Sunday, January 25, 2015

Eastern Screech Owl Regurgitating a Pellet


Eastern Screech Owl regurgitates a pellet up close. Owls remove undigested material by forming pellets and regurgitating them generally while sitting on their daytime roosts. In this case the pellet is not well formed and since we can see right into the through of Mr. Owl it looks like mostly hard insect parts of Palmetto Bugs and the like. Pellets are generally more well formed when they contain undigested hair and grass mixed in. They do this several times a day. By the expression on the owls face it is not altogether a pleasant process. Another facet of amazing owls!

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Eastern Screech Owl Regurgitating a Pellet

Africanized Killer Bees Pollinating Brazilian Pepper Tree Blossoms



Honey Bee's love the blossom clusters of the invasive Brazilian Pepper Tree in Florida. I'm not a bee expert, but these appear to be invasive Africanized Bees or the so-called "killer bees" or some kind of hybrid. It's not easy to tell. I suspect these are indeed wild bees and not from anybodies hive. Besides being invasive in Florida, the Brazilian Pepper tree is mildly toxic like poison ivy so I'm not sure what the effect of mixing it in with the honey would be, if it made up most of the honey it might give sensitive people an allergic reaction. Another case of one invasive species providing an advantage to another invasive species.

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Africanized Killer Bees

Friday, January 23, 2015

Eastern Screech Owl Nest Box and Perch Placement



Eastern Screech Owl Nest Box and Perch Placement.
The eastern Screech Owls continue their courtship around the nest box on January 22nd, this is about a month earlier than the last few years when eggs were lain around March 1st, but it has been a very mild winter and food is plentiful.

The male Screech Owl has claimed the box and now spends his nights guarding the box and hunting for food – in part to convince the female that he is a good provider. Once eggs are lain she will have to incubate them all day and most of the night and once they hatch she will be in the box 24 hours a day except for short forays out after dusk and before dawn and must depend on the male to bring food while she protects the owlets. Last year the nesting failed and three eggs were abandoned after the male stopped bringing food for some reason.

Due to habitat loss there is a serious shortage of natural tree cavities and a lot of competition and danger associated with the available natural cavities. I can not put owl nest boxes on any trees as the squirrels and snakes will take them over. With regard to owl nest box placement, I have found that the Eastern Screech Owls are not too picky as long as they feel the box is safe from other creatures and they don't have to travel too far in the open to reach it. I put the nest box under the gable end of an aluminum sided outbuilding and the entrance is about 9 feet off the ground – this should make the box safe from anything but another bird such as a Kestrel. Snakes and squirrels need not apply! You have to make sure there are no close branches that the squirrels and such can reach the building from. The owls can drop down to the camera's left to a nearby six foot wood fence behind the building and head out into the brush or go first to the Perch.

Placing a perch in front of the nest box makes a big difference in attracting the Screech Owls to nest boxes in the backyard. This perch is about 12 feet in front of the nest box and six feet off the ground. It is used as a staging area by the owls and a hunting perch. It makes the nest box much more secure and attractive to them. It is also important not to use pesticides in the backyard as that is their hunting ground and lizards, small snakes, frogs and large bugs are a big part of their diet.  Links to more information is in the info section of this video.

 Placing a perch in front of the nest box makes a big difference in attracting the Screech Owls to nest boxes in the backyard. This perch is about 12 feet in front of the nest box and six feet off the ground. It is used as a staging area by the owls and a hunting perch. It makes the nest box much more secure and attractive to them. It is also important not to use pesticides in the backyard as that is their hunting ground and lizards, small snakes, frogs and large bugs are a big part of their diet.
More Info at:
http://screech-owls.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-power-of-perch-nest-box-experiences.html
http://screech-owls.blogspot.com/2013/01/screech-owl-nest-box-time-is-here.html
http://screech-owls.blogspot.com/2012/09/transformer-screech-owls-taking.html

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Rare Linear Hole Punch Clouds Over Florida


Unusually large Linear Hole Punch Clouds, Skypunch Clouds or Fallstreak Holes occurred over central Florida on January 22nd, 2015. Many of these rare cloud phenomena where observed, but this one was the most spectacular - it could not be fit in one picture - only video could capture its size. Winter is the time of year when these type of clouds are most often observed in Florida.
 More info at: 

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Hole Punch Clouds Skypunch Clouds Fallstreak Holes



