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.
Wild hogs hiding in the bushes. Not sure where the term “pigtails” comes from?
One of the main trails, Alligator Alley, was finally back open after closing in September of 2017. When Hurricane Irma came through, the trail was washed out and a lot of damage was done to that part of the park. The raised trail across the marsh was finally rebuilt and it was great to walk down it again in late January.
Out on the dock you could see the bald cypress trees going bald for the winter.
Anhingas are like clowns. They have the funniest personalities, that is when they are not half asleep drying their wings out. They sway their head back and forth and honk when you walk by. The males have a black neck and the females have a brown or beige neck. I think that last one was yawning.
Egrets along the trail. A snowy, cattle and a great egret in the last one above.
Other birds along the trail at Circle B Bar Reserve in early January were a limpkin looking for food, a grebe doing his yoga stretch, a glossy ibis glowing in the sun and a hawk looking out over his domain.
And one of the hundreds of blue-gray gnatcatchers.
This little moorhen was walking along the trail with someone.
After walking around the Largo Botanical Gardens I headed next door to Heritage Village. The park has old historic homes as well as come cool vintage cars. They were having their fall festival in late October so everyone was out walking around.
Interesting wood carvings of birds.
The permanently injured birds from close by George C. McGough Nature Park were at the festival so everyone could see these guys up close and learn about the different birds of prey in their neighborhoods. The hawk in the above pictures was missing an eye.
The little screech owls were everyone’s favorite. It’s rare for most people to see them out in the wild.