A storm was coming in

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).

SkyWatch Friday

A new preserve close by

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.

My Corner of the World

 

Rainbows in the woods

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.

More pictures from Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

I pulled over and got out for these guys. The fulvous whistling ducks are rare here in central Florida. I’ve only seen them here and rarely at Circle B Bar Reserve (although they could also be hiding out in lesser known smaller ponds).  Although they are not as pretty as black bellied whistling ducks, they are still pretty fun to watch. A section of the marsh along the drive had a big flock of them and the ducks were busy feeding and chasing each other around. It seemed like everyone wanted to be in someone else’s spot. They were easy to spot, making all of that loud whistling noise.

Along the back side of the drive, things got quiet. Mostly coots and moorhens before you leave the drive. I was out on a rare Friday off so the traffic through the drive wasn’t too bad.

SkyWatch Friday

A new bird that looks like an old bird

I had heard of the gray headed swamphen that you could find down in south Florida but hadn’t heard until recently that they are moving into central Florida. This bird originates from southeast Asia. The audubon thinks that many escaped captivity from a zoo during Hurricane Andrew years ago. It looks a lot like the purple gallinule but has an all red nose and his legs are pink vs. the yellow legs on a purple gallinule. Two had been seen at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive so I headed over in late December.  The pair were easily seen right at the beginning of the drive. I pulled over and jumped out the car and walked over and spent a while watching them. It felt freezing this morning. I had a warm hoody on with sweats but had not brought my gloves since I didn’t think it would be that cold. I finally got back in the car and the temp read 39 degrees on my car. It had gotten colder since driving up from Tampa. What was I thinking?? Not prepared for this cold morning.

I managed to catch one of the swamphens catching a tiny fish. He walked over to the vegetation and ate his breakfast there.

He kept cruising back to the water, running off any other birds in his way including a grackle and a coot.

It was interesting to watch him pull up the vegetation with his foot and then use his foot to eat it. He used both feet to do this. I’m assuming he’s eating the seed pods in the water.  The couple were busy feeding for a while. They eventually ventured farther in the reeds and disappeared after an hour of feeding.

The morning did warm up and I was able to get out along the drive to enjoy the beautiful morning out. Just like the comical purple gallinules, the swamphen was fun to watch.

Swamphen on the left and a purple gallinule on the right. Subtle differences are the all red beak (the purple has a light blue spot on his head) and the legs are different colors.

My Corner of the World

Flying flashes of green

There are now so many wild parakeets in the St. Pete area that I can hear them screaming as they fly overhead at just about any park in the area. We have a small flock of monk parakeets living in Tampa near our neighborhood. I hear them screaming when I’m sitting at the red light before getting on the highway. On a recent Saturday I was at Crescent Lake Park walking around (hoping to see the otters there) when they came flying in right into the trees in front of me. They nest near the baseball field at the park so you can almost always see them here. It looked like they were chewing on sticks up in the tree. Many of them were eating the acorns on the ground as well. They spent quite a while feeding before all taking off.

I looked down at the lake and the baby ducks on the drain cover were looking at me like “why are you watching those crazy loud birds?”

Two parks in one morning.

A northern parula going for a mulberry at Possum Brand Preserve. This is one of two trees there but only one blooms in the fall.

I’m not sure what the second picture is. I thought it was a red eyed vireo like the 3rd one but the yellow around the eyes is throwing me off.

Yellow-rumped warblers are pretty easy to spot. Mostly drab colors but that pop of yellow on his backside gives him away.

A house wren with a teeny snack in his beak. These guys are usually pretty shy and stay deep in the bushes but this one popped out for a minute.

The grebes are always looking up. Ready to take a dive if a hawk flies by.

The anhinga was across the pond but I managed to catch him with his catch.

After leaving Possum Branch I headed for a quick walk at Chesnut Park. I found a purple gallinule at the end of the dock there. Last year a pair had babies there in the spring so hoping for another crop this year.

I spotted this great blue heron with breakfast.

At the beginning of January, if finally looked like winter at the pond at Chesnut Park. The bald cypress leaves had fallen and blanketed the pond with brown and orange.

At Possum Brand Preserve, some of the cypress trees still had their leaves but they were already brown.

SkyWatch Friday

An interesting morning at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park

It’s always fun to see lots of robins in the trees. We only see them here briefly in the winter. The trees were full of them at Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park in late December.

A few of the resident birds. The caracara in the bottom picture is a not a bird you see in this area. They are mostly in south central Florida so it’s interesting to see them here. This one had some type of injury. Possibly missing wing or vision.

The otters were being so cute this morning, although seeing those teeth makes you realize they can be pretty tough. They were feeding in the pond right up against the boardwalk. I love watching them eating while swimming on their backs. That’s a real talent.

I’m sure this happens more than we see out in the wild. The alligator was not fed this bird by the staff. I missed the early action but people saw him grabbing this bird. Based on the pink legs and white wings with a little black, thinking it’s a white ibis that got too close. The alligator was all the way across the pond in the first shot but was swimming fast away from the other alligators who were chasing him trying to steal his snack. He then heading into the far corner right in front of me. Sad but circle of life.

My Corner of the World

Lake Morton and Circle B Bar Reserve

I do have sad news. Morty, the wild turkey that had been living at Lake Morton for a few months was found dead in the lake. He made it long past Thanksgiving and Christmas. I haven’t heard what had caused it but that’s a tough lake to live on. So many aggressive swans and muscovy ducks there. No one ever said where he came from, he just showed up at the lake and stayed for a while.  I had taken the above in early December.

Ducks were already getting frisky in early December even though we still had a cold spell to get through.

This morning it was dark and cloudy and I was standing at the lake watching the ducks when an eagle fly by. Since the lake was quiet, I left and headed over to Circle B Bar Reserve.

It was a quiet morning. A swamp sparrow came out from the bushes and the trail was full of blue gray gnatcatchers as usual.

Nothing new on the trail this morning. It wasn’t until a visit in late January that I saw a new bird but more on that later.

I did see this mom and her two almost grown kids just walking down the trail. They would stop and sniff into the bushes but then pop back out on the trail and continue to cruise. Raccoon butts are so cute! They stayed in front of me on the trail for a while.

Even though it was quiet it was still a good walk.  I didn’t stay too long, in by 8am and out by 10am.

image-in-ing: weekly photo linkup

Our World Tuesday Graphic

Whistle while you work (or play)

I spent some time at Circle B Bar Reserve watching the black bellied whistling ducks in late November. Just sitting on the trail for a while watching them go about their day. There were hundreds of them out in the marsh and they were very loud. Talking to each other, flying in and out. I love hearing the sound of their whistles (almost like a wheezing) as they moved about. I wonder what they are saying. “I see a hawk, everybody run.” or “You’re in my spot.” or “The bugs are better over here.” or “Mom, can I go play with Junior’s family?”. The ones with the gray beaks are juveniles.

On the other side of the trail was the lake with the cypress trees in the middle.