Frisky manatees

It was late April and after walking the trails at Fort Desoto one morning looking for migrating birds with no luck, I headed to the fishing pier. It was just too nice to go home yet.

As usual pelicans were flying by.

I started looking out in the water to see if there were any dolphins swimming around the pier and found a pair of manatees instead. They were fairly far out in the shallow area so they were easy to spot. At one point it looked like they were mating. I could see one of the manatee’s flipper on top of the other manatee. After a few minutes they started swimming towards the pier.

They swam right up to the pier and luckily I had my zoom lens so these were at 80mm.

They mated several times right along the pier. At this point there was a huge crowd of people watching. Several people said they had never seen one before.

These above were taken with my phone. They eventually swam under the pier and then hung out on the other side before slowly swimming away. What a great thing to see! I had planned to do a quick walk and snap a few shots of dolphins but I stood there for an hour since they were so close to the pier and moving so slowly.

Late April in the backyard.

I looked outside the back window one morning in late April and saw these beauties walking around so I had to run out and get some shots. They were heading off the golf course and into the woods before the golfers come through.

Early one morning I saw this guy and went outside to take this. His face was all muddy. He was in the shade and didn’t stay still so it was hard to get a good shot of him.

I took these outside as well. He was napping on the hanging basket.

Squirrels being cute in the backyard. Taken through the window.

A wasp on  the bird bath when I was cleaning it out.

A swallow tail kite cruising along the golf course. I took this through the window as well. I knew he’d be gone by the time I got outside and on the course.

We always have white ibis feeding through.

Several brown thrashers were feeding on the ground for several days.  They must be nesting somewhere nearby.

These crows are very annoying. There are several that hang out in the backyard. They usually stay high up in the oak trees but recently they have been coming to the bird bath. They must have found some trash or someone was leaving food out because they were bringing food to the bird bath to soak before eating it. It looked like mostly bread but one day I ran out and chased one off the bath and he had an open pack of cheese crackers that he left as he flew off. I finally dumped the water out for a few days until they left.

We’ve been getting a lot of woodpeckers at the feeder lately. They grab a sunflower seed and take off. The other little birds usually leave when they are on it.

Inspire Me Monday

Baby quackers everywhere

I stopped by Lake Morton in downtown Lakeland on my way back from Lake Wales in late April. I wasn’t sure what I would find but I wasn’t expecting to see so many wood duck babies. The first family I saw had 7 babies. They were napping close to Mom (it was after lunch at this point). 

Dad was standing near the family. These guys are usually pretty skittish so it was weird to see him walking around on the grass.

I found another family a little ways around the lake. This Mom had 4 babies (one was tucked under her).I think wood duck babies have the prettiest faces.

Farther around the lake and I found another Mom with just one baby.

A couple was swimming out in the middle of the lake.

On the other side of the lake another Mom had 7 babies and they were swimming around under the big leaves. As I stood there taking pictures, Mom came up on the rock and the babies followed.

Then I found a Mom with 3 babies.

There was one Muscovy family and I couldn’t resist taking pictures of those fuzzy yellow duckies.

This was a fun afternoon. The amount of wood ducks on this lake seem to get bigger every year. I’m assuming the numbers get smaller in the summer with some of them migrating north during the hot months. I usually don’t get over to Lakeland during the heat of the summer so I’m not sure.

“Farm livin is the life for me”

Every year I can’t wait to visit Sweetfield Farms in mid-May (although I missed 2020 for obvious reasons). Besides the sunflower fields, the farm has a lot of animals and activities going on during their festival.

They have rows of zinnias in all of the colors. You can pick them for $1 and I brought home a handful of them.

The one thing I noticed was there was a lot less butterflies here than last year. Maybe it was timing. Or lack of rain or too many pesticides? I was 2 weeks earlier than I went last year.

I’m not sure what these are but they were growing in the vegetable garden.

I know these yellow flowers are zucchinis. You could pick these as well and I took home a big one to saute in my spaghetti sauce.

I was watching the horses at the farm next door run around.

It’s always fun to feed the goats.

Just a boy and his turkey! He brought out some of the turkeys for people to pet. They were friendly although they don’t look like it.

But the main reason to come here is the sunflowers. I took a ton of pictures so more on those later.

SkyWatch Friday

Also linking to Your Moment Blog Hop.

Young birds are everywhere

I was heading home from Bot Tower Gardens in Lake Wales and stopped for a quick walk around a nearby lake. I’ve seen sandhill cranes here before and was hoping to find a family on my walk. Last year I found 2 families on this lake. Half way around I saw the parents feeding a older baby.  They were pretty far out in the marsh so these are extremely cropped up. Both parents stayed close to the baby and were feeding him.

On my way back to my car I noticed a bunch of loggerhead shrikes sitting on a trash can. After a few minutes I realized they must be almost grown babies because they were still begging to be fed. I think that’s the parent in the back on the right.

I stood behind a tree and watched them for a few minutes. They were bouncing around on the ground and then flying to a nearby small tree. That tiny bit of yellow at the end of the beak identifies them as juveniles. Adults would be all black. They were still screaming to be fed when I was walking away but it looks like they are starting to feed themselves.

Also linking to Tuesdays With A Twist 

A walk around a lake

The young black swans were almost grown up in late April although they were half the size of the parents and still fuzzy gray. I stopped by Lake Morton on the way home from Bot Tower Gardens and did a walk around the lake before heading home.

