Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January 31, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, Louisianna Ave

Second year Red-shouldered Hawk.

My honeybee and I are doing a "Hawk Talk" up in Brevard county tomorrow for an art class. I had some super awesome (if I do say so myself) hawk photos that I am including in the presentation. But on my morning walk today, I came across this amazing second year bird. He was watching birds and I don't think he even knew I was there taking pictures. I'm going to add this our presentation as it's a fantastic contrast with the adult bird I already have in the presentation.

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Monday, January 30, 2017

January 30, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, Tennessee  Ave.

Dawn Chorus, Victor A. Vulture conducting.

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 29, 2017

Location: Visitor's Center, MINWR

This is the boardwalk at the Palm Hammock Trail at MINWR. When I took this picture, it was 44 degrees and raining, but wewere leading my annual Pish-free birding trip, so I was happy. Why Pish-free you ask?

The following is a rant I originally wrote years ago for the Space Coast Audubon newsletter. It struck a chord for many people and I was pleased to see that I wasn't alone in my intense dislike of pushing, owl tapes, and other methods used to disturb the birds while birding:

Picture yourself sitting at home in the kitchen. You are just about to sit down with a PB&J and a nice glass of juice, when suddenly you hear a voice yelling, "WHAT'S THAT? WHAT'S THAT? WHAT'S THAT?" Quickly, you get up from the table, you don't know what the problem is, but you dart around the house from room to room, checking the windows and door locks and looking for the source of the trouble. Eventually you realize that there is nothing wrong, and sooner or later your heart rate returns to normal, but by now you are stressed out, your sandwich is soggy, and you don"t feel much like having a snack anymore.

This doesn't sound like a fun time now does it? Well, I am giving up group birding because to be blunt, I am tired of birding with people who do this to the birds. Most people call it "just pishing" or "just playing an owl tape" but I call it harassing the birds. I realize that I am in the vast minority, if not completely alone in my having a problem with pishing. According to Ryan Ryan Zimmerling, in the article, "Calling in the Birds" printed in the fall 2005 issue of Birdwatch Canada, "[some people] suggest that pishing does not cause distress in birds for the simple reason that birds are fairly intelligent creatures and, while they may be initially drawn to the pishing source, they are more than capable of telling a human from a predator."

I have heard this same argument from birders before; to me it sounds like justification for rude behavior. "Initially drawn" is a euphemism, they are not so much drawn as "obviously disturbed" by pishing. It is easy to say that the birds are not disturbed by it, but the birds were off minding their own business, and they responded to the sound. They feel the need to drop what they are doing and investigate the sound; how is that not being disturbed? The "birds are fairly intelligent creatures" line doesn't excuse it for me either; I am a fairly intelligent creature too, yet if someone tells me to look out for something, at the very least I am going to stop to find out if there is really something to be concerned about.

And don"t even get me started on owl tapes. To take the analogy at the beginning of this article a bit further, if pishing is someone yelling "WHAT'S THAT!", an owl tape is someone yelling, "I'M GONNA KILL YOU!"

I enjoy hanging out with other birders and experiencing the camaraderie, however, I really cannot see myself attending group birding trips in the future, as this is where I have seen some of the worst behavior. On almost every trip I have been on over the years, people begin pishing from the second the bus doors open; I have literally seen people pish from the bottom step of a bus. On one trip I attended, I watched the trip leaders harass a single bird with an owl tape for at least 15 solid minutes. Yes, perhaps for someone on the trip it was a life bird, but at what cost to the bird?

Aside from my own personal moral qualms with this behavior, what I really worry about is the message that we are sending to beginning birders. How many beginners come away from group outings thinking that harassing birds is an appropriate way to increase their life list?

