Tarpon Springs – Skywatch Friday

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The sign you first see when you turn down the famous sponge dock road.

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Cool old boats. It amazes me that most of these boats are still in use. Some of them look like they may sink any minute.

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Tourist photo opp – the statue of the sponge diver in the middle of the sponge docks.

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One of the best tourist stores on the street.

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More boats at the dock. On a Sunday morning they were all in at the docks.

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Miss Lexy looking good!

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A mural depicting the old ways of sponge diving.

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Yes, I’m in short sleeves and capris the Sunday before Christmas. The skies were blue and the weather was warm. It would have been nice to at least have long sleeves on but I’m not complaining.

One of the stops on our Christmas tourist tour while my sister was visiting from South Dakota was the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs. We grew up going there when we would come down to the area to visit the grandparents during the holidays. I guess that’s where my love for Greek food came from. The little town is about an hour north of central Tampa but worth the drive for the pastries. It was a beautiful day for a walk and lunch.

Off my silly tourist topic, if you get a chance, head over to Scott Kelby’s blog to read a guest post by Moose Peterson. It’s very inspiring and makes me want to get up out of my chair at work and go out and take pictures. It’s hard to balance a hobby you love and work that pays for the hobby you love (and the bills). Although, would it be a hobby you love if you did it all the time? According to Moose it is! I met him last winter at Fort De Soto park. We talked for a few moments and I told him were the owl’s nest was at the park. A few hours later I found him there waiting for the baby owl to wake up. We chatted for a while. Very nice guy. I also have his book Captured which I’ve read twice.  See his guest post here.

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My first Crested Caracara

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My first “in the wild” crested caracara. This was taken from the car. On our way back from West Palm beach I told my hubby we have to look out for a vulture looking bird with a big orange beak.  We saw him early into our drive. He was sitting in a tree just off the road. Hubby pulled off on the grass and I was able to snap this quickly before he took off. They are only found in Arizona, Texas and Florida and usually in open fields. This bird has alluded me for years. I’ve never heard of one being seen in the Tampa bay area. They are found in central Florida but every time we head to the other side of the state I can’t seem to find them.

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Later in our drive, about half way across the state, Hubby spotted this one on the road. He turned around and pulled off the side of the road. I took the above from the car since I was afraid he would take off as well. He did not seem to care, although we were pretty far back.

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This one is a juvenile with the pink beak and not quite dark feathers on his body. He was chowing down on a raccoon. I got out of the car and walked slowly towards him but still stayed far away.

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Nice yummy piece of raccoon meat in his mouth. He kept an eye on me as he was eating.

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What was he thinking as he stared at his meal?

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When cars went by he didn’t move but when a big truck came by he would fly over to the grass and come back a few seconds later.

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At one point he took off with a bite still in his beak.

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Then he flew over to the fence post.

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He stayed on the fence post for a while.

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Up close, he’s prettier than black or turkey vultures. I mean really, first with the pink beak and then it turns orange. How cool is that? I guess if I saw them everyday I would say (and to quote my Dad) “Just another buzzard.” We were only there for a few minutes, then he flew off across the cow pasture. We saw two other caracaras that day but there wasn’t anywhere to stop off on the side of the road so we kept going. The above were all taken into the sun as well so not ideal. I’m keep looking for them though.

Ducks and swans at Lake Mirror

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What a pretty pair. These are the only two black necked swans at Lake Morton.

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Male wood duck snoozing as he’s cruising.

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One of the fairly new mandarin ducks that live at Lake Mirror in downtown Lakeland. These ducks are not native here. They were acquired by the city since they look “pretty”.

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Now he’s just showing off. When I first saw the couple early this spring they had just been placed on the lake. They were very skittish and stayed far away from the other ducks and people. This trip they were in front of the crowd when people were feeding the ducks. They came close to the edge so I guess they are getting used to the place.

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Female mandarin duck.

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A new duck! The city now has two shelducks. They are very pretty. Although, they don’t look that much different from all of the other hybrid mallards that are there. I was wondering how you would buy a duck pair.  You can buy a pair of shelducks on efowl.com for $175.00. Interesting.

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They were not shy. They came close the edge of the lake.

I had heard about the new ducks at Lake Mirror and stopped by there recently on my way home from Circle B Bar Reserve. It’s only a 15 minute drive from the reserve. Lake Mirror is smaller than Lake Morton, which is only a couple of streets over. Both have swans and ducks that live there. It was a perfect beautiful day in late October and I wasn’t quite ready to go home. The area around the lake was packed with people. Everyone was out enjoying the day and tons of people were feeding the ducks. It will be interesting to see if the new couple have babies next spring.

Camera Critters

A hovering kingfisher – Skywatch Friday

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Standing on the edge of the lake watching an osprey go by, I saw a belted kingfisher out of the corner of my eye and was able to catch him.

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Several times he whizzed by. Male kingfishers have an all white stomach. Female ones have a rust color stripe across their stomach.

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He flew far out in the middle of the lake and was hovering.

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He spots something.

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Down he goes in a deep dive. He hit the water but did not come up with a fish.

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He flew around and came back, hovering again.

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He hovered for a few minutes then took off over the trees. That was the last I saw of him that morning. Kingfishers are “snow” birds down here. They only stay for the winter and then head back north to have their babies in the summer. I started  seeing them in early October. Every winter we have one that visits our dock a couple of times. I haven’t seen her yet but it’s still early. They have a very distinctive voice but are very skittish.

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Great Blue Heron Day

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There were two great blue herons sitting together on this tree in the middle of the lake. I think they were already working on a nest.

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After he stretched his wings, he had an itch.

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This one had a siren (a type of eel with feet) in his beak.

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It was a big siren!

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He struggled for a few minutes with it.

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Down the hatch. It looks like it’s stuck in his throat.

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A perfect pose. Another one chilling on the trail.

This Saturday morning at Circle B Bar Reserve felt like Great Blue Heron day. They were everywhere. I felt like there were more at the park than I have ever seen before. Last spring we had a pair build a nest and raise a baby right on the trail. Here’s hoping for another nest or maybe more this year.

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Skimmers on the beach – Skywatch Friday

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Landing in the water right in front of me.

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Then he took off right in front of me.

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Another fly-by.

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Coming in for a landing.

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Going down.

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Too close.

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Joining the crowd.

Yes, more skimmer pictures. One last look at this past spring’s visit to the skimmer colony. This was my last trip in August. Until next spring!

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