Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Summer En-"tern"-tainment!

In mid to late August, the north beach of Tybee Island is a raucous place. Hundreds of Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns & Laughing Gulls are lounging about. This season's crop of juveniles are begging loudly and the parents are under the gun to bring in the fish. I had a great time watching the terns dive for fish, feed them to the kids, have food fights, and high-speed aerial chases.

There were a few Common Terns lounging about, as well as a number of Black Terns, sometimes flying by and occasionally resting on the beach. I also saw at least half-a-dozen Lesser Black-backed Gulls, plenty of Black Skimmers, and an assortment of shorebirds, including Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Western Sandpipers, Willets, and 2 Piping Plovers (one banded.)

Here are some of the images.

Sandwich Tern on Patrol

Sandwich Tern Hovers
Sandwich Tern begins its dive
Sandwich Tern Dive
Sandwich Tern Success!
Yum! Yellowtail!
Royal Tern has a big one!
Open wide, Junior!
Cut to the Chase!
I've got it! You can't have it
Follow that bird with the fish!

Food Fight

Black Tern in Flight
Black Terns Breeding and Molting

Black Tern Wings Wide

Common Tern

Ruddy Turnstone & Sanderling

Piping Plover - yellow and orange bands

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Gray Kingbirds on Tybee

Well, I had looked earlier this summer for Gray Kingbirds on Tybee with no success. Then today a birder from North Carolina alerted Audubon web mistress Jaynne Reichert that he had seen a single Gray Kingbird near the Ocean Plaza Resort on 14th Street. He said he could hear it calling from the beach!

I went over this evening and found two adult Gray Kingbirds actively feeding two large fledglings. I kept hearing a persistent call and finally peered into an oleander bush next to the building where we have all our meetings for GOS winter meetings to find the young birds plaintively begging.

The first adult I found was preening - seemed to have recently bathed - and was perched on the metal railing of one of the hotel rooms. The adults flew about actively fly-catching and perching on wires and atop telephone poles.

I was lucky to see and photograph an adult coming into the oleander to feed a juvenile. The young ones were flighted, as before I left, they flew to a palmetto near the pool, still begging.

Also begging in the area were several young mockingbirds.
What excitement!
Gray Kingbird on the hotel railing

Gray Kingbird preening after a bath.

Gray Kingbird Adult on the Wire
Two young Gray Kingbirds in the Oleander
Juvenile Gray Kingbird #1

Juvenile Gray Kingbird #2

Adult Gray Kingbird feeding Junior

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Early August Bird Notes

Whoa! Where has the summer gone? I've been enjoying my almost daily dose of Painted Buntings visiting the feeder for white millet and finally have Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the feeders and enjoying nectar from my Mexican Cigar Shrub and Bottlebrush plants.
Painted Bunting at the Bath

One interesting but troubling development this summer is that a pair of Cooper's Hawks nested somewhere in the woods across from my house. I heard what sounded like a Pileated Woodpecker only it was a slightly different loud cackling noise. I tracked it to a Cooper's Hawk and figured that since it was being so vocal, it must have a nest.

I never found the nest, but a couple of weeks ago I began hearing a flicker-like mewing call. Tracking that I found a young Cooper's Hawk, probably begging for food. So far I have found three juveniles. They are now flighted but still staying close to the nest area, probably still hoping Mom and Dad will bring food. I have not seen the adults recently, so they must be busy hunting.

One interesting feature of the juvenile birds is their white "bloomers." The feathers below the tail are very fluffy and downy, as are the feathers around their legs.

The other birds in the neighborhood are not happy about the new residents. I tracked one young bird by following the sound of two upset Red-bellied Woodpeckers. 

Pair of young Cooper's Hawks

Cooper's Hawk Juvenile

Cooper's Hawk Juvie Rear View

Note the downy undertail feathers.

Young Cooper's Hawk hollers for food?
 On a different topic, I finally got out to Tybee North Beach on Sunday evening for the high tide.
 There were lots of Laughing Gulls with many brownish young ones, Royal Terns and juveniles, Black Skimmers & their young, and Sandwich Terns with teen-agers begging.

Juvenile Royal Tern

Juvenile Sandwich Tern
 Also, some of the shorebirds that were off nesting in the Arctic have returned. It was great to see Sanderlings running about like beach wind-up toys and Ruddy Turnstones still in their fancy breeding costumes. A small flock of flying shorebirds turned out to be 25 Semipalmated Plovers.
Sanderling Lineup
Ruddy Turnstone in breeding best

Fly-by flock of Semipalmated Plovers
Several friends have reported already seeing migrating warblers but I am still waiting for my first. Fall is just around the corner.  Good birding!