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.
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.
Linking to My Corner of the World.
My first common goldeneye from very far away. I had to stand on a picnic table to catch him when he swam away from the tall reeds in front of the lake. This was taken with my 300mm lens and extremely cropped up. Bad shot but at least I can add him to my list. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of one being in the area.
These little grebes were looking at me like I was crazy. Standing in the drizzle looking for a duck.
After a while, the clouds started to disappear. This kingfisher was watching me watching him.
Now watching me on a pole in the lake.
This spoonbill agreed with the grebes. I think he was laughing at me.
Moorhen with the big yellow feet.
The goldeneye had been reported for a few weeks at the lake that Boyd Hill Nature Preserve sits on. It was across the lake from the park at a boat ramp. I finally made it over there in late January. It had been raining and I almost didn’t go. Luckily it stopped raining and the sun came out. I’m glad I braved the weather since now I have a new duck for my list!
Baby moorhen is not much bigger than the lily pad flower.
Male anhinga showing off on a platform. I don’t know what that little concrete platform is in the middle of this lagoon. Maybe at one point it was a water fountain?
Baby alligators were all along the boardwalk. Since alligator nesting season has just started for this year, I’m assuming this little guy was born late last summer.
This was the first time I’ve seen these purple martin birdhouses on the trail. Both condos and townhouses.
The laugh is on me. I’m walking into the sun looking up at the birdhouses. I think I see a bird on the house. I think “Wow, that bird is letting me get close” as I walk up to the house. I snapped a shot with my flash and realized it was a decoy. It would have been my first purple martin. Oh well, I’ll keep my eye out there for a real one.
Butterflies are everywhere.
These look a little like poinsettias. There was a big field of them growing.
I hadn’t been to Boyd Hill in south St. Petersburg in months. I didn’t think I would find too much there in the heat of summer but was hoping for a raccoon or snake at least. I saw neither but there were a few other things there. Things are pretty quiet right now at most of the parks but I did hear fall migration is slowly starting so I better rest up for that excitement.