10 or so flying from tree to tree. Once in the tree, however, they camouflaged so well I couldn't find one to take a photo of it. They strike me as exotic as much as the Peacocks running wild an hour North of us. Looks like I still have a lot more pictures to try and get next year.

All along the turnpike, as we headed home, there were Armadillos at their evening feeding. There was no way I could snap pictures of them from the moving car and the traffic was too heavy to pull over. Some day. Those strange animals have fascinated me since my grandmother used to have an Armadillo "shell" for a bizarre fruit basket in the middle of her dining room table back North.

Monday, April 2, 2007

My First Birdwatching Expedition

A nearby golf club allows local birders to drive golf carts around their courses on the first Monday of each month. Some friends from back home invited us along this morning and I couldn't wait to snap away with my 300mm lens. Of course, someone there had a much bigger lens, but I am still happy with some of the shots.

This Tern just sat on the railing of a bridge and posed so nicely for us. Can't get MUCH better but...

This Anhinga sat in the top of a nearby tree and preened this way and that. I was hoping for him to open his wings as they do to dry them after diving, but he didn't, and we had to move on.

The leaders identified this as a Green Heron. I don't know that I have identified one of those before. I am still in the "Oh look, a bird!" stage of birding. I take pictures and then try to identify it.
The other photos were all taken from a distance and aren't as clear as I would like. This American Alligator was rather close, however.
I really wanted to include this photo of a Great Blue Heron.

I have seen most of these birds on our own lake, but it is exciting to see them and hear a real expert identify them. The final tally was 41 species identified. I know I missed some of them, but it was still lots of fun!

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Gabby Faye
Michigan, United States
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