New Life Birds

I haven’t had much time for blogging recently. That’s because I’ve been busy with photography and finding a few new “life birds”. Quite often, Florida is blessed with vagrants that show up in the state unexpectedly. We also will get migrant birds that for one reason or another decide to winter here instead of continuing their journey south. When that happens, birders and photographers alike get out to see these rare birds. Some people will travel great distances across the state, or even to other states, to see and photograph a bird they haven’t seen before. I’m not quite so motivated to make a lengthy trip, but I’ll travel an hour or so from home for a chance.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to photograph 3 new life birds for me. I scored on two of them, but failed to find the third. However, my consolation prize was getting my first photographs of a bird that I had seen before, but not close enough or in decent light for a photograph. So I was pretty happy with my results last Friday and Saturday.

First off, Jess and I went on a hike down Shiloh Marsh road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in search of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Neither one of us had seen this bird before, so the idea of hauling our gear on a 2 mile (one way) hike to find him didn’t bother us. It was a beautiful morning, and since we hadn’t been out shooting together for a while, it was a great opportunity to get caught up. It took us a while to find him (or her), but once we did, he was somewhat cooperative and gave us some great opportunities. Click an image to view larger.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – New Life Bird

My favorite image of the outing was this one where he had both his wings and tail spread and his breakfast in his beak. You can clearly see how he gets his name in this photo.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – New Life Bird

You might think that a 4 mile hike isn’t a big deal, and in most cases, it isn’t. The road was level and firm, so the walking part wasn’t hard at all. What was hard was hauling our gear out to where the flycatcher was located. I was weighed down with 2 camera bodies, a 100-400mm lens, 500mm lens, 24-105mm lens, binoculars, tripod and gimbal head. The only thing I was missing was a canteen of water, which while it helped save some weight, I regretted not carrying some water on the hike. It took us a lot longer to get back than it did to get out there, and when we reached the cars, I was pooped. So I was happy to have an opportunity to chase a bird that was closer to the parking lot.

So Jess and I loaded up and headed over to Canaveral National Seashore in search of the Snow Bunting. Snow Buntings generally don’t winter any farther south than Pennsylvania or Northern Virginia. So this little guy was a long way from home. He’s also very small, so we were concerned that we might not be able to find him. Those fears were dashed when we came up to the parking area and there were a half dozen photographers sitting in the road (yes, in the road), photographing the small Snow Bunting that was in the grass next to the road. We parked, got out our gear and walked over to the little guy to try out luck. I certainly appreciated the short hike and even more so the cooperative subject.

Snow Bunting – New Life Bird

For Saturday I met up with Donna, Susan and Mike for a trip to the Wekiwa River State Park in search of whatever we might find. I was hoping for Red-breasted Nuthatches as they have been spotted in Florida this fall due to a lack of pine cones in their usual habitat farther north. We didn’t find any Red-breasted Nuthatches, but I did get my first photos of Brown-headed Nuthatches. The Brown-headed Nuthatches are more common in Florida, and while I’ve seen them in the past, I hadn’t had an opportunity for any decent photos. Scratch that problem off the list.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

We also got to see some American Goldfinches feeding in the park as well as Eastern Towhee. We spent some time working a pair of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, but those little guys are so fast I have nothing decent to show for it. I’m looking forward to trying again soon.

American Goldfinch
Eastern Towhee

It was a great Thanksgiving weekend with great weather, great fun with friends and some great photography.

1 Comment

  • Scott Simmons

    December 2, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Wonderful shots! I missed the Red-breasted Nuthatches at Wekiwa SP too, though I hope to try for there again soon.