Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Feb 26 (Day 57) - 5 new birds w/ photos, thoughts on sharing feeder birds

Originally forecast as a soggy, unpleasant day, today turned out to be great from both weather and birds standpoints. My plan was to cover 82 miles with a break at the midpoint for some midday birding. I had arranged to visit Danny Bales at his house in Titusville to look for the Clay-colored sparrow that has been visiting his feeders daily since December 9. I recall looking at the Florida bird posts several weeks ago and wondering if this bird would stick around until I reached the area. As if summoned by Danny just for my arrival, the bird appeared within 5 seconds of when I walked through the front door; Year bird #205 was a cinch! With that taken care of, it was now time to relax and just feeder watch for a while.  Danny has a very nice backyard feeder array. It it very easy to view this array from the comforts of his kitchen with the window propped open. We spent the better part of the next hour talking birds, photography, and life. Danny is a well-accomplihed photographer, and it was really nice to see how he beamed with pride as he showed me a number of his favorite photos. I love seeing people get so excited about the things they enjoy doing, whatever those things may be. During our time feeder watching, I was also able to add Common ground-dove (#206) and Painted bunting (#207). 

*Click thumbnails for bigger images*

Danny's feeder array

Clay-colored sparrow #205 - crappy light 
prevented a sharp shot.

Common ground-dove #206 - ditto

Painted bunting #207 - ISO 1600 helped a bit -
I don't usually like to shoot the 7D above ISO 800.

The dynamic duo

I asked Danny how many people had come by to see the sparrow. He told me that about 25 people had visited (I think every one of those people was able to see the bird). When birders have unusual or rare birds visiting feeders on their properties, they have essentially 3 options. First, they can tell no one. They take this approach if they do not want to deal with hosting/entertaining the birders that might want to come and see the bird. Second, they can tell just their close birding friends and have them over to see it. Third, homeowners can publicly post the sighting to the local birdlist and see what happens. The degree of hysteria that can result depends on how rare this bird is. Danny has taken the third approach, and he has played the host amazingly well. It is time out of his day to show people the bird, so I want to publicly thank him for doing this.

However, things have gone smoothly for Danny, in large part, because Clay-colored sparrow is a good, but not great bird for the area. If Danny had a Brambling regularly visiting his feeders and posted it to the birdlist, he would suddenly find his home being visited by hundreds of birders. Situations such as this not only put pressure on the homeowner but also the entire neighborhood. Birders arrive in cars that need to be parked somewhere, and this can often cause headaches for the people in the community. This  sometimes leads to situations where the birder is put at odds with his/her neighbors. It is for reasons such as this that birders sometimes chose to keep rare birds on their property quiet. The decision to report a rare bird in one's yard is completely up to the homeowner, and while we might want everyone to publicy report every bird, we must respect whatever decision the homeowner makes. If birders were completely respectful every time they visited someone's property, this would be less of an issue. However, while most visitors conduct themselves appropriately, there are always some people who are oblivious to the concerns of the homeowner and his/her neighbors. Let's all try to work at being good guests, and we'll get more invitations. HINT: take a personal interest in your host, not just the rare bird!

OK, enough of that for the moment. After leaving Danny's, I spent the rest of the afternoon dodging raindrops as I made my way south to Melbourne, FL. I was able to tack on Cattle egret (#208) and Sandhill crane (#209) before I arrived. The two sandhills were long the side of road and gave me the time to break out my rig for a few shots. I am very happy with these results!

*Click thumbnails for bigger images*

Young bird with rusty feathers

Gotta love backgrounds at f/5.6!

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It is supposed to rain all day tomorrow, so I will just shoot the 70 miles down the coast to Stuart, FL where I have arranged to stay tomorrow night. From there its down to Boynton/Delray on Friday where the birding should REALLY get hot!


  1. Sounds like a great day! Well, I guessed painted bunting for bird #200, so I was only 7 off. Do I get a consolation prize? Good luck as you go further south, the numbers will really start adding up then.

  2. Hi Dorian, a lot of "Florida" Sandhill Cranes (pratensis race) stain their feathers by applying iron-rich soil to them. I think that's what you're seeing with the rusty crane.

    1. Would a juvenile in February still be this rusty (regardless of soil staining)? How late in the year can you readily tell juveniles from adults?

  3. It's too damn hot for a penguin to be just walkin' around here. I gotta send him back to the South Pole.