Little critters at the botanical gardens

This beautiful hanging orchid plant was blooming in mid-April at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.

I love these spikey pods that bust open and are filled with fuzz. I still can’t figure out what these are.

A butterfly had landed high up on this silk floss tree.

Tiny critters in the butterfly garden. There were a lot of monarch caterpillars on the big milkweed plant. I think the bottom caterpillar is an orange barred sulfur butterfly.

Usual birds here are the dove and the brown thrasher.

And of course I can’t walk by and not take pictures of the wood ducks floating around. This time I also saw some on the fence.

A crow flying by with an egg in his beak. Probably a turtle egg.

I stopped at nearby Largo Nature Preserve after leaving the botanical gardens and it was pretty quiet there. I did notice some heads sticking out of holes in some dead trees near the parking lot. A screech owl had been nesting in one. I never made it back here to see if there were any babies. A red bellied woodpecker was checking out the other hole. Probably just started to work on a nest.

So many baby ducks

Bees took over this owl nest box at Largo Nature Preserve. That’s a lot of bees! I don’t think they’ll stay there forever. I think they eventually move on but will they leave a mess behind?

Nanday parakeets high up in a tree. Maybe they are looking for a place to nest?

A young spoonbill taking a break from feeding along the channel.

It’s hard to believe it’s already the end of May. These were taken in mid-April and were the first baby moorhens I’ve seen this year. You know summer is here when the ponds fill up with these babies.

The ponds are full of water hyacinth.

The baby mallards are just too cute to not stop and take a ton of pictures.

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Largo Nature Preserve in early April

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.

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A 3 park morning

I was out early one morning right before Christmas.  My first stop was the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular but thought I would do a quick lap around the gardens.  The gardens were decorated for Christmas and you could see the lights all over the bushes and trees. I thought this owl statue was cool and would have loved to see it all lit up but I didn’t make it here for the night holiday lights this year.

The usual birds were in the main pond. A green heron at attention, a wood duck (the entire family was floating around the pond) and there were lots of moorhens.

After the botanical gardens, I stopped at nearby Largo Nature Preserve to see if there was anything new. A grebe spent some time preening close to the boardwalk and there have been some northern shovelers there for several weeks now but nothing new or different.

My last stop before heading home wasn’t really a park but the Dunedin marina. I was hoping to see dolphins or manatees hanging around the marina but I didn’t see any on this trip so after walking around for a while it was time to go home for lunch.

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Is if fall yet?!?

The usual birds can be found on the boardwalk at Largo Nature Preserve. They are acclimated to people being around and the limpkin didn’t even fly off as I walked by.

This snowy egret looks like he is walking on water. He’s actually half skipping and half flying along the surface looking for bugs or fish in the water.

I had forgotten that northern shovelers hang out here in the winter although I rarely see males here. This time there were several males with their dark green faces.

Other critters include a butterfly and an otter that came out of the water far down the canal.

I stopped by Kapok Park on the way home to see if the cypress trees had turned orange. The small lake there is surrounded by them and can be quite a sight when they turn colors but this year they were mostly brown and had lost a lot of leaves already. Maybe it was due to the lack of rain we’ve had this fall. There was a hint of orange so it did feel a tiny bit like fall, even if it was 85 degrees in late November.

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Color and babies

Random things at the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.

There wasn’t many birds when I was there in late May. You can always find brown thrashers there but the kestral was the first time I had seen one here.

After leaving the botanical gardens, I headed over for a quick stop at Largo Nature Preserve to see how the flickers were doing. I got there right as Mom was feeding the babies. I love that flash of red on the back of Mom’s head.

Mom left and the babies kept poking their heads out of the hole. This was probably right before they fledged.They looked fully grown at this point.

The red bellied woodpecker was still hanging around the hole in the tree next door. They will probably nest later in the summer.

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All of the usual things

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.

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A late afternoon walk

At the end of April I went out late in the day instead of the morning. I had something I had to do in the morning but I didn’t want to miss a walk outside. I headed to Largo Nature Preserve not expecting much since it was hot. I caught the screech owl peeking out of her hole. I knew this was the tree that had a nest but hadn’t seen anything until now. I didn’t know at this point if there were babies. I waited a while but she just sat there staring off so I kept on going.

I did a quick walk along the boardwalk before heading out. It was interesting to see the spotted sandpiper on the boardwalk rail. Those guys are usually skittish and only here in the winter. Lots of dragonflies around and I saw a moorhen sitting on a nest.

A quick stop at Possum Branch on the way home. I had the entire preserve to myself.

Green herons were everywhere.

A black and yellow flash went by me and when it landed on a branch I realized it was a bobolink. It was with another male and a female that landed farther down the canal. They stopped for a few seconds before taking off again. It was the only bobolink I saw this season.

Little critters in the weeds.

The trails around the ponds were covered in this mimosa ground cover. The purple flowers were covered in moths and bees. You could see the tiny path where people had been walking on it. Quickly they will die off and the trail will get mowed again but the blanket of purple was really pretty this afternoon.

These yellow and white flowers are weeds and they were also everywhere.

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Spring migration was a bust

McGough Park in Largo is another spring migration hot spot so I stopped there in late April but all I got was turtles. After walking around for an hour and seeing very few birds I left and headed to Largo Nature Preserve.

Not many migrating birds here either but lots of other stuff. I thought the bottom shot was just a weird looking butterfly but then realized it was two butterflies. Not sure if they were mating or feeding on something but they stayed there for a while.

I caught this osprey cruising by me with a really big stick heading to a nest. What is that saying? “Speak softely and carry a big stick”. This is more like “Fly high and carry a big stick”.

A tricolored heron creeping around in the muck.

A big family and almost grown babies in the bottom shot.

This was the first time I’ve seen black bellied whistiling ducks here, much less any where in Pinellas county so I was surprised. They were on the golf course across the canal.

This lone spoonbill was busy feeding and wandering around looking for the best spot.

As I was walking the path something blue whizzed by. Wait, what was that? Finally, a migrating bird. It was a blue grosbeak and when I cropped this shot up I realized there was an immature orchard oriole with him (the yellow one on the right). The oriole took off and I wasn’t able to find him again.

The blue grosbeak had a lady friend with him (the brown one on the top) and they stayed in the area for a few minutes before taking off across the park.

This guy sleeps under the boardwalk. I took this with my phone but I was on the boardwalk at the time.

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A new bird at Largo Nature Preserve

Mucsovy ducks are having babies at all of the local ponds including Largo Nature Preserve.

This blue winged teal couple was still floating around in late March.

The monk parakeets were flying back and forth getting sticks for their nests. Here they nest in a big utilty complex.

The dead trees near the parking lot were full of residents. The first one had a flicker nesting in it. Every once in a while she would poke her head out. The next tree had a hole that was full of bees. The next tree had several red bellied woodpeckers checking out the holes. They may nest later.

After several stops at this park looking for this ash throated flycatcher that had been seen by other birders for the last few weeks, I finally found it on the 3rd try. Luckily this was a “third time’s a charm” instead of “three strikes and you’re out.” It was hopping around in the trees right in the parking lot catching dragonflies. This was a new bird for me and while it’s not quite as pretty as the great crested flycatcher that we get pretty often around here, it was still a great find.

Walking on the boardwalk around the small lake, I found this nest. I’m thinking it’s a moorhen nest since there are a lot of them on this lake but I didn’t see any near this nest. Assuming it’s abandoned but hoping the parent just left for a quick bite.

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