December 2010


57 degrees at 6:35 a.m. The National Weather Service forecasts that it’s going to be mostly sunny and will go up to 67 degrees. Civil twilight will begin at 7:00 a.m., the SUN will rise at 7:26 a.m. and set at 5:45 p.m. The MOON rose at 3:53 a.m. and won’t set until 2:32 p.m. It’s a waning crescent that’s 14% illuminated. Sky and Telescope says that at dawn this morning VENUS will shine to the upper left of the Moon. LOW TIDE at 4:53 a.m., HIGH at 11:48 a.m., LOW again at 4:19 p.m., and HIGH again at 10:06 p.m.

Getting started at 6:50 a.m. Just as Alan MacRobert of Sky and Telescope said, VENUS is above and to the left of the crescent Moon. It’s lovely to look at in the relatively clear morning sky. Beautiful view of the sky from the Cedar Cove Townhouses at 6:55 a.m. The color along the horizon is subtler this morning than it was yesterday — pastel pinks blended with gray clouds above and below, plus Venus and the crescent Moon high above all of it. At 7:00 a.m. I heard an OWL hooting from the Cedar Cover Marina. While I was looking for it, it flew over my head, and I saw that it was big and had ears: a GREAT HORNED OWL! Its hoot sounds like “Who? Who did it? Who? Who?

While I was standing on the stairs behind the Island Room at 7:10 a.m., an IMMATURE NIGHT HERON flew into the Cedar Cove Marina. It had its back to me so I couldn’t see the streaks on its breast, which might have helped me figure out which species it was. Another birdwatcher called down to me from his Cedar Cove balcony, where he had been scanning the water with his scope. We agreed that Cedar Key should be crawling with birdwatchers….

Got to the big Cedar Key Marina at 7:20 a.m. and saw a GREAT BLUE HERON standing almost up to its belly in the water. As I was looking at it, it suddenly squawked and flew up onto a piling. About then a KINGFISHER flew in.

Got to the Fishing Pier at 7:30 a.m., in time to see the SUN up and bright yellow this morning. Warmed up at Kona Joe’s then started home. At 8:05 a.m. I spotted a WHITE BIRD the size of a SNOWY EGRET standing in the water in the Cedar Key Marina. I looked for the yellow feet to confirm its identity. Finally saw one, so my bird is definitely a SNOWY EGRET. Bob’s got me worried about WHITE PHASE BLUE HERONS, so I’m paying closer attention to my “EGRETS”….

Later I decided to hike out to the Faraway Beaches just to check on what’s happening out there. At 10:55 a.m. I saw 3 RUDDY TURNSTONES, 4 SEMI-PALMATED PLOVERS, and 1 SANDERLING. All three were moving around on the pebble strewn beach, a scene well worth the walk.

At 7:20 a.m. a GREAT BLUE HERON is standing almost up to its belly in the big Cedar Key Marina. It just squawked and flew up onto a piling. A KINGFISHER just flew in. Didn’t get to the Fishing Pier until 7:30 by which time the SUN was all the way up and bright yellow this morning. By 8:05 I was back out on the bridge and spotted a white bird, SNOWY EGRET size, standing in the water in the Marina. I’m looking for the yellow feet to confirm its identity. Finally saw them, so it’s definitely a SNOWY EGRET. Bob’s got me worrying about white-phase herons, so I’m now paying closer attention to my “egrets.”

At 10:55 a.m. I was walking along the pebble-strewn beach at the Faraway end of the island and saw 3 RUDDY TURNSTONES, 4 SEMI-PALMATED PLOVERS, and 1 SANDERLING — not a bad day for shorebirds.

It’s warmer today, 51 degrees at 5:45 a.m. CIVIL TWILIGHT begins at 6:59 a.m., SUNRISE at 7:26 a.m., SUNSET at 5:44 p.m. The MOON rose at 2:49 a.m., a waning crescent 23% illuminated. It will set at 1:45 p.m. LOW TIDE at 3:43 a.m., HIGH at 10:26 a.m., LOW at 3:09 p.m., and HIGH again at 9:07 p.m.

At 6:15 a.m. the CRESCENT MOON is just barely visible through the clouds. I welcome the warmer te,perature, but yesterday’s cold crisp clarity was a treat…. At 7:07 a.m. CIVIL TWILIGHT is doing some pretty spectacular things with with red. The color has been evolving since I first came out. Before civil twilight it was red streaks and long dark clouds. Now it’s a red glow lighting up both the long dark clouds and the scallopy undersides of a lot of other clouds up a little higher. This is one of the most interesting sunrises I’ve watched this year. I can’t take my eyes off the sky because the light and color keep changing. The SUNRISE itself was kind of anti-climactic after the shifting light and colors that preceded it.

