One of the great horned owl parents keeping an eye on the nest.
The baby great horned owls are very cute at this age. They were very curious and would bob their heads when a mockingbird or osprey flew by. They spent a long time looking around and then finally facing Mom in the other tree. They eventually dozed off.
Mom didn’t move all morning.
These were all taken in mid-February with my zoom lens and extremely cropped.
On a Saturday morning in February, I walked out on beach trail and saw this massive osprey nest above. It must have been here for years but on this particular morning, I noticed how much bigger it had gotten. Maybe it was sinking in and the osprey kept adding to it. On Sunday, someone had posted on the Facebook Fort Desoto site that the nest had completely collapsed and fallen to the ground. The osprey couple did not let this get the best of them. They spent an entire week bringing sticks back to the nest, starting from scratch. They were seen all over the area bringing sticks back (although if they were that smart they would just fly down to the ground underneath the tree and bring the same sticks back up). The next Saturday morning I went back out on the beach and saw the below. The birds had already built a pretty good size nest.
Even a week later, they were still flying in with sticks. They didn’t want to waste anymore time. As I was leaving and heading back to the parking lot, I took one last glance back and saw they were mating.
Farther down the trail, this guy was just starting breakfast and didn’t seem to mind me standing on the trail watching him eat.
The star of the EarthQuest raptor program at Raptor Fest in early February was an Eurasian eagle owl. (See earlier post about the festival here.) He’s much bigger than the common local owls we have here, the great horned owl and the barred owl. This one flew from the trainer to the picnic bench and sat for a few minutes taking in his surroundings. He then took off for a stump in the middle of the field.
“Get a good shot Lady!”
“You call that a snack?”
“I need a magnifying glass.”
“Wait, I see a bigger snack over at that perch.”
“I’ll come back for that tiny morsel later.”
The trainer had placed a piece of food on the stump. The owl looked at it but took off and flew over to the perch at the front of the field.
He was so big I couldn’t fit him in with his wings spread. He was absolutely beautiful and everyone was enamored with him.
Sailboats far across the bay. The above was taken with my 300mm lens. The below was taken with my phone so you can see how far away they were.
What a perfect winter morning in early February. It was sunny and 72 degrees. I stopped by the Safety Harbor fishing pier before heading home after my walk and the park and pier were packed with people hanging out. There was a kiteboarder skimming across the bay in front of the fishing pier and someone flying a kite next to the pier. People were out walking their dogs and kids were playing in the field along the water. Sailboats were cruising by. This was our early spring. Soon it will be too hot and no one will be here but the skeeters and the pigeons
Pigeons in the park. They don’t get a lot of respect but they are really pretty when the sun hits those iridescent feathers.
A pelican flying into the mangroves next to another one that was napping.
White pelicans flying high up over the fishing pier.
A juvenile blue heron looking for food in the muck at low tide.
I had heard about Raptor Fest at Boyd Hill Park for several years but never went. I’m not keen on going to big festivals at my favorite parks. I’d rather go when it’s quiet and not crowded. This year peer pressure got the best of me when I had several friends saying you have to go this year. I got there early and got a good spot for the Earthquest program in the open field. Earthquest is a non-profit environmental education program that introduces the public to different raptors, all of which have come from rehabilitation situations that cannot be released in the wild. They gave examples of how we impact the raptors lives and ways to lessen that impact. Above is a hawk, I think a red-tailed hawk which is not rare here but not as common as the red shoulder hawk. He was to fly into the tree and then fly to the perch in front. He flew to the tree but never made it to the perch and took off across the park. He eventually came back but everybody got a good laugh at the handler’s expense.
Above is a Harris’s Hawk which I had never seen before.
Black vulture and turkey vultures, both of which I see a lot of around here. One thing I learned is that black vultures find their food by sight, which is why they soar high in the sky. They have amazing sight. Turkey vultures (with the red face and big nose) find their food by smell, which is why they are mostly seen on the ground.
The above condor stole the show. He’s an andean condor but we learned about California condors and their brink of extinction as well.This guy had so much personality. He was supposed to hop up on the perch to get his food but he showed the handler there was an easier way (although I suspect it was planned all along).
A golden eagle which you can’t find in Florida.
Several local bird rescue and rehabilitation groups were also there with injured birds to get close to. Most were missing a wing or an eye.
My friends were right, it was a fun morning. Crowded but fun to watch the kids see these great birds up close. It was also a good morning to practice flight photography as some of the birds flew from tree to perch. There were tons of big cameras and lenses there. Can’t wait until next year’s in early February. I also got some good pictures of an eurasian eagle owl in flight which I’ll post later.