Note that I do understand that in some cases such as the quarterly bird counts, pishing and tapes are a necessary evil as it is important to see what is really there for scientific purposes. What I have trouble with is harrasing the birds for personal entertainment value (e.g., getting it on a personal list.) What I would like to do is start my own little anti-harassment movement. I would like to lead trips where we would walk quietly, and if we see a bird, we see it. If we don't, we don't. My life list might never get above 100, and I will probably always retain my Very Bad Birder crown, but at least I can sleep at night knowing that a bird got to enjoy his day with out being disturbed by me. If anyone is with me, drop me an email and we can plan some gentle birding field trips together!

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Saturday, January 28, 2017

January 28, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, Stick Marsh

I'm a Roseate Spoonbill
I make a squawking sound
And I'm unbelievably good looking
When I'm in the mood to get down.

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Friday, January 27, 2017

January 27, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, Oak street

This was one of the oddest mixed flocks I've ever seen. This is just a small part of the flock, but there were many Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures, and White Ibis all feeding together, In general, vultures eat carrion, and ibises are tactile feeders who probe for worms and the like. They have completely different feeding styles and behaviours. I could not tell what they were eating, and didn't want to get close enough to disturb them, but the vultures clearly were eating too. I dunno. Maybe they banded together and were trying to make a peace and harmony type political statement, which I am really cool with.

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Thursday, January 26, 2017

January 26, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, Mulberry street

The Rooster sat upon the fence,
He crowed and crowed and crowed.
Begging his soon to be ex-girlfriend,
"Please don't cross that road!"

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 25, 2017

Location: St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, Fellsmere, by the old office

They have been doing a lot of prescribed burns out at the park lately. It looks great out there, but I think this guy would disagree. I am not sure if he was actually caught in the fire or was just covered with soot. He turned around, but on his other side you can clearly see what is either soot or burns. I am pretty sure it's just soot, he didn't really look hurt, just kind of befuddled. And he was able to fly ok. But he was at the very least, having a really really bad hair day.

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

January 24, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, Louisiana Ave

"Hey, you know, these Brazilian Pepper berries are fine, but I think they'd taste better if they were chocolate covered."

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Monday, January 23, 2017

January 23, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, Willow street

Red-bellied Woodpecker. This photo is heavily manipulated. It was starting to rain and I had to decide between settling for a mediocre picture of the day or letting $1500 of camera equipment get wet. I went with mediocre picture and snapped the first thing I saw. But the cool thing is, I was messing with the editing tools in iPhoto, and I realized that no matter what I changed, that brilliant red on the back of his head always showed up. So I made the photo a sillouhette, with the red crown.

Most beginning birders mistake any woodpecker they see that has red on it's head with a Red-headed Woodpecker. The Red-headed woodpecker literally has a red head1 - his entire head, from the neck up, with the exception of his beak and eye, is brilliant red. All of the other woodpeckers that have red on their heads only have red accents (such as the crest and cheek on the Pileated2), with mostly black and white faces. There are also some woodpeckers such as female Hairy3 and Downy4 woodpeckers that don't have red on their heads at all.

(1) Red-headed Woodpecker, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
(2) Pileated Woodpecker photo, from my other blog
(3) Hairy Woodpecker, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
(4) Downy Woodpecker, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Sunday, January 22, 2017

January 22, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, Tennessee Ave.

"I was alone and friendless until I heard about Right Guard brand Wing Stick for Robins. I now smell spring fresh year round and have a whole flock of friends!"

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January 21, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, my yard

This bud from the other day is officially now a flower, and thanks to Heather, I now know that it is a Cranberry Hibiscus. According to the UF/IFAS extension, "False Roselle, Maroon mallow, Red-Shield hibiscus and Cranberry hibiscus are all different names for Hibiscus acetosella. 1"

This plant isn't native to Florida, it is native to central and west Africa.  It is edible - the calyces of the roselle flower can be used to make jams, sauces, and teas. 2

  • Calyces: The sepals of a flower collectively, forming the outer floral envelope that protects the developing flower bud. 3
  • Sepals: One of the usually separate, green parts that surround and protect the flower bud and extend from the base of a flower after it has opened. Sepals tend to occur in the same number as the petals and to be centered over the petal divisions. In some species sepals are colored like petals, and they can even be indistinguishable from petals, as in the lilies (in what are called tepals). In some groups, such as the poppies, the sepals fall off after the flower bud opens. 4
(1) UF/IFAS IFAS Extension
(2) IFAS Gardening Solutions
(3) Calyces definition
(4) Sepals definition

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Friday, January 20, 2017

January 20, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, 89th Street

I don't know what kind of spider made this, but it reminded me of those fireworks that go fzzt-fzzt-fzzzt-BOOM. Except with out the BOOM part.

