Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Screech Owls - Silent Hunters of the Night Mini Documentary

Short documentary on a pair of Eastern Screech Owls hunting prey on silent wings to feed their three rapidly growing owlets in a nest box in Florida. The entrance to the nest box is like a busy air terminal

Screech Owls - Silent Hunters of the Night Mini Documentary

Painted Buntings Spring Migration North From Florida

Painted Buntings - the most colorful songbirds in North America are passing through the Backyard on their way north to breeding grounds around the Sea Islands of coastal Georgia and South Carolina. We had four that were permanent winter visitors but this time of year travelling migrant buntings continue to pass through on their way northward. Usually by early to mid April they are all gone. Continuing a trend of recent years there have been fewer of  the spectacular mature males as in this video.

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Painted Bunting

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Eastern Screech Owls Quarrel Over Big Lizard

The Screech Owls have a minor fight over a large lizard! If we could only understand owl calls. On a short break outside the nest box Ms. Owl naturally assumes that Mr. Owl is landing next to her to hand of what looks like a rather tasty and heavy bodied lizard lacking a tail (it's too long and short legged to be a large frog or toad) - But Mr. Owl pulls back and intends to keep it for himself leading Ms. Owl to give him a sharp bite on the head and the cold shoulder. All is quickly forgotten, however, as there is much food for all. It is clear though that this year's male Screech Owl is a very discriminating hunter and eater, focusing on large exotic nocturnal reptiles and amphibians.  

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Eastern Screech Owls Quarrel Over Big Lizard

Florida Cattle Roundup

Florida Cattle Drive. Rare when you can see hundreds of cattle on the move in rural Florida. I love the diversity of cows in this colorful herd. The cowboys in this case were using pickup trucks up ahead. The cows were dutifully following each other in an orderly fashion. I initially pulled to the side of  the road to watch at a distance with zoom and only got half the herd then move up closer to get the rest of the herd and accidentally messed up the orderly procession as the cows which have a somewhat creepy habit of staring en-mass and accustomed to responding to people in vehicles broke off from the herd and started to approach my area causing a big gap in the line. I'm pretty sure everything worked out OK after we moved on!

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Florida Cracker Cattle Roundup

Cute Baby Screech Owls Up Close

Extreme close-ups of the cute wild Eastern Screech Owlets in the nest box. Only one has opened its eyes and is getting much bigger than the other two. Fledging is expected around April 10th. Plenty of food for all. Have a few more bugs to get out of this camera/microphone setup - stay tuned.

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Cute Baby Screech Owl

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Great Egret Visits Backyard

Great Egret up close. An impressive large bird, Great Egrets are fairly common in Florida wetlands, but this is the first-ever backyard visit by one who inexplicably decided to take a break on top of a small long-leaf pine tree. A tip when filming birds in heavy cover like this - switch to manual focus with servo motor assist off -  total manual control or you might miss it. By its expression the Egret doesn't quite know what to make of the the creature below pointing a camera at it.

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Great Egret

Frozen Brown Anole Lizard in Florida

Cold Lizard. Found this little Brown Anole Lizard (pronounced“uh – knol -ee”) hard asleep in one of my shoes that I left out on a recent night when it got cold enough to have a little ice in the birdbath. A tip – never put your shoes on without checking inside first when outdoors, especially in Florida – a lot worse things can seek shelter in your shoes! Invasive Brown Anoles are less cold tolerant than the native Green Anole  Lizards, but it hasn't been cold enough to really slow down the Brown Anoles  since the winter of 2011. This little cold snap didn't hurt them. When they are in a helpless state of torpor like this they depend on the kindness of strangers. I'll put her – I think – out in the sun to warm up. These lizards make up a good portion of the nesting Screech Owls diet.

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Frozen Brown Anole Lizard

Video: Frozen Brown Anole Lizard in Florida

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Eastern Screech Owl Catches Rare Tokay Gecko

Male Eastern Screech Owl calls excitedly after catching a rare large wild invasive Tokay Gecko. Tokay Gecko's are very aggressive compared to smaller Geckos and native to Southeast Asia. They are popular pets so this one was no doubt someones pet in the past. With two winters in a row without a freeze the tropical Tokay's could survive and grow quite large, much larger than any native lizard, but it is doubtful they can propagate. Tokay Geckos are nocturnal and eat other arboreal lizards and frogs, and can potentially prey on small nestling birds and rodents . It has even been observed eating a juvenile corn snake. Interesting that the nesting Screech Owls are getting some of their better protein from large imported species like Cuban Tree Frogs and Geckos, they have discriminating palates and doing their part to limit the spread of invasive species naturally - beats a native giant cockroach any day! More info on Tokay Geckos at:
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Screech Owl Catches Rare Tokay Gecko

Hungry Flock of Robins Invades Florida

Severe winter up north - American Robins going the wrong way in Late February. Not sure what it portends, but a rare Backyard visit by a flock of 100's of ravenous Robins is a wild scene and causes consternation by interrupting the daily routine of the resident Blue Jays and Squirrels. The Robins form large flocks in winter and are on the lookout for food and will attempt to eat anything that looks remotely edible including Brazilian Peppers, Palmetto Berries, Chinese Tallow seeds and of course kicking around for bugs in leaf litter. They depart as suddenly and loudly as they arrive! Always a treat as Robins are a very rare sight around here.

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American Robins in birdbath

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Screech Owl Horse Whinny Call

Owl that sounds like a horse! Eastern Screech Owl sitting on three eggs in the nest box is fed by male and she gives the best example of the classic "Horse Whinny" call I've ever heard. Loud and clear for minutes on end. If you listen closely at the 00:16 second mark you will hear the male outside make the classic trilling call which means - get ready he's bringing food and the outside camera PIP shows the corresponding video. The female goes up to get the food which is pretty big because it takes here awhile to swallow it whole. She must be pretty happy because I've never heard one carry on quite like this. The male comes again with food at the 1:46 mark and you can hear his trilling call outside just before he hands off the food!

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Video: Screech Owl Horse Whinny Call