Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Okefenokee Christmas Bird Count 2010

It was cold! December 27, 2010 was the Okefenokee Christmas Bird Count. We were all huddled at the Burger King in Folkston, GA getting our marching orders for the day. "It is dry in the swamp." Sheila Willis informed us.
This is a pond called the "Gator Pond" on the Wildlife Drive. Normally, it has water up the tall grasses. Yes, it was very dry, drier than I have ever seen it.
This is Sea Grove Lake in 2008When our team got to the top of the tower at Sea Grove lake, I was stunned. In years past, there was some water out in the prairies but not today. Sea Grove Lake was shallow. This is the way the lake looks today.There were shorebirds wading around. Yellowlegs and Killdeers, Blue-winged teal all were pattering around churning up food. No Anhingas, there was no water for them. We were treated to 17 Sandhill Cranes. What beautiful creatures. It did warm up in afternoon. One memorable moment happened as we watched a Wilson's Snipe feeding. Alan got out of the car to see the snipe, when a Red-shouldered Hawk took a drive at the bird. Alan was so close that he felt the wings as it flew past. Whoa! that was exciting.

We ended our day with a pretty good species count. Our team got Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, Sandhill Cranes as well as 47 other bird species.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Eve Birding Jekyll

It is a Christmas tradition to go birding. My father started this when it was just us. My mother had passed away when I was young. Then brother had married and went to spend the holidays with her family. That left us, so we were off to find birds. At first, I looked forward to life birds. Now it is all about just the thrill and beauty of the adventures.
With that in mind, I went to my favorite place, Jekyll Point. The walk out to the point is calming. The shrub-scrub transitions into beach meadows and then into sandy dunes held in place by hardy plants like panic grass, sea oats and beach croton. Every year the walk gets a little longer as the point grows.
It was high tide. There were all kind of gulls, terns and shorebirds. 200 Western Willets. They are just stunning birds, standing there along the edge of the surf. These birds are understated elegance.
It was a challenge to count them for in the middle of that flock were a couple of Marbled Godwits. Whoa, it is a splash of cinnamon in the gray.
Then the shorebirds all gathered together. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Sapsucker

Today, I was putting a few finishing touches on Trina Marie, a pet portrait. When I get to a certain point in any artwork I like to photograph it. It gives me a perspective then I can see where I need to do.
While outside, I heard a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. It is a wonderful call. The bird was in my Bradford pear tree. The leave were reds, yellows and greens. This bird just worked away on the tree as I watched. When I brought my camera over to click a picture it took off and landed in a live oak tree. What a neat bird!

Several years back I spent a whole day just drawing a sapsucker in the same tree. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Breaking news! Buff-bellied Hummingbird on Jekyll

Exciting news, I just got these photos of a Buff-bellied Hummingbird on Jekyll.Pam Russell has had this bird since October.
Nice photos, Pam, thanks for sharing.

Rare birds will warm you up

OK, I am a southern. I have lived in the southeast United States for most of my life. It can get cold but not often. If it does get cold you hunker down, it will warms up in a couple of days. Well this week, it got cold-real cold. There was no hunkering down, there was work to be done so I layered up and out I went.
You know when you spot a good bird the cold seems to go away? I discovered that this week. Jonathan Gray called me. He had just seen a Western Kingbird at the Jekyll 4-H Center. I happened to be on the island so I ran down. The bird had flown over the trees and was gone by the time I got there. While Jonathan and I looked for the bird, he told me about a Canvasback on the Amphitheater pond. It is a beautiful duck, see.

Then it was off to work at Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop so no more birding for that day. But the next morning I was out at the south end of Jekyll looking for the Snowy Plover. I realized I was out there at low tide. This is not a great time to be out at Jekyll Point. There are exposed sandbars way out in the sound. All the birds are out there, just dots in the distants. Anyhow, I was there and there was a small shrimp boat with lots of gulls and pelicans following it. I was watching the shrimp boat, when a huge white bird flew into my view. It had the body size of a Great Egret but it was not an egret. The wings were too short and the head was all wrong. It was a gull, a Glaucous Gull. I attempted to get photos but it was moving too fast. Here is the best shots I could get.
While I was watching the gull, four other birds caught my attention. White Pelicans were flying over Raccoon Key. It might be cold but it was OK. Rare birds can warm you up fast.
When I left Jekyll Point, I drove around the 4-H Center to try to see the Western Kingbird. I thought I was skunked but I wanted to photograph Jekyll Island's large bonsai forest. These trees are being saved while the new convention center is being built. They will go back to the sight when construction is complete. They are across the street from the 4-H Center.
See don't they look like over grown bonsai trees.