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Thursday, January 19, 2017

January 19, 2017

Location: Sebastian, North County Regional Park

This Red-bellied Woodpecker was nomming on some bugs on a tree until a grumpy Mockingbird chased him off.  I wish I could say something deep and meaningful about Red-bellied Woodpeckers, but sadly, a song that my dad used to sing to me1 popped into my head. My honeybee was with me this morning, so I felt the need to serenade him with the song my dad used to sing to me. Things like this song being stuck in my head is why I never have and never will be able to accomplish anything in my life. "Take it out! Take it out! Remoooooove it!"

Sources: (1) If you really want to hear it, it's here, but just a warning, my dad was twisted old guy.

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

January 18, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, spillway

This is a Great Egret that flew in while I was doing manatee watch. With those yellow eyes, Great Egrets always have that super intense Liam Neeson kind of look in their eyes.

"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for bird pictures, I can tell you I don't have the patience to pose, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have evolved over thousands of years. Skills that make me a nightmare for photographers like you. If you stop taking my picture now that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you, but if you don't, I will look for fish, I will find fish and I will kill fish. After all, I’m an egret and I really don’t care about you, I just like to eat fish, invertebrates, and occasionally small mammals.”

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

January 17, 2017

Location: Fellsmere,  Oak Street

"You fool, what are you doing here? We can't be seen together, the squirrel will figure it out! Be gone now, I don't know you. And don't forget to leave the unmarked acorns..."

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Monday, January 16, 2017

January 16, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, Mulberry street

Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I? Mockingbird. I know you are but what am I?

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Sunday, January 15, 2017

January 15, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, my yard.

I am not entirely sure what this is. Two things struck me about the bud though. First, it looks remarkably like a Pokemon Ivysaur1. Second, when you click on it to enlarge it, you can see a crying bunny face; there are two little eyes with mascara running down it's face. There is a story here somewhere... perhaps the bunny bud is sad because it is raining yet again here today.

Sources: (1) Ivysaur

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Saturday, January 14, 2017

January 14, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, my yard

He sat in the tree, peacefully at first. Then he heard faint rumbling in the distance. He froze in place, trying to blend in. Then he slowly tried to focus his eyes. The rumbling drew closer as panic began to set in.

"Are they coming for me? Are these the mercenaries sent by the Blue Jays? Is this about the Sunflower Seed Incident?"

The rumbling drew closer.

"It wasn't my fault... they have to understand that. The feeder had a hole in it when I got here...."

He stared off in the distance. The rumbling was closer now. A tiny bead of sweat appeared on his brow. He clutched his chest, his heart was beating wildly now. The shadowy figure slowly came into focus. No, it wasn't the mercenaries. It was a photographer and she evidently had Italian for dinner last night. He began to relax for a brief second until a slight wind shift, and the smell hit his tiny nostrils, burning them like acid.

"Oh dear god no!" and he jumped off the feeder and scurried at full speed off into the woods, never to return again to the Simpson bird feeder.

Author's note: This is a true story*. I farted and scared this squirrel as I was trying to take a picture of him. And then when I came in to post the picture, I realized it's my dad's birthday, he would have been 86 today. This one's for you dad, always appreciative of a good fart story.

* Well, it's true except for the "never to return again to the Simpson feeder" part. I just looked and he is back on the feeder. Brave little soul. But I am still locked and loaded... my duty calls...

