It’s been a topsy turvy day. I didn’t take a walk this morning because I wanted to spend the time with Bob because he didn’t sleep well last night. At 3:20 p.m. I saw several BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS hanging around on the wires near the Deams’ condo. At 4:50 p.m. I saw lots of BLACK SKIMMERS congregating on the roof tops of the Cedar Cove buildings. I wonder why they hang out there? I’ll have to pay closer attention to what time of day I see them. Is it a late afternoon thing, or do they spend time there earlier too?

At 6:30 a.m., all three of my thermometers say 66 degrees, so it must be 66 degrees this morning. It’s windy again, and VENUS is once again visible in a clear sky. Got to the Park Beach at 6:40 and saw a lot of busy SANDERLINGS scurrying around right in front of me. I counted at least 17. I wonder how many SANDERLINGS I’ve missed by walking through the park instead of along the edge of the water? Lots of GULLS here too, but NO HORSESHOE CRABS again this morning. I wonder if they’ll be back or if they’re finished mating on this particular beach? Lots of BLACK SKIMMERS are flying over this beach and in front of Cedar Cove too, plus I can see more flying in to join them. The various flocks (if that’s what they are) seem to mix and merge, then separate and land, then take off again, all according to some perfect democracy where all comers are welcome and no one’s in charge. They are certainly fascinating to watch. The TIDE  seems HIGH this morning and the South wind is blowing waves audibly against the beach. HIGH TIDE was at 4:12 a.m., which was only a bit more than two hours ago, and the tide won’t be LOW again until 9:51, which is three hours away. It’s hard for me to keep track of the tides, but it definitely feels more HIGH than LOW this morning.

Got to the Cedar Cove rocks at 6:50 a.m.. No SPOTTED SANDPIPER. No birds at all near the canal except for one BLACK CORMORANT that’s diving quite happily in the turbulent water. As I was leaving, I saw a SNOWY EGRET fly into the marina and land on one of the docks near the abandoned building. Maybe it wanted to get out of the wind?

When I got to the Cedar Cove Townhouses at 7:00 a.m., I saw a flock of SANDERLINGS fly by, headed for the Park Beach. I noticed a bigger flock of them a ways down the Old Fenimore Mill beach. I’m guessing there were at least 20 or 30 of them. SANDERLINGS seem to be everywhere this morning. There must be something going on that I haven’t noticed them until now. SUNRISE was at 6:49 a.m., so as I’m getting ready to leave here and head down to the Dock, the SUN is already well above the horizon, big, bright, and yellow.

At 7:55 a.m., on my way home from the Dock, I saw a big flock of SANDERLINGS still working the Park Beach.

At 4:55 p.m., Bob walked in from the balcony to tell me a ROSEATE SPOONBILL just flew by. Hooray! They’re back!!

It’s about 53 degrees, and I’m out the door at 6:30 a.m. VENUS is alone in the sky this morning, and the sky is totally clear. It’s cold and windy again. When I got to the Park Beach at about 6:40, I saw a flock of SANDERLINGS flying in. They landed, then flew up and out over the water, and landed again. First time they landed way down toward the far end of the beach. Second time they landed closer to me at the kayak end. They’re such busy, fast moving little birds I had trouble counting them, but I’m estimating 20-25.

Got to the Cedar Cove rocks at 6:50 a.m. and found the SPOTTED SANDPIPER working the edge of the water on the far side of the canal. While I was watching the SANDPIPER, a TRICOLORED HERON flew in and strutted right by the little SANDPIPER, which moved back to let it pass. The TRICOLORED HERON was headed toward the marina, where it has now settled on the edge of the sand near the closest piling that supports the old building that still stands in the middle of the whole Cedar Cove complex.

By 7:05 a.m. I was at the Cedar Cove Townhouses. The SUNRISE was at 6:50 a.m., so the SUN is well above the horizon already. There’s a flock of SANDERLINGS over here too, or maybe it’s the same one I just saw? I counted at least 25 before they scattered over the length of the Old Fenimore Mill beach. The BLACK SKIMMERS  are way over to my left this morning, flying up from and landing on the sand bar/shell bar  near the entrance to the Back Bay. All I see here are GULLS and TWO BROWN PELICANS on the partially submerged beach in front of me. The TIDE is going out, but it won’t be LOW until 9:24 a.m., which explains why the beach is still under water. On my way out the Cedar Cove driveway, I saw a pair of BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS perched on the wires near the basketball court, so there are definitely BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS around here.

I decided to hike all the way down to the Faraway beaches again this morning, and it was worth it. I saw an OYSTERCATCHER strolling by in the shallow water in front of the rock-strewn beach. Its bright red bill was pretty impressive in the morning light. On the pebbly beach, I saw a WILLET in the water and 4 RUDDY TURNSTONES (I think) working the edge of the beach. The foursome flew off, showing lots of white underneath, before I could be sure of my identification. The WILLET wandered down toward the OYSTERCATCHER, and when it got close, the OYSTERCATCHER seemed to be deferring to the WILLET. It moved up onto the beach, and I got a good look at its PINK legs! I also noticed how YELLOW its eyes are. What an amazing combination of colors. When the OYSTERCATCHER went back into the water, it and the WILLET seemed to be friends, and right now they’re feeding quite close to each other.

