Killdeer nesting and calling. This is classic windswept habitat for Killdeers - they are really hard to see against brown dirt and gravel and their nests are just depressions scraped into the ground.
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
When not on the nest Killdeers are conspicuous and noisy,
hence, the specific name, vociferus. Like the Wilson's Plover, the broken-wing distraction display is highly developed in Killdeers and readily confirms breeding. The Killdeer breeds from Newfoundland, the south rim of Hudson Bay, and the southern Yukon and Northwest Territories south to central Mexico and the Gulf coast.
Habitat. The Killdeer inhabits both brackish and freshwater habitats and is perfectly at home in upland situations far from water. It prefers open areas with short or sparse vegetation, such as pastures, golf courses, airports, and extensive lawns. Killdeers will also nest on gravel parking lots and on rooftops. Food of the Killdeer consists of beetles and other insects and invertebrates, including arachnids, worms, snails, and crustaceans. The nest of the Killdeer is a shallow scrape, usually in bare sand or gravel, but occasionally among sparse vegetation. Four buffy eggs with black, brown, and gray markings are laid. The cryptic color of the eggs, adults and chicks enables them to avoid detection by predators. Incubation is performed by both sexes and takes 24 to 28 days. The young are precocial and leave the nest soon after hatching. They are usually accompanied by the parents until fledging at about 25 days (Ehrlich et al. 1988). Rooftop nesting can present a problem to Killdeer chicks because they must leave the roof to obtain food on the ground. Apparently they are successful at negotiating this, however, because Killdeers return to the same rooftop year after year.
Seasonal Occurrence. Most breeding occurs March through July. Fall migrants swell the Florida population Ju
through November, and spring migration occurs primarily in March and April. http://legacy.myfwc.com/bba/docs/bba_KILL.pdf
Downy Woodpeckers and Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers return to the Backyard on the same day and on the same tree during the Great Backyard Bird Count - the woodpecker miracle! In general, birding in the Backyard has been slower in the past year and the cheerful sound of the Downy Woodpecker in particular has been missing for some time. That unmistakable high-pitched call was the first thing I heard this morning! For a sample check out:
The two baby Gray Squirrel Kittens were rescued last night and are doing fine! Hard to wait three hours until after dark, but the worst thing to do is separate wild babies from their mother unnecessarily. When she was a no-show at dark it was clear she was gone. The precious kittens were really quite tiny and they had buried themselves in the box litter to keep safe and warm for the night so that was a good sign. At the wildlife hospital they were cleaned up and put in an incubator and fed voraciously as you can imagine. After a couple months of care they will be released back to the wild.
I would encourage everyone to be familiar with the nearest wildlife hospital and rescue organization in case you ever need them and also to donate generously to your local group.
Precious baby Gray Squirrel Kittens are calling Mom - she has been missing for a day and I will rescue them after dark if she doesn't show up tonight These are the cutest and most precious baby squirrels you'll probably ever see in the wild. They still have no teeth are no bigger than a little mouse and have crawled to the nest box entrance. They can barely make a sound - but they are trying to call Mom!
Wild Gray Squirrel and Cotton Rat meet for the first time nose-to-nose in the deep forest! We all know squirrels and rats are from the same Rodent family - I suspect Squirrels would be insulted if they knew this or that we call them "Tree Rats" sarcastically or affectionately sometimes.
Sandhill Cranes graceful flight closeup and dinosaur-like calls and rattles on the ground. Threatened in Florida, but conspicuous due to their huge size and loud calls there is a year-round resident population (Florida Sandhill Crane). However, these birds may be part of the migratory Sandhill Cranes that arrive each winter from around the Great Lakes and hangout in freshwater marshland and wide expanses of field and rangeland.
Sandhill Crane: Grus canadensis
Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) are long-legged, long-necked, gray, heron-like birds with a patch of bald, red skin on top of their head. Cranes fly with necks outstretched like geese, whereas herons fly with necks tucked in on their backs. For positive identification, look for reddish skin on top of the crane's head.
Two subspecies of sandhill crane occur in Florida. The Florida sandhill crane (G. c. pratensis), numbering 4,000 to 5,000, is a non-migratory year-round breeding resident. They are joined every winter by 25,000 migratory greater sandhill cranes (G. c. tabida), the larger of the two subspecies. The greater sandhill crane winters in Florida but nests in the Great Lakes region. Sandhill cranes nest during late winter and spring on mats of vegetation about two feet in diameter and in shallow water.
Two eggs are normally laid. Cranes are monogamous breeders. Within 24 hours of hatching, the young are capable of following their parents away from the nest. Together, they forage for seeds and roots, crop plants such as corn and peanuts, insects, snakes, frogs and occasionally young birds or small mammals.
Cranes are quite omnivorous feeding on seeds, grain, berries, insects, earthworms, mice, small birds, snakes, lizards, frogs, crayfish, but do not "fish" like herons.
Resident sandhill cranes are usually seen in very small groups or pairs. In November and December, however, large flocks of northern cranes move in, more than doubling the population in the state and then leave during March and April. The sandhill crane is a close relative to the nearly extinct whooping crane, which is being reintroduced into the state. Young sandhills weigh about twelve pounds, males are larger than females, but external markings are identical. Cranes live to be older than most birds, some reaching 20 years old.
Eastern Meadowlark singing at least three variations of a song and some interesting chattering calls which I have not witnessed before. Watch this gorgeous bird for over 11 minutes and you'll never forget him. Out in the vast grass marshes of the St. Johns River a boundary marker becomes prime territory. One of the most striking and melodious songbirds of the marshlands I am quite lucky to find such a friendly subject to film and in such perfect lighting conditions.