The Waders: Wood Stork

This week’s featured Wading Bird is the Wood Stork. Last year on my birthday, we saw a juvenile Wood Stork in Cape May, NJ. Since the Wood Stork range is the southeastern United States, our Wood Stork was considered a rarity and delighted many excited birders for a few weeks in NJ.

Description:

Adult:

  • Large bird, standing at about 3 feet tall
  • Mainly white with black flight feathers
  • Bald, scaly looking heads
  • Thick curved black bill with long neck
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Wood Stork adult (Image by Wilfredo Lee/AP via nrp.org)

 

Juvenile:

  • Similar plumage colors to adult
  • Pale bill that darkens with age
  • Grayish feathers on neck

Range:

South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, the Caribbean, coasts of Mexico

Habitat:

Cypress swamps, lagoons, marshes, ponds. Mainly freshwater habitats

Diet:

  • Fish, reptiles, invertebrates, amphibians, aquatic insects, nestlings
  • Forages in shallow water with bill partially open; snaps bill close in contact with prey
  • Sometimes uses its feet to stir up prey or flaps to startle prey

Breeding/Nesting:

  • Courtship: A male starts off aggressive towards a female, but once he accepts her into the territory will bring her sticks and preen her. Pairs stay together for one breeding season.
  • Nesting: Colonial nesters in trees above standing water. Nesting locations include mangroves, stands of cypress trees, or flooded impoundments. The pair will construct a nest of sticks that is lined with greenery and guano. The nest will end up being 3- 5 feet wide and take 2-3 days to construct.
  • Young: Both parents will incubate 3-5 eggs for 28-32 days. The young are fed by both parents and will be guarded in the nest by a parent for about 5 weeks. First flights occur around 8 weeks, but the young will usually stick around the nest to be fed and to sleep until about 11 weeks.
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Wood Stork juvenile (Image by David Horowitz)

Vocalizations:

Usually silent except during nest. Young makes clattering bill noises while adults make croaking sounds.

Conservation:

Wood Storks are considered uncommon. Their populations have declined over the years. Threats include changes in water levels, nest predation  from terrestrial animals, and habitat degradation.

Fun Facts:

  • The Wood Stork is the only native stork species in North America.
  • When temperatures  rise in the late afternoon, Wood Storks will soar high in the thermals just like raptors.
  • Wood Storks used to be known as the “wood ibis”, even though they are not ibises.

 

You can check out our previous Wading Bird post about Black-crowned Night-Herons here.

Forsythe Fun with Friends

I recently took a trip to Edwin B. Forsythe NWR with my friends Deborah and Bella. It was their first time visiting the refuge. Both Deborah and Bella have worked at nature centers, with Bella currently working in horticulture. I had such a blast spending the day with them, and learned a lot of new information from them about plants and snakes.

We started our trip taking a short walk around the visitor center and Lily Lake. A few birds around this area included Wood Ducks, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbirds, House Finches, and Purple Martins, as well as tons of beautiful flowers/plants.

Before entering the wildlife drive we spent some time at the Eco Leeds Boardwalk and Gull Pond. Highlights included fiddler crabs, Barn Swallows, Great Egrets, and Least Terns.

We even had a special surprise: snakes! I have never seen snakes at Forsythe before, so I’m glad I was able to see them with Deborah, “the snake lady” :-D.

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Snake among the lilies (Image by BirdNation)

The wildlife drive was really active. Birds included Red-winged Blackbirds, American Crowns, Snowy Egrets, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Gull-billed Terns, Black Skimmers, Laughing Gulls, Forster’s Terns, American Oystercatchers, Willets, Greater Yellowlegs, and Ospreys. Bella made what I think was the most exciting find of the trip: 3 Black-crowned Night-herons foraging. Black-crowned Night-herons usually forage at dawn or dusk. I usually see them roosting during the day, so it was amazing to see them foraging in the middle of the day. There were also lots of turtles out and about crossing the road. I helped a Northern Diamondback Terrapin get across who was trying to dig a hole for her eggs in the middle of the drive.

 

Overall we saw 50 species. I had a wonderful time at Forsythe with Deborah and Bella. I’m looking forward to another adventure soon!

 

An Evening at the Lake

We had lovely weather today; it was relatively cool for a June day. Dave and I decided to take advantage of the cool weather by going to one of our favorite parks, Haddon Lake Park.  We’ve walked around Haddon Lake easily over a hundred times over the years, but there was something very different about this time.