It’s colder this morning: about 50 degrees at 6:15 a.m. On Mondays I have to empty the trash and recycling, so it took me longer than usual to get away. I think I finally left the condo at about 6:40 a.m., and because I also had to mail some letters, I decided to vary my route today. After the Post Office, I walked out 1st street to the Faraway beaches. I was just about to declare them empty, when I spotted some movement and saw 4 or 5 little PLOVERS. They didn’t look quite right for SEMI-PALMATED PLOVERS. They seemed to have lighter brown backs, with lighter brown on their upper chests, and a lighter black ring around their necks. Maybe it was the morning light? Or maybe it’s just that I haven’t seen them for a while? The other plovers they might have been are rarely seen in Cedar Key.

After some wandering around and seeing no birds, I finally got to the Park Beach at 7:45 a.m. I saw 5 SANDERLINGS first thing, then a WILLET, then 3 more SANDERLINGS. The little SANDERLINGS were feeding in small puddles on the wet part of the beach, and the WILLET was working a bigger, deeper puddle. NO HORSESHOE CRABS this morning. I wonder why?

Got to the Cedar Cove rocks at the end of the beach at 7:55 a.m. and didn’t see a SPOTTED SANDPIPER or a GREAT BLUE HERON. Got to the Cedar Cove Townhouses at 8:00 a.m. and saw BLACK SKIMMERS flying high way off to my right, but none over here this morning. All I can see on the beaches here are GULLS, GRACKLES, and a WILLET. I also hear a RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. I think I see 2 BALD EAGLES out on a distant sandbar feeding on something?

8:30 a.m. Shortly after I got back to the condo, Bob spotted a WOOD STORK feeding in the tidal in front of the floating dock that we look straight at out our back windows. We watched it for quite a while and got a good look at all its markings, movements, and feeding style. At some point a LITTLE BLUE HERON flew in, and they fed together without any conflict or competition. Then a GREAT EGRET flew in and same thing: no conflict, no competition. We watched all three for a while, until a couple trying to sneak up on them with a camera spooked them, and they all flew off. A short time later the WOOD STORK came back. So did the LITTLE BLUE HERON. I guess they like this particular pool?  They’re still there at 10:00 a.m.

At 6:25 a.m., it’s about 58 degrees. VENUS is visible, but I can’t see what’s left of the WANING CRESCENT MOON, which is only 1% illuminated at this point. My theory is that it’s hiding behind the clouds along the horizon and won’t be visible at all by the time it climbs above them (MOONRISE was at 6:00 a.m. this morning).

Got to the Park Beach at 6:40 a.m. and found 3 HORSESHOE CRABS on their backs. Again, I flipped them all over and watched what they did. The first two (one big and one small) started toward the water immediately. The third one, which is small, didn’t move. I’m afraid it might be dead. I’ll have to check it later.

At 6:55 a.m., I got to the Cedar Cove rocks and found the SPOTTED SANDPIPER working along the far edge of the canal again. I wonder what’s happened to the GREAT BLUE HERON that used to be a regular here? The BLACK SKIMMERS are flying around in front of the Cedar Cove Townhouses as usual.

Got to the Townhouses at 7:05 a.m. and saw the BLACK SKIMMERS resting on the beach between me and the rising SUN (SUNRISE was at 6:56 a.m. this morning). It’s a biggish flock, and I don’t see any others flying around. The only other birds I see are a BROWN PELICAN, several GULLS, and an OYSTERCATCHER way out by the water.

The SUN is up above the clouds now and too bright for me to look at. Time to move on. I think I spotted a WILLET just before I turned around, and I saw GRACKLES and a few STARLINGS on the beach close to the first Old Fenimore Mill building. At 7:15 a.m. I spotted a TRICOLORED HERON feeding in the muddy (LOW TIDE was at 7:19 a.m.) Cedar Cove Marina.

At 8:00 a.m., when I was crossing the Dock Street Bridge on my way home from a quick visit to the Dock, I saw another (or maybe the same?) TRICOLORED HERON  on the muddy edge of the big Cedar Key Marina.

It was about 53 degrees at 6:30 a.m. When I went out, I could see both VENUS and the slender crescent MOON, which is way over to the left of Venus this morning. What clouds there were were whirls and arcs radiating upward from the horizon. I’ve never seen a morning sky quite like this one.

Got to the Park Beach at about 6:45 a.m. and found TWO HORSESHOE CRABS on the dry sand near the kayak launch. One was big, the other small. Somehow they had gotten turned over onto their backs, and the tide had gone out without them, stranding them on the dry sand. My intuitions told me to flip them back over onto their feet, and I think I was right. The smaller one headed straight for the water, and the bigger one crawled a ways along the beach and then turned toward the water. The tracks these strange creatures make are distinctive: two parallel lines where the outer edges of the shell touch the sand, and lots of little footprints where their numerous little feet pull them along. When the bigger one got close to the wet sand, it began to dig in, front end first.The smaller one just kept on crawling.

