The Florida Botanical Gardens was very quiet in late January (as it should be). It was cool out and was really looking like winter. Only a blue jay and brown thrasher made an appearance.
Heading over to nearby Largo Nature Preserve, I happen to see some drama going on with the muscovy ducks. A male intruder was trying to mate with a female who had a mate right beside her. The boyfriend tried unsuccessfully to run off the intruder. After the intruder mated and left, the female’s mate mated her as well. She was having a rough morning.
A pileated woodpecker pair were doing some damage to this utlity pole. Maybe working on a new nest? You can see the male has a red stripe on his cheek.
A pop of yellow from a yellow rumped warbler. After a quick walk around Possum Branch on Saturday morning in mid-January, I headed home but stopped by the Safety Harbor fishing pier for a quick walk on the pier.
It was a quiet morning at the fishing pier.
The bright red beaks on the ibis stuck out on this drab morning.
The grackles were picking snacks off the oyster bed.
Pigeons are like snowflakes. No two are alike. There’s always a large flock of them at the Safety Harbor fishing pier. It was interesting to see how many different color patterns they had.
After walking around Lake Dan Preserve in north Tampa, it started to get foggy on the drive home. It wasn’t foggy on the way up so it was weird driving back in the fog. I always love stopping on a quiet rode and taking pictures of the cows (one day I will get that shot of the cattle egret sitting on top of the cow) and I wasn’t in a big hurry to get home.
No, none of the above are the new bird. These are old birds I saw before I found the new one. I had heard about a northern harrier being seen pretty consistently at Circle B Bar Reserve for a while but I was trying not to chase new birds since I don’t seem to have much luck finding them after everyone else has seen them. Finally after several weeks of hearing about this bird I headed over for a walk fully expecting not to see it. All of the usual birds could be found as I walked down the trail. A red winged blackbird, a turkey vulture, a red shoulder hawk and even a cooper’s hawk that was trying to hide in the trees.
The usual birds were flying close by. A night heron and a great blue heron.
A common sight in the winter at the reserve, black bellied whistling ducks cruising around.
Across the lake, I could see 2 eagles sitting up to the right of their big nest.
A little blue heron found a worm in the water.
Here he is. My first northern harrier. I wasn’t standing there alone. There were at least 20 other people in the area looking for the bird. He showed up far across the marsh and then slowly started cruising towards the trail.
He flew by several times and then perched on a dead tree right in front of the trail. It’s his face that makes him different. From the side he almost has an owl-like face. Harriers are not extremely rare in central Florida but this is the first one I’ve heard of at any of the main parks so it was easy to find him. He was only here for the winter but maybe he’ll come back next year. After digging around in some older posts, I realized that I had seen a harrier back in 2016 at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. The shot was a far away blurry pin dot shot so I’m not really counting that sighting (am I?).
It was a beautiful morning in late January. The sun hadn’t come up over the trees yet and you could still see the moon across the marsh. It was so quiet and only a few other people farther up on the trail. The black bellied whistling ducks were flying back and forth across the trail, heading far off down the marsh. I took a few deep breaths and was so glad I had set my alarm to get here earlier than I usually do.
As I walked down the trail, birds and ducks were constantly flying overhead.
You could still see the cobwebs along the edge of the trail.
Heading down Marsh Rabbit Run, I heard them calling as they started flying towards me and was able to catch the sandhill cranes flying by.
The marsh was all brown from the cold but the sky was bright blue.
There were a lot of non-breeding male indigo buntings at Felts Preserve the morning I was there in late December. It was cold that morning as I sat in the bushes waiting for them to come to the feeders (just under 40 degrees is cold for us central Florida folks). They were all fighting over the best feeding spots. Occasionally a painting bunting would pop out of the bushes but most of the birds there that morning were indigo buntings.
Either a very young bunting or a female.
There were a few other birds as well including doves and a cardinal.
Splattered blue on the leaves. This guy had a little more blue on his head.
A non-breeding male goldfinch also made an appearance. I never see goldfinches in the parks near my house. The only time I’ve seen bright yellow breeding ones are during my visits to Atlanta in the spring.
Storms were coming on a Saturday morning in mid-February. I still had to get out so I headed down to Fort Desoto and brave the weather (to really look for some owls). The clouds were starting to roll in when I stopped at the bay fishing pier. The wind was blowing so hard that there were no one out fishing. Walking halfway out I saw a common loon all alone. I was hoping he would get closer but he stayed pretty far out.
