Road trip to Central Florida

A lone female painted bunting was eating at the feeder near the pond.

A catbird on St. Frances’s head.

Your basic mockingbird shot.

There must have been a robin convention going on. They were everywhere at the park.

Really cool roots on the trail.

Pictures of the carillon tower  at Bok Tower Gardens I took with my phone.

After I left Bok Tower Gardens I stopped by Lake Parker in Lakeland to get out and walk around for a few minutes before heading back to Tampa. It was a quiet afternoon with only a few critters near the boat ramp.

Next to Lake Parker is a huge soccer field. There was no one playing on the field that day but I’m sure on a weekend there are tons of kids running around. There were light posts along the fields and in between them with nests on them. All of them had osprey nesting on top except for one. One light post right at the entrance to the field had an owl nest. The sun was not in my favor that afternoon but I was able to get the above. There were two almost grown owlets on the nest with Mom but one was hiding on the other side of Mom. On nights and weekends these fields are packed with screaming kids playing ball. I guess the owls don’t mind.

A few things I saw on my central Florida trip to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales and Lake Parker in Lakeland in early March.

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Be still my heart

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I had heard that the barred owl couple had two babies that were doing well. I finally made it over to Lettuce Lake in late April. I was thinking it was going to be close to impossible to find them. I was hoping they were in the same area as last year. No sign of them there so I decided to walk around the park for a while. I then saw some men on a tiny dirt trail through the swamp and headed that way. People would say “Are you crazy, heading into the swamp towards some men?” but I recognized them and I knew they knew where the action was. We stood in silence for a while watching the mom feed the baby owl. They said they had not seen the other baby that morning. After a while, they left to go find another bird. For an hour, I stood behind a tree in the swamp watching. I could see people on the main trail going by through the trees. I kept looking around high up in the trees for the other baby. I was going to leave and heard a sound like a sneeze right over my head.  That other baby bird had been right over my head the entire time. I’m surprised he didn’t poop on me. I finally headed home since I had sweated off my two coats of DEET.  The above are a little fuzzy. They were very far away in the shade and these are extremely cropped.

A beautiful view from the nest.

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Napping on the nest.

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The great horned owl mom and baby were not very active the morning I stopped by. There’s a younger baby behind the mom but I only saw a tiny bit of fuzz pop up.

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The osprey in the area didn’t have eggs yet.

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Yellow bellied sapsucker has stopped for a rest during spring migration.

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He was trying to nap on the tree.

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Pelicans diving for fish out in the bay.

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This is the view from the owl’s nest. It would be pretty amazing to wake up to this every morning, even on a cloudy day.

Perfect morning at Fort Desoto in early April.

Skywatch Friday

Last goodbye to the baby owls

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The youngest baby owl was high up in a tree. He didn’t get there by flying. He was hopping and flapping from branch to branch.

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He was watching mom who was close by in another tree. Mom was trying to get him to fly over.

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He was very hesitant to move.

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He kept flapping his wings which made everyone think he would finally take the plunge.

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I think he was still practicing.

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I got to the park around 9am back in mid-March. I had heard the baby owls were already moving around. There were a handful of people standing around waiting for the youngest baby to fly, at least to a nearby tree. The oldest baby had already fledged and was close by somewhere but no one could find him. Mom kept flying from tree to tree close by where the baby was watching. I think she was trying to get him to follow her. I stood around for an hour waiting with everyone else. Finally, I left and walked around the rest of the park. I came back two hours later and the baby owl was still sitting in the same spot. At that point I was hungry so I headed for home. I did hear that the youngest finally did take off although I don’t think it was that day. They are all grown up now. The parents are once again empty nesters.

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The palm warbler was guarding the sign at the owl’s nest. The area was fenced off while the nesting was going on. It has since been taken down. Until next year!

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Watching a baby barred owl

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My first encounter with a baby barred owl. Although he’s almost grown up, he still has a little fuzz. This bird just stole my heart. I had been at Lettuce Lake park for almost two hours and was walking back to the parking area when a very nice guy just said “Hey, I just saw an owl fly into that tree right there.” I had looked everywhere in that area when I first got there looking for the owls and didn’t find them. I walked down the path and at first I saw the parent that had just flown in. I was watching it for a few minutes when I noticed a few trees over was the baby. Looking right at me. He was a little ways into the woods so these are all cropped up.

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I thought he was curious about something on the tree. He hunched down getting closer to the branch.

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He then closed his eyes and took a short nap right there. I walked around the area for a while. I saw a hummingbird go by me and looked around for a long time trying to find it. It went deeper in the woods so I lost it.

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I came back over to the napping owl and he was just waking up. A loud hawk flew overhead and he looked up to see it.

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Then he was fully awake.

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I don’t know if this was a sneeze or the end of a yawn but he made a funny face.

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He started investigating around the branch.

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He was probably thinking “What are these big yellow things?”

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“Hey, I can hold something with these big yellow things.” It looked like he was eating a leaf.

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The parent was a few trees down keeping an eye on things. I finally left an hour later than I should have but what a great way to spend that hour.

What started out as a boring birding trip ended up being one of the best times I’ve had in a while. Watching that cute baby owl was the highlight of the trip. As I stood on the trail watching the owl deep in the woods, people were walking by heading to the canoe launch. Everyone would ask me what I was looking at. I would show them the owl up in the tree. A few people got really excited. A handful said “Yeh, I see owls here all the time.” It’s funny how different people react to birds.

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Baby great horned owl at Fort Desoto Park

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My first sight of the baby owl. Sitting in front of mom with his mouth wide open. He only popped up for a moment then tucked back down again under mom. I have to say, the morning I was there, there were a lot of photographers standing around (behind the fence) watching. Everyone was very quiet and barely moving. Just standing still, watching and waiting for the baby to make an appearance. I’ve since read there are two babies. Both seem to be doing well.

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Laughing gulls on the beach.

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Ruddy turnstone eating something squishy.

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Herring gull with a fish.

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Reddish egret doing his usual morning dance.

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I was at the fishing pier when I saw this pelican flying towards me. I realized he had a fish in his beak. After I cropped it up, I could see it was a shark. It was missing the body so the head must have been thrown out by a fisherman and this pelican caught the prize and took off.

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This was a common sight that morning. I think these were blue wing teals flying overhead.

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It was a perfect morning in late January for a walk on Fort Desoto beach.

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Saying goodbye to grown up baby owls

I found one of the baby owls high up in the tree scratching an itch.

The older sibling was even higher up sleeping. I found him through an opening in the branches.

Wood duck floating down the river by the owl tree.

A hawk flies by.

Butterflies and flowers are now everywhere.

After my trip to Fort Desoto to see the new owl family, I decided to stop by Kapok Park on the way home to see the two baby owls there one last time. I had heard they were flying around from branch to branch and really hard to find now that they have left the nest. Soon they’ll leave the park for good. I got there hoping to find them one last time. I kept looking high up in the tree and finally found the first one when it moved to scratch. I decided to walk around the boardwalk for a while and walking back I saw the other owl high up through the branches sitting in the sun. They grow up so fast. Now that they are grown up I’ll probably have the park all to myself. Just me, the dog walkers and joggers. There’s still a lot of great stuff there even without the owls. Now that it’s light after work, I’ll head there for a walk before heading home often.

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