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Friday, January 13, 2017

January 13, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, my yard

Raining today. I need 2 raincoats, one for me, one for my camera. This blog will get boring pretty quickly if I can't go out on rainy days. I did a quick Google, and most weather and real estate sites claim that we only have rain on 120 days per year here in Florida. That is simply not true. I am pretty sure we have already had 120 days of rain this year and it's only January 13th. I need to start charting rainfall myself as the data on the internet clearly isn't accurate.

Anyway, this picture shows the rain accumulating in some dead leaves by my sidewalk. I generally leave most of the leaves that fall where they are as they decompose and add nutrients back into the soil. I do gather up a few leaves now and then to feed to my pineapple garden. In addition to adding nutrients, if you let them get thick enough, the dead leaves eventually kill off the grass which, for the most part, has no place in a native Florida yard. We don't use fertilizer or water the lawn, and eventually plan to smother out most of the grass. Our dream is to someday have a certified Florida native yard1, but we are a long way off from that, with lots of work to do.

Sources: (1) UF/IFAS Florida Friendly Yards

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Thursday, January 12, 2017

January 12, 2017

Location: Sebastian, North County Regional Park

There have been a ton of Robins this year. Not sure if more than usual, perhaps I am just outside more this year.

One of the thing that always amazes me about Robins is how varied their plumages are. Some birds, like male Red Winged Blackbirds, have very distinct plumage, but in general, there is very little variation in the plumage between individual birds. With Robins though, I've see some with really crazy variations, to the point where had they not been hanging out with other Robins, I probably would not have been able to identify the bird. The funny thing is, when I Googled "American Robin" to find an example of this, I couldn't find any. It appears that most photographers look for the Robinyest looking Robin they can find, unlike me who looks for the odd balls, I guess because I can relate.

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

January 11, 2017

Location: St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, spillway parking area

This is a pile of dead fish that some idiot left in the parking area of the spillway where I monitor manatees. The older I get, the less tolerant I become of idiots. Why would some one do this? Who thinks this is right? It's wrong on so many levels.

Being a homo sapiens1, I am an omnivore. I am somewhat of a hypocrite - if I had to kill my own food, I would be a vegetarian. But I certainly understand and do not in any way begrudge people who chose to hunt or fish for food, skins for clothing, or other necessity. But I do not and never will understand people who hunt or kill for sport or trophies.

And why would you kill more than you need? If these were bait fish, why not save them for another day? Or did the person perhaps think they were doing wildlife a favor by leaving these in the middle of the parking lot so they don't go to waste? Here's a clue - if you killed more than you can use, it has already gone to waste.

Sources: (1) Encyclopedia of life

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

January 10, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, my house

I went out to see if I could get a picture of the female painted bunting this morning. No buntings, but I took a few shots of squirrels. Then I noticed this...

Apparently me and my honeybee are not the only bird watchers in the house. That is Barty, with his head poking out between the curtains, watching intently.  Barty was born in our backyard to a feral cat. We caught and socialized Bart and his sisters Lisa and Maggie. Because they were very young (a few weeks) it was fairly easy to socialize them. Their mom was still feral though, so we had to catch her and take her to the humane society. I still feel a little guilty about that, but it really was the only option - otherwise she would just have more kittens and perpetuate the problem.

Barty and I loved each other from the first time I held him. I took him out of the trap, held him in my arms and he just laid back and snuggled me. I'm sure the fact that I had some Wildside Salmon1. in my hand at the time helped a little, but even when I wasn't plying him with salmon, he would still lay back in my arm for tummy rubs. He is still the most hedonistic kitty I've ever had. He has to eat breakfast by himself, just to keep him from eating everyone else's. I have to be careful when I start to give him a tummy rub because he does not want me to stop once I start. And he still loves the salmon treats. I have tried on occasion to switch to a less expensive treat, which the other cats are all ok with, but not Barty. He looks at me with those big sad eyes that ask, "Why don't you love me anymore?" and off I go to order more.

Sources: (1) It's not cheap, but Wildside Salmon is cheaper if you buy 4 bags at once.