At 7:40 a.m. I started walking down the Park Beach and 4 SMALL SHOREBIRDS immediately flew up from the edge of the water. A ways down the beach I saw a SANDERLING, which is probably what the other four were too. At 7:45 a.m., I saw the SPOTTED SANDPIPER that I often see on the Cedar Cove rocks. Next I heard and saw a KINGFISHER in the Cedar Cove Marina. At 7:50 a.m. I find it cold and windy behind the Cedar Cove Townhouses this morning. I saw 2 WILLETS, numerous GULLS, and a few BROWN PELICANS but no GREAT BLUE HERON. Oh well, at least I’m here looking.

At 3:45 p.m. Bob and I heard and saw a noisy airboat messing around behind our condo and watched it scare up a biggish flock of BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS. I counted over a dozen, maybe 15 or 16. I’ve never seen a flock of NIGHT HERONS, only solitaries, but Bob says they do congregate in sizable numbers on one of the Four Brothers Islands and give Mark LaBarr’s COMMON TERNS a lot of trouble.

42 degrees at 5:40 a.m. CIVIL TWILIGHT begins at 6:59 a.m., SUNRISE at 7:25 a.m., SUNSET at 5:43 p.m. MOONRISE was at 1:45 a.m., a waning gibbous that’s 33% illuminated, MOONSET at 1:02 p.m. LOW TIDE at 2:24 a.m., HIGH at 8:48 a.m., LOW again at 1:59 p.m., and HIGH at 8:09 p.m.

At 6:10 a.m. it’s still dark, but the waning crescent MOON is bright in the sky, with three stars to the left of it and arcing around above it. Bright VENUS is way off to the left. I can see quite a few other stars too. This is what I would call a STARRY MORNING, and the FROST ON MY CAR tells me it was COLD last night.

It’s only 6:40 a.m., so I’m out early enough this morning to be seeing the delicious dark red that precedes civil twilight. The whole horizon is aglow. The stars are fading, but the air is still crystal clear. At 7:03 a.m. it’s past civil twilight, but there’s still some good color in the clouds above where the sun is going to rise in about 20 minutes.

At 7:15 a.m. I saw 7 GULLS and  a SPOTTED SANDPIPER on the Park Beach. A SNOWY EGRET (I think) just flew in and landed in the water. When I got to the Cedar Cove Marina, I saw a GREAT BLUE HERON perched on a post. Here comes the SUN at exactly 7:25 a.m. It was too bright to look at even before it was all the way up. I’m glad I came out early on this cold clear morning and saw the whole show.

This afternoon Bob and I decided to drive up to the Lower Suwannee NWR to check out the new Observation Platform again. At 3:55 p.m. the pond is empty. There are some peepy cheepy birds in the trees around the edges but no birds in or on the water. A PHOEBE just flew out over the water and landed briefly on a tall grass. Bob spotted a KILLDEER in the shallow water right in front of the platform. That was it for birds. Oh well, it’s a beautiful spot and worth the drive just to see what’s going on.

38 degrees at 7:00 a.m. CIVIL TWILIGHT began at 6:59 a.m., SUNRISE at 7:25 a.m., SUNSET at 5:43 p.m., MOON ROSE just after midnight at 12:41 a.m. and will set just after noon at 12:23 p.m. It’s now a waning crescent 44% illuminated. LOW TIDE at 1:08 a.m., HIGH at 7:13 a.m., LOW again at 1:00 p.m., and HIGH at 7:14 p.m.

