Road trip across the state

In late July I headed out to the Raptor Center of Tampa Bay in Brandon to transport some critters to a rehabber in St. Pete. Penny lives down in south St. Pete and helps with the over flow of critters. She rehabs and has a team that releases them. In the back of my car I had 4 baby mockingbirds, a baby woodpecker, a box of baby opossums and juvenile osprey.

A week later the call went out for a transport that would be double stops from Brandon to areas near Orlando. One of the critters was a swallow tail kite. He had an injured wing and the best place for him to get better was at the Avian Reconditioning Center in Apopka, not quite 2 hours east of Brandon. They have huge flight barns that he could fly around in to build back up his muscles. I never thought I would have a swallow tail kite in my car!

A baby kestrel was also going to the Avian Center.

But first I had to stop in Mt Dora, almost 2 hours northeast of Brandon ( and then 20 minutes to Apopka from there).  A baby racoon and a box of 10 squirrels (all different ages) were going to the Wright Rescue Ranch. There were so many baby squirrels getting separated from their Mom’s that the rescue ranch is taking them in to help them grow up before they are released. We had a heating gel pad in the box to keep them warm on the trip. Many of the babies didn’t have fur yet and get cold quickly. I love the way they all cuddle together.

Since the trip would be a little long, Nancy fed the littlest one before I left. He was so cute holding it with his little feet.

I stopped halfway to swap out the heated gel pad for a hot one and they all woke up. The bigger ones started climbing around so I had to be quick and swap out the pad.

I got to the Avian Reconditioning Center much earlier than my last trip so I took a few minutes and got out and walked around. You can see some of the big flight barns in the back.

The center houses a handful of permanently injured birds and the volunteers were out sitting with them. One of the volunteers was holding a red tailed hawk. It looked like they were having a serious conversation.

There were 2 owls sitting out. The barred owl in front was missing an eye. The great horned owl in back had a wing injury and they both are great surrogate parents to lost babies that come to the center.

I walked around the back of the tree and saw the eagle sitting farther away.

He couldn’t see out of one eye and tilted his head to look at me. I stayed pretty far back and these are all cropped up shots with my phone. It was finally time to make the 2 and half hour trip back home but it was nice to spend some time with these guys.

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A bike ride through the neighborhood

In mid-April I headed out for a quick bike ride around the neighborhood. I wasn’t expecting to find much but I still put my camera in my backpack. As soon as I got down the street I saw the above swallow tailed kite flying around in circles and followed him farther down the street to the utility field. I was thinking he was going to head past the trees and disappear but I stopped and pulled my camera out and waited anyway. He did come back around and for once I was ready. He was still far away but I was able to get one shot of him eating something while flying, assuming it’s a dragonfly.

The swallow tailed kite flew away and as I was putting my camera back in the backpack I saw something fly into the bushes out of the corner of my eye. It was an eastern kingbird. A first sighting in my neighborhood. He flew over to the sign and posed for a while.

I stopped by the only osprey nest in the neighborhood that’s actually in a tree. There are tons of them here but the rest are on a platform or utility pole. I still haven’t seen a baby in this nest but it’s up high and they could be sleeping.

Other usual neighborhood birds include a yellow crowned night heron, an anhinga sunning himself and a juvenile little blue heron that is just starting to turn blue.

I saw an adult eagle flying from the other end of the neighborhood and land on a utility tower with another eagle.

Of course the tower was right into the sun but I could see them out in the field sitting on the tower. I’m thinking this is the other couple that has a nest farther down the field.

Of course a bike ride wouldn’t be complete without an alligator sighting or several. This was a tiny one sitting on the bank of a small pond, almost blending in.

SkyWatch Friday

Empty nester

It was almost the end of April and the lone baby eagle in my neighborhood was all grown up. I stopped by the nest early one morning and found a couple of does wandering around under the nest tower.

The baby eagle was climbing up the tower to reach Mom. I think he was screaming at her to go get breakfast.

The other parent flew in and started eating a fish on the utility pole right next to the nest tower. I was waiting a while to see if he would bring the rest of the fish to the nest like he usually did after a few bites but this time I think the parents are trying to get Baby to go get his own food. Or at least follow them to hunt.