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Monday, January 9, 2017

January 9, 2017

Location: Fellsmere,  my bird feeder

I suppose it is arguable, but personally I think the painted bunting is the most beautiful bird in Florida. I have been worried this year. They usually start coming to my feeders around October or November, we even had them as early as September once or twice. But this year we had a hurricane and by the time I put the bird feeders back up, I thought my painted buntings had given up on me and gone elsewhere for their noshing needs. But alas! Over the weekend my honeybee told me there were some in the yard, so I ran out and topped off my feeders and today there are at least 2 males and one female out there. The females and males have very different plumage, but it's pretty easy to tell that they are related to one another1.

We first moved to Fellsmere in 2006. It wasn't an easy move for me, I was used to the single life up in Rockledge, everything was close by, I had a big beautiful house. But things change, we got married, my honeybee's job was just too far away to commute every day, and since I work from home I could live anywhere. But Fellsmere? The middle of nowhere? We didn't even have a Publix back then.

So I was here and pretty miserable for about the first 10 months. I had put up bird feeders that attracted nothing but squirrels (affectionately known as $@#$%@#$% squirrels).  But then, one day in late autumn, I saw a flash of color on my feeder. Then another, then another. Apparently the Painted Buntings knew that I wasn't happy here and stopped by to cheer me up. We have had between 8-15 birds every year since then, making Fellsmere a much brighter, happier place to live.

Sources: (1) Birding With Dee video, "Are Those Birds Related?"

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Sunday, January 8, 2017

January 8, 2017

Location: St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, Catface Trail

Technically, this picture was taken at 8:45. Due to what I believe is the Ideal Gas Law1, I had to clean up protein shake from the counter, floor, sink, and probably should have checked the ceiling before I left to go hiking. It is is pretty cold here today, so I thought I would heat up the almond milk for my protein shake a little. Keep in mind, I am not stupid, I know you can't put hot liquid in a closed container and shake it due to expansion, but I had only microwaved the milk briefly to take the chill off, it was by no means hot, but I guess the milk was hot enough to explode the shaker. So anyway, I got a late start.

I thought it would be a nice day to wander out and get a picture of the St. Sebastian River for which the preserve is named. There is a canoe launch that I went to years ago and have not been back to since that I thought would make a nice 8 a.m. picture. I drove out to the Mullet Camp parking lot, and headed off down the trail. A smarter person would have looked at a map or called someone who worked there for over a decade, but I was sure I remembered where the launch was and headed out. After a mile or so, I came to an intersection of paths. One led to what I thought was the river. There was a fairly deep dip that appeared to be a creek bed, that had what looked like some mud at the bottom. It didn't look too bad, and I thought I could cross it. I was quite wrong about that. With a cartoonish "fwoompf!" sound, I instantly sunk. Unfortunately, I was only able to get my left foot unstuck, my right foot was firmly entrenched. I panicked for a minute, then tried to raise just my toes, which broke the suction, and I was able to get my foot up a little. My sneaker came off about half way up though, and I had to grab it with my hand and trudge back though the mud in just one shoe.

I decided to give up at that point, and since I still hadn't found the canoe launch, I took this picture to use as my photo of the day. I thought that it would be easier to walk with both shoes on, so I put the muddy soaking shoe on over my muddy soaked sock and walked back the mile I had come.  I never did find the canoe launch. Did I mention it was 40 degrees with a wind chill factor of 33?

The best part is that, once I was in my closed car, I remembered that there is a cattle lease on the preserve. I don't think the "mud" was entirely "mud", at least not judging by the scent wafting up into my delicate nostrils on the way home.  In general though, although not all 8 a.m.'s are created equal, at least I was out there in the world at 8 a.m.

Sources: (1) I generally don't like to use "some guy on the internet" as a source, but this Reddit post seemed to explain the principle the most simply.

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Saturday, January 7, 2017

January 7, 2017

Location: Marsh Landing Restaurant, Fellsmere

Marsh Landing for breakfast is always a treat, despite the frequency with which we partake of it. The building in which Marsh Landing is located has throughout it’s history, been used as the land sales office for the Fellsmere Estates Corporation, headquarters for the Florida Crystal Sugar Company, and a municipal building. Fran Adams, the current owner of the building and restaurateur, purchased and began restoration of the building in 19951.