I’m getting a late start this morning. It’s already after 7:00 a.m. An OSPREY flew off the utility pole along the old railroad bed again today. MOON very visible in the morning sky, slightly less than half now. The bright star or planet (?) is there again too, always bright and always in the same place. Decided to head straight down to the Dock for coffee this morning. As I was crossing the Dock Street Bridge, I spotted a DIVING DUCK near the channel markers. It had a dark head, white marks on either side of its bill, a small white mark near its tail (or maybe on its wingtips?), and a speckledy gray back. I saw about 10 SCAUP out in the water between the end of the Gulfside Motel’s fishing pier and Atsena Otie. A small HERON just landed in front of where I’m standing. It has a blue chest and white belly. At 7:30 a.m. a small flock of SNOWY EGRETS flew over, headed in the direction of the Back Bayou behind our condo. Now the DIVING DUCK with the WHITE PARENTHESES near its bill has moved over to the Marina side of the Bridge. It’s now just floating around not doing as much diving. Its HEAD might be DARK BROWN. At 7:45 a.m. I heard a KINGFISHER, and the HERON with the BLUE CHEST moved over to the Marina side too. With the sun on its chest, the bottoms of the blue chest feathers look BROWNISH. Just noticed a YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERON poking along the mud near the north side of the Marina. At 7:50 a.m. I switched back to the Gulf side of the bridge and saw a SPOTTED SANDPIPER working the edge of the water in front of the Island Place. Good birding right here at the Bridge this morning. Back on the Marina side, I now see a GREAT BLUE HERON on the south side of the water. It’s standing perfectly still with its head pulled down to its shoulders.

At 8:05 a.m., as I was headed back toward Cedar Cove, I spotted a SANDERLING feeding on the Park Beach. Saw a WILLET too, and enough different-size GULLS with different plumages to tempt me to start in on distinguishing them too…. As I was walking through the Cedar Cove parking lot, I heard a CAROLINA WREN, the first one I’ve heard here this year. Got to the Cedar Cove Townhouses at 8:17 a.m. I saw GULL resting on the closest sand spit. Also noticed a WILLET and a SANDERLING feeding on the beach in front of the Old Fenimore Mill condos and a GREAT BLUE HERON perched on one of the old pilings.

When I was walking back toward the parking lot, a HUGE RED BUS-SIZE RV caught my eye. I had to check it out. It’s a Prevost Private Coach Le Mirage XL II with a North Carolina license plate that says HIROLLER. Talk about conspicuous consumption….

At 8:26 a.m. I spotted a KINGFISHER perched on a post in the water right at the end of the Cedar Cover Marina canal. At 8:45 a.m., both the GREAT BLUE HERON and the YELLOW CROWNED NIGHT HERON are still at the Cedar Key Marina not far from where I saw them an hour ago. Back at Natures Landing at 8:55 a.m., I noticed a GREAT BLUE HERON perched on the corner of the roof on the C building. At 9:15 a.m. I saw 2 KILLDEER back on the mudflat behind our condo. Also saw 2 BALD EAGLES flying low over the mudflats.

At 3:00 p.m., Bob and I decided to take a walk behind Natures Landing. We saw 5 KILLDEER, 2 WHITE IBISES, and 1 PALM WARBLER.

35 degrees at 6:40 a.m. CIVIL TWILIGHT begins at 6:58 a.m. SUNRISE at 7:25 a.m., SUNSET at 5:42 p.m. Last night’s MOON won’t set until 11:47 a.m., and today’s, which begins the LAST QUARTER at 11:30 p.m., won’t rise until after midnight — at 12:41 a.m. LOW TIDE at midnight, HIGH at 5:52 a.m., LOW  again at 12:10 p.m., and HIGH at 6:26 p.m.

At 7:00 a.m. I could still see a HALF MOON, which is what the LAST or FIRST QUARTER looks like. VENUS was there too. As I was walking down the old railroad bed, an OSPREY called and flew off the top of a utility pole located about halfway down the bark chip path on the left. Either it or a second OSPREY called again as I walked toward the Cedar Cove parking lot. It flew too. When I turned the corner to walk down to the Cedar Cove Townhouses, a GREAT BLUE HERON flew across in front of me headed toward the Cedar Cove Marina. It kept on flying, made a big loop around the Townhouses, across the small beach in front of them, and landed a ways down the beach in a big puddle in front of the first Old Fenimore Mill building. When I looked the other way, I noticed 4 SCAUP swimming in front of the Cedar Key Beach. As I was leaving the Townhouses, the GREAT BLUE HERON flew in front of me again. It had made a complete loop and returned to the little catch pool in the dip between Cedar Cove and Old Fenimore Mill. So I flushed it twice from where it wanted to be.

At 7:30 a.m. another OSPREY called and flew off a lampost when I was walking down 1st Street. When I got to the Cedar Key Marina I noticed a GREAT BLUE HERON standing in the mud beside the water in the Marina. A flock of EGRETS and maybe a few STORKS (?) flew overhead headed toward the Back Bayou. Got to Kona Joe’s at 7:45 a.m. It’s COLD this morning, too cold for comfort. It’s gotten through all my layers and into my bones. Guess I’ll take my good hot coffee and race home….

