February 2011

At 6:30 a.m. it’s about 68 degrees out, and both VENUS and the WANING CRESCENT MOON (15% left) are clearly visible. It took me until almost 7:00 a.m. to get to the Cedar Cove end of the Park Beach because I had to make numerous stops to pick up bits of plastic, kids’ toys, bottle caps, soda bottles, etc. This new mission of mine to keep things made of plastic and metal out of the Gulf may do me in….

Now that I’m standing still, I can feel the wind blowing in from Atsena Otie, which makes it a South or Southwest wind, and it’s strong enough to be creating audible wavelets. The BLACK SKIMMERS are all over the place this morning. I saw the GREAT BLUE HERON when I arrived, but it disappeared when I wasn’t looking. My fellow bird watchers from Pensacola are in Cedar Key again. The husband called down to me from his Cedar Cove balcony. It’s nice to have friends…. A WILLET just flew by and landed on the Park Beach.

By the time I got to the Cedar Key townhouses, the SUN was up and shining brightly. No GREAT BLUE HERON over here either, but there’s a VULTURE on the beach this morning. I think it’s a TURKEY VULTURE, but I can’t quite tell what color its head is with the sun in my eyes. It just flew away from the sun, and I saw red so it’s a TURKEY VULTURE. There’s also a WILLET in the water way down to my left.


It’s about 66 degrees at 6:00 a.m. Both VENUS and the WANING CRESCENT MOON are clear and visible this morning, and the MOON is getting closer to VENUS day by day. Got to the rocks at the Cedar Cove end of the Park Beach at 6:45 a.m. The GREAT BLUE HERON is standing in a shallow pool on the Cedar Cove sand spit. It’s stationary as usual, offering me a perfect profile, including the long head feather, which is blowing in the wind. There’s a single WILLET working the outermost edge of the sand spit. A SPOTTED SANDPIPER just flew in and has started working along the far side of the canal from me. I watched it preening, rocking, and feeding. Now it’s walking slowly along the edge of the water.

Got to the Cedar Cove Townhouses at 7:00 a.m. Saw numerous BLACK SKIMMERS flying around in various size flocks. Another WILLET just flew in, so now there’s one right in front of me and the other still over by the GREAT BLUE HERON. It’s humid, foggy, and breeezy this morning. The atmosphere feels very coastal….

I ran into Judy again, the kinesiologist from Indiana who wants to publish a book about the history of female athletes. It sounds interesting, and I’m trying to give her some moral support, which I remember needing myself back in the late 1970s….

Bob and I went to the unit of the Cedar Key Scrub out by the  Dollar Store for a picnic lunch and short walk. We got there at about 12:30. When I first got out of the car I heard a bird that sounded like an EASTERN MEADOWLARK. The Lower Suwannee checklist says they’re common all four seasons and nest on the Refuge, so it may well have been one. I also heard a song that sounded like a chipping sparrow, but the Lower Suwannee list says they’re uncommon. So I looked up the junco too, and they’re only occasional. So I got to thinking about PINE WARBLERS since we were surrounded by the tall pines that grow in the Florida Scrub. I discovered that the PINE WARBLER is common all four seasons in the Refuge and also nests there, plus Johnston’s book on Cedar Key says it’s a common breeding permanent resident, so I guess the high pitched trillers I heard around the parking lot and also out in the Scrub were PINE WARBLERS. We saw a MOCKINGBIRD hanging around the picnic area while we were having our picnic and heard CHICKADEES when we began walking in the Scrub. The managers of the Scrub have been running a disc around the sandy roads that provide foot access but make them almost impossible to navigate. Their explanation is that keeping these roads churned up makes them good fire breaks is, but I don’t think I’ll take Bob out there again. We may have seen a WILD TURKEY scoot across the churned up sand in the distance as we were struggling along wondering if we should turn around. It was quite a distance away from us, but we both thought “turkey” the minute we saw it. The Lower Suwannee checklist says the WILD TURKEY is uncommon all four seasons but that it nests on the Refuge, and Johnston says it’s a common permanent resident of Cedar Key and breeds on the mainland, so I think we definitely saw a WILD TURKEY.  I also heard a CATBIRD on our way out. We saw several YELLOW BUTTERFLIES and a small BROWN one with “eyes” on the undersides of its wings. I’m not sure I want to get into butterfly identification, but I do enjoy seeing them.