This restaurant and the building itself are truly the heart of Fellsmere. The tables are all inlaid with newspapers from around the 1920's-1930's that provide a glimpse into the history of the town. The newspapers include everything from an article about a piano recital held at a residents home, to ads for men’s razors and special elixirs, to women suffrage (Fellsmere was the birth place of women’s suffrage in the state of Florida). We eat here often, and it’s always fun when we are seated at a table at which we haven’t eaten before, just so we can read the new (old) articles.

Another draw of the restaurant is it’s bird history. As described in a series of photos in the main dining room, when Fran first bought the building, there was a barn own living in there. That barn owl was relocated, but there are still barn owls on the property. In fact, I have been having our annual South Brevard Christmas Bird Count dinner here for the last few years. In 2015, my team had the area around Marsh Landing. When we stopped for dinner, Fran asked us if we counted her owl yet. She then (from right inside the dining room) pointed to an owl box just outside the restaurant, and a Barn Owl poked his head out to say hello to us. I was so excited as my team had not yet had a barn owl for the count, and that was our final bird of the day.

If you zoom in on the above picture, you can see a crazy sign with some frogs on it. This an advertisement for the yearly Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival, which "...holds 2 Guinness Book World Records for The Most Frog Legs served in the course of one business day and the Largest Frog Leg Festival in the world"2. Fran Adams was one of the instigators of the very first Frog Leg Festival, which over the past 25 years has raised over $600,000 for recreation for the Fellsmere community2.

  1. Marsh Landing web site
  2. Frog Leg Festival web site
Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Friday, January 6, 2017

January 6, 2017

Location: Fellsmere, my yard

This is the egg of a Mourning Dove, the remains of which I found on my sidewalk. Not sure if the bird hatched or if a nest was predated. I did not find any sign of a nest, so I am guessing predation. It is a little early for mourning doves to be be mating1, but birds don't always stick to a schedule.

According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, mourning dove populations have declined about 15% since 19662. The numbers for the South Brevard Christmas Count that I compile have varied from a low 148 seen in 1984, to a high of 1,504 in 1993. Keep in mind that those numbers are anomalies, and could be due to weather, food source, or any other of a myriad of reasons that occurred on the specific day of the bird count. In typical years, we see between 450 and 550, and those numbers have remained steady throughout the 44 years for which I have the historical data. The anomalies are the reason why it's so important to keep the bird count going - the data collection is to show trends over long periods of time, not just one particular day.

Doves in general are an easy species to pick out on a wire. As I tell my birding classes, just look for a turkey baster with wings. They have a bulbous head, and a long thin neck. After you have narrowed it down to the dove family, most doves have pretty distinct body shapes and other field marks. For example, the Mourning Dove has a long thin tail, and has a distinct plaintive call that makes me want to ask it if would like to go for coffee and talk about what is on it's mind.

(1) Personal interview, David Simpson
(2) Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Thursday, January 5, 2017

January 5, 2017

Location: North County Park, Sebastian

Laurel oak in parking lot. I moved to Fellsmere about 12 years ago. I have driven by this park almost every day since I moved here. It is a large park that has a sports complex with soccer and baseball fields, and a large community pool.

After I had lived here about 6 or 7 years, a friend suggested we meet at the North County Park parking lot to go for a walk. I asked her, "Do you mean where the indoor pool is?" She looked at me like I was insane and said, "No, I mean the community pool." To which I replied, "Right, the indoor pool across from the ball fields?" She said, "Dee, that is NOT an indoor pool..." And I actually had to drive up there to see for myself that it was, in fact, an outdoor pool. I have no idea why I thought it was an indoor pool, and this was after driving by it daily for six or seven years.

But I digress... Laurel oaks (Quercus laurifolia Michx.) are fast growing trees but have a relatively short life span1. They produce many acorns which are good for feeding critters, but the wood is not good for building so they are generally only useful to humans as shade or ornamental trees.

