Seeing Florida animals up close and a hippo too.

Birds you can see up-close at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park include a pair of whooping cranes that are both missing wings. They winter in Florida and were injured at some point and brought here to live. I overheard someone say “They cut off one wing so these birds can’s fly away.” and that is not true. Most of these animals are here due to man made injuries (hit by a car, a parent was hit by a car and now they are orphans, fishing lines, some were shot with a bb gun or arrow). I follow several wildlife rescue groups on facebook and it’s horrifying the things that happens to these animals.

Big animals that live at the park. On a recent episode of “Secrets of the Zoo:Tampa”, a baby bear was brought in to the zoo to be checked out when his mom died getting hit by a car. The zoo was able to secure a home for the cub here.

A snake up close.

Lu was a tv star on Flipper and was given to the park to live out his retirement. Lu is very popular with the kids and he just turned 60 in January.

I really went up to the park in January to see the manatees but there are also a lot of other fun animals to see as well.

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Circle B Bar Reserve in early January.

Eagle sightings along the trail at Circle B Bar Reserve.

Out in the marsh, a lone sandhill crane was among the wood storks. At first he was feeding but then he stopped and started calling across the marsh.

He then took off, flying right in front of me.

Along the trail.

Taken with my 300mm lens, this big guy was napping out in the water.

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Birds and manatees at the zoo

A mallard was stealing food from the primates.

I love seeing the marabou storks.

A wild egret high up in a tree.

One of the resident eagles who’s missing a wing sits high up in a tree as well. He hops along the big oak tree until he can see over the exhibit.

The lorikeets were flirting.

Beautiful faces in the aviaries.

The manatees were eating close to the glass. It was fun watching them up close but it’s sad that there are so many here right now rehabilitating in the manatee hospital Most of these guys will be released once they are well enough. Many are here due to boat strikes or getting sick from the cold water or red tide.

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Looking for a duck.

This ring billed gull spent the morning eating tiny horseshoe crabs.

Lots of ducks but nothing new.  Ring billed and lesser scaup way out in the bay.

Teeny tiny on the ground.

I saw an eagle high up in a utility tower near my house on the way home.

I stopped by Veterans Park in Oldsmar looking for a long tailed duck. I heard he was there earlier in the week but I couldn’t find him by Saturday. That’s a rare duck here. I briefly saw one years ago near the same area but haven’t heard of one being around until early December. I’ll keep checking back this winter. It was a beautiful day to be out walking even without the duck.

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A chance encounter with an eagle.

I heard the eagle screaming along the trail and started running, looking up in the trees. I found him sitting there looking around. He stayed there for a few minutes looking all around and including right at me. He was sitting fairly low right along the trail. At one point he hopped down a few branches.

After a few minutes, he  took off. Flying across the marsh. He flew by so close that I cut off his wings.

Later, at the other end of the reserve, I saw an eagle flying into the tree that has a nest that sits across the lake.I was wondering if it was my eagle, that I had just seen up close. I wondered if he was heading home.

In the neighborhood

I’ve recently been seeing an eagle sitting on top of a utility pole just outside my neighborhood. I guess they are back for the winter.

Some critters in my front yard. I think that lizard lives underneath my mailbox on the wall.I only see him at night. The frog was on my garage door.

It had just stopped raining and a very wet hawk was sitting on my neighbor’s sailboat mast. You can see mold growing on the mast. In 15 years, we’ve never seen them take the sailboat out.

Dolphins were right in front of our dock. It’s rare to see them in the channels. They usually stay out in the bay or only come in the first main channel.

Sun going down in the backyard.

The sun peaked out right after a storm before setting and turned everything orange.

The September full harvest moon. Reminds me that Halloween is coming.

SkyWatch Friday

My first “Raptor Fest”

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.

The usual suspects at Chesnut Park.

Lots of different birds at Chesnut Park in early January but nothing new.

Bigger birds flying overhead.

I was trying to get some shots of the deer on the baseball field, She looked at me for a second and then took off to join her friends who were heading into the woods. Oh wait, that’s why they call them “white-tailed deer”.

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A quiet morning at Fort Desoto

Someone had staked out their spot on the spit island just off the north tip of the beach. By early November, the red tide algae bloom was mostly gone from the beach but there were still some spots that smelled of dead fish. The water looked clear but the bloom came back later for a short time after a big storm. The morning I was there was clear.

The birds on the trails were scarce with the exception of a few common ones including a northern parula and many of the state bird, the mockingbird.

The usual waterbirds were also around.

Frigatebirds were flying high overhead.

On my way out of the park I saw a bald eagle sitting on a utility tower. All of the eagles are back for the winter.

Rainbow of birds

I finally got some shots of the painted buntings that have hanging around the nature center at Circle B Bar Reserve.

A lady painted bunting was also present.

A juvenile indigo bunting was eating on the ground.

Other usual birds were the gnatcatcher and the yellow rumped warbler.

Sandhill cranes were around, digging in the dirt for bugs.

Lots of birds flying around.

Across the lake, an eagle sits in a bald cypress tree.

Just a few pretty things at Circle B Bar Reserve in mid-March.

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