This black swan was still sitting on eggs. It looks like she had 3 of them.

There were lots of young mute swans at various ages as well.

This mute swan was checking out her eggs.

Some of the swans were still flirting.

There was a small flock of white pelicans still hanging around. I didn’t think they stayed here all year round but they should have headed north by now. I love those pink and orange beaks.

Even the laughing gulls were flirting. It’s weird to see gulls at this lake since it’s in the middle of the state but there’s always a lot of them here. Maybe because people feed the ducks and swans so the gulls are trying to get a free handout.

A baby moorhen walking around in the grass with those big feet.

I heard some noise near the top of the cypress trees and realized there was a great blue heron nest up there with some almost grown babies.

A turtle posing for me.

Inspire Me Monday

Adding two lifers to my list

Word gets around fast in the birding world when there’s a rare bird somewhere in the area. I had read on some bird sites Sunday night that there was a rare Kirkland’s warbler at Fort Desoto Park. It’s listed as one of the rarest warblers in the world. They winter in the Bahamas and spend summers in Michigan. I’ve never heard of one in Florida before. I got to the park just before 7:30 the next morning and there was already a small crowd staring at the bushes where he was seen the day before. No one had seen him yet. I was thinking this is probably going to be a needle in a haystack morning but then I saw Ed. Ed Rizer drove over from the Lakeland area and he is know for being able to find anything. I’m thinking if anyone can find this bird, Ed can. About 10 minutes later I looked around and Ed had disappeared. I’m thinking “He’s going to walk around and find that bird”. Not 5 minutes later I hear him yell “He’s over here”. The bird was in a different area but close by. Everyone ran over and we all started shooting. The bird was not skittish at all. Everyone stayed pretty far back (we all had our longest lenses with us). I spent about 15 minutes taken a ton of pictures of this bird. He stayed on the ground just outside of some bushes, feeding on bugs.

Later in the morning after walking around the park, I headed back to the area where the Kirkland’s was again. He had moved over to the mangrove bushes where we originally were looking. I left the crowds of people who had driven from all over Florida to see him.

There were a lot of other migrating birds but not a lot of variety. We found one rose breasted grossbeak. An ovenbird was on the trail and there were a lot of redstart sightings.

One bird I haven’t seen in several years was a black throated blue warbler.

There were a lot of Cape May warblers all over the park.

The 2nd bird I added to my list this morning was a black whiskered vireo. There was one seen several years ago here but I couldn’t find it. After looking for this guy all morning I was about to give up and leave and someone yelled out they found him. I snapped the above and headed home since it was way past lunch time.

This was a very productive morning in late April at the park. It still seems like there are less birds coming through every year.

A two park morning

I stopped at nearby Folly Farms to see if I could find some hummingbirds in the butterfly garden. I only found butterflies but there were lots of yellow ones which I don’t see often.

I caught this downy woodpecker with something in his beak. It looks like a cocoon. He pulled it out of a hole in the fence.

I stopped at Possum Branch Preserve on the way home. As I headed out on the trail I caught a limpkin flying by and an osprey overhead looking for fish.

The bunnies were still around long after Easter. This one was snacking in the mimosa groundcover which blankets the preserve in the spring.

This goes under “the one that got away”. This was the only shot I got of the boblonk. It was a female. I saw the pair several times from far away as they were flying off. I had seen them here several years ago but was bummed I couldn’t get a decent shot. Hopefully they will stop by next year.

The cedar waxwings were still there, hanging out on the far end of the preserve.

SkyWatch Friday 

Things in the yard

Blooming at the end of March in the front yard.

I was out watering my hanging baskets and saw the inchworm. I had to run in and get my camera and macro lens. Later that day I saw the green lizard and ran out to get shots of it. We have a ton of brown lizards and it’s rare to see a green one.

I’ve been seeing a lot of woodpeckers in the backyard. At one point there were 3 hanging out in different spots.

Occasionally I get a bluebird stopping by. They mostly hang out in my neighbor’s yard several townhomes down. These were all taken through the window. They are very skittish.

I was pretty excited to get a shot of a hooded warbler in the yard through the window. I saw one back in October as well but only got a blurry shot of him.I wonder if it’s the same one.

Pine warblers and northern parulas were stopping by the bird bath. I haven’t seen either in a while now so I hope they come back this fall.

Blue jays are always at the feeder.

A titmouse sits on top of the bluebird box. So far no birds have nested in it.

Turkeys were strutting by our windows in late March/early April. The first one was right in front of the window, the bottom 2 were taken across the golf course. I think these are 3 different ones since they have different face colors. I haven’t seen any in a while now. They may be nesting.

Down the street I found a juvenile night heron. Next year I’ll have to look for some nests early in the season.

Spring in central Florida

I love Bok Tower Gardens in the spring. It’s the only place I’ve seen orange sunflowers.

The pitcher plants are really cool as well.

Lots of things were blooming when I was there in late April. I just wish it was closer. It’s now almost 2 hours away, though worth the trip. I usually make several stops on the way home at other parks but it’s too hot to do that in the summer. 

Butterflies were everywhere but I mostly saw monarchs.

The birds were not plentiful but I did see some redstarts and great crested flycatchers.

And now I know why they call it a “cottontail” bunny.

Inspire Me Monday