I was rewarded for stopping for the Western Kingbird was on the line across the street.
It been a good birding week on Jekyll.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mystery bug solved

Back in October I began seeing this insect. It was not alone. Well I finally asked Richard at the Jekyll Island 4-h Center. He knew right off the bat. These insects are twostriped walking sticks. They are in the young palm trees. See them......

Another name is Musk Mare for they defend themselves by spraying a strong smelling mist. The mist is very painfully if it gets in your eyes so do not get to close. Mystery solved

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mother Nature Network comes to Jekyll

Pine Lakes Golf Course is a beautiful course with Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks as well as Pine Warbler, Brown-headed Nuthatches and Eastern Bluebirds. The lake at 11 & 12 is often loaded with egrets, spoonbills, ibis and Anhinga.

Yesterday, Jekyll Island Authority asked me to escort Matt Hickman of Mother Nature Network around Jekyll. I met him for lunch at McCormick's Grill. Before he arrived, I sat in on a meeting with John Neidhardt, the Golf Course Superintendent & Judy Winiecki. They have been working together along with Christa Frangiamore on certifying Pine Lake Golf Course as an International Audubon Certified. It is a long process but it sounds like they about have it completed.

This is Judy, she thought she was out of the picture. She is working hard with John on the certification so she needs a nod.
Matt arrived and we were off on a Pine Lake Golf Cart Nature Tour. It was a quiet time of day but we still saw a few birds and animals.
Here is Matt listening to John tell him about one of my favorite spots on Pine Lakes. It is a natural wetland with cypress and maple trees. I enjoyed hearing John's prospective.
Matt and I had a little time so we went up for a quick look at Driftwood Beach. Sanderlings were running on the beach but the trees were the focus. They are a photographer's dream.
Our last stop was one I was looking forward too. Captain Phillip invited us to go along on an eco-tour with 20 excited 5th graders from the Jekyll Island 4-h Center. School groups from all over Georgia come to this center to learn about our coast. There is nothing better than to see bright young faces all lite up with smiles and excited about learning. Honestly, they did not know they were learning. On the way, we went under the Jekyll bridge, Captain Philip introduced us to the committee of Brown Pelicans and Double Crested Cormorants. The pelicans are in their winter best. Through the bridge and right next to the marina a dolphin thrilled the group. It was kind of late for dolphins so it was a real find.

The reason for the tour was to pull a net and let the kids (of all ages) see what is in the water of the Jekyll River. The kids were given their jobs. While we waited we saw a Wood Stork feeding. What a sight! I was watching shorebirds as well. Then it was time to pull up the net. Two lines were formed on either side of the rope. When they pulled on the rope one side would yell "heave" then the other side would yell ho. The kids could not wait to do their job. The excitement grew. They laughed, pulled and yelled. The haul of stuff was great. There were 2 kinds of crabs and lots of small fish. Everyone got to look and touch and learn. At the end I am sure that there were a few budding biologists in that group. What a great way to learn! The nets and Jekyll River

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Artworks for birds & shade grown coffee

I watch birds no matter where I am. Drawing is a way I record these birds. I am an artist/printmaker. I think of feeding birds as a way of paying the birds a model fee. When I get an idea or see am image with a warbler or flycatcher, how can I pay them a model fee? I have become an advocate for bird conservation.
I call my business Artworks by Lydia. Some people might find the name odd to people if they only go on my bird tour. The bird tour component of Artworks is a part of my bird conservation effort. My goal is to connect people to the birds and where they live. Habitat is key. If folks understand the connections then they are going to care.