As I walked along the beach, I discovered another small one, flipped it back onto its feet, and watched it crawl a ways and dig in. A fourth one was covered with sand, and when I flipped it over it seemed a bit disoriented. It started toward the water, then turned around and is now facing Park Place. I’m going to leave it alone and let it figure out what to do.

I encountered yet two more, for a grand total of SIX HORSESHOE CRABS stranded upside down on the beach this morning. As with the others, I flipped them and watched what they were going to do. The smaller one crawled onto the wet sand and dug in, and the bigger one is digging into the damp sand at the edge of the wet sand.

Finally got to the rocks at the Cedar Cove end of the beach at 7:05 a.m. and watched the faithful little SPOTTED SANDPIPER work along the far edge of the canal, rocking and hitching as it went.

By 7:15 a.m. I was at the Cedar Cove Townhouses watching the BLACK SKIMMERS flying around off the beach a ways. No birds on the beach here this morning. The tide is way out (LOW TIDE was at 6:49 a.m.), and it’s cold and windy where I’m standing. The wind is blowing from the East and/or Northeast, I think. The SUN is up and shining in my eyes (SUNRISE was at 6:57 a.m.), but I’m COLD! Time to hike down to the Dock.

From the Dock Street Bridge at 7:30 a.m., I saw a KINGFISHER flying around in front of the Island Place.

Later this morning Bob and I went up to the Lower Suwannee NWR. Got to the Observation Deck at 10:30 a.m. and saw three small ALLIGATORS. One was swimming, and the other two were out of the water basking in the sun. All three were across the pond from us. I might have heard a PARULA WARBLER. If so, it’s the first of the season for me.

Got to the River Walk parking lot at 11:15 a.m., and I definitely heard a PARULA WARBLER there. By 11:30 a.m. we were partway down the Boardwalk Trail. We heard and then saw a BROAD-WINGED HAWK flying overhead. We encountered a young guy with a leaf blower blowing leaves and other things off the Boardwalk. I guess he was getting things ready for the big annual gathering this weekend, but he certainly was making a lot of noise on an otherwise lovely morning. The trees here are leafing out, and the birds are singing. I wish I could see and identify everyting I’m hearing. I got pretty frustrated trying. The only species I know were flitting around in the trees above me were YELLOW-RUMPED and PARULA WARBLERS. We also heard a PILEATED WOODPECKER off to the right of the Boardwalk and saw a RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER down by the River.

It’s about 69 degrees at 6:20 a.m. It rained last night, and the morning sky is too cloudy for me to see either VENUS or the CRESCENT MOON. I decided to wander around town a bit, including a trip down to the Faraway end of the island, while I was waiting for my 7:30 birding date with Nita. I didn’t see much for birds until I got back toward the Nature’s Landing parking area. I heard a CARDINAL was singing from the wires along 3rd Street, and once Nita and I started looking together we heard and saw a sizable flock of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS peeping and cheeping in the big OAK TREE at 3rd and Depot Street, where the Nature’s Landing driveway begins. There was also more than one MOCKINGBIRD singing around the edges of the parking lot.

After Nita and I identified the birds around Nature’s Landing, we decided to go over to my favorite morning spots around Cedar Cove. On our way out the Island Room boardwalk to the rocky end of the Park Beach, we stopped to look at the birds in the Cedar Cove Marina. We saw GRACKLES flying around and landing on the tops of the sailboat masts, but then we spotted one of the small blue herons and looked hard to try to figure out which one it was. We saw white shoulders and belly, a white chin and upper throat, a speckling down the front of the neck, black eyes, grayish bone-colored legs, and some brownish feathers on its back. We were pretty sure it was a TRICOLORED HERON, but we had to check several field guides when we got home to be sure.

Next we noticed the little SPOTTED SANDPIPER near the edge of the water, not far from where the small heron was. We looked closely at all its marking too and noticed its rocking and occasional hiccup-like movements.

Then we walked around to the Cedar Cove Townhouses and saw a big flock of BLACK SKIMMERS resting on the beach. We got a good look at their red and black bills and watched them fly up and land again once or twice. We also observed a WILLET walking around on the beach and noticed another shorebird farther out. It had a black head and dark back with white shoulders and belly. It seemed to be digging deep into the sand. I caught a glimpse of red when it raised its head once and decided it was an OYSTERCATCHER.

We had great fun being beginners together trying to puzzle out the birds we were seeing, and we also enjoyed coming back to the condo to compare the pictures in our various field guides. We decided the SIBLEY FIELD GUIDE TO BIRDS OF EASTERN NORTH AMERICA offers the best pictures, including various plumages, but the others offered interesting bits of information too. It was a different but lovely morning.