Sources: (1) USDA Forest Service

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

January 4, 2017

Location: St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, water's edge at spillway

Water thermometer, reading 74 degrees. As part of the daily manatee monitoring, we have to take the air temperature, windspeed, and water temperature. The water temperature is very important. Manatees cannot survive long in temperatures under 68 degrees1.

The reason we do the manatee monitoring at the specific location is because due to the spillway, the water is a bit deeper here and thus warmer.  On colder days, the manatees come in to the canal from the Sebastian River to warm up.

Sources: (1) Save the Manatee Club

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

January 3, 2017

Location: St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, manatee overlook at the spillway

I took this picture after my 7:30 manatee watch.  There are always a ton of these webs along the chain link fence that goes over the spillway.  I am not sure of the species that made it, but I suspect it was some kind of nocturnal long-jawed orb weaver, as it was clearly built over night.

Personally, I picture a little spider in eight high heels singing the Rihanna song "Diamonds"1 as she decorates her little web with bling.

Sources: (1) Rihanna - Diamonds

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Monday, January 2, 2017

January 2, 2017

Location: St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park

This photo was taken about an hour into the South Brevard Christmas Bird Count, which I have been participating in for over a decade, and compiling for the last 6 years.

Christmas bird counts are a tradition that began back in 1900. Prior to that, there was a traditional yearly contest to see who could shoot the most birds and other critters. In 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman decided to start a new tradition of counting birds instead of shooting them1.

Since then, the Christmas Bird Counts have grown into largest Citizen Scientist project in the world, with tens of thousands of participants worldwide counting birds in the period between December 14 and January 5. Each count is comprised of a 15 mile radius circle, which is split into areas that, for continuity, are ideally birded by the same team each year. My job as compiler for the count is to assemble teams comprised of birders of appropriate skill levels, make sure all of the teams have the appropriate maps and paperwork, and then, after the count, compile all of the data and submit it to Audubon.

For the first 5-6 years I did the count, my honeybee and I covered area 12, located in the southwest quadrant of the (then known as) St. Sebastian Buffer Preserve. That area has pretty rough terrain, but is incredibly beautiful and teeming with wildlife. Since I have been the compiler, I have been taking on whatever area I have to as we have gained and lost team leaders over the years. This year, I took on the northwest quadrant of the park (Area 10, shown above), as well as the adjacent area (Area 1A), which is a little more urban.

There are many amazing things about the annual CBCs, but for me, the people are really what make it special. Today, for example, we were birding Area 1A, which is largely comprised of private ranch lands. We are always careful not trespass, and it is often difficult to track down owners of and receive permission to enter private property. But today, we were birding on the only public access road that transects Area 1A, and a couple stopped to ask what we were doing. We explained the count to them, and they incredibly graciously dropped what they were doing, had us follow them back into their ranch, and gave us permission to bird their ranch and the entire private road. This meant the world to me, not just because they were so kind to us, but because this area has never been included on the count before; having the area included omits a gap in the count circle, which means more accurate data for the count.

Sources: (1) History of the Christmas Bird Count

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Day, 2017

Location: My Kitchen

Slept in today, so at 8 A.M. I was making a healthy nutritious breakfast of an omelet and bacon for me and my honeybee.

This is the compost from breakfast (coffee grounds, egg shells, orange peels) all of which make for yummy plant food. Anything that was once alive can be composted. The coffee grounds and orange peels provide nitrogen, and the egg shells provide calcium1.

I don't actually have a garden, other than my pineapples, but I save all my green waste for my bestie who does have a compost pile. On my list of stuff to do this year is to either start a compost pile or make a compost barrel. I think my pineapples would like it, and they would probably spawn faster than they do now. My most recent pineapple took about 5 years, and there are no signs of any other spawn on my remaining plants.
Sources: (1) UF/IFAS Extension

Photo and text © 2017 Dee Fairbanks Simpson