All kinds of critters.

Tussock moth caterpillars are fairly common in late March but I’ve never seen this many at one place. I usually only see one or two. At the Florida Botanical Gardens the boardwalk was full of them. I tried to keep my distance as I was taking pictures of them. While they are pretty and cool looking, they can leave a nasty rash if you brush up against them. I kept checking to make sure one hadn’t fallen on my backpack.

They turn into these coccoons before turning into a moth. The leaves on the palm trees around the boardwalk were full of these as well.

White peacock butterflies are very common but I think they are pretty.

After leaving the botanical gardens I headed to nearby McGough Nature Park to look for migrating birds. I first stopped at the turtle pond and saw two turtles climbing a tree. They got about half way up before heading back down.

I also watched this raccoon climb up a tree and then head back down.

The bottle brush trees near the entrance were in full bloom. I stopped to snap this butterfly and then heard the faint sound of hummingbirds whizzing by.

There were 4 hummingbirds feeding on the two trees. They were only feeding on the back side that hangs over the lake so it was a challenge to get them feeding. They would rest high up on the front and then go back to feed.

After standing there for an hour I only got the above two shots of them feeding. It was very frustrating to watch them fly to the back of the trees and disappear.

They have several resident injured birds that live on the property, all taken care of by volunteers. This barred owl was watching his person talking to him. He seemed to understand every word she was saying. They were sitting outside in front of the turtle pond.

It was still a little early for migrating birds so I didn’t find any of them.

Getting frisky in the spring.

You know it’s spring when the mute swans at Lake Morton in Lakeland start mating. I was walking around the lake and saw this pair swimming around together and the fun started right in front of me.

I’m assuming she put up a struggle because it went on forever and at first I thought he was going to drown her. They floated close to a pair of black swans and the black swans seemed disturbed by it.

I thought she got away but he went after her again. At this point the black swans started to chase them and then she kept swimming into them. After a few seconds the black swans ducked out.

It felt like it went on forever, much longer than I’ve ever seen before but it was probably only a minute or two. The male finally got his way and they split up.

They both started to preen and bath and of course the male stood up showing off.

Dancing red and pink

I found one of the reddish egrets feeding in a small lagoon out on the beach at Fort Desoto in mid-March. It wasn’t too hard to find. There were several other photographers already there. He was dancing around looking for fish and was quite entertaining for a while. They use their wings to cast a shadow on the water so they can see the liffle fishies better. The color on their faces are brighter this time of year during mating season.

I started heading north on the beach and saw another one fishing. His beak wasn’t quite as pink as the first one but he was still beautiful.

Several red breasted mergansers were also fishing and one got too close to the egret. The egret did his best eagle imitation and the merganser scooted off.

It’s easy to spend all morning watching these guys dancing around in the water.

I eventually pulled myself away from the egrets and headed for a long walk up the beach. It was super low tide and you could walk out forever. The beach looks pink when the tide is this low (assuming from the algea in the sand).

SkyWatch FridayFriendship Friday

Rainbows on the trail.

Ladies first. I first saw a female painted bunting walking down the trail at Circle B Bar Reserve in mid-March. I was thinking even if I didn’t see a male one, the female is still a beauty!

Then this guy flew in front of me and stole the show. The male painted buntings are a rainbow of colors. They don’t even look real. This one was very accomodating, eating seed right along the trail.

He was gorging on the seed. I just stood there for a while and didn’t move.Luckily no one was coming up behind me on the trail to scare it away. I had my 400mm lens and these are cropped so he wasn’t that close but close enough for me to get some good looks.

A little farther down the trail I saw another one.

A third one popped up but he stayed farther in the reeds and a little bit more hidden. What a great morning this was. It’s rare for me to see one but to see three was a treat. They stayed on the trails for a while. I went back later and saw them again.

My Corner of the World

Critters in Lakeland in early March

Out at Circle B Bar Reserve in early March, I was greeted by a tricolored heron and a kingfisher, both flying by.

Green herons are common along the trail but I can’t help but take more pictures of them.

I saw this great blue heron high up in a tree doing a mating dance. They look straight up and bob up and down. It looks like he, or she, was sitting on a nest already. I guess she was ready to start a family.

Here comes another one. Maybe a looking for a mate? She did not want any part of him as she screamed at him.

He flew around in a circle and still came back to land on the same tree. She chased him off so maybe that wasn’t her boyfriend.

I stopped by Lake Morton near downtown Lakeland on the way home. This male black necked swan had already started a family. I saw him walking over to the nest and his mate, a mute swan, left. He checked the eggs out and then sat on them while she went out for a walk (or to look for a snack). The black neck swan had a mate, also a black necked, for several years before she was hit by a car in early 2020.  They were the only pair so now the lone male has taken a mute swan as a mate so it will be interesting to see how those babies turn out.

