44 degrees F on our back balcony this morning according to my new digital thermometer. CIVIL TWILIGHT begins at 6:57 a.m., SUNRISE at 7:23 a.m., SUNSET at 5:40 p.m. Last night’s MOON won’t set until 9:56 a.m. and tonight’s MOON will rise at 9:59 p.m., a waning gibbous 86% illuminated. HIGH TIDE at 2:54 a.m., LOW at 10:04 a.m., HIGH AGAIN at 5:07 p.m., LOW at 11:01 p.m.

Got to the Cedar Cove Townhouses at 6:58 a.m. The darker red of pre-civil twilight has already  changed to a pinkish pastel along the horizon. Just heard a LOON, I think. The sky overhead is clear enough this morning that Venus (or whatever that bright star/planet/satellite in the sky is) is still visible in the sky. So is the WANING GIBBOUS MOON. Slight breeze, blowing from the North (I think). No birds on the beach right now — just a few flying by.

Dock Street Bridge at 7:17 a.m. Saw a KINGFISHER perched on Channel Marker #3. Also a SNOWY EGRET perched on the IDLE SPEED ONLY sign in the Marina. The big NOAA structure at the far end of the Fishing Pier says it’s the WATER LEVEL GAUGE STATION, but it also has other things on it: two anemometers, some small solar panels, and other technical looking gismos. I hope the guy from the hardware store will remember to send me the Web site that records the information fed to it by Cedar Key’s two NOAA stations. Lots of GRACKLES on the Fishing Pier this morning, and I just noticed a GREAT BLUE HERON perched on something that’s sticking up out of the water near the Honeymoon Cottage.

At 7:30 a.m. the SUN is up and very bright. While I was walking back along the pier toward Dock Street, I saw the BLACK AND WHITE DIVING DUCK that I first saw on December 22 again. Here’s what I noticed this time: white above and below a black stripe on face, dark eye that might be reddish in white part of face above the dark stripe, white ring all the way around the neck, white patch near tail, not much for a tail, bill looks like a duck bill (not a grebe bill), back is a little speckledy. I got a good close look at it while it was swimming between in the corner between the pier and Rusty Rim. I decided to count how long it stays under water, and learned that it stays down for a slow count of 25-30. From looking at the pictures in Sibley, I’ve about decided it must be an ADULT FEMALE LONG-TAILED DUCK in winter plumage. David Johnston’s Cedar Key bird book says the LONG-TAILED DUCK is a rare winter visitor: 5 birds seen in 3 Christmas Bird Counts.

At 2:30 p.m., I took Bob down to the Fishing Pier to show him where I was seeing what I thought was a LONG-TAILED DUCK, and there it was still working the same area seven hours later! Bob agrees with my ID. On our way back across the Dock Street Bridge, Bob also spotted a pair of RUDDY DUCKS. Then he pointed out an OSPREY perched on top of the Cedar Key Fire and Rescue Squad’s big tall Christmas Star. He’s a lot more alert and attentive than I am…. At 3:20 p.m. we saw a SPOTTED SANDPIPER and SEMI-PALMATED PLOVER on the rock-strewn beach at the Faraway end of the island.

Later, I stopped by Park Place to deliver some maple syrup to a fellow Vermonter who manages the rentals there and discovered another Florida bird book in her reference library: FLORIDA’S BIRDS: A FIELD GUIDE AND REFERENCE (2nd edition) by David S, Maehr and Herbert W. Kale II (Pineapple Press, 2005). I need to look at it more closely because I might want to add it to my Cedar Key reference library.

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