February 2017 Bird Photo of the Month

The thrill of the hunt and a beautiful reward © William Lewis Johnson
Western Spindalis (Spindalis zena zena)

If you are out looking for birds, you are likely to find them! Will Johnson was looking for neotropical warblers migrating through our region on the Atlantic Flyway in March through April from South America, Mexico and the Caribbean on their way to northern US and Canadian breeding grounds. Only a few species breed in Florida. Johnson has found that the isolated vacant lots in his private community on the ocean in Indian River County are ideal places to look for migrants, especially when insects and the berries of the palm, the strangler fig, and the Brazilian pepper are available to provide ample restoration of energy for further migration.

A rare bird is one that normally does not pass through the area on migration, reside, or is usually not found there during that particular season. What excitement a rare bird causes! How surprised Johnson was when he was pishing (making a sound that often alarms a bird or incites their curiosity and thus attracts them) and a small, 5” long bird appeared with a striking black and white striped head, black back, white wings and underside, and deep orange breast. This Western Spindalis male usually only occurs in the Bahamas, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, and southern Florida (West Palm Beach and south) where there was even one observed breeding. But never had it been recorded before in Indian River County. While It feasted on berries, Johnson was able to photograph its beauty with his Nikon D3300 and a 300-mm lens to share his positive photo ID with other birders.

One of the reasons birders are so drawn to this sport, in addition to the skill required in finding, identifying and obtaining a good photograph of the bird, is that one never knows when a rare bird might chance to be just where you are! It is thrilling to participate in the hunt and to observe such beauty!

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society  

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