At 3:30 p.m., I’m back over at the Cedar Cove Townhouses to check on the birds. I saw a bunch of GULLS resting on the beach in front of the Townhouses with their heads tucked back under their wings. Also  2 BLACK SKIMMERS with their heads not tucked under their wings. A GREAT BLUE HERON just flew in. When I got back to our condo, Bob pointed out 2 KILLDEER in the muddy flat we can see out our back window. The tide was coming back in, but the mudflat was still visible.

47 degrees at 5:42 a.m. with a BIG WIND blowing. The National Weather Service says the wind at the Cross City Airport was blowing 25 mph at 4:53 a.m. CIVIL TWILIGHT begins at 6:58 this morning, SUNRISE at 7:24, SUNSET at 5:41 p.m. Last night’s MOON won’t set until 11:11 a.m., and tonight’s will rise at 11:38 p.m., a waning gibbous 67 % illuminated. HIGH TIDE at 4:45 a.m., LOW  at 11:26 a.m., HIGH again at 5:45 p.m., and LOW at midnight.

Wandered around in the dark, windy weather for over an hour waiting for Kona Joe’s to open. It was too dark to see anything so I just kept walking. At 6:50 a.m. I noticed a BLACK CROWNED NIGHT HERON perched on the edge of the outer Boat Launch near the tall skinny NOAA tower. It didn’t seem at all concerned by the weather. I was glad to see the lights on at Kona Joe’s at 7:00 and stopped by for a cup of coffee to warm myself up.

MIDDAY: Bob and I went down to the Dock for lunch. We walked out onto the Fishing Pier just to see what it would feel like in a strong northwest wind. We saw four SCAUP bobbing around in the rough water  and two or three DOLPHINS surfacing and diving not far from the Pier. It was too cold to stay out there very long. Up north they’re having serious weather, so I shouldn’t be complaining about a bit of wind in Cedar Key….

Bob and I went down to the Dock this morning for Christmas breakfast at Kona Joe’s — a ritual we established last year when we arrived in Cedar Key the day before Christmas with no plans whatsoever for what we would do Christmas Day. Kona Joe’s was the only place that was open, or maybe just the only one we noticed, and they served a substantial breakfast (which was all Bob cared about) with good coffee (which is all I cared about), and we decided we’d eat Christmas breakfast there every year.

Early in the afternoon we decided to take a walk up at the Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. We got there at 1:30 p.m. and drove straight to the new observation deck a birdwatcher I ran into on one of my early morning bird walks had told me about. We took the southern entrance to the Nature Drive and drove over two miles before we spotted it on the right. For future reference, it’s a ways beyond the McCormick Creek turnoff. The observation deck is at the end of a short boardwalk into an interior pond surrounded by the thick and tangled bottomland forest that characterizes most of this river-based NWR. As we approached the deck, we saw several WHITE IBISES flying in, and when we arrived, we saw a huge mixed-age, mixed-sex flock of ibises in a variety of plumages. Some of them looked like pinto ponies. They were all just congregated at one end of the pond, making low-level murmuring sounds and fluttering their wings as they splashed water on themselves and bathed in this huge communal bird bath.

There were also a few ducks in the pond. One was a DIVING DUCK with a brown head, light-colored eye, light-colored bill, gray body, white upper neck, and a white wing patch that flashed big when it flew. Bob identified  it as a female COMMON GOLDENEYE. There were also two or three nondescript brown DABBLING DUCKS at the other end of the pond that might have been the TEAL the birdwatcher who told me about this place mentioned to me.

Next we drove around to the Suwannee River Trail and at 2:45 p.m. headed down to the river. About halfway there, I heard birds chattering overhead. I couldn’t see them in the thick trees, but I could hear more and more of them. As we approached the river, I saw some of them flitting around in lower branches and discovered that they were ROBINS. I had never heard robins making such a racket. There must have been hundreds of them, all moving around in the trees chattering as they went. I noticed a lot of small dark blue fruits on the boardwalk — grapes? — and I think the robins may have been engaged in a massive feeding frenzy….

We had to rush back to Cedar Key to be at the Island Hotel in time for our 4:00 p.m. Christmas Dinner seating. That’s another ritual we established last year, and the dinner was as good this year as last. Bob had GROUPER with all the trimmings and KEY LIME PIE for dessert. I had a huge dish of CEDAR KEY CLAMS with pasta and a small side plate of sweet and tasty things — plus a bite of Bob’s pie for dessert.

Altogether we enjoyed another lovely Christmas Day in Cedar Key.

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