At 6:30 a.m., it’s about 66 degrees out, and there’s no wind so it feels warmer than it has been. By the time I got to the Park Beach, it was past CIVIL TWILIGHT, which occurred at 6:37 a.m., so I had a clear view of the birds. I saw lots of GULLS along the Beach, but no SANDERLINGS this morning. As I approached the far end of the Beach, I saw the GREAT BLUE HERON standing in the water off the tip of the Cedar Cove sand spit. The SPOTTED SANDPIPER was closer, across from the rocks working its way along the far edge of the Cedar Cove canal. Without the wind to blow the bugs away, I’m going to have to keep moving this morning.

Got to the Cedar Cove Townhouses at 6:55 a.m. Saw 3 or 4 SNOWY EGRETS standing in the water off to my left. One of them was far enough away that I couldn’t gauge its size or see the color of its bill. Also saw one WILLET, the GREAT BLUE HERON, and a big and growing flock of BLACK SKIMMERS resting on the sand spit near the heron, with more flying in as I watched. While I was watching the skimmers, the SNOWY EGRETS moved down closer to the entrance to the Back Bay, and I think I’m seeing 6 now. There’s another big flock of BLACK SKIMMERS resting on the shell bar over there. The water is very calm this morning, and the bugs are driving me nuts.

At 7:20 a.m., as I approached the Dock Street Bridge, I heard a KINGFISHER. When I got to the Bridge, I saw it flying around in front of the Island Place. Not much else around, maybe because we’re headed toward HIGH TIDE at 10:24 a.m.?

Went out for a second walk late this afternoon. At 5:00 p.m. I saw a TRICOLORED HERON feeding in the Cedar Cove Marina and a big group of BLACK SKIMMERS resting on the roof of the Marina condos. Behind the townhouses I saw a SPOTTED SANDPIPER perched on one of the old pilings. The tide is high enough that it’s surrounded by water.

At 6:25 a.m. it’s about 65 degrees. There are lots of clouds in a dark sky, but I saw both VENUS and the WANING MOON through breaks in the clouds. The wind is blowing down 3rd Street, so I’m guessing it’s a West wind this morning? Ran into JUDY and TIGGER (her Golden Retriever) again this morning and talked some more about the book she wants to publish. It was 7:00 by the time I got to the Park Beach. As I started walking the length of the beach, I flushed a lot of GULLS, which I don’t mind doing, but I also noticed a little SANDERLING among them. I wonder how many SANDERLINGS I’ve missed because they were hanging out with GULLS? The TIDE is moving toward HIGH at 8:10 this morning and blowing in with the wind, which now feels as if it’s coming from the Southwest. Lots of BLACK SKIMMERS are flying in front of and landing on the Beach. Even more of them are flying around farther out. Near the rocks at the far end of the Beach, I spotted a GREAT BLUE HERON, which flew off as soon as I arrived. A SNOWY EGRET kept on feeding in the shallow water along the edge of the Cedar Cove canal. I walked around to the Townhouses and down to the Dock, but didn’t see much for birds. Maybe the combination of the HIGH TIDE and WIND was too much for them?

At 6:35 a.m. it’s about 60 degrees out and cloudy. Despite the clouds I did manage to see both VENUS and the almost-QUARTER MOON, which looks like a half moon to me…. Got to the Cedar Cove end of the Park Beach at 6:55 a.m.  It’s windy this morning, with the wind blowing from the East, I think. Whatever direction it’s coming from, it’s blowing wavelets against the Park Beach. I think I saw the SPOTTED SANDPIPER on the Cedar Cove rocks when I first got here, but I can’t see it now. No GREAT BLUE HERON either, but the BLACK SKIMMERS  are active.

