It was drizzling on and off in early February when I first caught a glimpse of the baby great horned owls at Fort Desoto. The two babies huddled together and Mom stayed with them on the nest when I first got there.
After the rain stopped and the sun was trying to peak out, Mom flew over to a tree across the trail. Looks like she was trying to wake up and stretch.
The black hooded parakeets were flying by, being loud and annoying. The owl paid little attention to the parakeets buzzing around.
All of a sudden Mom sits up and looks at something close by the nest.
We all turned around to see what Mom was looking at. An eagle had quietly landed on a branch right near the nest. The eagle started screaming and Mom flew off the nest and chased the eagle away. It all happened so fast that I did not even got a shot of the confrontation.
After chasing the eagle off, Mom came back and landed on the nest. This time she stayed on the nest for a while. The baby popped his head up for a few seconds then went back to sleep. It’s going to be fun watching these guys grow up.
I had a quick walk at my local pond in early February. It was a quiet morning. Just me and the anhinga watching me take a picture of her.
The glossy ibis was still there. Maybe they’ll stay permanently.
A teeny critter flying around the clovers.
I stopped by another park close by to check on the owls. Mom was half asleep and there was no sign of babies. I had heard there were two but both were sleeping far down in the nest all morning (later there 3 babies so stay tuned for baby owl shots).
This squirrel had a mouthful as he was running across the parking lot.
The big oak tree where the owls nest. We had heard from a ranger that they were taking this tree down later this year. They say it’s getting rotten inside and could fall on a car or worse a person. Several trees nearby have come down in bad storms. It still looked solid to us. Everyone was freaking out and talking about signing a petition to keep the tree up but if it’s dangerous, it’s coming down. The ranger said the owls will find another tree.
The view near the parking area. There are a lot of great trees in this park.
One of my favorite trees in the park. It’s cool to see the limbs growing along the ground. The first shot is a pano taken with my phone.
My neighbors planted payaya trees on the side of the house and this little phoebe has been hanging out on the fence in front of the trees. I can see him when I’m working in the back bedroom (which for now is my “work from home” room). One day I got up and grabbed my camera and shot the above through the window. He’s gone for the summer now so I won’t see him again until September or October.
Even though cardinals are common, I don’t see them often at my feeder.
A red bellied woodpecker has been coming to the feeder every day. He’s picking out the peanuts. You can see his red belly in the first picture.
For several weeks we had a grumpy looking great blue heron on our dock or our neighbor’s dock.
This duck couple stops by every couple of days. They nap in our backyard.
A new bird to the backyard. I went outside to put food in the feeder early one morning in February and noticed a small bird sitting on my neighbor’s sailboat mast. Once in a while we get an osprey or red shoulder hawk sitting up there but this bird was much smaller. I realized it was a kestrel and ran inside and grabbed my camera and walked out on the dock and he was still sitting there while I took his picture. Then a crow came by and chased him off. I don’t see kestrels often, usually at Fort Desoto so I was surprised to see him here.
Starlings took over our tree right before dark.
Things in the backyard including some weird fungus growing in our mulch after a long rain. We often get small mushrooms in the grass after a rain but this orange thing was a first. Being the nerd that I am, I looked it up and it’s a columned stinkhorn. It’s common in Florida in mulch beds and it’s suppose to smell horrible if you break it. Luckily I left it there and it’s gone now. I wonder if an animal ate it.
I had just walked out on to the beach when these two oystercatchers flew by and then circled around and landed in front of me.
A juvenile ring billed gull flew by.
Something spooked the sandpipers and they all took off.
I found the pair of whimbrels that have been sighted hanging out nearby the gulf pier. They were not skittish at all as shell collectors walked right past them. Of course the willet was trying to get in on the pictures as well.
Students from nearby Eckard Collage have been volunteering to help with hooked birds on the fishing pier. They were just arriving with their gear on this cloudy windy day. There’s a huge problem with birds getting caught in fishing line. Not just at this pier but other busy piers as well. Pelicans, cormorants and gulls are just some of the birds that get hooked while diving close to the people fishing. If people cut the lines, the birds fly off with tangled fishing line and get trapped in mangroves and starve to death. The girls are here to help show the fishermen how to reel in the birds and take the line off or the hooks out.
Meanwhile up at the east beach turnaround, the kiteboarders were out in full force on this windy morning.
The trees were still bright red in early February, showing a pop of color across the pond.
The usual birds were still at Possum Branch Preserve. A grebe and a tricolored heron were easy to photograph.
We had a new visitor to the pond. A few glossy ibis showed up. It’s the first time I’ve seen a glossy ibis in this part of Pinellas county and the first I’ve heard of one being at this pond. They were pretty skittish but one let me get some good shots when I hid behind the tree. He was busy eating the pond bugs.
I stopped by a nearby park to see if the great horned owls were still nesting. It was quiet this morning and the other photographers there thought there were babies but no one has seen them yet. I was thinking it was a little early anyway. When I got home and cropped up the shot of the mom sleeping in the nest, I could just make out some white fuzz under her chin so there was at least one baby in the nest. It was going to be a while before we really got to see anything.
Dad was on a branch farther up the tree.
Some cute little squirrels were hiding in a tree nearby.
More shots to come of the baby owls and those cute little squirrels from a later trip.
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.