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.
The usual critters on my bike ride on the Pinellas Trail north of Brooker Creek. Cows and cattle egrets. The calves were getting big by early April.
I passed the eagle’s nest that sits far away in the cow pasture. The 2 young ones were flapping away and close to flying.
I could see a gopher tortoise walking around right under the eagle’s nest. He must have a burrow nearby.
As I was pedaling back to my car I heard an eagle yelling overhead. She was sitting on a utility tower and making a lot of noise. I stopped and pulled my camera out of my backpack.
I saw another eagle flying overhead. He landed on the same utility tower. After a few seconds of yelling back and forth, the below happened.
They started mating while a crow bothered them. At this point there was a small crowd watching from below. It’s not often you see eagles mating out in the wild (although this was my 2nd time this month with the first being in my neighborhood).
They sat together for a while on the same nest. I finally headed back to my car.
Scenes from my bike ride in late May. Pedaling past cow pastures.
I had my camera in my backpack and had to stop for a shot of the cattle egret with the cow. This is where they get their name. Egrets hanging out with the cattle, trying to eat the bugs that the cows stir up as they eat the grass.
I found the meadowlarks again.
I found several juvenile tree swallows sitting on the fence. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen them actually sitting down. They spend most of their time cruising around catching bugs. EDIT: Thanks to Lea’s Menagerie for a correct ID. The above is an eastern kingbird. I’m still learning a lot of the migrating birds. This was late May so it makes sense he could still be hanging around. I think that Florida sun is starting to get to me.
A pond along the cow pasture fence was a busy watering hole.
There are several gopher tortoise holes along the fences but this was the first time I have seen one out of his hole. They are listed as Threatened in Florida and both the tortoise and their burrows are protected by law.
I bought a bike in early April, mostly to cruise around the neighborhood but since I can fold it and put it in the back I decided to take it out on a bike path. There’s a parking area about 15 minutes north of me that picks up the northeastern end of the Pinellas Trail. The path goes through cow pastures and a golf course and I didn’t think I would see too much else so I only had my phone with me the first ride. Above are taken with my phone. I was not surprised to see sandhill cranes along this path since I had heard there were a lot of them up here.
A week later I came back up here with my camera and longer lens in my backpack. Far across the cow pasture I could see a juvenile eagle sitting high up on a utility tower. I saw several eagles when I was riding the week before. Next fall I’ll have to look for a nest although it’s probably in a utility tower like the one by my house.
I love seeing the cattle egret hanging out with the cows. They are hoping the cows churn up some bugs as they chew the grass.
I found several meadowlarks along the fence.
I’m assuming the sandhill crane couple I found was the same one I saw the week before. They were in a cow pasture farther down the trail. This is a fun trail to ride and there’s not much traffic during the week so I’ll be coming here quite a bit.
A few things blooming on the trail at Circle B Bar Reserve at the end of March.
Looking across the pond, I took this straight into the sun.
The painted buntings were still there and I was able to catch two males sitting near each other. After feeding they both flew across the canal.
A crow showing me his nesting material before taking off.
A few fly bys. A cattle egret up in the sky and a great blue heron cruising low over two alligators.
It doesn’t get much better than this. A cool sunny morning on the trails.
I could see an eagle high up in the cypress tree across the pond.
Farther down the trail I saw two eagles chasing each other.
They both landed high up in the trees and sat together for a while, often yelling. Mating season was over so I’m not sure what they were doing. Maybe a late nest? Maybe they were making plans to meet up this fall? Or they were talking about how great their new kids were?
I’m thinking this will be my last trip here until late Fall. It’s a long drive to Lakeland and it’s too hot to be out on the trails in the middle of summer. I’ll be sticking close to home and the coast to catch a little breeze (although probably a hot one).
It’s always fun to see baby mallards (although with that yellow beak on the Mom, these may be mottled ducks). There were two families at Largo Nature Preserve in early April. One was feeding in the water and the other was walking around on the walking path. They eventually made it down to the water.
The two northern shovelers were still there. They are probably up north for the summer by now.
Looking up in the utility tower I saw a young eagle. I often see adult eagles sitting here but today it was a younger one. Maybe 4 years old? They don’t get a full white head until their 5th year. This one still had a little brown on his. Maybe he was born in the area.
While watching the eagle, a Canadian goose flies by. They hang out on the golf course along the park so it’s not a surprise.
Across the canal a cattle egret had a dragonfly in his beak.
Brown thrashers are common here. This one was singing away.
Night herons can usually be found napping along the boardwalk.
A monk parakeet coming down to the ground to get a snack.
I headed back to the bird rookery in north Tampa in mid-May for a quick trip out of the house. I figured most of the baby birds were grown up and they were, including the big baby egrets above. They were still waiting for Mom to come home with dinner.
I don’t think Mom was ready to get back to the nest. She stopped close by and took a break.
There were still a lot of cattle egrets in breeding colors but I didn’t see any babies. They usually nest much farther into the bushes.
The anhinga on the right was keeping an eye on the wood stork, making sure he didn’t get too close.
A few of the other birds included a little blue heron, a young night heron and a tricolored heron.
The anhingas were farther back on the little island. Mom was feeding an almost grown baby in the shot above. That doesn’t look comfortable having the baby stick it’s head down her throat.
The baby muscovy ducks were almost grown as well. They saw me get out of my car and came swimming over. “Sorry guys, no handouts from me.”
Right when I got to Largo Nature Preserve and was getting out of the car this swallow tail kite flew so close to me that I cut him off. He flew over some trees and I couldn’t find him again.
The usual birds were there. A cattle egret, limpkin and a night heron.
The usual Florida critters were also there.
I did a quick lap around the paved trail and saw this almost grown baby screech owl peaking out of the hole in the tree. I looked for a while for the parent in the area but couldn’t find one. Those tiny owls are good at hiding. I did not stick around to find out if the parent came in to feed the baby but I’m sure it did at some point.
A red bellied woodpecker was popping in and out of this hole but we were all interested in the flickers nesting in the tree next door. More on that to come.
I love seeing the cattle egrets during mating season. Their beaks change colors and the feathers on their back turn tan. The one above was only slightly changed. During non-breeding season all of his feathers would be white. These are all from my annual trip to the bird rookery in north Tampa in April.
This one was ready to nest. HIs beak is in bright orange and yellow colors with that touch of purple at his face and his legs have turned pink. He was busy bring sticks to the nest deep in the bushes.
After many trips to the nest with sticks, he stood on a branch and took a break. It’s hard to believe this is the same type of bird as the one in the first picture.
You could just make out the mate in the bushes. She was busy putting the sticks in the right place on that tiny nest. Soon they’ll be starting a family.
I made it to the rookery in north Tampa in early June for my last trip of the nesting season. I wasn’t sure if there would still be any babies at this point or would they all be grown up by now. The first thing I saw at the edge of the pond was this tiny gator trying to hide in the vegetation. Even though he was small I still kept my eye on him while I was there.
This cattle egret looks like he has a boo boo on his face. Hopefully it’s just superficial and heals. Maybe he got it in a fight with another egret?
The baby anhingas were already fully grown.
There were still a few little blue herons flirting so there may still be some babies later.
A baby night heron emerged from deep in the bushes.
These flowers were growing all over the rookery as well as along the woods next to street. The ants seemed to be enjoying them.