Baby was circling around the parent that was eating, screaming.

Mom flew over to the other tower and Baby followed her. They sat for a few minutes and then both took off.

Several times at the end of April I stopped by and the nest tower was empty. I guess Baby finally started following his parents to learn how to hunt. A few times I caught Baby flying back to the nest. The above were the last few shots I got at the end of April. By early May I didn’t see them anymore. I’m hoping I’ll see the parents again in September.

Fly free Baby and I hope you see your sister that fell off the nest in your travels. She was released in central Florida.

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🎵 “Fly like an eagle” 🎵

And he’s off, flying like the eagle that he is. 48 days from the first time I saw the baby eagle sitting up in the nest to the day I saw him flying. He was probably flying a few days before and I just missed it but it was great to see him taking those first flights.

He flew down the field to the next set of utility towers. One of the parents was sitting in the tower next to him. He landed on a the tower briefly and then flew over to the parent.

I could hear him screaming and I think he was telling his parent to go get him some food. The parent may have been trying to get him to follow him to hunt but I don’t think Junior was ready at this point. When the parent took off Junior flew back to the nest tower.

He came back and landed on the top of the tower.

I saw one of the parents flying by through the trees.

Junior landed back on the nest and waiting for his breakfast. He must have been hungry because it looked like he was chewing on a stick or maybe playing with it.

Someone was watching me from the field.

There are always a lot of red bellied woodpeckers in the trees at the eagle’s nest and this morning I got a brief glimpse of a great crested flycatcher.

I was looking for little critters while I waited for the eagle parent to bring Junior his breakfast but it got late and I had to run some errands so I left.

Another bike ride past the cows

AAnother bike ride in mid-April on my favorite trail that runs through the cow pastures. The sun had just come up when I got out there.

I stopped when I saw 2 sandhill cranes walking across the pasture. As I stood there they both went under the fence and onto the trail right in front of me. I had to quickly back up to fit the first one in the shot. I was trying to keep my distance but they kept walking closer. I hope people aren’t feeding them here.

Some of the usual birds along the trail. A great crested flycatcher and a meadowlark. Both with distinct calls so I heard them before I saw them.

When I first got to the eagle’s nest the almost grown babies were eating and a parent was sitting up there with them. Then the parent took off.

Cruising right past me.

As I was standing there watching the eagle flying around I saw the juvenile eagle fly down to the almost dry pond just under the nest. It seemed to be trying to catch something small but I don’t think he succeeded. It might have been a lizard.

The above is not a good shot and I almost didn’t take it thinking it was a red shoulder hawk but when I got home and cropped it up I realized it was a merlin. I have not seen one of those in a long time.

I think this calf now has his own personal cattle egret to follow him around and eat his bugs. They were staring at each other for a while.

This cow had his cattle egret close by but the colors on the cattle egret’s face looks like he was ready to start nesting. 

Taken with my phone on the trail, the utility tower on the right is where the eagles have their nest.

SkyWatch Friday

Getting some air

It was early April and I was still keeping an eye on the lone baby eagle in the neighborhood. He was still doing quite a bit of flapping. Our neighborhood is in the Coast Guard flight path but I rarely see them. This morning I caught one flying low past the nest. The eaglet didn’t seem to notice.

Mom was yelling at an osprey that had gotten too close to the nest and then chased him away. The osprey nest is just down the field in the next tower so there’s going to be some territory overlap.

The intruder.

The baby was getting some serious air.

The baby hopped over to the edge of the tower and started flapping. I was worried he was going to take off and not make it back up to the nest but he didn’t jump off.

He grabbed a stick on the nest and was either playing with it or moving it out of the way.

He was getting some high jumps and was moving around the tower.

Ibis flying by.

HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!

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Intruder alert

It was the beginning of April and I was checking on the lone eaglet in my neighborhood almost every day. At least driving by the nest to see if it was still up there. He was busy flapping every morning and I was hoping he didn’t end up falling off the nest too early like his sibling.

