18 January 2008

Working at Green Cay

This is my desk at work. I always think it's nice and neat but after looking at this picture I may need to readjust my ideas on organized. The artwork is from my summer camp and the bird pictures are from some of the nice visitors that take bird photos for me.

On January 21st I will hit my one year mark at
Green Cay Nature Center. Over the past year I have transformed from a turtle researcher to an avid birder. At first, learning the birds was just another part of my job but then I found myself birding on my days off. So after one month of working at Green Cay I began my official bird list. Now I have almost a full year's worth of bird counts for Green Cay found here. In addition, my wonderful job is also sending me to the 11th Annual Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival. My yearly tally for Florida birds is currently 180, not bad considering I have another month before my year count is over. I figure I will get at least 10 more FL lifers on my trip.

Prior to Green Cay, I would ID birds for fun but I wasn't really serious. I even taught an Ornithology class while I worked at Jekyll 4-H. Mostly, I knew the big wading birds and the common beach birds. I appreciated birds but I didn't love them like I do now. My favorite days at Green Cay are the ones where I have the time to go out and do one of my weekly bird counts. I take somewhere between a 1 hour and 1.5 hours to complete the 1 mile loop. I love watching the Moorhens fight and the Limpkins set the wetlands on alarm with their piercing cries. Today was like most of my counts, I saw the usual suspects. Sometimes we find rare birds, like last year's Eared Grebe that settled at Green Cay for the winter or our Shiny Cowbird that lived at our feeders out front for a few weeks. Most days we have a nice mix of raptors and warblers and waterfowl and waders.

This Limpkin was carefully searching for an apple snail. This bird was only about 5 feet away and didn't seem to mind my observation. The birds at Green Cay are very habituated to people. The Little Blue Heron seen below was feeding below the boardwalk and when I stopped to watch, it hopped up beside me. This bird is probably 2 feet away. If you don't make eye contact, sometimes you can even manage to walk right by without them flying away.

No matter what the birds are doing, my job here at Green Cay is always fun. I love counting the birds, talking to the visitors, working with my volunteers, and teaching the public about South Florida animals. There are the occasional slow days where I would rather be outside but for the most part, moving to Florida was one of the best decisions I could have made a year ago.

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