A blue winged teal taking a nap.

I’ve been told the gray swans here are offspring of mute swans and black swans that had paired up. There are several on the lake.

An anhinga posing for me.

The baby black swans are growing up fast. They looked so cute cuddling together.

More backyard birds in January

Goldfinches in my backyard! Several came to the bird bath for a couple of days. They were in their non-breeding winter colors so not a lot of yellow but they were still beautiful.

Other birds at the bird bath were not so unusual. All of these hanging out include a pine warbler, a yellow throated warbler, a black and white warbler and a catbird.

There are at least 2 Carolina wrens in our backyard most days. They spend a lot of time scratching around in the leaves.

Recent visitors to the feeder are pine warblers and titmouse.

These 2 doves have been sitting on the bird bath right before dark for several weeks now. It’s hard to get shots of them in the almost dark.

All pictures taken through the window.

Osprey day at Fort Desoto Park

I was up and out the door while it was still dark, heading for Fort Desoto Park. The sun was just coming up when I got there so I stopped at the East Beach turnaround to snap a few pictures with my phone before heading to the beach to look for birds.

I was out on the beach taking pictures of the reddish egret when I noticed this osprey coming in toward the beach with some dead branches in his talons. Looks like he was heading for a nest.

There are so many osprey at the park now. They are everywhere and are either adding to the nest or sitting on eggs. The one above had a half eaten fish and was flying in circles around me. It think he was being chased by another osprey.

This one was being harassed by a mockingbird while trying to eat his fish.

There are two different nest fairly close to each other and they were both screaming non-stop.

This  nest is on top of the old smoke stack. She was constantly screaming as well.

Hopefully there will be lots of baby osprey soon.

SkyWatch FridayFriendship Friday

 

Flying across the trail

I walked out on the trail at Circle B Bar Reserve in mid-March and saw this. Lots of wading birds out in a small pond that had developed from the recent rain.

So many birds feeding in this one spot. Great egrets, snowy egrets, cattle egrets, great blue herons, wood storks, spoonbills and one large sandhill crane.

All of a sudden the sandhill crane took off across the marsh.

Glossy ibis were flying across the trail.

Spoonbills were flying in and out of the pond all morning. At one point one flew so close I couldn’t fit him all in and he was carrying a stick. He must have been heading for a nest.

Typical sight along the trail. A great blue heron in a dead snag.

Far out in the lake, a great egret sits alone.

My Corner of the World

Fort Desoto Park in early March

I hadn’t been down to Fort Desoto Park since the middle of December so I was due for a trip in early March. The first stop at the park was North beach to look for shorebirds and reddish egrets. Most of the shorebirds were scarse this morning but I did see a cute little piping plover.

I was trying to focus on the laughing gull flying with something in his beak and realized you can see the Don Cesar Hotel far away on St. Pete beach. It’s hard to miss that big pink hotel.

This willet had a great snack and was trying to hide it from the other willets.

 

One last shot of the old bay pier and the old iconic yellow bait shop. It’s all being torn down now and replaced with a new pier.

Some of the shorebirds that were hanging around the small beach next to the big fishing pier. The willets and sanderlings were trying to sleep. At some point something spooked them and off they went before flying in a circle and landing back again. That common tern had been taking a bath and flew into the sleeping guys to catch a nap.

It was windy on the fishing pier and the usual birds were having trouble with their hair.

Someone caught a fish although it looks too small to eat.

I was out on the end of the fishing pier and could see this great egret with a big snack in his beak,

Things in the backyard

Some of the birds in the yard in late January and early February. I’m always looking out the window when I’m at home. I noticed the great egret creeping around the tree but he went behind the bushes when he caught the lizard.

I’ve seen several random turkeys roaming around the neighbhorhood and was wondering if they were all the same turkey. These were across the fairway from our house. The top one had a gray head (maybe the juvenile from this past summer) and the bottom shot has a red head. These were taken the same week.

The usual bigger birds in the backyard include a cardinal, blue jay and a crow that’s been hanging around for a few weeks.

There’s always a Carolina wren in the backyard. Sometimes we have two.

Other occasional birds at the feeder are titmouse and woodpeckers.

We had several bluebirds bouncing around the backyard one afternoon. They would catch some caterpillars on the ground and fly up to the top of the bird feeder to eat them.

We’ve had parulas up in our trees for a while now. I hear their shrill all day long. I was able to catch the male (top shot) in a lower branch singing away one afternoon. The bottom shot is either a juvenile or maybe the female. She came down to the bird bath.

A few other things in the yard. That spider looks like he has a smiley face on his back. The gardenia bush outside our front door has been blooming and it smells so nice when you walk out the door. I went out and got these with my macro lens. All other pictures where taken through the windows.