Hole Punch Clouds Skypunch Clouds Fallstreak Holes


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lizard Shedding and Eating It's Skin


Brown Anole Lizard molting (moulting) its skin by sitting and drying in the hot Florida winter sun and rubbing itself on wood to loosen the skin and then eating it which provides calcium and other nutrients. The whole process took about an hour - these are just the highlights. Oddly the lizard loses its grip and falls to the ground trying to eat the last bits of skin. Makes you want to reach for the skin lotion.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Belted Kingfisher



Female Belted Kingfisher on a nice perch waiting patiently for a meal or perhaps just chilling out. I spent some time with this lovely little bird and maybe it was already full and just relaxing and watching me as it didn't seem too ambitious. 

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Belted Kingfisher

Glossy Ibis Flock Feeding



Glossy Ibis feeding voraciously in coastal marshland in Florida with a solitary White Ibis and a Heron mixed in. While they look black from a distance these large wading birds with the unique long, down-curved bill actually have a beautiful iridescence about them which gives them their "glossy" of shades of green, purple and brown - much like the Grackle. Glossy Ibis in North America live primarily along the Atlantic Coast, they can also can be found in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

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Glossy Ibis


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Great Blue Herons



Six Great Blue Herons. The largest of the North American herons with long legs, a sinuous neck, and thick, dagger-like bill. Head, chest, and wing plumes give a shaggy appearance. While relatively common in Florida they are always a majestic sight in flight and their ability to stoically stand on perches always fascinates. These six herons were filmed at Cape Canaveral National Seashore, Florida. 
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Great Blue Heron



Great Blue Heron




Celebrate Squirrel Appreciation Day - January 21st !

Squirrel Appreciation Day
Celebrate Squirrel Appreciation Day - January 21st !

Wednesday January 21st, 2015 is Squirrel Appreciation Day!  Squirrels have a number of admirable qualities, not the least of which is obvious intelligence (have you ever tried to outsmart one, it's a humbling experience), dedication to family and raising their young, strength and agility, perseverance, a natural instinct to show off and entertain, plant trees, and a certain irresistible cuteness, especially young Red Squirrels. Squirrels are a great species to introduce children to wildlife and to learn to interact with and appreciate the natural world right in your own yard. Start observing the squirrels in your environment and you'll be amazed at the things they do. Just a sample of the many squirrel pictures and videos taken in the yard are found below.  My personal favorites are the Red Squirrels - check out the Red Squirrel Playlist !
Celebrate Monday by buying a bag of unsalted roasted peanuts in the shell - take a break from the daily grind and go out in the backyard or the park and feed the squirrels. In colder climates this is the time of winter when they could use a little help as well as the birds.



A little motivation message from the animal kingdom. This little Red Squirrel is inspiring - the picture of determination. The task seems insurmountable, but it assesses the situation, takes a deep breath and gets on with it. Nothing like a "tough nut to crack" to challenge you!  Its hard work will pay dividends down the road. The full version of this is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld9OQgOUOdk



Squirrel Appreciation Day

Squirrel Appreciation Day




Squirrel Appreciation Day








Flying Squirrel - Ghost of the Forest - not likely to 
see this one on Wednesday!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Anhinga -Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

Anhinga

Anhinga drying its wings. This is typical dense marshland habitat for the Anhinga which is almost buzzard like in its appearance below the neck. Sometimes called a "Water Turkey". Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. The anhinga (/ænˈhɪŋɡə/; Anhinga anhinga), sometimes called snakebird, darter, American darter, or water turkey, is a water bird of the warmer parts of the Americas. The word anhinga comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird.

It is a cormorant-like bird with an average body length of 85 cm (33 in), a wingspan of 117 cm (46 in), and a mass of up to 1.35 kg (3.0 lb). It is a dark-plumaged piscivore with a very long neck, and often swims with only the neck above water. When swimming in this style the name snakebird is apparent, since only the colored neck appears above water the bird looks like a snake ready to strike. They do not have external nares (nostrils) and breathe solely through their epiglottis.

The anhinga is placed in the darter family, Anhingidae, and is closely related to Indian (Anhinga melanogaster), African (A. rufa), and Australian (A. novaehollandiae) darters. Like other darters, the anhinga hunts by spearing fishes and other small prey using its sharp, slender beak.