Sunday, February 26, 2017

Guest Blog - Great White Heron

My friend Ron Romano has been birding the Florida Keys and found a species - rather a sub-species - that's pretty rare. Here's my "guest blogger's" report!!

Great White Heron (photo credit: Ron Romano)
Herons and egrets can be found throughout the United States wading in marshes or along shorelines (both fresh and saltwater) for fish and frogs, but may be seen in fields and developed areas as well. The two largest species are the Great Blue Heron and the Great Egret, both standing 3 to 4 feet tall. The Great Blue Heron is typically grayish-blue with a dull yellow bill and a distinctive black stripe extending over the eye, while the Great Egret is pure white, with a bright yellow bill and jet black legs and feet. 

Great Blue Heron (photo credit: JoAnne Russo)

I'm currently birding in the Florida Keys, where a rare all-white form of the Great Blue Heron is found. Formerly considered a separate species, it's now thought to be a sub-species of the Great Blue Heron, although some preliminary unpublished data suggests that it may even be a completely separate species. 
At first glance, the Great White Heron can easily be confused with the also-present egret, being all white with a yellow bill. But a closer look at the legs of these two birds found yesterday at Stock Island (near Key West) reveals the difference. Note the pale yellowish legs of the heron and the jet black legs of the egret.
Great Egret (photo credit: Ron Romano)
Regular blue forms of the Great Blue Heron are also found in the Florida Keys, and when a Great White Heron mates with the Great Blue, a hybrid called the Wurdemann's Heron results, the plumage of which is very pale gray and white.

Ron Romano reporting from Marathon Key, Florida.....

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fort Edward Grasslands IBA, New York

northern harrier
   My friend Laura suggested we explore Ft. Edward Grasslands in New York where there were recent reports of numerous short-eared owls, harriers, rough-legged hawks and a snowy owl! From my house it's about a two hour drive, perfect for a day trip.
here's a link to the spot: Ft. Edward Grasslands IBA

northern harrier
One of the first birds we saw was a "grey ghost", aka a male northern harrier, probably eating a mole or mouse in a field.

snowy owl
We looked for the snowy owl that was being seen off Swamp Road. This snowy really blended in with the scenery!

Driving along the roads we saw numerous harriers, rough-legged hawks, a kestrel and this merlin.

short-eared owl vocalizing

We met some other birders who were familiar with the area, they told us to go to Fitzpatrick Drive for the best viewing. Earlier in the day, they had seen 7 short-eared owls in a tree, along with 2 more on the ground. This is a banner year for these owls with reports of up to 15 owls seen this winter. The last such incursion was 2007. The owls were eating well, with many seen with rodents, along the road and eating on the fly!