I stopped by right before sunset one afternoon and saw a juvenile on the other tower. At first I thought the baby had flown over but I saw him sitting on the nest so I called Louise to check if the baby that had fallen off the nest the week before had been returned to the area and she said it was still in Orlando at the eagle rehab. I think this was a juvenile from the nest on the other side of the neighborhood. He had flown by a few days before but one of the parents chased him off before he landed.

Mom flew overhead several times and landed on the other side of the nest tower. She didn’t seem to mind the new juvenile on the other tower and didn’t chase him away this time.

After a while the intruder flew over to the nest tower and landed near the nest.

Baby was yelling and flapping. I don’t think Baby wanted this intruder to come near the nest. Eventually the intruder flew off and headed back to his side of the neighborhood.

A few other birds stopping by before sunset. I could see a roseate spoonbill flying far across the utility field. There are always a lot of woodpeckers around and these two doves were keeping an eye on me.

A quick shot of the sun going down at the eagle nest.

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Early morning on the pier

It was early March and too nice outside to be inside so I headed over to nearby Oldsmar pier to sit for a while. When I first got there the eagle was sitting high up in the pine tree. He left pretty quickly and then made several passes over the pier.

The tide was low and left a small sandy spot in between the mangroves. I was watching this cute dog find a stick and then turn around and show it to his human before heading in the water with it. I’m not sure if he was saying “Dad, look what I found” or “Dad, can I play with this stick”.

I think this is the first time I’ve seen someone catch a fish here.

The crab trapper guy was closer to the pier this morning. It’s fun to watch the pelicans follow him, hoping for a free handout. I was recently going through some old pictures, cleaning out files and saw that I had taken pictures of him in 2015 from Philippe Park. This guy has been doing it for a while. It would be a nice side gig but I’m not sure how many crabs he gets in this northern part of the bay. I wonder if he needs a helper. I would do it for free a few times. To sit out in the boat with the pelicans in the early morning would be great.

BLUE MONDAY BADGE

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Busy morning at the eagle’s nest

It was almost the end of February and I was still struggling to see the babies. The parent was just dropping off food now and the babies were eating on their own. At this point they still had some gray fuzz on their heads.

Things were still quiet at the nest. The oldest was screaming for food in the mornings before Dad dropped it off. Mom snoozed on the top of the tower when she wasn’t screaming at the opsrey for flying too close.

There are a lot of loud annoying birds nearby as I sit and wait for the baby eagles to wake up. There are a ton of mockingbirds and blue jays. The blue jays were gathering sticks for a nest.

The oleander bushes had started to bloom.

When I first got to the eagle’s nest I saw this squirrel popping in and out of this hole in the utility pole. I’m sure this hole has been used by many critters to nest I. I have also seen red bellied woodpeckers in here.

I hear this screaming behind me and turn around and see this nanday parakeet looking in the hole. I think the squirrel was still down in there but I couldn’t tell for sure. The parakeet was trying to get in there but kept backing out.

Now the parakeet was on the wire and joined by his mate. I got up off my chair and turned around thinking I might spook them away but they didn’t move. They were looking at me like “Yes, we see you but we’re not leaving”.

They stayed for a while, preening and mating several times. I guess that’s why they really want to use that hole in the pole for a nest. I’ll have to check back later to see what ended up using it.

BLUE MONDAY BADGE

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The flapping has started

It was late February and I was stopping by the neighborhood eagle’s nest every couple of days. One morning I caught the parent bringing in a fish for breakfast. Now they were just dropping off the food and letting the babies eat on their own.

At least one parent was still hanging close to the nest.

At one point an osprey flew close to the nest and the eagle was yelling at him to leave.

One of the babies was flapping his new wings and you could still see the pin feathers.

Finally, I could get a decent shot of both of the babies sitting up. The younger one seemed to sleep a lot and wasn’t flapping yet.

The kestrel couple landed on the wire nearby.

A few other birds that came by the nest was a phoebe and a brown thrasher.

I could see a red shoulder hawk far away on the other side of the field.

A great egret flies right over my head.

SkyWatch Friday

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