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Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Hint of Spring at Corkscrew Swamp

[Corkscrew Swamp, Feb. 2013]

Late February in Florida and Spring is here: the trees show green shoots, Northern Parulas are singing and the first Swallow-tailed Kites have arrived from South America.

This time, a couple of trips to Corkscrew, one with expert photographer and naturalist Bob Pelkey, yielded a nice assortment of warblers, flycatchers and breeding Barred Owl.

Let's start with the bundle of energy that is the blue-grey gnatcatcher. When in breeding plumage, the male develops a distinctive black "monobrow" and the crown becomes blue instead of light grey. The eye-ring shows prominently.

Unlike the uninhibited gnatcatcher, the Common Yellowthroat is seldom seen. Found chipping harshly, and skulking low to the ground, this widespread warbler is distinctive in its black mask and yellow throat. It is "common" because it is found from coast to coast, from Northern Canada to Northern South America; in fact, it can be found across the continent except in the desert Southwest and the high Arctic.
In the Swamp, the dense foliage means that unless your camera can shoot somewhat cleanly at ISO 3200 or you have a very fast lens, you will be struggling with either excessive image noise or camera shake.
The Black and White warbler is the ultimate test for the photographer's reflexes. It undertakes its feeding with speed and concentration that make it oblivious to the fact that it may only be inches away from the observer. Moving every second, it seldom allows for accurate focus or composition.
A more cooperative warbler is the terrestrially inclined Ovenbird -- when seen. "When seen" because, like the Yellowthroat, it is also a notorious skulker,
The compulsive tail bobber, the Palm Warbler, another wintering warbler at the Swamp is starting to come into breeding plumage.
One warbler that certainly senses that Spring is in the air, is the Northern Parula. Males in mixed feeding flocks try to keep a safe distance from each other while foraging. However, if they hear each other belting out their distinctive song too closely, a short scuffle ensues before they strike a truce and go their separate ways. This tiny warbler is seen year round at the Swamp.
Other interesting birds were Painted Bunting, White-eyed Vireo, Carolina Wren and Great-crested Flycatcher.
Painted Bunting (male)
White-eyed Vireo
Carolina Wren

Great-crested Flycatcher

Finally, the breeding Barred Owls and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
The wide variety of species at the Swamp -- resident (eg., vireos, common yellowthroat, carolina wren), migratory (both in Spring and Fall), wintering (eg., painted bunting, ovenbird, black-and-white warbler) or summering (eg., swallow tailed kite, northern parula) makes Corkscrew Swamp a special place to visit in Southwest Florida.

1 comment:

Bob Pelkey said...

Another wonderful presentation, Hemant. The subdued lighting along the boardwalk, and the often rapid movement of the birds makes for challenging photography at the Sanctuary indeed. If I were using 35mm film today, I certainly wouldn't have the latitude to take dozens of photos with hope that one is very good. I will remember to consider the cell phone for a photo when the birds get close enough to touch. Thank you again for pointing out the Brown Thrasher which was my first observation of the species.