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.
Walking down the trail, heading for the owl’s nest, I spotted a kestrel. Of course I had to stop and take a picture of it. Usually they are so skittish but this one didn’t move.
I made it out to the owl’s nest just in time to catch Mom feeding one of the babies. There were 2 babies, one was hiding on the other side of Mom. Baby great horned owls are not cute until their face catches up with their beaks. The baby seemed to be enjoying his breakfast. Mom was eating some of it as well, including that rabbit ear in the last picture above. Yuk right? But an owl’s gotta eat.
Right in the middle of breakfast, a mockingbird flew in and was brave enough to pretend he was going to steal a bite. Mom chased him off with just a look.
Mom tucked away what was left for breakfast, to be finished at a later time.
She had already fed the younger one before I got there so after feeding the older one they all sat up looking content.
These little prairie dogs were so cute. I know, they are just cuter gophers or maybe more like meerkats. We just sat in our car and watched them run around for a while. These shots are all extremely cropped up. They were pretty far out in the field and if I opened my door they would all scurry into the holes.
My first ever coyote sighting. He was also pretty far away.
A few birds along the road: pigeon, meadowlark, kestral and a sparrow of some type.
Some of the critters we saw during our drive through Rocky Mountain Arsenal Park in Denver. I think if I lived here I would always be cruising through here. Lots of critters to see roaming around. It was near our hotel so we drove through quickly before getting dinner. We also saw bison and deer so more on those later.
When my sister was here visiting over Thanksgiving weekend we headed down to Sarasota for the day. After spending the morning at Selby Gardens and having lunch nearby we stopped in at Save Our Seabirds to walk around for a while before heading back to Tampa. SOS is a non-profit bird sanctuary and rehabilitation facility. They rescue, rehab and release injured birds. Many of the birds that can’t be released have found a permanent home here.
Many of the birds had missing wings, eyes or legs. It was late in the afternoon when we stopped in so it was quiet and most of the birds were napping.
They do a lot of work with injured sandhill cranes including ones that lose a leg after being hit by a car. They fit them with prosthetic legs so they are able to move around easily but are still not able to be released.
High up – loggerhead shrike, kestrel and a starling.
Great blue heron posing on a light post.
One I helped save and one I couldn’t. The first one was walking around on the pier. I had a bait fish in my hand and he walked right up to me. He was all tangled up in fishing line with a hook on his wing. I was able to borrow clippers and a nice man was able to grab him as I was giving him the bait fish. While he held the pelican I clipped off all of the wire and the hook. He seemed okay so we let him go. He gave me one last look and took of into the sunset. The other pelican was sitting on the ferry boat. His feet were tangled up in fishing wire but he was able to fly and took off.
I was able to head down to Fort Desoto for a quick walk before sundown in late October before the time changed. Now it’s dark after work. Can’t wait till April.
I finally made it down to Fort Desoto to see the smooth billed ani. This counts as a new bird for me. I had seen the grooved billed ani at Boyd Hill Park back in 2011. The smooth billed had spent a while at the park during the holidays but I wasn’t able to get down there until January. He wasn’t too hard to find. Just look for the group of people staring at it.
Above is the groove bill ani. They look exactly the same except for the bill.
This was only the 2nd time I had seen a lark sparrow. One was hanging out near the same spot as the ani. This one spent the morning feeding on the ground.
A kestrel high up in a tree.
This snowy egret has a shrimp. He was fishing along the shoreline next to the pier.
The pelican clan hanging out on the jetty.
Some small things on the beach. A mangrove taking root and a small fiddler crab.
The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is an 11 mile drive along a lake north of Orlando. The weekend Brett and I stayed in Orlando, we got up early and drove through the area before heading back to Tampa. The 11 miles zig zags back and forth with channels running on either side.
The first things we say were birds of prey. A northern harrier, a young red shoulder hawk and a kestrel right when we drove in.
A great egret fighting with a snake.
Fulvous whistling ducks were far out in the lake.
Alligators of all sizes were along the drive including that big one in the last picture. His head was huge. I wish his entire body was out of the water. He has got to be the biggest one I’ve seen out in the wild.