From behind the Cedar Cove Townhouses at 7: 05 a.m., I see BLACK SKIMMERS everywhere. One small group is standing in the shallow water covering the sand spit.. Another group is just flying over from the Park Beach. Another is flying higher, and at least two more are flying in the distance. There’s no way I can estimate the number, but my sense is that I haven’t seen this many before. It’s what I would call a busy morning for BLACK SKIMMERS. I’m sharing this space with two photographers who are busily taking pictures of what I’m watching. I wonder how much of what’s going on they’re really seeing?

At 7:20, when I was walking toward the Dock Street Bridge, I saw THREE BALD EAGLES flying around the Cedar Key Marina. I think TWO were adults (white head and tail) and the third may have been a younger one because I noticed some brown on the head and tail. I need to check details for the males, females, and young.

Bob and I decided to go up to the LSNWR Observation Deck late this afternoon. A BARRED OWL was hooting when we arrived at 4:20 p.m. Bob spotted one of the small ALLIGATORS up at the left end of the pond. I spotted another one just to the right of the Observation Deck.

At 6:30 a.m. it’s about 65 degrees, misty, and overcast. No MOON, no VENUS. As I walked along I caught a few glimpses of the MOON but never saw VENUS. Got to the far end of Park Beach at 6:50 a.m. and found the SPOTTED SANDPIPER taking a bath in the shallow water near the Cedar Cove rocks. After some fluttering and splashing, it climbed up onto the rocks to preen. The GREAT BLUE HERON is across the canal from me, standing on a rock. It’s preening too. The BLACK SKIMMERS are looping around in front of the Cedar Cove Townhouses this morning, and I just heard a KINGFISHER somewhere nearby.

Got to the Townhouses at 7:05 a.m. There’s no wind this morning, but the BLACK SKIMMERS are just as active as they were yesterday. So much for my South wind theory…. The SUN has risen, but it’s hidden behind heavy gray clouds. Saw a ROBIN perched on the utility wires near the Cedar Cove driveway.

Got to the Dock Street Bridge at 7:20 a.m. and saw a OSPREY perched on the #1 Green Channel Marker. The SUN is now high enough that it’s beginning to show through the clouds. Saw a GREAT BLUE HERON perched on the “IDLE SPEED ONLY” sign in the Cedar Key Marina. I noticed its black shoulders, black and white head, long yellow bill, long mating plumes down the front, and black on lower belly.

Bob and I went up to the LSNWR Observation Deck at about 4:00 p.m. When we first arrived, we saw a small alligator swimming very close to the Deck. It seemed as interested in us as we were in it. Bob heard a BARRED OWL. We saw at least 2 more ALLIGATORS and a TURTLE out of the water in the grass across the pond.

It’s about 62 degrees this morning, and I’m out the door at 6:20 a.m. VENUS is overhead to my left, the WANING MOON (still 92% illuminated) to my right. It feels cool but not cold, and I feel a bit of a breeze. When I got close to the far end of the Park Beach at 6:45 a.m., I looked for the GREAT BLUE HERON but didn’t see it. So I kept on walking and suddenly noticed it walking along the edge of the Cedar Cove canal. It was moving slowly toward the Townhouse beach but stopped where I could still see it, offering me another perfect profile.

The wind is blowing from the East this morning, and it’s strong enough that I can hear little windblown wavelets washing up against the beach. I got to the Cedar Cove Townhouses at about 6:55 a.m., and when I first arrived I saw the BLACK SKIMMERS looping around in the sky just off to my left. Now they’re resting on a sand bar. A pair of small herons just landed right in front of me. They have dark necks and white bellies. I’m guessing they’re TRICOLORED HERONS?

The SUN ROSE at 7:07 a.m., and at 7:10 a.m. I can see it behind the misty clouds along the horizon. It’s a soft red this morning and, for once, not too bright for me to look at. Every morning is different….

On my way down to the Dock, I met a woman named Judy, a kinesiologist from Indiana, and her show dog, a young Golden Retriever named Tigger.

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