A great blue heron flying in and landing in front of me.
A cormorant sitting in front of the bridge.
White ibis fly by in front of the clouds.
I headed up to north beach to look for shorebirds but only kiteboarders were there. The sun was trying to peak out but it didn’t for long.
In the other direction, a kite surfer was struggling to stay up.
Back at the gulf pier, the storms were coming in from the south and it started to sprinkle so I pulled my umbrella out of my backpack and walked around a little while longer before heading home in the rain. Even on a dark cloudy day this is a magically place (unless you are just looking to get tan).
I had only recently heard about Lake Dan Preserve through a hiking group. It’s only 30 minutes north so I decided to check it out in early February. It was a colder morning but the sun was warming up. The parking lot was small and hawk was sitting in a tree right over my car. There wasn’t a lot of birds when I first got there. Only a few yellow-rumped warblers. Probably because that hawk was sitting there out in the open. I hit the trail and walked across the bridge over the lake.
Out on the edge of the lake I could see deer getting a drink.
As I got farther down the trail, I came across a deer that was standing right in front of me. She stared at me for a few seconds before taking off across the field. She did stop and look back for a few seconds before heading into the woods. There were a lot of deer up here roaming around. All females that I saw this morning.
The only thing I didn’t like about the trail here was that most of it was soft sand which didn’t help my hip. Even walking on the edge didn’t help. I could feel my hip starting to hurt. I really need hard dirt or paved trails for now to keep my hip from going back out again so I didn’t walk as much as I would have liked to.
I found this interesting swamp pond about half way on my walk on a side trail. It was very quiet and I could barely make out deer getting water on the far end. I’m sure lots of critters use this instead of the big lake close by. It was kind of cool to be out here in the quiet and the bald cypress trees in the middle made it feel like winter. It’s amazing what you can find a half hour out of Tampa. First shot is out of the camera, the second I added a filter to make it look more like winter. I wasn’t sure which one I liked better.
It was a beautiful afternoon in late January and I was able to get outside for a little while on a late Friday before sunset. I jumped in the car and headed over to Dunedin, thinking I would stop by the fishing pier and then go over for a quick walk at the causeway. I was snapping the shot of the water when I turned around and noticed the two osprey that had built a nest on top of the building next to the pier. I was pretty excited to see the camera up on the top but when I got home and searched it, you could only see over the building so the camera wasn’t look down on the nest. Would have been fun to watch that nest up close.
I found this cute little boat in the marina that I hadn’t seen before.
I headed over to the beach area on the causeway and saw the sailboat that has washed up back in November during Hurricane ETA. I had seen many pictures of it posted on the internet, people climbing and playing on it. They had it roped off which didn’t make for a pretty picture. I have since heard that it was hauled away a few weeks after I took this. The state of these old damaged sailboats are sad. At some point years ago, someone paid a lot of money for this boat. Probably used it at first. Then it sits out there for a long time and becomes a hazard. The owner, if they had insurance, probably just collected and moved on. Many people with these old boats let their insurance lapse and the city pays for the haul. Not sure if they can sell them for scrap.
On a sad note, at the end of the causeway, a dead dolphin had washed up on shore hours before I arrived. Everyone was standing around watching the marine life rescue team (with Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where Winter the flipperless dolphin resides) get him ready to be taken away. They will do a necropsy on him to find out the cause of death. Was he old? Sick? Eaten something bad? Hit with a boat? Swallowed too many fish hooks from stealing fish from the fishermen at the pier? So many questions. Everyone was watching from a respectful distance. It was sad to watch these volunteers do their work.
I was in the mood for a road trip but didn’t want to go anywhere that I would have to walk far. I headed down to a small Audubon preserve about an hour south of Tampa. There’s a small preserve run by the Audubon Society that has feeders set up with a blind in the middle of a neighborhood (mostly horse farms and small cow pastures). It was 40 degrees when I got there early in the morning in late December. No one else was around. I got to the blind and sat for a few minutes thinking “Is it too cold for the birds?”. I walked around the small preserve for a while and when I came back to the blind a half hour later I just sat on the bench. I was about to give up when a saw a flash of color head to the feeders. Several male painted buntings and young blue buntings started coming to feeder. One was sitting on an empty feeder waiting his turn at the full feeder. I think this is the most painted buntings I’ve seen in one place. I ended up spending an hour watching these beautiful birds in the quiet.
Walking out of the preserve, I noticed this tree had turned bright orange. Yes, fall was starting to hit in late December.