Florida: Beautiful Beach Weather!

Waves at Sebastian Beach

Waves at Sebastian Beach

Green Sea Turtle

Green Sea Turtle

Manatee Snort

Manatee Snort

Spotted Ray

Spotted Ray

Snook Surrounded by Tiny Greenies

Snook Surrounded by Tiny Greenies

Needlefish

Needlefish

Orange Boring Sponge

Orange Boring Sponge

Sebastian Inlet Bridge

Sebastian Inlet Bridge

Beautiful Turquoise Water

Beautiful Turquoise Water

We make frequent trips to Sebastian Inlet State Park, Florida, to walk out on the fishing pier and stroll on the beach.  The water is especially pretty right now, and there is always lots to see!  You can view a live cam at:  http://www.sebastianinletcam.com/

Florida: Gorgeous Beach Day!

Boardwalk to Beach

Boardwalk to Beach

Summer Day at Sebastian Beach

Summer Day at Sebastian Beach

Marked Sea Turtle Nest Sites

Marked Sea Turtle Nest Sites

Sea Turtle Nest Caution Sign

Sea Turtle Nest Caution Sign

Sea Turtle Nest Totals

Sea Turtle Nest Totals

Today was a gorgeous day at Sebastian Beach, Florida.  The weather and water are warm, and the sea turtles are busy nesting at night.  In fact as of today, the area has recorded the second highest count ever of documented sea turtle nests.  Scientists rope off the nest sites to keep the eggs safe until the turtles hatch.  Great time of year!

UPDATE:  Final sea turtle nesting totals at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge on August 27, 2016, are:  Loggerhead – 20,376; Green – 1,295; Leatherback – 72, and Kemp’s Ridley – 1.

Florida: Pink Baby Spoonbills!

Group of Birds Onshore

Group of Birds Onshore

Spoonbill Family

Spoonbill’s Pink “Angel” Wings

Spoonbill and Baby

Roseate spoonbills are one of our favorite birds in Florida.  The babies are born with pink skin, which Is quickly covered with fluffy down.  We recently saw groups of the babies leaving their nests and feeding along the shore.  What a treat!

Florida: Year Round White Pelicans

White Pelicans at Goodwin Marsh in Summer

White Pelicans at Goodwin Marsh in Summer

White Pelicans in Shallow Water

White Pelicans in Shallow Water

White Pelican with Unique Water Reflections

White Pelican with Unique Water Reflections

Recently we’ve noticed there is still a flock of 2 dozen white pelicans at Goodwin Marsh near our home in Palm Bay, Florida.  The white pelicans have been hanging out there for months – long past the time they should have migrated to breeding grounds in the far north for summer.  I wrote the Treasure Coast Audubon Society and was told that we are fortunate to have some isolated groups of white pelicans stay year round in Brevard County and at Lake Okeechobee.  There are also a few white pelican colonies that stay year round along the Texas coast.  Love these magnificent birds!

Purple Martin Nests and Babies!

Adult Male Purple Martin Looking Out Nesting Gourd Entrance Hole (note iridescent purple feathers)

Adult Male Purple Martin Looking Out Nesting Gourd Entrance Hole (note iridescent purple feathers)

Hungry Babies

Hungry Babies

Baby Ready to be Fed - Still Partially in Shell!

Baby Ready to be Fed – Still Partially in Shell!

Hatchling Hug

Hatchling Hug

Looking through Gourd’s Entrance Hole (love the “lips”)

Looking through Gourd’s Entrance Hole (love the “lips”)

Leaf-Lined Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf-Lined Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf and Bark-Lined Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf and Bark-Lined Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf and Cedar Chip Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Leaf and Cedar Chip Nest Containing 5 Eggs

Cedar Chip Nest Containing 3 Eggs (probably a first-time nester)

Cedar Chip Nest Containing 3 Eggs (probably a first-time nester)

Frog on Nesting Gourd

Frog on Nesting Gourd

Silhouette of Purple Martin Gourd Rack and Sky:  All Tucked-In for Night (click to enlarge for details)

Silhouette of Purple Martin Gourd Rack and Sky: All Tucked-In for Night (click to enlarge for details)

Last weekend we did a nest check of our two purple martin gourd racks.  So far we have a total of 11 nests containing 49 babies and eggs!  There are also 4 more early nests that may or may not progress on to eggs within the next 2 weeks.  One nest contained a baby that wriggled out of its egg as we watched.  The baby even opened its mouth to be fed while it was still partially in the shell!  The birds seem to have their own individual nest styles. Some martin parents gather lots of leaves, some add hard red bark to the nest, and others simply lay eggs on the cedar chips provided as a base.  Each nest usually contains 3-6 eggs.  Love this time of year!  If you would like to host your own purple martins, more info is at:  https://www.purplemartin.org/education/75/getting-started/.

Big Fuzzy Anhinga Babies!

Three Fuzzy Anhinga Babies

Three Fuzzy Anhinga Babies

Feeding Time for Babies

Feeding Time for Babies

Nest of Anhinga Babies in Treetop

Nest of Anhinga Babies in Treetop

Female Anhinga

Female Anhinga

Male Anhinga in Beautiful Breeding Plumage

Male Anhinga in Beautiful Breeding Plumage

Anhinga babies are so fuzzy!  The birds are nesting in the treetops now at the Viera Wetlands, Florida.  Anhingas are also known as water turkeys or snake birds (because of the way they stick their long necks above water when hunting for fish).  The babies sleep by tucking their heads over their backs and down into their feathers.  Their parents have quite a time feeding them.  Neat birds! 

Vultures are Important, Too!

Black Vulture Portrait

Black Vulture Portrait

A "Committee" of Black Vultures on Tree Limb

A “Committee” of Black Vultures on Tree Limb

Black Vulture Pair

Turkey Vulture Portrait

Turkey Vulture Portrait

Solitary Turkey Vulture on Post

Solitary Turkey Vulture on Post

Gold Egyptian Vulture Jewelry

Gold Egyptian Vulture Jewelry

Vultures are generally underappreciated birds in Florida. Two species live here – the black vulture and the turkey vulture. Both fill a very important role in the ecosystem as nature’s clean-up crew! These birds help stop the spread of disease, and their bodies actually neutralize biotoxins.

Both have featherless heads, which helps keep them clean when eating carrion. The black vulture is named for its black head, and the turkey vulture is named for its red head (reminiscent of the American wild turkey). Black vultures locate carrion by sight and often feed in groups along the road. Turkey vultures locate carrion by smell (up to a mile away!) and feed alone.

Both species are monogamous and form long term pair bonds. They have no vocal chords and communicate by a series of hisses, grunts, and woofs. Black vultures do not build nests and sometimes lay eggs directly on the ground; they take care of their babies for up to 8 months. Turkey vultures build rough nests in cooler out-of-the-way places; their babies disperse within 3 months.  

A group of vultures spiraling together is called a “kettle”. Turkey vultures have been known to soar up to 20,000 feet on air thermals without even flapping their wings. Although turkey vultures migrate, black vultures tend to stay put.

Ancient Egyptians revered the vulture and protected it from harm. Egyptian headdresses and jewelry often feature a vulture image to symbolize maternal shelter and protection.

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