Humble beginnings

Pool full o' wading birds

Pool full o’ wading birds

The first 100 birds on the list have come amazingly fast and with very little effort here in Florida. With so many bird species wintering in the sunshine state, it seems just being outside and being aware is all one has to do to see and appreciate a great variety of species. According to eBird 339 different bird species have already been tallied in Florida in January 2014, so there are plenty of birds to choose from.

male Hooded Merganser

male Hooded Merganser

As Florida is a giant peninsula, many wintering waterfowl abound, and these birds are great for a beginning birder just stretching her neck strap for the first time.  One of my absolute favorites so far has been the stunning male Hooded Merganser. Brilliant chestnut sides with stunning black and white accents. They are quite sharp as the bob along with their tail cocked toward the sky. The brilliant yellow iris just leaps off of that black face as well and if you look closely you will see intricate dark striations on each of the individual, fluffy feathers along the flanks.

Pied-billed Grebe digiscoped with Leica APO Televid

The tiny Pied-billed Grebe makes up for a lack of color with loads of personality and an amazing amount of “fluff”. In the calm water I was able to appreciate this bird’s black throat patch and the yellow orbital ring was fantastic as well. This typically secretive species is downright gregarious in winter here in Florida and I observed rafts of over a dozen together mixing in with the Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks, and a young male Common Goldeneye on one small pond.

The Florida peninsula has always been recognized as a great location to view long-legged waders as well, and these birds also allow easy and lengthy studies that are great for a beginning birder. The Glossy Ibis above was working through the floating vegetation alone, but in other areas the birds grouped up in large mixed species flocks, chasing bait around frenetically in small pools.

Ibis, Egrets & Spoonbills, oh my!

Ibis, Egrets & Spoonbills, oh my!

The stoic Wood Stork is colloquially known as old “ironhead”, “flinthead” and also as the “preacher”.

Wood Stork preens

Wood Stork preens

Small shorebirds, or waders as my friends in Europe call them, worked the shallow edges of these pools as well. Being faster moving, smaller, and superficially similar these are a bit more daunting for beginning birders, but when you have the finest views imaginable the identifications are much easier.

The Wilson’s Snipe was once conspecific with the Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) which occurs in the old world. Now this new world relative is considered a separate species altogether.

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe digiscoped 1/28/2014

From the cryptically-striped Snipe to the gracefully slender members of the Tringa family, shorebirds or waders are amazing to watch.

Lesser Yellowlegs dashing about

Lesser Yellowlegs dashing about

The comparatively petite Lesser Yellowlegs was one of my favorites, delicately dashing across the flats like a ballerina on a stage. It seemed to move so easily and with much grace. Even in deeper water these birds made hardly any wake as they sped across the pools chasing small prey.

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Turkey Vultures & Black Vultures soaring above, are apparently closer related genetically to the old “flint head” (Wood Stork) than the old world Vultures, although in flight and from their behaviors you wouldn’t think so. Joining these birds were Red-shouldered Hawks wailing descending cries, bow-winged Osprey, and massive Bald Eagles!

male Pine Warbler

male Pine Warbler

North American warbler species are very colorful and male Pine, Yellow-rumped, Palm, and Yellow-throated Warblers provided a full compliment of yellow flashes in the nearby shrubs and brush here. While larger birds like the massive Pileated Woodpecker just hung around taking it all in. I was much the same way and thoroughly enjoyed my first days afield. Looking forward for many more adventures to come!

Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpecker species in the US!

Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpecker species in the US!