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The Fountain (Image by BirdNation)

They added a fountain. To be honest, I’m not really sure how to feel about it. Of course, my immediate response was, “How’s it going to affect the birds?”. It didn’t really seemed to have an impact on the amount of activity we witnessed.

Every year, Red-winged Blackbirds nest in the same shrubbery. This year there were a juvenile blackbirds hanging around the shrub and being fed by the adults.

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Young Red-winged Blackbird (Image by BirdNation)

As usual, there was multitudes of Mallards and Canada Geese. There were young birds with the adults in different stages of development. We heard this Mallard duckling peeping loudly. It seemed to have lost its mother.

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Mallard Duckling (Image by BirdNation)

A few minutes later, the female Mallard returned to her duckling and they spent the rest of the time swimming together.

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Female Mallard with her duckling (Image by BirdNation)

There were also Canada Geese goslings…can you find the ones in this picture?

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Canada Goose with goslings (Image by BirdNation)

…as well as finding a sleepy Domestic Goose gosling with its family.

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Domestic Goose chick (Image by BirdNation)

Other birds at the lake included Downy Woodpeckers, a Red-tailed Hawk, American Robins, House Sparrows, a Common Grackle, Gray Catbirds, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and this lovely Eastern Kingbird.

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Eastern Kingbird (Image by BirdNation)

It’s always a pleasure to go back to Haddon Lake. We have so many special memories, and each visit feels like going home.

Spring Odds and End

To me, birding is not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. I pretty much try to go birding as much as possible. How often we go birding depends on the week and season. During spring migration, it’s not unusual for Dave and I to go birding 4-5 times per week (after work and at least once/sometimes twice on the weekend). Today I wanted to share some spring birding pics from some of our smaller excursions.

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Red-winged Blackbird, Taylor’s Wildlife Preserve (Image by BirdNation)
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Yellow Warbler, Taylor’s Wildlife Preserve (Image by BirdNation)
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Mourning Dove, Barnegat Lighthouse State Park (Image by BirdNation)
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Cedar Waxwing, Palmyra Cove Nature Park (Image by BirdNation)
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Magnolia Warbler, Amico Island Park (Image by BirdNation)
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Magnolia Warbler, Amico Island Park (Image by BirdNation)

World Oceans Day 2018

June 8th is World Oceans Day.

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Logo via worldoceansday.org

Humans and animals depend on the ocean for survival. 75% of the planet is covered by oceans. Not only do oceans generate our climate, but they regulate oxygen and supply us with food and medicine.

The oceans are one of the few places left on Earth where there are still new things being discovered all the time. It’s estimated that there are between 700,000 to a million species living in the ocean, many which have yet to be described or named. A healthy ocean is imperative to survival on Earth.

There’s a major problem though: plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is the theme for 2018’s World Ocean Day.

Plastic has literally changed our world. Yes, there are benefits of plastic, but the negatives are truly detrimental.

It’s estimated that over 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into our oceans each year. But it gets worse- 236,000 tons are considered microplastics, which are smaller than 5 mm long. Many seabirds and marine animals can not distinguish these pieces of microplastics from food, so they end up being ingested. According to National Geographic, almost every species of seabirds will be eating plastic by 2050. Production of plastics have increased exponentially, and the more produced, the worse the dilemma gets.

What can be done about this critical problem? Making our oceans healthier is an extremely challenging global issue. If we want our oceans to ever improve, even a little, the problem needs to be tackled worldwide. There are many organizations and scientists working on solutions for removing plastic from the oceans. In the meantime, we can all do something to reduce our impact. Every little bit counts, and even each individual taking small steps to reduce their plastic waste can make a huge difference in the long term.

  • Avoid single-use plastics. Examples of single-use plastics include straws, plastic bags, beverage bottles, and coffee stirrers. There are many reusable items that can be used instead of single-use plastics.
  • Recycle plastics properly. Educate yourself on the different types of plastic and how to recycle them in your area. Improper recycling can be just as damaging as not recycling.
  • Spread the word. Inform your family and friends about plastic pollution and how they can help.

Our oceans are fascinating places that are brimming with life. It’s up to us to take care of them so we can continue to enjoy them. Together we can make a difference.

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Image by BirdNation

If you’d like to learn more about  World Oceans Day/oceans in general/plastic pollution check out the following websites.

World Oceans Day website: http://www.worldoceansday.org/

NOAA’s National Ocean Service: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/

National Geographic Planet or Plastic? (has links to many sources I used for this article): https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/planetorplastic/

To read an article I wrote a few years ago about Plastics and Laysan Albatrosses check out Trouble in Paradise