However, not everyone wants to go out to look at birds. I have one etching I call Crowning Point. A Great Crested Flycatcher is peeking out at the top of the magnolia tree. This a very common summer bird here but most folks do not know the bird because it lives high in the trees and fly catches. This etching gives me a chance to talk about these birds.
My art guild is Georgia Coastal Artist. We have three art shows a year. We started planning for the December show back in the summer. I volunteered to bring the coffee. I was planning the birding festival and had just talked to Bo Mann at Wake Up Coffee Company. This is a local business selling shade grown/ fair trade coffees. Perfect! I could support a local company that was promoting the same things I support. The base is broadened to people who might not know they are supporting bird conservation.
Bo was great. He brewed up some tasty Costa Rican coffee and all the recyclable fixing. Then I set it up at the A.W. Jones Heritage Center the location of our art show. There was some one at the coffee table all day talking about the coffee.
Here is fellow artist, Joyce Shelander, sitting at our coffee table.
We passed out fliers that explained the importance of shade grown/fair trade. Every little bits helps. By the way, here is some of my new artworks which I showed at December 4th art show.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Snowy Plover at the Jekyll Point

It was a cold day but not as cold as I thought it would be. Looking at the tide coming across the causeway, it looked great for a tour of the south end of Jekyll. I picked up Linda at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and headed south. First we passed what was once the convention center. It is almost gone. They are moving right a long.

At the south end we went out from the corner of St. Andrews and Macy Lane. We got out to the beach and one of the first birds to run past us was a small pale plover. At first, I called it a Piping Plover. Piping Plovers are always a wonderful bird but then I looked closer. Something was not right about the bird. Oh, the bird was healthy. It was super active. Piping Plover move stop, look then pick. This bird looked like it was in fast forward. It had a thin black bill and the legs with gray...Snowy Plover.
I tried to digiscope the bird but it would not stay in the scope. I did get some great shots of sand. I won't share those with you.
Finally it came close enough I could just point my camera and shot. They are not great pictures but they do show the bird.

It was a good day to bird on Jekyll Island.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Roseate Spoonbills on Jekyll

Well our young spoonbills are back at the amphitheater pond on Jekyll. There were 5 last Thursday. Ok, they were across the lake. The lake was pretty that day. Here is my attempt to digiscope them. I could not get all five in the scope. On Friday there were three flying over the causeway. There is nothing like a little pink to make my day.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Swallows on the beach

I guess you could say that swallows fascinate me. I can not wait for August to see when the barn swallows start streaming through. Hot does not bother me when I have 400 barn and bank swallows swirling around me. Then there are tree swallows in November.
On Thursday November 18 I did not have to worry about the heat. The day was perfect. Blue skies, perfect temperature, great tide level and good company. Now add swallows and it is hard to beat it.
Priscilla and I were walking on St. Andrews Beach at the south end of Jekyll Island. The tree swallows were all around us. First they were in the dunes all those dots are swallows then on the beach swirling and twirling. Wow!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Going To watch birds

Making new birders is a goal of mine so when Nell called me for a Bird Ramble with her granddaughter I went for it. It was a short Ramble. Lilith was right with me the whole time. On the beach, there were quite a few small horsecrabs. She had a blast finding them. It is important to make the connection between other creatures and the birds. We talked about the differences in the birds on the beach. Here is Lilith helping to finish some of the drawings. Toward the end of the Ramble she was looking for birds on her own. She had a great time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sunsets early

With the time change the sun is setting as I go home. Here are a couple of images I shot last night. Amazing sky

Monday, November 8, 2010

Starting a new project

Wednesday, I began a project with the Glynn County Mosquito Control. It is a study of a small pocket marsh. I will perform quarterly bird surveys. The area is east of the Clam Creek bike path. The bike path now acts like a dike. The small covert does not allow the tidewater to flow naturally. They are going to put bridge and see how it will help. The idea is to monitor the changes in this small marsh. I look forward to watching the changes.
Here a view of the pocket marsh near the bike path.This a view in the middle of the area. The area is home to several Sedge Wrens.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hordes of Tree Swallows

Thursday was warm and wet. Friday was chilly and breezy. It is quite a change. On the way on to Jekyll, I had to stop.
Tree Swallow were amazing. Look! This was on Friday. On Sunday they were still swarming but not in the hordes on Friday.