New yard bird: Green Heron

Green Heron (Butorides virescens), Boca Raton FL, November 26, 2013.

The week before Thanksgiving continues to be busy at the homestead. On Tuesday and Wednesday—both rainy, windy mornings—we had a special visit from a new bird for the yard: Butorides virescens, the Green Heron. It’s a nice little marsh bird, but rather uncommon here so far from the nearest canal or other permanent wetland. We felt quite favored to have it drop in. I managed to get a couple of decent (if you squint, you almost can’t see how blurry they are) snapshots before herding the kids into the van for school drop off:

Green Heron (Butorides virescens), Boca […]

Shooting through glass doors

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis). Boca Raton, FL, March 1, 2013.

When you have the opportunity for a photo of a bird in a nice setting, you run for your camera. This Northern Cardinal was singing in the starburst and bougainvillea on our neighbor’s property, in perfect view of our glass doors in back. So I went and grabbed my camera and fired off a few shots through the dirty glass before attempting to head outside and get a clear shot.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis). Boca Raton, FL, March 1, 2013.

Unfortunately, I had neglected to factor the toddler into the equation. Seeing the open door, he rushed to close […]

Spread your wings at Pondhawk


The Monday after Thanksgiving is a great time to get out to a nearby natural area. While most folks are back at work after a four-day weekend, those of us who have the foresight to request this day off get to experience something fairly rare around this time of year: solitude! The prospect of some alone time, combined with the knowledge that two of Palm Beach County’s best birders had reported a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker at a location near me decided my destination on this fifth day of a four-day weekend: Pondhawk Natural Area, which, as loyal readers of this […]

New backyard bird: Chimney Swift


A bird that’s probably familiar to many of you is Chaetura pelagica (Linnaeus, 1758), more commonly known as Chimney Swift. It’s been described by Alexander Sprunt (1954) as “resembl[ing] in appearance a cigar on wings” because of its tubular body and long, long wings. Most of the time you see it on the wing, flying overhead chasing down its insect prey, and twittering like mad. It always reminds me of the last line of one of the most famous of Keats’s odes, “To Autumn”:

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? Think not of them, […]

Flowering trees


Flowering trees add visual interest to your home landscape, sure. Some of them, like this Tabebuia tree (Tabebuia chrysotricha), that’s about all they do:

And they only do it for about three weeks a year. The picture above, taken in my front yard in late March, shows a beautiful yellow trumpet-flower tabebuia; today that tree looks a bit scraggly, with green leaves that remind me of a cross between a willow and an olive. I mean, it’s OK, but it’s nothing like its glory season:

Other trees, like the Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia), may look scraggly […]

Happy (belated) birthday, John James Audubon


I’ve been sick, and preoccupied with a new house and new baby, so I missed it: yesterday was the 226th birthday of John James Audubon. Google did a very nice special logo of it:

In celebration of the event, I thought long and hard about rereading one of the many fine biographies of the man, or the accounts of the makings of his Birds of America, but then I just browsed through my Baby Elephant folio of the prints instead. Like I said, I’ve been busy and under the weather.


Bird on a wire (er, palm frond)


In the spirit of just getting out there, here is one of the cool birds (well, the only cool bird) Eric and I saw on our morning stroll down to pick up the last-minute pre-Thanksgiving groceries:

As you can tell by the blurriness of the image, I don’t bring my tripod along with me when I’m grocery shopping; I was lucky I had stuck my telephoto in the stroller. Chance favors the prepared hand, but there’s only so much prep I’m willing to do.

I’m pretty sure this is a resident, or at least an overwintering, bird. I’ve […]

Mockingbird snacks out back

According to Tom Lodge, “the flora and fauna present when Columbus arrived in what he called the New World (the Western Hemisphere) had arrived in the region by their own modes of dispersal, and had succeeded based on their tolerance of the climate, the habitats, competition, and numerous other factors” (183). And that’s why we encourage the use of native plants in your landscape—so the birds that depended on those plants for thousands of years before our houses and driveways and swimming pools and parking lots removed many of them can still have food and shelter as they go about […]

When is a burrowing owl like a prairie dog?

So I was riding my bike Saturday morning with Eric. It was hot. Hotter than last weekend, when the nice west wind and cloud cover brought a noticeable (not strong, just noticeable) coolness to one or two shady areas along the ride. This morning there was no such thing. It was hot.

Anyway, the heat reminded me that we were still in or near the dog days of summer, which I wrote about earlier, in connection with the moon. The Latin for dog days, of course, is diēs caniculārēs. (I inexplicably left that out of my post on the Dog […]

Upland Sandpiper, a new life bird

On last weekend’s scouting expedition to western Palm Beach County we found a new life bird for me: Upland Sandpiper. Finding a life bird is getting to be a rarer and rarer event. Now that my Florida list is over 250 species (nowhere near the “full count” of 500+ that have been documented in the state), it takes a bit of effort to get a new one. For example, I’m expecting to have to canoe the mangrove islands down in the Everglades to get Mangrove Cuckoo (unless I get lucky on Lignumvitae Key). And if I want to see a […]